upgrading the gaming rig for 2018

(I wrote this about a month ago, and it got stuck in drafts. But now I’m pulling it back out and letting it loose.)

I’ve watercooled my gaming systems since around 2002. My last gaming system build was actually around 2012, and since then I’ve just been coasting on that system. I reworked the water loop into two loops a few years ago, adding a closed loop over the CPU (Corsair H60) and keeping a custom build over the GPU. Very cool. About 6 months ago my day-to-day system (an older gaming system) water cooling loop got some contaminants in it (after not having had any in many years) and I had an algae explosion. Rather than clean it up or even replace parts, I just scrapped the whole system and replaced it with a spare (better!) system I had sitting around doing nothing important.

Now, this week, my main gaming system suffered my first leak ever. A reservoir/pump combo drive bay unit was seeping water somewhere inside it. While the leak didn’t damage anything, it did cause me to rip out the loop and begin the process of replacing the air cooling (fan and heat spreaders) on the GPU. Water cooling was initially done to reduce the sound of my computers; but these days, fans are larger and far quieter such that the reduction in sound is negligible anymore. Somewhere in either that process or just the process of touching/moving things that hadn’t been much touched in many years, the motherboard decided to stop posting at all. I gutted everything out, but no improvement. Well, I was actually going to look at upgrading the system next year anyway!

(PS: After much fiddling, I actually got the old motherboard posting again, but this was after I had rebuilt the system. So it’ll still see life in an ancillary machine for testing/playing.)

So I’m taking the time to upgrade the motherboard, CPU, and RAM, and SSD. What’s interesting is how gaming hardware hasn’t really changed so much in the past 5 years, such that some of my components can actually be re-used. This marks the first time I’ve done an actual large upgrade rather than just building new from scratch.

I really wanted to get an Intel i5-8400 CPU, but I can’t find any available for at least several weeks. So I decided to spend a bit more for the Intel i5-8600. This requires an 1151 socket board which is covered in 300-level motherboards. So I’m picking up a Gigabyte Z370 AORUS Gaming 5 motherboard. This means I need new DDR4 memory, so I’ll pick up 16GB of G.SKILL Ripjaw 8×2 sticks. I kept the option to keep a closed water loop on the CPU with a new Corsair H60. I also had an unused SSD sitting around, so I’m making use of that as my system drive (though my old case really wasn’t built with SSDs in on the market yet, so it’s really just kinda hanging out in there…).

I really didn’t want to make these purchases right now, but things happen. Probably my computer telling me to make use of the Steam sale-driven Skyrim Special Edition that I purchased over Thanksgiving weekend!

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