Today you’re going to learn exactly how to frugally build a powerful PC.
This is the same approach I used to build my powerful 4K video editing, gaming, and engineering PC.
Let’s get started!
Why I’m Upgrading My Laptop
Welcome! For the last couple of years I had been editing my videos on an Asus G53SW laptop that was as heavy as a cow, as loud as a jet plane, and now is as slow as a turtle when it comes to exporting heavily edited high quality footage.
El Burro, as I like to call it for it’s enormous size and weight, was the first PC I had ever purchased. It lasted 5 years before I needed more power and reliability.
Before that, the first thing that damaged on El Burro was the battery. It died within a year. Which I didn’t mind because the darn laptop gave me lower back pain from biking with it around campus.
So I stopped lugging it around and stuck to using the on-campus computers. They were so much more convenient. I could find a computer lab in almost every building, and they were already prepaid for with my college tuition.
Whenever I used the laptop for a serious video editing session, I would anchor it to several peripherals: an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Then it became time consuming to plug-in and plug-out my setup.
As time went by, the laptop’s keyboard stopped working right, the power button required several clicks before it could turn on, and the monitor developed stuck pixels that lights up in a straight red line.
All of these parts were a pain to replace, and non-transferable to different computers other than this one laptop.
It was then that I realized that I had made a mistake.
I had paid a hefty price, $1300, for a laptop that wasn’t so portable, and incapable of upgrades.
Need to add more RAM? Too bad, it’s maxed out. Need to switch out the video card? No can do, it’s soldered to the motherboard. Need to upgrade the motherboard? Tough luck, buy an entirely new PC.
Welcome to planned obsolescence. An economic policy that is not economical.
El Burro laptop only lasted a 5% of my lifespan. That was disappointing.
The True Cost of Owning A Laptop.
If I were to continue this trend of buying a laptop every 5 years, I would need to make $1300/5 years = $260/year.
Which means that to sustain this habit throughout years of financial independence, at a conservative 4% interest rate I would need to save and invest $6500.
Determined by calculating the present value invested at an interest rate for years, given the target future value .
After saving $6500, I would never have to worry about computer expenses ever again.
That is, the true cost of affording a new $1300 laptop every 5 years for the rest of my non-working-for-pay life is actually $6500 after-taxes.
When Are Laptops Worth It?
So what could have made the purchase of a laptop worth it? It’s portability.
But you see, the portability factor was immediately lost when I declared one of my customer requirements for the laptop to be “powerful.” This meant a top-of-the-line graphics card, CPU, RAM, and enough hard disk slots to store tons of media data.
But thin and light portable laptops cannot handle the thermals well enough to avoid overheating issues. So a large fan exhaust is needed, thereby increasing the weight and dimensions. This trade-off completely throws “portability” out of the window.
Marketing gave me the impression that it would be practical to lug El Burro around. But the reality is that an 8 lb laptop is no fun to transport as a daily driver.
So the next time I buy a laptop, it will be for it’s portability. For the power to research, plan, and write on the go.
And I’ll leave the heavy graphics work for my custom built desktop PC. Which can handle that and much more without breaking a sweat.
The Insane Advantages of Building Your Own Desktop PC
Building your own PC shaves off a substantial amount off the price. If you wanted to get equivalent specs on a laptop, you may be looking at paying perhaps 100% more for it. Yet the performance could leave you disappointed.
Laptops can’t run for too long at max specs before they thermal throttle and overheat. Then they shut down to prevent the hardware from burning any further.
But this isn’t about getting the biggest bang for your buck. This is about getting the power you need at the time for little cost.
The way to do it is by being frugal in decision making. Choosing parts for their functionality, not for their perceived luxury. Led lights don’t matter, number of cores in the CPU do.
You May Not Need a Super Computer.
Each spec should be usable across peripheral devices. For instance, if you do color grading work, there is no point in paying for a Quadro video card that can handle 10-bit color depth, if your monitor only shows up to 8-bit color depth. Much less so if you only work with 8-bit color images to begin with.
More luxury can actually be a burden. Owning an over-spec’d video card may lead you to pay too much money for an equally spec’d monitor. Both devices will be more power hungry, and thus have bigger and louder fans. Even maintenance and repair could be more complex.
Take Advantage of Discounted Upgrades.
Instead, if you get a lower-spec product that’s more than a year old, you avoid the “new-product tax”. An invisible “tax” people pay for wanting the latest and “greatest” TODAY.
Delayed gratification pays off. It’s as if you were a time traveler, enjoying tech that once was super pricey at a now discounted price! Who cares about market trends when you can get a product for 25% off.
A computer is perhaps the most versatile tool you will ever own. Put your money where it makes you money. If the latest product is necessary to perform your work, and it will pay for itself, then it can be justified.
The True Cost of Owning A PC Build.
The desktop PC I built has been running flawlessly for the past 5 years and hasn’t needed a single upgrade. The only maintenance I do is vacuum the dust and reapply the thermal paste on the CPU every year.
If any part breaks, I can replace that one part and move on with life.
Let’s suppose I need to replace parts totally $500 every 10 years. Following the present value equation (1), I would only need to save and invest $1250 after-taxes to afford that habit for the rest of my non-working-for-pay life. That is over 500% savings compared to owning a laptop.
Build a 4K Video Editing PC
My dream to build my own MONSTER video editing and gaming PC has come true. Below is my PC parts list and a series of 5 YouTube video’s I produced (using the PC!). Topics include: unboxing, out-of-the box test/build, inside-the box build, RAM and motherboard troubleshooting, and BIOS flashing. I hope you find this helpful in your journey for your dream PC.
Here are the steps in the most efficient order. Simultaneously follow the instruction manuals of both components you are attaching together. Watch the videos to get a better grasp of the process.
1. Pick Compatible PC Parts
I used pcpartspicker.com to create Yoguely’s PC Build parts list. This website is fantastic because it allows you to match compatible parts and estimate the total price of your build. First identify your needs, the minimum requirements to that meets the functionality you want. There is no need to spend a lot of money on pc parts with the latest specs when you may never take advantage of it. Save the cash for upgrades down the road. That’s the advantage of building your own PC after all. It’s upgradable!
2. Build the PC Outside of the Chassis
There may be chance that some parts are defective or incompatible so first make an outside the box build, that is, assemble the computer parts to the motherboard on a table, outside of the chassis (desktop case). Avoid doing any cable management before testing the Motherboard there is always a chance the motherboard or other components are faulty after which you may need to disassemble all that beautiful progress to get the part returned.
2.1 Install the processor
- Identify the corner with the little triangle on the processor. Then identify the little triangle on the motherboard. Hold the processor on the sides and align the processor with the motherboard with the triangles.
- On the motherboard, flip out the retention arms that are used to hold down a processor. Do not touch anything inside.
- Slowly drop the processor in the motherboard slot without using any force.
- Close down the retention arms to secure the processor in place. A plastic cover should pop out. Store it for later use.
2.2 Install the cooler
The cooler is placed directly over the processor.
- Remove the fan from the cooler by unclipping the four clips on it’s sides.
- Place the four screws on to the motherboard. The correct screw will prevent the cooler from moving around the motherboard.
- Insert the piece shaped like an X through the bottom of the cooler. This is used to tighten the cooler to the motherboard.
- Squeeze out a thin line of thermal paste over the processor.
- Place the cooler on the processor and screw the four screws onto the other screws placed earlier. Do this in little increments in a diagonal order until all screws are tight.
- Clip the four hooks of the fan, which was previously removed, back on to the cooler.
- Connect the wire of the cooler fan onto the corresponding slot on the motherboard according to the manual.
2.3 Install the Video Card
- Insert the video card into the motherboard slot, data is passed through here so no data cable is needed.
- Power the video card by connecting it with a power cable to the power supply. If later on the computer does not display anything on the monitor and gives an error code on the motherboard, 85% of the time this is caused by lack of power. Electrical engineering 101, it needs power to work properly!
2.4 Install the RAM
- Insert the RAM into the motherboard slot in the pattern recommended in the motherboard manual for best results. This is according to the number of RAM cards you have.
3. Partially Build the PC Inside the Chassis
It is unlikely that the power supply arrives defective so it is safe to assemble it inside the desktop and power the motherboard from there.
- Grab your desktop case and open the front and back panel. The front panel, usually made of glass or transparent plastic, is where all of the components are placed. The back panel, usually not see-though, is for cable management.
3.1 Install the Power Supply
- Insert the power supply in the desktop case aligning the power cable port towards the outside of the chassis, and the fan facing the bottom of the chassis since there is a dust filter mesh slot that allows for airflow there.
- Provide power to the motherboard by connecting it using Serial ATX 24 pin cable to the power supply.
Follow this next tutorial for the partial outside the box build.
4. Perform USB BIOS Flashback on the Motherboard
- Use an empty and recently formatted USB Drive.
- To format the USB Drive, plug it into your computer, right click on the usb drive, hit Format.., under Format options untick Quick Format and hit Start.
- Download the latest BIOS from the ASUS website here, this file will have a long name such as X99 deluxe and some version.
- Rename the BIOS file from the original filename such as “X99-DELUXE-ASUS-3902.CAP” to “X99D.CAP” if you have a X99 deluxe or X99 deluxe 3.1 which is the one I have. Follow the file naming guide on ASUS website here. Both motherboards should work with the same filenames.
- Place the BIOS file in the USB drive.
- Ensure that the power supply is turned off and thus the motherboard is not receiving power.
- Insert that USB into the USB BIOS Flashback port of the Motherboard outlined in green. Only slot of these is for BIOS Flashback. So you will want to put your USB in the right slot. See image below.
- Provide power to the motherboard by turning on the power supply 1/0 switch. The light on the power button and reset button on the motherboard will light up.
- Press and hold the BIOS button, outlined in green, on the Motherboard for 3 seconds. See image above for location of the button. The button will flash three times.
- Let go of the BIOS button and it will continue flashing. Let the motherboard do it’s work. Do not touch or interrupt it while it is updating. The light will turn off by it self when it is done after approximately 2 minutes.
- At this point you can unplug the USB drive, plug in a keyboard as well as a monitor to the video card and turn on the computer by pressing the power on button directly on the motherboard.
- The motherboard error code display will roll through numbers. Then the monitor will display “BIOS is updating, do not shut down or reset the system to prevent system boot up failure.” The computer will restart it self and display the previous message again.
- The UEFI BIOS utility easy mode is displayed as well as the CPU temperature. The motherboard error code display will say A9. Press F10 on the keyboard to exit.
- Congratulations! The motherboard, RAM and videocard all compatible and working great. Phew! Skip the next section on debugging the motherboard and go complete your inside the box build.
Watch the Video: How to Perform USB BIOS Flashback on ASUS X99 Motherboard
4.1 Test whether the Motherboard is Defective and debug
There may be an unlucky chance that the BIOS update did not work as it did for me. The debugging process involves narrowing down problem by verifying and testing each connected component.
First I figured out that the RAM I had bought was incompatible with my motherboard since the BIOS update did not work and the online manual clearly stated the incompatibility (oops). I returned the “G.Skill Aegis 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-2400 Memory” and replaced it for “G.SKILL Ripjaws 4 Series 32GB (4 x 8GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2400 (PC4 19200) Desktop Memory Model F4-2400C15Q-32GRR”.
After inserting the correct RAM that I had happily picked up in the mail, I powered on the computer as the monitor should display something. The monitor displayed “ASUS in search of the incredible” and “New CPU installed, please enter setup to configure your system.” While this seemed like a good sign, it was shortly followed by “Chassis intrude please check your system. Fatal error. System faulted.” The motherboard error code display had error 78 which according to the motherboard manual means “ACPI module initialization.” (@_@)
Later I called ASUS support to try to get it working and after clearing the CMOS and flashing the BIOS did not work, we concluded that the motherboard was faulty/defective. They were nice enough to give me a reference number for the return.
Finally, I returned the “Asus X99-A ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard” and then upgraded it for a “ASUS X99-DELUXE/U3.1 LGA 2011-v3 Intel X99 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 ATX Intel Motherboard”. This new motherboard has built in bluetooth and Wi-Fi card. So I no longer needed the Gigabyte Wi-Fi card I had purchased.
5. Complete Building the PC Inside the Chassis
Do this after updating the motherboard BIOS and verified that it is working well with your video card and RAM. Otherwise you may pass unnecessary trouble assembling and disassembling the build if you need to return a component.
5.1 Install the Motherboard in the Chassis
- Place the motherboard backpanel in the desktop case. The backpanel has all of the slots for the input cables such as USB and LAN.
- Afterwards, place the motherboard build you have made so far inside the desktop case, aligning the USB ports to the backpanel slots.
- Route the cables from the desktop case ports to the motherboard to power them. The desktop case ports includes your power button, front USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks.
5.2 Install the Drives
- Insert the solid state drives into the slots accessible through the back panel.
- Next, insert the disc drives into the slots accessible through the front panel.
- Connect the drives to the motherboard using the data cable and to the power supply using the power cable.
5.3 Install the WIFI Card
The first motherboard I bought did not have an internal Wifi card so I placed my own. The latest motherboard model had integrated Wifi so I did not need to use one.
- Insert the Wifi card into the motherboard slot.
5.4 Complete Cable Management
Organize the cables routing them from the motherboard and power supply through the back panel and back onto the components that need them. Power on the PC and enjoy!
Follow this next video tutorial for the inside the box build.
Watch the Video: How to BUILD the ULTIMATE 4K Video Editing Desktop
Finally, feel free to reach out to me on twitter if you have specific questions. I’m always happy to help (n_n)b.