The Successes And Failures Of Building Powerful PCs

Wasim Salman writes about videogames using short, mechanical sentences. He also sometimes builds PCs, and has written this article for us about the ups and downs of building and owning computers that are more powerful than they need to be.


It all started with a 2006 Lenovo T61 Thinkpad.

The last PC game I played with any seriousness was Diablo II years earlier.

I ran it on a stock Compaq Presario purchased at a wholesale retailer.

It was garbage, but it ran the only PC game I cared about then.

The T61 was exciting.

It was the first laptop I owned with a 500 MB Nvidia card.

I took it everywhere. I studied it.

I optimized the OS. I maxed out the RAM. I learned about overclocking.

Nvidia prematurely dropped support for the T61’s GPU.

They had already moved on.

I discovered hacked drivers.

I pushed the laptop as hard as I knew how.

I had it running Doom 3, Gears of War, and Crysis all on medium/high settings with stable frame rate.

The T61 became my media hub.

I began watching anime again.

I started with the future/cyberpunk/mech genre.

Ghost in the Shell. Bubblegum Crisis. Gasaraki.

Serial Experiments Lain.

All fueled my visions of uncompromised technological ascension.

In 2009, I bought an Alienware desktop.

6 GB of RAM. 2.6 GHz Intel multi-core processor. Nvidia 896 MB GTX 275.

The case was beautiful. The internal cord management was elegant.

Crysis: Warhead was the first game I played.

It was stunning.

I installed every game I could.

I hit the performance barrier of the 275 very early.

One year later, Nvidia would release the GTX 500 line.

I upgraded to the 1.5 GB 580. I added 2 GB of RAM. I went from a 720 display to a full 1080.

I stuck with this setup for another year.

I was closer to realizing the full promise of my mania.


The announcement of Battlefield 3 was a phenomenon in and of itself.

Alone, it drove more than a billion dollars into the PC hardware sector.

Everyone was getting ready for Frostbite 2.

I decided I had to start from scratch.

I saw this. I remembered Lain.

I sold off my Alienware piece by piece.

It was a hard goodbye.

I was going to build the most excessive, powerful, absurd display of technology I could afford.

Months later, my monument stood:

  • 3x EVGA 3GB Nvidia GTX 580s in 3-way SLI.
  • 16 GB G.Skill Ripjaw RAM.
  • Gigabyte Z68x Motherboard.
  • Corsair Professional Series AX 1200 PSU.
  • Intel i7 3.7 GHz.
  • Thermaltake Level 10 GT w/ built-in water cooling.
  • 3 TB 7200 RPM Seagate Barracuda hard drive.
  • LG Blu-Ray RW drive.
  • Cyborg RAT7 Albino gaming mouse.
  • Cyborg V.5 keyboard.
  • Cyborg FLY5 flight stick.
  • Logitech G35 7.1 Surround Sound headset.
  • 3x 1080p Planar 3D Vision Ready 23″ monitors.
  • Nvidia 3D Vision glasses.

I was proud.

I was ignorant.

Battlefield 3 was gorgeous. It shined.

I had birthed my final daydream.

I had built a useless tyrant.



I looked forward to gaming in 5760 x 1080.

Few games worked.

Call of Duty. Diablo III. Tribes: Ascend. EVE Online. Hawken. Mass Effect 3. Kingdoms of Amalur.

They displayed the problem in one of three ways:

Call of Duty and Mass Effect had a ruined FOV: Camera zoomed in so far the games became unplayable.

Diablo and EVE: The wide resolution created errors with hit detection and HUD display.

Hawken and Tribes would just default to 1920 x 1080.

In the few years since, none of this has changed.

Programs like Widescreen Fixer help, but multi-monitor support is marginal at best.

Now, I game on one monitor and switch on all three when I am writing in order to multitask.

I don’t have the time or energy to shoehorn games anymore.


3-way SLI was never a problem until this year.

Since building this machine few major games had issue with SLI.

Fall 2014 was a step back.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare released without an SLI profile.

For the first week, launching the game would cause an APPCRASH error.

Nvidia would patch in SLI support a week or two later.

I download Nvidia Inspector and toy with the profile.

I get CoD: AW to utilize 2 GPUs and I leave it at that.

Civilization: Beyond Earth suffers launch errors.

I go into Nvidia Inspector again. I tweak elements of the game’s profile.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is the first major PC game I play that works on release.

But running DA:I with SLI creates strange graphical errors.

The rapid, flickering boxes of land texture give me headaches.

Solid white clouds of fog make parts of the game near unplayable.

Cutscenes stutter.

I dig into the forums to look for workarounds.

I manage to limit the flickering.

The cutscenes grate my nerves.

The fog remains.

Liquid Cooling:

Battlefield 4 performance drops and I am confused.

I know I meet the requirements, even in 5760 x 1080.

Frostbite 3 is wonderful, but not the vertical leap Frostbite 2 was.

I check my GPU temps.

Running normal.

I check my CPU and the temperature is off.

I grab my flashlight and shine it at the front of the case.

There is no liquid flowing through the reservoir.

Coolant dripping down the front.

I do a hard shutdown.

There is a large leak from one of the plastic seams of the flow meter.

I spend the next few days trying to repair it. Nothing works.

I spend another few days removing the entire cooling system.

I order a massive Noctua CPU Cooler. I am anxious about installing it: I don’t know if I remember how to take my computer apart.

It takes time, I gradually recall what to do.

I secure the cooler and rebuild.

I remember the thrill when it all works.

The Noctua performs better than the stock cooling system.

I throw it in the garbage. I still lament its loss.

Another piece of the dream tempered by time and cleaved by the practical.


I press the power button.

The computer boots up. The computer shuts down.

It cycles every five seconds.

After a few minutes I do a hard shutdown.

I start it up again. It boots to Windows.

An hour later, it shuts off as I’m working.

Over the next few days the problem gets worse.

I know the electricity in my place is questionable sometimes.

I buy a large APC UPS. I plug it in.

Nothing changes. The computer boots up.

The computer shuts down.

I become worried.

I go through every forum I can think of.

Many suggest a problem with the PSU.

I drive to my brother’s house. I borrow his new PSU.

I gut the computer and plug his in.

The computer boots up. It stays on.

I consider this a minor victory. I shut it off.

I plug my PSU back in. The computer boots up.

It stays on.

Midnight on a Sunday and I feel accomplished.

I stand the case upright. The cycle starts again.

I laugh and I feel like I’m losing my mind.

The Noctua catches my eye.

I think about it and go to bed.

I spend the following afternoon taking everything apart.

I reapply the thermal glue to the CPU. I reseat the Noctua. The RAM. The GPUs.

I plug everything back in and test.

It boots up. I let it run. It stays on.

I feel accomplished. I turn it off.

I take it back to my office and plug a monitor in.

I watch it boot up.

A small hour-glass symbol now appears in one of the boot screens.

It’s still there today.

Neither I nor this machine can forget what happened.


I looked forward to playing games in 3D.

Nvidia’s 3D Vision system uses active shutter glasses to create detailed and deep immersion.

I was excited at the prospect of games at full-resolution and 3D.

It didn’t work out.

Turning the 3D on affected performance more than I thought it would.

I had to choose between full resolution and 3D.

And for a while I would jump back and forth between the two.

Now I don’t bother with either one.

I don’t know where the glasses are anymore.


This monument has been collapsing for a long time now.

Liquid Cooling. Multi-monitor. 3D. All cut-down.

The excess pruned away.

3-way SLI is the final remnant of my tech-driven abandon and now I have begun considering its removal as well.

GPUs have come a long way since I began idolizing the 580.

And if I am only utilizing one monitor during games, is there a point to having three aging cards?

Nvidia is now at the GTX 900 line and I can’t afford the upgrade cost to maintain this setup.

I am considering dropping the 580s and the monitors for one powerful card and one beautiful monitor.

A part of me hurts at the thought of this.

It is painful to remember the overwhelming excitement I had for this computer.

It is difficult to watch my own expectation whither away.

Time tempers everything: Dream. Passion. Ambition.

Time wears you down with its silence and failures and the fever dreams of a younger age no longer seem as important, as necessary, or as loud.

At some point you have to gut everything to move forward.

At some point you have to let everything fall.

At some point you have to trample towards simplicity.


  1. Wisq says:

    Funny, I’ve had the opposite experience with mine. I built a $6000 (Canadian) machine about two years ago, with $2k of that going to the dual GTX 690s (quad GPU), the rest being split between various top-end components (including a six-core i7 CPU, 3x 240GB SSDs, 1200W PSU, Silverstone TJ11 case, etc.). Been very happy with my extravagance, and I expect this machine will keep going for another year or two before it’s upgrade time.

    The one caveat is that I don’t think nVidia ever expected anyone to SLI two of their GTX 690s. There’s a really annoying bug that means they can never, ever be outside of SLI for more than a few minutes before Bad Things start to happen (and won’t boot up at all with SLI disabled). And guess what upgrading video drivers does? Turns off SLI. Thanks, nVidia!

    • Gap Gen says:

      I think to some extent there’s some luck in building a PC for the first time. Mine was fine, but I have known people to have problems. And yes, I’ve never heard anyone really strongly recommend SLI, although I’ve never really tried running more than one monitor either (the gap between screens annoys me, more than anything).

      • TrixX says:

        As PC’s age they get idiosyncratic. They take on their own characters, in part through use and in part psychologically from the owner.

        However that build is always better from a pro compared to a home tinkerer. The home tinkerer has that issue of not remembering what to do as they haven’t had to do it on a daily basis for years on end. The testing, the intimate knowledge of the different hardware failures.

        I’m about to embark on one of the most ambitious builds of my PC building life, I’m looking forward to it, yet mildly apprehensive. With greater power comes greater complexity. With greater complexity comes higher chance of failure. A single failed part can stop a $10000 machine dead.

        I’d also avoid SLI these days. For some reason Nvidia don’t want to advance the tech much, probably too costly, so AMD stole the show a bit with the R9 series doing away with the limited connectors across the top. As a result Crossfire performance is offering a much better bang for buck and has better driver support (not without issues though I will say). Bring on the Quadfire :D

        • Wisq says:

          In my experience, while SLI hasn’t been completely flawless, it’s been way way less problematic than Crossfire.

          My previous card was a dual-GPU ATI card. Crossfire broke many games, and with two GPUs in one card, it literally did not give me the option to disable it whatsoever.

          SLI has only ever caused a few glitches that are usually overridable in the nVidia control panel, and if not for the gotcha of my particular situation, I could also disable SLI if needed despite using dual-GPU cards.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            With my dual 5870s, 8 games out of 10 at release required Radeon Pro ( like Nvidia Inspector ) to work in crossfire from day one, and not a single workaround profile was guaranteed to be devoid of other issues.

            2 games out of 10 recognized Xfire on release with the proper drivers, but one of them had negative scaling issues.

            The only perfect game out of 10 had a great chance of being one i didn’t even like. Besides, it only worked properly when i could exceed the V-sync limits, otherwise it was going to be a stuttering mess, more than usually expected on dual GPU setups. A single 580 felt like an upgrade on ALL fronts even if the benchmarks had worse readings ( but way better minimums ).

            With dual 670s it was the other way around and the experience is something i remember fondly, too bad i didn’t really give much weight to the limits posed by 2GBs of VRAM. I had processing power to spare, and it still would work today, if it wasn’t for the limited size. If only i went for the 4GB models i’d still be using them and you’d see me on every corner of the internet suggesting everyone to go multi GPU today.

            Nvidia had a poor year for SLI on some titles, but as far as shared knowledge goes they never had a year such as this in a LOT of time.

      • paddymaxson says:

        I disagree, there’s no luck involved. The problem is that developers don’t write software to take into account the triple SLI triple screen users that make up an absolutely miniscule minority.

        That and in my honest opinion, Water cooling just isn’t worth it, clever design has made air cooling almost as good but a lot less fuss. My machine happily chugs along with all it’s overclocking with nothing but air.

  2. Dave Money says:

    That was a difficult read.

    Also, noob ;p

    • dahools says:


      Way to go fixing it, just throw more money at it.

      Anyone thinking of dabbling into building their own computer this is a prime example of how not to do it.

    • IceBreaker says:

      He did it James-Ellroy-style. Ii is called hardboiled staccato and I dig it.

      I too have had similar PRO-BLEMS.
      I expected he would mention the whir-crackle and pop of the PC cycling On and Off. On and Off.
      I wanted to hear the drip-drop of the leaking coolant.
      I would be mesmerized to have Merilyn Monroe and Jack the Hair walk in and give him an hand.
      And then help him fix his computer.

    • Danarchist says:

      This is what I see all my buddies that built massive rigs doing over time. SLI seems to require constantly tweaking games and a ton of cussing. The simple fact is building the system then tweaking it for performance is a game unto itself. A difficult game full of message board reading and RMA calls to India.
      A couple months ago a few of my Engi buddies came over to LAN some silly game like dungeon defenders or something. Of the 6 computers (total value > my car) only 3 of them were not being dug into and cussed at for the entire evening.
      Seems like money in does not equal function out

      • Hammerstrike says:

        I have dual GTX 780 ti’s in SLI and have not had any issues. Prior to that I had 580’s in SLI and they were worry free, as well. Doesn’t mean I never had issues, but running in single vs SLI was never a problem. Certainly never to the point where I had to go tinkering around inside my case. If you have to go inside your case you have bigger issues then driver support.

  3. Napalm Sushi says:

    Man, say what you will about the bottlenecking of gaming’s technical development by consoles, but I don’t miss this.

    Can anyone name any titles that actually demand anything more recent than an i7 and a GTX 680?

    • aircool says:

      Nope. At 1080p, nothing :)

      Ok, maybe some games you might have to drop shadows or something, but that’s generally about it.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Even dropping the shadows and other stuff on a 680 won’t give 60 fps on EVERY game @1080p, unless you really drop a LOT, so i guess the answer is the same as usual: depends on your standards.

        “Demand” is a stupid word in the PC gaming space anyway, it should only be used when you are below the required specs. Anything above that depends on what you want, and the technology is currently not there if you want anything above 1440p.

        And no, it’s not stupid to want that, let’s not go there.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m still chugging along on a Core 2 Quad and the only things that really suffer are those with insatiable appetites for physics, like KSP, or abnormally grand scale, like Planetside 2.

      In the last six years or so all I’ve done is replaced a burnt-out graphics card. The only thing it really screams out for is an SSD for load times. I love the death of the upgrade treadmill.

      • Nasarius says:

        Core 2 is getting a little long in the tooth, but it does represent Intel emerging from years in the wilderness with Pentium 4. It’s good enough for a lot of modern games which push the GPU, but aren’t doing a whole lot of simulation on the CPU.

        My i7 920 is the first computer I’ve actually upgraded in 15+ years of PC building, rather than just starting from scratch with a whole new computer. Over the course of a few years, I replaced the graphics card, added an SSD, and doubled the RAM. Fairly inexpensive upgrades, and well worth it. When I replace it with a Skylake-based computer in late 2015, it will have lasted me a good six years.

      • Shadow says:

        KSP inevitably chugs because it’s single-core and poorly optimized as of 2014 (thanks Unity). It’s a bit like Dwarf Fortress in that you need strong individual cores, CPU-wise, since it’ll only use one.

        • P.Funk says:

          Which is why my Core2Duo still feels A Okay most of the time.

      • zentropy says:

        Fuck, I’m not alone? Fistbump C2Bro :3

    • subedii says:

      Depends what your minimum standards are these days really.

      If you’re running at 1080 and 30 FPS, then probably not. These days however, people are moving on to larger and larger monitors, which frequently means they want to push around more pixels if they want to maintain visual fidelity. At the same time 60 FPS is fast becoming the mainstay PC-side, even as the latest console generation still struggles (and frequently fails) to meet even a consistent framerate at 720p.

      If you find yourself sacrificing visual bells and whistles more and more in pursuit of those things, then that probably answers the question of whether your rig is adequate to what you’re trying to do with it.

      Personally I’m still rocking a 16:10 (1680 x 1050) monitor, so I’ve found myself still largely hitting 60FPS on most games even now, though granted I don’t think I’ve bought much that’s truly system intensive recently.

      • Tacroy says:

        That being said, Shadow of Mordor and the piratey Assasin’s Creed are both pretty happy to run at 2K borderless on my i7 / GTX 570 without much settings fiddling, though I will admit I don’t actually pay attention to frame rates.

      • Shadow says:

        60fps has been the PC mainstay for many years. If anyone sticks to 30fps on PC it’s most likely due to considerably outdated hardware and/or they’ve been fooled by console propaganda.

        • B.rake says:

          60fps is great, but I’ve found the thing I most value is consistent framerate- plenty of people with beastly setups struggle to maintain 60 consistently in many games. When the expectation is that they look better in higher resolutions at high framerates year after year, compromise seems inevitable. Setting a target of optimized 30fps doesn’t strike me as totally unreasonable ‘console propoganda’ with games that might favor visual affect, as long as they aren’t being disengenuous about it (“we want it to look like a movie” and whatnot). IMO its kind of nice being partially tethered to the console cycle, knowing that my current rig will likely handle new releases for another 4 or 5 years.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Yeah, but most of the times that drivel about 30 fps is nothing more than an excuse for the inability to do any better.

            It would make sort of sense if it was an optimized target like you said, with very even time intervals between frames and a general linearity in performance, but the truth is that the framerates are incredibly fluctuating, especially on egregious examples like Unity.

            So yeah, when it comes to that “propaganda”, don’t be fooled, they’re not putting a limit to the framerate while they could easily go above just for the sake of linearity. And yes, i too prefer to V-sync at 60fps, but to do so effectively like you said the hardware needs to be able to actually go way above that, if it wasn’t for the limit.

          • B.rake says:

            Fair point, most of it is BS. “Featuring Stable Framerates!” is unlikely to ever find its place among salable features lists outside of niche competitive genres, so why bother developing for it.

    • Geebs says:

      AC: Unity, apparently

      Far Cry 3 also chugs on my setup

      Apparently UBI games do

      Also Crysis

      What’s so ‘mechanical’ about hitting return twice instead of the space bar?

      beats me.

    • PoulWrist says:

      Loads of games started running at less than 60fps on my 680 while at 2560×1440. I don’t ever want to go lower res, in fact I want to go higher, to 21:9. Contains the best of all worlds. Since going IPS I don’t want to go back to TN, but if a 100hz+ IPS shows up in good quality at the right price… Well, more frames, please, and don’t drop the visual quality settings.
      So yeah, lots of games are highly demanding. If you are happy with a postage stamp monitor or a blurry image, sure. But that was always the case that nothing was all that demanding with those constraints.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I’m running a Q6600 from over 7 years ago and it still seems fine.

      • jezcentral says:

        A classic CPU. The fact it took the legendary i7 920 to dethrone it shows how good it was.

      • zat0ichi says:

        Ahh the Q6600. I loved mine but got nervous about the synthetic benchmarks moving further and further away.

        How does it game these days? I’ve read it starts to bottle neck anything more than a 560ti. With that in mind you’re looking at 30fps at 1080p on all games up to crysis 3. (No physx either, which is another reason I moved on from q6600 as GPU physics did not catch on very well so all that work has to be done by the CPU if you want it)

        Dx12 could leave you laughing though.

        • MacTheGeek says:

          GPU-based physics should be a done deal by now. Unfortunately, we’re still stuck in a world where the two primary GPU manufacturers refuse to agree on a single implementation standard, and consequently the CPU gets stuck with a job that it’s ill-equipped to perform.

    • K33L3R says:

      I’ve got a i5 and a GTX 670 (which is very modestly overclocked), I’m currently playing Shadows of Mordor at 1920×1080 with everything on high and a few settings on ultra, average framerate is 50-55 FPS. GPU temp has never reached more than 38 degrees either
      so no, nothing demands even a 670 yet IMO

      • fish99 says:

        Shadows of Mordor isn’t actually that demanding, my old 660 would run it at 45-55 fps on nearly full settings. Dead Rising 3 and Lords of the Fallen are definitely more demanding, and from what I hear AC:U and DA:I (haven’t played).

        • K33L3R says:

          It’s the example cos that’s the newest game i own, not a comparison on whats more demanding :-)

          • fish99 says:

            But you used it as an example of nothing needing more than a 670. I guess you meant nothing you’ve played so far.

          • K33L3R says:

            You are correct, forgive my poor choice of words in the first post. Sometimes I mess up my English without realizing it

    • sebmojo says:

      Actually an i5 is all you need; the i7 is only for specialist applications, games almost never get a worthwhile boost out of it.

      The SA Goon partspicker thread is clotted with the most potent of pc wisdom, and one of their core insights is that future-proofing is dumb because of the way tech moves. Get the best price/performance you can right now (GTX 970, fast i5 and 8 gig no-name RAM), then in a couple of years upgrade that as needed. You’ll save money, effort and heartbreak.

    • paddymaxson says:

      MOetro 2033 Redux at 4K isn’t exactly a smoothe experience with anything more than 2xAA on my 980 :(

    • Hammerstrike says:

      I think the whole point of PC gaming is maxing it out – anyone who has maintained a rig knows the kind of pain Saman wrote about (great read IMO). I Have dual EVGA 780 ti superclocked, overclocked to a boast of arround 1200 Ghz, i5-3570k @ 4.4 ghz, 16GB ram. Game off a 1440p Korean. Been playing Stalker: Lost Alpha. can max it out at 1440p on DX10.1 with exception of grass shadows and sun rays off. For some reason the game engine can’t do AA, but I use DSR to force the engine to render at 4k and downs ample it, getting the best form of AA possible. Doing this the game runs arround 45 FPS average, with rare display down to the low 30’s.

      That’s basically playing the game at 4k, and I am a fair bit off from a steady 60fps, so there is really no such thing as too much power. And it is noticible. DSR, particularly if done at 4x upsample from the native rest of your display (I.e 1080p display with a DSR resolution set at 4k) really does give an amazing picture quality. It’s a noticible difference. Even 4k at 28 inches is still only 170 dpi or so, so aliasing is still visible. Being able to supersample that down from 8k would make it look even more like an ink print.

      While these are “high performance” scenario’s, there are a lot of enthusiast out there pushing ther rigs. having a super high res, max settings settings image, with a solid frame rate, is a next gen experience. It’s better then anything you can experience on console. Granted, a shit game is a shit game, but for a good game ( if you are into Stalker Lost Alpha is worth checking out) it can make it that much more immersive and give you an experience you can only get on PC.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      Some interesting responses here that remind me how oblivious I’ve been to the recent push for vast screens and their accordingly more numerous pixels.

      With a 24″ monitor already testing the capacity of this desk and, by extension, this room, I don’t see myself budging from 1920×1080 for a long while yet.

  4. smeaa mario says:


    So sorry that I had to drop this obnoxious emoticon here. But I had to. And don’t think I am ridiculing the agony of the author. No, not really. I am actually shedding a river of tears, tears of pain, as I laugh maniacally. I do so, because this felt like I read about my own past several years. Depicted so very well that it hurts.


  5. aircool says:

    I gave up building my own PC years ago, and just get a made to order system from SCAN. They tend to stay competitive for about three years, and then I just give them to my dad.

    Maybe I’ll upgrade the video card if games come out where I really need more power (nothing has bothered my 680 so far, although some new games go through my 60FPS floor on max detail), or buy a new monitor when the new tech/resolutions are affordable. However, apart from hardware failures (my Ethernet thingy broke on my last system, so I just used wifi), I never need to spend more than my initial outlay, which isn’t much more than the sum of the components if bought separately. When it’s time to move on, three months of saving will buy me a new PC.

    There was a time when an off the shelf PC would reach the limit of its usefulness in eighteen months, and, as ever, buying bleeding edge technology was eventually a waste of money; buying one step behind the curve tends to give the best balance between cost, lifetime and power.

    That dude’s PC did look cool though :)

    • Ross Angus says:

      I would do that, but I have a lovely case.

      My current upgrade marks some sort of centenary: the first 3D card I bought had 4MB of RAM. The new one has 4gb.

      • jrodman says:

        On this sort of topic: The first computer I bought had 64kb. Soon I’m sure I’ll own one with 64GB.

        • MacTheGeek says:

          The first hard drive I ever bought held 200MB of data. The 2TB drive I bought last year represents a 10,000x increase, which I could now double again with 4TB drives hitting the market.

        • Llewyn says:

          If we’re widening it from PCs in the contemporary sense, my first was a VIC-20 with 3.5kB of RAM. I have 32GB in this PC (for virtualization mostly, not gaming).

          I also remember buying a 6GB hard drive for about £250 in the mid-90s and being pretty certain that that was all the storage I was ever going to need.

          • LionsPhil says:

            In the mid-’90s, it might have been.

            The one back on my Atari ST was probably only in the hundreds of megs, but was never more than a fraction full because what the heck kind of large data are you going to process with an 16-bit micro? No broadband Internet, no music (let alone DVD) ripping, and games mostly fit on floppies.

    • LionsPhil says:

      buying one step behind the curve tends to give the best balance between cost, lifetime and power.

      This is a strategy which has worked well for me too.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I will be getting a new PC (probably from SCAN) at some point in the near future, and my stumbling block tends to be trying to figure out why I really need, rather than wanting all the latest shiny tech.

      • jrodman says:

        Why, or what?

        • Andy_Panthro says:

          Figuring out what I need, rather than why!

          I think I will end up settling for an i5 and a 750ti, but part of me wants to go a bit further and for an i7/970 combo. Also, what amount of RAM is best to go for? 8, 16, 32?? I could easily spend a lot of money, but I really shouldn’t, since it’ll all be a waste when I’m mostly playing old games or indie ones.

          • jrodman says:

            I think considering what you’re actually going to use the computer for is pretty key. The most demanding game I expected to end up playing was Guild Wars 2, but it didn’t really happen, and I figured any modern computer would do for that.

            For compilation of software and linking, cpu speed and disk speed dominate, so I got an SSD (no brainer).

            The only other thing I expected to really ever tax the thing was loading a lot of apps at once. I tend to leave a lot of half-finished tasks running — work checkpointed, but the state all set up with documents and creative works together. So I got 16GB of ram, and I’ve never seen over 9GB allocated even when leaveing all that stuff running AND running games. So pleasant.

            After that I focused on what I actually cared about: quietness & reliability. I bought a quiet system from Puget, and it’s lasted me 2 years or so already. I don’t expect to upgrade it for quite some time.

  6. NZLion says:

    The right choices at the right time can (since the core i* series’ arrived) result in a PC capable of forming a solid foundation for a long time. That Alienware with a current video card, more RAM, and an SSD would probably still be more than sufficient to drive one 1440p display. Most of my current PC is from 2009 and very few titles are pushing the CPU even this long after the fact.

  7. LionsPhil says:

    Jesus Christ dude, not every sentence has to have a paragraph to itself.

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s an interesting technique, kinda like a beat poem mixed with prose, but like the Film Critic Hulk it does make it harder to read for long form pieces (although the Hulk is far worse for this). Eh, it’s fine. As long as RPS doesn’t pay by the word, I suppose.


        Or by the paragraph, or this post will have used the entire 2015 budget.

    • Chuckleluck says:

      Glad to see I wasn’t the only person annoyed by this writing style.

    • dsch says:

      Needless affectation that comes across like a gimmicky grab for attention.

    • sebmojo says:

      I really like it, though I’m glad he’s the only writer here who uses it.

    • meatshit says:

      And what’s with all the links? They don’t go anywhere that I couldn’t have found by doing right-click > search Google for.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      Yeah, I couldn’t help but skim it because it felt a lot more drawn out than regular paragraphs would. I get enough weird text in forums, I don’t need more in RPS articles.

    • Mr Coot says:

      Afraid this article got a refusal at the first jump, since I couldn’t read it due to the writing style. I am all into the passion of computer hardware – notes on the personal journey are fine – but I find this can be effectively conveyed in paragraphs. End result was cheap and unreadable and left me wondering whether the gimmick was embraced because the author was not capable of anything else.

      I expect to be proven wrong by haikus arranged in the shape of a penis for the next attempt.

  8. mukuste says:

    This was such a sad article… it managed to feel strangely personal while talking about hardware in mechanical sentences. Interesting.

  9. Gilead says:

    I built my own PC for the first time six months ago. I basically just started with the more reasonable, cut-down, single-monitor setup that the article describes at the end.

    I don’t know whether that’s a lack of ambition on my part, or whether I am an enlightened sage, effortlessly casting aside unwanted fripperies to create a kind of shrine, made possible only by the goal of Zen-like simplicity and disregard for material possessions, but also a willingness to buy things online, a combination reminiscent of the modern self-help industry.

    Probably it was just that I ran out of money before I could buy two more monitors and another graphics card, though.

  10. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    I’m twelve and what is this (formatting)?

  11. Howard says:

    Great, another clueless amateur thinks he can do what well paid professionals can without actually bothering to learn anything, and so another log is added to the pyre of “GAMING PCs BAD!”
    This kind of stupid is fine on personal blogs where no one will read them, but getting it dumped on a fairly mainstream PC site is crass and wildly misleading.

    Your incompetence in no way represents the actuality of building PCS. Please stop!

    • Ross Angus says:

      There there.

    • Gilead says:

      To be fair I’m not sure he’s saying that gaming PCs are bad — after all, he ends the article discussing the future changes he’s going to make to his system. He’s not junking it and switching to a PS4, he’s just adjusting his goals.

      I think the article is more about the impracticality of his trying to replicate the theoretical bleeding-edge of PC gaming — games at stupidly high resolutions across 3+ screens, three-way SLI, 3D, etc, and that in the long run it was easier for him to compromise and scale back so he could get a more stable experience.

      (Admittedly his buying an Alienware in the first place was a terrible decision. I’ve also always disliked SLI, so his idea of buying another two 580s 18 months after he bought the first one and presumably just when the 600 series was being released seems like madness to me.)

  12. Melody says:

    I’m sorry to say this, but I find this article deeply saddening, and even mildly disgusting.

    The writing is fine (I don’t like the extremely fragmented, telegraphed style, but at least he’s good at doing what he’s trying to do), but the content smells of decadent bourgeois wastefulness and loss of perspective. It’s slighly repulsive in the same way that rich people who buy 50 Ferraris only to keep them in their garage are, or buy 50 apartments around the world and keep the majority of them empty, are.

    I find it slightly disgusting just like I’m slightly disgusted that, since I started occasionally following hardware news more closely than a quick read of the Week in Tech column, I want a new, faster computer I don’t need more than I did before, or like people who line up for the release of a new tech gadget the night before, or the week before.

    I apologize if anyone finds my comment offensive.
    (Yes, Hi, I’m fun at parties, pleased to meet you)

    • Ross Angus says:

      As always, Melody, you are fair and polite. I know what you mean. After my recent upgrade (which I really didn’t have any need for), the first program I watched on my combined TV and monitor was the recent Panorama about the damage the computer industry is doing to the developing world. Really killed my new computer buzz.

      I blame Jeremy Laird.

      • Melody says:

        If you’re being sarcastic, meh. If you’re being sincere, thank you <3
        I apologize for always being grumpy and a downer, though :D

    • Gargulec says:

      I must admit, I have a slight problem with your rhetoric, which is doubly troubling since I deeply empathize with the point you are trying to make. However, the way you serve it rings some alarm bells.

      ” Decadent bourgeois wastefulness” is a phrase that, I feel, is too loaded with really nasty historical and ideological baggage to be used in our times. Now, again, this is a dangerous thing for me to say – given how there is a very solid argument for the validity of the phrase, or at least at the time of its greatest prominence. It is a choice of words that used to be synonymous with various Marxist schools of thought – but that is not the problem with it. The issue is that it also has the baggage of being used, prominently, in Marxist-Leninist propaganda of Soviet Russia.

      Okay, let’s pause here, let me explain myself. I’m Polish, I come from a country and a region that was, to put it mildly, harmed by history (a phenomenal study of it can be found in T. Snyder’s “Bloodlands” and T. Judt’s “Postwar”, both excellent reads that I recommend to everyone). By history and by ideology. Various ideologies. Now, this is not supposed to give me a claim at moral superiority or to prove that I can bash “dirty commies” with impunity as some form of weird historical retribution, that’s not the point I am trying to make. But I seem to be struggling with the one I am trying to make.

      The problem that I find with your comment is that it feels like it is tapping into a dangerous rhetoric. Words are not innocent, and even phrases that are entirely justifiable sometimes carry meanings we are not aware of, yet of which we should be wary. I know that it seems to be a pedantic, if not mean-spirited criticism, but I find it vitally important, maybe even more-so because I agree with what you are saying, merely not how you are saying it.

      The ideology of class warfare and the criticism of “decadent” life-style caused the development of a system that was nothing short of genocidal. Now, again, I need to make a note here that I am not suggesting that Marixst and later Socialist thought is directly responsible for the atrocities of Soviet Russia. Far from it, actually. However, it needs to be remembered, that despite what various eurocommunist factions used to claim throughout sixties and seventies, Marixsm-Leninsm in its most ruthless form was a valid reading of Marx, and was not a baseless interpretation of the doctrines outlined within his works and later present in the general stream of Marxist and Socialist thought (see L. Kołakowski’s “Main Currents of Marxism”, it is a great study of the subject, written by one of the most interesting and impressive Polish philosophers and thinkers of the XXth century).

      Therefore, it is advisable to move away from using phraseology that taps directly into such a narration. The reason behind it, I feel, is simple; such words are hardly innocent. A more nuanced, more balanced way of expressing it is perhaps more difficult to write down, but ultimately, it leads to giving such points more credibility, and above all, is simply good for your mental hygiene.

      I apologize if this note came out as an attack on your statement. It is not meant to be one. Neither is it an attack on Socialist or Social-democratic (or generally left-wing) view of the world and its injustices. It is just my attempt to explain why certain phrases make me twitch. Apologies again.

      • Gap Gen says:

        If we could also avoid any references to capitalism and the human cost of Western intervention around the world in places like the DRC, Chile, Vietnam, Iran, etc, plus the growing poverty caused by neoliberalism in Europe and the US today, then that’d be good. Or indeed the violence wrought by Christianity, Islam and Judaism in the various religious and sectarian wars that continue to rage today around the world. Or Atheism for giving us Richard Dawkins.

        (I’m not saying that the influence of Soviet, and indeed Nazi occupation wasn’t malign, but it’s not like other ideologies used by competing powers are a full-time barrel of laughs either. Nonetheless, I am sorry if certain phrases like this trigger bad memories for you.)

        • Gargulec says:

          It is not the matter of avoiding referencing the evils of capitalism; it is the matter of being mindful what sort of language you are using. Phrases are loaded; and so are narrations. The entire post-colonialism school of cultural anthropology focuses on that, showing how certain ways of seemingly innocent describing the world bear the burden of colonial past and therefore should be used with great caution. Some words and ways of speaking are discredited because of their lineage and their past misuse. I was attempt to point out how “decadent bourgeois wastefulness” is one of them, how it is discredited by its past use, and how to use it today is to (willingly or not) reference and tap into a rhetoric that ended up causing a great lot of suffering.

          I am also resenting the choice of examples you have brought to criticise my point. They are not innocent. Again, I want to say that I empathize with the point made Melody, but I have issues with how it was phrased. I am not opposed to the ideological statement he is making; quite the opposite. I support it. Yet, you have cited examples of things that, if the rhetoric in question is dangerous, should also better go unmentioned as if I was some sort of a conservative partisan, a reactionary force attempting to white-wash the evils of the western world by bashing on the corpse of communism. This is not the case, and I can’t help but to feel that your counter-argument was made in bad faith.

          Above all, it is the matter of remembering. Words, ideologies, they have lineages, they have ancestry; they carry with themselves bits of past. We need to be mindful of that, to be mindful of what we say and how we say what we say – otherwise, it stands to reason that we will, in time, forget about what those words used to mean, and that is the easiest way for us to get a relapse of the tragedies their use contributed to.

          • Distec says:

            “Yet, you have cited examples of things that, if the rhetoric in question is dangerous, should also better go unmentioned as if I was some sort of a conservative partisan, a reactionary force attempting to white-wash the evils of the western world by bashing on the corpse of communism. This is not the case, and I can’t help but to feel that your counter-argument was made in bad faith.”

            Do you have a cool club I can join? If not, could you at least mail me a sticker?

      • Shadow says:

        I suppose phrases like “decadent bourgeois wastefulness” generate a different kind of rejection in my eyes. It’s an instant credibility crash. They depict the tired old communist resentment which pseudo-nobly intends to communicate “if I had that kind of money, I’d do something better with it (for society even!)” but has been long debunked as “if I had that kind of money… I wish I had that kind of money”. Because communism being the pipe dream that it is, once a person comes into contact with any kind of wealth, it’s extremely unlikely they’ll devote a major portion of it (i.e. that which would otherwise be assigned to “decadent bourgeois wastefulness”) towards the well-being of others before their own. The concept of redistribution always deals with someone else’s money.

        Anyway, yeah, maybe you don’t own 50 Ferraris or have 50 apartments around the globe, but you still have a gaming computer with internet access while poverty still exists in the world and some people even starve to death as we speak. Maybe you collect things, small things that aren’t four dozen sportscars, but you still do it while some people don’t even have bread. Enjoying your wasteful decadence?

        So that’s the kind of thought processes that start firing in my mind once someone pointlessly blurts out things like “decadent bourgeois wastefulness”, the extreme irony and hypocrisy of such completely annihilating any weight their related argument had. And, as Gargulec said, it’s a shame because Melody might’ve presented a good point. Just one with terrible dressing.


          I don’t think you’ve attacked Melody’s post as well as you think, since his entire point was that while he would recognize the idea, he still identifies with it. So he’s not saying “surely if I had that money I’d do something better with that!”, but rather “I have that money and I don’t have anything better to do with that, and that makes me sad because I think I should have.”

          Plus, while that’s certainly what’s behind that sentence’s meaning in most cases, (and perhaps in its original usage even), I think it can also apply as a critique of money by money’s sake, possessions as status symbols, working jobs we hate to buy things we don’t need etc. This interpretation seems much closer to Melody’s, and I find it surprising you didn’t detect it unless you tuned out (or stopped reading entirely?) the moment you saw the expression ”decadent bourgeois wastefulness” (which I admit I myself wouldn’t use unless wrapped in several layers of insulating irony).

          • Shadow says:

            Yeah, I got that while they hate wasteful decadence, they’re disgusted that they themselves feel like being decadently wasteful after following hardware news more closely. That’s the twist, but I feel all the post revolves around that damned phrase, too charged with a myriad connotations about a failed ideology. It’s too overpowering to leave much room for the point they’re trying to make.

      • B.rake says:

        Oooh, started reading Tony Judt’s Post-War a few months ago, quite good! On board with the point about Communist rhetoric, it’s primary function is to disengage people from philosophical quandry and foment blindly ideological fervor, though as in OP’s post it can also be useful shorthand for more complicated generalizations.

        Reminds me a bit of Charles Bliss, who decided to invent a new language as a cure for the evils of the early 20th century, which he believed stemmed from the deceptive use of language. Really interesting story, well told in this podcast:

    • gorice says:

      I think that may have been the point, though. Effective, in any case.

      • B.rake says:

        Yeah, I read it as partially about disenchantment from excess. “It is difficult to watch my own expectation whither away…. At some point you have to gut everything to move forward…. At some point you have to trample towards simplicity.”

    • Tekrunner says:

      Thank you for this comment. What saddens me personally is that it’s the only one under this article that mentions these things. RPS is a website that gives significant room to critical views on social issues around video games. You would think that more of its readers would give some attention to the economic and environmental consequences of an excessive consumption of technology, and ask themselves a little more if they really, truly need these monster PCs that won’t perform much better than mid-range ones a couple years later.

      But no, instead they question your use of words because OH MY GOD you said “bourgeois” !!!

      (I don’t know if I’m popular at parties, I just stopped going to them).

      • B.rake says:

        The author’s experience with the Alienware machine seems much more typical- it’s arguable that monster PCs actually consume less (excepting electrical current) than mid-range PCs and other “low performance” gadgets such as laptops, consoles, tablets and smartphones (which are essentially designed to be superannuated) because they’re significantly repairable, upgradable and are often based on or built with parts traded or from older rigs. Not to mention longer overall lifespan of individual parts – difference in manufacturing and labor resources can’t be enormous. It’s certainly not causing any more problems than the drive to ever lower overhead costs or gadget proliferation- from that perspective I think it’s better to focus on the manufacturing side of labor eithics, power efficiency and environmental concerns than curing people of “bourgeois consumerism”.

    • smisk says:

      Is it really “decadent bourgeois wastefulness” to put money into a hobby you love? It’s not like he’s buying gold plated ferraris or $50 million mansions. Sure some of it is excessive, but it’s also an experience of putting it together and trying to get everything to work.
      Personally I would never build a PC that complicated but I admire people who are willing to try.

      • Distec says:

        Going over spec is a crime almost everybody commits when they’re purchasing things; from computers to fridges.

        I don’t think the consumer mentality of “gotta get more stuff” is healthy at all, but you’re not going to stop people from spending money on things they truly enjoy. And I think it’s a little late to be concerned about the expensive parts any given person is purchasing and installing in a PC when we’ve already drowned ourselves in a sea of technology in various form factors. There’s certainly a worthwhile discussion about that state of affairs, but I don’t think gaming (luxury entertainment if there ever was one) is the best place to start.

        Pumping money into creating a gaming PC seems more defensible to me than trading out your smartphone for an upgrade every X number of months.

  13. SableShrike says:

    I saw way too much of my own sad experience in this! Only for me my Alienware self-destructed less than two months after purchase. Their customer service was so atrocious that I have never bought anything from them again. But yeah… I tried the massive rez, SLI nonsense. I found that more than anything I just wanted something that looked nice and WORKED. So I’ve stuck with a 1080p fast response monitor, and one GPU (the 970’s are a real steal, they really are). I get to spend more time playing my games than I do screwing with my system, finally. If all you care about is 1080p resolution, a 970 or the ATI equivalent should be the last card you ever need.

    Until they get this 3D crap out of early days, that is. TomsHardware is the best, by the way. Even we noobs can learn before failure there.

    • LionsPhil says:

      On that note, what do people think of TheTechReport? I’ve found their reviews (and SSD endurance test) good reading but don’t know if the hip youth of today who can be bothered to follow GPU marketing think their system builds are whack, or the shnizzle. Dude.

      • commentingaccount says:

        as a youth: READ THAT SHIT UNTIL YOU DIE

        It is an amazing site, and is my go-to for PC news and reviews.

      • Clavus says:

        The Tech Report is probably one of the best out there. They’re not as comprehensive as some other sites, but always know their shit. They made the first push for including GPU frametimes in their reviews after doing research, since it gave a much better view of the user experience than frames-per-second.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        I personally prefer AnandTech as my goto tech site, but they can be on the slow/irregular side. If you want something that’s been covered there though, you can expect a lot more depth than any other site I know of.

        • commentingaccount says:

          AnandTech got sold after Anand recently left the site. I doubt it will be good for much longer.

          • MacTheGeek says:

            It got sold to the same publisher that owns Tom’s Hardware. No telling yet whether Anandtech will adopt the worst excesses of Tom’s (read: ads atop ads), or work together to build something even better. I dream of the PCs in Tom’s “$X budget” articles being used to compile an even-more-comprehensive Bench database.

  14. RARARA says:

    If you replace the MOBO, CPU, GPU, RAM, PSU, HDD of your aging PC… is it still your old PC, Theseus?

    • Dale Winton says:

      If you replace one part of it , it becomes another PC

      • LTK says:

        So says the Windows reauthentication requirement.

        • dahools says:

          Not true unless you change like the two major components at the same time. You can add/ removed gfx cards, hard drives, ram and all the obvious bit and bobs as much as you like without reauthing.

          Unless that has come in with win 8/8.1 but who uses that anyway right?

        • Wisq says:

          There’s a reason I haven’t bought a Microsoft OS since forever. If they’re going to treat me like a criminal even when I’m a legit customer, then I’ll gladly be a criminal.

          I don’t support games piracy, because these are entertainment pieces that people have put a chunk of their lives into and nobody’s forcing me to play them. But Windows is a piece of trash that I’m forced to use if I want to do any serious amount of gaming, not something I ever wanted to use.

          It’s also a horrible OS and a great example of the sunk cost fallacy, and they should’ve burned the house to the ground and started over a long time ago. Also probably fired everyone, too, or at least the management that got them into this mess.

          • fish99 says:

            What’s the big deal, it’s not like you need to buy a new OS, just click reactivate, or do the automated phone activation. You probably own quite a few games that need online activation of some kind after installation.

            IMO it’s worth having a legal OS for the security updates.

          • LionsPhil says:

            It’s also a horrible OS and a great example of the sunk cost fallacy, and they should’ve burned the house to the ground and started over a long time ago.

            They did. It was called Windows NT and is quite good. You should try upgrading from ’95 some time.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Actually MS consider the heart and soul of the PC to be the motherboard:

          The system builder is required to support the software on the original PC. Understanding that end users, over time, upgrade their PCs with different components, Microsoft needed to have one base component “left standing” that would still define the original PC. Since the motherboard contains the CPU and is the “heart and soul” of the PC, when the motherboard is replaced (for reasons other than defect) a new PC is essentially created. The original system builder did not manufacture this new PC, and therefore cannot be expected to support it.
          OEM Licensing FAQ

          (As always, what the actual copy protection software does in the end may vary. Windows Product Activation is not know for being a clear and predictable system. It’s certainly got a reputation for being way twitchier when it comes to reactivations.)

          • Baines says:

            Motherboard is a fair enough piece to tie to a PC’s identity. Everything else is largely interchangeable and upgradable without changing the PC’s identity.

            You wouldn’t say that you have a new PC if you add more RAM or switch PSUs. Or if you change graphics cards. While your drive holds your OS and software, would you really consider it a new machine if you replace a dead drive? What if you just add a new drive?

            But the motherboard… Everything is tied to the motherboard. And restricted by the motherboard. The motherboard determines what CPUs you can use, what RAM you can use, which and how many cards you can attach, what kinds of drives you can attach… When changing the other components, even the CPU, you are stuck within certain ranges defined by your motherboard.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      As long as you cram it in the old case…

  15. serioussgtstu says:

    Water cooling seems like a terrible idea. I was having a problem with my PSU this year, and I talked to a friend about sorting it out. He’s worked with computers for years and the first thing he asked me when I told him it was a self build was “do you use water cooling?”, because that’s what always fails.

    Putting a load of liquid coolant inside an expensive machine which isn’t water resistant just sounds completely backward to me. I think people do it just because they like seeing big green or red pipes inside their rig. I keep temperatures down by using energy efficient components.

    • Thurgret says:

      I chucked an i7 4790k, a GTX 970 and a few other things inside a big case with three fans in it a couple weeks ago. The graphics card runs at room temperature when idling, and the CPU at about 34 degrees. I honestly don’t see the point to water cooling.

      • Cockie says:

        Cooling is for when your pc is not idling. :p
        Idk, maybe people hate the noise of fans?

        • fish99 says:

          Doesn’t a watercooling radiator usually have a fan attached? (I honestly don’t know since I’ve never used one)

          Honestly though if you go with big, slow fans you can have good airflow and very little noise. My case has 3*12cm and 1*14cm fans and they’re all Antec tri-cool with a 3-way speed switch (or get a fan controller) so you can slow them right down. I’ve also got a 3rd party CPU cooler, again with a big fan and heatsink, and my EVGA 970 has a very quiet cooler.

          Even at load it’s just a low distant hum.

          • thedosbox says:

            Doesn’t a watercooling radiator usually have a fan attached?

            Not only do they need a fan, they also need a pump. Lots of noise, expense and risk for little or no gain.

        • drinniol says:

          If you pick the right case and components you can get almost no fan noise, and certainly not enough to hear above whatever game you are playing, without sacrificing any meaningful performance.

        • Cockie says:

          In that case I don’t know why people use water cooling either. *shrugs*

          • FriendlyFire says:

            A good aftermarket air cooler is a gigantic piece of metal hanging sideways from your motherboard. Some people don’t like that, be it due to weight concerns (if you carry your desktop around a bit) or plain and simply look. It also dumps all the hot air into the case, whereas a water cooling loop throws it out of the case. This isn’t a requirement for a standard setup, but if you overclock your components fairly heavily, it matters.

          • fish99 says:

            Most 3rd party CPU coolers I’ve used weigh very little and they should all direct air flow straight into your rear case exhaust fan and thus straight out of your case. If anything bends your mobo it’ll be the pressure of the heatsink bracket not the weight of the heatsink, but either way it’s not going to break anything.

            Watercooling does take heat away from your CPU/GPU faster allowing for a better overclock though.

          • dahools says:

            Certainly not weight related. A pump, reservoir, water blocks, pint of fluid, piping and a radiator or two is not gonna weigh less than any single aftermarket cpu cooler.

            The only reasons for liquid cooling are multi gpu setups with/or heavy over clocking.
            Oh and showing off / asthetic reasons / bragging etc.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            @fish99: Top-tier air coolers are massive. My Noctua is heavy enough to make the motherboard bend a little around the anchoring (which is obviously reinforced by a strong backplate). Sure, a small aftermarket cooler won’t be so bad, but the coolers that compete with water cooling are tower coolers, which are essentially almost solid blocks of metal.

            @dahools: An air cooler hangs from your motherboard. All the water cooling apparatus hangs from the case, which is designed to handle large weights. Your motherboard is not. If you lug around your computer, a large cooler can start oscillating and possibly fracture the PCB, I’ve seen it happen.

          • fish99 says:

            You can’t list not bending your mobo as the reason you watercool unless you qualify that statement by saying you’re heavily overclocking. I’ve owned loads of large coolers from Arctic Cooling, and they all weigh less than the intel stock cooler, cool much better and make very little noise. And they do not dump heat into your case, they blow it straight into the exhaust fan. I’ve had some decent overclocks with them too.

        • Wisq says:

          As long as you get large fans, you can generally get away with minimal fan noise. Also, water cooling often involves a reservoir which can cause a constant trickling water sound if you’re not careful.

          Depending on how big you’re willing to go, you can get some pretty large case fans, and large means quiet. My TJ11 case has ridiculously large 180mm fans, so problem solved there. And of course, you can replace the CPU fan with something big in the 120mm or 140mm range.

          The main things to watch out for at that point are the GPU fan (often small and loud), the power supply fan (ditto), and the hard drives (silicon spacers help keep them from making the case rattle, or just say “screw platters” and get SSDs only). Selecting quiet GPUs and PSUs just comes down to checking out reviews that include sound output.

          That said, I still want to do a liquid-cooled rig at some point, but I’d want to do it with older or less expensive components the first time, because of the risk of a first-time build.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      You do realize that the coolant is non-conductive, right? Those exist.

      • Dizrupt says:

        Not every coolant is. Additives only worsen it’s efficiency. Purified water with kill-coils and copper sulfate are the way to go if you want highest efficiency.

      • B.rake says:

        at least until it hits any dust or residues inside the case

    • Dizrupt says:

      “Water cooling seems like a terrible idea”, “because that’s what always fails”.


      • jrodman says:

        Please do contribute to the information, discussion, and camaraderie of the site. Please don’t flatly negate with no content.


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      phuzz says:

      The argument for watercooling (apart from ‘it looks cool’ which is still an important reason), is that a radiator can have much more surface area than a directly attached heatsink, so you can either use less/slower fans, or get more cooling capacity (or both).
      It’s the same reason that heatsinks have moved from small fans to larger ones, there’s a lot of advantages to using a 120mm fan rather than a couple of 80mms.

      Of course, part of the reason I watercool my computer isn’t so much the lower temperatures, and lack of noise, it’s the enjoyment I got out of building it all myself.

  16. Haborym says:

    That was beautiful.

    • chris1479 says:

      This tiny little comment deserves to be echoed. I agree, it is beautiful.

      The majority of the superficial throwaway disposable comments on the other hand, to copy a phrase one or two of them have used, “mildly disgust” me. They miss the whole point of the article.

      The author is not just writing about how his 1337 gaming PC screwed up because he didn’t buy it at FFS.

      The author is narrating to us the stages of an experience to which we can all relate, it is universal regardless of the specifics of the subject matter. He is describing the sweetness of hope, the purity of the dream before reality impinges on it, how much better in some ways a fantasy is to be left unfulfilled than to have it realised and in so doing, do it no justice at all.

      I will probably never build a ‘dream PC’, I am proud of the PC I have built and feel connected to this personalised jumble of parts that I assembled and sweated over – even with its occasional idiosyncrasies. Perhaps building our dream PC is a paradox:

      Perhaps the dream PC should remain a dream.

      Perhaps we shouldn’t meet our heroes.

      Perhaps the hope of what may come sustains us more than what arrives.

      If I am dissatisfied in the now it is only because in the future there is hope.

      Oh and don’t buy SLI because it’s garbage.

  17. LazyAssMF says:

    Well, that was a stream of bad luck for you, Wasim. I feel sorry it didn’t turn out better for you dude.
    That’s why i’ll probably never go Sli or Crossfire. I hate having dual GPU’s and games that just don’t support it at launch. Most games don’t anyways. I just buy a beefy enough GPU and i’m happy because it works as it was suppose to. I don’t need no 3-way monitor setup. One big monitor is enough. :)
    But i get your “obsession” with this stuff. Nice article BTW. :)

  18. SpacemanSpliff says:

    Don’t put your pc directly on the carpet. Heat builds up, It’s on the eye level with 90% of the random dust sized particles in the room, etc.

  19. zat0ichi says:

    A hard lesson to learn.

    I got bitten very early. Dual Pentium III 450 rig with win 98 and nt in dual boot. With a riva TNT and sound blaster live card.

    It just never excelled in what I wanted to do.

    If you have the time and patience I have found that you get the best level of gaming per $£€ if you go mid range and upgrade early whilst the component still has half decent resale value.

    I could have got a gtx480. Instead I went 460 and have sold and upgraded 3 or 4 times in the time it took for the 480 to become unusable for modern games. For the same total outlay.

  20. Stepout says:

    Fun read :)

    My PC consists of a FX-8350, GTX 970 and 16GB of RAM. I want to buy a 2560x1440p monitor with G-Sync as I feel that hits the sweetspot for my rig, but I can’t bring myself to spend $800 on the ROG Swift. Hopefully the Swift will get some competition next year, followed by a price drop.

    • dahools says:

      I’m awaiting the same kind of monitor to come out for a reasonable price. But with adaptive/free sync. Looks like over the next few months they should be appearing. One of two have been announced just waiting prices and availability.

  21. Awesomeclaw says:

    I run a triple monitor setup, but with the displays rotated into a portrait configuration, giving me a resolution of 3240×1920. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and I’ve found very few games which flat out refuse to work (Tropico games and Metal Gear Rising being two of them). Only a few need any kind of tweaking at all. There is an initial difficulty getting over the bezels but they’re really only a problem when text runs over them (and then only if you don’t have the screens lined up properly). I used to run a pair of GTX570s in SLI, now I use a single r290x.

    It really does work very well, but it’s not without problems. The main one I have now is desk space: I have a special VESA-mount stand which I use which takes up a lot of space, plus obviously having what is essentially a 40″ monitor on your desk takes up a fair bit of room. The other problem is cost: getting 3 decent monitors costs a fair bit, plus you need the processing power to drive them (although I don’t think that’s as big of an issue as most people think it is).

  22. Dizrupt says:

    It’s easy really. Don’t build it when you obviously have no idea how to do so in the first place.

    • Baines says:

      It’s not really, though. At least the article isn’t about that. It was a story about building a powerful machine, only to find that the fancy stuff was problematic or forgettable.

      Three-screen display looks nice at first, but most games aren’t designed for it, and some break with it. The writer has switched back to single screen gaming, using three screens only for non-gaming tasks.

      SLI still has issues, and games release without proper support. It even breaks some games. It also requires a significant cost increase if you try to upgrade three cards at once. SLI becomes less important if you are giving up on three screen gaming, as above.

      3D was largely another stop on the ever-spinning wheel of fascination and disappointment with 3D. 3D gaming requires a significant performance hit at the same time that people are pushing performance to drive higher resolution and faster screens. Games tend to not support it, resolution and frame rate are seen as more important, some modern games (for whatever reasons) can struggle to hit a stable 60fps, and thus the 3D glasses eventually get tossed to the side to collect dust.

      There is a section on a water cooler failing, but water coolers do fail and the results can be bad. The results can be bad when other components fail as well, of course.

      • fish99 says:

        There’s a lot more games that work fine in 3D than you’d realize. On top of the games that work out of the box, all these games were fixed by the community-

        link to

        You also need probably 40-50% more GPU power to game in stereo 3D vs 2D. Honestly though I’ve been 3D gaming just fine for 5 years with mid-range single cards (260, 460, 560TI and 660). My new 970 runs even the newest games like Lord of the Fallen smooth in 3D.

      • Dizrupt says:

        Fancy stuff is problematic when you lack knowledge. Stuff become useless? Again, not enough research has been done. Most likely impulse purchase, or more money than brains kind of situation.

        Everything else you mentioned is broad generalization and yet again problems arise when you lack knowledge about the subject matter. I’m running SLi/Crossfire systems since the day it was possible. Every issue I had in the past I solved within minutes/hours or were solved within a week or two with driver update. We now have tools where we can solve most of the problems ourselves, so there is no need to wait for driver updates in many cases.

  23. fish99 says:

    I’ve been building my own PCs for over 15 years and it’s very rare I have issues, and when I do I’m almost always able to figure out what’s wrong without wasting money. It just takes a bit of common sense, a logical approach, and a willingness to research and take advice where necessary. I hope this article doesn’t put anyone off PC gaming or building their own rig.

    As for stereo 3D, I’ve just upgraded to a 970 which will run pretty much anything in 3D on a single screen (obviously triple screens in 3D is incredibly demanding), but even the 660 I had before that could handle most games in 3D. I’ve had 3D Vision for over 5 years and I play pretty much everything in 3D these days. I just find it a lot more immersive.

  24. Halk says:

    Yeah, oh so true and sometimes sad. Over the years i have done the same, but with less money. Sometimes the pcs worked oh so well sometimes not so good. Overall been lucky with my building endeavors, but i never pushed things that far. I too tried the 3d shutter stuff, i thought about liquid cooling and i had a good hard look into sli and the like.

    And then decided i really dont need that kind of money sink with that poor performance. Not the fps performance mind you, i mean the instability in it. I am sure times are different now or it might work better. But all i need really is a quiet PC that plays fine 60fps at my native TFT res.
    My little stories over time:

    In the stone ages i learned a lot about how odd pcs are. I upgrade gradually, put in new stuff and old i got from friends alike. You could have the weirdest things happening. I had once a system that would have 4 ide drives, dvd, cd writer, and 2 hard disks, it was absolutely impossible to boot, only one certain way of connecting it all and setting the bios would work. Even with correct cable and jumper management any other configuration would fail to even boot to bios.

    Another time we tried a LAN, we setup all the pcs, cables and it went fine. Remember the nice BNC and T connectors in a Ethernet? When you looked funny at them theyed fail the whole network…
    Anyway, all was fine then a friend arrived and we pluged him into the network. Every time when he booted up his computer all the network would go down. Everything else was working. Just when he was in or connected we would loose all connection. I finally figured out that his Norton Security was blocking it all. Even with right configuration or even when the software wasnt running it would do that. After he uninstalled that all was fine and working. The hours that takes…

    Lately i got an older pc from a friend for cheap, an upgrade to my very stable and reliable system in speed. My old system had 2 bluescreens over the course of 4 years. So i was reluctant to change, but the new system was faster, so the allure got me and i changed.
    It had a complete freeze and bluescreen every week. Sometimes 4 times a day, sometimes 2 weeks nothing.
    Quite the tricky little error and sometimes it wouldnt even show the bluescreen so you couldnt even see what was wrong. I finally found out that the geforce 200 series of that kind seems to have an error, my hunch is hardware, or a combination with other pieces of hardware. Because this error can happen across a wide range of systems, software and even when the card is just idle in windows. Anyway, long story short, switched it out for a geforce gtx 750 TI and couldnt be happier. The card is low temp, silent and fast enough for all i do with it. And not more crashes whatsoever.

    Just to put some good with all those weird stories. Overall i still would recome to everyone to build their pc, you get better and reliable parts because you can choose them, done right the system will be quietr, faster, more stable and cheaper then most of the shelf things.

  25. frogulox says:

    “Neither I nor this machine can forget what happened.”

    I laughed out loud at this. Ive always felt like each built of a machine has its own personality, quirks and behaviours.
    oddly, part of my reluctance to format at times is (effort etc as well but still) due to the feeling of loaing an old friend.

    Or murdering a pet.

  26. freestonew says:

    Very touching. And, yes, each sentence is a paragraph, each sentence has a whole world of feelings and emotions behind it!

    I dimly recall that I copied onto a large 10 gig use stick the snes and the emulator for another handheld system plus about 100 grand old RPGs that can play well on any PC. Plus I have dagger fall and Arena on my hard drive too.


    Simple, I guess.

    But I can Understand the urge for more immersion! But tis known….the more parts and the more complex, the more ways it can go wrong!!

    I am 73 now. A very limited income. I live in a nice senior home.

    Time to simplify. Still time to do some Dancing, never too too old for games.

    But do not ask me about the elderscrolls series or the fallouts! They always are releasing better and better mods and many of the grand mods have a readme that says that I really really ought to begin a new game!
    Thus I never got to play them, always adding mods until the game becomes unplayable!
    …..another version of the article, above!!……


    • chris1479 says:

      Hope I’m as cool as you at 73 and still gaming strong!!!!!! We’ll probably have the holodeck by that time though :)

  27. Heliocentric says:

    Surround Sound headsets are trash, CMSS-3D works beautifully though/

  28. daphne says:

    Mr. Ellroy here is a noob. An eloquent noob, but a noob nevertheless. Good read.

    Noctua coolers are seriously the best.

    • Nasarius says:

      I just discovered Noctua while idly browsing Logical Increments. They do look good. The one complaint I have about my current PC is that the stock Intel heatsink/fan is annoyingly loud when the CPU gets going.

      Dealing with thermal paste is a little bit annoying, but I suppose it’s worth it.

      • dahools says:

        I have one of these, or very similar older version.

        link to

        Silent, cool and and came with paste pre applied.
        Never looked back. Mine was £13 this one is £18 not a lot really.

    • Metal Aria says:

      I second the Noctua nod. It made the AMD Vishera 8-core cooler and the system is amazingly quite. No problem running Dragon Age Inquisition or Assassin’s Creed Unity either. The GTX 970 isn’t bad either!! All in all my last upgrade was done for around $1200. Happy so far!

    • hemmer says:

      100% agreed, great things, if somewhat suspicious color palette (anus cooler!).
      But quiet, good cooling and the amount of kit and support you get is just insane. Easy-to-use, FREE retention kits, always with a boatload of extra thermal paste. <3
      My cooler has survived several motherboards and CPUs thanks to that.

    • montorsi says:

      Absolutely. Merely cracking open any Noctua packaging alerts one to the quality of the product they are handling.

      I’ve got the enormous DH15 and 5 of their case fans in my rig and it runs whisper quiet and extremely cool.

      It’s worth the premium and then some.

  29. Arglebargle says:

    If you live on the Bleeding Edge, you will bleed…..


    As someone who has never built his own PC and wants to try upgrading mine this coming year… I have no idea of what he was talking about *cries*

  31. futabot says:

    This is a very cautionary tale for the next impending leap of faith with the Oculus Rift.

  32. Coops07 says:

    When I see SLI and ‘I can’t afford the upgrade cost to maintain this setup’ in the same article I can’t help but think lack of planning somewhere along the way.

  33. Whelp says:

    EVE Online has ‘bad hit detection’ with 3 monitor widescreen.


  34. Magnumload says:

    This is my build:
    Thermaltake Arctic White
    MSI Motherboard
    AMD Phenom II 955 OCed to 3.6. (Deneb is a picky bitch when it comes to OCing.) (Also, I got this processor from Goodwill when I was working there. I used to have the same processor then sold it and 2 years later, comes strolling through Goodwill again.)
    8gbs of DDR3 GSkill
    1TB WD Black Drive
    Corsair CX600 Watt PSU
    and last but not least,
    AMD R9 270 OCed. (1GHZ core clock and 1460MHZ Memory Clock.)
    Oh and my 24″ BENQ 1080p monitor.

    I don’t play a lot of newer games that are system intensive, but I have been playing Far Cry 4 and before the updates and driver fixes, I could barely chug a long at high. Update drivers and install 1.5 patch, running on ultra with my textures slightly down.

    Now, I might not be running 60fps but to be above 30 fps for the most part on a processor that should be dead and a single 270, I think is impressive.

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      It seems a bit strange to choose a Corsair power supply, but not for its CS line.

  35. Doganpc says:

    This article made me feel good about suffering through mediocre upgrades and compromising visual fidelity for the stability and cost effectiveness of my sub par system. The only thing that I spent too much on was the Blu-Ray Burner, but that is mostly cause I’ve been too lazy to go through my storage drive and backup things to disc.

    AMD Phenom II X2 (Now running unlocked 4 cores)
    Zalman CPN7000? Lots of fins, Copper and Aluminum (Carried over from previous CPU)
    6GB PC1600 DDR3 (intended to get another matched 2GB but now better to buy new 8+)
    AMD Radeon HD 6870 (Meant to run SLI, but the power requirements put that off)
    Antec Green 600W Power Supply (Powering it’s second build PC)
    200GB, 500GB & 1TB hard drives. Corsair M90 Mouse, Microsoft comfort curve keyboard, Really old Logitech 5.1 surround but only really using 2.1. Newest thing is the Turtle Beach PX11 headset, which has been awesome. Most of this was accomplished through incremental upgrades. Took about two years and I tend to upgrade a part of every year or so, video cards ever 3 – 4 depending on how good of a deal I get (right now I’m waiting for DX12 to push down the price of my next upgrade). I also want to go to one of those self contained water cooling systems like a Hydro, but that’s because I’ve always had my PC in my room so noise level has become a requirement.

    Then there’s the Acer DA220HQL a 21″ Android 4.0 tablet with a micro hdmi input so you can send video to it. It’ll do Nvidia 3D, 1080p and touchscreen… it sits on my desk waiting to be replaced with something more functional. This is my connection to the article, the idea was that I would have this detachable monitor tech. Used it a couple times, then I was handed-down a larger phone with a newer OS and the tablonitor fell out of use. Good money paid, never panned out. It would be an awesome remote display somewhere around a house, but I can’t afford one of those either.

  36. Premium User Badge

    worms says:

    Not sure why there is a lot of hate for the formatting and content of this article.

    Very interesting writing style with the punchy short sentences and present tense, helps us follow your journey a bit more intimately and immediately. Definitely helped your words resonate with me.

    And resonate with me they did – I followed your path very similarly, having taking time to get troublesome components work – particularly Eyefinity. Oh god how that was a pain in the arse in its nascent days, and I hear not much has changed, although the Widescreen Fixer is a bit more pervasive.

    The graphics card become quickly obsolete might not be a problem for single monitors, but it certainly ages much quicker in a tri-monitor setup.

    I feel for you, Wasim. For now, I will stick with a single-monitor, single -card setup. Although I eagerly await the Oculus Rift for all my widescreen gaming.

  37. Wytefang says:

    There is admittedly, a fine balance that PC gamers have to maintain with upgrades and not getting TOO ahead of the curve. I’ve known for a while (thanks to reading articles in PC magazines and online tech sites) that SLI can be problematic once you go past 2 cards just as I knew, since I did research ahead of time, that a 3-monitor layout creates weird viewing issues in FPS games and in some others, as well.

    The point is, that this seems like a fairly irresponsible piece of journalism, intended to lampoon PC building in some sort of oddly forced poetic style. My experience with upgrading has been surprisingly awesome, for the most part, and considering that so much upgrading goes on every year, I believe that a vast majority of us have nicer experiences than this somewhat tech-challenged writer seem to have had (meaning no offense to him, directly).

    The other point is simply that doing research ahead of time and prepping for problems ahead of time goes a long way to making upgrading and PC building a lot easier. Imagine that!

    • Premium User Badge

      Panther_Modern says:

      Definitely agree re: getting too far ahead of the curve.

      My experiences with 4K have been just that- paying 4 times as much to get a resolution that makes most menus unreadable and gives 1/4th the frame rates of 1080p.

  38. montorsi says:

    If you have the money, building irresponsibly powerful PCs is well worth it. I wouldn’t venture into 3-way SLI, however, just because it can be problematic getting 2-way going much less adding another card into the mix (YES WE’RE STILL TALKING ABOUT PC HARDWARE OK). Running a pair of 970s off a 5th gen i7 rig and it has been worth every penny to me. Boots near instantly, launches applications in a flash, can run anything I throw at it and I rarely need to quit out of anything (it can’t cure Firefox’s memory leak, sadly). It’s great.

    But it’s also great that you can build a quality gaming rig for hundreds of dollars less. Given the mediocre hardware in new consoles, the market is saturated in lower cost components you can use for a good gaming experience for the next 5-6 years.

  39. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    I grab my flashlight and shine it at the front of the case.
    There is no liquid flowing through the reservoir.

    Ah yes, that feeling of dread as you look into the reservoir of your running computer and realise it’s empty, followed by the panicked shutdown, and the dawning amazement as you realise that a dodgy crack in the pump housing has allowed about a litre of coolant to drip past all the harddrives, divert along the curve of a SATA cable, and drip right out the bottom of the case without touching any components.
    I got a new pump the next day (and it’s been fine since).

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      I’ve got a closed loop cooler so I’ve no idea what’s inside mine but if you use distilled (or de-ionized) water it hopefully won’t short circuit anything. I would still soil my pants if it happened to me though.

  40. smisk says:

    Kind of a sad article… Stuff like this is part of the reason I’ve always been very conservative with my PC builds, I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than a few hundred dollars at a time, and I tend to upgrade individual components separately. Right now I still have a GTX 560 and a Phenom II 965 and it’s gotten me by so far. Though I’ll almost definitely pick up a 970 at some point in 2015.

  41. Continuity says:

    One thing I’ve learned in my 20 years building gaming rigs: keep it simple. The far out stuff like dual CPU mobo, triple monitors or liquid cooling are a passport to troubleshooting hell. Just stay high end mainstream and you’ll have reliability as well as performance, and a much easier upgrade path.

  42. HaVoK308 says:

    I can relate to this story. I imagine anyone who has played PC games for a long period of time can. This writing style really appeals to me. I appreciate the honesty of it.

  43. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    Can’t say I’m surprised 3 way SLI causes hassles, although when I ran 2 way briefly some years ago it did run quite well.

    Can definitely sympathise with stereoscopic 3D after constructing a (fairly old) system with a 2.5GHz Q8300 and an HD6950. Portal 2 ran wonderfully with everything on until I switched on stereoscopy on a Zalman 3D monitor that has to run at 1280×1024 to work. MSAA has to be turned off to maintain an average 60fps.

    I do run multi monitor but not in games. There is the FOV issue in some games, plus the fact all monitors have to be the same, and I want most of my monitors for purposes other than gaming. The Zalman is a great gaming monitor but pretty shit otherwise.

    I’d also note all my monitors are still 4:3 (may get a decent widescreen one soon), and plenty of apps are now forgetting to cater for that..

  44. brotherthree says:

    “Time wears you down with its silence and failures and the fever dreams of a younger age no longer seem as important, as necessary, or as loud.”

    This whole article was a treat to read, renewed my faith in RPS.

    Good job Wasim.

  45. Simplex says:

    I did my research so I already knew that dual (and triple, and quad) card setups are problematic and not worth the money. Multimonitors – same as above. Watercooling – same as above. Nvidia 3D – same as above.
    This article just proves it’s worth to read about what you are going to buy before byuing it.

    Nonetheless, I have a similar story of disappointment. In the past I was sticking “best bang for buck” principle when buying a graphics card. So when a game was not running 60fps I could always chalk it down to the fact that I skimped on a graphics card and have to live with the consequences. So I decided that once in my life I will finally buy the fastest card possible, and all games will be running smoothly at max details (or so I thought). So I splurged over 600 euros on a factory overclocked GeForce 780Ti in May 2014 and to my dismay it turned out that many games are so poorly optimized and scale so poorly with better hardware that they run only marginally better than on my previous card. I thought I would be able to play at rock solid 60fps in 1920×1080 resolution with all graphics bells and whistles enabled on its highest quality, but it turned out not to be the case. Black Flag, Far Cry 4, Shadow of Mordor, Watch dogs, AC: Unity, Evil Within, Ryse, Dead Rising 3 are just a few of the games which turned out to be “too demanding” (read: poorly optimized) for my supposedly ultimate video card.
    In the end it turned out that my previous strategy of buying the card with best price/performance ratio was correct all these years.

    • fish99 says:

      3D is worth the money IMO. Most of the people passing judgement on 3D are basing it off the poor 3D in cinemas, or they own 3D Vision but never persisted with it, never got it setup right, or never realized there were fixes available for most games. I’ve been using it regularly for 5+ years and the extra immersion is worth every penny. Once you’re used to gaming in 3D you realize that your brain actually wants stereo images, and how fake it is to pick up depth cues from a non-stereo image. You’ll never get a convincing sense of being there without stereo.

      It makes games better as well. I started Skyrim several times in 2D and never got more than an hour in. Once it was fixed for stereo, I played it to completion, for 250 hrs, twice.