Building A New PC Workstation Part 7 | Initial Troubleshooting And Testing

in build-it •  19 days ago  (edited)

Welcome back to my series about the ancient art of building a PC.  In this edition, we will see if we can make the damned thing display video and perform some basic testing.  In case you missed my previous posts on the subject (1-6), please do check them out.

After you finally get it to display video, it's a good idea to test new a new PC, especially when it's one you build yourself.  You can test it actively using stress testing tools, and you can test is passively by letting the system burn in for a few days.  A burn in just verifies there are no components that fail for simply being used for an extended period of time, while stress testing attempts to test the limits of a system in order to verify correct operation under extreme stress.

When last we left our new PC, we were successfully able to power it up, and got a colorful led light show, but something was wrong. No video was getting displayed through the onboard HDMI video connector.
I had an older video card laying around I tried, but got the same result. My first instinct was the motherboard was bad. I double checked the specifications on the motherboard, and found that the CPU itself needed to support graphics in order to use the onboard HDMI port. That was one half of the puzzle solved. I still needed to get the video to work. Luckily I had 6 of these 1080 TI graphics cards in a GPU rig I could cannibalize. I decided to try again with this newer video card. I plugged the bad boy in and voila, video! For now I'll use this video card, but I plan to grab a newer generation one before I declare this system cake to be fully baked!
Look everyone, video! At this point I verified everything is being properly identified in the BIOS. If something is not being recognized correctly, it could mean you need to perform a firmware update. This particular shot was taken after I had already upgraded it. As you can see, the CPU was properly identified, and its specifications are properly listed.
I also checked the tab for memory, which was also properly identified. It was, but obviously it was running about 1000MHz slower than spec. I wondered if this was some sort of idle speed, or if there was additional configuration I needed to perform. I have never used memory this fast before. After a bit of searching, I discovered I had to enable Extreme Memory Profiles (the A-XMP button visible here). I then had to go into the advanced BIOS settings and set my memory speed to 3200MHz.
One thing you need to do right away is upgrade your BIOS to the latest release version. Do not proceed any further with your system build until you perform this step. The BIOS version pre-installed on your motherboard is seldom the latest version, and it might cause issues with the latest components such as CPU.

Note: You should avoid running beta BIOS versions unless you require some feature the beta BIOS unlocks. A beta BIOS has not been fully tested and certified by the manufacturer.

MSI makes it very easy, you can even do it with no CPU installed. This is accomplished using a Flash BIOS button along with a USB thumb drive containing the latest BIOS. I prefer visual feedback, so I used the M-Flash utility from within the BIOS setup.

When you execute M-Flash, the system reboots and enters the utility. You just need to have a USB thumb drive with a copy of the BIOS installed. From there updating is easy.
Now for the testing! Ultimate Boot CD is a handy tool to have around. It can also be imaged to a bootable thumb drive. Since I had a bunch of blank DVD-Rs and an external drive laying around, I decided to take the old school (lazy) route of burning it to DVD. You just need to set your BIOS to boot from USB, and you should get the menu pictured above. Ultimate Boot CD, has a bunch of useful utilities, beyond system stress testing. I recommend you have a copy handy. I use it for securely wiping hard drives quite a bit.

The Ultimate Boot CD has a few memory testers. One is a fork of the other, but I ran them both for a few hours, because why not? Everything passed. My memory is looking good!

Finally we have the CPU tests. One of the tests I chose to run overnight is the Mersenne Prime test. It stresses out your CPU by searching for large prime numbers. For more information on this test, go to You can actually join the public effort here to search for Mersenne prime numbers through their GIMPS program.

All of my basic tests passed, so I am comfortable now proceeding with this build. This is great news, because returning bad components and tracking down the root cause of issues can be one P.I.T.A.!

Thanks for visiting!  If you made it this far, you're a computer geek in my book!  In the next post, we will choose and install our storage solution for the base operating system.

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@joshman are you in some sort of war with these guys downvoving everyone?

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  ·  18 days ago Reveal Comment

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  ·  19 days ago (edited)Reveal Comment

I wanted more cores so I can run a few virtual machines. Speed-wise I think this should future-proof me for at least a little while. That CPU was top of the line 6 months ago, but the 16-core has taken its place and costs 50% more. I mostly try to stay a bit behind the bleeding edge.

I'd love to live in a place like NZ at some point, but for now I'm going to sink roots in the US for a while. The last twelve years I've been living and working all over the place!

Thanks for stopping by!


Yeah... for VMs, I would go threadripper (old ones will do)... but that also ripes you off. Having the right frequency and core count combination to have VMs and play games on the same rig is kind of hard. Tried that with overclocking my entire "juvenile" life... and could never get the right satisfaction.

Maybe one day I will get back to it.

If you look into some of my madness posts from 1 or 2 years ago, I have used a datacenter cooling door to passively cool my last 7 year old PC... a Xeon with almost 75% more TDP due overclocking, plus overclocked AMD R9-290. Anyway... old times for now, as I don't have the time anymore.


We'll see how it goes. I'm not not really a gamer, but will probably play around with some games to see what it can do. Just want to build something with some flexibility for the future.

Hey, @tatjanastan and @dobartim, can I understand why are you downvoting my comment?

Are you in some sort of downvoting list for automatic downvoting power? If so, please review it carefully as it makes no sense to have downvoting if you don't know what are you downvoting (same thing for the upvoting).

Otherwise, I would like to know the reason, otherwise, it makes no sense to me your downvote.

@forykw you have received 50 ENGAGE from @joshman!
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  ·  19 days ago Reveal Comment

They are downvoting because:

  1. They have brain of a snail
  2. They are spammer and don’t like the community shut them down
  3. They randomly DV comments as they think that will give then some attention

Had some time to investigate... would be nice to end this endless idiotic wars... kind of a waste of time (don't even care about the money in this sense because the behaviour just destroys it).

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  ·  18 days ago (edited)

since we hate self-voting, we have to heal each others comments. @acidyo @joshman

Also Acid please hit @flysky's comments (which are already grayed out) with 100%. We need to get his rep down.

Since he is a blacklisted spammer @flysky should have a 0 rep, not 72

  ·  18 days ago (edited)Reveal Comment
  ·  19 days ago (edited)Reveal Comment

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I'll be running VMWare Workstation, so the more cores and memory I have, the more I can dedicate to running different guest OS's simultaneously. Running a network simulation for example can consume cores and memory rapidly. So rather than have to pick and choose what I can run concurrently, I can run many instances at the same time.

I see. And when does that come in handy? What kind of work would require running multiple OSs?

  ·  19 days ago (edited)

The base OS is going to be Windows, so right off the bat I'm going to want a Linux instance. There's just too many handy tools that are Linux-based, particularly when it comes to networking. You can also download purpose built OVA files (prebuild operating systems) for penetration testing, and what not. One such image is called Cisco VIRL, which can simulate an entire network on a PC. A decent VIRL setup needs about 32GB or RAM and a few cores by itself. On top of that, I have transient requirements to evaluate various network appliances such as firewalls, which many can be loaded virtually into VMWare.

It's also handy if you want to go to a questionable website that may be infected, or you even want to look at the effect of a virus. I can spin up an encrypted VM, and totally sandbox what I'm doing.

That sounds interesting. Way out of my level of knowledge, but interesting nonetheless .