New Computer!

My time left in Chicago is beginning to dwindle; as of today, I have less than one month at my job.

I’ve been filling my time with smaller projects of interest, including the recent construction of my own desktop computer, a workstation which will hopefully satisfy my computing needs for the next few years. My goal was to build a computer with sufficient memory and power for statistical computing using large datasets, accessed remotely from my laptop if necessary.

I usually avoid large purchases and have no knack for electronic workmanship, and fortunately this venture required neither. I made no sacrifices in my choices of components and still spent only $831 after tax and shipping.

All in all, the experience was educational and reasonably frugal, and has already been very valuable for my personal productivity. I’m very happy with the final product. Take a look at my Windows Experience Index, which rates each attribute out of 7.9. This stacks up well with the high-powered beast provided by my work.


Some notes about my build, and the things I learned along the way:

-          I probably spent too much on my CPU and motherboard. Anyone with similar objectives but a tighter budget would probably be best-served with the Intel 3570k i5 and the ASRock Extreme4. Anyone who wants to build a gaming PC should stray as far as possible from my build.

-          To choose components, my method of quickly absorbing sufficient knowledge was to leech off the combined experiences of others. In particular the BuildAPC subreddit provided a fantastic resource for figuring out the types of computers that people were building at the time for different goals.

-          Purchasing the components was my favorite part. In the PCPartPicker link above, note that I snagged the sum total of the parts at the lowest point in their price trajectory (this is endogenous, as I purchased only the brands which were on sale, but I think it does say something). I took advantage of my fortuitous proximity to a brick and mortar Micro Center to find an amazing release-day deal on the CPU, and scoured for deals on the remaining parts. The one part I’ve held off on is a HDD, as the market hasn’t yet recovered from the supply shock from major flooding in Thailand.

-          Though I relied heavily on online tutorials and a few panicked phone calls to my dad, the build itself didn’t prove to be very difficult. The only time you can really cause any damage is when placing the CPU on the motherboard (which, I admit, was pretty nerve-wracking).

-          The integrated graphics on the new Intel processors are almost too good to be true. I didn’t expect to be gaming on my machine, but I’m glad that I didn’t opt for a low-grade graphics card. Despite not having played a video game since 2008, I could resist grabbing a cheap copy of Assassin’s Creed II to check out its performance.