After I got through Part 2, I was working again. In fact, I continued to chocotaley install a few things, but for the most part, I could get productive quickly, working on writing, email, even code. I did install Visual Studio, SQL, and SSMS by hand, mostly to be sure they were the right versions I needed.
However, things weren’t great. The two monitors I showed from Part 2 were OK, but the not great. I missed my third monitor, especially when I had the second one in portrait more. I decided I needed to just upgrade things again. Not everything, just the video card.
I tried my two older cards, shown below, in various combinations, but every time I added them to the motherboard, I couldn’t boot. Remove them, and things worked again. After 4-5 tries, I thought it was time to abandon this path.
I’ve been stretching my budget slightly. I’ve had a few expenses here, and while this is tax deductible, it still costs real money. I got a few recommendations for video cards, including this Quadro K1200, which looked great. However, another $300 right now would likely get my wife a bit more upset than I’d like.
I looked around the Internet a few times at night and found some other cards that would support 3 monitors, at a more reasonable cost. In the end, I decided to switch from ATI to NVidia and got a EVGA GeoForce GT740 card with two DVI and one mini HDMI out. Quite a few people had used this for workstations and it seemed to support 3 monitors well.
This was a large card, and the first one I’ve ever owned that needed its own power connections. Hardware has changed. This is also a card with 4GB of memory, which is a long way from the first computer I built after college that had 4MB of main memory.
Installing the card was easy. It slipped in, I connected it to power and my desktop booted right up. Well, I had a CMOS error, but I cleared things and then it booted. The mini-HDMI cable was a tight fit, but I managed to get it in there.
One note on cables, go longer. I got a 3ft mini-HDMI to HDMI and it wasn’t quite long enough. I had to rearrange monitors a bit, which is OK, but I should have just gotten a 6 foot cable and then secured the extra.
I downloaded the NVidia driver before I’d shut down the machine, so I booted to a single monitor, installed the driver, and things worked right away. I configured things and ended up going with a 3 monitor config that has the center one in portrait mode.
It’s been a few days and so far everything looks and works great. I’ve rebooted a few times, taken the desk up and down multiple times, and connections are solid, hardware is working, and I can get back to getting work done.
I ran a test using UserBenchMark and got great scores everywhere but video and then only for gaming. Overall, this is a much faster machine, and seems to work smoother. I’ve had zero issues with the hardware and Windows 10 seems more stable since the fresh installation.
My Windows Experience Index also changed dramatically. The old machine was a 5.1, mainly due to graphics, with the other scores in the low 8s. The new score is 7.9, with graphics holding things back, but I have a third monitor now and more CPU and RAM resources.
Here are the changes I made. Note I’m not recommending these items. I got some recommendations from Glenn Berry, and they worked well for me. This stuff changes often, so check with friends and do your own research.
- MB – Gigabyte, circa 2010-ish
- 24GB RAM
- 256 boot SSD, 512 SSD, 2x1TB HDD
- ATI 512MB RAM graphics card, circa 2010
- ATI 1MB graphics card, circa 2012
- Corsair 600W power supply
ASRock Extreme6 motherboard – $109 (after rebate)
Intel i7-6700k – $269
32GB Memory – $50
Cooling fan – $30
EVGA Video – $110
That’s $620 for a fairly substantial upgrade.
I’m pretty happy for now, and I suspect this will last for some time. If I change anything, it will be adding another graphics card because I need video stuff (or I buy Doom 4) and getting a larger power supply.