I bought the parts for and built my own desktop computer the summer before my freshman year. My main components were:
- Intel Pentium 4 HT 630
- ASUS P5WD2-E Premium
- Kingston DDR2 533 Mhz (2 x 1GB)
- ATI All-in-Wonder X600 Pro
- Western Digital Raptor 74GB 10,000 RPM
- Black xBlade case
One reason that I bought that xBlade case was because it was advertised as a screwless case (i.e. I would not need a screw driver to add or remove a hard drive or CD drive). While this this advertisement was correct (because it did not require a screw driver), its design was much worse than one requiring a screw driver. To add or remove a CD drive, you had to remove the entire front panel. To remove the front panel, you had to push really hard on six inserts that were located in the corners and middle of the panel. Ideally you could release all six inserts at the same time, but that would require at least six hands. Instead, the idea was to try and push them half out in an alternating pattern. Eventually I broke one of the insert because I pushed the other inserts out too far. I hated that screwless design.
Also about that xBlade case, it came with a front LCD screen for monitoring the CPU, video card, and case temperature, but it did not last very long for me. The summer after my freshman year, I was inside the case doing something (probably installing the extra 80mm fan or two that I bought that summer to help keep the case cooler). Somehow, I plugged in the power to my LCD screen incorrectly because as soon as it made contact, there was a loud pop. I looked at the components on the back of the LCD screen (I thought that a capacitor had blown), but everything looked fine. I do not know what happened, but my LCD screen never worked again.
My motherboard supported overclocking my CPU. Everyone online had nothing but good things to say about it, so I overclocked my 3.0 Ghz CPU to 3.6 Ghz (which is a 20% increase). In addition to this, I was ruing GIPMS at the time, so my CPU was always running at 100% utilization. I do not think I continued to run GIMPS after my sophomore year, but either my CPU or motherboard started to show some problems (although it was probably my CPU since I had previous been hard on it by overclocking it and running at 100%). Sometimes my computer, on a cold boot, would say that my CPU had failed. If I restarted the computer enough times, it would eventually start correctly, but I was always very concerned when this would happen.
During my senior year, a friend of mine started having computer problems. He had taken his computer to a local computer repair shop and they told him that his hard drive and motherboard where bad and needed to be replaced. That seemed unlikely to me since motherboards rarely fail. At that time, I did not have time to inspect his hardware for him, so I recommend that he buy a new computer and I would just take his old one. In my spare time, I would check his computer for problems. It was clear right away that the hard drive was a goner, but I never found any indication that the motherboard was bad. So, I bought a new hard drive for it and put it my video card and RAM. (By this time, I had replaced my AIT All-in-Wonder with an EVGA Nvidia 6800 GTS because I had switched from Windows to Linux and Nvidia had better support for Linux.)
When I moved into my new apartment in Madison to start graduate school, my desktop was not working correctly. The screen would have artifacts all over it, then after a few more seconds, the computer would freeze. I tried several troubleshooting steps related to the video card but did not try a different video card because I did not have one and did not know where I could get one. At this point, I was confident that it must be my motherboard then since that computer shop said they had found a problem with it (even though I originally thought that they were just trying to take advantage of my friend since he had knew nothing about computer hardware).
To replace my motherboard, I decided to also replace the CPU and case (since the case I was given by my friend was a BTX case and not the common ATX). The parts that I bought were
- AMD Phenom II X4 3.0GHz
- MSI 770-C45
- Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1333Mhz 3GB (3 x 1GB)
- Antec Nine Hundred (with 650W Power Supply)
I got all of these parts, put them all together with my EVGA Nvidia 6800 GTS video card and....I had the same problem! Since I replased every part but my video card, ...it had to be my video card. First I checked to see if it was under warrenty. I was happy to see that this video card could have a lifetime warrenty but saddened to learn that it only had this lifetime warrenty if I had registered it with EVGA within 30 days of purchase. Without the registration, it only had one year, which had already passed.
I decided to buy another EVGA card, this time I bought an Nvidia 9500 GT. After registering this product with EVGA, it now has a two year warrenty.
When my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I asked if they would pay for the new computer parts that I had just bought. They agreed. Thanks mom and dad for the new computer!