Building a new box from scratch

Building a new box from scratch

There is definitely something genetic about getting new toys. I see it in people
from a wide variety of backgrounds (not just computer geeks). I have been fortunate
enough to have obtained a new workstation. This is the first time in over 10 years
that I have owned anything close to the latest-and-greatest when it comes to computer

This mini-project was initiated by a hard drive failure which occurred this past
Saturday at Open Source Weekend. I came back to the
OCUUG area to find that the primary drive on
my workstation had died and was giving read errors. No amount of love and care
would allow it to pass an fsck. It was then that I decided it was time to upgrade.
Sure, my Dell workstation had given me a couple of years of great service, but
over the past few months, I noticed it had started to be overwhelmed by the demands
I was placing upon it. Thus I started down the slippery upgrade path, determined to
have something which was better than what I had now and resistant to hard drive failure.

Along the way, I’ll discover Antec cases and
what a great product they produce.

The components

I bought everything I needed from right here
in Ottawa. They are about a 25 minute drive from my place, but it is well worth it. Paul helped
me to create the following shopping list. All prices are in CAD (taxes extra) and have been rounded

CPUIntel Pentium4 2.8C Ghz 512K 800FSB S478

RAMDDR400 PC3200 256MB Kingston

RAMDDR400 PC3200 256MB Kingston

Main boardAsus P4P800 Intel 865PE SATA RAID A/L

CaseAntec Performance II SX1040BII blk 400W

HDDMaxtor 80Gb 7200RPM ATA133 FluidBearing

HDDMaxtor 80Gb 7200RPM ATA133 FluidBearing

RAID3Ware 2 Port Parallel ATA 133 card


NIC3Com 3c905C-TX Fast Etherlink XL

VideoATI Technologies Mach 64 GX





I already had the CD (in another computer, but unused) and the NIC (unused, sitting in a drawer).
I bought the drives on Saturday night (right after the drive failure) and placed an order for the
3Ware card on Sunday evening. First thing Monday morning, after dropping the cat at the vet for his
little snip-snip, I headed off to OEMExpress to purchase the other items. The hastily laid plan
was to assemble everything at Eric Rosenquist’s place. It wasn’t until I got to his place that I
learned I had no video. Eric graciously extracted the ATI card from his parts graveyard and that
allowed me to get started. Eventually I’ll put something a little better into the box.

You might ask why I went with another RAID card and not use the on-board Serial ATA raid. I wasn’t
interested. SATA is more expensive than PATA. I’ve also heard that they don’t last as well as PATA
when under pressure. They are more aimed for a desktop box than a server. Although I am building
a workstation, much of what it will do is server-type work.

The motherboard

The motherboard is pretty nice. I liked the way it was laid out. So far it’s given me no grief.
Attaching it to the case was easy. Installing the CPU was straight forward.





The case

This is the Antec Performance II SX1040BII. It comes with an Antec 400W power supply. This is a very nice case, and made of aluminum.
The case is very well put together and has lots of cooling power. By default, it comes with four fans (two in the PSU, two in the case)
and room for two more optional case fans. I like this case quite a bit. Just look at the number of pictures…


case front

case rear


case open

case inside

case drive bays

case bays close up

bays empty

bays one disk

case interior

case fan

The following is a picture of the motherboard diagram supplied with the Asus motherboard. It peels off and sticks to the chasis. I think it’s a
fantastic feature. No more must you scramble to find the motherboard manual! There is it is! Right where you need it! This is an amazing

motherboard diagram


I was impressed by the size of the CPU and heat sink. Things have grown smaller but now require more cooling.


cpu closeup

cpu onboard

The Install

This box is destined to become my new development box. It’s what I use for work such as
FreshPorts, FreeBSDDiary, and BSDCan.
That means it needs to have 4.9-STABLE on it because that’s what runs on the production webserver kindly
hosted and donated by They allow me to have complete
control over that box.

When I first attempted to install, from CD, the / partition ran out of space.

install failure

When I pressed ALT-F4, I got to the emergency holographic shell. From there, I checked the partition details.
As you can see, /dev/md0c was full. But I have no idea why it was writing there.


So I ran the install again, from scratch. This time I took a photo of the partitions I wanted. Compare this to what you see in the

partition success

After running this, everything installed fine. I’m stumped. Any ideas?

How fast is it?

Here are the running times for building:

Build kernel

3 minutes
Install kernel

< 1 minute Build world 20 minutes
Install world

2 minutes

This is a far cry from my first build world, which took 57 hours.

It pays to buy quality

I never thought I’d be paying $130+ for a case. I have previously mentioned
how much I liked a higher quality power supply (and I’ve said it more than once).
When I considered that the PSU originally cost me about $70, and a bare bones case is about $30, I began
to appreciate how much value you can get from a higher-end case. When I saw the features of this
Antec case, I knew I wasn’t going to get a lower end case.

It’s a good case. It’s a fast box. Watch this space. The 3Ware RAID card should arrive on Thursday
so I’ll outline how that goes in my next article.

8 thoughts on “Building a new box from scratch”

  1. Andrew Boothman

    Nice write-up of your build – isn’t it sad how you can get excited just seeing pictures of someone *else* getting new kit! lol

    I’ve also had the same problem with sysinstall installing into the md instead of the newly created disk partitions. Re-running the install cured it for me also – it’s a mystery!


    1. antec cases are indeed great. sprang for one myself several months ago; well worth the money and was not disappointed at all. however, they aren’t high-end by any means. just because there’s import junk at $20 for an ATX tinfoil case doesnt mean $100 is high end.

      i would love to find who supplies some of dell’s tower cases with the louvers inside the split casing, and the toolfree layouts — that would be worth $180 or $200 easily.

      as for the 3ware raid cards — great items. 7000 series i would guess? bought several on eBay and use them in freebsd with great results. 3ware says to compile in their new driver but i have been using the built-in freebsd one with no problems. besides the 3ware one is for 4.8, not 4.9, so who knows if theres any quirks compared to the static native one.

      1. jrl wrote:

        > as for the 3ware raid cards — great items. 7000 series i would
        > guess?

        7006-2 I think

        > bought several on eBay and use them in freebsd with
        > great results. 3ware says to compile in their new driver but i
        > have been using the built-in freebsd one with no problems.
        > besides the 3ware one is for 4.8, not 4.9, so who knows if
        > theres any quirks compared to the static native one.

        I have not tried their driver. Perhaps I should.

        The Man Behind The Curtain

    2. I can see that is a nice case but you can get basically the same thing minus one fan and 100 watts of power (roughly .9 amps) for nearly a third of the price. I have been using Enlight 7250 Mid Tower cases simply because they are enexpensive and have the same basic features as more expensive models. Unless you are going to run a power hog video card and or jump-start your car 😉 you don’t really need a 400W PS. Enlight does provide a case with a 360W PS but I don’t like the design. For $3 usd more you can add an additonal fan and for $4 usd you can add a fan with a twinkly red or blue led if you are into that sort of thing. As far as cooling goes I have found that it is not how many fans you have as much as how much air you have moving through the box and over the highest heat sources. I’m sure you know that using heat sinks and spreaders is a nice economical way to ease heat problems as well. The Enlight case has mounting for two fans besides the PS fan and the side is vented so if an individual really wanted to it would be easy to mount 2 or three additonal fans along these vents. Personally I have never had any overheating problems with just two fans in a push pull configuration. I typically use Abit raid MB’s (which also provide the sticker (and I agree, is a very nice feature), and I have no problems what-so-ever with Asus as they always get good reviews as far as I have seen, I just tend to stick with what I have become familiar with and has worked for me. In no way am I saying you made a bad choice becase as long a you are happy with it that is all that matters, I just thought I would share this info with everyone and see what kind of feedback I get. I typically purchase from Mwave, just clic on the catalog link and select cases to see all the selections available.

      good luck and have fun with your new setup .

    3. Thank you for your nice article. I recently bought a P4P800 SE board. I tried to install FreeBSD 5.3, but always got problems with my IDE DVD drive. Error messages like

      acd0-failure MODE_SENSE_BIG

      Do you know that the bios settings for the mainboard should be?



  2. i reported a bug (cant remember where/when exactly) about this. whenever sysinstall attempts to restart an install (from a CTRL-C interrupt) you may see that message.

    may want to try simply unmounting that md device, i dunno. restarting the entire install is simple enough at that stage anyhow….call it a lesson on making mistakes (so it’s a feature after all).

    1. Actually, it looks like the problem is that the first time / was created as a 4M partition instead of a 500M partition. Some things really do need to go in /, and I think sysinstall does a lot of that before getting to stuff in /usr.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top