Rebuilding My Desktop Workstation

Those who have been spoiled by powerful tools can usually never go back. And I have been spoiled by very nice hardware. And it's very sad when that hardware starts showing signs of failure. So join me on my adventure on rebuilding my most important tool and leisure item; my desktop.

The Problem

So a problem has surfaced with my computer over the past year, my GPU has started to crash more and more often. I dealt with it for a while but then my roommate purchased a Radeon VII. An awesome card, but she was having problems with it in her computer, so for the time being, she put it into my computer so we can benchmark and test it. And the difference was night and day, my computer ran flawlessly and graphics heavy games/apps ran so much better. There was something horribly wrong with my old graphics card.

First a fun story about this card, Titan X Maxwell. I got it completely by accident. A friend of mine from high school was upgrading his computer, and he thought he wrecked the PCB by applying a water cooling solution. I took it home and was able to get it working with the stock cooler and have used it since I got it back in 2016. I appreciate the kindness that got me this card and have been passing on the kindness to other friends. I wish I could pass on this piece of hardware too. But it's time to upgrade.

Choosing a GPU

The choice I had to make was: native macOS compatibility or the most powerful (non-Titan) card that there was on offer. AMD Radeon VII or NVIDIA RTX 2080Ti. And I chose the RTX card. There was an open box on heavy discount covering the cost of its water block and back plate. Raw performance won over, against my better judgement. I want to upgrade our VR headset to a Valve Index in the fall, and I'm going to need all the performance I can get. I'll have to hope for future macOS support. At purchase time I had put my hope in Linux.

The Extra Bits

My old case, Lian Li PC-O8 was a unique case for the time, but that was when tempered glass and RGB was near unheard of. But building in it was a mess. The only place to put a 360mm radiator was in the power supply side of the case where it was suffocated for air and the radiator couldn't even be screwed in properly. And I needed another radiator for the massive increase in heat I'd be adding into the loop with the 2080Ti. I ended up moving to a PC-O11 Dynamic which was far cheaper than my original case, but building in it was amazing compared to the PC-O8. With real airflow for radiators and mounting points for water cooling, it's the ideal high-end case for individuals who will be water cooling their build in my opinion. Not to mention the edge lit RGB in the Razer edition is really cool, even if I'm not a fan of the brand.

As well as the case, I purchased another 360mm radiator as mentioned previously and more Noctua NF-12s fans to improve the loop. All rounded out with this stealth looking tubing. I think it was a fantastic choice to update the case because it looks far more appealing now.

Installing My First GPU Block

I've never installed a GPU water block before, and was having a lot of issues with temperatures being higher than they would be on air cooling. This was strange as everyone online has stated that their temps under water cooling are significantly lower. Turns out the thing I did wrong was not tighten down the block enough, I was worried about damaging the GPU die, but I should have trusted EK's engineers more than I did. There were also a large amount of bubbles in there which I couldn't see with the full black water block. But with those fixed, I had a well cooled GPU that boosted up much higher than on air cooling.

Wrapping Up

Putting the glass back on after finishing this upgrade was one of the most satisfying things ever. It's truly a great build. It's a shame I'm reduced to using this on Windows exclusively though, but my trials and tribulations about Linux and monitor scaling will be for another day. This is about the hardware, and we certainly accomplished getting that fixed and more.