Building a Custom Workstation

Assembling the Workstation

Now it’s time to assemble all the components into a working machine. We are going to see the differences in installing an AMD vs Intel based platform, installing the Random Access Memory (RAM), Solid State Disc (SSD) and troubleshooting some issues when installing the OS. Previous part https://medium.com/@MazizEsa/testing-the-power-supply-unit-529bebd3a2e0

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Assembling the good stuff

Installing the Central Processing Unit (CPU)

As this is my first time installing an AMD CPU, I’m quite nervous with its mounting system. Normally on Intel platform the mounting system is using a Land Grid Array(LGA) configuration, where the pin is on the socket of the MOBO. Whereas on AMD, at least for AM4 socket it’s using the Pin Grid Array(PGA) configuration, where the pin is at the underside of the CPU.

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AM4 Socket

No pins on the socket and no I’m not taking any picture of the underside of the CPU, too risky :P.

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The Snap!

Taking the CPU out of the box, lift it up and putting it on the socket has got to be one of the most daunting task yet. But, once that CPU is on the socket and the lever is pulled down and snap… yeah, that ever so satisfying feeling.

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Installing the CPU Fan

For the fan, I’d started by tightening the screws diagonally, either right to left or left to right. Tighten the screw just enough until it can’t be turned anymore with reasonable force.

The RAM and Booting Up Test

Installing the ram is pretty straight forward. Just un-latched first the ram clasps before inserting then just slot it in.

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Slot in the RAM

After the RAM is in place, I proceed to test if it can be switched on (not POST test, as you need a speaker for that). POST test will be done later once the motherboard (MOBO) has been mounted in the casing.

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It’s Alive !

That’s pretty much confirm the PSU is working and nothing weird or any obvious short circuit issues. Also, if you see above, there’s a screwdriver at the bottom of the GIF making contact on some of the pins.

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Front Panel Connectors

The screwdriver has to bridge the connection between the PWR and GND pins in order to switch the machine on. Just refer to your MOBO manual to see how the pins are arranged.

The SSD

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Installing the SSD and its heatsink

For SSD installation, it’s just a matter of slotting it in and and tightening the screws. For this particular SSD, Adata, it comes together with a rudimentary heat sink. It has a heat conductive adhesive under it which then, you are suppose to stick heat sink on top of the SSD as per the GIF above. I was a bit puzzled at first and had to do some searching online on how to install it (just to be sure) as there’s no manual whatsoever that comes together in the box.

The Casing

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Empty casing, mounted casing, installed MOBO

The casing used for this build is the cheapest one I could get, which is around 30 USD (cheapest one sold in the shop). With it, comes 3 free generic fans and 1 cooler master fan, free, all 120 mm. Initially I planned to install all of them but due to the design of the casing and the mounting point of the MOBO, only 1 fan can be fitted at the top. The other place could probably be fitted with a low profile fan (which I will show later when I manage to get one, something like https://www.coolermaster.com/catalog/coolers/case-fan/xtraflo-120-slim/).

Airflow Configuration

The airflow configuration would be 1 fan airflow intake (green outline) and 1 fan airflow outtake (red outline, at least until I can get low profile fan) as you can see below.

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Intake and outtake

The fan for intake flow is installed at the top (where there’s dust filter mesh to prevent dust build up in the casing) and the outtake fan is at the back. You can see above for details.

The Front Panel Cables

Next, we connect the casing’s front panel cables to the MOBO. As the pins are labeled with a very small texts, you’re often required to refer to the MOBO’s manual.

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Putting Front Panel Cables

With the connector in place on respective pins and with some basic cable management, we proceed to the HDD installation.

The Old Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

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Mounted HDD on the casing

There’s an old HDD, 10 years+ from an old laptop that will be reused in this build, a Seagate 500GB, 5400 rpm. The installation process requires you to tightened the mounting screw to the casing at the back of the HDD and connect the SATA data and power cable.

PSU in the Casing

For this casing, the PSU will be mounted at the bottom of the casing. At the bottom of the casing there’s some clearance (around 1 cm) off the ground for the PSU to exhaust the hot air coming out from cooling the PSU components.

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Mounting the PSU in the Casing

This is an old PSU with non-modular cables. That means you can’t detach the cables from the PSU if you are not using it, making cable management more difficult. Still, better than getting a new PSU.

Next,

The GPU

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PCI Express, PCI Casing Slot

Installing GPU basically removing the casings’ Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) casing slots cover, highlighted by the green outline. We need 2 slots because the GPU needs additional slot for the heatsink and fan.

Unhinged the latch at the side of the PCI express slot, highlighted by the yellow outline, then slot the GPU card into the PCI Express Slot, highlighted with the red outline. Once done, it will look something like below:

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GPU Installed

As I was breathing a sigh of relieve with the hardware assembly process, I just realized that the PSU doesn’t have any 8 pin EPS, 12v power connector. In this case, a converter is needed. Initially was looking for 6 pin to 8 pin converter in the shops nearby, but was not available.

Instead a Molex to 8 pin converter was found.

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Molex to 8 Pin EPS 12v Converter

With this final piece of the puzzle we are ready to boot this PC up and install the operating system (Unless there’re some issues with POST, which wasn’t case).

Installing the Operating System (OS)

The plan was to dual boot this machine, Windows 10 and Ubuntu 20.

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Windows Starting Screen… forever

I’d started by installing Windows 10 using an old boot-able USB disc. The process stuck at the beginning of the installation process with a text indicator (“Setup is starting”).

Another boot-able USB was created just to ensure it’s not the disc that’s the issue. It still stuck at the beginning of the installation process. So I’d decided to install Ubuntu first then install Windows 10.

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Ubuntu Installation Process that got Stuck

Same thing occurred when installing Ubuntu. Clicking continue will make the screen goes into long loading process (didn’t end even for 20 minutes, it’s no un-responsive as you can still click x or quit) without end.

Tried few things from booting into the live disc and try to use Gparted (a utility to manage disc / disk partitions) to fix the HDD but to no avail.

However, during testing of the discs in Gparted, I noticed that trying to access the HDD (the 10+ years old one) partitions would cause Gparted to go into a long loading delay (never got accessed in the end). Same symptom as above.

Troubleshooting the issue

So, I’d suspected that the HDD might be faulty. It is unknown what’s the nature of the fault but it might be the cause of the slow (or downright unable to) access speed by the Windows and Ubuntu installation process.

So the next step is to remove the HDD from the equation by trying to disable the HDD via bios and disabling SATA (too lazy to take the SATA cable off from the HDD physically).

After that’s done, I’d retried the Windows installation again and it worked. Then proceed with the Ubuntu Installation.

Takeaways

  1. How (at a very high level) Installing AM4 CPU onto the MOBO and other components
  2. Using Molex Converters to provide power from Older PSU to newer generation GPU. There’re always converter. Not sure for https://www.techpowerup.com/269957/the-curious-case-of-the-12-pin-power-connector-its-real-and-coming-with-nvidia-ampere-gpus. :P
  3. Troubleshooting Operating System Installation Process when a very old HDD is used (or could be new). When this happen, try to remove some storage devices from the equation and which which one affects the installation.

Next we will see the process of migrating from MacOs to Ubuntu from a Software Engineer perspective.

Written by

Someone who bricked a motherboard after flashing the wrong rom because of trying to OC an intel celeron from 400mhz to beyond 600mhz in 3rd grade.

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