Another small technology change in my life last year was that I switched my computer case to a Nox Hummer TX. Normally, a case change is minor, but this one left me thinking I should be building my own computers from now on.
Until now, I have always bought desktop computers by choosing the main components (processor, type and amount of memory, graphics card and hard drive model) and leaving myself open to suggestions about motherboards and other components (with typically a strong preference for Asus, but my current motherboard is a Gigabyte one). I’d go to my computer shop of choice with the component list and buy everything there, where they would assemble the computer for me.
However, something happened last year and I didn’t like what I saw. Normally I tend to prefer large CPU fans because they can move more air while spinning more slowly and making less noise, and my computer has a Nox Hummer H-300 CPU cooler, which is a 12cm-diameter fan I was successfully using in my previous computer too (which is now being used by my wife). The case the computer shop chose for me was obviously too narrow for the cooler, and the upper part of it made contact with the lateral case panel. I didn’t think too much about it and the computer worked fine for months.
Still, one day I hit the case gently with my knee. It wasn’t a big hit by any means, but the computer instantly powered off and, from then on, I had problems turning the computer on and sometimes it would turn itself off abruptly. After testing the hard drive (using the badblocks command) and memory (using Memtest86+), nothing showed up. I stressed the computer for a bit and it didn’t turn off, with the temperature being fine, so I suspected the power supply and fans may be fine and crossed my fingers it was not the CPU failing. Everything pointed to a problem with the computer case, the way everything was assembled, or a bad contact or short circuit somewhere, related to the small hit it took.
I set myself to choose a better case with ample room for the cooler, with the case change being an opportunity for cable rearrangement and connecting everything again. Initially my budget was about 60 to 70 euros, but I ended up choosing the Nox Hummer TX, as I said, which retails here for close to 100 instead. It’s a very big nice case with good air flow and many small details that make working with it very easy, including hard drive bays that don’t need screws. I had been thinking about doing the case switch myself, but I decided not to risk anything with my everyday computer, and scheduled a case change in my computer shop.
But, while going through dozens of cases having no exact idea if the cooler would fit in them or if the cases were any good (I absolutely hated the experience of choosing the case), I also watched a few computer building tutorials on YouTube. And, while choosing the case was horrible, I must say I’m impressed with how far building computers has come. It’s now much simpler with many fewer chances of making terrible mistakes. In particular, I liked the EasyPCbuilder tutorial. It shows how to apply thermal paste on the CPU (covering the center part which is the one that gets really hot while working), gives ideas on working around static charges and advice on the proper order to do every step.
In other words and like I said in the first paragraph, this whole issue got me thinking the next time I buy or improve my current computer, I’ll buy the parts online, save a few euros I can invest in better hardware, and build the computer myself. It should be a much more satisfying experience, and any mistakes will be mine to learn from.