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Joined
Oct 22, 2017
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3
Motherboard
Asus Z170-A
CPU
i7-6700
Graphics
GTX 960
Mobile Phone
Android
Artedreage Skylake Build
Asus Z170-A | Intel Core i7-6700 | Gigabyte GTX 960 4GB



Contents

Preface
Build
Components
Peripherals
Comments​
Installation
Preparation
BIOS settings
Installing​
Post installation
MultiBeast
Clover
Nvidia WEB drivers
Audio
SSDT
SSDT-USB
Memory
Devices
Configuration
iMessage​
Summery
What works
What doesn't work​
Benchmarks
Updates


Preface

I'm writing this guide/article/build log/help as a way of saying thanks to Tonymacx86's community. You helped me build great system that I sincerely enjoy using and hopefully it will see many years of upgrades and use. I hope this build log with help some of you with your systems or just get you up to try and set up something similar. All in all, big thanks to everyone here! Of course, if you have any suggestions on how to make this article better or system, do sound off in the comments. I appreciate your time for reading and all the help.


Build

Components

Asus Z170-A Motherboard
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B012NH05UW/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA85V41B1211

Intel Core I7-6700 3.40GHz LGA 1151 Processor
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0136JONG8/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA24G3UK4275

Gigabyte GTX 960 G1 Graphics Card
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VBNT3X0/?tag=tonymacx86com-20

Kingston Technology HyperX FURY Black 32GB 2400MHz DDR4 CL15 DIMM Memory Kit of 2
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA8N25YW1809

Corsair RM650X 650W 80PLUS Gold Power Supply
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B015YEIBJ8/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139143

Samsung PM961 Polaris 128GB M.2 SSD
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071RCFGLZ/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA8S15455077

Kingston Digital HyperX FURY 240GB SSD
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KW3MT7W/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA4RE4AM3981

Western Digital Red 2TB NAS HDD
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008JJLZ7G/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA25V6DA9941

Fractal Design Define R5 Computer Case
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Q2Z11QE/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811352048

Noctua NH-U14S Air Processor Cooler
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074DX2SX7/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835608041

Noctua NF-A15 Case Fan
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AED7WMW/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIAADY4B02531

Noctua NF-A14 Case Fan
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CP6QLY6/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIAADY4B02521

Peripherals

Dell UltraSharp U2414H Monitor
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GTV05XG/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA4A062J8622

Razer Abyssus 2014 Essential Ambidextrous Gaming Mouse
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L0YLRNY/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA4RE3166564

Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition 2014 Keyboard
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K70ZOTK/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA7WM3SA9841

Wacom Intuos Art Tablet
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9NWQDM/?tag=tonymacx86com-20
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16823100148

SanDisk SDDR-75-07 CF SmartMedia USB Combo Reader
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000068UXB/?tag=tonymacx86com-20

Comments

Primary goal for building this system was to finally move on from 17-inch laptop without discrete GPU. While I was doing light photo editing work and page layouts for print, laptop suited me well (kind of anyhow). Anyway, I got caught up in 3D modelling, texturing and rendering. Well, as you might have guessed, poor machine gave it's last. Although I started to learn modelling on it and did some rendering, I realised that it would be really helpful to have a more serious system. I had problems with system shutdowns and overheating with general unresponsiveness. I'm a long time Windows user so I went on to build my new system. But, I checked my components with Tonymac's list for building a custom Mac (always loved macOS) just in case I ever set out on that mission.

One and a half year later and here we are. Although I have nothing against Windows (yes, burn me, but I actually liked Windows 10), right now they have some serious bugs to fix with some apps.

For main component I chose Intel Core i7-6700, almost top of the line CPU of that generation for mainstream market. Although there is unlocked variant that can be overclocked (6700K), I kinda opted out of it. I have never overclocked before, so I went stability route instead (you could say plug'n'play route). With 4 cores and 8 threads that work at 3.6 GHz over all cores is sufficient for most sustained workloads (in my case CPU rendering). It's not the fastest chip, so if you are looking to game pick up something faster on single core performance or overclocked variant of some chip. While I assume if you are buying this kind of a CPU you will have discrete GPU, it still has relatively good integrated graphics. One benefit of this CPU, over his unlocked variant, is 65W rating, so it doesn't generate so much heat in the first place. Combined with a high end cooler like Noctua NH-U14S (I added one more NF-A15 fan for push-pull configuration), it's properly cooled while having seriously low level of noise, as you will see in benchmarks. I would highly suggest this kinda of set up if you are building workstation system and you want it to be quite and thermally efficient.

For motherboard I picked up Asus Z170-A. Although it's Z series chipset meant for overclocking, I picked it up for it's feature set. It's relatively inexpensive boards that packs a lot high end features with good build quality. Mainly it has support for M.2 NVMe devices that I wanted to use, although it shares bandwidth with SATA 5 and 6 ports (something to bare in mind). Aside from M.2 port, regarding connectivity, it has two 2.0 and two 3.0 USB ports, as well ASMedia controller for two USB 3.1 ports, one A and one C type. Connectivity is, I would say, standard for a mid-range board like this, while inclusion of 3.1 ports is nice add-on. It rocks audio ALC892 codec which is not the best out there, but it gets the job done. One really nice thing is inclusion of Intel I219V Ethernet port. Never tried Killer NICs, but some reviews aren’t really favourable.


When you take a look at PCI Gen 3 lanes, it has support for dual GPU set up running 8x and 8x which can be really nice for future upgrades. Aside from those features (you can find many more on their website) it has serious power delivery system. Almost all of Asus ZXXX-A series of motherboards have quality VRM setup which was verified by many tech channels and reviewers. With that in mind, I'm very satisfied with this board. It's paired with two sticks of Kingston DDR4 16GB sticks running at 2400 MHz for 32GB total. Without applying XMP profile it automatically detected speed and latency ratings. All in all, it's great bang for your buck motherboard with nice features and UEFI.

With main setup complete came GPU selection. It isn't something spectacular but it gets the job done. I picked up GTX 960 4GB from Gigabyte primarily because of budget constrains. It has 1024 CUDA cores with speed of 1.2GHz. At first I needed something to drive complex scenes and later for GPU rendering. For gaming it's comfortable with 1080p at high details and AA, depending on title. It's one of the things that can be easily changed and upgraded down the line so I kinda cheap out on this one. While the prices of GPUs are all over the place right now, you could pick up GTX 980 or 980Ti for relatively cheap if you are looking form more rendering power.

#Update 1 I'm currently looking for possible upgrade in GPU section. Unfortunately GPU prices are extremely high and stock in poor. Probably the best thing is to wait for new GPU architecture that is coming in course of next few months (still not official but some rumours are floating around).

From other components, probably most important one is the PSU. I picked up Corsair RM650X, 650W power supply. Aside from great build quality, it has all modular black sleeved cables (no ketchup and mustard, no no). Also it comes with 10 year warranty which is not to shabby if you ask me. It has more then enough power for whole system, plus when it's not on some high loads, fans don't spin at all. Right now, I'm still waiting for it to spin up and make some noise. For storage I went with Kingston SSD for boot drive, but later upgraded to Samsung NVMe SSD for that purpose. I reused Kingston SSD as cache disk and general working disk. For storage here are two Western Digital Red 2TB drives in raid 1 for redundancy. Everything is housed in Fractal Design R5 chassis filled with Noctua NF-A14 fans. As you will see in charts, thermally and acoustically it's just fantastic. Nocuta, although very expensive are worth the investment if you are looking for quiet operation for your system.


All in all, that’s the build. It’s not really something fancy, but it’s stealthy and can render all night while not making a sound. Which is really nice if you sleep in a room with your system. There is definitely room for improvement. First is definitely GPU, which I hope will get upgrade next year. Aside from that, not much to complain.


Installation

Preparation

Without long explanation, I followed Tonymac’s guide on how to prepare installation of High Sierra. Pretty much it comes down to a few phases. One note is that I haven’t used integrated graphics at all for this installation. Display was always connected via GPU, so I kinda left HD530 out for now.

  1. Download latest Unibeast that you need for creating bootable USB installation
  2. Download latest MultiBeast for post installation
  3. Download macOS High Sierra from App Store
  4. Format your USB drive
  5. Install macOS High Sierra on USB via UniBeast
  6. Copy MultiBeast on USB

BIOS settings

For BIOS settings I, again, followed Tonymac’s guide for recommended settings. Aside from that I checked Stork’s Gene Build guide for additional BIOS settings as he used Asus board also. Anyhow, I will list some of my additional setting that you could find useful. I generally ticked on all the settings that could improve system stability.

  • Go to Ai Tweaker Menu and choose ASUS MultiCore Enhancement/Disable for Intel stock operation
  • Go to Ai Tweaker Menu/DRAM Timing Control and choose MCH Full Check/Enable
  • Go to Ai Tweaker Menu/External DIGI+ VRM/CPU VRM Switching Frequency and choose VRM Spread Spectrum/Enable
  • Go to Ai Tweaker Menu/External DIGI+ VRM and choose GT Power Phase Control/Standard
  • Go to Advanced/System Agent Configuration/Graphics Configuration and choose Primary Display/PEG
  • Go to Advanced/Onboard Devices Configuration and choose PCI-EX16_Bandwith/X4 Mode
  • Go to Advanced/Onboard Devices Configuration and choose M.2 and SATA Express Mode Configuration/SATA Express

#Update 1 Just recently updated BIOS to Version 3703. It packs updates to Intel CPU microcode for possible fix of Spectre and Meltdown attacks that were recently published. Update was straight forward, just put BIOS file (.cap) on USB stick, restart and go to BIOS and then use Asus Easy Flash utility. Just to note, after update I had to manually set above mentioned settings again. MacOS booted normally after the update but your mileage may vary so please be careful.

Installing

Now to get back to installation. Again, I followed Tonymac’s guide to install macOS. One note that I don’t know if it’s regular or no but after first boot from macOS High Sierra to install, system just restarts. After that, installation continues normally. Side note, for all booting I used Inject USB and USB ownership ticked.

Anyway, with that done, I landed on desktop. And you should too!


Post installation

MultiBeast

First thing that I ran was MultiBeast that is on installation USB. You can see options that I checked.

Complete Multibeast selection

#Update 1 Replaced separate Multibeast screens with final one. I thought it to be redundant because original installation Tonymac’s guide has all parts covered in-depth. Old screenshots can be found in album gallery.

Clover

After installing Multibeast components I downloaded latest Clover EFI boot loader. You can see options that I checked in next pictures.

Clover general screen

Clover drivers screen

#Update 1 There are some changes to Clover EFI that I made following release of Standalone tonymacx86 Clover Builds. If you already have installed clover with EmuVariableUefi-64.efi and OsxAptioFix2Drv-64.efi you should run Clover Emulated NVRAM Uninstaller. After that I have downloaded latest Clover EFI where I changed from OsxAptioFix2Drv-64.efi to OsxAptioFix3Drv-64.efi to bring back native NVRAM support.

Clover update to OsxAptioFix3Drv-64.efi

Nvidia WEB drivers

With that installed I downloaded Nvidia latest web drivers for macOS High Sierra. After that was done I restarted the system directly to boot drive without any flags. Fortunately, everything turned out fine and I was on a desktop.

How that went fine, I automatically downloaded and installed latest CUDA drivers to use.

Screenshot of CUDA panel

#Update 1 After applying new OsxAptioFix3Drv-64.efi I made changes to config.plist to accommodate native NVRAM support. First I have changed NvidiaWeb in System Parameters and added Boot arguments. I haven't come up with this by myself but cannot pinpoint to person or the post that suggested this (really sorry for that and I will try to find original post).

<key>Boot</key>
<dict>
<key>Arguments</key>
<string>nvda_drv=1</string>​
</dict>​

<key>SystemParameters</key>
<dict>
<key>NvidiaWeb</key>
<false/>​
</dict>​

Aside from that, latest Nvidia drivers are causing some problem with newer builds, Skylake and up. Although I haven't had so bad of a lag I chose to fix it. To get pass that small glitch I followed post #21 by ccerny3394 who quoted post #125 by Fuximus. With that in mind, I'm currently using Nvidia WebDrivers 378.10.10.10.25.106 and they work flawlessly.

Audio

Next was audio. That is why I left it unchecked in MultiBeast. Following Toledo's guide is god send when it comes to audio. By following it down to last words I got audio to work properly without Voodoo patches. Also, macOS updates doesn't seem to break this way of patching audio.

At this point everything was working fine. Now was time to play around with more settings.

#Update 1 I have attached used SSDT-HDEF-HDAS-1.aml in attachments just for it to be in one place.

SSDT

I haven’t realised that but when I read Stork’s Gene Build guide I saw that he used custom SSDT file. Well, I also did the same following his guide.

#Update 1 I created custom SSDT using Piker-Alpha ssdtPRGen.sh script just in case. I have attached SSDT.aml file in attachments if you would like to use it.

SSDT-USB

#Update 1 I have added this section as I just recently managed to successfully use this method for getting USB ports to work properly.

To properly fix USB ports I have followed ammulder 10.11.0-10.11.3 Skylake Starter Guide. Aside from that I used vcn SSDT for Asus Z170-A as a reference and starting point. With that in I was able to assign ports relatively successfully.

I have attached SSDT-USB.aml in attachments that is for this motherboard for you to use and to finish it. For now I have working front 2 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, back 2 USB 2.0 ports and 2 USB 3.0 ports. If you make successful changes please let me know!

Memory

By following ammulder's guide, I added my memory configuration in config.plist. Although they were correctly listed, I don’t think they were right channels. By writing them down I got them to be on appropriate channels. You could use Clover Configurator for that, but down below you can see how it looks in config.plist if out want to add it manually.

<key>Memory</key>
<dict>
<key>Channels</key>
<integer>2</integer>
<key>Modules</key>
<array>
<dict>
<key>Frequency</key>
<integer>2400</integer>
<key>Part</key>
<string>Part number</string>
<key>Serial</key>
<string>Serial Number</string>
<key>Size</key>
<integer>16384</integer>
<key>Slot</key>
<integer>1</integer>
<key>Type</key>
<string>DDR4</string>
<key>Vendor</key>
<string>Kingston</string>​
</dict>
<dict>
<key>Frequency</key>
<integer>2400</integer>
<key>Part</key>
<string>Part Number</string>
<key>Serial</key>
<string>Serial Number</string>
<key>Size</key>
<integer>16384</integer>
<key>Slot</key>
<integer>3</integer>
<key>Type</key>
<string>DDR4</string>
<key>Vendor</key>
<string>Kingston</string>​
</dict>​
</array>
<key>SlotCount</key>
<integer>4</integer>​
</dict>
#Update 1 I have changed slots from 0 and 2 to 1 and 3 so they correspond with motherboard placement. I don't know if that does something but I just thought I would be more appropriate.

PCI Devices

#Update 1 I have added this section for future development. In kgp How to build your own iMac Pro [Successful Build/Extended Guide] guide I saw sections about PCI devices implementation. Hopefully I will be able to recreate something like that and of course, if you have any suggestions about that please let me know.

Configuration

That was pretty much all that I have done. Beside aforementioned steps, I cleaned up config.plist by removing unneeded entries mostly for fixes. I had to add Fix Shutdown because, at first, it constantly rebooted after pressing shut down button. Also, I removed additional boot options from Clover so I'm left with just boot drive. You can see example below.

<key>GUI</key>
<dict>
<key>Hide</key>
<array>
<string>Windows</string>
<string>\EFI\BOOT\BOOTX64.EFI</string>
<string>Preboot</string>
<string>Recovery</string>​
</array>​

#Update 1 I have attached my current config.plist in attachments below for you to check it out or to give me some suggestion to improve it.

iMessages

I tried to fix iMessages by following P1LGRIM guide but unfortunately I hadn’t have any luck with it. Hope you fare better then I. Although I recommend doing steps outlined in that guide because it just cleans up some other things in your system.

#Update 1 By doing updates and fixes described in section starting with #Update 1 I got iMessages and FaceTime to work! I don't really know how, but I suspect it has to do something with latest updates to Clover EFI. My guess is that new native NVRAM support has fixed this problem for me. I still recommend you follow aforementioned guide to get it working properly.


Summary

All in all, I must say I'm happy with the results. Hopefully you are too and that this short guide (kinda) helped you a bit. This was really fun, mostly because there is so much things that you have to check and try and restart from scratch until you get a hang off it. This was my first build so I don't really expect every thing to work just yet, but thankfully for all the people here it's not really unstable (I'm writing this on in just now).

Installation can be little frustrating but by taking nice amount of time and patience it can be very fluid. And definitely don't try this on your only system. But then again, end result it really worth the effort!

What works

For now I can see that everything is almost working. At least main component work as expected.

  • USB hub on monitor is working properly
  • Front panel USB also works properly
  • #Update 1 Back panel USB on motherboard are working properly (USB 3.1 tested and they are working but are not shown in the same place as other USB ports)
  • GPU is working properly with CUDA technology
  • CPU is working properly with all states (checked by AppleIntelCPUPowerManagementInfo.kext)
  • iCloud, iTunes and App Store is working properly
  • Ethernet is working properly (might I say, better then on Windows)
  • Audio is working properly
  • Notifications are coming as expected
  • Shutdown and restart are working properly (don't know for sleep as I never use it)
  • #Update 1 iMessages and FaceTime is working
  • #Update 1 Notification Centre is now working properly

What doesn't work

There are few things that aren't really working as expected. Hopefully I will find some answer for them (or some nice person will). Anyhow, they are not so major issues.

  • In hardware monitoring everything is working (even GPU) except voltages, they are totally off


Benchmarks

Here are some benchmarks for this system.

Disk speed test for NVMe drive, SSD and raid 1 HDD

Combined benchmarks for system in Novabench 4.0.1 and Cinebench R15

GPU benchmarks in Octanebench and Unigine Valley

System idle on desktop after boot

System load with Unigine Valley and terminal yes command on all cores/threads


Updates

I will follow up this guide with updates as soon as I change something (or break something). Of course, if you have suggestions for this build overall I will give my best to include or try them.

(2018/02/27) Added #Update 1 section as a result of 3 months regular use period with updated benchmarks
(2017/11/16) Added benchmarks for the current configuration
 

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