The Fozzie Renovation

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that one of the most important parts of my life is my computer. Obviously, programming is what I have been going to school for, but I also enjoy upgrading computers and dealing with hardware as a hobby. My primary desktop computer is named Fozzie (my laptop is named Camilla, both after Muppets). When I first got Fozzie in December of 1999, I knew very little about computer hardware. My goal with Fozzie was to get a computer which was top-of-the-line for the time, and then gradually learn about hardware by upgrading parts of Fozzie over time. My long term goal was to eventually rebuild Fozzie with a new CPU, motherboard, etc., when the time was right. I did indeed learn a lot about hardware over the course of several upgrades for Fozzie. Eventually, I decided that the best time for rebuilding/renovating Fozzie would be the summer of 2004. Prior to this, I did much research online to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into. Also, I spent a great deal of time pouring over all the available options, trying to make sure I picked new parts which would be cost-efficient, powerful, and which would work together. Finally, on May 24th I ordered $500 of computer parts from, and building started on May 28th. I took many digital pictures during the process. Hopefully, this page will be of some interest to you even if you aren't a computer geek, just to see the process of an existing computer being rebuilt. I'm happy to say that Fozzie has been indeed restored to his original glory and is once again a top-of-the-line machine (for now). Complete specs of the before-and-after are at the end of this page.

The original Fozzie, pre-renovation. Much of this computer dates back to December, 1999, although many components have been upgraded over time.

Front view of the original Fozzie.

Front view of the original Fozzie, with the drive cover open. This exposes both the Lite-On DVD drive which was the result of an upgrade in February, and the Yamaha 44x CD burner which was the result of an upgrade in the fall of 2002. The floppy drive is the original.

This is the new case, right after being taken out of its box. There is a "fun" story with this case. All of the new computer parts came on Wednesday, with the exception of this case, which was to arrive on Thursday. On Thursday, the case comes, but upon opening the box I realize that I have been shipped the wrong case! Luckily, is a wonderful company, and as soon as I called about the error, they rush-shipped me the correct case, which arrived the very next day. This case was the first component of the renovation which was picked out -- I settled on this case back in May of 2003!

This is a view inside the new case. Here you can see the 350W power supply, the numerous drive bays, and the leads for the front USB connections and the front panel.

This is the new CPU, the best-performing CPU currently on the market (not counting PowerPCs). This is an Athlon64 -- AMD's new 64-bit desktop line of processors. The best thing about AMD's Athlon64 is that it runs 32-bit software at full speed. Most software is currently 32-bit, but the industry is currently moving towards 64-bit software (just like we were moving from 16-bit to 32-bit around the time of Windows 95). Intel's current 64-bit processor can run 32-bit software, but with a significant speed hit. This Athlon64 3000+ runs with just a 2.0GHz clockspeed, but easily outperforms even a 3GHz Pentium 4 when running 32-bit software due to the design of its architecture. This chip was the center piece of the renovation.

This is the new motherboard. It is an Asus K8V. Asus is known for making the fastest, most stable system boards, and so one of the first decisions I made in designing this system was to go with an Asus board. Things of note in this picture are the 3 slots for memory, which can hold up to 3GB of PC3200 (DDR400) RAM, the fastest RAM currently available. Also, it has the traditional 2 IDE channels, allowing for up to 4 drives, but it also has Serial ATA connectors. Serial ATA is the replacement for IDE, and will allow me to use my existing IDE drives now while also being able to upgrade them with brand-new SATA drives in the future. The board also features on-board RAID (for data protection), gigabit LAN, an AGP 8X slot (for high-end video cards), and on-board sound system (which I did not plan on using).

This is the motherboard with the CPU in place. Putting the CPU in place is a delicate operation -- there are lots of pins on the bottom which can get bent!

This is the motherboard after the heatsink has been put in place. This is also an involved operation. The heatsink fits over the CPU and is designed to keep the CPU cool (modern CPUs run very hot). The bottom layer of the heatsink, touching the CPU, is a layer of thermal compound which increases the amount of heat pulled into the heatsink. On top of that is the heatsink itself, a mechanical contraption designed to pull as much heat as possible away from the CPU. And then comes the heatsink fan, which blows that hot air away. Coincidentally, the case is designed such that directly across from the heatsink is a case fan, which then blows that hot air outside of the case.

This is the motherboard in place in the case. There are a lot of screws and spacers involved in this process to hold the board in place.

This is the computer when it was first put together enough to be able to boot. Beyond the last picture, the computer now has a video card, memory, monitor, and keyboard connected. Since there is no hard drive installed (notice it laying on the table), there is no operating system to boot into, but we can get into BIOS, just to verify things are working so far.

One last look inside the original Fozzie. The only component missing in this setup is the primary hard drive which was laying on the table in the previous picture.

This is the computer at the end of the first day of work. In this picture, Fedora Core 1 (Linux) is being installed. When the computer was initally booted up with the primary hard drive (using existing installs of Linux and Windows), both operating systems booted, but due to the massive amount of hardware that had disppeared, and large amount of hardware that had newly appeared, neither was very usable. Both optical drives, and both hard drives, have been installed and the case is closed up. There is still work to be done. Namely, there is no active sound system, no modem, front USB ports have not been connected, and lots of software is going to need to be reloaded.

Inside the old case at the end of the first day of work. This still contains the old motherboard (an FIC board), the original processor (a 700MHz AMD Athlon, slot-style, rather than socket), a video card (TNT2 Ultra, not compatible with the new board due to voltages), sound card (Sound Blaster Live), network card, and modem.

For the first night, old Fozzie and new Fozzie had to sleep next to each other. The original plan was to take the original floppy drive and use it in the new case, but upon taking out the drive I discovered that the faceplate of the drive is actually part of the old Compaq case, and so the drive front has exposed metal and circuitry, which is unacceptable in the new case. You can see the floppy drive sitting on top of old Fozzie, and the drive faceplate still a part of the case.

The final setup inside the new case. This now contains both the sound card and modem of the old setup. I decided not to use the old network card, in favor of the integrated LAN on the new motherboard. Front USB ports and the system speaker have been connected as well.

A final look at the inside of the old, gutted, Fozzie.

Me with the new Fozzie. :)

ComponentOriginal Fozzie (Dec 1999)Old Fozzie (May 2004)New Fozzie
CPU AMD Athlon 700MHz AMD Athlon 700MHz AMD Athlon 64 3000+ 2.0GHz
Motherboard FIC SD11 (USB, Firewire, IDE, max 384MB PC133 RAM) FIC SD11 (USB, Firewire, IDE, max 384MB PC133 RAM) Asus K8V (USB, IDE, SATA, RAID, Gb LAN, sound, max 3GB PC3200 RAM
Case Compaq 5900Z Mid-tower Compaq 5900Z Mid-tower Maxtop Super 2000 8870KL
Operating system Windows 98SE Fedora Core 1 / Windows XP Pro Mandrake Linux 10.0 Official / Windows XP Pro
Memory 128MB PC133 384MB PC133 Kingston 512MB PC3200 Crucial
Video card Creative 3D Blaster TNT2 Ultra 32MB RAM Creative 3D Blaster TNT2 Ultra 32MB RAM PNY Verto GeForceFX 5200 128MB RAM
Sound card Sound Blaster Live Value Sound Blaster Live Value Sound Blaster Live Value
Network card SMC EZ Card SMC EZ Card None, on-board Marvell gigabit LAN on K8V
Modem Conexant HFC WinModem Conexant HFC WinModem Conexant HFC WinModem
Primary hard drive Seagate Barracuda 20GB Seagate Barracuda 20GB Seagate Barracuda 20GB
Secondary hard drive None Maxtor DiamondMax 80 GB Maxtor DiamondMax 80 GB
DVD-ROM Pioneer DVD-114 10x/40x Lite-On XJ-HD166S/165H 16x/48x Lite-On XJ-HD166S/165H 16x/48x
CD-RW Philips CD-RW 4x/4x/24x Yamaha CRW-F1E 44x/24x/44x Yamaha CRW-F1E 44x/24x/44x
Keyboard Compaq Internet Keyboard Logitech Cordless Access Keyboard Logitech Cordless Access Keyboard
Mouse Compaq Scroll Mouse Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse Blue Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse Blue
Monitor Compaq 17' CRT Samsung 15' LCD Samsung 15' LCD
Printer None HP DeskJet 932C HP DeskJet 932C
Scanner None Epson Perfection 640U Epson Perfection 640U
Speakers Klipsch Promedia 4.1 400W THX-Certified Audio System Klipsch Promedia 4.1 400W THX-Certified Audio System Klipsch Promedia 4.1 400W THX-Certified Audio System
UPS Power supply None Cyber Power 425SL Cyber Power 425SL