Posts Tagged ‘hard drive’

My New Build

And finally I have it – my self-build computer all in one piece. I have now built my lovely, new handmade PC from all my components and parts. My own build. My very own baby. With everything chosen by me and put together with the help of a very capably friend (one brought in who knew what they were doing).

I harvested the optical drive (CD/DVD drive) and the HDD (Hard Disk Drive) from my old computer – there’s no point getting rid of good components. The rest I saved for and bought myself, or received as a gift. After about a year of planning, it’s now finally here.

There’s just one hitch… the HDD (a normal hard drive – the ones with the spinning disc plates – that is somewhat old… OK, pretty old… and is just basic cheap and standard-stock) that I put in was harvested from a (now-broken) pre-built computer. I had many problems with booting (or not booting, as the case may be) when trying to run my old machine… and it turns out that the Windows 7 OS on it is doesn’t work.

It tries to start, gives the option for System Repair or start as Normal. The Normal option just sends you strait back to that same message. System Repair then goes through the motions, tries to repair from Restore Point, fails at that too, and the sends you back to the same old message again.


OEM Headaches

At first, I think it’s broken. But then I realise it’s because this was an “OEM” edition of Windows 7 – the one that came with the original computer – and they do not transfer from one machine to another.

In fact, they are locked to the motherboard upon installation, so if you want to continue to use it in a new computer from an old computer you’ve purchased pre-built (the ones you buy from a shop) – or from a new OEM DVD installation – you actually can’t. Not if you want to use it in a different machine with a different motherboard. Windows also has specific policies in regards to self-purchased OEM installation discs, as they were created for system-builders only – and the license for it does not cover people who install it inside a purpose-built machine for themselves (like this one).

These editions are actually for “commercial-use” only, and are “non-transferable”… which is why my harvested HDD won’t boot in my new machine.

The only answer is to get a new OS from Microsoft. Unfortunately.


The Build:


So… it turns out I have a perfectly good system after all. Apart from the fact that Microsoft makes the most ridiculous operating system ever, one that is locked down and unable to be used without giving them a hefty sum of money.

It’s not too hard to see why OS X and Linux systems are the go-to favourites for people who know better. Or those who don’t want to play games (although Linux systems are starting to catch on to this section of computing too).

But Windows is the king of the OS gang, and to play I’m going to have to get it working again – so I’m off to work out where to get a new “retail” edition, and for the best value. Not an easy task whatsoever, given they’re all really far too expensive.


My Very Own Self-Build

Putting the whole thing together was not the straightforward experience I hoped it would be – what it was, was a learning curve and one very fun experience. Some of it required quite a bit of problem-solving, and the motherboard instructions were clearly for those in the know. It took a bit of working out and guesswork, but we got there in the end.

Asus_Z97-A_MoboThe motherboard (colloquially known as a “Mobo”) is a beautiful one, but a little more complicated than I expected it to be – and it didn’t help that the instructions were not entirely clear to a building noob like me. It didn’t help that I didn’t realise at first the chassis (case) was (cleverly) built to hide wires inside it and couldn’t work out how certain things hooked up because of this… but I worked it out eventually and fixed it (the moral of our story is read the chassis instructions). The entire chassis is screw-less, except for installing the motherboard, and getting everything from opening the case’s sides to installing the HDD is all cleverly stuck together with clippy sections or thumbscrews.

i7-4790K_CPUThe processor was a much easier component to install, with the thermal paste already pre-applied (thank you, Intel!) and it was easy to place it inside the socket. The heatsink also went on nice and easy – thanks to the screw-less ideation of all hardware-makers, it had little plastic arms (thick and strong ones that are really robust) that clip firmly into place with the aid of a clever twisting mechanism thing. It was so much easier to manage – and far more effective – than the old way of fighting with screws to get it on… it was a joy and a relief to see how the new ones are made! The box was also so much smaller than I imagined it to be – it had just the processor, heatsink, and instruction booklet, and it was barely bigger than the small heatsink. It was small enough to just sit in my hand and the chip was, of course, even tinier, peeping out of a clear window in the lid of the box. The presentation was simple and beautiful, and once out the entire thing was just stupidly easy to install. Well done, Intel!

To keep up with the ease of installation, the graphics card popped into place nicely (having unclipped 2 of the slots in the back) and required no other work whatsoever. There was, however, plenty of room in there for bigger graphics cards, and plenty of extra power supply cables available for any that would require it. The motherboard also fully supports SLI/Crossfire (using more than one graphics card: SLI for NVIDIA & Crossfire for AMD), and the chassis is roomy, so you can at double-up with ease if you care to do so.

Corsair_Veneance_RAMThe RAM cards also went in without any issues. The pair of red Corsair Vengeance Pro cards looks stunning within this gorgeous motherboard and case, and required no more effort other than just popping them in… all 16GB of them. There’s also room for a further two cards for some serious power, and the mobo takes up to 32GB of it.

The PSU also went in easily (just had to press it in a little as the section given is nice and snug) and the cables were already nicely put together in bundled mesh, all sections quite easily identifiable by the codes on the ends of each segment. It’s sturdy, the cables are pretty, and 500W is plenty of juice for what I have right now. Perfect!

The first thing that was fiddly was installing the harvested hard drive… It took a while to work out the HDD needed to be installed upside down, with the pins pointing into the case, not outwards. Thanks to the (overly) effective cable-management design of the Corsair Carbide chassis, it turned out that the power cable attachment and the SATA cable slipped under the HDD section and beneath the disk drives themselves, so once plugged in the HDD would be inserted with the cables going down and inside the case when sliding it into its little pigeon-hole, all nice and tidy.

The second thing that was difficult to install was the SSD (the Samsung 850 EVO, 120 GB).

Since I had never seen this before, it was a bit of a head-scratcher and then a revelation when I realised it. It also makes life so much easier when it comes to the cable management… once you’ve worked out how it works.


Future Proof

I really cannot recommend these components highly enough, particularly for fellow “noobs“.

The Corsair chassis is easy to use, has loads of space in it, has a nice lot of fans, is nice and airy, and has plenty of room for installing a cooling system, and has room for 4 hard drives (HDD or SSD types) and 3 optical (DVD) drives. It’s also almost completely screw-less (and, wow, that makes a huge difference!) and has space beneath the motherboard and around the sides for cable management (slipping the cables in, so it’s all nice and tidy in there). Just read all the instructions about it first…

The Asus Z97-A motherboard has just about everything you would need: It is specifically-designed to withstand high-pressure use, such as gaming, and includes overclocking support. It has SLI & Crossfire multi-graphics card support, USB 3.0 and M.2 SATA (a new type of hard drive that looks more like a tiny card rather than a normal HDD) ports, and SATA Express (also known as SATA III/ SATA 3.2) compatible connectors.

It’s not quite the perfect build (after all, it doesn’t have an over-clocked GTX 980 Ti graphics card in it!), but it’s really pretty good and I’m happy with it. It’s future-proof (unless you count being able to upgrade to the new “next gen” Skylake system, which would require an entirely new mobo and processor… and hefty sum of money!). It has everything I require, and is compatible with upgrading to better equipment.

Ideally, I would have behemoth graphics card NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti, but the one I have is a pretty good compromise right now – but the upgrade ability is there. I would also like to install an M.2 or SSD (SATA III) hard drive for the operating system, using the current HDD that I have for storage-only (it’s what is most commonly used these days, particularly with gaming or other high-power functions like professional video editing or music production).

Future-proofing also means having Windows 10 – Microsoft will no longer offer support for any other previous system, and are going to mimic Apple and their OS X system from now on, updating their platform when required with free upgrades and versions for the Windows 10 platform alone. It’s the best model, as Apple has already proven. Is it ironic, coincidence, or deliberate that Microsoft has decided to do this with their 10 system as well..?

I don’t have a cooling system (…yet. I will see how it goes with the fans that it already has). I also do not have a monitor – but then this tiny place that I live in is rather too small for making desk-space, so the display is the TV right now… Which isn’t too bad, given it means I can play my PC games on a big screen too.


Reluctantly Windowed

In the end, I caved and bought a copy of Windows 8.1 to finally get it properly up and running. It’s a future-proof investment… but an investment I would not need to make if my old Windows 7 edition wasn’t locked down as an “OEM” copy, though. It would be a simple free upgrade to Windows 10.

Unfortunately, Microsoft do not offer a Windows 10 DVD or ISO (a download for installing onto a DVD or USB yourself) in exchange for the old system key for a Windows edition that came with your old computer, for a genuine OS you can’t get into because they locked it down. No… In that instance they want you to go out any buy a whole new machine, or at least a proper Windows 10 system installation DVD. Naturally.

Despite billions of dollars of profits per year, they still want your money.


The only way to save even a little money was to get a retail copy of Windows 8.1 (which is cheaper now) and take the free upgrade to Windows 10, instead of spending an extra £20+ to get Windows 10 retail upfront.

Thanks to my lovely new Samsung SSD, the installation went lightening-fast, and booting and rebooting are also just as snappy. It was a good investment, and having it on a separate drive also safeguards the system better: If the system becomes corrupted, you can reinstall without having to worry about your data (safely tucked away on the other HDD), and if you have any corrupted data, it won’t harm your system. It’s the most common way (and sensible) way of using system and storage data now, and I would recommend it without a doubt.

I would also highly recommend installing your system onto an SSD (small ones, like my 120GB EVO are not very expensive now), or even an M.2 (if your mobo has that option). The boot times are unimaginable if you’re used to an old HDD – they’re almost instantaneous, and it makes using a PC (or laptop) an entirely different experience.


Let There Be Power…

I have to admit (and have it said like a proud mother) that it looks gorgeous and I definitely made the right choices with all the components.

It took several hours and two giant pizzas, but eventually it all came to life. The motherboard fired up, all the fans started spinning, and you could hear the sweet sound of success – a fab fan-humming computer happily working away. The Z97-A even has a little button at the bottom for testing the mobo without having to turn on and boot the entire computer – and flashes little red lights against any areas with a problem, so you don’t have to randomly guess what’s wrong if it’s not working.

The BIOS (“Basic Input/Output System“) of the motherboard launched without any trouble (it’s DEL or F2 for this particular one) and it had some lovely in-built software to make specifically configuring it nice and easy (only required if you’re going to need some extra-specific settings, though).

Everything works just fine… so I can’t really complain. Well, I can. Just a little. Microsoft did make me have to buy a whole new OS for this thing, which was entirely unfair of them.

(Forcing people into getting a new one when they have a perfectly good one already, by locking them down, is a farcical way of obtaining even more money than they already have for no good reason other than corporate greed.)



This was quite an illuminating journey and a lovely little tech adventure. Now that my baby is up and running, I’m really impressed with everything that I’ve chosen – the quality of the components and they way they play well together is impressive.

I’m most impressed by the difference the SSD has made to how the system runs, and I’m happy I now have my data and games saved and installed on a different drive altogether (also allowing more space to be used more effectively). I have tested it on older games and newer games (Skyrim, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dragon Age II, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition, The Elder Scrolls Online, and a few other games). I’m slightly impeded in seeing just how good it can be, since I’m playing them on the TV, which is just a basic 1080 HD screen. With the better monitors running at 2560×1440 (just under Apple’s “Retina” standard of 2880×1800, which I am used to when playing on the MacBook), there are much better graphics and better quality of visuals to be had. That is where a lot of the power goes, and where the graphics card(s), processor, and RAM get to work hard and show off a bit.

Now I’ve done it – successfully – I hope I won’t have to do it again for sometime. Just adding or updating specific components as and when should be absolutely no trouble whatsoever, too. My year of preparation, learning, reading, and researching has paid off, and now I’m more knowledgeable and better equipped to understand how these things work.

I may have wanted to do this a long time ago, but it’s better late than never. And I’m very happy I have now done so.


Now peace and gaming at last!


Spooky Say Relax!


When I got my MacBook Pro Retina, I naively thought that 250GB was enough on-board space. In my defence, it was 2012 and I didn’t realise how many cool games were available for the Mac platform… (and we’ll just write The Witcher 2 off as a really big mistake and not count that… I still have no idea where that one went wrong).

What do you mean, 'Yosemite' broke it?... Want me to bite him?

What do you mean, ‘Yosemite’ broke it?… Want me to bite him?

Now, I have quite a few games with their add ons, DLCs, whatnots and what have you, and they’ve stuffed pretty much nearly half of my available space (more, if you include other things like screenshots and stuff). Clogged it right up. CPU got sluggish (and we’ll just pretend not to count the upgrade to OS X Yosemite – that’s a whole other rant… or two…!). I got some of it back when I got really annoyed with Witcher 2 and dumped all 22GB of it. But the fact of the matter was that at least 80GB of my space was taken up by games and their extra watsits – and that’s a bit more than my Macbook can handle, given what else is stuffed in there too…

In the last two years since I bought my two shiny-new Apple products (iPad [4] Retina & Macbook Pro Retina), Techland has changed a lot. It’s changing faster and faster as the weeks go by. Not years or months. It takes just weeks. Two years ago, 250GB of HDD was enough for a laptop and 16 GB was enough for a tablet. But that was before everything went digital and was required to be downloaded. Now, thanks to all that downloading, hard drive space is being measured in terabytes. iMacs are coming with 1TB of space as standard (apart from the one cheaper option which has “just” 500GB on board – it practically screams “I am only for the download-phobic outliers out there”…). They also come with NVIDIA GTX 775M graphics cards with 1 or 2GB of graphics space. They’re really cool… but then about five minutes after I thought my 650M was pretty cool, it was already out of date (but that’s a whole other rant…).


I love Apple, but they can also be such a pain in the arse.


Enough is Never Enough…


Maybe this will be big enough to manage all my Mac games –

MyMemory 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive

For now, at least... 👾🎮💻 😋


So… The space issue is really bugging me. For anything Apple to be mobile and useable you need shedloads of both on board data and cloud data. And thanks to the irritatingly incompetent networks/cable/phone companies, we do require both – since the internet can’t always be accessed to rely solely on cloud connection for storage/gameplay/etc, and then you need that shedload of hard drive space so to access what you can’t either get on the cloud or generally via the internet – and usually because the internet access just isn’t there.

The tech is there, but there’s nothing – or, or rather, no one – really supporting it. Not here in the UK, anyway. So, at best, we end up with either 128GB iPads with best-option wifi and 4G access, or a laptop/desktop with an external HDD hanging off it, also with the best-option wifi, in the hope that either one or both storage and access options will suffice for what we require of it.

[I will never understand why the tech and hardware firms haven’t already come to some sort of mutual arrangement with the networks and internet firms – it would obviously benefit them both. Is it only obvious to everyone who doesn’t work for these companies or something…?]

I need a lot right now...

And I need a lot right now…

Currently, I have neither of these options – and a growing abundance of “lack of space” pop-ups whenever I try to shoehorn anything else in. I’m looking into something to hold more space for my games… I hardly have enough to justify an external hard drive measured in terabytes – I have a Mac after all (now, it would be a very different conversation if I had a high-end PC, and ergo access to the entire Steam toy box…!). I have, though, found a lovely little USB key that holds quite a nice little total of 128GB, and that made me smile. Not the price, though… Not until I went to My Memory… They have nice prices. This, at least, may be a half-decent temporary solution. I can’t imagine 128GB will take that long to fill.

I can’t wait for terabytes to be stuffed into something smaller than a flash drive. Most external HDDs are annoying, and the ones that aren’t too annoying (the really light, small, shiny ones they have the gall to call “portable”… They all should be “portable”…) cost too much. And even then, they tend to gear towards the whole Time Machine thing when it comes to using it with OS X – something that is a nice idea in theory, but a stupid one in reality, and entirely impractical. So I’m not a big fan. The 128GB flash keys were a relief to see when they finally turned up – at least they hold a fairly decent amount of stuff, and it’s all that I really need. For now.

Obviously, if the networks on internet companies can get themselves together, then space wouldn’t be that much of an ongoing issue – most things will be directly available from cloud servers; we would be able to continuously stream content, and easily save our own content back onto them. Downloading wouldn’t even be required, and ergo, neither would space.

I am lucky enough to have a good broadband service at home and I take advantage of it. However, I have rubbish access over 3G outside (and don’t get me started about the lack of even half-decent wifi out there too), and since content streaming when it comes to games is still not available anyway, that therefore still means I have to forgo most of the things I would like to download onto my iPad, including games. Saying goodbye to Blizzard’s Hearthstone and Capcom’s Ace Attorney to make room for other things, including iOS 8, was painful to say the least.

Not Enough Disk Space

… I feel his pain

I make as much space as I can: All the data that is on my iPad that can be backed up and exported from the local drive is, via the various cloud apps that I have installed (backup of backups is always a good idea). They are then deleted from the iPad and makes more space – however, there are some things like particular pictures I’d rather keep directly on the local drive (as well as being backed up over cloud, of course), and they do help clog it all up. Unfortunately, we’re also still in the era where games have to be downloaded to be played, and they’re pretty big these days. So I’m still out of space on the 12.5GB that’s left after iOS 8 took over. I’m still waiting for that future to turn up – where the downloads aren’t necessary at all… then maybe I could play the games and have my locally-saved pictures at the same time, as well as listen to music as well. Right now there’s nowhere near enough room to even think about having my iTunes or Audible downloads on it as well as everything else. There’s an option to stream iTunes from their iCloud server… but that’s obviously not helpful when it takes up so much data when out and about, and you’re stuck to listening to it over wifi at home, which is unhelpful as the point of having it on a mobile platform is that it’s, well, mobile. Restricted to listening to it over home wifi rather negates that point.

It rather feels like we’re stuck in tech-limbo – we have available to us cloud storage and streaming on one side, and the option of mass on board storage on devices on the other, yet we would require hardly any storage at all (except just enough for the system) if the cloud services we’ve been supposedly promised about a millennium ago would actually turn up, along with the online access and support for them. The problem, of course, is that it can’t turn up until internet/network providers actually provide sufficient internet access to do so. Everywhere. Nationwide. Even in the tiniest corners of the country. Not just in the home, but wandering about outside, everywhere and anywhere. Without proper constant access, we can never be rid of the need for a large local hard drive.

The other thing is that most people don’t even have large local hard drives on their mobile devices – certainly not their Apple ones. Most have the lowest priced option – no surprise given Apple’s price ranges. And just 8 or 16GB is never going to be enough.

Decent and low-priced 4G access would be a great answer, at least for now. But it’s not being offered here. It’s hardly available to use at all, and even then the price plans are generally eye-watering for a realistic amount of data to stream everything you want. But if it was more readily available at a decent price, it would probably solve a lot of these problems outlined here.



... the dream

… It’s the dream!

The best solution? Get the internet working. Everywhere. In all places, in all areas of the country. Wifi or 4G…. As long as it works well at well above 100mbps in every corner there is, nationwide. Idealistically, I imagine this is what Apple imagines also, given the way they have designed their hardware. This idealism, however, is not something that has been acknowledged by BT, Virgin Media, or the countless mobile networks there are out there.

There are places on this planet who are lightyears ahead of us here in the UK – places where even 100mbps is probably a laughably low bit-rate. But here, we get a nationwide average of – what? – 8mbps, realistically speaking? And that’s at home, from our home broadband routers. Outside your modem’s ping range, you’re screwed. There’s nothing out there to rely on except your awful 3G service, and if it does actually work at all, you can probably barely use it for more than a few hundred MBs as a part of your contract/bundle plan. Don’t mention 4G… for all the “4GEE” adverts around, it exists in about 12 hotspots nationwide and costs a small fortune to access on particularly awful data plans. Mr/Ms Average Jo outside of central London isn’t really going to get much of a chance with that option, and you might as well say it doesn’t exist until the mobile networks sort themselves out and offer it to everyone at a sensible price.

who loves living in the dark ages...?

Who loves living in the dark ages…?

At my parent’s home in rural north Wales, they barely pass the 2mbps mark on a good day. We should be able to expect a norm of above 1000mbps… but the infrastructure and investment is virtually non-existent. Without it in place, sophisticated cloud servers and streaming options aren’t really viable, and we’re back to practical hardware matters. How very… turn of the century (21st Century, naturally).

So… we’re left with only “turn of the century” solutions for more space, the most practical solution being some kind of internally-located external memory, like on mobile phones. SD cards clearly didn’t catch on… Apple certainly has no intention of going down that route anymore and using them. Even my 2012 Macbook doesn’t have an SD port. I imagined they would come up with something that was an alternate, but none has come to light. They seem intent on sticking to USBs, “upgrading” USB slots to 3.0 ports, so we can transfer bigger files at a faster rate between flash drives and the computer. Up to 128GB of data apparently…

Phone companies have managed to overcome burdensome on board memory issues and offer even lower-end Smartphones with the capacity to upgrade their on board memory with SD cards, most commonly up to 64GB – some even 128GB. The card is obviously unobtrusive and sits inside the phone itself. It’s a great compromise: Put less hard drive in the unit, yet allow the buyer the option for more. Simple enough. Easy enough.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to believe in this. Their hardware designers have failed to take inspiration from this, which is rather a mystery to me. They continue to be narrowly-focused on using the Cloud, but at the same time they continue to push online downloads, mainly via iTunes. Granted, they continue to add extra on board space for their new hardware, but there is no “top up” solution to adding space to older models, except to offer overpriced external hard drives.

Adding the ability to use internal extra memory space seems like such an obvious solution to “external” memory options. But, no… it was just Cloud. And 3.0 USB flash drives. The latter are annoying, can be lost and broken, and stick out the machine about a mile. The former is great in theory, but pointless without constant and accessible internet access.

Apple used to be trailblazers in all areas. They trailblazed the Cloud, but given the fact that online access isn’t yet universal, I had imagined they would have also invented something for the interim, until online access was better and more readily available (and much, much cheaper…). Something better than SD cards, but not as obtrusive as external HDDs or USB drives. Until that “someday eventually” when constant wifi and/or 4G access is available throughout every square meter of every country, it seems like a better solution than what we already have to struggle with. However, with Apple trailblazing blindly ahead with cloud-based everything, no one is going to be looking at anything else, either. Whatever Apple does, you can guarantee everyone else is going to be following closely behind. And they’re only interested in online-only when it comes to extra storage.


Cloudy With Little Chance of Space…

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t live in rural north Wales. If they did, they would realise just how the other half live, and it would be a whole different story… And I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

... Fact!


Up in the hills, valleys, and mountains of Snowdonia, there is barely any internet access for homes, let alone – and even less when relying on mobile networks. There’s barely even any 2G.. let alone any 3G. 4G is out of the question. Ergo, so is Cloud. I can’t imagine it’s very different in other places here in the UK as well. Outside the main cities, and certainly outside of London, there is very little online access over basic 8mbps broadband, and barely-there 3G. Even in the centre London there are a mass of black holes, even on the best mobile networks.

So… we must continue to endure with archaic solutions. The very ones we have used for years… Decades. External hard drives and USB flash drives are really no different to the external floppy disk drives we used to have to plug into old computers like the Amiga. They’re also no less annoying and cumbersome.

The fact you also have to carry around anything from a huge, black brick-shaped thing that also requires another plug just for itself, to a USB flash drive that always seems to somehow get knocked as it sticks out obtrusively, is ridiculous to the point of absurd. Laptops and what have you are supposed to be mobile and convenient – but there’s nothing convenient about having virtually no battery life, or any decent storage space… yes, one terabyte may have seemed like a lot back a year or so ago, but with HD, 4K, 30GB games plus extra DLCs, etc, it means very little now. Especially when you download everything and want to keep them. Therefore a whole bunch of other stuff ends up having to be carted along for the ride, wherever your going. It’s how many years since laptops/notebooks/netbooks have been the norm for people? Yet very little has actually changed. More on board HDD space is useless if it’s still less than you need, and have to buy some stupid add-on that you have to lug around, plug in, and have it hanging around, taking up even more space.

Again, it’s annoying.


Thanks to the fact that downloading things is still the norm, I will be getting that 128GB 3.0 USB flash drive. That way I can store my games on there, not clog up the hard drive and screw up the CPU (the “brain”). I still rather resent having to pay that extra money for it to do so, though. I paid for the laptop, paid for the games, paid all that extra for my laptop to be a damned Macbook (as opposed to buying a cheaper, even more annoying Microsoft product)… I don’t see why I should have to pay extra for more storage on top of it. It’s almost as bas as having a Wii U… (lordy, Nintendo screwed up with the hardware and storage on that one!).

I can’t help thinking that surely, by now, the supposed trailblazers of tech would have worked out a way to store downloadable games on the Cloud too.

But no. The future of such things now lie with Sony PlayStation, it seems, who are working on pioneering streaming games right now.

Maybe this time it will be Apple who are doing the following…