Jun 18, 2013

Building a Software Development Machine

I finally gave up on my Dell Studio XPS-1645 as a development machine. The factory hard drive lasted one year. I replaced it with a Crucial M4 SSD drive but after a year the machine started crashing twice a day. I reinstalled windows and my dev apps and it was good for a week when another crash happened. This particular BSOD could only be solved by restoring an image backup. ENOUGH. The laptop runs REALLY hot, 85-90 C  (which also means it’s noisy).  Since I do 95+% of my work at my home office I decided to build a new desktop development machine.

I did some research (mostly on Tom’s Hardware). The recommendations seem to be for high-end workstations, office machines or low/high end gaming systems. My goals for a development machine lie somewhere in there. I want a lot of CPU power but don’t see the need for a high-end graphics card, or any graphics card for that matter. The onboard video on the AS Rock motherboard seems to be more than up to the task.  Here in pictures (and a parts list) is what I built. The SSD Drive is the boot drive. I use 4GB of the RAM for a RAM disk and run ready boost, page files and temporary files from there (via XFast supplied by AS Rock).

The final machine runs extremely quiet and cool. The four fans run around 1K rpm as long as the CPU stays below 55C (which it hasn’t gone above yet). I moved over my Logitech Illuminated Keyboard  so even the key click noise is pretty minimal. The Intel turbo boost appears to really work. All four CPUs will run and the turbo boost reports that the 3.4 GHZ CPU runs pretty steadily at 3.7. (On the Dell, Turbo would only kick in when 1 CPU was being used). When only one CPU is being used I’ve seen it boost all the way to 4.1 GHz (briefly), 3.8 is more typical when all the CPUs aren’t spiked.  I haven’t done any over clocking or boosted the turbo ratio (but the motherboard allows both).

BuildPartyAnnotated

Post build party

NewDesktopAfter

The machine in situ.

NewDesktop_InSitu

Motherboard
AS Rock LGA1155 DDR3 SATA3 USB3.0 Quad CrossFireX and Qual SLI A Gbe ATX Motherboard Z77 Extreme 4

Engine
Intel Core i7-3770 Quad-Core Processor 3.4 GHz 4 Core LGA 1155
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - CPU Cooler with 120mm PWM Fan

Storage
Samsung Electronics 840 Pro Series 2.5-Inch 256 GB SATA 6GB/s Solid State Drive MZ-7PD256BW
Seagate Barracuda 1 TB HDD SATA 6 Gb/s NCQ 64MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive X2
Sony Optiarc High Speed SATA DVD RW Burner Drive, Black

Body
Rosewill Black Gaming ATX Mid Tower Case R5

With tax the price tag was a little under $1,200.

About Me

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Tod Gentille (@todgentille) is now a Curriculum Director for Pluralsight. He's been programming professionally since well before you were born and was a software consultant for most of his career. He's also a father, husband, drummer, and windsurfer. He wants to be a guitar player but he just hasn't got the chops for it.