Sunday, August 26, 2007

How to Build Your Own PC

This guide will show you how to construct a brand spanking new PC and where relevant I’ll try to point out where things may differ slightly when dealing with older machines. First up you’ll need a few tools of the trade before you can start putting anything together, you can usually buy kits from your local computer store which will have all you need to get going, but if you wish to buy things individually here are the main tools you’ll need.

• Anti-static wristband
• Head screwdriver
• Flathead screwdriver

Remember to wear your Anti-Static wristband when dealing with fragile things susceptible to static such as the CPU and RAM, you don’t have to wear it all the time but just as a precaution you may want to keep it on during the course of putting your PC together, if you accidentally fry your CPU or RAM you’ll be kicking yourself for quite sometime - so remember that wristband.

The Case

If you’ve purchased a fairly decent case it’ll have it’s own 250-300 watt power supply. Anything lower and you may run into trouble with devices not having enough power to work. It will have come with a set of screws don’t worry if you find yourself coming up short of a specific screw just try to place them out evenly so the device you're screwing in is secure, I just presume case companys are evil and are trying to deprive us of screws, however if you have some spare don’t worry - you haven’t missed anything. They will be for other devices you may want to add in later on. The side panels of the case should be easily removable by just taking out a couple of screws; both sides should then be able to slide off.

Now you should have a clear view of the inside of the case ready for you to start fitting things in.

The Motherboard

Depending on your type of case it will either be in a fixed position or have a tray which can slide out to attach the motherboard. If it is a fixed plate you will have to lay the case on its side to install the motherboard. Now you can screw in the spacer mounts, these are the screws your mother board will sit on try to spread them out evenly as the tray may have several holes for spacer screws to fit in and you only have so many spacers, this is dependant on different mother boards so remember to screw in the spacers in a position which will align with the holes on the motherboard.

Once you’ve aligned the holes in the motherboard with the spacers you can now screw down the motherboard.

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) and Cooler

To insert the CPU into the socket on the motherboard you will first have to raise the lever on the side of the socket.

The socket will have a pin slot missing and the processor will have a pin missing and will have the corner coloured or marked in some way to indicate that it is the corner you must align with the missing pin slot, once aligned properly the processor will fit in easily without any force needing to be applied, once the processor is in lower the lever on the side of the socket to lock the processor in place. If your processor has come with a thermal pad or thermal paste you will need to apply this to the top of the processor now this helps to transfer heat to the cooler, after you have done this you can place the cooler on top of the processor. On older motherboards the cooler will have clips that fix to the motherboard which will click into place, the newer coolers for P4 will simply have 2 levers on either side of the cooler. Raise these then place the cooler on top of the processor and lower the levers to lock the cooler in place. Make sure the cooler is firmly attached. If it comes loose it can cause serious damage and on older processors you can wave bye bye if this happens to your processor, though all modern processors will have some degree of thermal protection to prevent overheating.

Now connect the power.

The RAM (Random Access Memory)

The RAM is easy to install. Different types of RAM will have the notch in different positions. Make sure you have the right type of RAM for your motherboard - check your motherboard manual to ensure this. Presuming you're using the right kind of RAM, the notch at the bottom will line up with the key in the memory slot. Now line it up and carefully press the memory into the slot - a little force may need to be applied to get it to seat correctly in the slot then once the clips close your know its securely seated. When dealing with older RAM it may be necessary to insert it on an angle to get it to fit in correctly.

AGP (Advanced Graphics Port)

All good modern video cards will need to be seated in the AGP slot, if you're dealing with an older video card it may need to be seated in the PCI slot which we will cover later, the AGP slot will be brown in colour. You will need to remove the metal tab at the back of the case, if it’s a new case you can just break these off, afterwards though you will need to screw in or use a plastic clip to hold the metal tab in place. Only do this if you have broken off a tab and do not intend to place a PCI card there. Installing the graphics card is easy - simply insert it into the slot and make sure it is seated correctly then use a screw to hold it in place.

PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect)

Installing PCI cards such as sound cards and network cards are the same as installing the graphics card. There will be several free slots for various PCI cards, try to space them out if possible to prevent heat build up in the system. Once you have installed a PCI card it is best not to remove it then place it in another slot as this can cause IRQ conflicts with some motherboards.

Floppy Disk

To install the disk drive simply slide it into the drive bay remembering to remove the plastic front panels first and removing any metal panels behind this by knocking them out. It will be the smaller of the drive bays and will be located nearer the bottom compared to the larger CD-ROM drive bays which will be located nearer the top. Once you have slid the Floppy disk drive in, secure it with screws.

HDD (Hard Disk Drive)

The HDD goes in a similar way as floppy disk but will be hidden behind the casing and is fixed into position in the exact same way as the floppy disk drive, except will only require 2 screws instead of four. Just remember to set the drive as you want it either master single or slave. This is done by changing the jumper settings at the back of the drive.

CD-ROM (Compact Disk-Read Only Memory)

Putting in the CD-ROM drive or CD-Writer is the same as putting in the HDD - just remember to use the fine threaded screws, also remember to first set the jumper settings to either slave or master bearing in mind you cannot have 2 masters.

Ribbon Cables

Ok so now everything you want is installed and you’re getting close to finishing up but first you will need to connect all the cables. There are two main ribbon cables - the 40 pin IDE cable for the hard disk and CD-ROM drive and the 34 pin cable for the floppy drive. Cables are always colour coded to show pin 1. Most drives also provide some kind of identification for pin 1. If you find that this is not the case, just remember that pin 1 is the one next to the power plug.

Drive Power Connectors

The drive power connection is the large 4 pin connection they can only fit in one way so don’t worry about plugging them in the wrong way around, a bit of force to ensure there fitting snugly may be needed. Just remember the floppy drive will use a smaller plug. The last plug is the larger ATX plug that plugs into the power socket on the motherboard.

Other Connections

For this part you may want to refer to your motherboard manual which will clearly point out where each plug goes, it will also have abbreviations on the motherboard to point out where each connection should be plugged in for example.

• RS, RE, RST or RESET: connect the two-pin Reset cable here.
• HD, HDD LED: these two pins connect to the cable for the hard disk activity LED.
• SP, SPK, or SPEAK: the loudspeaker output. It has four pins.
• PWR, PW, PW SW, PS or Power SW: power switch, the PC's on/off switch. The plug is two-pin.
• PW LED, PWR LED or Power LED: the light located on the front panel of the case lights up when the computer is switched on. It is a two pin cable.

If you find a light not working try reversing the plug.

One last check

Now your PC is completely assembled but you may want to make a last minute check of the system before turning it on. Make sure all cables are properly connected and that all devices are properly seated or screwed in, you may want to leave the case cover off when turning the PC on for the first time just in case something isn’t connected correctly. If you hear any beeps this will indicate that something is not correctly connected or seated.

Congratulations you can now feel the satisfaction from having put your own PC together.

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