Three days ago (Friday), the other mining rig components I ordered – the the ASROCK motherboard [UK], RAM [UK] and processor [UK] arrived. So now I had everything I needed to finally build this Litecoin mining rig…

Except I forgot to order a WiFi card! Never mind, I could take one from an old PC I hardly use any more.

With everything now ready, I could start assembling the PC.

It’s been many, many years since I actually built a PC from bought components so naturally I made a dumb mistake!

Mt first order of business was to insert the processor and its heatsink. I inadvertently took the heatsink out of its packaging and placed it on the motherboard manual while I inserted the processor into the motherboard and locked it into position.

Lifting the heatsink from the manual, the top page lifted with it. The thermal compound on the heatsink had stuck to the manual. About a third to a half of the compound had come off.

Luckily, the manual front page was glossy, so nothing was absorbed. I was able to scrape up most of the attached compound and stick it back onto the heatsink. I moved the heatsink around on the processor to even out the thermal compound before locking the heatsink in place.

Next in were the two 2Gb RAM modules. They went in without a hitch. Now it was time to fit the motherboard into a PC case…

The Trouble With PC Cases

ASROCK 970 Extreme4 Motherboard
ASROCK 970 Extreme4 Motherboard

I found that the ASROCK motherboard wouldn’t fit into my current PC’s case for two reasons:

  1. The board was deeper than the available space allowed and
  2. The panel at the back of the PC was part of the case, so couldn’t be swapped out in favour of the one that came with the motherboard.

Time to open up some cases belonging to older PCs. First up was a Dell Vostro. This had ample room for the motherboard but again had a fixed connectors panel that couldn’t be swapped out. The other problem was that drive bays ran the entire height of the midi-tower case which didn’t allow enough space for the R9 280X Toxic video card that I have.

Note: The R9 280X Toxic cards are half as long again as the non-Toxic versions, so you nett lots of depth to cater for these cards. I bought mine because it was cheap at the time (they’re 27% more expensive since Christmas when the last stock ran out). So it’s best if you don’t buy an R9 280X Toxic unless you know your PC case can take one!

Next up was an ancient Genius midi-tower PC. This one was 14 years old. I’d planned to build a Windows-based mining rig using drives from an older XP PC. This PC used IDE drives rather than the current SATA technology, so there was now way I could hook up the old hard drives and CD/DVD drives to the new motherboard. Besides, as with the Vostro, drive cages ran the entire height of the case. So again, there wasn’t enough space for the R9 280X!


The PC case I bought that wasn’t up to the job!

It was now 4PM on Friday and I wanted to get this rig built, once and for all. It was time to shell out for a new, modern, gaming PC case. Since I wanted a case now, there was no point in ordering from any of the online stores. I wanted somewhere local, a shop I could walk into, buy a case and walk out of. Turns out there aren’t too many of those around. At least not in Dublin. I found one – New Paddy Computers (run by an Asian gentleman) – in Dun Laoghaire. He had cases in stock. So I charged down to him and bought a case.

Should have examined the case before I bought it…

Naturally, I had to open the case to see what the layout inside was. First, there was a PSU that I didn’t need as I’d already bought a PSU – a Corsair CX600M PSU which is a modular unit (or here if you’re in the UK); but worse was to find that again, there were drive cages all up the front of the case. So once again, the R9 280X would not fit into the case. See what I mean about the awkwardness of that card!?

I’d had it for the day. Computer parts, screws, bits and bobs and old PCs spread across the table and floor and nothing to show for the day. I decided I’d be better off taking a break and looking at things anew the next day before I made another stupid mistake.

Saturday

Fresh from good night’s sleep, I had a look at the PC cases again. The Genius case looked to be the best option as the motherboard did fit into it, the connectors panel was interchangeable but those drive bays were the problem. It turns out that the drive bays were modular – one section for large drives like CD and DVD drives, one section for floppy drives, and the last section for hard drives. I was able to unscrew and remove the hard drive bay and this would allow the R9 280X to fit into the case. In all the other cases, including the new one I bought, the drive bays were riveted into position so there was no way the bay cages could be modified.

I gutted the Genius case, taking out all drives, the PSU and the old motherboard.

I swapped out the connectors panel, inserted the ASROCK motherboard and screwed it into place. Next, I attached the motherboard power connectors, mounted the PSU and screwed it into place. I then inserted the R9 280X into the designated PCIe slot on the motherboard and screwed the bracket into place, closing the little card latch as well. Finally, a WiFi card from another PC was inserted into one of the other PCI slots.

My Litecoin Mining Rig
My Litecoin Mining Rig

I took a Windows SATA hard drive out of an old PC and connected it up along with a CD/DVD drive. Connecting all the peripherals, it was time to power up.

It’s Alive!

The first thing I noticed is that the ASROCK logo appeared on the monitor. So that meant that the motherboard was working and, more to the point, so was the video card! If only I’d bought a new motherboard at the same time as I originally bought the video card!

Windows started up and then switched to a flashing cursor on the monitor. It just sat there…minute after minute. Windows just wouldn’t boot. Given that the hard drive was from a Dell PC, I figured it was some Dell weirdness (like checking PC serial numbers) that was preventing Windows from booting.

The quickest option was to boot to Ubuntu from a USB stick. This did work though since it was a trial copy rather than a fully installed copy of the OS, it ran quite slowly. Still it showed that everything in the PC was working, including the WiFi card as I was able to connect to the internet.

Before I started all of this, there’s a site I’d found that showed how to build a Litecoin mining rig. I remembered that there was a page on that site about how to set up a rig to run under Linux rather than Windows.

So, while my mining rig is built, it’s not yet running the mining software. There are a few stages to that for running under Linux as are detailed on this page. This is the route I’ll be taking with my rig…

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Filed under: Litecoin Mining