My terrible experience with PC building


 I was always pushed and pushed by my friends for one sole thing; getting my hands on a PC. I was a console kid my whole life, as I grew up with that being the only way I could consume video games. I’ve been intrigued by the capabilities of a computer for quite some time; It’s super interesting that a device with so many complex parts can work as one to achieve a goal as simple as opening a tab on the internet. (Or run video games.) I had always WANTED a PC, but my lack of one mostly just came down to money. It’s a very expensive hobby if you want a computer that can actually PLAY games and not sputter and cry at the thought of opening solitaire. Well, to my surprise, I checked my bank account and realized I’d been saving tons of money that I could finally put towards the construction of a PC. Unbeknownst to me, however, I would be recreating an experience reminiscent of peeing out a kidney stone the size of your fist. Here’s how I lost brain cells due to strenuous work, stress, and Carbon Monoxide exposure, while simultaneously turning a $600 task into a $1300 freak show. 

   It began around New Year’s eve, circa 2022. I was on the phone with one of my buddies who had made a little spreadsheet of all the components and knick-knacks and doo-dads I’d need to complete my mission. I went for more of a budget between $400-$650, as I knew lowballing would probably only get me a toaster. Computer components are expensive, and there are a LOT to get:

A CPU (Central Processing Unit): This is the brain of the computer that performs all the calculations and processing. For gaming, a powerful CPU is important to handle the high demand of a game’s graphics and physics.

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit): The GPU is responsible for rendering the graphics in games. A powerful GPU is necessary for high-quality visuals and smooth gameplay.

RAM (Random Access Memory): RAM is the short-term memory of the computer. It stores data that the CPU needs to access quickly, and the more RAM a computer has, the more data it can store, which improves performance.

Motherboard: This is the main circuit board that connects all the components of the computer. It also has various ports for external devices like USB and audio.

Storage: This is where the computer stores all its data, including the operating system, games, and other files. A gaming PC should have a fast and spacious storage device such as an SSD (Solid State Drive) to reduce loading times.

Power Supply Unit (PSU): The PSU supplies power to the other components of the computer. It needs to be powerful enough to handle the demands of a high-performance gaming PC.

Cooling: As gaming PCs tend to generate a lot of heat, it’s important to have adequate cooling to prevent overheating. This can include fans, liquid cooling, or a combination of both.

Peripherals: A gaming PC may also require peripherals such as a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. These should be chosen carefully to provide the best gaming experience possible, so that meant no cheap, off brand junk you’d find at a Walmart on clearance.

   With all of these factors taken into consideration, I carefully picked out what I found to be both within my budget and could last me a really long time. I eventually went with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X as the processor, a Gigabyte X570 UD as the motherboard, a Radeon RX 6600 XT 8GB GPU, a simple little power supply, a 2TB SSD, and was provided a couple sticks of RAM which added up to 16 GB. In English, this all meant I had a pretty good PC build under my belt. The total price including a tower to store it all in came to around $650. A little over my budget but it was nothing earth shattering. Until I realized I had spent $248 previously on a mouse, keyboard, and monitors. Yes, monitors PLURAL. Why do I need two? I HAVE NO IDEA! I barely use the second one to this day. So I was down $898 bucks already and I felt my soul leave my body. Not fun. I couldn’t die yet though, because I still needed to wait for the components to arrive. 

   Although they were ordered around the same time, they all came in very spaced out from each other. In total consensus, it took around two weeks for everything to arrive. Finally, though, I had all the pieces to build this goliath. And unlike David, I did not conquer this beast without a fight. 

   I phoned two of my friends over to help me put it all together, simply because I realized I have zero knowledge on how to do it myself, ordered a pizza, and spent the night tinkering with my new toy. 

   One day wasn’t enough for everything, so we reconvened the next day to finish it all up. The final stretch eventually came and all we needed to do was plug in the cord on the motherboard that powered the processor. Problem was, the cord was pretty short and we could just barely get it to touch the input with the plug. This sent us into a tiny bit of a panic. Every cord of the power supply was plugged into the motherboard and every component all snug, but this specific one wasn’t, and of course it was one of the most important ones. We got a little rough with it and resulted to straining the cord so we could get it in. After about 5 minutes of finagling the plug into the hole and stretching out this poor cord, we finally got it in. Now all that was left was to put the tower back together and turn the thing on. We turned it on and HOORAH! The fans started spinning, and the lights came on, indicating that it was working! …then came the smoke. 

   From atop the tower near the area we strained the processor plug, a fire started. Flames engulfed the entirety of the fan and corner of the motherboard so with quick thinking, I picked it up and ran it outside. The weird thing was, when I picked it up and ran, it immediately put itself out. It couldn’t have been on fire for more than 10 seconds, but it was still terrifying. Adrenaline was coursing through our blood and we had only just begun thinking how screwed up the PC could possibly be. 

   One of the friends volunteered to take it back to his place and check it out. Cool. I was kind of out of the loop on everything that happened around that point but he was working on figuring out what could have sparked the fire. You would think we would have correlated the fire with the expanded cable and now bent pin in the plug, but you’d be dead wrong! We thought the power supply just had too much wattage and thus overpowered the computer, so we bought a new one for $30. The new total expense was $920. Not so cool.

   After finicking with the power supply and the cord going into the forbidden slot a lot more smoothly, I received an inquisitive pair of texts from my two friends.

   “We got it to turn on”

   “nvm yeah it caught fire again”

   Okay. Now what? Well they just put it through their heads that a bent pin in the plug caused a spark which ignited the flames. Metal + metal + electricity = fire. Who would have thought?

   I retrieved the PC tower back from his house and hung my head in sadness; I’ve wasted all this money for essentially the world’s most expensive paperweight. I had no idea how to fix this problem. I then put on my thinking brain and realized I have an uncle that specializes in computer stuff. In short, he told me that the motherboard was fried because, surprise surprise, the most important pin was bent. So, I bought a new motherboard for $209.99. It was a slight upgrade from my initial one, but it put another hole in my wallet. After my uncle took another look at the computer with the new motherboard installed, he texted me again, telling me the processor was fried too. Awesome! I bought a new processor for 174.99 which was yet again another upgrade from an initial purchase, making the grand total of this whole fustercluck a whopping $1300, completely half of what I had initially anticipated to spend.

   I forgot to mention that every single hiccup in this plan took about a week each. So let’s look at a timeline: I bought the items on New Years Eve, they arrived 2 weeks later, and I completed the build on February 4th. Was every factor of this worth it? Ehhh…

   I want to believe it was worth it in the end because I really enjoy my PC! But I don’t wish this entire process on my worst enemy. With the waste of time, effort and money followed emotional turmoil, as well. I happened to build this during a pretty rough patch in my life, so every failed attempt and setback made me feel more and more crummy. It was frustrating and annoying, but I guess I achieved my goal? It’s certainly fun, but I would never, EVER do it again.