Building a New Desktop PC After Nine Years

In the last month I assembled a new desktop computer for myself. This is my first significant upgrade in nine years, a timespan that my teenage self in the mid-nineties would have found unbelievable. At the time the upgrade cycle was something like three years long for anyone, even non-gamers, trying to keep up with typical software demands. In other words, the slowing of that cycle has allowed me to skip two major upgrades entirely, and I might even have kept going for a few more years except that my old video card was starting to fail with increasing frequency, and it wouldn't support DirectX 10. Although I'm not much of a gamer anymore, I had become aware of Planet Coaster, a sort of spiritual successor to the RollerCoaster Tycoon that consumed quite a lot of my time in the early 2000s, and obviously I had to play it.

AMD CPU after nine years, on the left, and the new motherboard, CPU cooler, RAM, and video card on the right.

Here's the machine I built in 2009:

  • AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz Triple-Core Black processor. I used this with the included cooler, which surprisingly never let me down.
  • ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 AMD 790GX ATX motherboard
  • XFX HD-487A-ZHFC Radeon HD 4870 1GB video card. ATI and AMD were the right combination for the thriftier sort of power users and so I stuck with them for a few upgrade cycles—decades, it turned out!
  • Kingston 4 GB (2 x 2GB) 250-pin DDR3 SDRAM (PC3 10600). It's surprising that I never felt the need to upgrade even this.
  • Corsair 750W power supply: still going strong in the new machine!
  • Cooler Master Centurion 590 case: Cheap and cheerful and bought locally when my previous case, which I had intended to keep using, proved incompatible with the standards of 2009. Now nearly a decade later though, nothing has changed and I'm free to keep using it!

My new machine uses the same hard drives, case, and power supply as the old one, with the following replacements:

CPU cooler, video card, and even motherboard all merrily cycling through colors

Notice I haven't discussed storage much, because that is one of the few things I've upgraded gradually; I now have three spinning drives for bulk storage and one 256-GB Samsung SSD for everything that needs to be fast: the OS, software and linux VM. The cost of the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and video card came to $485.47 in 2009 before shipping and handling; this time I splashed out a bit on those components and the price is a rather higher $1222.82. I kept the older machine running for six months after I identified a pressing need for this upgrade at least partly because of the bitcoin-inflated prices of GPUs at the beginning of 2018, but this still wasn't cheap.

Planet Coaster though? Priceless.

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