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Interesting New System Shenanigans

I’m currently in the throes of building a new primary production PC, and getting ready to migrate from my current production machine to its immanent successor. As I’ve gone through the latest build process I’m astounded by how much computing power you can buy for the bucks these days, and how much easier it’s getting to put complex systems together. Knocking on wood, I’m also happy to report that my new box ran the first time I powered it up and I was able to go straight from the initial power-on test to the OS install phase. This isn’t exactly a first for me, but it’s rare enough that I’m pretty happy about that aspect of the experience.

I did go through some “interesting behavior” during Windows7 installation, though: for some reason, I couldn’t load the OS from my install DVD when I loaded it into the brand-new LG WH10LS30 Blu-ray burner. And it wouldn’t install from my handy-dandy external USB-based DVD burner either (essential for somebody like me who sometimes works on ultraportable notebook and netbook PCs): the installer informed me that a driver was missing without providing me too much guidance to figure which one was AWOL, or where to go find the right one. So I created a new Windows 7 bootable UFD by using the Win7Professional x64 .iso from MSDN along with the Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool and handled the install that way instead.

With a brand-new virgin machine at my disposal and some prior experience with SSDs under my belt, I knew to configure the system to run AHCI in the BIOS before the install, which led to a successful and simple first installation onto the 120GB OCZ Vertex2 drive I chose for the system/boot drive on that machine. The mobo is an Asus P6X58D-E with an Intel i7-930 CPU, a GTX460 graphics card, 12 GB of G.Skill DDR3-1600 RAM (3x4GB DIMMs), which also gives me SATA 3 (6.0 Gbps) and USB 3.0 interfaces to play with as well. I chose the Corsair H70 CPU cooler for the unit’s LGA1366 CPU, and its liquid cooling has proved pretty capable: the machine normally runs at temps from 36 – 42 °C, while it seldom exceeds 70 °C under heavy loads or stress testing (I’ve overclocked the CPU from its nominal 2.8 GHz speed to 3.8 GHz, and have also boosted the clock and memory rates on the GTX460 graphics card as well thanks to the killer MSI Afterburner utility).

I also hit an interesting gotcha while bringing the system’s firmware and drivers up to date, as I ran the OCZ 1.24 Firmware update utility, just released yesterday (11/18/2010). As recommended I did make an image backup of the drive before tackling this task, so when my machine blue-screened during the firmware update, I didn’t break too much of a sweat. I did find myself wondering if munged firmware would require me to return the drive to OCZ for a replacement, but when I saw the drive still correctly identified in the BIOS after a reboot, I breathed a sigh of relief. All I had to do was remove the SSD from its home machine, mount it on another Windows box, and run the firmware update utility on a system where the drive being updated was not the system drive, and everything worked flawlessly. To my delight, upon re-inserting the drive into its home system, and tweaking the BIOS to restore it to its proper boot position during start-up, the contents of the drive were completely unaffected. I’d more than halfway expected to have to reformat the SSD and then use my install UFD to reload the image from that system’s backup drive.

Over the next week to ten days I’ll be finishing up the new machine install and configuration, after which I’ll use a new copy of LapLink PC Mover to migrate my production environment from my current/old production machine to this brand-spanking new one. Count on me to report further on learning and experience as I go through those motions. I’m also going to have to find a local machine shop to make a clean cut-out in the side panel of the Antec 902 case in which I made this build: in attaching the H70 cooler to the unit’s 120mm rear exhaust fan mount points, the cooler projects about 3/8″ outside the normal limits of the enclosure. I’ll post pictures once I get this all straightened out. Please let me know if you’d like me to post complete hardware specs for this unit, too: I paid around $1,800 for its components, but I think you can buy all those parts brand-new right now for more like $1,600.

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