Build Me A Build: Assembly Olympics


Overall, this was pretty easy

I’m thankful that generations of enthusiasts have agreed (mostly) on standards, and written oodles of documentation and guides to make stuff like this easy. Seriously. To put things in some perspective, when I first started building and tinkering with desktops, I remember having to manually set IRQs when there was a conflict. It was stupid.

But that’s not to say everything is simple. You still have to screw all this stuff in. With a non-magnetic screwdriver, mind you. That could screw stuff up.

That and… Well, let’s call it a supply chain error.

It all begins with Microcenter

When I placed my initial order for the CPU and Motherboard with them, it sat around for about an hour, then got canceled. I called to ask why, and no one knew. So I replaced the order, and it was magically ready a few minutes later to pick up. They both sat on my desk while I waited for the rest of the parts to get shipped.

Around a week later, when I had most everything, and a few days off to tinker, I started assembling things. The case is a Fractal R5

This is basically a minivan
Seriously, you could nap in here.

But back to the supply chain issue! Here’s my motherboard box, unopened.

X99-E, just like the doctor ordered.

After a while of excited assembly, a few things started to add up.

I had the wrong motherboard in my box. In fact, I had an oddly beat up motherboard in my box.

Why is it all weird?

If you look real close, someone had clearly returned or switched an X99 Pro motherboard and picked up an X99-E.

The first clue should have been when the back panel didn’t match the motherboard ports at all:

I am the back of your motherboard
I am missing holes

But I was excited, and I had already seated the RAM, CPU, and heat sink.

After getting most everything installed…


I got a motherboard error about the RAM. It wasn’t compatible.


The next big clue here? The x99-E doesn’t have a LED with error codes. I learned this after flipping through the manual in disbelief for a while.

Like I said, “supply chain errors”.

Back to Microcenter

They were… okay about me returning it, as long as I replaced it with another board. I sort of get it. When a guy who looks like me comes walking in with a few-hundred-dollar motherboard and a week-old receipt saying they put the wrong one in the box, it’s a bit odd.

On the plus side, they had another X99-E in stock, and this one had the right one in the box. I made them open it in the store this time.

Back home, and with the right motherboard, I put my day of work back together.

Fast forward to yesterday

And, for reference, yesterday is the 4th of January, year of our SMOD 2017. I finally got the last piece of the puzzle, the M.2 chip.

It’s a lot smaller than you’d expect.

75 cents wide

This is what the final product looks like now

My cable organization game is pretty weak

There are a few differences between the final build and what I planned on, but I’ll talk about those in another post.

Thanks for reading!

Brent says: you always read about how Apple gear is overpriced, and to some extent, I agree. However, when you factor in assembly time, it’s not all that bad of a deal. When something like the motherboard switcheroo happens, that can burn a ton of time, and your time is money. Well, not Erik’s time. He’s an employee, and as we all know, employee time is practically free. That’s why Erik is currently giving Ernie a foot massage.

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39 Comments. Leave new

  • There’s nothing wrong with using a magnetized screwdriver for a PC build. It wouldn’t affect an SSD or even a mechanical drive (they have much stronger magnets inside them).

  • Branden Oakes
    January 6, 2017 9:59 am

    I have that same case and love it. So much room for activities.

  • Just yesterday I finished building a new PC mostly for video editing. Went with Core i7-5820K (6 cores,) 32GB DDR4 RAM, and 250GB 960 Evo M.2 SSD.

    Came in just under $USD 1,500 with all the peripherals:

    So far I’m blown away by the 960 Evo – I’ve never seen Win 10 boot so fast. Haven’t installed any video software yet, can’t wait to see how it compares to my old machine (

    • Luis Ferreira
      January 6, 2017 11:49 am

      Hi Dmitriy… normally the boot times reduces between HDD and SSD, but not soo much between SSD and NVMe drives, because most of the task while Windows starts, are based on QD 1-2… the SSD’s and NVMe drives show their muscles with QD 4 and above… that’s probably the reason you don’t see Windows boot much fast than before…
      And something could probably bother you in the futuro… the 250Gb 960 EVO is the slowest in write speed of the new EVO’s NVMe series… for some reason Samsung has limited the write speed on each size of the EVO series… 250Gb write speed is about 250-300 MB/s… 500 Gb speed is near 550-600 MB/s, and the 1 TB model, goes over 850 MB/s write speed… the Pro series don’t have this kind of “speed limit” setted on them

      • Luis Ferreira
        January 6, 2017 11:52 am

        * that’s probably the reason you’ve not see Windows boot much faster before…
        * futuro –> future xD
        sorry for my english assisted with Google Translate >.<

  • I’ve got a nice m.2 drive in my home PC, and boy does Windows load FAST.

    But you need to be careful, some m.2 connectors only support treating the drive as a SATA drive vs a PCIe drive (and the drives themselves only support one or the other.) PCIe is FAR faster (according to benchmarks) than the SATA drives…
    Yes, I got burned by this, my motherboard wanted PCIe, the drive I bought initially was SATA…

  • Erik Darling, can I get in line for the next foot massage after you’re done with massaging Ernie’s feet?

  • One of my most favorite gadgets: A Magetizer/Demagnetizer for under $5
    For when you’re sure/unsure? or just need to pick stuff up…lol

  • Luis Ferreira
    January 6, 2017 11:39 am

    Hi Eric! SQL will love your NVMe SSD 😀
    Nice setup, btw… I builded one for myself recently too..
    The problem while building a computer, it’s not if something is magnetized or not, the real killer is the static discharges that can occur while touching components like the RAM memory and motherboard…

  • I approve of the Noctua cooler and fans! That cooler is a beast and worth the price. Also after installing the cooler and seeing how quiet their fans really were, I immediately ordered replacements for all of my other case fans from Noctua.

    All the other stuff is cool too. However you should have splurged for a higher end video card for when SSMS VR is released. 😉

  • Watch out !

    Some modder will tell you that you cable management skill sucks…

    Nice system BTW

    • I’ve already acknowledged that, and fully expect the picture of my guts to end up as comment bait on technology enthusiast forums. Heh.

  • That certainly is a pretty dreadful cable management job. It’s really not that hard to route most of the cables under the motherboard on the opposite side of the case (away from the “top” side of the motherboard).

    It just takes a little time and attention to detail. You can see the little rubber cutouts right next to your power supply. The benefit, besides aesthetics, is better air flow though the case.

    • Perhaps for the two cables going to the PSU, but the wires for the fans and the drives make up the majority of what’s going through the middle (five for fans, six SSD, one SATA). There wouldn’t be an easy way to loop those around, unless I bought absurdly long SATA cables, or added extensions to the fan cables. The case has seven fans, including the two for the heatsink, so I’m reasonably sure airflow won’t be a problem. As for aesthetics, well, the window side actually faces the wall under my desk, so I’m not missing out on much 🙂

      Thanks again for your help with the hardware choices!

  • Just to prove Michel MaherJanuary’s point: “Your cable management skills suck” 😉

    Beside that, I actually find some satisfaction building my own system’s, and most pre-build systems I actually find sloppy, so no apple’s for me

    ( to prove the “modder” status: )


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