A New Home for the PC

Whilst moving from an FX-6350 to Ryzen 2600, I couldn’t help but notice how poorly designed my case was. Sure, there’s a great need for aesthetically pleasing units and there’s a wide selection available, but let’s have a reality check.

As do many, budgeting on the case and PSU (as did I in 2016) for better hardware could be problematic. With cheaper cases, the choice is limited and picking the best unit for your needs might take a bit more time than simply adding one to your basket that meets the budget.

Changes in modern case design are a lot more noticeable for those used to having a “drive rail” at the front of the case and is worth understanding what has changed from the “classic layout”. Let’s explore this further.

ODDs

ODDs (optical disk drives) are less likely to make an appearance then maybe 10 years ago. This might be because flash media is smaller, less noisy, more efficient and can be supplied whilst buying Windows. Also, games aren’t bought on CD or DVD anymore and are usually downloaded straight from the source.
This conclusion has allowed the limitation or in some cases (no pun intended), the complete removal of ODDs completely in Mid-Towers.
Full towers still have plenty of bays.

Storage

Before SSDs became mainstream, the standard storage unit fell to hefty 3 ½” HDDs. SSDs are now considered to be mainstream and usually found in smaller sizes: 2 ½” and M.2 and of course the less-seen size in the form of a PCI-e card.
Like ODDs, the 3 ½” drives are just about hanging on with at most a couple of spaces dedicated for the larger HDD. There’s more room now dedicated for SATA 2 ½” SSDs because of their form factor in Mid-Towers.
Full Towers usually have plenty of space for HDDs and are worth considering if you need space for your RAID 5 array.

PSUs

This may be a little odd but there are some points worth mentioning. Modern Mid-Towers tend to position the PSU on the bottom of the case. There are a few reasons for this which are helpful to understand.

  • The weight is closer to the ground, and this is important in the reduction of unit being “top-heavy”
  • A dedicated ventilation grill for the PSU that isolates the airflow through the PSU to the rest of the system.
  • Modular PSUs can be helpful in cable management by reducing unnecessary plugs or cables.

Cable Management

Cable Management is an aesthetic “nice to have” but can play an important role during maintenance and any more adding/removing hardware. I also realise that it can help to reduce dust settling on meters of cable. As I like to think of it, keeping your workspace clean and tidy allows you to work more efficiently. The same can be said whilst maintaining your system.
A well-managed case is heavily dependant on the design. This is achieved with:

  • Space behind the rear access panel for cables
  • Space around the PSU for tucking away lengthy cables
  • Access points around the motherboard for cables to connect from behind the motherboard tray, such as front I/O headers and SATA connectors.

GPUs

GPUs have grown in size and is worth making sure that the card you are buying/have will fit. Usually, case manufacturers are good at letting you know the maximum length of the card that could house.

Also, think about future upgrades and expansions; it could be worth finding the size of the largest GPU and seeing if it will meet the specifications to be better suited for years to come.

CPU Coolers

Many budget coolers are quite tall and you’ll want to be sure it will fit. Again, most good case manufacturers will note the maximum height of the cooler for the case and could impact your buying decision.

Front I/O

USB-C is still quite a way off from being mainstream, but it could be worth looking into, even if your motherboard doesn’t currently have an I/O header for it. If you use USB frequently, having a nice choice of USB2 and USB3 interfaces on the front can be a deal maker. If you are into photography or use SD often, card readers integrated to the case isn’t too uncommon.


Everyone is different and has different needs and tastes. Doing the research properly will allow for a better-equipped case for your needs, and may help you decide about the cooler you buy!

A case can (and should) last longer than the original hardware that it originally intended to house and being clear on current hardware trends can future-proof your purchase, even if it is bought to a budget.

Buying correctly will not only cut down on e-waste but will save your future-self some money too.

BSOD fix – Ryzen with dedicated AMD GPU

Recently, I’ve been experiencing many BSODs in Windows.
I’ve had a few different errors such like “KMode_Exception_Not_Handled” and “TCPIP.sys” which ultimately threw up Kernel Power errors in Event Viewer.

After a few searches, the errors pointed to driver issues. This started to happen soon after upgrading to the latest Windows 10 version.

Starting with the network driver, downloaded the package from the motherboard’s site and installed it, but the BSODs carried on happening.
I then decided to reinstall both graphics drivers and chipset drivers from the AMD site.
Alas, the BSODs persisted.

Driver Meltdown

I decided to go down the “Old School” route by uninstalling the motherboard, AMD GPU and AMD Chipset drivers completely. I then used CCleaner to clear the registry and deleted the AMD folder located in C:\AMD.

Fully cleaned of old drivers, I installed all motherboard drivers, and then installed AMD Ryzen Chipset drivers BEFORE finally installing the AMD GPU drivers.

So far, after a few reboots and some good hours of usage, the system seems to be behaving itself! Until I turned it on the next day and I was getting BSOD after BSOD.

The drivers weren’t the problem.

Testing

At this point, there wasn’t much more I could do more in regards to the drivers. Clearly, there was an issue somewhere else and I’ve exhausted the “easy” options so far. A lot of the errors seem to point loosely to perhaps bad RAM corrupting the drivers or the filesystem.

Going back to basics, I tested the system.

  • CHKDSK on drives – no issues
  • MEMTEST86+ – 8 passes no issues
  • Windows Shell “SFC” scan – no issues
  • Windows Memory Diagnostic test – 1 pass no issues
  • Reseated the RAM
  • Reseated the GPU
  • Stress test system with 3DMark – 1 BSOD, 1 PASS
  • Disabled some devices like GPU audio output and onboard sound in case of conflict

At this point, I had a few things to think about. Overwealmingly, most of the tests had passed.

  • Memory was good
  • Storage was good
  • Windows installation was good (apparently)

Which lead me to believe the possibility of these conclusions:

  • Bad GPU – BSOD ATI related errors, faulty hardware?
  • Bad Motherboard – BSOD memory-related errors?
  • Bad CPU – BSOD memory-related errors?
  • Bad PSU – Event Veiwer Kernel Power errors?
  • Dodgy Windows update – corruption?

Whilst pondering these grim posibilities, I checked the drivers again on the motherboard’s website in hope of a new driver release which may solve my issues. Almost a week prior, there had been a new BIOS update released.

Fix

That’s when the penny dropped; the newest chipset drivers “might” not be working properly with the older motherboard firmware!
This was another completely reasonable notion that hadn’t occurred to me since the release date on the BIOS was only a couple of days ago but I’ve been having this issue for a couple of weeks. The morbid conclusion of a hardware failure (although, not impossible), had now left my mind, and was sure that this was the cause.

Before any BIOS update, reset back to default configurations.
I updated the BIOS, rebooted and maticulously went through the options to roughly gain my previous configurations. Booted back into Windows and no BSOD (yet).

I decided to do another 3DMark stress test, just to give it the computer something to worry about. It went to 1 point above the last test.

A couple of restarts and hours of usage after, no sign of any issues. I re-enabled the devices that I had previously disabled and carried on to use the computer normally.

The system now seems solid, and not an error in sight yet. This is positive and I am confident that the new BIOS has fixed the stability issues

To conclude, the newer drivers didn’t play nice with the older firmware, and the new BIOS seems to have solved the problem. But this highlights some other concerns…

Project: RPi2 Home Server

RPI-nas-server

Introduction

 

First off, any adventure into a project, you need a purpose. The purpose of this project is to create a computer serving a variety of uses for the household; network storage, wiki server. The network drive will be used for backup, transfer. The secondary goal is to make it as energy efficient as possible. Let’s get started.

The hardware

 

RaspberryPi v2

The brains of the outfit will be a raspberry pi 2. (Pi3 About £35)

Rpi-3

(rpi3 for illustration only)

Considerations: Continue reading “Project: RPi2 Home Server”

Some thoughts on my AMD FX-6350: the highs and woes

While on the subject of AMD, it might be a good place to chuck out some thoughts of my current pc build.

It was more of a compromise then a solid future proofed rig. My core2duo build was dying. Well, the AsRock (I know!) motherboard was, to be precise. To be honest, 7 years service wasn’t too bad, considering it was a budget build at the time. It lasted me well. The more occasional blue screens pronounced the retirement, shortly after the tirade of reseating, log trawling and diagnosing. Continue reading “Some thoughts on my AMD FX-6350: the highs and woes”

AMD’s K.O.

I’ve never been, what people call a fan boy. (Not PC enough….; fan person?). But I have always rooted for innovation over underdogism. With AMD’s new Ryzen range, they tick both boxes. Power to the people comes to mind.

This is not just seen as red versus blue anymore… this is more important. I feel that since the XP+ desktop range, innovation and creativity slipped. I moved to a core2duo after my XP3000+. Underdog? No, but innovation?

Like with everything new, there’s reports of Ryzen suffering birth issues; AMD will defiantly nurture their baby to full health and beyond.

However one thing still niggles me. Sure, Ryzen is fast becoming superior to Intel’s best offerings, but the cards are now on the table, and I feel Intel is squeezing the life from its’ i series. How long can we expect AMD to dominate against an Intel refresh?