6.02.2009

Was it good for you too?

The Emotional Rollercoaster That Was My First Time Building a Computer

Last week I decided it was time. Running my digital imaging business from a 4-year-old, 15-inch Dell laptop was like editing photos on an Etch-A-Sketch, a broken one. Not to mention I was a bit of a poser, tooling around town with a Geek Squad* bumper sticker on the back of my plastic Honda Civic (but she’s a pretty red plastic) without ever having built my own computer. I had disassembled plenty of computers (even reassembled a few…minus a couple screws) to know that the inside of a computer is not nearly as complex as computer retailers make it seem. Still, looks – and internet forums full of geeks – are deceiving.

I tried to read the manual, but it had no words

Bad Instruction Manual

Arrows Tell Me Nothing

For a community likes to tell noobs to RTFM, most computer hardware manuals really suck. Some had only pictures, others only words, and even in 12 different languages they managed to say nothing. The companies must assume that if you knew enough to buy the product, you must know how to install it, which I thought I did.

The first step in building a computer is installing the CPU (processor) in the motherboard. Assuming you don’t kill the CPU with static electricity or by forcing it in the wrong way, step one is easy: place CPU in the motherboard. Step 2, attaching the CPU cooler to the motherboard, should be just as simple, but this is where the foot-stomping and whining began. They say (I know, I need to stop listening to Them), that motherboards are fragile. Don’t touch this; don’t bend that; be careful. Well, being careful was just not working. Despite my best firm-but-gentle pressing, I was only able to get one side of the cooler to hook onto the mobo. Giving in to my inner bully, which has previously served me well in rugby, sibling rivalry, and holiday shopping, I smacked the cooler down (note: smacking is not recommend protocol) and gave the hooks a good shove. The cooler finally snapped into placed and I locked it in before it could change it’s mind.

Don’t hold your breath; the lack of oxygen makes fixing harder

The Beast

The Beast

After the CPU cooler, everything else fell into place, or rather were shoved into place; as it turns out, a lot of computer hardware needs quite a bit of force to be install. Fragile, uh huh, like a tank. After all the cables were connected to something, I plugged in the Beast (the picture does not do the computer justice, if you saw this 30-lb hunk o’ steel in person, you would understand the name). I held my breath and pressed the power button…only to give an exasperated sigh as nothing happened. The cable from the power case had not been labeled with +/- sides, so I hoped I had just plugged it in backward, and that I had not actually busted my CPU and/or mobo while “installing” the cooler. Fortunately, it turned out to be the former. After I flipped the power cable, Beast began to growl.

The Fun, the Frustrating, and the Downright Confuzzling

The minor frustrations of ambiguous instructions, absent labels, and my lack of fine motor skills aside, building the Beast was definitely a worthwhile endeavor. Was it fun? Even as a girl who got excited at her first multi-tip screwdriver set, I can’t really say that I really had fun (destruction is more my style). However, I am ecstatic to finally have a powerful system worthy of a geek and her Adobe Creative Suite. Had I given a retailer as much money as I spent on parts, I would have a plastic toy instead. To me, the fun part is playing with the Beast; building was a means to an excellent end. Would I do it again? Most definitely, and you should too…just remember that first times are never as good as expected.

*I do not work for Best Buy. I don't even patronize their over-priced stores. I just like the bumper sticker.

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