I am very proud to say that I now have the fastest computer I’ve ever seen!! Cheeses n’ rice, it’s blazing fast!
I took out and reinstalled my motherboard with a few extra stand-off screws just to keep it nice and snug in the case, and I plugged in all the leads from the case. I had a little scare with the CPU fan input because the wire had 3 plugs but there were 4 pins on the motherboard, but the white plastic support fit the 3-hole wire just fine. The power coupler fit great and gave just enough extra slack that I could comfortably wrap the main power cable around the others which helped keep them all out of the way of airflow. The cables look really well shielded but I hope this method doesn’t result in noisey attenuation.
I installed the back USB plate and connected the one on the front of my case as well as the firewire port. The box says the motherboard supports 10 USB ports but I don’t know where the last 2 are. There are 4 on the back of the motherboard, 2 on the expansion back plate, and 2 on the front of my case. I used up all the USB plugs as far as I could see. Oh well. I only have 3 USB devices so I wont’ nitpick. Plus I have 2 firewire ports which is 2 more than I’ll ever use.
The video card went in easily enough, though I’m not crazy about the little rubber doodad that replcaces the plastic snap on AGP boards to keep the card in place. I suppose that’s overkill anyway. I plugged *2* molex HDD power leads into the custom condenser cable and slid that into the card. Easy as pie.
I couldn’t find any back plates for the case so I just stuck my 2 spare sound cards in again and later disabled them in the OS. I don’t like using PCI slots for no reason so I’ll yank ’em when I find those back plates.
So before closing ‘er up I put ‘er into position and plugged in the keyboard, mouse, monitor (plus DVI to VGA adaptor), and sound into the onboard sound card and turned it on. The symphony of smooth rolling, quiet spinning raw power filled my ears, followed by a single BEEP that reassured me I’d done the most important stuff right! Huzzah!! All the fans were spinning
I immediately checked out the BIOS to check out the CPU temperature and was relieved to find it manageable – around 45 celcius which is average in the BIOS since the CPU and fan run at 100% there. My CPU detected just fine, RAM timings looked right, all my drives showed up, and I needed very little customization before declaring the job a success!
However, I noticed that the power and HDD lights on the front of my case weren’t coming on. I had installed the backwards… odd since the labels on the plugs were facing the same way as all the others. So I turned it off, made a couple of adjustments, closed it up, and plugged it all in for the real test! The lights worked!
Just for fun I tried booting my old copy of XP. Instant blue screen. Oh well. I’d made ample backups for just such an occasion. I was surprised to find my old installation working fine when I upgraded from Athlon XP to Athlon 64, but I guess 64 to X2 is just too much of a leap.
Windows installed in about 20 minutes despite its overstated estimate. Of course since most of my hardware was onboard it wasn’t able to detect sound, network, USB2.0, and other stuff, so I guess that must have sped things up a tad. I rebooted, made a user account, and was ready to rock!
Oh yeah, and I didn’t need any special driver disks to get Windows setup to find my SATA HDD this time! I needed to burn a custom image with nLite on my socket 754 mobo, but PC Village assured me this was the fault of the mobo, not the OS, and it looks like they were right! One fewer headache is always nice.
I booted into Windows and everything looked fine until I tried my old DVDRW drive. No worky. I’d put in a disk, it would spin up, and the whole machine would freeze. Very odd since the CDRW was working just fine – I’d installed Windows off of it. I tried a few reboots before and after installing the Nforce chipset drivers but no joy. I opened up the machine and unplugged the CDRW from power and IDE and the DVDRW worked fine. Maybe it’s my 380w power supply struggling, or maybe Asus doesn’t really take IDE seriously anymore. Regardless, I can live with one optical drive. That leaves one spare for when I rebuild my 64!
Drivers drivers drivers, reboot reboot reboot. Very boring but I made a resolution long ago to take Windows seriously when it says it needs to reboot, so I do so at my earliest opportunity. All the onboard devices including network worked just fine, and so did my video card. So far everything was going relatively smoothly!
Windows informed me I had 30 days to activate so I clicked the icon, clicked a Next or two, and clicked finished. Phew! I’d expected the worst after my previous ordeal!
Windows Update announced about 50 updates so I downloaded and installed those while putting on Firefox and Gaim. Gaim has a really clunky and annoying interface and it took me a really long time to get it back the way it ought to be.
I had used the Firefox Extension Backup Extension to archive my bookmarks, extensions, history, cookies, and passwords before formatting. FEBE is an extension itself so Firefox must be running in order to use it, but it complained that I couldn’t restore preferences to the current profile so I had to do some research on how to do so. It involved a commandline command which was really annoying. However, I made a profile and logged in, ran FEBE, changed back to the default profile and deleted the spare one, and presto!! Firefox was 99% as I had left it! It even remembered previously clicked links! The only inconsistency is that it forgot which extensions I’d disabled so I just deleted those two.
Windows Update completed and I rebooted. Boot took slightly longer but the updates caused no problems. But then I was presented the message I’d been dreading – “Your hardware has changed significantly since you last installed Windows XP. You have 3 days to activate your software.” Didn’t I just do that?!?!
And of course it didn’t work. And now I only have a cell phone and no land line. Cheapskate that I am, I installed Skype and guessed my password after many, many tries. I plugged in the fancy microphone that came with the motherboard and a message popped up onscreen asking what I’d just plugged into the grey plug (NEAT!!!). I chose “microphone” from the list and it informed me that I’d chosen the wrong plug, then showed an animation smoothly illustrating the relative position of the pink plug I should have used! Super cool! I fixed it up, made some volume adjustments, and Skype worked like a charm! I sat the well designed microphone atop my LCD monitor and called Microsoft.
Thank goodness, dialing numbers on the keypad worked in lieu of slowly dictating the 48-digit installation key. Just like my last ordeal, this key was refused and I was connected to an Indian MS rep (she spoke much better and was more chipper than the last woman I spoke with). She asked for the first 2 groups of numbers, asked if this was my first time installing the software, and asked why I was reinstalling. Highly annoying. She dictated another 48-digit code which worked fine and thanked me for calling. Yeah, I’ll speak with you again next year babe.
And that was about the end of my woes! I ran 3DMark06 and was blown away!!! I could never imagine such graphics as anything other than a slideshow but I was getting between 10 and 24 FPS on this computer humbling app! The detail was so crisp and the effects were very dramatic. My CPU scored 1780 which is about double my previous CPU score, and the GPU scored 1920 which is nearly 10 times my old video score!!
I installed a bunch of games and each one looked more amazing than the last. FEAR is quie detailed and the quick frame rate makes it easy enough to play without relying solely on bullet time. Quake 4 is a brainless and idiotic game but it shore does look purdy. Half Life 2: Episode One with AA and HDR is exceptionally quick and very very sharp. Every game ran at 100% full detail with AT LEAST 4x antialiasting at 1280×1024 and gave me an average of 35 FPS!! It’s absolutely breathtaking
I haven’t done any real desktop computing yet so I’m not convinced of the benefits of dual core yet, but the desktop is certainly very snappy and responsive. Icons and windows draw instantly and dragging windows is very smooth. My SATA drive is already feeling dated as it’s clearly the worst bottleneck so maybe I’ll need to do something about that some time in the future. 2 x 10k RPM Raptor RAID 0? Or, since drives are so damn cheap, maybe I should set up a RAID 5 array! Though if I ever add SLI that’ll need a very beefy power supply.
This is the best extravagance I’ve ever indulged in. I’m so happy with this system! Now I’ll have to struggle to find a game to challenge it!