Four years ago, I bought a propane grill from Home Depot, a simple two-burner thing that gets the job done. I drove it home, lugged the box into my kitchen, cut it open, took out the parts, and discovered that it did not come with instructions. To me, this seemed insane. A propane grill, a gas thing that might explode, not including instructions for how to assemble it? Seemed weird to me. Luckily, I managed to assemble the grill and have not died in a fiery explosion yet, so I think I did alright. Still… the worry lingers.
I encountered a similar phenomenon six months later when I decided that after years of talking about it, it was time to build a gaming PC. Building a gaming PC is different from buying a PC — you purchase the individual parts and then bolt and and screw and clip and strap them all together. It is one of the most annoying activities that one can choose to partake in, largely because doing so will send you to far-flung parts of the internet in search of mostly useless information. It’s also very gratifying. Every PC build is slightly different, and everyone has strong opinions about which components (constantly being updated and revised every year) are the best for the task. “Oh, you’re pairing this RAM with that motherboard? You’re settling for that GPU? That CPU is a little slow.”
Because all of this is mix-and-match, there is no singular set instructions. I probably visited like a dozen different PC-building forums in search of simple step-by-step guides. Somehow, preposterously, people have been building bespoke desktop computers for decades and yet googling “How to build a pc” only delivers thousands of vague outlines of procedure. There’s a lot of general wisdom about how bits fit together, but that goes hand-in-hand with a lot of trial and error.
The advice I learned from online when I built my own PC was that I should watch a bunch of YouTube tutorials. I have no idea how anybody built a computer before YouTube. (I guess print magazines that explained this stuff still existed.) Anyway, I spent three days, as different components piled up in the corner of my apartment, watching any remotely popular computer assembly tutorial. All of these helped give me a general sense of how a CPU fits into a motherboard, and the best way to route cables through the casing, but because none of my parts lined up directly with anything in any of the videos, so there was still a lot of fuzziness. I eventually figured it out, after a long evening spent hunched over fiddling with tiny screws and delicate part.
I say all of this because Henry Cavill, best known for playing Superman and Geralt of Rivia, published his own very good PC-assembly tutorial this week. It does not shy away from the reality of the endavor, and largely mirrors my experience.
Step 1: Look at the paperwork
The first step to building a PC is making a futile attempt at looking at the documentation that comes with each of your components. The paperwork will be completely unhelpful. You open up the pamphlet that comes with a CPU and it’s just “hey PLEASE do NOT bend the little gold pin-things” written in roughly 6,000 languages including Esperanto. Still, you have to try.
Step 2: Try to figure out which way is up
I honestly have no idea if Henry is doing this correctly.
Step 3: Congratulate yourself on installing a component without snapping it in half, bricking it with static electricity, etc.
You will feel this small, tentative sense of accomplishment 200 times over the course of your assembly.
Step 4: check the docs again, and stare at your computer and off into space for a long time trying to figure out what the next step is (because it sure as hell is not in the docs)
Step 5: hold a bunch of your parts up in front of the PC trying to divine how precisely you should tetris them together
The answer will come to you eventually. If it does not, google the problem and read a prophetic forum post from 2006 that explains why you’re an idiot.
Step 6: look out the window for the first time in god knows how long and say to yourself “oh shit, it’s night now?!”
Step 7: peel the plastic off of your GPU
Savor it. Savor the fizz of the plastic unbinding. It is the only peace you will know until your build is complete.
Step 7: Sit and stare blankly at your machine
This process will last between 30 seconds and ten minutes, and you will probably not glean any insight from doing so. Maybe you will see a cable that you could do a better job organizing. It will gnaw at you, sitting in the back of your mind tormenting you. Again, this is all part of the process.
Step 8: Say “fuck it” and just start snapping things into place
This is when the vast majority of your build gets done. You spend about 3 hours cautiously making sure that you don’t damage anything as you piece it togeher, and eventually you develop the overconfidence to start shoving sticks of RAM into sockets. Is that *snap* sound a good snap or a bad snap? There is honestly no way to know.
Step 9: Cable management
You’re going to see that your cables aren’t routed throguh the PC casing as cleanly as they could be, and you’re going to make the mistake of googling “pc cable managment tips” and once again you will spiral down an internet rabbit hole where everyone’s got their own idea about the best way to deal with it. A bunch of posters will recommend using zip ties, which is very helpful advice given that you own a total of zero zip ties.
Henry’s cable management, I must admit, is very good. Looks like he’s using velcro ties.
Step 10: turn the thing on and learn instantly that you need to shut it down and pull the whole machine apart again because you installed something wrong
Cool glowing GPU and RAM though!
The epilogue to all of this is you’ll spend the next half-year checking price trackers daily because for some reason the question “should I add a second SSD and 16 gigs of RAM to my build?” seems like a reasonable one. By the time you’ve completed your PC build, it is already obsolete.
Everybody Gangsta Until The Umbrellas Start Walkin
this week’s Dog TikTok
will Tony Hawk respond?
thinking about the people on Tumblr who thought Bill & Ted fanfic was about Clinton and Cruz
this video is one of those videos where I get mad at the fact that I can at least partially unpack what’s happening in it