Building My Next Workstation–Part 5

With the motherboard and CPU installed I was ready to add the final and perhaps easiest parts to the build. I started with a DVD drive. In practice I almost never use DVD’s any more, preferring to mount ISO files as drives (which also means I can keep them all right there on the machine, never have to go looking), but in practice it always seems like I have the occasional need to get drivers for some new device. DVD drives new are about $30, I had one I had scavenged from another machine that I used, “saving” the $30. When I went digging through the Rubbermaid container I use for all my assorted PC parts I found 2 more DVD drives with IDE instead of SATA, reminding me that IDE is pretty close to gone. The new motherboard doesn’t have a IDE connector at all. Installing it was no more than few minutes work.

Next was memory. I was ready to go earlier than expected and eager to try the machine out, so I bought a single 8G stick of Kingston HyperBlu at the local TigerDirect for about $45. It is DDR3-1600 and that gave me pause, I knew the board could handle a higher clock rate, but decided that worst case I’d use it someplace else (more on that in a minute). Installing the memory was also easy, again it was nice to have plenty of room to work.

On the same trip I picked up a Samsung 840 250G SSD and a Western Digital 1 TB drive. My initial plan – which may or may not survive real world use – is to load the SSD with development tools and boot to that when I need that environment. The 1TB drive will be for working with whatever else I want to set up and tear down. I’m thinking to add one more drive for the above mentioned ISO’s, but I’m also contemplating buying or building a NAS and just hosting it there.  SSD’s are a tricky buy,there is quite a range of price to performance,I found that Toms Hardware publishes a monthly list that makes it easy to decide. The 840 (not the 840 Pro) is on the low end of the top tier, plenty good enough for now.

Mounting both drives was easy. There are dedicated friction fit slots for 2.5” drives, then the caddy for the 3.5 HD takes four screws to hold the drive to the caddy and then it slides in nicely. I also had the old drive from my previous machine that I wanted to add for the short term until I finish up. Cabling them was more effort than expected. The power cables are only so long and I ended up having to move the SSD so I could get all 3 connected. If you’re going to have more than 2-3 devices you’ll want to order a couple extenders and splitters for the SATA power plugs.

With all that in place, I booted up to my old drive with no issue at all, and still quiet, very quiet. I’ve left it all running for a week just to see if anything breaks – so far all is good.

That left me short 24G short of the planned 32G of memory. I did some more reading and found a nice article that did far most testing than I have patience for as far as memory speed and based on that decided that the Kingston I had was fine and ordered 3 more 8G sticks from Amazon, for a total of about $200 for the 32G total.

I’ve omitted for now a card reader. I did order a Bluetooth dongle (the v4 model) because I’ll use it here and there. I ordered a Logictech M510 mouse to replace my old MS mouse that has a tethered dongle. I’ve always like the MS larger mice, but it seems like most are notebook size now, too small in my opinion for all day use. I had hoped to get a mouse that used Bluetooth instead of a proprietary dongle, but couldn’t find one I liked. We’ll see if I like the 510. I also ordered a replacement for the cheap but serviceable Dell keyboard I had been using – a CM Storm Quickfire with Cherry Brown switches (true mechanical switches instead of the rubber domes used on most cheaper keyboards). It is, so far, pleasantly solid feeling. It doesn’t have the separate number pad on the right, which makes it feel small even though it the keys and small are full sized. Wait and see if that $75 expense was worthwhile (and you can spend more for mechanicals, but not less)

I’ll wrap this up tomorrow with a post showing the final configuration and costs and some thoughts about the effort involved and some places where you could opt to spend less (because you can always pend more).