Desktop Computer Upgrade

I last posted about my computer specs six years ago when I first built my VMWare ESXi Whitebox server.  Here’s an update to what happened to it:

From the software point of view, it was all and well for the first 2-3 years.  I had FreeNAS, Windows 7 and Windows 8 virtual machines running on it, and some lesser used Ubuntu virtual machines for playing around.  With the IOMMU capabilities of the motherboard, I even was able to get the GPU accessible by the Windows virtual machines to use it as a desktop and even play some games on it.

But there were some problems with the setup:  Although PCI passthrough through IOMMU allowed my Windows virtual machines to access the hardware, the reliability wasn’t perfect.  The main annoyance was that restarting the virtual machine would put the GPU in an unusable state, requiring a full restart of the physical machine.  Other than that certain hardware components virtualized together sometimes caused random issues.

The breaking point was in mid-2015 when one of the drives corrupted and I wasn’t able to boot my virtual machines.  Due to a couple factors including not having disk redundancy, the proprietary nature of VMFS (the filesystem used by VMWare on the disk) and the VMDK (the filesystem of the virtual disk), recovering data was difficult, if not impossible (I technically still haven’t completed the recovery process).  Luckily I had some data backups so I didn’t lose all my data.  Later that year I bought a Synology NAS which has taken care of my data storage since then, and I took backing up more seriously following the 3-2-1 backup strategy.  The incredible usefulness and utility of the Synology I’ve found over the past few years can be a whole other article!

Anyway. VMWare ESXi was a fun experiment when I had the time to fiddle and troubleshoot it.  Upon the rebuild I also tried KVM and Xen hypervisors to see if they had any better hardware virtualization with Windows guests, but couldn’t get anything working or stable.  Since the Synology NAS took care of my storage needs, I decided the way to go was just to rebuild the computer as a Windows desktop.

Over the years I’ve upgraded parts of the hardware, but up until last week the core of the system (CPU, motherboard, memory) has stayed exactly the same over the last 6 years.  Here’s the original spec list, with the upgraded hardware in bold, and removed hardware stricken out.

  • AMD Phenom II X6 1055T Thuban 6-Core 2.8GHz Processor @ $122.17
    • AMD FX-8350 8-Core 4.0GHz Processor @ $153.90 (2018)
  • ASRock 990FX EXTREME3 Motherboard (ATX, AM3+, DDR3, SATA3) @ $156.60 (2012)
  • Mushkin Enhanced Blackline Frostbyte PC3-12800 8GB 2x4GB Memory Kit @ $44.99 (2012)
  • Gigabyte Radeon HD 5450 Low Profile Video Card @ $14.99 (2012)
    • ASUS Radeon HD 7790 (2013)
  • Coolermaster Elite 350 Black ATX Case with 500W PSU @ $49.69 (2012)
    • Seasonic Gold 550W PSU @ $112 (2016)
  • Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB WD20EARS
    • Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD (2014)
  • Trendnet Gigabit Network Adapter TEG-PCITXR

I was and still am very happy with this build, considering the core of the build has lasted me thus far.  I think AMD provides a great performance and value to price ratio.  I hope the motherboard lasts just as long for the new processor!

Thanks for reading!