Build Your First Computer

Build Your First Computer
Build Your First Computer
Melissa French
Table of Contents
About This Guide ....................................................................................... 3
Hardware ...................................................................................................... 4
Operating Systems...................................................................................... 6
Choosing Reliable Parts ............................................................................ 7
• Where to Buy Parts ........................................................................ 7
• Buy Good Parts ............................................................................... 8
Putting Everything Together ...................................................................... 11
• Putting the Processor on the Motherboard.................................. 11
• Mounting the Heatsink and Fan.................................................... 12
• Putting RAM into the Motherboard Slots ..................................... 12
• Mounting the PSU into the Case ................................................. 12
• Mounting the Motherboard in the Case ....................................... 13
• Connecting the Motherboard to the PSU .................................... 14
• Mounting the Hard drive in the Case.......................................... 15
• Connecting the Hard Drive to the Motherboard ......................... 15
• Connecting the Hard Drive to the PSU ...................................... 15
• Mounting the Optical Drive in the Case ..................................... 16
• Connecting the Optical Drive to the Motherboard...................... 17
• Connecting the Optical Drive to the PSU................................... 17
• Connecting the Case Cables to the Motherboard...................... 17
Start Your Computer .................................................................................. 17
About This Guide
This guide will tell you how to build a barebones system. It does not go into detail
any further than necessary for you to be able to pick out the parts and put them all
together. In this guide you will find information about sockets, connectors, processors,
motherboards, RAM, power supply units (PSUs), hard drives, optical drives, computer
cases, operating systems to choose from, and where to buy. Lastly, you will find stepby-step directions for plugging in all of those expensive parts that you will purchase. If
you do not already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse please purchase those as
well as the parts in this guide.
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Hardware
Sockets: Sockets are the different things that hardware
slides into on a motherboard. Pictured is a
processor socket.
Connectors: Connectors are all of the little cables that
your hard drive, optical drives, PSUs, and case
buttons all use to connect to power and/or the
motherboard.
Processor: The processor acts like the frontal cortex of
a human brain every operation must go through
it to show up on your screen. The big deal
right now is choosing an Intel® or AMD®
processor.
Motherboard: The motherboard is the main control
board in a computer. Every part that you will
read about plugs into the motherboard.
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RAM: RAM stands for Random Access Memory. RAM
can be equated with human short-term memory.
Power Supply Units (PSU): A PSU will make your
computer go; it is responsible for providing
steady power at the right voltages to all of
your hardware.
Hard drives: The standard hard drive is a 3.5 inch
SATA drive that should fit into most computer
cases. A hard drive stores all of your data and
is where you install the Operating System.
Optical Drives: The new standard for optical drives is
a SATA connection. These drives are
responsible for reading CDs, DVDs, and in
some cases Blu-Ray® disks.
Computer Cases: Computer cases house the all of the
above parts.
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Operating Systems
For a first-time computer builder I recommend that you use Windows as your operating
system. I recommend Windows because it is the most compatible with the
hardware that you have to choose from. Furthermore, most people have used
Windows a lot more than they have used other options. In order to choose
what version of Windows you need you will need to decide how you plan to
use your computer. For example, if you plan on only browsing the internet,
typing papers, organizing photos, and listening to music or do you plan on
playing networked games with other people via a LAN connection as well as
trading documents among several computers?
These two paths are the two most followed paths in computing. The first path,
browsing the web etc, will use Windows 7 Home Premium and be just fine. For
those of you who are gamers and want to transfer files among several
computers Windows 7 Ultimate will make your life easier. Each version of
Windows comes with its own price tag as listed below.
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/buy/default.aspx
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Choosing Reliable Parts
Now that we have an overview of the hardware you will need we can talk about
where to purchase, how to choose reliable parts, and how to determine what to
purchase. You first big choice will be choosing a processor because everything
else is related to what processor you choose. Then we will discuss
motherboards, RAM, hard drives, optical drives, power supplies (PSUs), and
cases.
Places to Buy Parts
Newegg.com is my favorite place to buy computer
hardware and software, but if you have a
computer shop in your city you can look there
or at Best Buy™. Newegg is a great online
technology store that will ship your parts to
you in 3-4 business days once you order
them. On Newegg you can do everything short
of touching the hardware boxes. The website
lists reviews (that you can’t get in stores),
specifications for parts, photos at several
angles, pricing, and deals that you can get
with the parts that you are buying from them.
A lot of the time when a person is building a
computer Newegg recognizes what is going
into your cart you can get a deal on a
Windows operating system that you would
have bought anyway. I highly recommend
ordering from Newegg. (Their return policy on
hardware is stellar!)
TigerDirect.com does the same thing that Newegg
does. This company provides pricing,
specifications, deals, and photos of the product
that you are looking at. However, I believe
that Newegg has a better return policy, better
speed, and a better website layout.
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Check out Newegg and TigerDirect for yourself
to decide which website you think would be
best for you or you can always go to a
technology store to choose your parts. Now
that you know about a few places to buy
hardware we can really get into how to
determine if that processor you are looking at
is worth the money.
Buy Good Parts
Tomshardware.com is an excellent web resource that
has product reviews. This website will tell you
whether a piece of hardware is worth
purchasing or not. Keep in mind that Tom’s
hardware cannot review every piece of
computer hardware and that you may need to
Google around until you find enough reviews
to decide for yourself whether the hardware
you are looking at is worth the money or not.
Tom’s hardware also has system configurations
that you can choose from and not have to
worry about everything fitting properly
How to Choose Parts
Processors
When you decide what processor you need first think about how much you are
willing to pay and what you want to be able to do with your computer. If you
are just going to surf the web, listen to music, and do minor photo editing then
you do not need a really powerful processor. You could use one whose clock
speed is between 2 and 3 gigahertz (GHz). If you are a gamer then the bare
minimum for processor speed is 2.5GHz, but if you can afford it sink more
money into your processor since processors usually do not get upgraded. Once
you have chosen a processor note the socket type of that processor because
then you will buy a motherboard based on that.
Thermal Paste
Thermal paste helps the processor dissipate heat to the heatsink so that the
processor does not overheat. Many people swear by the Arctic Silver® brand of
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thermal paste, but really thermal paste is thermal paste. You will only need a
small tube. The brush-on thermal pastes are the easiest to apply.
Motherboards
Once you have chosen your processor you can look for a motherboard. The
easiest way to search for a motherboard is to go to either Newegg or Tiger
Direct then look up motherboards and sort by processor brand (AMD or Intel)
and then sort it by the socket that your processor uses. Motherboards are a bit
more complicated than processors. After determining the socket type that needs
to be on the motherboard to accommodate your processor then you will need to
decide how many expansion slots you want. Expansions slots can come in the
form of PCI slots, PCI-Express 1X, PCI-Express 16X, and PCI-Express 16X 2.0.
The expansions slots go from general to specific. Furthermore you will need to
figure out what type of RAM you need which is something that your
motherboard will dictate. Lastly you will want to make sure that your
motherboard uses SATA connections for your hard drive.
Slot
What the Slot is For
Recommended Amounts
PCI & PCI-Express
1X Slots
Audio card, network cards, and
modems
2-3 (either PCI or PCIExpress 1X)
PCI-Express 16x &
16X 2.0
Graphics Cards
1-2
RAM
Memory—Do not forget to check
what type your motherboard uses
2-3 Gigabytes (GB)
SATA
Hard drive motherboard
connection
2 or more
RAM (Memory)
Your motherboard will dictate what type of
memory your computer takes. Often in the
motherboard specifications you will see DDR2
1333 (OC)/1066/800 each of the numbers just
mean that you can buy DDR2 1333 (OC)
RAM, DDR2 1066 RAM, or DDR2 800 RAM
so you can choose from any of those and
then it will also tell you how many pins your
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RAM needs some will say 240 PIN. The
number of Pins does not change like some of
the number on the RAM as above. So if we
use a number from above you will need
DDR2 1333 (OC) 240PIN, DDR2 1066 240PIN,
or DDR2 800 240PIN. Use the same type of
RAM only.
Case
Computer cases can be a little trickier to buy like motherboards because some
are better quality than others and they fit certain form factors (sizes) of
motherboards. Before you purchase a case you need to know the form factor of
your motherboard. Most motherboards use either a Micro-ATX or ATX form
factor. Check your motherboard’s form factor and then go and sort cases by
that form factor. Then you can choose a case that uses that form factor. I
would read some reviews for the case to learn if it is really difficult to install
motherboards and/or has any other defects. If it has defects then choose
another case. Some cases come with Power Supplies built in. If the case you
want has a built-in power supply it needs to be at least 400 watts, but 500
watts is better. Not all cases come with a power supply so we will discuss that
a little later.
Hard Drives
After you have chosen a motherboard it is really easy to pick out your hard
drive because all that you need to do is look for a 3.5 inch SATA hard drive.
All that you need to decide is how big of a hard drive you want. I would
recommend at least 160GB, but I would recommend buying a 320GB drive.
Optical Drives
Choose a DVD or Blu-ray drive that has either 48x or more or 5x read speeds
respectively. The connection type should be SATA. Do not buy a “Slim” drive
because those are for laptops.
Power Supply Units
PSUs should be at least 400 watts. Each PSU needs at least one 12-volt rail (find
this in the specifications) to power the motherboard. Look for a PSU that has
something called active PFC (Power Factor Correction) which will save your computer if
your PSU fails.
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Putting Everything Together
Now that you have purchased all of your parts we are ready to put everything
together. Gather your parts and find your motherboard diagram and processor directions
that came with the hardware. Both of these pieces of paper will be valuable for
putting your computer together right the first time. Do not open the sealed bags that
contain the motherboard and processor. You should have a clean work area, preferably
a table to put parts on and another table to work on.
Don’t
Putting the Processor onto the Motherboard
Touch the gold parts on hardware
Wipe dust away with a cloth
Plug in the computer until the end
1. You should have your motherboard and your processor
still in their static-free bags sitting in front of you now.
2. Open the bag that your motherboard is in and take out the motherboard.
3. Place the motherboard before you on the table.
4. Find the socket that the processor fits into on your motherboard. The socket
should be large and square with a lot of little holes in it. Some motherboard
diagrams will have the socket marked, but many assume that you know where
to put the processor.
5. After you have found the socket there should be a little lever just off to the
side of it that you will need to raise in order to put the processor into the
socket. Lift that lever up now.
6. Open the bag with your processor in it and only pick it up by the edges of
the chip. Do NOT touch the pins on the underside of the processor.
7. On the processor there should be a little triangle in one corner. Look on your
motherboard and match the triangle on the processor to the one on the
motherboard. Insert the processor pin side down. The processor should just slide
in if it is not aligned properly then shift the processor gently until it does slide
in being careful not to bend the pins.
8. Lower the lever back to its starting place until it clicks in place.
9. Congratulations, the processor has been installed.
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Mounting the Heatsink and Fan
Many processors come with a stock heatsink and fan which is easy to install.
1. Refer to your processor installation documentation that came with the processor.
2. Open up the heatsink and fan. If there is protective plastic on the bottom of
the heatsink remove it.
3. Take your thermal paste and paint it in an extremely thin coat on the
processor.
4. Align the heatsink and fan as shown in your installation diagram.
5. Lower the locking arm into place as shown in the diagram. This will probably
require some force so do not be afraid to push a little.
6. Plug the power cable coming off of the fan into the connector on your
motherboard marked as either the CPU/System/Chassis Fan. Refer to your
motherboard diagram here.
7. Now the heatsink and fan is mounted.
Putting RAM into the Motherboard Slots
Next find your RAM/Memory for the computer and take it out of the packaging
1. Near where you mounted your processor and fan you should see several long,
narrow slots spaced very closely together. Those slots are your RAM slots. RAM
only goes into the slot one way.
2. Take the stick of RAM and align it with the slot nearest the processor.
3. Make sure that the longer connecting point is aligned with the longer slot and
vice versa.
4. With firm pressure push down until the RAM clicks in.
5. Repeat if you have a second module.
Mounting the PSU in the Case
1. Take the PSU out of the packaging.
2. Look at the rear of your case and find the biggest hole in it, that is where the
PSU’s power jack will show out of the back of the case.
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3. Put the PSU in the case so that the fan is on the bottom and that the power
jack shows out the rear of the case.
a. You may need to slide the PSU in at an angle and then level it off, it
depends on the case.
4. There should be screw holes in the case and in the PSU that you can line up
and put screws in to hold the PSU in place.
5. Screw the PSU in place with the screws that came with the case.
6. The PSU is installed.
Mounting the Motherboard in the Case
The motherboard or the case should have come with numerous screws, some of them
will have a top that have holes drilled into them in order to screw other screws into
them.
1. Find the screws that look like you can screw other screws into them (stand-off
screws) and sort out which ones you can screw into those stand-off screws.
2. Set the motherboard in your case with the part that you would usually see
when you look at the back of the computer (Rear Input/Output Panel) sticking
out the back of the computer.
3. Look for holes that go all the way through your motherboard that is where we
are going to put screws through to hold the motherboard into the case.
4. Mark on the case where there are holes in the motherboard that line up so
that the stand-off screws will align with the holes on your motherboard.
5. Once you have marked which holes in the case line up with the holes in your
motherboard screw the stand-off screws into place finger-tight.
6. Before you put the motherboard into the case it should have come with a plate
the goes over the rear input/output panel. Attach this panel to the case
according to the directions that came with the motherboard.
7. Gently place the motherboard on top of all of the stand-off screws and align
the rear input/output panel to the back of the case. Then begin screwing the
non-stand-off screws through the motherboard and into the stand-off screws.
Once you have put all of the screws in your motherboard is installed.
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Connecting your Motherboard to the PSU
1. In the PSU’s mess of wires look for the biggest connector available.
2. That connector is a 24-Pin connector.
3. Look at your motherboard diagram and find the jack labled 24-pin ATX power
supply.
4. Plug the cable in the only way that it fits.
5. Your motherboard is connected to the PSU.
Connecting the Case Cables to the Motherboard
You will notice that your case has a few cables that come attached to it. Those
cables are your power button, reset button (not all cases have this one), usb ports on
the front of the case, and if the case has sound and voice ports on the front then
those as well. You will need to consult your motherboard diagram a lot in the next
few steps so keep it handy.
1. Find the cable attached to the power button on the front of your case.
2. Look on the motherboard diagram and find the entry for power/reset button
(motherboards may vary, some call this a “Font Panel Header”).
3. Plug the cable into the power/reset button jack.
4. Find the cable for your usb ports.
5. Find the location of the usb port jack on the motherboard using the
motherboard diagram.
6. Plug the usb port cable into the jack on the motherboard.
If you have audio/voice continue
7. Find the audio/voice cable.
8. Plug the cable into the designated front panel audio jack.
9. All case parts are connected.
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Mounting the Hard Drive in the Case
1. Take the hard drive out of the static-free packaging.
2. Once again, the case should have come with screws to use to mount the hard
drive in the case. Those screws should be very small and they should fit into
the small holes on the long narrow sides of the hard drive.
3. In your case there should be two pieces of metal that rise parallel to each
other that have holes every inch or two.
a. Some cases have a non-removable mounting rack for hard drives and
you will have to take the other side of the case off and hold the hard
drive inside of the case while you put screws into it. Others have a
removable rack that you mount the hard drive into and then put back
into the case. So, do not be afraid to experiment a little since every
case is different.
4. Slide the hard drive in between the two pieces of metal.
5. Line the holes in the hard drive up with the holes in the metal.
6. Screw in all (usually four) screws through the metal and into the hard drive.
7. You have mounted the hard drive in your case.
Connecting the Hard Drive to the Motherboard
1. Find the SATA cable that came with the motherboard.
2. Look at the hard drive and insert the cable into the only place that it will fit.
3. Check your motherboard diagram for the location of a SATA jack.
4. Insert the end of the cable into the jack the only way that it will fit.
5. Your hard drive is connected to the motherboard.
Connecting the Hard Drive to the PSU
Since you bought a SATA hard drive you may need to use a power adapter that
came with your motherboard to connect your drive to power, however, many PSUs
come with SATA power connectors now.
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1. If your PSU has a connector that is black and flat then that is a SATA power
connector and you should plug it into your hard drive the only way that it fits.
If you PSU does not have one like that then read on.
2. Find a four pin connector coming off of the PSU.
3. Take your adapter, four pin connector to the long black flat connector.
4. Plug the adapter in so that the free end is that black flat part.
5. Plug the black flat part into the hard drive the only way that you can.
6. Your hard drive now has power.
Mounting the Optical Drive in the Case
1. Your case should have come with some longer thin pieces of metal or plastic
that have holes in the sides and notches in them. Find those pieces now.
2. You will use two of those pieces of metal and it will be a lot like mounting
the hard drive.
3. Place the pieces of metal on the sides of the drive so that they are flush
against the side of the drive, there should be two fin-like projections that are
not flush with the side closest to where the drive will open and shut.
a. These serve as a way to release the drive once mounted.
4. Line up the holes in the side of the drive and the metal then screw (generally
four again) all the screws in that fit.
5. Look at the front of your case and you will see that there appears to be face
plates that you can detach.
6. Remove the front of the case
7. Detach the top face plate.
8. Look at the case from the front with the front of the case off.
9. Slide the drive into the top slot until you hear it click into place.
10. Put the front of the case back on.
11. Your drive is installed.
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Connecting the Optical Drive to the Motherboard
1. Find the SATA cable that came with your motherboard.
2. Attach the cable to the only place that it will fit on the drive.
3. Check your motherboard diagram for the location of a SATA jack.
4. Plug the end of the cable into the jack.
5. Your drive is connected.
Connecting the Optical Drive to the PSU
The procedure is the same as for the hard drive, only you are plugging in the optical
drive. Please refer to those steps on page 16.
Start Your Computer
Now we are ready to try starting your computer for the first time. Plug in the monitor,
keyboard, mouse, and power to your computer.
1. Start your computer and listen for 1 quick beep. That beep means that the
Power On Self-Test (POST) was successful which is a good thing.
2. Your computer should start in the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) screen. This
screen tells you about the hardware in your computer as well as other things.
Installing the Operating System
1. While you are in the BIOS open up the disk tray and put your operating
system disk in the tray and close it.
2. As you look at your BIOS screen it should tell you different keys that you
can hit to quit the BIOS and load the operating system.
3. Generally, you can press Escape and the computer will ask you if you want
to save BIOS settings, tell it yes.
4. Your computer should now start loading the operating system from the disk.
5. At this point all that you really need to do is follow the on-screen instructions
to install your operating system.
Congratulations you just built your first computer!
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