It seems I've been punished for making my earlier (and now, seemingly arrogant) comments about building my latest PC without a hickup. For the last week or two, I've been struggling with what eventually I found to be a faulty motherboard. Since this piece is so central to the whole computer, and since I wasn't getting any error code from the board (with its "helpful" on-board LED error indicator) and nothing appeared on screen, I had to patiently troubleshoot various components (CPU, video card, RAM) until I found the culprit. After isolating everything, I finally reduced it down to the mobo. Everything turned out well in the end, as I was able to submit a warranty claim to EVGA (the manufacturer) and, after grudgingly paying for one-way shipping on a replacement board and swapping out boards, I'm now writing this post from my restored machine.
This brings up a few points. [more]
Although I might have saved around a grand making my own PC versus buying a pre-built Dell, I'm sure that a good portion of this "savings" has been eaten by the time I spent dissassembling the system, troubleshooting, then shipping and resintalling the motherboard. Luckily I had a spare PC and I back my data up regularly, so I was quickly able to switch over to another box when the new PC crashed, but still I don't know if I could call the adjustment totally negligible.
However, luckily I wasn't totally naive when I started planning the computer build, and, having done this before, I knew there would be problems that arose and didn't plan on getting away unscathed. Also (masochistic overtones aside), there is a certain pleasure I can take now as I look back and see where the problem arose and how I was able to deduce a solution and produce a remedy. This is probably part of the geekiness in getting your hands dirty building your own computer and having to understand and learn about the various componenets that comprise the system. And hey, even Google's early servers were a fairly cobbled together.
Another realization was how valuable online forums and product feedback can be. I noticed when I first ordered my mobo from NewEgg (which has a vibrant communicty of shoppers and whose comments are displayed prominently alongside products) that a few people commented on how several heatsinks seemed poorly attached to the motherboard. Apparently, this could lead to improper cooling of several componenets and could cause the board to burn up. This turned out to be useful, as I later referred back to these comments and heeded their recommendations when I applied better quality termal grease to a few heatsinks on the replacement mobo.
So a little nerd drama and I'm back to 100 %.