1. PREPARE YOUR WORKSPACE
2. INSTALL THE MOTHERBOARD
3. INSTALL THE PROCESSOR (CPU)
4. INSTALL THE CPU HEAT SINK
5. INSTALL THE MEMMORY MODULES (RAM MEMMORY)
6. PLACE THE MOTHERBOARD INTO THE CASE
7. CONNECT THE POWER SUPPLY
8. INSTALL THE GRAPHICS/VIDEO CARD
9. CONNECT THE KEYBOARD, MOUSE, AND MONITOR
10. INSTALL THE DRIVES
11. INSTALL THE ADD-IN CARDS
12. TURN THE COMPUTER ON
13. INSTALL THE OPERATING SYSTEM (OS)
14. UPDATE DRIVERS
15. INSTALL ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE AND SETUP A NETWORK/INTERNET
16. INSTALL OTHER SOFTWARE
INTRODUCTION - CHOOSING THE PARTS
The following is a guide to the main components in a PC, including recommendations for each part (based
on your intents and needs for your new system).
Choose the Processor Before hthe Motherboard
The processor (Figure 1) you choose usually determines which
motherboard you select: Motherboards are designed to work with specific
CPUs, indicated by the type of socket that the processor fits into (Figure 2).
For example, Socket A, Socket 939, and Socket 940 are designed to work
with Athlon processors, while Socket 478 and the new LGA socket 775 are
for Intel processors. Many resellers offer bundles consisting of a processor,
a motherboard, and memory; these can be a good way to save some money,
and make the selection and compatibility process vastly easier.
Remember to make sure that the CPU is compatible with the Motherboard before you buy either part.
The system chipset (Figure 2) is the other component that differs among
motherboards; it determines which integrated components (graphics, sound,
Ethernet, etc.) will be included. Though integrated graphics are not generally as
good as dedicated cards, they are usually adequate for simple office tasks (home
users will probably want separate Video Adaptors for game playing).
The variety of computer cases is staggering, with hundreds of styles, shapes and sizes available. We
recommend that you look closely at the features. Some gorgeous PC cases are nightmares to work with, or
are cheaply built. We recommend you ask for "tool-less" case design, which enables you to click > open,
click > closed. Most cases and motherboards use the ATX form factor, standardizing the sizes of the
components and all of the power connections. Speaking of power:
The right computer case can make working with your system a dream, but picking the wrong one will come
back to haunt you. Although you can find a case plus a power supply for less than $50, it is recommended
that you invest a bit more to obtain a case that will last through many upgrades, has a high-quality power
supply, and is aesthetically pleasing.
Case Form Factor:
Most cases and motherboards use the ATX form factor. It is critical that your motherboard match the form
factor of your case. Be aware of other standards available (shuttle-style, cube-shaped systems) that come
with their own custom motherboard. Check carefully and note the form factor when buying your case.
Check the case form factor before buying your case and motherboard. The form factor of your case and
motherboard MUST match.
Steel cases weigh more than aluminum ones, they cost less, and they muffle the noise from components,
such as hard drives, better than aluminum cases do. On the other hand, aluminum boxes tend to be more
stylish, and they are certainly easier to carry around.
Even the best-looking case will seem ugly if
installing your components becomes a pain. Look
for helpful features like a removable motherboard
tray, tool-less drive carriers (where the hard drives
are installed), and multiple fan locations for
cooling the system (cooling can be one of the most
critical features to ensure the long term health of
PC Case Including Power Supply:
Cheaper cases often come with cut-rate power
supplies that may not be up to the task of
powering a high-end PC. View our Guide To PC
Power Supplies for more information. Some
expensive cases don't come with a power supply at
all, which lets you choose your own. If you have
added a lot of new components to your PC, you
may be overtaxing your existing power supply, so look at getting a bigger, better one. Power supplies can
cause problems - including random crashes or even component failure - if they are asked to produce more
power than they are designed to generate. Reputable manufacturers will typically include a chart of
Although many PC cases are sold with a pre-installed
power supply, check it carefully because your power
requirements may exceed the capacity of the pre-installed
unit. How do you know? Here is a quick guide:
Mid To High-End CPU
7 per 128MB
PCI Add-In Card
Low To Mid-Range Graphics
IDE Hard Drives
You may need to purchase a higher-output power supply for your new PC. Remember the air flow since,
your power supply provides much of the system ventilation
Boosting a PC's RAM is one of the most effective hardware
enhancements possible. This 5-minute procedure can let you
keep more programs open, accelerate memory-hungry
graphics programs and games dramatically, and sharpen your
The memory modules that most recent systems accept are
184-pin DDR2 DIMMs, DDR2 DUAL, and now DDR3 of
varying speeds. The type you should buy depends on the
motherboard and processor you choose: For best performance,
choose the fastest type of memory module that works with
Data Safety - Choose RAID
RAID, which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, lets you use multiple hard drives to boost
disk speed or to keep a mirrored backup of your data in case a drive fails. Either setup requires multiple
identical drives, and configuring them calls for a slightly complex configuration. An increasing number of
systems use a configuration called RAID 0, which can significantly increase system speeds for data reading
and writing. To configure your drives for RAID 0, first select a pair of drives that match the storage capacity
you want. With 160GB hard drives available for under $90 and with RAID support included on most new
motherboards, RAID can be a great value.
Serial ATA (SATA)
Most motherboards now include SATA support, and going with an SATA
drive will make your system easier to set up and your drive simpler to
move to a future PC when the time comes.
CD And DVD ROM
When building a new computer, adding a fast optical
drive can increase its flexibility. And even if you are on a
budget, drives that read and burn any format are now
inexpensive. With an all in one drive, there is no need to
worry about whether your drive supports DVD+RW or
DVD-RW. Such drives are now inexpensive, and they
write to all major formats of DVD and CD.
Even no-longer-top-of-the-line, 18X DVD burners can
write an entire disc in a few minutes, and CD burning
speeds are now amazingly fast. Consequently, if you are on a budget, there is no reason to pay a premium
for a 12X or 16X DVD burner or to insist on buying the fastest CD-RW drive you can find.
Most stand-alone DVD players can play the dual-layer discs that these dual layer drives burn, boosting the
amount of video or data that will fit on one disc. You may pay a small price premium for dual-layer drives,
but the additional storage is well worth it.
Make sure you get the features you want:
Most graphics cards today let you connect a
second display to your PC. If you would like
to use your PC to record TV, a board with an
integrated TV tuner is a good choice. USB
based TV tuners are also an easy upgrade.
This is the next generation of video display.
The latest graphics cards now use PCI
Express, an improved version of the AGP slot
on most PCs. The actual performance boost
you can expect depends on your application.
Gamers Do Not Skimp On The Video
An integrated Graphics Processor Unit (GPU) is vital to fast game performance and the most realistic visual
experience. Dual Video Card solutions provide even more performance.
Once you have selected a case and power supply, be sure that you have the following items shown in Table
Table 1: Bill of Parts
cooling fan and
Make sure to
check out the
1 or 2
The more RAM,
will be able to
open at one time.
Make sure to
check out the
Case and Power
before buying one.
Use the ethernet
cable to connect to
You need a small,
large, slot, and
use a PC tool kid
pliers are great for
The antistatic wrist strap
is recommended in low
but you are safer using
A set of
That is what you need to get started. Now you are ready to begin building your new PC! [BACK]
1. Prepare your Workspace
Assemble and stage your components carefully. You will be handling sensitive electronics that can be damaged if
dropped, or mishandled
STATIC ELECTRICITY CAN HARM THE COMPONENTS:
DO NOT ASSEMBLE YOUR COMPUTER ON THE CARPETE.CARPETING IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR
COMPUTER. IT IS A SOURCE FOR STATIC ELECTRICITY THAT CAN DESTROY COMPONENTS.
1. Take Inventory:
Before you start, take inventory of your parts.
Do not begin assembling your computer if you
don't have everything you need. Begin the
step-by-step process once you have
determined you have everything you need.
2. Make Space, Make Time:
Building a PC take space - about a dining
room table worth. So make sure you have
plenty of working room and a few hours to
proceed with minimal interruption. Work on a
flat, stable table top surface or bare floor,
where you have room to layout all of the
3. Prepare Grounding Protection:
Use an inexpensive antistatic wrist strap (they are often
priced at less than $6) is the perfect preventive measure if
you have no alternative to working on carpet. Remember, a
table top or bare floor is always the best place to build your
system. Make sure you are wearing your antistatic wrist
strap correctly (it does you no good at all if you do not
wear it!), and you are ready to proceed. Look Figure 2 for
4. Have the Drivers Ready:
Assuming you have another internet connected PC, download the latest drivers from the vendors' websites
for each component you will be installing. Sometimes drivers are updated between the time the component
was manufactured and the time you are installing it. It is always best to have the latest. Copy them to a CD
for easy access.
2. Install the Motherboard
1. Great care should be taken when
installing the motherboard. First, take the
board out of its packaging and put it on top
of the antistatic bag it came in (see Figure
3). Remember, you always want to
safeguard your components from
potentially hazardous static electricity (wear
2. Before you secure the motherboard
onto the PC case/chassis, inspect it
carefully for any visible defects.
3. Next, review the motherboard
manual, to make sure you are familiar with
the motherboard layout and understand
which socket is which. Manuals are
extremely helpful, usually easy to read, and
include illustrations. Following you can
find instruction on how to install the
processor, the heat sink, and the memory
modules on the motherboard. You should
not place the motherboard in the computer
case until you are told to do so.
3. Install the Processor (CPU)
1. Use the unlocking
mechanism to open the CPU
socket which is usually a lever.
2. Carefully line up the pins
and place the chip in its socket;
it will fit only when oriented the
proper way. An arrow or a
missing pin on one corner of the
chip will show you how to line
3. Allign Triangular CPU
and socket key marks as shown
in Figure 4.
4. Lower the lever to lock
the CPU into place. [BACK]
4. Install the CPU Heat Sink
Follow the manufacturer's directions to install the heat sink and the
fan that will cool the processor. If you bought an OEM CPU and a
separate heat sink, you may need to spread a thin layer of the
thermal grease that came with the heat sink over the chip to ensure
proper transfer of heat (some heat sinks come with this grease
2. Attach the clip that holds the heat sink in place keeping in
mind that it may require a fair amount of force. Again, follow the
instructions that came with the heat sink. They will show you how
to fit it correctly. If you are in doubt, you can visit the
manufacturer's website for more information. Figure 6 will also
prove to be of great help to you.
1. Plug the CPU fan's power connector into the proper connector on the motherboard.
5. Install the Memory Modules (RAM Memory)
In order to install the
memory modules, insert
them into the proper sockets
(Figure 7) and push down
firmly but evenly until the
clips on both sides of the
socket pop into place. If your
motherboard supports dualchannel memory, consult the
user manual to determine
which pairs of RAM sockets
you should use. The
motherboard and the CPU
are the brain and nerve centre
of your PC, so selecting these components is the most important decision you'll make.
6. Place the Motherboard into the Case.
1. Some PC cases have a removable motherboard tray.
If yours does, remove the screws holding it in place and
pull it out of the case (Figure 8).
2. Note the pattern of the holes in your motherboard
(Figure 9), and screw brass standoffs into the motherboard
tray or into the PC case in the correct locations (ALWAYS
check the manual and follow their instructions to the letter).
3. Check the layout of the sockets on the motherboard, and
confirm that the ports on your motherboard's back panel match the
holes on the case's Input/Output (I/O) shield that is installed in
your case. If necessary, remove the old I/O shield (Figure 10) by
tapping it firmly a few times with the butt-end of a screwdriver,
and then replace it with the shield that came with the new
4. Carefully position the motherboard on top of the
brass standoffs (Figure 11), line up all the holes, and use
the screws that accompanied the case to fasten down the
motherboard. If you are using a removable tray in your
system, slide the tray and motherboard back into the case
and then secure the tray.
7. Connect the Power Supply
Making the proper connections is crucial to successfully assembling your PC system. Fortunately,
manufacturers provide color-coded power cables and
unique connector shapes to make the job easy.
1. First, plug the large ATX power connector
(Figure 12a) from your power supply into the
matching port on your motherboard. Look Figure X
2. Locate the smaller, square processor power connector
(Figure 13) (you cannot miss it - it is the one sprouting the yellow
and black wires) and attach it to the motherboard. Note: your
connector is usually located near the processor. As always, refer to
your motherboard's manual for the exact locations.
3. Use your motherboard user manual and find the description
about front-panel connectors.
4. Attach each of the tiny leads from the power and reset switches (Figure 14), the hard-disk activity
lights, the PC speaker, and any front-panel USB and FireWire ports to the corresponding pin on your
motherboard. The needle-nose pliers are useful for manipulating small pieces.
You are going to be doing work that requires attention to detail and can be quite frustrating if you do not go into it
with the right attitude.
8. Install the Graphics/Video Card
1. Begin by removing the backplane cover from the AGP or PCI Express X16 slot (the metal piece
where the monitor connector will emerge) (Figure 15).
2. Install the graphics board in that slot, and then secure the card with a screw (Figure 16).
3. Some graphics boards require a dedicated connection to your computer's power supply. If yours
does, you should plug in the correct power connector now. Some video cards allow the insertion of a
second video card connected to the first. If you purchased such a configuration, install and connect
the second video card.
9. Connect the Keyboard, Mouse, and Monitor
1. Connect a keyboard, mouse, monitor,
and power cable to your computer and turn it
on (Figure 17).
2. If the internal fans begin to whir, the
system beeps, and you see the machine
starting to boot, power down by holding the
power button for 5 seconds and continue
3. If nothing happens, back up a step
and recheck all of your connections. Make sure that both the processor and the memory are properly
seated, and recheck those minuscule leads connecting the motherboard to the power and reset
4. If it performs as expected, shut down your PC, unplug it, and open the case.
ENSURE THAT ALL ELECTRICAL POWER TO THE SYSTEM IS TURNED OFF BEFORE
APPROACHING, INSPECTING OR TROUBLESHOORTING
10. Install the Drives
it is time to install your drives. This is an easy process,
requires attention to detail.
1. Make any necessary changes to jumpers on the
drives before mounting them in the case. A two-drive
system (one or two SATA hard drives, plus one parallel
ATA optical drive, for example) is easy to set up; the
SATA drives are jumper less, and the optical drive can
be set as master on its own parallel ATA channel.
Many cases have removable drive rails or cages to
2. Use the included screws to attach your drives to
rails or cage, and slide them into the case. For
externally accessible drives such as a DVD recorder, you can save time by installing one drive rail
and sliding the drive in for a test fitting to make sure that its front is flush with the case (Figure 19).
3. When the drives are installed, connect power and data cables to each one. Parallel ATA drives use
wide, flat data cables that can be installed only in the correct way. Floppy drives use a similar but
smaller cable; SATA drives use a thin, 1cm-wide data cable. SATA drives use a new type of power
connector that many power supplies don't come with. Fortunately, many motherboards ship with
adapters for converting a standard four-pin power connector to a SATA power connector (Figure
The flat, wide ribbon cables that Parallel ATA drives use to carry data can restrict airflow inside your case,
robbing your system of valuable cooling; and functionality aside. Rounded data cables available at your local PC
store look much nicer, and they don't impede airflowmble and stage your components carefully.
Some drives ship with both the older connector and the SATA
power connector. In that case, use one power connector or the
other, but not both. The capacity of hard drives continues to
increase: You can now hold over 1TB (Terabyte or 1,000GB) of
data on a single drive. But though you don't have to compromise
on the drive's size, you still have a few choices to make when
picking a hard disks.
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) hard drives do not always include cables, software, or hardware
(screws, brackets, etc.). Mounting hardware may be required, but this usually comes with barebones kits.
11. Install the Add-In Cards
1. For each add-in card, you must choose a free PCI slot.
2. Remove its backplane cover to allow access from the rear of the case.
3. Carefully position the card above the slot, and
press down firmly to seat the card (Figure 21).
4. Secure the card with a screw.
Many motherboards have additional sound connectors
ports housed on small add-in boards. Some of these
into slots on the motherboard; others screw into the
of the case in place of slot covers. Usually the
additional ports are not essential to your PC's
operation. For example, if you install a sound card,
do not need connectors to the motherboard's built-in
sound chip. Check your motherboard manual to
determine what each of these boards does.
12. Turn the Computer On
Check your PC Set Up:
It is time to turn on your system and
1. Make sure the keyboard, mouse, and monitor are all plugged into
appropriate ports on the back of the PC. Plug the power cord back in, and turn the machine on.
2. When prompted, enter your PC's BIOS setup screen by pressing the indicated key (often Delete) as
the machine boots. Menu options (Figure 23) will vary from motherboard to motherboard, but they
share the same general categories.
3. Set the date and time.
4. Look for a setting that deals with PC health
and monitoring (Figure 24). That choice
bring up a screen showing processor and case
temperature. Watch the processor temperature for a few minutes. It should stabilize at a level
between 30°C and 50°C. If it keeps increasing, your heat sink probably is not installed properly.
Power down and check to see whether the heat sink is securely attached and making good contact
with the processor.
5. Next, find the section of the BIOS setup that determines the order in which your machine checks
drives and devices for one it can boot from (Figure 25). Set CD-ROM to the highest priority so that
your machine will boot from the Windows installation CD.
13. Install the Operating System (OS)
Before Installing the OS
You may be "cloning" a PC, and want to copy the same configuration. To do this you would use a
"ghosting" tool to create an exact copy of the data from the first PC on the new one. Follow the instructions
for the software to perform this operation. Some create the clone before the OS is installed, some
Installing the OS
You are just a couple of steps away from using your new custom-built personal computer. Now you will
install the operating system and then update your drivers, and install the different programs.
1. First, place the Operating System installation CD in your optical drive, reboot the PC, and allow the
system to boot off the disc (assuming you setup the BIOS to boot from the CD/DVD). The Operating
System setup should begin.
2. Early in the process, Windows may ask you whether you need to install a third-party SCSI or RAID
driver. If you're using a RAID setup, press F6 when this message appears; then insert the disc
containing the appropriate driver when it is requested.
If your machine hangs while installing Windows, there may be a problem with one of the components. Try removing
everything except the core components (motherboard, processor, one memory module, and hard drives). Then once
you have successfully installed Windows, begin reinstalling each component one by one to isolate the source of the
14. Update Drivers
Once Windows is up and running, the last step in this process is to update your hardware drivers. This is not
an optional procedure.
Insert the CD with the latest drivers (downloaded from the web, or provided otherwise by the
manufacturers) and install them starting with the drivers of the motherboard and graphics card and then
moving on to the less critical ones (mouse and sound card drivers). Windows comes with basic drivers to get
you up and running, but specific or updated drivers are vital. Several reboots later, you should have a fully
updated PC! [BACK]
15. Install Anti-Virus Software and Setup a Network/Internet Connection
1. Before you establish an internet connection, you should first install
a good antivirus and firewall product for security reasons (CA's is strongly
2. Download the latest patches of the operating system.
3. Make sure that everything runs smoothly, and then back up your
4. Save the hardware
under Windows. That way
clean, current image of
back to if serious trouble arises
5. Get your network and internet
you will have a
Windows to go
in the future.
connection up and
running. Plug one end of the
Ethernet cable into
the wall jack and the other end
of the cable into
the Ethernet port of your
computer. If you
are not sure which jack it is, check the motherboard manual. After everything is connected, your
setup should resemble Figure 29. [BACK]
16. Install other Software
After installing the operating system, you will need to install the software you will be using, such as
Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Corel Draw, and others. Some software will require registration or
validation, so have the original discs with the software registration or license key ready. After installing the
software, you may need to validate the software with the manufacturer or published via the web or by
phone. Once this is all done, you are ready to use your new PC! [BACK]