January 2018 is PC building x 5 @GHIS

Old PC’s

GHIS has had no PC’s upgrade or renewals over the years from the millenium year when we were using old cast-offs to getting new PC’s in 2007. The technology that was then new and sparkling in 2007 is now ailing in 2018 under the increased applications burden.

Some classes got new PC’s over the years because some applications (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Office 2010 Excel & Access) could not run on the older PC’s.  Other PC’s got some upgrades but not enough to improve the student’s experience which had become tedious on a daily basis, just turning on the PC’s and applications took too long, saving work was frustatingly slow and all-in-all very counter productive.

Students in Need of Work Experience

One of the teaching rooms in particular was in dire need of new PC’s, coupled with the fact that some of the students needed work experience for some of the modules, the staff decided in 2017 that it would be a good idea for the students to build five new PC’s under the guidance of one of the more PC building experienced students and one of the tutors.

Choosing & Ordering the Parts

The tutor explained which software would run on the new PC’s and two students volunteered to spend a few hours to create an online list of suitable PC parts at a good price. The winning list came from David Hardiman; his reasoning around the choice of parts is explained in the table below.

 A list of suitable PC parts
The winning list was this one by David
CPU Processor AMD Ryzen 3 1300x 3.5Ghz Quad-Core Processor
CPU Cooler ARCTIC – Alpine 64 PLUS Fluid Dynamic Bearing CPU Cooler
Motherboard Gigabyte – GA-A320M-HD2 Micro ATX AM4 Motherboard
Memory Corsair – Vengeance LPX 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-3200 Memory
Hard Drive Samsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive
Video Card Asus – GeForce GT 710 2GB Video Card
Case Aerocool – V3X Advance (Black) ATX Mid Tower Case
Power Supply EVGA – 400W ATX Power Supply
Optical Drive LG – GH24NSD1 DVD/CD Writer
David explains the reasoning around choosing these specific computer parts here ….

Early Christmas 2017 Presents

We all waited eargerly for those new parts to arrive but we knew that it wouldn’t happen before Christmas 2017, but it did! By then it was too late to start building the PC’s as it was the week of the certifcation and there was a lot to organise.

Building the PC’s – 5 January 2018- By Philip Kelty


Building the PCs was a collaborative exercise done in teams, with the more experienced students talking the less experienced ones through the process. Along the way we discussed the dangers of static electricity discharge and the importance of grounding, as well as the risk posed by undischarged capacitors on circuit boards.

Each team had also another student as assistant but from a different class mainly the ECDL. The assistants were chosen because of their admitted fear of computer parts and the idea was to allege that fear and turn into interest.

Three students assisted three of the teams and became very interested in the process of building a computer, each PC building student explained what each part was and where it went in the PC and why.  This blog article and in particular the video below is in part for these students to remind them of the various components of a PC, something for them to look back on in the future.

Team One with assistant
Team One with assistant

Changes in Technology

We covered changes in technology standards and compared the older features (floppy disk drive, HDD storage) on the PCs we were replacing with the current standards (USB3, SSD storage) on the new models. Different teams proceeded in slightly different ways: some preferred to install the motherboard into the case before installing the CPU on the motherboard; others reversed the order.

Hiccups along the way

While the process largely went smoothly, a faulty power supply unit (diagnosed via multimeter) offered an opportunity for diagnosing where the system failed.

Reasoning around re-Using some Old Parts

To avoid having to do a whole new install of Windows, we took the hard drives from the old computers we were replacing, and reused them in the new machines. Disassembling those ten year old machines allowed us an opportunity to observe the many changes in desktop PC standards that have happened since then, and let us compare and contrast the old HDD drives and the new SSD ones. Once all the hardware was installed and functioning correctly, we cloned the windows installation from the old, slow HDD drives, to the new, fast SSD ones.

Rewarding Experience

Progressing from the cardboard boxes to fully functioning computers was a rewarding experience and an opportunity to learn both practical techniques and some of the history and thinking behind why those techniques are applied.

Students Empowered

New Computers in Career Guidance Class – Contributed by: dotted ravine, 18 January 2018

While some of us benefit from a tactile experience of playing with paper and sorting notes by hand, even I can appreciate the huge benefit to be gained by drafting a composition on the computer.

For the period up to Christmas 2017, it must be said that I was waiting a lot on the computers in the Career Guidance Class to warm up, and catch up as I tried to do my work. Access to the internet was limited.

Santa has been good to us in GHIS and we have been blessed with our latest tech arrivals getting 2018 off to a great start. We now have animal ‘towers’ (those tall boxes sitting next to the monitor on the desk, with major vents to prevent overheating.) They are up and running thanks to Santa’s trail of helpers…. Read more