Tutorial: How to build a computer

Networking/Security Forums -> Hardware // Upgrades

Author: MattALocation: Eastbourne + London PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 11:12 am    Post subject: Tutorial: How to build a computer
Building your own PC
A tutorial by Matt Atkinson (c) Jan 1st 2005

First steps

When choosing components for a new computer it is always a good idea first to decide on the components you intend to use then check the manufacturerís website in order to make sure that the manufacturer recommends the components you intend using.

For example, check the processor manufacturer recommends the cooling device and motherboard you intend using on their website, and they are on the hardware compatibility list for Windows XP or the operating system you intend using.

Note that some newer technologies are not fully supported by Windows i.e. SATA which only fully supports it in Service pack 1 and you'd need to install some drivers manually as part of the driver installation phase early on in the operating system installation. Also hard drives with a larger capacity than 138 Gb are'nt supported until SP1 either (48 bit addressing is'nt supported 32 bit is) Windows 2000 supports it from SP 3

Check the website http://www.tomshardware.com and http://www.anandtech.com/ for reviews of different components compared against each other. Websites such as http://www.kelkoo.com compare component prices from a number of suppliers to get you the best deal. Ebay might be cheap but remember there's no warranty on
these parts (although legally you can return it within 14 days for a complete refund under the distance selling regulations (EU only).

Before proceeding touch the computer case to discharge any static electricity you may be carrying it is recommended to wear an anti-static wrist wrap or discharge static build up on a nearby radiator to prevent accidental damage to the components through static electricity discharge.

Installing the processor and fan.

Lay the motherboard out on a table with the anti-static bag underneath. Bring the metal arm on the side of the socket on the motherboard up to a 90 degree angle.

The CPU only fits in one way, don't force the processor in or it will damage the pins on the processor which will irreparably damage the CPU. After fitting the CPU put the arm on the socket back down to hold the processor in place.

The next step is to fit the fan and heatsink, ensure both of these are approved by the CPU manufacturer.

When installing the heatsink ensure you cover the base of the heatsink with the thermal compound to ensure good conductivity, when doing this spread the paste thinly (2mm thick, more than this can cause the heatsink not to work efficiently) don't forget to remove the plastic covering on the base of the heatsink too.

The most important part of placing the heatsink on top of the processor is critical. Look at the underside of the heatsink you should see that it has a 'step' in it. The heatsink goes on with the step flush against the step in the socket.

Ensure that you attach the flat arm of the heatsink over the edges of the socket first, the arm with the 'hook' on it is put on afterwards using a screwdriver to push it over the edge of the socket on the other side. When applying force with the screwdriver push down then out to avoid damaging the motherboard, also ensure the screwdriver fits the hook well as you don't want it slipping out and through the motherboard.

After this attach the wire on the fan to the jumper on the motherboard marked fan1.

Installing the RAM

Push the clips on the edge of the DIMM sockets outwards, then line the memory up with the notches on the motherboard. Push the ram in firmly and ensure the white clips then go back into the notches
in the edges of the RAM. If the motherboard supports dual channels ensure that it goes into the correct slots. If you are using dual channels ensure that the RAM is from the same manufacturer and that CAS latency is identical. Check that the RAM used is supported on the motherboard and ideally recommended by the manufacturer.

NOTE: If you are using second hand or used memory you can check it works properly by using memtest http://www.memtest86.com/

Connecting The IDE and Floppy Disk Cables

Connect the IDE cable to the Primary IDE controller, ensure that the red (or white in my case) stripe is connected to pin 1. You can check which one is pin 1 on your motherboard manual frequently one of the holes in the connector is blocked and a pin is missing on the controller so you can't put it in the wrong slot, also there is a 'tooth' on the IDE connector that goes on to a slot on the controller.

Repeat the same procedure for the Floppy and CD-Rom.

If you have multiple hard drives ensure that one is set to master and the other slave by changing the jumper settings on the back of the Hard disk, ideally with 2 hard disks they should be on separate IDE controllers to optimise read/write operations. In this case they could both be set as master but on separate channels. Check with the hardrive manufacturer as to what the jumper settings should be. Also note how many cylinders, heads and sectors the drive has, as disks newer than the board won't be autodetected without a firmware update and may need to be setup manually in the CMOS.

Mount the motherboard into the case

If this is new case I'd recommend a pair of gardening gloves or great care when removing the tin plates at the front of the case where the hard disks go in. A blood sacrifice is occasionally necessary the first time a PC is powered up, but the blood shouldn't be yours.

Screw the standoffs into the case first then put the motherboard in ensuring that the holes around the edges of the motherboard go over the standoffs. After this put the backplate into the case over where the I/O connectors will go. Now put the motherboard into the case and screw it in, don't over tighten the screws or you could crack the motherboard.

Make sure the underside of the motherboard is not touching the case or it could create a short circuit on the motherboard.

Connect the Floppy and IDE drives

Firstly ensure that the drives are correctly set to Master and slave as outlined previously.
The hard disks require power (molex connector , the big D shaped one) and IDE cable. Ensure that the red stripe on the IDE cable goes to pin 1 on the hard disk, the Molex however connector cannot be connected the wrong way around. If the ribbon cable on the floppy drive is connected the wrong way around the green light on the front of the drive will stay on continually.

Connecting the Case LED's

Read your motherboard manual to locate the jumpers that you need to connect the case leads to.
The case leads should be marked, if they arenít trace them back to the front of the case to determine which is the correct one.

When connecting the case leads the darker wires are usually positive and the white wires are generally negative!


Lastly , add extra cooling. Most modern PCís and Motherboards run pretty hot (check with your manufacturer for the recommended temperature. Usually I add both a case fan and an extractor fan to my PCís this keeps the temperature down . Indications of inadequate cooling are sudden crashes when doing processor intensive activity.
When adding cooling make sure that the fans are put in the right way around i.e make sure they are blowing out rather than in (test with a bit of paper)

Testing the PC's stability

After youíve finished building the PC itís important to test it for stability. Usually a few hours of your favourite game is enough for this.
I like to test the temperature of my motherboard and processor with motherboard monitor 5

Sisoft Sandra is'nt bad for testing your PC's capabilities and the setup, it also builds up a great list of components if you are'nt sure what's in the box.

To benchmark your graphics card try 3DMark


Last edited by MattA on Tue Jan 04, 2005 1:16 pm; edited 4 times in total

Author: White ScorpionLocation: The Netherlands PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 12:45 pm    Post subject:
nicely done Wink

i haven't read it completely, since i don't think it will help me much (i build computers and fix them for a living), but for those who don't have a job like mine, i think this is a great tutorial, also the pics in the tutorial are a nice touch Wink.

keep up the good work MattA!

Author: dogsitterz PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 3:52 am    Post subject:
Reads very well Matt and nice pics that drive home the explainations given.

My opinion is it covers a huge range of topics too large for a tut. I think since you can't cover all common variations that either a well written note on what is not covered up front or where a note on the individual note on each common piece not covered where appropriate.

I'll keep the list of examples short because I don't intend this as a put down, I do intend this as correction of a possible oversight. Common missing topics would include slot cpu processors, AGP vs PCI for video cards, sound in general, exterior firewire or USB devices, onboard or external WI-FI options and the most important oversight is the various methods of sucessfully dealing with static electricity when working with sensitive electronics. Before the reader discharges a possible 5000 volts into a component made for 3.3 volts into a PC component.

Again, I like the idea, I think it just covers a subject usually left for 1000 plus page books. These books are long for good reasons.

This is all just my opinion so feel free to disregard all this.

Author: GiroLocation: England PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 12:26 pm    Post subject:
A note on static you can touch a radiator to discharge if you havent got a wrist strap. And
or it will damage the pins on the legs of the processor

Why not just say damage the pins, what are the legs?
thermal compound (usually silicon paste)

Isnt it normaly made out of silver. Also its best to get a good paste and not use the paste you sometimes get on the H/S.
white clips on the edge of the sockets

Some are black some are blue and to be a pain there DIMM sockets.
NOTE: If you arenít sure if the memory is compatible with the board you can use the memtest86 utility

I dont see how memtest is going to tell me if im using 266Mz RAM when I can have 333Mz.
After this put the backplate into the case over where the I/O connectors will go.

Should that not be done before putting the motherboard in?
When connecting the case leads the darker wires are usually positive and the white wires are generally negative!

They normally have a arrow pointing to pin 1 as well.

Also the photos are bad quality but good tut.

Author: MattALocation: Eastbourne + London PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 1:11 pm    Post subject:
Thanks all, it's a first effort and a work in progress. It's really intended so someone is able to put a PC together so I left out longer explanations in favour of staying on target.
Thanks for the comments, I've re-edited it Giro after your comments, my mind was obviously wandering off at points Wink .Yes the photo's are'nt good and I shall be replacing them when I have time.

Author: White ScorpionLocation: The Netherlands PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 2:02 pm    Post subject:
well, since you've got such a comment on your tutorial i decided to read it, and i've found one thing you should be careful with:
Lay the motherboard out on a table with the anti-static bag underneath. Bring the metal arm on the side of the socket on the motherboard up to a 90 degree angle.

remember, the outside of the bag is NOT anti-static, only the inside is...

for the rest, regardless of what others say, i think you did a great job!.
ok, there's always room for more explanation, but i think if people can not think for themselves (logical), they shouldn't start building a computer in the first place, and leave if to those who can.

like i said, i fix computers (hardware) for a living for several years now, and i've seen lots of stupid customers who tried to put a pcmcia card into a floppydrive and that kind of things, well those people shouldn't start building a system in the first place, for the rest of the world, who can think (logical) and are careful while doing so, i think your tutorial is more then enough (together with the mobo manual), to build a computer!

kind regards,

Author: 5pry73 PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 5:20 pm    Post subject:
Tell me if im wrong, but you can use the pc shell to discharge static can't you? By holding it or touching it... if its metal...

btw good stuff matt! Smile

Author: Tom BairLocation: Portland, Oregon USA PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2005 6:41 pm    Post subject:
5pry73 wrote:
Tell me if im wrong, but you can use the pc shell to discharge static can't you? By holding it or touching it... if its metal...

btw good stuff matt! Smile

Actually, no. That would only work if you had the power supply plugged in since it grounds the case. But then you would be in danger of causing power damages to the Mobo or components.

Best method is to use an Anti-static wrist strap. I've modified my own anti-static wrist strap on my home workbench to plug into an electrical outlet and utilize the ground plug. Goes without saying that the upper two prongs are not connected to anything and are used only to stabilize the plug-in.

I also have a 5 ft. by 4 ft. anti-static pad on my workbench which is also grounded. This came in handy during my 80286 days since they seemed awful prone to static-damage. However, lately; I've noticed hardware tends to be more static-proof. You'd not believe the many conditions of installation I've observed over the past few years which totally astound me.

Author: 5pry73 PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 10:07 pm    Post subject:
yeah i didn't think so...

Author: pujayakoLocation: Canada PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2005 4:34 am    Post subject: Building a PC
I did everything I even boot up the system in two methods. 2000 Pro by 4 floppy
and xp by 6 floppy which I created, bu 2000Pro I installed untill the end but when I reboot the system it stays still on the "welcome to windows 2000 pro" screen I left it over night , nothing changed. But when press F* at the stating point could openn only on safe mode, but goes on dos mode.
Can anyone help. how can I install the OS. My hard drive is a new one"CICERO" 160 GB.8MB CACHE/7.200 RPM. something wrong I cann't understand.
help me out.

Author: hks3207Location: United States PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2005 2:35 am    Post subject:
i had some doubts about connecting the LED's and about how to connect extra hard-drives man, thx for that tutorial really helped me out Wink..


When my computers boots up it comes up with this error before searching for bootable drives media:


I've tryed to get some help with this but they told me that my processor isn't compatible with the mother board, which it is cuz it used to be really nice before but i was installing FreeBSD 5.4-release and in between the install of the new kernel compilation (which i was doing) the computer got restarted cuz of the electrical power went off and came back on but then it started showing that..

It used to work good anyways, but with the time it has got worst, now i cant install any OS cuz it won't let me, i used to use ubuntu livecd but now i would freeze even before the cd boots, like right when it starts booting it freezes.

I am thinking about buying a new mother board cuz anywayz, that's an old board... but, is there anything else to do other than buying another mother board to help the problem ??

PS> i already set the default settings on the BIOS to see if it will auto-configure the processor again but it just wont work, nothing does.

Author: hattrick_123 PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 1:15 pm    Post subject:
can any one give a rough estimate on the prices of building your own PC?

Does it work out that much cheaper than buying one? Especially considering the time it would take and possible problems encountered for a first time build. Especially if someone was techy enough but not overly techy.


Author: jhnsmith978 PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 4:03 pm    Post subject:
Nice review...
I think it will proved to be very beneficial for those who wanna start their own business of developing computers or wanna repair computers on their own..
I appreciate this post...

<edit: Removed blatant commercial link. AdamV >

Author: akheLocation: Prague, Czech Republic PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 12:24 pm    Post subject: secured
yes thats really secure!

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