My name is Joel Diener and over the summer I completed my STEP project of building a desktop computer. The project had more bumps along the way than I anticipated but I learned a great deal by overcoming these difficulties. First I will outline the build process I went through and then I’ll talk about the main problems I encountered.
The Build Process:
The first task I needed to complete before I could even start to try to put the computer together was to come up with a parts list. I had been thinking about putting together a desktop computer for a long time but had never put the time into coming up with a quality part list I was happy with. For my STEP proposal I put together a tentative parts list, but I knew that my parts list would change over time before I put my order in, as I showed my list to more people. The first people I showed my parts list to were my peers in CSE who had experience with building computers. My peers helped me a lot with refining my list and changing some parts for more reliable versions. The next group of people I showed my list to were the people I worked with at my internship this summer at IBM. On of my co-workers, specifically, was a great. He spent a great deal of time with me going over my parts list and helping me troubleshoot problems I had down the line. After a period of time which was much longer than I had anticipated, I finally ordered my parts. I think the worry of getting sub-par parts or getting some parts that didn’t work together really drove me to spend a lot of time on my parts list and make sure it had absolutely everything I ever wanted. Here is a picture of all the parts I ordered together on a table:
The first thing that had to be done is put the CPU and RAM on the motherboard. Here are all three of these parts laid out:
And here’s what the motherboard looks fresh out of the box:
Here are pictures of the CPU and the sticks of RAM inserted on the motherboard:
Next I put in my solid state drive:
After that, I installed the water cooling unit into my case:
The next step was to install the motherboard into the case and attach the water cooler to the CPU:
Finally I added my power supply, graphics card, and hard drive and everything was looking good to go, except some cable management:
And here it is in its final glory:
So that was the vast majority of the build process. I was able to put the whole computer together over the course of 5 hours in one night. My biggest worry when starting this project was that the computer wasn’t going to turn on after I put it together but surprisingly it turned on fine.
After the Build
After getting the build put together it took some time to figure out how to get a bootable version of Windows 10 on a USB. My problems started after I finally got Windows 10 on the computer and tried to update the operating system. After the update completed and the computer had to restart, the computer would get stuck in a boot loop. It would turn on, get to the Windows loading screen and then shut off; turn on again get to the Windows loading screen and turn off again. This happened over and over until a Windows error came up. This problem became very difficult to solve and I end up spending over 2 weeks trying all the troubleshooting things I could find online and asking my co-workers at IBM to help.
After spending tons of hours reinstalling Windows 10 repeatedly and changing various settings I finally decided that my computer probably had a bad part. There were only two options for which part was broken based off the error I was getting; it was either the motherboard or the CPU. I ordered a new CPU since a couple of co-workers thought that it was most likely my problem. Just after ordering the replacement CPU I decided to look around to find failure rates of the parts of my computer. The failure rate of my motherboard was around 2%. The failure rate of my CPU was .3%. After seeing this I was pretty sure the problem had to be my motherboard since a CPU failure was so ridiculously unlikely. When the replacement CPU came in the mail I was just going to send it back and get a new motherboard but I decided to just try it out and see if it changed anything. It ended up fixing my problem. I spent weeks trying to troubleshoot my computer when I had gotten a bad CPU when only .3% don’t work. Everything worked a lot better from there on out.
The Transformational Experience
The main thing I took away from my STEP project was persistence. From when I was refining my parts list to when I was first trying to put the computer together, I needed to be constantly persistent in figuring out what I needed to do. This was especially true when I was trying to troubleshoot my CPU problem. Since this was my first time building a computer I felt pretty unsure most of the time but I was continually persistent and tried to use my resources to the best of my ability. I researched parts and problems I was having online and I also asked my co-workers a lot of questions about computers since they were a lot more knowledgeable about building computers than I was.
This persistence and resourcefulness made me successful, in the end, at building my computer and also helped me form relationships with people I wouldn’t have otherwise. I became closer with co-workers and become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I worked hard to make sure the project was a success. Now that I have this new computer built, I have a much better computer to develop on as a Computer Science and Engineering student. This will help me grow professionally and expand my career possibilities. I am very grateful for being able to participate and STEP and work on something I am passionate about.