My main destop machine has been Horo for just about eight years now. The primary parts were inherited from a friend, and I figure the processor is probably close twelve years old. Until about six months ago, this has been sufficient for almost anything I’ve needed to do. In MMOs, my machine has been notably slower than Smudge’s Myzal, but it runs everything. Any other games were fine, etc.

The main exception was the site for where I work (CNET) was a bit heavy, though the back-end tools are nicely minimal. However, I’ve been noticing that browsing has been taking more and more resources lately (the recent Firefox refresh didn’t seem to do anything about speed, but memory use went up). And I started a large Vassal F&E game, and the module wants a lot of memory as the number of objects goes up. Since we started in mid-war, when the number of ships has gone up, I started noticing. Horo’s motherboard can only take 4 GB of RAM (which is what it has), and that was becoming my biggest problem.

So I’ve been paying more attention to hardware lately, and decided to replace my system at the start of this year. Smudge’s new case was very nice (and she tried to talk me into just getting another one), but a bit pricey. I had some hope for one of Corsair’s more cut-rate offerings, but the power switches on them are awful, so I abandoned that idea. I ended up with a Zalman Z9 Neo case. It turned out fairly well at a good price, but there are a few problems: It features pass-throughs for better cable management (a trend I really approve of), but the rubber grommets are thin, and come off way to easily. The drive cage is nice, but there’s only room for two regular 3.5″ drives. That’s enough, but I’d like a third for backup. On the other hand, it comes with five case fans. I’ve only bothered to hook up three so far, as I shouldn’t need more.

I ordered the main parts from Amazon, who initially estimated three weeks for delivery, and then cut it down to two weeks, with the package expected on the 18th. It showed up on the 13th. I had been planning on a leisurely 4-day weekend to get everything together, but with the parts already here, and Monday a holiday, I started then.

The four-day weekend would have been better. This was a problem-filled build.

First, to no real surprise, Horo’s copy of Windows refused to boot when stuck into the new system. Going into the Windows install application also showed that one of my RAM sticks was defective (confirmed with Window’s RAM diagnostic later; I got it replaced that night). I lost more data than I anticipated wiping C: for a new install as a lot of programs seem to want to store things in subfolders of My Documents, which I ignore. But Windows 7 installed… I put in the motherboard driver disk to for utilities there… and despite taking a lot of time saying things were happening, nothing did. My current diagnosis is that the disk has two copies of the AMD video drivers, in place of the chipset driver. After wondering if I was going to get forced onto Win 10, I got the disk’s networking driver to install, and grabbed the proper Win 7 chipset driver from another machine on the network.

That got most things up and going, including USB, so I could actually get off my emergency PS/2 keyboard (and have a mouse). But when I installed drivers for the video card, I got a BSOD. I was able to use a restore point to get the system back, but that required the Win 7 disk, and I was back to no USB support for that. Three different sources of drivers (nVidia auto detect, Windows Update, and picking my card specifically) all did this, and I ended Monday with a system that just wasn’t working.

Either the card died when I removed it from Horo, or the slot just isn’t aligning properly. The far end locks down correctly, but there is a noticeable angle as it moves to the back of the system and the bracket. I’d like to try it back in Horo, but I’ll need to install other things looted from her (like a hard drive). Smudge has been feeling guilty about not getting me a Christmas present (she got sick before completing a scarf for me), and took me shopping for a new video card. Sadly, Fry’s selection was looking picked over, and the choice came down to a card a bit less powerful than I’d like, and one twice as expensive, and not worth it.

I installed the new card, and much to my relief it worked. (I had tried a secondary slot on the motherboard with the old card with no more luck, so I was getting reasonably certain that the motherboard was not to blame.) I took Wednesday off, and finally got the machine fully functional, and started installing everything.

One final problem: Microsoft is denying Windows 7 support to the most recent processors. I’ve got a small ‘fix’ in that keeps Windows Update functioning properly, but it is possible I will migrate to Windows 10 sooner than otherwise.

So here is Erza:

AMD Ryzen 7 1700
ASRock AB350 Pro4
MSi GT 1030

It’s a… bright system. The front panel USB slots light up as soon as the power supply is on, which is actually handy to check that. The stock AMD cooler has a red LED ring around the fan, and the AMD logo itself lights up. And the case itself has a clear window on the side, so this is quite visible. I’d rather do without it, but I am getting used to it at night.

I’ve been keeping the system monitor on, and memory usage has yet to go over about 11 GB, even with several things running, so I have a fair amount of room left. Also, this is only taking two of four slots on the motherboard, so I can bump it up in the future, hopefully when RAM prices come down a bit (RAM was my one case of sticker shock). Final Fantasy XIV is running a lot faster, with load times keeping up with Smudge’s system.