TL;DR: This budget build started out as a simple upgrade and morphed over a series of months into a merging of two computers
AL-76 is a Frankenstein. This build started as a replacement for "Robbie," my first build. In the coming months before Fallout 76 (FO76) dropped and became the Great Bethesda Nightmare of 2018 and after comparing the specs on Robbie to the minimum requirements for FO76, I decided to give Robbie a minor upgrade to a slightly faster processor in anticipation for the new game. Relying on the success of "Lenny," I decided that I'd find a 2nd or 3rd generation i7 in another Lenovo ThinkCentre (I really like the look of these things) on eBay and then plug and play all other components from Robbie, and keep my cost around $150, or whatever the price was of the OEM desktop.
Then, I made a mistake. First, instead of finding a desktop and "stick[ing] to the plan, Arthur", I found a good deal on the Sapphire RX 580 which I snagged for 87 bucks. Then, I found a Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p with an i7-2600 for $139. "Score!" I thought, making a better computer for less than $230. On further inspection of the system, I'm apparently haphazardly throwing together, I realized that the PSU I already had in Robbie is just barely over the threshold of the power I need to run this new system. So, no sweat, I'd just source a used one from eBay for 30 bones...a few days later, I found the 600W Cooler Master.
While the new components were en route, I decided to start prepping Robbie for disassembly. The Samsung 860 was formatted for a fresh install of Windows 10; the two WD HDDs were pulled; Robbie's RX 470 was placed back in its original box for storage as a backup, and HyperX Fury RAM was pulled. I purchased another windows license and all was looking promising.
When the other components arrived, it was gutting time. I immediately pulled the stock hard drive and RAM out and also removed the speaker from the front of the case. First things first, I had to make sure that the CPU was what I paid for, so I pulled off the cooler, cleaned the old crusty paste of the top, confirmed the make and model, and then reseated the cooler with some Arctic Silver.
I then started replacing hardware with the new components and the hard drives and ram from Robbie. I even installed one of the 120 mm case fans taken from Robbie's Fractal Design Nano S case into the new build. After installing the PSU, it was time to put in the RX 580 and...IT DIDN'T FIT! Dammmmmit! Luckily, it was just the fan housing on the GPU interfering with SATA ports, so I did a quick snip on the corner and it fit like a glove. Next, was the first startup...SUCCESS! All fans were spinning.
After plugging my monitor into the GPU, I switched the system back on and...Black Screen. Restart...Black Screen. New HDMI cable...Black Screen. Okay, plugged into the MOBO HDMI and Boosh! into BIOS. Initially, I thought that I just need to update the bios and then the GPU will work. I installed Windows 10 and flashed a bios update for the OEM MOBO and...Black Screen! Feck! After various other failures including trying the RX 470, I reconciled my suppositions with the likelihood of incompatibility. I needed a new plan.
A week later, I decided that I would rebuild Robbie back in the Fractal Design ITX-case which meant that I needed a new motherboard to run everything. eBay yielded the ASRock H61M-VG3 with the LGA 1155 socket. This was compatible with everything except the USB 3.0, but the price was good so I bought it.
It took almost a month to arrive from Hong Kong, but when it did, I was ready with another fresh format on the EVO 860 and had pulled out everything in the Nano S case. The first issue was seating the cooler because the motherboard didn't come with a cooler mounting bracket. So, I completely gutted the Lenovo M91p case and retrieved the mounting bracket from the underside of the OEM motherboard and modified it to work with the ASRock H61M. It then donned on me that there also wasn't an I/O shield for the case...YEEEESH! Another eBay scramble and a few weeks later, waiting to finish this build, it finally arrived from China.
After installing the MOBO, CPU, PSU, and drives, it was time to plug in the GPU, and...IT DIDN'T FIT! In this case, with the larger PSU and GPU there just wasn't enough physical space to fit both, so there I was back to square one. "But WAIT! What if I just put the PSU outside the case everything should fit fine." I thought in desperation. Lo and Behold! The GPU fit perfectly.
Plugging in the PSU to all the components was a snap...up until it was time to power the hard drives. One of my WD HDDs was on the back side of the motherboard in the case and my modular PSU only had one SATA cable with 3 power ports, so the cable couldn't reach all my drives. As any rational person would do, I just moved my drive so it could be powered by the cable...YEAH RIGHT! It was already screwed down in place. Well, as any stubborn but mostly rational person would do, I just decided to keep that storage drive unplugged (because technically I didn't need it since my games were stored on the other one), right? FECK THAT! A man's gotta have ALL his drives! So, I did like every stubborn, somewhat rational person who needs all their drives does, I got the model number from the PSU and ordered another cable...Hell No! I didn't. I grabbed the other 430 W PSU, bridged the main power connector with a copper wire, set it on top of the case, and plugged it directly into the HDD and let the wires dangle like dreadlocks. Now it was time turn this monstrosity on...SUCCESS!!! Everything fired up like it was supposed to.
By this point, FO76 had already been released and my pre-order download was just waiting to be played. But I decided, instead, to load up Skyrim SE "just to make sure" everything was running efficiently--mainly, I just wanted to stave off my disappointment in FO76. See, waiting months for computer components to arrive from China leaves your otherwise compromised computer building time open to check on FO76 game reviews and playthroughs, which can really turn you off ever wanting to play the game, it turns out. What came next was another month of modding Skyrim and a fresh playthrough on Ultra High settings. My attitude then was "well, this new PC is ugly as feck with wires draped over the top and the side panels strewn off, but everything's running fine; this PC is fine as is!"
On January 5, 2018, I was doing some cleaning and stumbled over the M91p ThinkCentre case and then it hit me, "what if I just shove that monstrosity in this case?" So, I grabbed the rotary tool, a drill, dial caliper, and some hope and went to town, cutting, drilling, gluing, and custom stuffing everything inside. The biggest issue was getting the power button to work. So, I pulled the one off the Nano S case--yes, I obliterated a better built, more expensive custom case for a button--and replaced the Lenovo button, which was a tedious process, but worth it. After cutting out the back to fit the I/O panel, I installed both the Fractal Design fans from the other case. By the time I finished, 8 hours (maybe) had passed and many unnecessary computer parts laid strewn asunder on the floor, but from the clutter and chaos arose AL-76, the third of my budget creations. laughs maniacally
FO76 still remains unplayed.