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Thread: A Basic Guide to building your own PC.

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    Jauris's Avatar
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    A Basic Guide to building your own PC.

    WIP

    This is a guide I've posted on pretty much every forum I've been a part of. It is made by me, and I intend on getting a slightly revised version up soon. ( Better formatting, etc ). If you have any suggestions, feel free to post them here, or PM me.

    Basic tools
    Before you begin building or upgrading a computer, you will need some basic tools:
    1. #2 Phillips-head screwdriver
    2. Needle-nose pliers
    3. Anti-static Wrist Strap
    4. A large level working space


    Optional, but helpful tools
    Some other tools and equipment can come in handy as well, such as:
    1. Electrical tape
    2. Wire or nylon ties
    3. Flashlight, preferably hands-free
    4. A second, working computer to swap parts, look for tips, ask for help on-line, download drivers and patches, etc. - very useful
    5. A can of compressed air - useful when working with older parts that have collected dust.


    Preparation
    Proper preparation is the key to a successful build. Before you begin, make sure you have all the tools you will need, and secure a clear, well-lit workspace. Gather all the components you’ll be using and unpack them .At this point you should leave the parts themselves in their protective anti-static bags, and assemble all the manuals. Now I know you want to get started, but trust me, read the manuals, check the diagrams, make sure you understand where each part goes and how it attaches. If there is anything you don’t understand, now is the time to do a little extra Internet research or call the manufacturer with your questions.

    Find a dry, well-ventilated place to do your work. You should have plenty of light and if possible, you should choose an area without carpet on the floor, as carpet tends to create a lot of static. A basement is a good place to work. (Or a kitchen table, assuming the area is tile or wood paneling).


    Safety
    - Static electricity is the biggest danger to the expensive parts you are about to assemble, even a tiny shock, much too small for you to feel, can damage or ruin the components. Once you have the power supply installed in the case, clip the end of the wrist strap to the outside of the power supply. (Never plug your computer in while you are connected to it by a wrist strap.) This will make sure that you, the case and the power supply are all connected to a common ground, in other words there will be no charge that will allow a spark to jump from you to the case. Turn off your computer and switch off your Power Supply at the wall before installing or removing any components - if power is flowing to components as they are installed or removed, they can be seriously damaged. In order to have a computer properly grounded, you need it plugged in at the wall but turned off at the power supply and at the wall.

    - Beware of sharp edges! Many low-end PC cases have sharp, unfinished edges. Try not to cut yourself.


    Install your CPU
    Installing your CPU in your motherboard is a very simple but delicate process.First you want to unlock the CPU socket. Generally there will be a small plastic or metal arm that lies on the side of the CPU socket. To unlock it, just push it out and then pull it up.

    Now you need to align the CPU to the socket. Different processors have different pin layouts on the bottom, but normally one corner will have a diagonal section without any pins that's different from the others (often this corner will be labeled by a small triangle on the top of the CPU). Find the corresponding corner on your motherboard's CPU socket and gently lower the CPU into the socket.Be aware, there should be no pushing or snapping involved in this process. The CPU, if correctly aligned, should simply fall (gently!) into place.Now just lower and lock the socket arm, which in turn will lock your CPU into your motherboard.


    Install the Heatsink/Fan
    Installing your CPU's stock heatsink and fan is also a pretty painless process. In some instances you'll have to apply a thermal compound to your CPU before installing your heatsink. However many stock heatsink / fans will come with a thermal pad on the bottom of the heatsink (normally a soft gray thing), in which case you won't need any thermal paste.

    - If your heatsink does not come with thermal paste pre – applied, look at the manual for the heatsink, and also see if it came with any paste. The most common way to apply the thermal compound is by putting a RICE SIZED drop of it in the center of the CPU top.

    Find the mounting hooks on the sides of your CPU socket, match them up with the clamps on the sides of the heatsink, and lower the heatsink onto your CPU. Hook the heatsink to the socket, and then pull the locking arm until it snaps into place. Different heatsinks will lock in different manners, but they're all relatively easy to figure out. (Read the manual!) After your heatsink is locked securely in place, you need to attach the fan's power connector to the motherboard's fan header. You'll need to consult your motherboard's manual to find the right header on your motherboard (it should be very close to the CPU).


    Install the Motherboard
    Find the motherboard standoffs (spacers) that should have come with the case. They are screws, usually brass, with hexagonal heads that are tapped so you can fasten screws into the top. These hold the motherboard up off the case preventing a short circuit. Put these to the side.

    Remove the I/O Shield from the back of the case where the ports on the back of the motherboard will fit, and put in the I/O Shield that came with your motherboard. There may be small metal tabs on the inside of this face plate, if so you may have to adjust them to accommodate the ports on the back of the motherboard.

    Now locate the screw holes on your motherboard and find the corresponding holes on the motherboard plate (or tray) in the case. Put a standoff in each of these holes on the tray and position the motherboard so that you can see the holes in the top of the standoffs through the screw holes in the motherboard.

    Now is the time to make sure the ports on the motherboard are mating with the backplate you just installed, and make any needed changes. The small metal tabs are supposed to make contact with the metal parts of the connections on the back of the motherboard and ground them, but you may have to bend these tabs a bit to get the ports all properly mounted, this is where those needle-nose pliers may come in handy.

    Installing RAM
    This is easy enough. Just locate the RAM sockets on your motherboard and find an empty one. If you've never installed RAM in your computer, you should have at least one or two empty slots. When you're choosing the socket in which to install your RAM, again you should consult your manual. For example, your motherboard may require you to fill the sockets in a particular order. In my computer, my motherboard supports dual-channel mode, but the sticks of RAM need to be installed in the correct sockets for this to work.

    Next, the RAM retaining clips need to be opened up in order for RAM to be installed. All you need to do is press the retaining clips outward, opening the socket for installation.
    Now pick up your stick of RAM by the edges - it's best not to get your fingerprints all over the working parts of the memory itself. The RAM should be slotted so that it can fit in the socket only one way, so just line up the slotted RAM withyour motherboard's RAM socket. Firmly press the RAM until it is seated securely in the socket. If your socket has retaining clips, press down until the clips snap back into place.After this, your RAM should be properly seated and installed.


    Installing your Hard Drive
    Generally the hard drive bays are located toward the front of the PC. It should be easy to find. To keep your hard drives cool, it's a good practice to keep an open hard drive bay between your installed drives if you've got the space.
    Mounting the hard drive in your enclosure varies from case to case. On my case, the hard drive mounts to a slide that can easily snap in and out of the hard drive enclosure. Other cases require you to mount directly in the case. Either way, this isn't difficult. Just line up the screws with the holes in your hard drive and mount away. Some cases require you to mount to the side of the drive, others mount to the bottom.

    From here on out, it's a simple of matter of matching square pegs to square holes. First, find a free power connector and connect it to the hard drive. Next, connect the interface cable to your hard drive. In my example, the cable is an SATA connector, but it's the same idea with an IDE drive. ( If it’s an older HDD)
    For your optical drive, it is essentially the same steps as your HDD.


    Installing the GPU
    Find an open PCIe slot on your motherboard. The number of available PCI slots varies from motherboard to motherboard, but if you've never installed a GPU before, you should certainly have an opening or three. (Check the manual for which slot is which, not all slots are created equally!)

    If you've got a few open spots, consider leaving an empty slot between cards to help keep things cool inside your PC (this isn't a huge deal, but a good practice if you've got room for it).
    Once you've chosen a PCIe slot, remove the screw holding the PCIe slot cover in place (in some cases, you may need to remove the screw above and below the slot cover). Though you won't need the cover anymore (your card will take its place), hold onto that screw - you'll be needing it later.

    This is probably the easiest part of the whole process. First, remove your GPU from the anti-static wrapping. When handling the card, be gentle. Try to hold the card by the metal bracket and the edges - it’s best not to get your fingerprints all over the back of the card itself.Align your GPU tabs with the open slot on your motherboard and firmly press down on the mounting bracket and the top edge of the card until the card is snuggly secured into position. All that's left of the card installation is to screw the mounting bracket screw from before into your new PCIe card bracket, securing your card in its place.


    Installing the PSU
    Installing your power supply is pretty straightforward, if it came with your case it was pre-installed and if you took it out earlier to get the motherboard in, now is the time to put it back. Otherwise, a few moments of screwdriver work will get the job done. Generally there will be a bracket on the top of the case where the power supply is mounted and a few screws will fix it in place. Some cases place the Power Supply differently; see the documentation that came with yours.
    Some power supplies come with modular cables, so you can plug in only those you’ll be using, now is a good time to figure out what you’ll need and plug them in. Other power supplies have all the cables hardwired in, you’ll want to separateout the ones you’ll need and neatly coil the remainder somewhere out of the way.

    If your power supply has a switch to select 115v or 220v make sure it is set properly, this is important. Many newer power supplies can automatically select and don’t have such a switch. Once you get the power supply installed you should plug the main power, a 20 or 24 pin plug, into the motherboard. There may also be an additional four or eight pin power lead on the motherboard that needs to be plugged in, this is usually located near the processor socket. Make sure you check the motherboard carefully for the location of the power sockets.

    What now?
    The moment of truth now approaches, time to take a deep breath, exhale slowly, then take a moment to check one more time that everything is as it should be. Press the power button, and observe the inside of the open machine. (Do not touch any part of the inside of the machine while it is powered up – you will NOT die but your computer might.) The first thing to look for is that the CPU cooler fan spins up, if it does not, cut the power immediately. This fan should start up right away; something is wrong if it doesn’t and your CPU is in danger of overheating so stop now and troubleshoot.

    If the CPU fan spins up, check that all the other fans that should be spinning – case fans and fans on the power supply and video card (if installed) are also spinning. Some of these fans may not spin up until a temperature threshold is passed, check your documentation if anything is not spinning.

    If the fans spin, you can turn your attention to the monitor, what you are hoping to see is the motherboard’s splash-screen, usually featuring the manufacturer’s logo. If you see this, take a moment to bask in the glow, you’ve built a computer!

    If this happy event does not occur, if smoke appears, or if the computer does not do anything, unplug the power cord immediately and check the steps above to make sure you have not missed anything. Give special attention to the cables and power connections. If the computer does appear to come on, but, you hear beeps, listen carefully to the beeps, turn the computer off, and refer to your motherboard's manual for the meaning of the beeps. Some boards have a diagnostic device, usually a set of LEDs, which when plugged in will inform you of the of the problem. If the computer turns on but the only thing that comes on is your power supply, turn it off. This probably means something is shorted, and leaving it on could damage the parts.
    Last edited by Jauris; 03-16-2012 at 05:17 PM.

  2. #2

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    The font.... My eyes.....

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    I'd love to read this, but yeah, the color..

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    Jauris's Avatar
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    Heh, again, the formatting and colors are a WIP. Just the default grey for the main body text?

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    Much better

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    Well, I didn't read it completely but you should leave the PSU and the frontal panel connectors as a last thing.
    And also tell the person where to find the Motherboard manual to see where everything is connected.

    Other than, it's a great basic guide =)

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    Jauris's Avatar
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    @Monark


    I'd really hope I wouldn't need to tell people where to find their manuals... They should come in the box.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jauris View Post
    @Monark


    I'd really hope I wouldn't need to tell people where to find their manuals... They should come in the box.
    Oh yes *facepalm*
    Nevermind, it's cause I removed everything from mine 2 days ago and had to use a manual to connect the frontal panel back.

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