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I had previously visited the Asus website, so I had 113MB of up-to-date drivers on CD and so once I had done the business with them I installed Sophos anti virus and ZoneAlarm Firewall plus Ad-Aware SE and Spybot Search and Destroy to keep spyware at bay. After that I connected the network cable and used my broadband connection to install a huge amount of Windows Updates. I’m not completely sure that it is practical to build a new PC these days if you rely on a dial-up connection, and I wouldn’t much fancy attempting the task unless I had a working PC to hand, just in case of problems.

I now had the beginnings of a PC so I got busy installing Office, Photoshop CS2, iTunes for my iPod, Nero for CD and DVD burning, Steinberg My MP3 for music playback, WinRAR, games, Steam and a few Messengers. One of the joys of moving to a new PC is that you can dump software that you have stopped using and at the same time you can install the latest versions of the software that you really want. I estimate that I patched Nero some ten times on my previous PC and part of me thinks that it must do some good to rip everything out and start from scratch once in a while.

While I was loading up my hard drive I lost count of the number of times that I clicked on dialogue boxes to install software to drive C, yes please continue, no really, feel free to do a web check for updates, yes register the software. I reckon that Adobe Creative Suite 2 (which contains 11 applications) took at least 20 clicks to install, and that was after I’d entered the CD key.

Once I was happy that my new proto-PC was behaving I shut down my workstation and whipped out the motherboard and hard drive. My data files are on two SATA drives so I left them in place and fitted the new parts. The only complication is that I use a silent Zalman Reserator 1 water cooling system which has an external water reservoir so the case is effectively anchored by its water hoses.

That meant that I had to wriggle the motherboard into position and then attach the water block to the processor but it wasn’t too tricky. I fired my new PC up and all was well for a couple of minutes, but the processor temperature started to rise and as it headed north of sixty degrees Celsius an alarm went off. This isn’t very hot by the standards of an Opteron which can tolerate 100 degrees, but it’s higher than I expected to see so I raised the alarm threshold to 80 degrees and started to play Half Life 2 to put some stress on the system. After a few minutes the alarm went off again, which is when I had to acknowledge that it takes more than optimism to cool a processor and shut the PC down.



As the Reserator had managed to keep the GeForce 6800 and Athlon 64 3400+ running at less than 40 degrees I reasoned that the FX-51 was the culprit so I removed the water block from the processor and fitted a Zalman CNPS7700-AlCu which is an enormous copper and aluminium heatsink with a ‘kin huge 120mm fan.

The fan rotates slowly which makes this a very quiet cooling solution, but it couldn’t keep the FX-51 in check and I simply refused to fit the howling tornado that is a standard AMD heatsink so instead I swapped the FX-51 for an Opteron 148 which runs at the same 2.2GHz. Once we’d got over that hurdle the Zalman active heatsink kept the Opteron at 61 degrees in regular use. The temperature only rises to 64 degrees playing Half Life 2, and that’s despite the fact that I’m using a Fanmate controller so the fan is very quiet indeed.

I left the Reserator to cool the graphics card and completely ignored the chipset which has a passive heatsink on the Northbridge and a bare Southbridge. All this messing around added a day to the PC build and I’ve now got RAID 5 protecting my Windows XP SP2 installation and I’ve cleared out a load of junk from my hard drives.

Most importantly, I said that I was going to build a new PC and I’ve done it, and my feeling is that this is the last PC that I’ll build for my own use with an AGP graphics card, rather than PCI Express. Mission accomplished.

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