The second entry in my workstation build focused on the parts we chose for the computer. Now that we have them, it's time to put them together into a functioning workstation!
Getting Ready for the Build
Before we start putting parts together, it's important that we have a plan. There isn't one right way to assemble pc parts, but there are some general principles that all builders use to create their computers.
Firstly, we want to build from the inside out, that is we start with the components inside the computer then work to the ones that are more external like the power supply, etc. You should also have all of the documentation from your components handy along with a few tools like a philips head screw driver, tweezers, an anti-static wrist band and perhaps a few small containers for screws. A clear and well-lit work-space is also a good thing. I use a small flashlight at times to see areas of the case that may be too dark to see with the main lighting.
After removing the Asus X99 A II motherboard from it's static plastic wrap, put the wrap on top of the motherboard box and then lay the motherboard on top of that. Handle with care and try not to touch any of the circuits on the motherboard.
Now we will be installing the 4x8GB Corsair memory sticks. Check the manual to make sure you are putting them in the right configuration and that the sticks are aligned correctly. Next, we'll install our SSD drive (M.2). The slot for the SSD is pretty obvious, but you should check the motherboard manual to be sure. Slide the SSD into the slot then tighted the screw provided so that the drive is firmly held into place. Once the drive is installed, we'll move on to the CPU.
You'll need to take the most care while inserting the Core i7-6800K processor. This is a highly sensitive part and you must handle it with care; only holding it by the edges. First, we remove the cpu cover on the motherboard, then lift up the two latches that hold the cpu down. Make sure you orient the small triangle on the corner of the cpu with the triangle location on the motherboard itself. Carefully place the cpu in the motherboard (it should fit easily) then slip the two latches back in place. This holds the cpu firmly in place.
cpu and dram installed on the motherboard
Putting the motherboard aside, we'll work on assembling the computer case. We'll need to install the power supply, the liquid cooler and the motherboard shield into our NZXT case. I really like working with the NZXT H440 case. It's roomy and not too heavy. The case is also tool-less so you don't have to worry about losing screws, although at times the finger-screws provided were difficult to screw in.
Our Corsair XM 650 power supply is modular, so we need to determine what power leads we need and attach them to the psu before we actually install the unit into the case. I'll be using the Quadro M5000 GPU which requires one external power cable, two SATA hard-drives, two motherboard power cables and one additional old style cable for external fans.
Installing the power supply is a snap. Once this is in I'll arrange the cables through openings in the case near where they attach. The H440 case is well build in this regard and cable management is the best I've ever seen in a PC case.
The Kraken X61 liguid cooler fits perfectly into the top of the case. It's simple to remove the cover on top of the case, then use the screws provided to attach the two fans to the liquid cooling radiator. Orientation of the tubing for the radiator is important here. Check the Kraken manual to be sure. I've chosen to bring the tubing in to the right of the cpu primarily because the space is there and because I don't want it hanging directly in front of the rear case fan.
Case with motherboard installed
Installing the Motherboard Into the Case
Now that we have everything in place, we'll carefully install the motherboard. Firstly, we snap in the rear motherboard shield. Secondly, we carefully arrange the two power cables for the motherboard so that we can plug them in just before we lay the motherboard inside the case. There isn't much room to install the cables after the motherboard is in place, so now is a good time to do it.
The motherboard fits over stand-offs on the case. Place the motherboard so that it snaps into the shield on the back of the case and is placed directly over the stand-offs. This might be tricky for first timers, but be patient and you'll get it right.
With the motherboard in place, place the screw in the center of the board first. It's obvious were this is placed, but you can check the manual if you need to as it has a diagram. Now, attach the other screws on the outsides of the board so that it is secure. It's important that the motherboard is held firmly in place.
Installing the CPU Cooler and the GPU
Our NVIDIA Quadro P5000 is a long card and it requires a bit of finesse to fit it in to the PCIE slot on the motherboard. Once in attach the power cable. Be sure to route the cable into the case slot nearest the gpu. It's a good idea to be cable-conscious as you assemble the pc as it will pay off later.
I've never used liquid cooling before having always gone with huge heat sinks and fans. It's surprisingly simple to install the Kraken X61 cpu cooler. After some confusion about whether the backplate is attached to the Asus motherboard or not (it is), we simply put in the tall screws on the four corners of the cpu then lay the liquid cooling cap right over the cpu. I'm so used to using cpu paste that I instinctively think somethings wrong, but the paste is already on the cooling cap (smart idea, Kraken!) This process is surprisingly easy. When completed the cpu is cover by the cooling cap with two hoses running from the cap to the radiator that is well secured in the top of the case.
liquid cooling cap on the cpu along with tubing to the right
Installing Fan Power and Front Case Cables
I hate this part. The cables we are using are very small and I have large hands. It's tweezer time. I use the motherboard manual extensively for this part. In fact, I've downloaded the pdf from Asus website and have the relevant section open on my laptop so I can see the cable diagrams more clearly.
I've chosen to attach most of the case fans directly to the motherboard instead of using NZXT's fan hub. Mostly because I want to see how they show up in the new Asus motherboard bios.
Minor Problems in Assembly
The workstation pc is essentially assembled now. However, I do want to relay a few minor issues that came up while I was putting everything together. These minor issues necessitated research online and pouring through the various manuals that came with the hardware.
The first issue that came up was power related. The manual shows that three power cables are required for the motherboard to power on. I know the two main ones, but the third is strange to me. It's a extra four-pin cable. But the problem is that there is only one four-pin cable included in the Corsair power supply bundle. Eventually, after several hours of research I discovered that the extra cable was optional. Wish the motherboard manual had made this clearer as it specifically states that all three power cables are required.
Odd 4-pin power input on Asus X99 A II motherboard.
The second issue came up while installing the front case cables. These are the small cables that connect your power, led lights, speakers and headphone outlets on the front (or top) of the case. Asus supplies a small plastic block you can plug these very small cables into and then use the block to connect to the motherboard. The problem was that the block did not match the pins on the motherboard. Yikes! I eventually abandoned the block and inserted the cables directly into the tiny motherboard pins using tweezers, a strong light and a large magnifying glass. Tedious work, but eventually all of the cables went to the right pins.
Our computer has been assembled. All in all it took about 4-5 hours for assembly if you include research and slow-downs because of issues that came up during the build.