Operation Upgrade

A little backstory… I’ve been building computers by myself since my early high school days—a time before 3D graphics where the speed of my desktop computer would be easily outshone by just about any smartphone today. And since those early days, I been playing games on them. I’ve flown spaceships, crawled through dungeons, traveled through time and battled against monsters of many shapes and sizes—all in the highest fidelity (that I could afford, anyway).

But (unfortunately for my bank account) being part of the PC master race is a never-ending evolution with a seemingly-constant stream of new and better components that are needed to accommodate the ever-increasing demands of the PC gaming space—a constant companion who always catches up to you no matter how many leaps ahead of it you take. And once again, that companion has caught me up.

Over the last handful of years, I’ve actually not done a major upgrade of a system myself. Rather, I’ve relied upon the endless sales on Woot to supply me with rigs from the likes of HP that I would then add/substitute parts into as I would go along. It was just easier (and often more cost-effective). But this time, I decided to do the full upgrade myself.

With this build, I wanted to make a machine that would be able to handle both my penchant for gaming as well as some of my professional pursuits (i.e. graphic design and video). I still had a pretty new graphics card and power supply (both of which I had just added to my system in December) and totally adequate hard drives, so it was just the big parts: CPU, motherboard and RAM (or so I thought).

After a fair amount of research, I decided to go with an i7-6700K CPU. And as luck would have it, Fry’s had a sale on that processor and a good motherboard (the MSI Z170A Gaming M7) this past weekend. Along with an enormous Enermax CPU cooler and 32 GB of DDR4 2800 MHz RAM, I was confident that I had everything that I needed to start my new build.

In upgrading my current gaming rig, my plan was to actually put together two computers—using the parts that I was taking out of my gaming computer to upgrade my office computer (yes, we have more computers than humans in our house). So I set to work gutting my current office computer to make room for the parts from my current gaming computer to allow me to install the new parts into my newly-upgraded gaming computer (follow all that?).

A couple hours later, after having placed everything in their seemingly-correct places and configurations, I pressed my newly-upgraded gaming rig’s on button and hoped for the best. Success!!!… or so I had though. The computer came to life, displayed the correct processor and memory information and was now starting up Windows. Then, it happened. Something no one who has every built a computer ever wants to see (yet we’ve all seen at some point): the error screen.

I ran through the computer’s startup a number of times more just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke of some sort, but to no avail. The error message that came back was the same every time. I looked up the error message online and was both shocked and crestfallen when I discovered the answer. Apparently, in the years since I had last done a major system upgrade, Windows had changed to install differently depending on what kind of processor that you had (Intel vs AMD). Awesome… Just my luck… WTF!?! (Warning old man rant in 3… 2… 1) In the old days (Windows XP and 7), it didn’t matter if you switched out an AMD chip/board with an Intel one. Yeah, it was probably better to do a clean install of Windows when you make such large changes, but it wasn’t mandatory. I could’ve just fired up the hard drive, waited for Windows to detect and install all the new bits and been good to go.

Now, I was left with a bit of a dilemma: try and get Windows to work through some techniques that I had looked up online (and put the data I had on the existing drive possibly at risk) or go buy a new hard drive and a copy of Windows to start from scratch (and spend a sizable amount of cash which I hadn’t intended). I decided on the latter and, for the third time that weekend, went to Fry’s to spend more money.

From that point on, everything else went pretty smoothly. Windows installed fairly painlessly. I was able to reinstall most of my software without issue. But now with a whole and properly-working computer, I’m left with the lesson that I had learned long ago (but had apparently forgotten in the intervening years)… Whenever you upgrade a computer yourself, it’ll always take more time and more money than you had planned.

And you may be questioning if I’ll do another one in the future. My answer… Yeah, probably 😉