My Skylake build


floppybootstomp

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I’d been thinking for some time about upgrading my main computer (I have two ‘good’ machines and an old Socket A computer for Win 98 games) but lack of funds was proving something of a hindrance. So when I eventually received payment for work I’d undertaken last August, money which I’d more or less given up on and was about to commence legal proceedings to recover, I decided to go ahead and embark on the Skylake route.


The reason for my upgrading was not so much a failing in my current i7 setup dating from September 2011 but more from failings from my other machine, a quad-core 3.4Ghz AMD setup that was compiled around Spring 2012. This AMD setup using an Asus board suffered a failed NIC chip just three weeks after purchase. As the supplier wanted photographs of the board to make sure I wasn’t trying to foist a board I had not purchased from them upon them and they predicted a repair turn around of about 3 weeks I thought the hell with it and just paid £8 for a PCI NIC card, much less bother and that supplier is now on my ignore list.


The AMD machine has displayed other anomalies over the years, various little niggles and flakiness. With this AMD computer I use swappable hard drives in a caddy housing to use different OS’s and when I went to install Win XP (Mostly to be able to play Nocturne, TOCA Race Car 3 and several other games) it kept blue screening at the same stage of install. So I thought I’d update the BIOS but the Asus site has no bios, drivers or software available for this board on it’s site. I have the revision 1 version of this board and Asus only supply bios and drivers for the revision 2 version. And the Rev 2 Bios version wouldn’t install.


So that was the final straw, it had to go. Luckily a mate of mine is going to buy the AMD setup as it does seem to run Win 7 ok and that’s all he wants to use.


So I spent £577 including postage on parts from OCUK. I went for the i7 4Ghz quad core CPU; an MSI Z170 M5 Gaming motherboard, 16Gb dual channel Corsair Vengenance 2133Mhz memory and a Noctua cooler.


Around 16 years ago I had two new MSI motherboards fail on me within a six month period and needless to say I was less than impressed and decided to boycott MSI boards in the future. But times change, technology moves on and I’d read good things about MSI boards so I took a chance. I’ve also been a big fan of Noctua coolers for some time, both main machines prior to upgrade sported Noctua coolers with twin 120mm fans and that’s all the cooling the CPU’s needed to maintain temps in the mid-thirties, no case fans needed.


If the AMD machine had played the game I probably wouldn’t have upgraded as the old i7 setup was/is performing just fine, able to run all games thrown at it working with 8Gb DDR3 RAM and an EVGA Nvidia 4Gb GTX760. Which is pretty good for a 4.5 year old machine. And it was partly that reason I went for another i7.


When the parts arrived I realised the Noctua cooler only had one 92mm fan and I really wanted a pair of fans to use a push-pull fan setup and maximise cooling with as little noise as possible. I also decided I was a bit fed up with my old silver Lian Li case, even though it’s immaculate, so browsed OCUK for a new case.


I rather fancied a Lian Li black model for £100 but spotted a black Zalman case for just £34 which actually came with 3 x 120mm Zalman fans which alone would normally have cost around £34. So I took a chance and ordered the Zalman case from OCUK and also another Noctua 192mm fan. This meant I had to fork out another tenner on postage and wait another day before commencing build but a job worth doing is worth doing well, as they say. This second OCUK order came to another £61 inclusive.


The Zalman case turned out to be a good buy. It’s a bit plasticky but looks good, is just the right size and has some good features, like largely enabling screwless fittings of components like the optical drives and hard drives. It also has a half window in the case side. I only used one of the supplied 120mm fans in the case, exhausting at the rear, and removed the other two, one of which was an led fan.

The Noctua cooler was a breeze to fit, they’ve improved the design, especially with fitting the fans, it’s now dead easy whereas before it used to be a bit fiddly. I had some Arctic Silver thermal paste but as it is now 4.5 years old I used the paste that came with the Noctua cooler.


The MSI motherboard has more features than you can shake a stick at and all in all I’m very happy with it. A good sturdy build though red is not my favourite colour for a motherboard, would have preferred purple, green or blue. It was also easy to set up but did show a few quirks that I’ll detail later.


I used my old GTX760 video card and my old Corsair 620W modular PSU. I intend to upgrade both of these items as soon as funds permit, probably to an 850W PSU and an Nvidia GTX970. I’ll probably also buy a 250Gb M.2 SSD for the OS, currently using a 250Gb SSD for the OS. I didn’t have to use any Molex power connectors for this build, just the normal power connectors and a pair of SATA looms.


I first sited the SSD close to the other HDD’s but ended up mounting it under the optical drives so the PSU SATA connectors could reach it.


From hereon I’ll just list short snippets relevant to the build.


I installed Win 7 Premium 64 Bit and Microsoft activated it right away, none of that pain-in-the-butt phone activation, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise. As of yet I haven’t had the Win 10 ‘upgrade’ nagging window pop up. Which is ironic cos I actually do want it now.


The supplied MSI software has a thing named Command Centre which is good and a facility called Live Upgrade which is a bit hit and miss.


We’re meant to be able to update drivers and Bios using Live Upgrade but when I went to upgrade the LAN drivers it first uninstalled the old drivers then informed me it couldn’t download the new LAN drivers as there was no internet connection. Doh. Bit of an own goal that one eh Mr MSI? In the end I just downloaded the driver from another machine and installed it via Win 7 Control centre.


The Live Upgrade would not renew the Bios. I had to that within the Bios itself from a USB stick which carried out the install perfectly from V1.4 to V1.7.


My old Auzentech soundcard could not be used as the MSI board doesn’t have any PCI slots so for now I’ve used the onboard sound which actually isn’t half bad at all. I’m using the digital optical sound out via a Toslink cable to a DAC and from there to a normal amp and loudspeakers. I may get a sound card at a later stage but that’s not an urgent concern.


Before installing the board’s sound drivers the sound was working. When I installed the Realtek drivers and some fancy sound software MSI supply which gives you pseudo music hall effects and the like, the sound did not work. I uninstalled the fancy software and drivers, reinstalled just the drivers and the sound worked. Puzzling.


If you choose to install everything from the supplied motherboard CD you will end up with a whole lot of things you maybe didn’t bargain for such as Google Chrome, Google Toolbar and a trial version of Norton Security. I really really hate it when they try and do that, I’m glad I scrolled down and unticked a load of crap.


I don’t care how good Google Chrome may be, I don’t actually like it and their aggressive marketing makes me hate them a great deal so they can go whistle, I will not use Google Chrome.


There is no E-Sata socket at the rear of this motherboard which means I will now have to use my external HDD dock with a USB2 connection.


When I was trying to install Win 7 the mouse and keyboard would not work. Exploring the Bios (where they did work) I noticed buried away an option to select either Win 7 installation or Win 8.1/Win 10 installation. Setting this to the Win 7 option enabled mouse and keyboard during the Win 7 install. That was a new one for me.


I managed to save most of my savegames but I forgot about my Origin (EA) games and have now lost all saves and even installs for these games. The only one that niggled me on losing saves was Dragon Age II as I’d almost finished that.


I saved all my bookmarks in IE and Opera and they’re working ok. I saved my Outlook folder (email client), reloaded it but I’ve still lost all my emails and contact book. Not a biggie, was good to have a clearout tbh.


MSI kept prompting me to register their motherboard so I thought I would. But they tell me I have to have Google Chrome installed before I can register it. And THAT was the biggest annoyance about the MSI board. As nice and as good as this board may be, I think I’ll go EVGA next time.


Before connecting all cables to the motherboard I thought I’d identify all the connections. But there was one header labelled something like JSPI1 which wasn’t listed in the manual, it was close to the front of case connections connector. So I searched online and it turns out it’s a connector for reflashing the Bios to recover if it becomes corrupted. I think it would have been a good idea for MSI to tell us what it was.


And that, for now, is about it. Getting good temps, it’s running near silent, about the only noise I ever hear is when the GPU fans occasionally kick in. This setup is a bit swifter than the old i7 setup but not a helluva lot more.


And now to transfer old i7 parts to former AMD case and see if I can install Win XP, amongst other OS’s.


Update, some game anomalies:


Dirt 3 Complete Edition (within Steam) won’t start, Deleted local content and reinstalled which meant I lost all savegames (7 hours played) but it still won’t work. I did read that some sound cards had caused this fault but it was supposed to have been patched. A shame as that was my favourite racing game.


Bulletstorm won’t work thanks to poxy Games For Windows Live. I have the hard disk version, not the Steam version. This game was working before I reinstalled Win 7. I’ve searched and although there seems to be a cure for the Steam version there isn’t for US and older Euro versions. Don’t we all love Microsoft? I have played this game through a few times but it’s a goodie. Oh well. When I attempt to start the game it tells me GFWL wants to verify the date of installation but of course when it looks for GFWL it isn’t there is it? Arch-villain MS pulled the plug on what was ever only a lame attempt at DRM anyway. Grrrr.


Fallout 3 works ok but I lost all my savegames despite the old savegames being in it’s default savegame folder (non-Steam version).


I haven’t tried GTA IV yet, which is another GFWL travesty.


Some pix:


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V_R

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Nice! Great build Flops.

Regarding Dirt issues, do you have your documents mapped to a non default location? Think I had a similar issue myself a while back.
 
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Taffycat

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I enjoyed your post very much, Sir Flopps, and found it really interesting - also the accompanying photos. Your new build looks great. :thumb:

Your Zalman case looks very smart, even sans leds (to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of disco light shows going on in the case. (Yeah, they can look quite pretty, but a tad gimmicky for my taste.)

Bit of a daft question alert! Something I have wondered about, (but not seen the answer to) is: do you have to keep the front-door (of the case) open when it is in use? Clearly you would need to when accessing the optical drives - but for air-flow too?

Hope you get loads of enjoyment from this new beastie. :cheers:
 

muckshifter

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but for air-flow too?

No, there is a wee gap I see but also some side vents ... the case I have has no 'vents' to speak of but one can put your hand down the gap from the front panel to the case itself. :)
 

Ian

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Once you've got the graphics card and m2 SSD in there, you're going to have a beast of a machine. Think that'll last you a fair few years :). Does it feel much different to your old machine in day-to-day usage?

That mobo looks great BTW - the black/red works well!
 

floppybootstomp

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Thanks for the comments all :)


TC: No, I don’t have to leave the front of the case open and with it closed I’m getting regular temps of 30C & 34C for CPU and motherboard respectively. As mentioned I only have one 120mm case fan fitted, at the rear, and I can’t hear this or the pair of cooler fans in normal operation. There is space in the case to fit a pair of 120mm fans at the front and also a pair at the top but I don’t need them. I don’t like led fans either.


Bulletstorm started working. I had installed something from Microsoft purporting to be a cure for games not working without Games For Windows Live but it hadn’t made any difference. I had also installed two files within the game's Binaries folder with *.ini and *.dll file extensions which were supposed to cure the problem, but they did not. Then the following day I tried starting Bulletstorm again, a verification screen popped up briefly then it kicked into the game. And it’s worked ever since.


V_R: My games are installed to a separate HDD from the OS and that’s where the Steam folder is. On reinstall I deleted all files in the Steam folder except SteamApps and Steam.exe then reinstalled Steam pointing it to that disk & Steam folder. Most games work fine, Mad Max and Fallout 4 are fine, for instance, with all saved games present.


Lots of saved games are in a folder ‘My Games’ within ‘My Documents’ which I reinstated after OS install. The same with a folder ‘Saved Games’ within C:\Users\ My name. So that’s where DIRT 3 is, on drive H within old SteamApps folder. Any idea for a cure? (I haven’t searched for a cure yet).


On my two systems I have two mice, an old Logitech G5 and a Steel Series Rival 700, both of which I like. The Steel Series Rival wouldn’t work within the old board’s (Asus P8 Z68-V Pro) UEFI Bios for some reason so I swapped the mice around. The Logi G5 works fine within the Asus Bios and at time of writing I haven’t tried the Steel Series within the MSI Bios.


Worst prob of all though – Call Of Duty 4 (in Steam) won’t work in Multiplayer. And I’m addicted to that game :eek: I have tried deleting local data and reinstalling but it’s just not having it. Help!


I deleted all games in the GOG (Good Old Games) folder on my Games HDD as a lot of them were rubbish anyway and reinstalled the ones I probably would play, about ten of them. That saved a fair bit of space but I did lose some saved games.


As for Win XP not installing in my old AMD system it would appear it may not be a fault of the AMD setup but rather Win XP not having drivers to read the SATA Controller within the Asus motherboard Bios. After some reading it would appear to install XP I have to select IDE or legacy drivers within the Bios which disables AHCI which is the SATA controller mode XP can’t recognise. Yet another instance proving how XP is seriously outdated and is really not compatible with modern hardware.


MSI are still encouraging me to register their product and then telling me to install Google Chrome before I can do so. If MSI’s CEO was standing next to me I’d give him a slap, lol


One final quirk – When I go to start The Witcher III (GOG Download, not Steam) it tells me there’s no disk in Drive E and to insert the disk. But after clicking the start icon 2 or 3 times the game starts. I can live with that.


I now have all non-gaming software installed, including both MS Office 2007 and Libre Office 5. I’m using Libre Office 5 for all Office functions just for myself and printed documents but I do need to keep a version of MS Office to be compatible with some customers. I’d like to see a general migration to Libre Office but realistically I know that ain’t gonna happen within my remaining working life.
 
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floppybootstomp

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Once you've got the graphics card and m2 SSD in there, you're going to have a beast of a machine. Think that'll last you a fair few years :). Does it feel much different to your old machine in day-to-day usage?

That mobo looks great BTW - the black/red works well!

tbh it doesn't seem a great deal faster at all, slightly faster and perhaps a little 'smoother'.

A 250Gb M.2 SSD direct from Crucial costs £67. I'm wondering if the pair of M.2 slots on the MSI board can be used in RAID 0 mode, now that would probably speed things up.... I'll have to consult the manual.
 

floppybootstomp

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The Steel Series Rival mouse works ok in MSI M5 Bios - chalk one up for MSI.

The two M.2 slots on the MSI M5 board can be configured for RAID 0 & RAID 1. So for £134 inc postage I could have 500Gb's worth of SSD RAID 0. I think this will be my next step.

Referring to my old setup - the Asus board with the 2011 i7 - I use separate HDD's for different OS's so I'm having to load Windows all over again (this was formerly being used with the AMD setup). However, when I slotted in the Mint 7 64 Bit Cinnamon HDD it worked straight off, it just adapted itself to it's new environment.

The only adjustment I had to make within MInt was switching the output from the Auzentech soundcard to Coax digital out, it had defaulted to stereo analogue out.

Which may or may not prove Linux is a lot more convenient than Windows in some respects ;)
 

Becky

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Sounds like a great project - nice build! Sorry to hear that you're having issues with COD4 though, I hope you manage to get to the bottom of that one!
 

floppybootstomp

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Got CoD4 MP working again, this fixed it:

1.Go to Start then Control Panel
2.Double click on the Sound Tool
3.Click on the Recording tab
4.Right click and select "View Disabled Devices"
5.Enable the Stereo Mix

How strange.

And now I'm right back to the rank of Private - guess what numpty forgot to backup his player profile? :wall:
 
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Oh by the way I used to have a Auzentech card but when I did a software rebuilt my old PC and tried to download the drivers (I did what you did) and not download the drivers before the rebuild and found they had gone out of business and couldn’t get them anywhere so sad as that was the best sound card I ever owned:(:(:(:(
 

Abarbarian

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floppybootstomp

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Is it not possible to use PCI cards in PCI-E slots then ?????

Nope. This is PCI: Big long 'un and this is PCI-E: Little tiny short titchy thing

Neat build Flops.
th_Smileywave.gif


As to RAID'ing 2 ssd's I found this

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/ssd-raid-benchmark,review-32689-11.html

which seems to indicate that it ain't worth the bother. You might find that a 128 or 256 950 Pro might be a good solution though.
breakfast.gif

Thanks very much for that link, RAID 0 doesn't seem worthwhile does it? Samsung 256Gb 950 Pro M.2 SSD @ £156 plus postage does seem a significant improvement though.

Other things, mostly relating to my old setup, now installed in my bedroom computer case. I installed Steam in old machine setup and DIRT 3 Complete Edition works just fine but it still doesn't work in my new setup.

I discovered a leaflet in my old motherboard manual that says a floppy disk can be made for AHCI drivers when installing XP as XP doesn't have those drivers and that's why XP bluescreens on attempted install. I had forgotten about that.

However, the Asus SandyBridge board doesn't have a slot for a floppy disk and XP couldn't find my USB floppy drive or a USB stick on install. But changing SATA from AHCI to IDE within the Bios works, I just have to format the HDD I'm going to install XP on and I'll be good to go.

After having used both machines - old and new i7's - for a couple of days now I can quite honestly say there is very little performance difference at all between the two of them in everyday real use. Therefore I'd say if you are currently using an old Intel i5 or i7 setup, unless you have some very good reason to change, I'd say stick with what you have for a while yet.

Having said that, both the Intel machines I now have show a very considerable improvement over my old AMD 3.4Ghz quad core setup, that was an upgrade well worth making.
 
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Abarbarian

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Nope. This is PCI: Big long 'un and this is PCI-E: Little tiny short titchy thing
Darn I knew that. So why can you not use the card in the new build then, you look to have a spare slot ???

Apparently M.2 versions of the 950/951 run very hot under load so they are best run from an add on card as opposed to being sited in the mobo slots.When I can find the time I am going to place a very small fan directly over my 951's memory to keep it cool.
My 951 runs fine but I had to fiddle to get it working in W 7 no native drivers. Supposed to work otb for W8/10 as they have the drivers for nvme. You may save some loot by going for a 951 it is a tad slower according to the reviews I have seen but it is marginal.
Playing Dishonoured on my Skylake returning from the dead is almost instantaneous, almost too fast as you never get to have a breather waiting for stuff to load. :lol:
 

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