1- to build, or not to build?: When thinking about a new desktop PC, there's a few things to consider before making any purchases. Buying a computer from a popular manufacturer guarantees reliability, and tech-support for any time within the purchased warranty. Plus, its a whole lot easier than building your own computer. However, when building a computer, you have the ability of complete customization (a better graphics card, a cooler looking case, etc.) and the advantage of saving a lot of money. The build I will be using as a demonstration cost a total of $800 (excluding a monitor, keyboard, mouse or speakers), whereas an Alienware™ computer of the exact same features was sold for about $1,900 at dell.com. So building a computer can save you a lot of money (mainly in higher end ones), its just harder. You'll have to decide for yourself if you could manage the task without causing damage, or becoming lost in the process of hooking everything up. One small mistake can cause your computer to become unusable, and you'll have no idea what part isn't working.
2- components: to build a working computer, you will need the following:
graphics card (in most situations)
sound card (optional. most motherboards have audio output on them, sound cards just provide better quality and volume)
an operating system disc
speakers (optional, but highly recommended)
a screwdriver (for building)
here are the parts I will be using:
Apevia X-Dreamer II case with 420W power supply
Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R LGA 1366 Intel X58 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
Intel Core™ i7 Processor at 2.8 GHz
4GB of Kingston DDR3 RAM
HIS Radeon HD 5670 graphics card
Idimax Wireless card
Western Digital 320GB hard drive at 7200 RPM
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit
I'll be recycling my old computer's DVD drive, and moving my keyboard, mouse, monitor, and speakers over to this computer
When buying your parts, be sure to:
-order them from the same place. I recommend www.newegg.com, its where I bought all my parts
-order them at the same time. This will help ensure that if anything goes wrong, returns will be more secure
-Make sure your parts are compatible. Your motherboard is the big aspect of this. you need to make sure it supports the type of processor that you want, the RAM that you want, and fits in your case.
3- starting the build; assembling on the motherboard
You've got your parts, now its time to get started. You'll first need to unbox your case and motherboard. Feel free to take the case out of the box with only concern to not drop it, but the motherboard you need to take several precautions. be sure to ground yourself (releasing all static electricity). you can do this simply by touching your case, or any other piece of metal, such as a bed frame, or even the screw in the middle of an electrical outlet. Do this often throughout the building process, as to not shock and short-circuit any of your parts. A more advanced option is to buy an anti-static wrist strap and/or mat. So take the motherboard out of the box, remove the anti-static cover, and, holding it by the edges, either place it straight on a desk, or with the cover under it.
the next step is to put the processor in the motherboard. remove the processor from any packaging EXCEPT the small plastic cover directly enclosing the processor itself. set that on the desk for now. open up the processor slot on your motherboard (the place where the yellow sticker that says "note!" on it is in the picture). You'll need to do this by pulling the plastic lever on the side slightly outward and then up. then pull the main cover back, being sure to not touch any pins inside Now, open up your processor, and, holding it by the very edges and not touching any pins on the bottom, bring it close to the slot. notice a small notch and a yellow triangle marked on the processor. match this up with the same things on the motherboard slot, and simply place the processor in. This should require ZERO force at all. if something didn't work, you either have a non-compatible processor and motherboard, or you aligned the processor wrong. check both of these factors. if things went right, you should be able to flip the main cover down, and pull the lever back down (which will take some force). Now it should look something like this:
the next step is to put on the heat sink. your processor should have come with one. align the 4 posts of the heat sink with the 4 holes on the motherboard. set it down accordingly, and push the 4 posts down and twist them the direction shown on the posts themselves. Then plug in the cable on the heat sink to the "CPU-FAN" port on your motherboard
Next, RAM. Open up your RAM and bring a chip close to the motherboard's slots, located directly below the processor and heat sink shown in the picture above. check the notch in the RAM, and rotate it accordingly to fit the notch in the slot. You'll need to check your motherboard's instruction manual for RAM placement configurations. Open up the clips on the sides of the slots, and push the RAM chip in until they close again
I apologize, I took this picture before realizing I had the alignment of the RAM wrong. Be sure to check your motherboard's manual.
4- Getting parts in the case
Before attempting to seat your motherboard in your case, you need to have the right I/O shield. your motherboard includes one, but your case might have a generic one already in. punch this out with the back of a screwdriver, and push your's in the slot
Next, in the spot you'll be seating the motherboard, you need to install standoffs. there should be several screw holes on the motherboard tray and the motherboard itself, figure out which ones you need with your's. your motherboard should include standoffs, which look like screws, but they have a space for a regular screw to go in the top. when you've gotten all the standoffs you need in, set the motherboard on top of them, lining up the screw holes with the standoffs. then, take the included screws, and screw the motherboard in
Now that we have the motherboard in the case, its time to get the rest of our parts in.
CD/DVD drive- slide this in to the appropriate slot in your case, and screw it in
This case has a fan at the top, which I actually had to remove, and then put back in to get the DVD drive to fit.
Hard drive- all cases are different. Some have slots that you can simply slide a hard drive into, others have several places to screw in a drive, keeping them stored vertically. any way your case holds a hard drive should be pretty self-explanatory. Just make sure you've got it in the right place.
Graphics card- although it connects directly to your motherboard, its easier to install a graphics card once the motherboard is in the case. First, check your card's instructions to see which type of slot you need to put it into (PCI x16 is what I believe mine was). find the according slot on your motherboard, labeled in white lettering near the slot it refers to. Line up your card with the slot you're going to put it in, and see where any heat exhaust and monitor output ports will go. Punch out the according metal tab(s) covering that space. the same goes for a sound card or a wireless card
Power Supply Unit (PSU)-
If your case doesn't come with one, you'll need to install this. find the spot designated for the power supply (usually at the top of the case). Very carefully, as to not drop it on any parts, lower it into the case. Line everything up, and screw it in.
This is something like what you should have so far
Wow, lots and lots of cables, which brings us to our next section
5- Hooking up cables
Possibly the most annoying part of the entire building process.
Start with power cables. there should be an extremely wide plug coming from your power supply. Plug that into your motherboard. If you're using a higher end processor, you may need to plug a smaller, 4 or 8 pin cable from the power supply to the motherboard on the upper right side (relative in the picture shown above. The cable I'm referring to is on a yellow wire and is plugged in). Next, locate the 4 pin, flat looking plugs coming from your power supply. Plug one into the hard drive(s), the DVD drive(s), possibly the graphics card, and any lights or fans you have.
Next, data cables. plug the SATA cable (a thin, L shaped cable) from the hard drive(s) to the SATA port(s) on the motherboard. be sure the orientation is correct. the side of the cable that is plugged into the hard drive should bend off to the side at a right angle. you should have another wide cable for the DVD drive(s). One end of the cable should have two plugs on it. plug the one on the very end into the primary drive, and if you have a second one, plug the port in the middle of the cable into that drive. if your case has front USB ports, plug the cable marked "USB" into a port labeled "F_USB 1" on your motherboard. Last but not least, there should be either one big cable or several single-pin cables to plug into your motherboard in the port below the CD drive one. all the wires are color coated (if there's multiple wires), so it should be easy. if there's no cables left unplugged inside, you should be ready to close up the case. Now for external cables. plug in a monitor cable into your graphics card (if you have multiple monitors, only plug one in for now). plug in a wired keyboard and mouse (wireless ones don't always work unless you have an operating system to recognize it). plug in your speakers, and finally, the power cable from the PSU to the wall. make sure that if your PSU has a switch, turn it on.
6-booting up and installing an operating system
The moment of truth. Press the power button. If everything's working, you'll see any lights or fans you have turn on. A screen with your motherboard's logo on it will show up. Depending on the motherboard, you'll press a certain f# key to go to boot options. open your CD drive and put in your operating system disk. select "CD drive" on the list of boot options. you'll now get a windows background screen. it may take a while, but eventually a setup menu will appear. Follow the instructions and you'll be on your way!
the final result:
Lights and Fans turn on, but no boot up screen- possibly a problem with your graphics card. is the fan on it spinning? if so, then you may need to plug in the secondary power cable to your motherboard (see section 4). if not, make sure your graphics card is pushed in enough, and is in the right slot.
No response at all when power button is pressed- check your motherboard's main power connection, and the power supply (make sure its on and plugged in). If that doesn't work, check the connection for the power button to the motherboard
if you have any other issues or questions, leave a comment, or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org