keskiviikko 15. kesäkuuta 2011

Assembling yet another computer

I recently put together a new computer at work. It consists of an Asus M4A89GTD Pro motherboard in a Codegen M-610 case and some other components, including two 1 TB hard disks in a RAID 1 setup.

Compared to my personal computer, you could definitely tell the case was a cheap one. You were supposed to raise the motherboard up and away from the side of the case with 8 or 9 gold-colored screws, I think, but included with the case there were one too few of those. There was also only some four proper large'ish screws to secure the motherboard to those raising screws, so I had to use some smaller screws for the rest. They were possibly meant for hard disks but had the same diameter anyway.

Also, it was impossible to install the optical drive from inside the case, as the case is small and the power supply unit was too close to the front of the case. As a result, I had to yank off the entire front panel of the case. (Well, it was re-attachable.) There were some rubber things that you could push to the holes on the sides of the optical drive to secure it in place, but those quickly got mangled and I had to shuffle them around a bit to get them to stay in shape while sliding the optical drive past them.

The most show-stopping issue came then: the PSU only had two sockets for giving power to SATA drives! So I had to choose between (a) an optical disk drive and one hard drive or (b) two hard drives. I needed the optical drive to install the operating system (CentOS) but I also wanted a RAID 1 configuration.

This turned out to be a non-issue after all, as the motherboard's RAID controller easily created the configuration after I had installed the system, powered off the computer and swapped the optical drive for the hard disk. It was actually so quick I thought it did nothing, but I had to believe it after I powered the computer off again, pulled off the cable of the first drive -- and successfully booted the computer into the operating system, with a brief warning from the RAID controller.

So, what did we learn? Don't buy the cheapest case around there if you intend to build your computer yourself. The cheap cases are small, they might not have enough screws, and their power supply units will lack connectors. You probably couldn't fit a large video card into this case either. The motherboard seemed OK though, and the RAID controller appears to work very well.

I forgot already, but either the motherboard or the case came with a small socket thing into which you could connect the little wires from the case: the disk activity led, the power button, etc. Then that socket could be attached into the motherboard at once. That's a hundred times easier than connecting all those wires directly into the motherboard and I'm a bit jealous that my more expensive case did not have such a socket, even though it's not a new invention.

Finally, here's a bad quality photo of the case with the motherboard. There's also an AMD Athlon II X4 640 processor with the boxed heat sink and fan installed. You'll see that they are approximately as tiny as with my own quad-core Intel's boxed accessories that I recently replaced.

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