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Drewry Morris

Technologist, futurist and creative thinker.

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About a week ago I decided to build a gaming PC and return to Windows. I started working on an Unreal Engine 4 project in my spare time and I needed something powerful enough to handle the intense graphics of modern gaming. Throughout this process I made some notes that surprised me:

  1. How cheap PC parts have become these days. I was able to get my parts for under a grand allowing me to meet and surpass the system requirements I will need for game development.
  2. How insanely difficult Windows is… still.
  3. Fry’s is still awesome.

The Juggernaut

Procuring Parts

I was already off to a good start as a friend of mine gave me a cool master case that he had for an old gaming PC. Once I dusted off the case, it was time to upgrade everything else.

Here are the parts I found:

  • ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming Motherboard: $169.99 $159.99 after rebate
  • GTX 950 Gaming 2G video card: $174.99 164.99 after rebate
  • Intel i5-6600 processor: $239.99
  • 16 GB DDR4 RAM: $134.99
  • 2 TB hdd: $129.99
  • AC 1300 mb/s wireless networking card: $59.99
  • Existing power supply
  • Existing case with 6 fans
  • Windows 7 Professional: $120.00

Total cost: $874.95

Rebates are still a pain in the ass, I had to get the receipt, cut off the original serial number from the box and physically print the form, sign it and snail mail everything.

Installing Windows

I opted to get Fry’s to connect the parts and test them for an extra $49.99. It was worth it to me as I wasn’t fully sure that the power supply was still good and I wanted to get everything tested in one spot. That way if anything needed replacing it would already be where I would get the parts. That and moving the thing to and from the car was enough to nearly break my back.

As soon as I got home, as I hoped, it turned right on. No BIOs issues, parts exploding, nor any other catastrophic issues – thank you Fry’s. Now to get my fresh copy of Windows installed! But oh wait it’s on a CD, crap! I didn’t even think about a disk drive! Ah yes, Compact Disks, those mystical plastic disks that once used to be the key to my favorite childhood games. Of course the original disk drive for the case didn’t work with the new motherboard. I thought to myself, “Okay, no worries, it’s 2016! Certainly I should be able to install Windows with a flash drive or an external drive or literally anything other than a CD, right?”

Feeling hopeful, I was off to Google to look through how to do it. Some tutorials involved 10-15 steps, each using a different approach. After looking for a while I found a video on Youtube that required a quick format, copying some files and booting. Seemed easy enough, the video was only 3 minutes so it couldn’t be that hard. Next I booted up the PC and the Windows installation screen loads. “Awesome! That was easy,” I thought to myself. But then I get to step 2…

A required CD/DVD driver is missing.

What does that even mean Microsoft?! I’m not using a CD/DVD so why would I need a driver for it, why can’t you recognize I’m installing from a flash drive?! After I calmed down a bit, I found a resource saying that the flash drive was improperly mounted… Well I didn’t actually mount it the first time, I simply copied files. I thought that by taking the easy way out I screwed it up somehow. Next I downloaded an ISO mounting tool and mounted it to the drive this time. I booted it up and tried again… same damn message!

I kept looking through more forums of people saying to take the drive out and put it in another USB port, no luck. I tried mounting it with the official tool from Windows, still no luck. I’m frustrated at this point and on the brink of admitting defeat. Then, as I’m sitting exhausted and distraught in my office chair I look over to my old computer just sitting there. Sitting there with a working CD/DVD drive. “Yes, that will work,” I shouted to myself. I pop open the case, remove the drive, and put it in the new PC. The drive works instantly and I put the CD in and finally get passed the second screen.

Final Thoughts

Now I was ready to install the rest of my software. Most of the installations go okay. However, I have a tough time getting the drivers to play nicely. Visual Studio’s installation froze and crashed on me 3 different times. The PC on rebooting decided to update 125 updates, during which it had a failure and had to revert everything. After 2 days of trying to get everything setup in my spare time, I was in utter disbelief at how bad the Windows ecosystem still was. As a Mac user for the better part of this decade, I found the Windows user experience to be a stark contrast.

Honestly, I should have known better as I grew up a Windows user. These kinds of frustrations were the day-to-day norm, so I guess you could say in some ways the bugginess was nostalgic. But after this I realize how spoiled I have been by Apple’s grade of quality, and many mac users today will tell you that Apple’s software quality has gone down considerably (which it has) but it’s no where near as bad as Microsoft.

I feel bad saying that, but it’s true. I feel bad because I want to believe in Microsoft. I want to believe that the future is bright for Windows. Partly because I’m going to be doing a lot more work on my Windows machine. But also because I’m really excited about augmented reality, virtual reality, etc. And I know that the best way to develop for these technologies will be on a Windows machine.

In all fairness, my use case was not that of the typical consumer and everything is generally humming along nicely now – after turning off the default settings. Truthfully I do love my Windows machine, who I affectionately named The Juggernaut. I love its power and the fact that every game I could ever want to run is available to me. I do love the ability to customize nearly everything, from the parts to the end user experience. I guess with that you lose some of the sleekness and simplicity that Apple gives and in exchange you receive late nights with headaches and the feeling of hopelessness and despair. Too bad those are our choices, I guess there’s always Linux :)