Building Your Own Graphics Workstation, Part Three
The thrill/agony of making the machine yourself will teach you valuable lessons about life

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This is it: the grand conclusion of our three-part series on building a graphics workstation from scratch, in which we flip the power switch and there's a funny smell. Not to worry! This is completely normal.

Those of you who have followed this series from its inception -- buying the components specified in Part One, and installing the motherboard, processor and cables as detailed in Part Two -- are ready to install the drives and the cards, and then set up Windows for best performance. So, without further ado, let's get cracking.

Video Card, USB Card and Hard Drive Installation
click on image to enlarge
click here to watch movie
click here to watch movie
Now we’ll go for the video card installation. I didn’t specify exactly what video card to get in the first installment of this series, the ATI FireGL8800 (pictured above) or the NVIDIA 750XGL (below). But for installation pictures here I will use the larger of the cards, the NVIDIA 750XGL.

The graphics card will fit into the AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) slot, located above the six PCI slots on the motherboard. If you have an AGP Pro Graphics card, like the 3Dlabs Wildcat 6110, you will need to remove the plastic tab in the AGP slot before you install the Pro card. But for almost everyone else, you’ll want to leave that plastic tab mounted inside the slot to prevent the regular AGP cards from slipping and sliding in the slot, like a car with bald tires on a Minnesota highway in winter.

First, make sure you are grounded; you shouldn’t be touching any of this stuff without the wrist strap on (hello!). Remove the case’s metal slot cover where it lines up with the AGP slot, line up your card’s metal bracket in the case’s back panel and firmly insert the card into the AGP slot. Make sure you’ve lined up the card edge of the video card (where the gold connectors are) with the slot and that you are pressing straight down to seat the card. You shouldn’t be afraid to apply a little pressure to seat the card firmly, just do it evenly across the top of the card and straight down. Screw the metal panel of the video card into the case. You may have to disconnect the IDE cable and reconnect it to go over the video card, depending on the size of your card.

Remove one of the slot covers (I prefer the second from the bottom of the case). In its place, install the S/PDIF audio connector card that came with the Soyo board. Before you secure the connector bracket in place, make sure to connect the thin ribbon cable to the card. Once you screw the audio connector into place, connect the ribbon cable to the motherboard’s connector (designated as SPK5 on the motherboard check with the Soyo docs).
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click on image to enlarge
Take the USB 2.0 PCI card supplied with the motherboard and connect the USB cables coming from the USB bay under the floppy drive. Install the card into one of the six PCI slots, much the same way as the AGP card. I put it in the bottom PCI slot to keep the USB cables out of the way.

click here to watch movieNow we’ll be installing the Zalman arm bracket and fan to blow right onto the CPU cooler. Of course, if you’ve opted for a different CPU cooler, hang your head in shame and skip this part.

You’ll be installing the arm over the three slot covers below the video card. Remove their screws, but keep the metal slot covers in place (use a piece of electrical tape to hold them there, or jam a marmoset in there to prop them all up).

click on image to enlarge
Before you install the arm, locate one of the two CPU fan connectors near the CPU on the motherboard and plug in either one of the fan power extension cords I recommended, or one of the Zalman Fan Mates. If you’re using the extension, connect a Fan Mate to the other end. We’ll be connecting the fan to a Fan Mate.

Place the Zalman arm over those three slots and screw it and the three loose slot covers into place. Position the included fan over the CPU heatsink to blow directly onto it. Use electrical tape to tape the Fan Mate to the Zalman arm, to keep it out of the way, and plug the fan into the Fan Mate. If you use an extension cord, wrap the cord around the arm a few times to take up the slack.
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