I’m embarrassed to say that I regularly spend more time working/playing on the computer than all other activities combined. I’m sure many of the people reading this can relate and therefore can imagine how miserable I’ve been this past month, effectively living without a computer.

I’m so happy to report that I now have a new computer and I’m where I belong… in front of the computer screen!

A month ago, I started having severe video issues as well as system reboots and freezing. Had it been a desktop computer, I could have just swapped out the video card, and other bits, until things cleared up. Sadly, that isn’t as easy to do with a notebook computer. There was a slim chance that it was all due to a virus so I decided to run it over to the local computer shop, more to rule it out than because of any real suspicion that was the problem.

My “local” shop is 10 miles away and doesn’t open till 9:00am. I go to a water aerobics class near there from 8:00 – 9:00, so I left the computer in the car during my class, intending to run to the shop afterwards. When I got out of my class, the computer was gone. :(

I keep minimal insurance on the car and the facility doesn’t have surveillance cameras so I was screwed. A couple hours later, it was pointed out to me that homeowner’s (and presumably renter’s) insurance covers your items even when they aren’t in your house! Yay!

I Love State Farm

I dropped by my local State Farm office and they confirmed what I had been told. I then filed a police report, made a list of what all was in my computer bag, called the claims department and filed a claim. Quick and painless. I got the initial check in less than a week (about half given depreciation). I replaced everything except for the computer and sent in a replacement value claim to which they also processed in less than a week. For the computer itself, I had to take out a short term loan to cover the difference, ran up to Fry’s (50 miles away) and bought all the parts. I just finished putting everything together, installing software and configuring everything a couple days ago. I sent in the replacement value claim for the computer yesterday and hope to get the final payment early next week. I couldn’t be happier with how easy State Farm was to work with.

What Wasn’t Recovered

Fortunately, I had a full back-up from just a couple of months prior. Last time I had a hard drive crash, it was at least 18 months’ worth of data lost. By comparison, this wasn’t bad at all. But now that everything is configured and I can actually start using the computer I’m starting to discovered a file here and there that wasn’t backed up. It’s annoying, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.

My New Computer

The portability of a notebook computer is a serious convenience! But when a single component goes bad, it is much more difficult (and costly) to fix. I decided it was smarter to go with a desktop system this time. That also lets me use my Logitech sound system which has been sitting in a box the past few years. I have seriously been enjoying having it back again!

I did a great deal of research on what to get. I’ve been out of computers for quite a while and a lot has changed. Cooling is much more crucial than it used to be and I wanted to be sure to go overboard in that department.

Here is a list of what I decided on. I’m sure there are those that will laugh at my choices, but I’m happy with what I got.

What I Would Change

I was going to get a WD 4 TB “Blue” Hard Drive. I somehow missed that the “Blue” line was only 5200 RPM. The “Black” line is 7200 but more expensive (and better). I was at my limit money-wise so I settled on a WD 2 TB Black Drive. Obviously an SSD would be a better choice for a boot drive but my budget would limit that to a very small drive and no secondary drive.

This was a bad choice! I always underestimate what a colossal PITA it is to reinstall everything. I convinced myself that I would get a 2 TB WD Black drive now and, when I had money, get a 1 TB SSD and reinstall everything there, using the conventional drive as a second hard drive. If you are in this position, don’t do what I did. Wait! Save your money and get the SSD drive first! I cringe at having to reinstall/configure everything all over again. It is 10x worse than you remember!

My Screw-Ups

Everything I read heavily stressed cooling. Water cooling looks awesome but It is just a bit out of my budget at the moment. I will definitely go that way as soon as I can save up some cash, but for now I’m looking at fans. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO has some excellent reviews so I picked one up. It is huge and looks great but the instructions suck! No text, just pictures. I glanced at all the paperwork for all the parts before I got started but should have looked at this more closely. When it came time to add this bit I was confused. It took me at least 10 minutes to realize that in order to attach it, a piece needs to be connected from the bottom of the motherboard. I had a hell of a time getting the motherboard in place against the back plate of the case and was too frazzled to consider taking it out and putting it all back in again.

The CPU came with a decent size radiator and fan which attached from the top. For convenience, I used this and returned the other. I won’t be OCing and the system overall is looking at a fairly small load so I’m sure it will be fine. Plus, I saved $35 bucks this way. If it weren’t for the need to remove/reinstall the MB I definitely would have used it though.

Next, once everything was set up, it was time to install drivers. I got Windows 10 on a Flash Drive (how cool is that!) so I had in my head that I didn’t need an Optical Drive. So here I am with a driver CD for the motherboard and video card with no way to install them. Surprisingly, no one in the area stocks them and who would want to wait for an online delivery? 50 miles each way (again) to Fry’s, and I’m back with a shiny new Blu-Ray Player for $100. I needed to go up to return the CPU Fan anyway so it wasn’t so bad. I just hate that I didn’t foresee needing it up front.

Drivers are installed. Everything is looking good. Time to go online to buy Office 2016. For some reason I can’t seem to get Wi-Fi working. Under networking there isn’t even an option. Slowly, realization sets in that I bought the wrong motherboard! ASUS has a ton of very similar motherboards. With all the changes in all the components, there was a lot to keep track of and I just missed that not all of the motherboards have built-in Wi-Fi support.

I really lucked out though. Staples (in town!) had exactly what I needed. In fact, going this route was cheaper and possibly even a better solution. Again, I hate that I was surprised like that, but all’s well that ends well.

Could It Be Any Cooler?

I *love* the case. It looks awesome! It includes three 140mm fans: two red lighted intake fans in front and one exhaust fan in the back. When I do go with water cooling, the clear side panel will show it off nicely.

I can’t get over how awesome it was to install Windows from a thumb drive. I had not even heard of that before.

It is so nice having a decent sound system again. My notebook was a fairly high end gaming system when it was new and had decent sound but nothing like what you can get from a desk top.

I’m still getting used to Windows 10 and Office 2016. I was using Windows Vista and Office 2007 so everything is a bit different. Not bad, just different.

Overall, I am ecstatic! I thought I was just SOL when my notebook was stolen. Then I found that it was covered. Then I got to research and build a new system (which I hadn’t done in many years). Now I have an awesome new system with tons of cool new toys to play with!

Best of all, I am back in front of a computer! I really missed this!