New Computer Time: Turning it up to 11

It may not be a new year, but it’s finally time for a new computer. It’s been 5 years since my last computer was built, and while I could have easily gotten another year or two of life out of it (there was absolutely nothing wrong with it), there was one single factor that was preventing me from really “turning it up to 11” (if you’ll pardon the terrible pun) – and that is, well, Windows 11.

You see, my old build was centered around a Core i7 6700 CPU – and with Windows 11, Microsoft decided to not allow upgrades unless you had a reasonably modern CPU (only a few years old), as well as a new feature called the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) – and my old computer didn’t meet either of those requirements.

So basically, if I wanted to upgrade to Windows 11, I’d need a new CPU and motherboard… and if I’m going to have to install a new CPU and motherboard, I’ll probably need new RAM, and since I’m doing all that… well you can see where this goes. In the end, it just made sense to go all the way and make it a totally new build.

In the end, here’s what I decided to go with:

  • Intel Core i9 11900K 3.5 GHz 8-core CPU
  • Asus ROG STRIX Z590-E Motherboard
    • WiFi 6
    • Full USB 3.2 support
    • Proper USB-C/Thunderbolt port support
    • 4 M.2 slots
  • 32 GB of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3600 Memory
  • 1 TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus NVMe M.2 SSD
  • 8 TB Western Digital Black HDD
  • Asus GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4 GB video card
  • Corsair modular 650 W power supply

I also threw in a bunch of Noctua case fans to add some extra air flow and a big, chonky CPU cooler, since I am sticking with this being an air-cooled system (no water cooling for me), and I re-used my existing Thermaltake tower case.

Essentially, this was a perfected version of my old build – it has the same amount of memory as I had before, but better WiFi, better USB connectivity, more M.2 slots, and I finally have a semi-modern video card.

Unlike some of my previous builds, this one was going to be a more-or-less clean break – I would install Windows fresh rather than upgrading in-place, and I would not be re-using my old hard drives; instead opting to consolidate everything into that one gigantic 8 TB drive. (Though, I did keep the 2 M.2 SSDs from my prior builds – but not the spinning HDDs.)

The actual build itself took me several hours to complete, as I had to carefully pull apart my old computer (and clean out all the dust) and then carefully put everything together – something I don’t do often so I had to take my time and make sure I did it right, with many pauses to check the manuals for both the motherboard and case.

In the end though, I got it up and running without any real fuss or bother, and proceeded to install Windows 11 – which went mostly fine (my first USB stick I used for the install had a problem, so I had to create a new installer on a different USB drive). But in short order (very short, actually – this new machine is fast!) I had Windows 11 up and running!

Then came the long and arduous process of copying over all my data – which at times meant I had to plug in my old hard drives temporarily. With years worth of high-resolution digital photos and hundreds of thousands of documents, and tons of videos and DVD backups, this took quite a while – essentially, it had to run overnight, but even then I still had to spend a few hours copying other things (such as profiles and local repositories for my work stuff).

Once my data was copied, I then had to turn to reinstalling all my programs. I had made a list – a long list – of all the programs I had on my old computer that I needed, but surprisingly it did not take that long to reinstall them all – the benefit of having a new, fast computer with a very, very fast SSD, I suppose!

A few more hours of tweaking settings and making sure passwords, etc., were all set and services connected and logged in, and I was done!

I couldn’t believe how smoothly the whole process went overall – there were a few hiccups, including a boot problem with the BIOS which I hope doesn’t come up again – and although I did all this over a regular weekend, by Monday morning I was able to sit down and start up my work programs just like usual, without any issues or delays, and get right back to work.

I’m looking forward to really making use of the performance power of this new computer going forward – in particular, having a CPU and motherboard that can take full advantage of the speed of the SSDs I use is really nice. I thought they were fast before, but I don’t think my old system had a new enough PCIe interface to really push the SSDs to their limit… but this new build absolutely does!

That said though, this will probably be my last PC build – though it was fun picking out the parts and easy enough to do, by the time I’m ready to upgrade again I hope to move to a smaller pre-built system instead. I like my tower, but it is very big and very heavy… and I’ve been seeing that pre-built systems – and in particular the smaller integrated type systems – can be just as good as a “typical” tower build. Plus, spending my entire weekend on this, while interesting, wasn’t the greatest use of my time.

Still, that’s not a decision I’ll need to make for some time yet – as usual, I fully expect for this computer to last me for many years to come (with a minor upgrade here and there).

By Keith Survell

Geek, professional programmer, amateur photographer, crazy rabbit guy, only slightly obsessed with cute things.