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01 We Can
The Complete Guide To Building A PC By: Alexander May
Table of Contents
1. Introduction .............................................................................................................................................. 4 2. Basic Questions ......................................................................................................................................... 5 3. Planning/Research .................................................................................................................................... 7 4. Choosing Parts .......................................................................................................................................... 8 4.1. Processor [CPU].................................................................................................................................. 9 4.2. Memory [RAM] ................................................................................................................................ 12 4.3. Disk Drive Storage [HDD/SSD].......................................................................................................... 16 4.3.1. Hard Disk Drives (HDD) ............................................................................................................. 16 4.3.2. Solid State Drives (SSD) ............................................................................................................. 18 4.4. Blu-ray/CD/DVD Drive ...................................................................................................................... 19 4.5. Graphics or Sound Cards .................................................................................................................. 21 4.5.1. Graphics Cards .......................................................................................................................... 21 4.5.2. Sound Cards .............................................................................................................................. 26 4.6. Motherboard.................................................................................................................................... 28 4.7. Power Supply ................................................................................................................................... 31 4.8. Cases and Fans ................................................................................................................................. 35 4.8.1. Cases ......................................................................................................................................... 35 4.8.2. Fans ........................................................................................................................................... 39 4.9. Enthusiast......................................................................................................................................... 41 4.9.1. Liquid Cooling ............................................................................................................................ 41 126.96.36.199. Components ....................................................................................................................... 42 188.8.131.52. Designing A Loop................................................................................................................ 48 184.108.40.206. Installation ......................................................................................................................... 49 220.127.116.11. Maintenance ...................................................................................................................... 53 4.9.2. Lighting ...................................................................................................................................... 54 4.9.3. Custom PC Modifications .......................................................................................................... 55 4.9.4. Overclocking.............................................................................................................................. 56 4.9.5. RAID........................................................................................................................................... 57 18.104.22.168. RAID Controllers And Software .......................................................................................... 57 22.214.171.124. RAID 0................................................................................................................................. 58 126.96.36.199. RAID 1................................................................................................................................. 59 188.8.131.52. RAID 5................................................................................................................................. 60 184.108.40.206. RAID 10............................................................................................................................... 61
4.10. CPU Coolers.................................................................................................................................... 62 4.11. Other Parts ..................................................................................................................................... 64 5. Choosing Peripherals .............................................................................................................................. 67 5.1. Monitor ............................................................................................................................................ 67 5.2. Keyboard .......................................................................................................................................... 71 5.3. Mouse .............................................................................................................................................. 78 5.4. Audio Devices ................................................................................................................................... 81 5.4.1. Speakers .................................................................................................................................... 81 5.4.2. Headphones .............................................................................................................................. 83 5.4.3. Headsets.................................................................................................................................... 84 5.4.4. Earphones ................................................................................................................................. 85 5.5. Other Peripherals ............................................................................................................................. 86 6. Ordering Parts ......................................................................................................................................... 87 7. Putting It Together .................................................................................................................................. 88 7.1. Installing Components ..................................................................................................................... 88 7.2. Internal Cable Management ............................................................................................................ 91 7.3. Airflow .............................................................................................................................................. 92 8. Operating System, Drivers and Software ................................................................................................ 94 8.1. Operating System ............................................................................................................................. 94 8.2. Drivers & BIOS .................................................................................................................................. 96 8.2.1. BIOS ........................................................................................................................................... 96 8.2.2. Drivers ....................................................................................................................................... 97 8.3. Software ........................................................................................................................................... 98 8.3.1. Compatibility ............................................................................................................................. 98 8.3.2. Performance Monitoring and Testing ....................................................................................... 99 9. Cleaning and Maintenance ................................................................................................................... 100 9.1. Mice & Keyboards .......................................................................................................................... 100 9.2. Case ................................................................................................................................................ 103 9.3. Monitor .......................................................................................................................................... 104 9.4. Desk Area ....................................................................................................................................... 105 9.5. System Maintenance ..................................................................................................................... 106 9.5.1. Windows ................................................................................................................................. 106 9.5.2. Mac OS X ................................................................................................................................. 108 10. Sources and Other Useful Links .......................................................................................................... 109
we still recognize that it is a personal computer nonetheless and that means that they are still included within the term PC. I will talk about gaming pcs as well as media center pcs and other specialty computers as well as a general purpose computer for day to day general use. They are however.1. what parts to choose based on your budget and needs. used throughout this guide. We will generalize this term throughout this guide to be any computer that you are building whether it fit into the PC definition or otherwise. Despite Apple’s attempts to convince people that with the use of their Operating System their computer will transcend above the term PC. . I hope you find the information in this useful and it helps you to understand your computer a little bit better. but it is a guide on how to pick the best parts for your computer and how to assemble them all to achieve the best computer for your needs. This should be a comprehensive guide with as much information consolidated and presented to you for you to learn from the knowledge of me and all those who have helped me to write this guide. is a reference to any Personal Computer. The company Apple ran an advertisement campaign that attempted to dissociate their Mac computers from the term PC. This is not a reference to which Operating System you use. personal computers which makes them PCs. by definition. Introduction The purpose of this guide is to assist you with building your first computer or to help you learn about more advanced upgrades to computers. covering topics such as where to begin. By definition any computer used for personal purposes fits into the PC category. what parts are required for your computer. One thing to mention is that the term PC. This is not a guide to making the best gaming pc. This had to be made clear as some users may misunderstand the use of the term throughout this guide. I plan to introduce the basics on how to build your computer.
You may not have a budget on your computer. With all of the companies out there that are pushing their pre-built computers at seemingly decent prices. Companies that mass produce computers tend to cut a lot of corners with their components by mass producing as many of the components themselves as possible.2. some enthusiasts will save up tons of money for a new build and will have hundreds or thousands of dollars in ‘wiggle room’. memory. they tend to charge significantly more. These questions are very important to think about before and during your build as well as after if you plan on upgrading someday. but if you don’t ask yourself this question. mice and monitors and use these components and peripherals in the computers they sell you. cases and peripherals such as keyboards. Even if you don’t have a strict . the first question they will ask is “how much are you going to pay me” and the second question is “what’s your budget. By reading this guide. These questions are as important. but a first time builder might not think to ask themselves these questions and may get stuck with an unfinished build or not be happy with the finished product. They spend less on research and development on making the better components than companies that specialize in those specific components would so they do not perform as well. Basic Questions When you decide to start a build or to upgrade a current system there are a few basic questions you need to ask yourself before you start. why would anyone choose to build their own computer? The answer to this question is that building your own computer is going to be much cheaper and will give you much better components at the same time. Pre-built computer companies tend to manufacture components like power supplies. you are already a step ahead of these companies and should be able to answer the question of why to build your own computer all on your own. What is my budget? If you ask someone with experience building a computer to help you. Yet these companies will charge you the full price of the higher quality components in the hopes that you do not do your research. you can very easily go broke with this computer. While there are companies out there that will build computers using higher quality components. Computer building is a growing hobby as the prices of pre-built computers continue to rise and people realize how easy it is. if not more important. Why should I build my own computer? This is the perfect question that everyone who wants to buy a computer should ask. as the parts themselves. Building your own computer can also be fun and give a strong feeling of accomplishment that will only grow when you show off your computer to friends and family. These questions may seem obvious to you if you have done builds in the past. motherboards.” This question is a no-brainer for many.
etc.budget on your computer you really should think about how much you would be willing to spend on getting one part over another. If you do not have that much time to build a computer. liquid cooling circuits. Not that those things would be bad for those people. . As you get into the higher priced parts. There will always be new upgrades and by anticipating some of the things you will want to upgrade. video or picture editing. just browsing the web. someone who does a lot of graphic designing would want a good video card with a monitor that shows colors more accurately than someone who is just listening to Pandora or watching Netflix. Then installing everything on the computer could take some time. One example of this is with graphics cards and processors. How much time and effort do I want to put into building my computer? This question may not be as important as the previous two questions. By deciding what you are going to be using your computer for. but it is still something you should think about. However this is something you should consider before looking into things such as liquid cooling which could take many hours of testing and preparation. you can also navigate this guide better by skipping sections that don’t apply to you. This then transitions into our next question: What am I going to use my computer for? This is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself before starting a new build. just unnecessary. Also many newer cases make cable management a cinch and very easy to do in a short amount of time. An enthusiast build could take as much as 2 days to finish their build with cable management. don’t worry. Not only should you ask yourself what you are using a computer for now and what you will be using it for when you are done. you can make it much easier on yourself in the future when you decide your computer just isn’t good enough anymore. etc. you can choose the best parts that will be compatible with future technology. Someone making a media computer to use as their DVR could very easily skip over the enthusiast sections. By anticipating possible upgrades. For example. but you should also try to anticipate what you may want to do with it in the future. You should consider whether you are going to be playing graphics intensive video games. A normal computer could be put together and ready to run in just a couple of hours. you could easily spend $300-$400 more to get a 5% or 6% increase in performance.
I have tried to put as much into this guide as possible to help you out and have provided links to other helpful places in section 3. I have included as much up to date technology in this guide for your benefit but new technologies are coming out all the time and it is impossible to keep updating this guide every time something new comes out. It is always a good idea to keep learning about new things and better ways to utilize your computer to get the most out of your hardware. Planning/Research The planning and research phase is the phase you should be at right now. Your research phase should not end when you are done building your computer. It’s almost here. . new technologies are coming out all the time. If you plan on trying out the exciting world of enthusiast builds. You should be really excited right now about your new toy. You should also research the new technology that is coming out. Hopefully you have thought about all of the questions in section 1 and now have an idea of what you are willing to pay for your computer. what it is going to be able to do and how much effort you are going to be putting into building your new computer. but first you need to get the boring stuff out of the way. You should research all of the things you are going to do with your computer. I have read through numerous guides and tried to consolidate it all as best as I could but. but since I am not perfect you may have to do some of your own research. as I mentioned already. you should read at least 3 guides and read multiple articles on each thing you plan on trying. Choosing Parts.3.
Planning out your build will also help a lot with compatibility. . This will help to know how much you should be paying for parts to make sure that you are getting the best deal on your computer. This will help you to know what you have and know that everything will work together when you buy it to alleviate any headaches from having to return something and for something else.4. Choosing Parts It is important to plan out your build before you start purchasing parts. it is important that you plan everything out and double check compatibility with all of your components. Do some quick research on your parts to ensure that they are in fact compatible and double check everything before purchasing. power supply or CPU. For a full build or one that you are changing the motherboard. connection types etc. But it is not enough to trust these sites at face value. Some websites will help you to plan out everything by allowing you to find the right parts that you want through advanced search options and will automatically notify you of any compatibility issues. case. You can write down any compatibility notes on your spreadsheet such as form factors. Planning out which parts to choose becomes less of an issue if you are just upgrading one or two things. It is smart to keep a spreadsheet of all of the parts you want to buy along with prices and where you are going to buy them.
Processor [CPU] A processor. It is not exactly twice as much computing power as you might expect. There are two major companies that you will be looking at: Intel AMD There is a lot of opinion out there when it comes to CPUs and which brand to choose. It is one of the most important components of your computer and is probably the first thing you should decide on.4. quad-core (4). These days.AM3.e. Intel and AMD both have their own lines of sockets. most often the processor. but it is often a very significant increase (i. The CPU is piece of hardware the reads and executes instructions from a computer. is the central hub of your computer. AMD uses four main socket types for their desktop processors . The LGA 1150 socket is set to be released in 2013 for some new processors by Intel. So having more cores in a processor means more data can be processed in the same amount of time. Both Intel and AMD sell . Socket F and Socket G34. hexa-core (6) and octa-core (8) processors. In addition to those two main sockets.6) you should be sure that the processor socket on the motherboard matches the socket type on your processor. AM3+.Socket 940. most commonly the LGA 1155 and the LGA 2011 for their desktop processors. Both companies also have sockets for their laptop processors but since it is very uncommon to build your own laptop. 50% or greater increase).9. Generally people will call a processor a CPU and just use the term “core” when talking about multi-core processors. Today there are dual-core (2). Socket C32. A CPU (central processing unit) is called a “core” while the processor is all of the CPUs in one part called the processor. The first multi-core processor was the AMD 64 X2 processor with two cores. This basically means that it has more computing power than the previous AMD 64 processor. processors were made with only one core. Another term you will come across while researching processors is “unlocked” and has to do with overclocking. AMD tends to be cheaper than Intel but many believe Intel to be better quality. In addition to the number of cores a processor has. to run faster than the company had intended the part to be run at (see Section 4. I will try to give you as many of the facts as possible with as little opinion as possible so that you can make an informed decision knowing you made the right choice. triple-core (3). Up until 2005. AMD mainly uses three different socket types for their server processors . Overclocking is the process of forcing a computer part. the socket type is also very important.1. those socket types have been left out of this guide. the LGA 1366 and the LGA 1567 sockets for their server processors. single core processors are rarely ever used. You can still find more information about these sockets through the links provided at the end of this guide NOTE: When picking your motherboard (see Section 4. they also use the LGA 1356. often called the CPU. Intel uses mainly LGA series sockets.4). FM1 and FM2.
you must make sure that your processor is compatible to run at 64-bit (see Section 8). Simply put. those being the FX. it may be a good idea to get a 64-bit system. AMD has more major processor architectures with their desktop processors. Intel generally releases their architectures in groups of two. If you have been around computers or people who love computers much. and the second being a die-shrunk version of the first. Intel generally denotes their unlocked processors with the letter “K” or with the phrase “Extreme Edition” while AMD generally uses the phrase “Black Edition” to denote an unlocked processor. The operating frequency of a processor is a very key specification to look at. AMD has three major series of processors. When a processor performs an operation. look up Intel’s “Tick-Tock” model. usually bringing a new socket type. the Fusion and the Phenom. gigahertz measure in one billionth of a second while megahertz measure in one millionth of a second. These days. One main problem that you would run into with a 32-bit system are memory limits. Often represented in gigahertz (GHz) or megahertz (MHz). Most processors these days support both 32 and 64-bit. the processors tend to run faster and process more data. This number represents an amount of data size that the processor can run. Intel uses two major processor architectures with their desktop processors. With each release of a new processor architecture by a company. I won’t try to teach you binary. If you would like more about this. Random-Access . And if you are anything like many people you probably have little to no understanding of what this means. the operating frequency is essentially the speed of the processor. A 32-bit system cannot ever use more than 3. however it is a pretty interesting thing to learn if you have the time. but you should always make sure to look at the specifications of a processor and compare it to other processor models as well as a similar processor with an older architecture. it has to use bits of memory. Well computers work on binary (base 2) which may be foreign to many of you. the faster your processor runs. The first being a major change in the architecture of the chip. For processors this is represented in number of commands per fraction of a second.7Gb of RAM (see Section 4. the higher the operating frequency. Processor “cache” (pronounced cash) is also a term that you may see while looking at the specs of your processor. an unlocked processor will help. This means that companies are releasing programs and drivers (see Section 8) for both 64-bit and 32-bit systems. 64-bit processors are becoming used more and more often.2) NOTE: If you are going to be using a 64-bit Operating System. Frequency is a measure of how many things are done in a period of time. Choosing an unlocked processor is not necessary if you do not plan on overclocking your processor but if you plan to overclock.“locked” and “unlocked” processors. If you plan on doing anything more than just simply surfing the web and writing a few letters in Microsoft word. you have probably heard the terms “32-bit” and “64-bit” thrown around when talking about processors or about programs (not to be confused with 32-bit and 64-bit color). Intel plans to release a new architecture in mid-2013 and another one each year through 2021. Another aspect of your processor that you might have a question about is the architecture.
Generally lower is better because processors run faster at lower temperatures and having less thermal energy to dissipate will make it easier on your cooling system to keep the temperature of your processor low (see Section 4. Cache is also a form of memory that the processor uses. Other options include liquid cooling (see Section 4.8 and Section 7.1) which is a technique used by enthusiasts to take heat away from the processor using water as a medium instead of air. water is able to transfer heat more efficiently than air. It is a good idea to buy your own tube though in case components need to be moved around or taken apart. Having good thermal paste is a cheap way to make sure you have the ability to get the most out of your components. This technique is effective because. RAM is larger by factors of 10-100 times the size of cache usually. If the processor you get comes with thermal paste. Ensure that all of the original thermal paste is removed and the CPU is dry before applying the new thermal paste onto the processor. Some computer builders may warn you against using the thermal paste that comes on a processor. however RAM is not the only thing the processor uses. the pool feels very cold when you get in and when you get out as well.9. Be sure to note the thermal design power requirements of your processor for use later when calculating the power requirements of your system. To connect this cooling device to your processor. you should use a thermal paste (see Section 4.7 for selecting your power supply. More cache is better because the processor will have access to faster memory to read and write information to.3) Your processor will need a cooling device (see Section 4. Using cache instead of RAM is a much faster option for processors however there is usually only a relatively small amount of cache in your processor. This is why when you go swimming. many processors will come with a stock fan but most builders do not trust these fans and almost always suggest that you purchase one.11). Cache is usually measured in KB or MB as opposed to GB as RAM is typically measured.10). This will be used later in Section 4. you should use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to clean it all off. due to its thermal properties.Memory (RAM) is one form of memory that it can use. This is not always true anymore as the thermal paste that comes on most components is of a very high quality. .
. It may be easier to choose your motherboard first before deciding which RAM to buy. there are also three different sockets for laptop RAM being SO-DIMM DDR. Like desktop RAM. There are only three different sockets for desktop and server RAM. those being DDR. To prevent putting DDR2 RAM in a DDR3 slot or vice-versa. Here are a few terms you will need to know about RAM before we continue: DDR:Double Data Rate SDRAM: Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory SO-DIMM: Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module There are universal rules for RAM that make it much simpler as well. DDR2 and DDR3.4. Both the DDR2 and DDR3 have 240 pins while the DDR RAM has only 184 pins. There is a very similar system with laptop RAM. Luckily there are fewer compatibility issues to account for with RAM than with your processor. The placement of this notch is shown in the images below. Motherboards often only support certain speeds or sizes of RAM. Memory [RAM] There are many brands and types of RAM. However it is a good idea to understand which types of RAM are best to use that information to choose your motherboard.2. SO-DIMM DDR2 and SO-DIMM DDR3. You’re RAM will need to be compatible with your motherboard for it to work. there is a notch at the bottom of the stick of RAM that prevents the wrong stick from being used. There is a standard set for RAM to make it easy to know compatibility.
9. The calculation for the theoretical maximum transfer rate is an eighth of the memory clock times the number of bits. It should still be easy for you to know which RAM is better than another. you may skip to Section 4. Remember. For example. PC2-5300. The higher the maximum clock speed. The higher the number. A clock is a measurement of that cycle. NOTE: You will need to make sure your motherboard supports RAM of the same type and speed of the RAM that you choose (see Section 4. not the actual transfer rate of your RAM. CAS Latency is an amount of time that it takes for a stick of RAM to receive information from the RAM. If you do not wish to learn about timing and memory clocks of your RAM. PC2-5400 or PC2-8600 but should group those ones with one of the other names that is closest to when looking at compatibility. the faster your RAM will be. The lower the CAS Latency. but the speed given is a good estimate.1). CAS Latency is also a specification that you will need to look at when selecting RAM.6). PC2-6400 and PC2-8500. DDR 400 PC2-3200 SDRAM has a maximum transfer rate of 3200 MB/s and DDR2 533 PC2-4200 SDRAM has a maximum transfer rate of 4266. To calculate the theoretical maximum transfer rate of your RAM for your system. The transfer rate will not be exactly the same for every stick of a certain type of RAM. The clock speed is measured in megahertz (MHz) representing the number of clock times per fraction of a second. in on-off cycles. Your memory works just like most electronics do. the higher the maximum transfer rate. there are a few more key terms you will need to know: . you will not be able to achieve your maximum transfer rate from your RAM just by putting it into your system. If your memory is dualchannel. You may see RAM named PC2-4300. the DDR 400 PC2-3200 SDRAM mentioned above would have a maximum clock speed of 400 MHz and the DDR2 533 PC2-4200 SDRAM would have a maximum clock speed of 533 MHz. The memory clock can be found by looking at the specifications of your RAM. you will see RAM modules named PC2-3200. this is just a theoretical value.4). They are also very important to people wishing to overclock their computer (see Section 4. the faster your RAM.3 now As mentioned before. This was explained in the previous section about processors (see Section 4. To understand memory timings. called the transfer rate. Timing and memory clocks are more advanced specifications but can be very important when it comes to understanding your RAM and getting the most out of your computer. Latency is measured in nanoseconds (billionth of a second). you will need to know how many “bits” your system is running at. There is more to it than that. There is a standard for naming RAM of certain speeds. You will also most likely not be able to achieve the maximum transfer rate of your RAM unless you understand the timing and memory clock specifications of your RAM as explained later in this section. Beyond those speeds. For example. though it is not followed 100% of the time. then you will multiply the transfer rate you calculated by two. which is usually measured in MB/s. If you are looking at DDR2 SDRAM. RAM is divided up even more by maximum clock speed. PC2-4200.With RAM there are different speeds.66 MB/s.
The CAS Latency. The Row Active Time. The Row Address to Column Address. memory can now operate at both sides of . usually in nanoseconds. which you should be able to find in the specifications for your RAM. Timings are usually presented as four numbers such as 7-7-7-21 in the format of CL-TRCDTRP-TRAS. Many motherboards will allow you to manually change the timings on your RAM so that you may get higher performance. is the amount of time it takes from issuing the precharge to choose the next row of data and when the next row of data is actually activated. find the data and then output the data requested. A clock cycle is a certain amount of time. It takes time for your RAM to process the signal. TRCD. TRP. in rows and columns.4). Your computer sends a signal to the RAM asking for the data at a specific row and column. Occasionally TRAS and sometimes CAS is added on to the end You will need to make sure that you understand what is being represented for the timings listed for your RAM. When overclocking you may have to do the opposite of this. It can’t just magically pull the right piece of data out when you need it. the wave outputs a 1 at the top and a 0 at the bottom at a constant rate called a clock. This means that the smaller the number. The way a clock works with memory is by producing a sine wave.9. that it takes the RAM to read the first bit of information once the correct row has been opened by the RAM. is the amount of time that it will take between a bank active command and issuing the precharge command. So the time between when the row has been activated and when the data is actually sent back from the RAM is equal to CL + TRCD. The numbers represent the number of clock cycles to wait for each operation being represented. RAM organizes its data much like a spreadsheet. or CL. The Row Precharge Time. increase the timings on your RAM just to get it to run smoothly (see Section 4. This basically means it is the amount of time it takes to refresh the row and it is just equal to CL + TRCD for your standard SDRAM module. is the amount of clock cycles. CAS: Column Address Strobe CL: CAS Latency TRAS: Row Active Time TRCD: Row Address To Column Address Delay TRP: Row Precharge Time The timings of a memory module are the delays built into the RAM that dictate how long to wait to deliver data. With the idea of Double Data Rate (DDR) RAM. Memory used to only produce operations at one side of the sine wave. So the amount of time it takes for your RAM to send the data from the time the precharge command has been sent is CL + TRCD + TRP. TRAS. the faster your RAM will be. is a delay between actually being able to access the data in the columns after the correct row has been activated by your RAM. as written in the timing.
the sine wave. Remember that. essentially doubling the frequency of operations over the same frequency sine wave. because of the double data rate. Some memory performance monitoring software will only display the frequency of the clock which is half of the frequency that the memory produces operations. the frequency given by a memory performance monitoring software may be half of the actual operating frequency of the RAM. This could trick those that do not know better into thinking that their memory is only operating at half the frequency that it should. .
4. This means that changes aren’t saved directly to the hard drive but are instead stored to cache and then written to the drive at the next available cycle. Most HDDs generally revolve at 2 standard speeds. cache memory is always quicker than reading straight from a hard drive or other component.3. Hard Disk Drives (HDD) The term hard disk drive (HDD) generally refers to a hard drive with one or more magnetic spinning platters. While this is generally considered to be an indication to how fast read/write operations can be performed on the drive. Due to the small size only a small amount of data can be saved to the cache but it is generally quicker and more effective than doing a disk write every time a file is changed. A mechanical arm is used to read data from the platter similar to the way a record player plays music from vinyl records. Hard drive read/write speeds range between manufacturers but can sometimes reach up to 130 MBps for higher end drives. Due to the high speeds of the hard drive. Disk Drive Storage [HDD/SSD] Hard disk drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD) are both forms of data storage used by mainstream computers. Due to the action of the arm having to seek around the disk to find data the performance is generally fast but not as fast as SSDs (see Section 4.2). cache size does not normally need to exceed 64MB because most systems don’t need to transmit large amounts of data so quickly very often. Cache sizes generally range from 8-64MB and are essentially a small portion of RAM where the last accessed data or frequently accessed data is stored. for example a larger file will have a lower transfer rate than multiple smaller files. While both have become effective means of data storage. as demonstrated by cache memory in a processor.3. In a system.1). It is worth noting that hard drives perform differently for each type of file. Hard disk drives also have a built in memory cache which is implemented mainly to improve system performance much like with processors (see Section 4.3. The platters are the magnetic disks which actually store the data.9) or high performance builds built with the need to write large amounts of data at faster than normal speeds. Both types of drives come with their own pros and cons. Companies such as Western digital have begun producing HDDs that spin at 10000 RPM which is considered to perform much faster than the other two standard speeds when used in enthusiast (see Section 4. the method in which they store this data is vastly different for each drive. the difference between the two is arbitrary in terms of general user performance. There are a couple types of internal hard drives connectors that you will need to be careful of. each having different performance advantages over the other. but this is negligible in general usage applications such as internet browsing and including most gaming applications. 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM.4) for connection to the motherboard. Nearly all HDDs use the Serial ATA connector (SATA) which is also used with other types of disk drives (see Section 4.4. Older drives used the Enhanced IDE (EIDE) connector which was .1.
In order to take advantage of the 6 GB/s hard drives. If you are going to be booting your computer different operating systems. does not mean that there is never a good reason to do it. It is also important to note that some older motherboards that do not support GPT (GUID Partition Table) will not be able to handle a hard drive larger than 2. you may decide to have different hard drives dedicated to different systems. Other types of connectors include the ATAPI.0. The operating system and other system files should be located on an internal hard drive or solid state drive. USB 3. Not all motherboards support hot swappable devices. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your motherboard supports hot swappable devices if you plan to use this technique (see Section 4. Just because it is not advised. the drive will be able to function properly. It is not a good idea to put your Operating System on a hard drive that you will be hot swapping. Modern motherboards all have the capability to use these larger hard drives but not all older motherboards have this capability. .6).1). firewire or eSATA ports. You will need to know if your motherboard or case have these options to use an external hard drive. Another factor to consider when selecting a HDD is the read/write speed given in the specifications of your hard drive. you must connect them to a port on your motherboard that supports this higher speed. This is very similar to using a hard drive as you would a flash drive or memory card. PATA and IDE connectors which are rarely found in modern computers. however.0.also used for other types of disk drives at the time.8.6). It is not recommended to do it this way but it may be possible. you will not be able to use the higher speed of 6 GB/s and your drive will only be able to function at 3 GB/s. Hot swapping hard drives is becoming ever more popular with newer computers these days. You will need to make sure that the hard drive you choose conforms to your motherboard (see Section 4.2TB. Hard drives are a much cheaper option than SSDs in terms of price per gigabyte and currently come in storage capacities ranging upwards of 3TB.1). but can be more or less depending on operating system and other system components. SAS. These external hard drives can utilize USB 2. If you plug a 3 GB/s drive into a 6 GB/s slot on your motherboard or vice versa. Hot swapping is done with the help of hot swappable bays located on your case (see Section 4. Hot swapping is the act of removing a hard drive from your computer while it is running. It is very highly recommended that external drives be used solely for storage of data and not to be used for an operating system (see Section 8. This should be given in GB/s and is most often 3 GB/s or 6 GB/s for SATA hard drives. NOTE: Your internal hard drive and motherboard must connect using the same connector. Boot speed for a hard drive is typically in the 35-55 second range. Hard drives can also come in external form with its own case and different connectors to connect to your computer from the outside.
This is done by storing data in flash memory much like with the memory in your CPU (see Section 4. One thing that you should not do as you will probably be told to do by many people is to defragment your drive (see Section 9. you have a couple of options. Solid State Drives (SSD) Solid State Drives (SSD) use a different method of storing data than hard disk drives (see Section 4. The best option is to start fresh with a new copy of your OS and then go from there.3. To make your SSD last longer you can also enable something called TRIM.1).1). There are no moving parts in an SSD as opposed to an HDD with a spinning disk and rotating arm. This option will be ready to go as soon as the copying is finished and doesn’t require you to go out and reinstall every program that you want to use.2. many builders choose to put their operating system and a few choice programs on the SSD and using a large HDD to store other data and some lesser used programs. Using this will help increase the length of time before your drive fails. so it is not a good idea to use it as your primary drive that you will be installing and uninstalling from regularly. Even though the drive may have the same speed written on the drive. . The lifespan of your SSD is determined by the frequency of use. Defragmenting your SSD will add no performance increase and will only be unneeded wear and tear on your drive and will shorten its lifespan considerably. This will help to get rid of any unwanted programs and force you to choose only what is necessary to put on the new drive. Due to SSDs costing significantly more than HDDs for the same size. This allows for much faster read and write times than even the fastest HDDs. The faster option would just be to copy the data straight from the HDD onto the SSD. As a tradeoff for such high speeds. There are a few things that you can do though to make your SSD last longer.1).3. While this is a good idea for regular HDDs. If you want to upgrade your system to an SSD from an HDD. Newer SSDs are having much a much longer lifespan than before. it will actually perform much faster. this is very bad for SSDs.4. TRIM is a command that an operating system can use to tell the SSD which blocks of data are no longer needed so that they can be cleared by the drive.5. It will have fewer problems than the former option to copy the data from your HDD. You can either copy the information from the HDD straight to the SSD or you can start fresh and install your operating system directly onto the SSD. some not even reaching maximum write cycles for over 15 years of normal use. SSDs have more limited lifespan than HDDs.
25” external drive bay in your case (see Section 4. CDs are generally used for storing audio such as music. that data cannot be removed from that disc. there were two new types of optical discs that came out to store high definition video. NOTE: You will need to make sure your motherboard supports the connection type of your disc drive whether that be through SATA. The faster drives don’t usually cost significantly more but are not really necessary for those who do not burn large amounts of discs often. Blu-ray/CD/DVD Drive 0Blu-ray/CD/DVD drives are very common on most computers. ROM stands for read only memory which means that you cannot write data to these types of discs. the High Definition DVD and the Blu-ray. IDE or USB. The drive speed will be limited more if used through a used through a USB as opposed to plugging it into one of the SATA ports by installing an internal drive into one of the external drive bays in your case. The speed on an optical disc drive usually ranges anywhere from 5x to 48x. CD-R and CD+R are discs that can be written to but once data has been burned to that disc. however CD/DVD drives are on nearly all modern computers. Blu-ray is a fairly recent development and is not as common. these subcategories include CD-ROM (cannot be written to). The Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) came after the CD and was used primarily for storing videos as well as general data.1) or externally most commonly through a USB port through your motherboard or the I/O panel on the front of your case. The Blu-ray won out and the HD DVD was no more. DVDs came in much higher data capacities than CDs but had some limitations. CD-R. Bluray discs generally offer even more data storage than the DVD but Blu-ray disc readers and writers are currently more expensive than DVD writers so DVDs are still quite common and are still being manufactured and used widely. Older drives used to use IDE ports instead of SATA. Within both CD and DVD discs. There are now three main types of optical data discs. The higher this multiplier. there are subcategories of each. Before 1982. Even with the far superior quality of video being put on Blu-ray discs as opposed to DVDs. the faster your Bluray/CD/DVD drive will perform. Blu-ray is the successor to the DVD. CD+R. only copied. CD-RW and CD+RW. For CDs. even within the three main types of discs. CD-ROMs are generally used by companies who are selling their software or data on a disc that they do not want you to accidentally overwrite. floppy disks were replaced by compact discs called CDs.8. Optical disc drives list their speed at a multiplier. CD-ROMs have their data written onto them during their manufacture. 12x will usually be a sufficient speed for most uses of an optical disc drive. After DVD.4. The range of speeds is not the same for all types of optical discs. You will need to have an open port for your drive to connect to. Most motherboards use SATA ports but you should check the specifications of your motherboard. Aside from general data storage.4. . Usually no more than 24x is not necessary for general purpose. the price to use them has hindered the Blu-ray from phasing out DVDs all together. These optical disc drives can be used internally by installing them into a 5.
For CDs and DVDs. The rewritable Blu-ray discs are called BD-RE which stands for Blu-ray Disc Recordable Erasable. Blu-rays that are sold with software or data on them are usually unwritable like the CD/DVD-ROMs and Blu-ray discs sold blank to burn something to yourself are similar to the CD/DVD±Rs. They come with multiple disc drives and are used for semi-mass production. Because of this compatibility issue. Disc readers are not very common so you many not run into any at your local computer store. rewritable discs are not very common and were replaced by the flash drive.CD-RW and CD+RW are rewritable discs that can have data added and removed in a similar manner as with a flash drive or memory card. you will need a burner that is capable of writing to dual layer discs. Another option for optical disc drives would be a technology called LightScribe which allows someone to put a physical image into the top of the disc. . and you usually need to take the disc out after burning the data onto the disc and put it in upside down for the drive to put the image on the disc. One thing to be careful about when purchasing a disc drive is whether it is a reader or a burner. Another thing out there are duplicators. only CD players that specify the ability to use rewritable discs. if you are unsure whether or not you will want to burn a disc. In order to use these. While CD-R and CD+R discs are generally able to be played on most CD players. The subcategories and limitations of those subcategories within CDs is the same with DVDs. Disc drives that are capable of burning data to a disc are also able to read that data as well. it would be a good idea to make sure you get a burner. DVD±Rs and DVD±RWs. assuming the data is not protected. Duplicators allow you to put one disc in and make multiple copies of it at one time. CD-RW and CD+RW aren’t able to be played by all CD players. There is not much difference in price between a disc burner and disc reader other than in the case of Blu-rays. no color. The dual-layer discs have the capability to hold more data than the single-layer versions. There are DVD-ROMs. but it is a good idea to make sure that you are getting the right drive for your computer. These come in their own enclosure and cost significantly more than other drives. usually fairly quickly. Current technology only allows for a gradient image. It is not usually advised to just get a disc reader unless you know you will never be burning data to a disc. you simply just need a disc burner with LightScribe which will be listed on the physical drive itself. There are however. Blu-ray discs also have similar subcategories. some disc drives that are only capable of reading data from a disc and are unable to write data to a blank disc. Discs also come in single and dual-layer types. To use this technology.
These GPUs are soldered to the motherboard generally and share the same memory as the CPU. The upside to these integrated systems is 1) they lower the cost by not needing an expensive powerful GPU and 2) they run cooler comparatively so the system can be slimmer which is good for laptops. So in comparison to integrated GPUs spend time fighting with the CPU to get memory from the RAM and they don’t guarantee they have the memory they need to perform the work they need. Using a dedicated GPU will relieve some of the load from your CPU and allow it to perform the tasks is it better suited to. Graphics or Sound Cards Like with processors. A GPU differs from this by instead executing multiple operations that are independent of each other in “parallel”. For modern computer parts.4). Graphics Cards From a computing standpoint.5. Having a discrete set of memory ensures that the graphic card has resources to do the work. or video card. If you wish to use your computer along with a surround sound system. They are also referred to as dedicated graphic cards. you will almost always need the assistance of a sound card (see Section 5. This ability to perform relatively smaller and repetitive tasks are often best on a GPU. The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). when using components that do not have integrated audio or video capabilities. Graphic cards come in two major types: discrete and integrated graphics cards. motherboards and processors can have some basic video and sound capabilities built into them. both of these cards are usually optional as external cards and are not usually required for basic functionality. the GPU will perform far greater than a CPU at this task because of the difference in how they execute operations.1. These dedicated GPUs typically have their own memory to work with. The second major type is an integrated graphics card. a dedicated card is required to use these functions.5. 4. Before 2006 all GPUs were soldered . These are the graphic cards that are visibly attached to the motherboard. but instead of rendering graphics. In the case of large programs that use the CPU and GPU the available RAM of the system can easily be filled up and bring the system to a crawl. can be put into your computer to take the load off of the processor by dedicating itself for rendering graphics. A sound card is similar to a GPU. there are a lot of opinions thrown around with graphics cards. Discrete graphics are the ones you’ll find in enthusiast builds or even some lower end pre-built computers. This means that the processor will execute each operation one at a time until it is finished. Because these are often built into the motherboard or processor. For rendering the same 3D model in a game repeatedly. processors generally handle programs in a “serial” fashion. These types of graphic cards are easily removed and replaced or upgraded if needed.4. it processes sounds. What has come up in recent years are GPUs that are housed within the CPU’s chipset. Types of graphics cards. However.
video processing. Another difference to note is HDMI’s capabilities. If you do not have a monitor that matches the port on your graphic card. AMD. What this means is that each generation of GPU is named as a multiple of 100 with the prefix of GTX. These are going to be the same ports as those that attach to your monitor (see Section 5. VGA is an analog signal so the graphic card has to convert a digital signal to an analog which then if your monitor is a digital based monitor it will then have to upconvert to a Digital signal. GTX 500 series and GTX 600 series . Unfortunately for integrated graphics not having a separated memory bank to pull from greatly reduces the performance of the GPU for anything intensive. watching videos (internet or home streamed). but the idea to move the GPU into the same location as the CPU removed some bandwidth latency to help increase performances. For gaming. Naming Conventions There are currently only three major GPU makers. VGA. Integrated graphics cards are by no means slow. a discrete graphics card will perform greater depending on the available resources for these games. Many graphics intensive games will not run on integrated graphics. but they are easily overshadowed by their much more expensive and faster counterparts. checking email. HDMI. So it is possible to output from a GPU to a sound system using HDMI to carry the signal. HDMI is able to carry both video (digital) and audio signals. Graphics card video outputs All consumer level graphics cards have outputs that are hooked up to a monitor or can be used for an audio passthrough.1). lower power usage. and in general make the rest of the system cooler. but are ideal for smaller computers or lower performing computers used for surfing the internet. and parallel computing rigs a dedicated graphic card is almost always required. AMD and Nvidia being the largest of the two with Intel only making . Nvidia and Intel are the three main manufacturers of GPUs. many converters are available. The three major ones you’ll see and use are the DVI. Graphics cards are among the fastest changing component out there. There are currently a number of ports being used and you may see a combination of them on one graphics card.onto the motherboard and separated from the CPU. There are some key differences in their capabilities though. displayport and S-video. An example of this would be the GTX 400 series. the two biggest GPU manufacturers produce better GPUs than before to have the upper hand over their competitor. HDMI. It is helpful to follow trends regarding the release of new parts as it can take a while for a company to react to the release of a new product by their competitor. Integrated graphics are generally not to be used for high end gaming because of their low performance. Nvidia currently is running through a GTX X00 series brand naming system for each generation of their graphics cards. but converting an HDMI port to a DVI port (or vice versa) would cause a loss in the audio signal though the video would be untouched because both HDMI and DVI run digital signals. Every 2-3 years. These ports include DVI. and VGA. owner of the formerly known ATI brand. This constant conversion reduces quality in the picture instead of simply taking the digital signal across.
Multi-gpu setups Another feature CPUs and GPUs share are having are using multiple processors on a single component. The midrange consists of the X700 and X800 series cards with the budget end containing the X500 series cards. these types of GPUs are found in the X90 or XX90 such as the GTX 690 or Radeon HD 7990. AMD currently names their cards in a X000 or HD X000 naming convention meaning multiples of 1000 such as the Radeon 5000. Each version of GPU within a series contains names for each member such as the GTX 650. and also take up double the space. Nvidia uses Scalable Link Interface aka SLI and AMD uses CrossFireX. When comparing cards such as the GTX 570 and GTX 575 it is easy to assume that the GTX 575 is the upgraded version of the GTX 570. but one of the key differences is that SLI typically requires graphic cards to be identical or the same processor. X60 as midrange. The 5 has been a confusing number which can denote new revisions to the GPU or be used for mobile components. 6000. GPU cooling solutions Similar to the CPU is that the GPU needs to be cooled. and 690. These fans are removable and can have an aftermarket heatsink attached but to replace the heatsink requires a bit more experience to swap the part out. 680. X970 and the X990 cards. and X50 and below as mid to budget range cards. Single card and Multi card. In the case of two GPUs you can find graphic cards that contain two GPUs. It is then easy to predict the performance differences of cards within the next generation by comparing the performance differences of similarly named cards in previous generation. double the processors. and 7000 series cards with the HD suffix designating a higher end graphics card with the ability to use high definition video formats. 670. Each has varying technical aspects. Their high end graphic cards are denoted with the X900 families which include the X950. Each of these members is typically targeted at a specific audience with the X80 and X70 marked as high end. These graphic cards are typically the biggest single graphic cards on the market and often push towards the $1000 . This feature has been growing very quickly so you may want to do some additional research on the topic. Each company has their own technology for multiple GPUs. Rolling back to the naming conventions of the different. Whereas CrossFireX allows multiple graphic cards of the same generations and not just the same GPU. You should read into the purpose of the 5 is if considering a card using this naming convention as the reason can vary greatly from card to card. Many of Nvidia’s graphic cards will also come with a 5 instead of a 0 at the end resulting in cards such as a GTX 685.graphics cards. It is possible to connect two graphic cards for double the available video ram. Every GPU has a heatsink attached to the GPU to cool the processor and many newer graphic cards will even include fans or entire cooling systems that take up two expansion slots on the motherboard and case. Inexperienced or new builders are highly recommended to not change the heatsink on the graphic card. Multi GPU setups come in two forms. AMD has a different naming convention from that used by Nvidia for their Radeon series graphics cards. 660.
every texture map on each model. but the difference between all of them is the speed. The number refers to the number of lanes are available for data to flow. Typical motherboards generally only have one or two PCIe ports which may be denoted with either an x8 or x16. At little over 2 GB/s. Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slot. NOTE: You must ensure that there is an open slot of the correct type in your motherboard for each GPU you wish to put into your system. Depending on the version of PCIe (1. Taking memory into account when deciding which card to purchase is extremely important.mark. The slot information is important to understand but in real world benchmarks. and PCI-Express (PCIe). the processor and the video memory. As mentioned before there have been a number of different slot types over the years. Slots Graphics cards have three possible slots they can fit into: Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP).0 for example is capable up to a little under 1 GB/s for each lane available.GDDR4.0.7 GB/s of bandwidth that can travel between the rest of the computer and your graphics card. Multiply that by 16 lanes and you get around 15. 4. PCIe 3. and each model themselves takes up memory in the video ram.0 as of 2013) there are different speeds that each lane is capable up to. the bandwidth barely helps current generation hardware perform better for many builds. Technical Graphics cards have two major components to them.0. having more video memory is better because this allows for more models rendered at one time. A triple monitor setup running the . Not all motherboards have all of the slots most commonly used for graphics cards so you will need to make sure that your motherboard and GPU are compatible. The processor is also known as the GPU and the video memory which is in the form of GDDRX (where X is a number to denote version of GDDR ie: GDDR3. PCIe has become the standard for maximum bandwidth and thus motherboard makers follow this trend.0 x16 bandwidth at almost 16 GB/s. Video RAM is the amount memory available exclusively to the graphic card to perform the tasks designated to it. This is simply because of the amount of data that can be passed between the graphics card and the rest of the computer is more limited on the other slots. etc) memory. In a video game.0. every blade of grass. In general. It’s very easy to visualize the CPU using RAM and the GPU using its own dedicated video memory. Having two GPUs on one card can get very hot and also having two GPUs on one card limits the ability to do a tri-setup (three GPUs) for Nvidia. 3. The market has since shifted away from AGP and PCI slots and both are considered Legacy components with PCIe being the slot that nearly all modern graphics cards are developed with. That is where the 16 GB/s that was mentioned before came from. and allowing the card to store more data for fast and easy access. the AGP bandwidth is tiny compared to PCIe 3. 2. Both of these components run programs but in the two different fashions as described earlier.
. because the two major graphics cards manufacturers use very different base architectures for their cards.highest supported resolution and computing something massive in parallel would reach that limit to the bandwidth. This makes it extremely difficult to determine whether one is better than the other purely based on what speed the memory runs at. but in a single or even dual monitor setup having more bandwidth over the slot above PCIe 3. the clock speed of the GPU or even the number of stream/core processors along with everything else about the graphics card.0 x16 is excessive and does not improve performance At a technical standpoint. This has caused for a vast rise in benchmarking communities to help alleviate the confusion as to which is better when comparing cards between companies by taking real world benchmarks and comparing the performance of each card on that benchmark.
sound cards are able to provide a better sound. This type of noise is much harder to actively filter out and is usually filtered out with the use of sound editing software. the higher the ratio. But for your convenience.2. Some modern motherboards can even support 5. the more decibels. Decibels may be a difficult unit for some people to grasp. NOTE: You will need to make sure there is an open slot in your motherboard for your sound card if you plan to use one that uses an internal sound card as opposed to USB. A few key terms that you will need to know to choose the best sound card for your applications include noise. but some will plug into a USB port on your motherboard or on your case. Some examples of analog noise for audio would be like the noise from tapping your pencil or the neighbor mowing his lawn such that the microphone picks up that sound. A major way to measure the quality of a sound card is by it’s ability to filter out this noise. From now on. microphones or other audio equipment to the sound card through a few different I/O ports on the sound card. . The typical range for a sound card should be from 110dB to 125dB. the relationship between the strength of the signal to the strength of the noise. The signal-to-noise ratio is very simply put. With this integration. most computers will not need an additional sound card to provide great sound to the user. You connect your other hardware such as speakers. If you plan to record audio then a sound card may be a worthwhile investment for your computer. Some A/V stores may have adapters to help.5.4.1 surround sound or greater. For audio professionals using high end speakers and headphones. Noise is also created digitally from the circuits inside of the sound card and even the small magnetic fields created by the many parts of your computer. Many of these terms will also be covered in the speakers and headphones section of this guide (see Section 5. Sound cards usually fit into a PCI or PCIe slot on your motherboard. Sound cards are able to achieve this higher quality due to their sampling rates.5mm mini jack. The signal-to-noise ratio is measured in decibels (dBs). and frequency response. signal-to-noise ratio. we will only talk about digital noise.4).4). It is a good idea to have a signal-to-noise ratio greater than 100dB. dynamic range. Sound Cards Sound cards are becoming less common over time as many of the functions that they perform are being integrated into the motherboard (see Section 4.6). We already know that noise is bad so we want this ratio to be as high as possible to eliminate as much noise as possible. Noise is simply an undesired signal. This means that there are 5 main speakers and one subwoofer (see Section 5. optical audio or RCA. but simply put. Noise can come in both analog and digital forms. I have described them here as well. These could include 3. You will also need to make sure that the equipment you have will be able to communicate with the sound card through the ports on the sound card. sample rate. Where sound cards become greatly beneficial is with recording.
there are many different sounds happening all at one time and a good sound card will need to be able to record all of these different sounds. Frequency response is a little simpler than sample rate. The sound card with a sample rate of 1 Hz will change the sound that plays at best every second and that sound will be a single frequency that represents all the sound that actually happened during that one second. So a sound card that exceeds these ranges by much wouldn’t be necessary. Let’s say you have two sound cards.Sample rate is a measure of how fast data is calculated. in dBs. In a digital image.1). Variable Bit Rate (VBR) is an exception to this. This is the range of frequencies measured in Hz or KHz that the card can produce. Digital sound is no different. A good sound card should however be able to represent this entire range such that it can best represent all the sounds that can be heard by the human ear. is essentially the ratio of the highest frequency sound possible to the average sound to represent the greatest amount of frequency change that the card is able to discern. learn more about this in the speakers and headphones section (see Section 5. Another way to describe this is like pixelation of audio. When recording music. you would see a line go down the screen as it is being refreshed. The dynamic range of human hearing is only about 140 dB but we rarely ever use that much. or one data point per second. If you have ever seen a monitor with a low sample rate. it divides up sound into time intervals and chooses a frequency to represent all the frequencies that occur during that time period. one of them records audio at a sample rate of 1 Hz. Each pixel can only be a single color so the camera decides the best color that represents all the colors seen by the sensor in the range that specific pixel represents. Dynamic range is a specification that represents how much of a change the sound card can produce to represent different instruments or sounds. an area is divided up into many sections of space called pixels usually represented by tiny rectangles. Having a higher dynamic range will result in better representing the true. Sometimes you can observe this when a computer is being slowed down by a large program. or one thousand data points per second. Sampling is the same thing except instead of dividing up an image by space. Digital signals are sent in specific time intervals.4). A higher sample rate will result in a closer representation of the actual sound as if it were analog which is not limited by specific time intervals like data is. and another at 1 KHz. The dynamic range. The sound card working at 1 KHz will change frequencies at best every thousandth of a second assuming that the sound that actually existed during that fraction of a second changed. Sample rate with a sound card is similar to the sample rate on a monitor (see Section 5. High end sound cards may have a dynamic range of 100 dB to 110 dB. The range of human hearing is usually from 20 Hz to 20 KHz typically. . analog audio that contains many different sounds all at the same time.
The north bridge controls the PCIe and memory slots. reference the installation section (see Section 7. Motherboards have something called a chipset. Modern motherboards have many options.8. like cases and power supplies.0 Gb/s ports will work with a 3. bulky cable. This guide will try to explain most of these options but cannot cover everything that modern motherboards do today. thin.0 Gb/s device but will only work at 3. This bridge also is what is used to communicate with the south bridge. 3.0 Gb/s ports first and then put other devices in the rest of the ports.0 Gb/s and 6. The first thing to note is that. The motherboard is what connects all of the other components together and allows them to work together to do all of the great things a computer can do. SATA connections most commonly come in two main speeds. So for all the things connected to the south bridge they must first go through the south bridge.1). there are many different CPU slots that processors will fit into. motherboards have a form factor. Older motherboards connected to devices such as optical drives and HDDs with an IDE cable which was a long.4. The south bridge is responsible for your IDE or SATA connections such as any optical drives you may have as well as storage devices such as HDDs and SSDs. This form factor will need to match one of the supported form factors on your case to ensure that it fits properly and the screw holes are in the correct location. For a list of all of the different form factor possibilities. These bridges are what control all of the different functions that the motherboard uses to allow communication between your processor and everything else that is attached to the motherboard.0 Gb/s. NOTE: The form factor of your motherboard must match a supported form factor listed in the specifications of your case. AMD puts the pins on the processor and those pins go into slots on the motherboard while Intel puts the pins on the socket on the motherboard and places the processor on top of them.0 Gb/s speeds in the SATA 6. SATA 6. all of your computer components are a bunch of expensive pieces of metal and plastic. reference the cases section of this guide (see Section 4. Motherboard Without a motherboard. The chipset is the combination of North and/or South bridges in the board. As mentioned before in the CPU section.0 Gb/s. then through the north bridge before finally reaching the processor. It is also responsible for . The two processor companies tend to make their processors physically differently too. It is common to put HDDs that support 6.6. For more on how to install a CPU. The next big thing for choosing the right motherboard is to make sure that it supports the processor (see Section 4. The north bridge is the front most of the two.1). Modern motherboards use the SATA connection instead as this is a much smaller cable and is used by nearly all newer components that would have otherwise used the IDE cable instead.1) that you have chosen.
USB ports. Motherboards also only support certain speeds of memory and you will need to make sure that your memory module is compatible. the most common are PCIe x1. PCIe x16. is the smallest of all of the PCIe slots and used commonly by wireless networking cards and some other expansion cards. but the speed could be lowered by your motherboard for compatibility. It is becoming less and less common over time. Among these types.5. This slot is used by lower end GPUs. you should check the specifications of your motherboard before purchasing it to ensure that it is SLI and/or Crossfire capable otherwise trying to run your GPUs in an SLI/Crossfire configuration will not work. Only the most important connections are in the north bridge. If you plan on using this.2). It used to be that you needed to have two sticks of the same type of RAM module in certain slots. There are different types of Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots that your motherboard can have as well. clock.9. shown at the bottom in the above image is used for a lot of older expansion cards. Some motherboards will only support up to a certain number of GPUs in this configuration so make sure that if you are going to use more than two GPUs this way that it is supported by your motherboard. This will ensure that all of your memory modules are able to work at their full potential. Server motherboards can have many more than this. PCI. It is not required that you fill every slot. This is a very common slot in nearly all modern motherboards. shown as the second from the top in the image to the left. PCIe x4. These are used by PCIe x16 and some PCIe x8 cards such as higher end GPUs and other higher end components. PCIe x1. This technology is not supported by all motherboards. shown at the top in the image to the left. Most motherboards have two to four memory slots (see Section 4. they can even have upwards of 20 memory slots. this is not necessary. One technology used by some modern GPUs to connect two or more together to increase their performance is called SLI or Crossfire (see Section 4. This can be changed by overclocking (see Section 4. This memory size won’t be lowered from different memory chips. is the second smallest of the PCIe slots. But with modern RAM. It is used by some controller cards and networking cards. some networking cards and other miscellaneous expansion cards. PCIe x4. PCIe x16 and PCI. It is best though to have all of the same RAM.1). BIOS. . NOTE: You will need to ensure that your motherboard and memory modules are compatible. onboard audio and LAN.4) your memory but it is still in your best interest to get memory of the same speed. The south bridge controls most of the secondary systems and the systems that do not need to be at the forefront. is the largest of all of the PCIe slots. shown as the third from the top in the image to the left.your PCI lanes.
0 device plugged into a USB 3.0 in the way that USB 3.0 port will function at the USB 2.0 speeds.7). . Having to purchase a GPU and sound card for every computer that you build could end up getting pricey. Hot-swappable HDD bays are a relatively newer technology that many case manufacturers are beginning to offer with their cases. To use these ports. These come straight from your power supply (see Section 4. the 20 pin and 24 pin connectors. If this is something that you may want to experiment with then it is important to choose a motherboard that will support it. the 4 pin and 8 pin connectors.0 device plugged into a USB 3.1) have front panels that have USB ports on them. If you find a motherboard that does not have any onboard audio or video. There are two main motherboard power connectors. NOTE: You will need to ensure compatibility between your PSU and motherboard for the main power connection as well as the CPU power connection.0 is faster.0. You will need to make sure that your power supply and motherboard are compatible in this area as well. There are also two main CPU power connectors. Many motherboards will have onboard audio and video hardware so that it is not necessary to purchase these parts for your computer to function. you must first plug a USB hub into them. Motherboards have two different places where power is plugged in. This allows for computer builds to be cheaper when a budget is a deciding factor. a USB 2. Not all motherboards support this technology. These slots are not directly USB ports.0 or USB 3. Most modern power supplies support both of these connections but you will need to make sure before purchasing everything. They will usually be labeled as USB 2.NOTE: If you wish to run multiple GPUs in SLI or Crossfire. The same is true in the opposite case.0 speeds. This technology allows the user to plug HDDs into the system or pull them out while the computer is turned on.0 is different from USB 3.0 port but will only run at the USB 2. Modern motherboards have USB ports on the back as well as extra slots for USBs located around the board at various places.8. refer to the manual for your motherboard. Many cases (see Section 4. USB 2.0 port. your motherboard must support that configuration with as many GPUs as you wish to put into this configuration. A USB 3. There are plugs for CPU power and general motherboard power.0 device will function if it is plugged into a USB 2.0 speeds. you will need a USB 3. it will be necessary for you to purchase them as additional components and attach them through the PCI or PCIe slots on your motherboard for it to function properly. but if you are unsure. motherboard manufacturers will include basic versions of these components built into the board itself. Instead. they must first be plugged into your motherboard at one of these extra USB slots. To take full advantage of the faster USB 3.
The most important specification is maximum power output. but there is also an 8 pin connector that is used for some of the high end motherboards. Another very important aspect of power supplies. The 20 pin connection is not very common anymore because of the 24 pin standard. is the number and type of cables that the power supply has at your disposal. The 4 pin connector is usually going to be compatible with a motherboard that requires an 8 pin CPU connector with the use of a converter cable available online or at your local computer store. there are cables that allow for this conversion available online and at some computer stores. A list of most of the form factors is listed in the Cases section of this guide (see Section 4. NOTE: You will need to choose a power supply with a form factor supported by your case.1) or modular cables. Because of this many power supply manufacturers have made their main connectors a 20 pin with a detachable 4 pin connector. This is very good for you since it will be much easier to find lots of power supplies that will work for your system and allow you to choose the one with all the options that you want.4) that has some very specific power requirements. The wattage is going to be a major factor in determining which power supply to get. most of the specifications that are listed for power supplies can be ignored. are generally very easy to understand. Just like with motherboards. There are two different types of cables that can be used to power your CPU. Just like with the other components. The most common by far is the 4 pin CPU connector.8.9.5. about as important as wattage. Calculating the power requirements of your computer will be explained more in depth at the end of this section. Power Supply Power supplies. Chances are that if you are buying anything new at the store it will have the 24 pin connection. The 8 pin connector is much less common than the 4 pin connector.4. Every power supply will have a main connector. often called PSUs. These form factors will limit the physical size of the power supply to ensure that it all fits in to the case as well as the placement of the screw holes that are used to attach it to your case. often called wattage.1). If for some reason you end up with a 24 pin connector that doesn’t have a removable 4 pin. called the 20 + 4 pin connector. . so that the power supply will still work with both types of main connectors. power supplies come in many different sizes and colors with many different options such as SLI/Crossfire capabilities (see Section 4. power supplies have form factors that allow them to fit into certain cases. Unless you are going to be doing some serious overclocking (see Section 4. Older motherboards use a 20 pin connector while newer motherboards use a 24 pin connector. All power supplies will also have a CPU power cable.7.
Because the power supply is the source of all of the electricity used by your computer. To get around this. it has the potential to be really hot. Most modular power supplies are only partially modular. just about every PSU is equipped with a fan. It could be good because cooling your PSU becomes one less thing you have to worry about. The 4 pin molex connector is one of the most versatile connectors as it supports the power requirements of many different components. but are harder to find and are even more expensive than other modular PSUs in most cases. SATA power cables will go mainly to your SATA HDDs (see Section 4. Different types of fans generally have different noise levels so choosing a PSU . the noise level of a power supply is not usually listed in the specifications so you may need to refer to reviews. They leave the main connector. Modular power supplies are used very regularly by many PC builders. it would be a good idea to find a PSU that runs quietly. especially if there are lots of cables that you aren’t using.NOTE: You will need to make sure that your power supply has the correct main connector and CPU connector to be compatible with your motherboard.3. Having too many cables in your computer can get really messy.1) and your other SATA devices such as BD/CD/DVD Drive (see Section 4. Fully modular power supplies are available if you need. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your power supply has enough of the correct power connectors for all of your components. You probably won’t find one that doesn’t have at least one fan. This increase in price is usually justified to most by having better cable management and a cleaner looking system. Unfortunately. they tend to cost more than non-modular PSUs. There are other connectors that you will need to know about to make sure that you have enough to support all of the components that you have chosen.5. If your system requires low noise. You should keep this in mind when choosing your power supply to make sure that it has enough of the correct type of connectors for all of your components. The 4 pin Molex connectors are general use connectors and are used by various devices for power. CPU connector and sometimes a few other connectors as non-modular. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you are doing with your computer. 4 pin Molex and PCIe connectors. Loose cables can really make a build look unattractive and unprofessional and sometimes it is just impossible to hide them all. Some high end GPUs (see Section 4. or it could be a bad thing because PSU fans can be quite loud for many PSUs. manufacturers started selling modular power supplies. Because of this. Most PC lighting uses the 4 pin Molex connector to draw power and some case fans allow for the use of this connector instead of drawing power from the motherboard.1) require more than one PCIe connector to get the power that is required for them to perform to their highest potential. There are SATA. This means that you have empty slots in the power supply that allow you to plug in only the cables that you are using. PCIe connectors are used for devices that are plugged into your PCIe slot that require more power than what is typically given through this port through the motherboard. however.4). Luckily these connectors are usually used up pretty easily by a basic system and rarely account for loose cables.
Most of them are at the lower end of that spectrum though. components not using the +12V rails equally. For systems running SLI or Crossfire with their GPUs.2) will help you to find the right PSU for your needs if noise is a concern of yours. you will need to account for 30 watts to 150 watts. you will need to calculate the combined power required by all of the components on your system drawing power from the PSU and then use a multiplier to account for other things such as expansion. try searching the internet for a reference or a comparable motherboard of the same brand if necessary. Having multiple rails will help to prevent failure and will help to allow using more components. you should have a minimum of 34 amps total on your +12V rails.5 to account for all of these when calculating the minimum wattage PSU that will be required for your system. One advanced technique used by gamers is to use multiple GPUs in conjunction to improve their performance (see Section 4. That goes . you should account for 30 watts to 70 watts depending on the card. There is one other specification left other than max power output that may be important to your build. but also that your power supply supports this. CPU and PCIe cards draw their power. Processors also have a large range of power requirements. For a PCIe GPU that requires just one PCIe power connector. For this. Processors can range anywhere from 65 watts to 140 watts. A simple internet search will give you what you need since there aren’t as many processors out there as there are motherboards. This technique requires significantly more power than running a single GPU and is not supported by all power supplies.5. These are the most important rails in your PSU because they power what many consider to be the most important components in a computer. This is called SLI or Crossfire depending on the GPU being used. You should be able to find the power requirements of your processor without having too much trouble. you should definitely take it into consideration. also called wattage. If the power requirements of your motherboard are not listed. It is usually a good idea to use a multiplier of 1. You will also need to make sure that the rail contains enough amperage to power all of your components. For a CPU running out of a PCI slot. compensation for power surges and that most power supplies run more efficiently when loaded to around 30% to 70% of their maximum output. The +12V rails are the rails in which your motherboard. The next component with a large range of power requirements is the GPU. Motherboards don’t usually take up much power but since they range so greatly in power requirements. It will be listed in the specifications of the PSU if it supports SLI or Crossfire.with a quieter fan (see Section 4.8. The first component you should look at is the motherboard. If this is something that you plan to do.1). The last and most important specification of a power supply is the maximum power output. Motherboards can range from 30 watts to as high as 150 watts in some cases. you should not only make sure that you have enough connectors for both cards. The number of +12V rails can be something that is important.
but don’t usually go lower than 15 watts on memory of less than one gigabyte. After you sum up the combined power requirements of all your components. HDDs generally take 15 watts to 30 watts each.5 as mentioned before to account for other things. but not having enough power can put your computer at more risk in certain situations. And case fans use around two or three watts each typically. USB devices take around five watts each. . Firewire devices usually take up 8 watts each. This value is the minimum of the wattage that the power supply you choose should provide. BD/CD/DVD optical drives generally take 20 watts to 30 watts each. you should multiply this value by 1. The rest of your components are pretty easy to estimate without knowing the actual power required from the specifications of the component. Getting a higher wattage power supply will not damage your system. you should double this power requirement for reference if you are unable to find the specific power requirements for your GPU running in SLI or Crossfire. These GPUs range from 150 watts all the way up to 300 watts. For systems running to GPUs in SLI or Crossfire. Memory generally takes up 15 watts per gigabyte. it should be fine to use these estimates instead.way up for a PCIe GPU needing two PCIe power connectors. If you are unable to find the actual power requirements for any of these components.
Rack towers can also be used for servers as well if they do not use a case designed for servers. Rack towers are used by those who build computers often to test out a system without going through all the trouble of putting it into a case.1) and building your own custom case in a way that eliminates this problem (see Section 4. Full towers generally will fit multiple form factors and have .9.2).1. in order of size. microATX (mATX).9.6). The main performance issue with computer cases is that you have a bunch of parts that are producing heat and they are all being put into a box. mid tower and mini tower. especially larger cases. A full tower is a great choice if you like to experiment with new parts occasionally because of their large size. ATX. The most common form factors. Other options include liquid cooling (see Section 4. so you need to have fans to dissipate this heat into the surrounding area. Computers also fit into three main categories for size: full tower. Cases and fans come in many different colors. Even in that case. family or even complete strangers.9. Full towers are the largest conventional type of case.8. power supply.8. Cases Computer cases are almost always a requirement to purchase when trying to build a computer. called form factors.3). Cases and Fans The case is going to be the main thing that people see with your computer. 4. and fit a variety of different sized motherboards (see Section 4. shapes and sizes. People also like to give their cases lighting (see Section 4. If you are interested in showing off your new toy to friends. understanding the basics of what is required for a computer case is a must. You should choose the ones that best fit your requirements and desires. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your case and motherboard will be compatible for their form factor. are: Extended ATX (EATX). so that they are able to fit multiple types of motherboards. a couple hard disks and a 5. A full tower is generally used by experienced builders or those with higher budgets.25” external bay or two for a CD/DVD tray which will be mentioned later in this section. Computer cases may have multiple form factors listed. Other form factors do exist but are less common. Other size cases do exist but are rarely used for general purpose computers and are usually for specialty purposes such as in the case of building a server. A rack tower is an unenclosed ‘rack’ that allows you to mount the motherboard. and mini ITX. Conventional computer cases come in many different sizes. The exception to this rule would be when unconventional methods of computer storing are used such as when a builder creates a custom holder for their internal components (see Section 4. you will want to choose a case with curb-appeal.3).9.4. Motherboards will also have a form factor with the type of case that it fits into. Some builders that experiment with different parts often use a rack tower to set up a system and test out its functionality without all of the hassle of putting it into a conventional case.
however.25” bay for components like a CD/DVD tray while the larger ones can have as many as a mid-tower. cases can have a variety of internal and external slots as well as what is called an expansion slot. This size case isn’t so big that it takes up space but isn’t so small that you are struggling to find room to fit everything in. This can cause problems with setting up a computer in one of these smaller mini towers because you will need to ‘jerry-rig’ a cd tray to install the Operating System and other programs if you do not have an external CD/DVD drive. Also some motherboards will account for larger components such as GPUs that take up as many as two expansion slots. This will rarely become an issue but it is a good idea to double check. . NOTE: You will need to ensure that your motherboard does not have an abnormal amount of expansion slots. The smallest end of cases classified as mini towers will rarely have more than one external 5.7). Mini towers are the smallest size case. These cases can be as large as 30 inches (75 cm) tall and deep and can be larger than 10 inches (25 cm) wide. Some people will also say talk about a ‘small form factor’ size case which we will generalize to be a mini tower. Mid towers are good if you are not extremely limited on space but don’t desire a case that is big enough to smuggle a troupe of clowns inside. As mentioned multiple times already in this section. The number of expansion slots that your motherboard will need may be listed in the specifications of your motherboard but you may have to account for the fact that some of those may cover two expansion slots. These cases generally only have room for a few hard disks and anywhere from one to four external bays and can occasionally have a slot for a hot swappable hard drive. It is not recommended to use large components such as the longer GPUs (see Section 4. Full towers are the most common size to have hot swappable hard drive bays which will be explained later on in this section. Another option around this problem is to install these things with the use of a flash drive. These slots are where you will have access to the components plugged into the PCI slots on your motherboard. sometimes there may be a fewer or greater number of slots than what is considered typical for a specific form factor. Mid towers tend to be less than 2 feet (60 cm) tall and deep and are usually less than 9 inches (23 cm) wide.2). Expansion slots are what the slots in the back of the computer are called. A mid tower will usually be compatible with only one or two form factors of motherboards. Different form factors generally have the same amount of expansion slots to remain universal across different brands. Occasionally mini towers will have hot swappable bay but it is less common in this size of case.enough room to fit more than enough hard drives and other components.1) or large power supplies (see Section 4. These cases are the easiest to fit all of your components into and the easiest to manage your cables (see Section 7. Mid towers are the most common size of a conventional case. They are usually much cheaper than full towers and are much easier to use than mini towers.5. Mini towers also rarely have more than a couple slots for hard drives on the small end but can have as many as six in some cases with the larger end. The position of these expansion slots is always universal and will always line up with your case as long as the case you have chosen is compatible with the form factor of the motherboard that you have chosen. These cases are the hardest of the three sizes to use in terms of cable management and simply fitting everything in.
Cases made using aluminum instead of plastic will cost more in most cases than the lightweight plastic counterpart. External 3. Most mid range cases are made with a steel frame and a plastic bezel. When used externally. memory card readers. etc. If you are going to be using multiple operating systems. Many cases will have additional plugs located on the front or top of the case for easy access and convenience. The final type of slot is the internal or external 3. Since the 5.5” bay is the size needed for a floppy drive and some card readers but is rarely ever used anymore as external 3.5” hard drive bay. Plastic is also easier to make in different colors so cases that use plastic can be more colorful without having to modify the case yourself.25” external bay that will have what you may need. Aluminum and plastic are more lightweight than steel while steel and aluminum are much stronger than plastic. If the case that you chose does not have these plugs.1). temperature displays.Another type of slot is the 5. LCD displays. liquid cooling reservoirs. but it is not recommended and should only be attempted with extreme caution. A case could be made out of one or more of these materials. The external 3. Hot swapping is the act of pulling out a hard drive while the computer is turned on and running and plugging in a new hard drive much like you would with a flash drive or memory card (see Section 4. It is good to find a case that is both .5” drive bays are also located in the front of the case. aluminum and plastic.25” external bay.25” external drive bay is located in the front and is going to be the most accessible place on most cases.25” external bay to give builders the option to choose whichever size they need since most builders rarely ever need to use an external 3.11). other options include lighting and fan controllers. mSATA. The steel frame is added protection to your components inside from possible movement of the material which could put unneeded strain on the components that are secured into the case. etc. There are three main materials that conventional cases are made out of: steel. It is not very common to find a case that uses a frame that is made out of a material other than steel because of how sturdy it is. headphone and microphone jacks. this may be acceptable.5” drive bay anymore.4). it is almost always as a hot swappable bay. If the case has these plugs they will probably be located near the on/off and reset buttons. Usually used for a Blu-ray/CD/DVD drive (see Section 4.5” bays are not common for anything other than a floppy drive and most motherboards no longer support internal floppy drives (see Section 4. The external 3. A hot swappable bay is a slot in your case that can be accessed without opening up the case that houses your hard drives. there are many different components that are designed to use these external bays. this external bay is located in the front of your computer case. The 5.25” external bay can be used with more than just Blu-ray/CD/DVD drives. These are most commonly USB.3. Plastic is also much easier to mold than aluminum so many of the cases that are more aesthetically pleasing to some builders will require them to use plastic instead of aluminum. you may be able to purchase a component that goes into a 5. It is not recommended to use these hot swappable bays with the hard drive that you put your main Operating System on.5” drive bay is often used along with a 5. It is a good idea to find a case that already has these ports located for easy access.
aesthetically pleasing to you while also being functional and strong that fits inside your budget (if you have one). and many will intentionally buy a case without windows so that they may modify the case and put their own window with a custom shape and size on the case (see Section 4. Cases with pre-installed lighting may be good for a beginner that wants their case to have that added effect without actually having to install lights themselves. Many PC builders love to have windows on their cases.3). More about airflow is explained later in this guide (see Section 7. Airflow is also something that you will need to consider with a case. For those who are interested in liquid cooling (see Section 4.2) cool your system.9.9. some cases come ready for liquid cooling by adding a couple holes in the back for tubing to go through and usually having a good place to put the radiator inside the case. .3). The radiator may also be mounted outside the case with the help of the two holes in the case used for transferring liquid through tubes between the inside and outside of your case. A case that has lots of places for air to enter into the case and escape out of the case will help your fans (see Section 4. With experienced builders. Often times being a color that they don’t want or in a place they don’t like. Having lots of mesh and places to put fans is going to be beneficial to the airflow of your case. Adding windows and lighting is also common practice to make a case look good.1).9.8. Using molded plastic is not the only way that companies make their cases pleasing aesthetically. some builders stay away from these cases so they can do their own custom lighting job (see Section 4.2). these pre-installed lights can become more of a nuisance than anything.
sizes. you can keep your parts from overheating and keep them performing efficiently. not everyone is comfortable with doing this. Fans these days have lots of options with them. Most computers are placed in cases (see Section 4. they come in many different shapes. The first thing you should look at is the size of the fan. The measurement given is the length of each side of the fan since they are both the same. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your fans are the correct size for your case. . 120mm and 140mm but these days cases support many different fan sizes.4.g. The most common fans are 80mm. By blowing the hot air out of the case. They also come in other sizes as well so make sure you find the proper size to fit with your case. These techniques are not recommended for beginners (see Section 4. and cooler air into the case. In addition to that.2. The smaller the fan. 120mm. Fans In a computer. The higher speed fans tend to be louder which can be an important aspect of fans to some PC builders. However. etc. 140mm and 200mm. Most high end GPUs will come equipped with a fan to serve this same purpose. Fans with PWM will give their speed as a range (e. colors. are more efficient and keeping your computer cool. Sizes are measured in mm and the most common fans are 60mm. Other fans without PWM will list a single speed in revolutions per minute (RPM). If you don’t know much about fans you may become overwhelmed by the many options and probably won’t know what to look for. There are also different types of fans that are used for specific components such as the CPU or RAM. It seems these days that companies will advertise their fans as being silent as long as they are quieter than a base drum. Many pc builders will mod their case by drilling new holes in their case to fit different size fans. Most modern motherboards have the ability to change the speed of the fan as needed if the fan has that ability. just about every component produces heat. Most fans operate above 1000 RPM but can go as high as 8000 RPM in some cases.8. Most cases have spots for them that fit only a specific size fan. Other options such as custom designed cases that eliminate this heat pooling around your components or liquid cooling are alternatives that can have great rewards if done properly. 600 RPM to 2000 RPM).9). Fans with Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) have the ability to vary their speed when used along with a fan controller or a motherboard that will actively change the speed of the fan as needed.1) which cause this heat to be constricted to one area. Another important thing to look at is the rotating speed of the fan. all or most of those components perform slower or less efficiently under higher temperatures. Many cases will have different size slots in different places or some fan slots that are pre-drilled for two or more different fan sizes. Most stores that cater to PC builders will have a fairly large cooling section with a large selection to choose from. the faster it needs to spin to move more air. Larger fans will move more air and therefore. the most common way is with fans.8. 80mm. There are a few ways to remove this heat.
is often a tradeoff for faster moving fans. or noise level as it is often listed as. the times that it may be operating and who will be around that the noise could bother. To give you an idea of this. Ball bearings and sleeve bearings are the most common bearing types but some fans use fluids or hydraulics to lower friction around the pin when the fan is spinning. The noise level will be listed in decibels (dB) in the specifications of a fan. it is generally not a great idea to have a very high pressure in the case.1) while the higher volume fans are more beneficial for case fans that need to move large amounts of air without the resistance that would be caused by a radiator. It could take as many as ten 10 dB fans to equal the same power ratio of a 20 dB fan. For builds that are going to have a high volume of air flowing through the case to cool components quickly. You often need to find a good balance between fan performance and fan noise. Using higher pressure fans to create higher pressure air in the case is useful for minimizing the dust buildup on parts (see Section 7. a fan at 30 dB to 40 dB is not uncommon. There are many different fan bearing types with many modern fans. You should not trust the word silent if it is written on the case of the fan. You should plan your airflow in your case and select which fans are going to push/pull before choosing fans if you are going to use fans with large air flow rates. the maximum air pressure is an important aspect of a fan to consider. the greater the performance of your fan. Also having two fans at 10 dB will not be equal to one fan at 20 dB. Media center systems will typically want fans below 15 dB. The noise level is usually anywhere from a very quiet 5 dB to a loud 70 dB.3).Sound.9. The air flow rate can be anywhere from 2 CFM to as high as 250+ CFM and is usually a trade off with noise. usually in cubic feet per minute (CFM). For high performance machines such as gaming PCs. Think about your noise considerations before selecting a fan. The more effective bearings are more costly but will generally improve both noise and performance by being able to spin faster and be quieter from having lower friction. The air flow rate is simply a measurement of how much volume of air is moved by the fan in a certain span of time. a typical conversation at 3 feet or 1 meter apart is approximately 65 dB while a quiet whisper at 6 feet or 2 meters apart is around 30 dB. Every increment of 10 dB. Air flow rate is also a specification that may be given about a fan. It is good to consider the environment that the computer will be in. Since having high pressure generally increases the temperature inside the case. but is usually directly related to the size and speed of the fan. It is also important to note that higher pressure fans will be more important when pushing air through radiators such as those used in liquid cooling (see Section 4. Since the decibel scale is a logarithmic scale. 10 dB has a power ratio of 10 and 20 dB has a power ratio of 100. Most computer fans will be in the 20 dB to 30 dB range while quieter fans will be around the 10 dB to 20 dB range. The higher to air flow rate. . This is a common misconception among some people. the power ratio multiplies by 10 starting with 0 dB being at a power ratio of 1.
when used properly. Proceed with caution but don’t be afraid to experiment carefully if you want. 4. It is not recommended that you immediately try any of these without the help of an experienced builder. A closed circuit loop (ccl) or pre-built liquid cooling loop is available at a lower risk (see Section 4. An easy and safe place to start would be with lighting (see Section 4. but fun to look at as well. This section will be all about building a custom liquid cooling loop. Many of these techniques.4. Do not attempt this unless you are willing to take the risk of damaging some or all of your components. A custom loop is very expensive since it is comprised of numerous components. will increase the efficiency of your computer to perform much higher than any of the components were intended to perform at. . Enthusiast This section is for dedicated and experienced builders.2) as that has very minimal risk to damaging any components in your system. This is only to be attempted by those who are already comfortable with building computers and should not be taken lightly.10).9.9. The reward for successfully using any of the following techniques while building your computer will almost always result in an amazing one of a kind computer that is not only fun to use. With this great risk come great rewards. Liquid Cooling WARNING: Custom liquid cooling loops are very dangerous.9.1. You are welcome to try anything here but some of these different things could have negative effects on your system if you do something wrong.
Occasionally all three will be combined in a single unit.4. A pump can come in many different sizes and usually will come with a housing that allows it to be connected into the rest of the loop. The flow rate is generally measured in liters or gallons per minute. maximum temperature and noise. Pumps The pump is a very important part of every liquid cooling loop.1. Pumps are rated for flow rate.9. pressure. The maximum flow rate is just a specification and is not a guarantee that you will get that flow rate out of your pump. will result in lower flow rates than the maximum flow rate as noted for a pump. Components The following components are required in every liquid cooling loop: Pump Radiator Reservoir Waterblock Tubing Fittings Coolant The following components can be used in/with a liquid cooling loop but are not always necessary: Dye Additives and Biocide Flow meter Nozzle Filter Leak detector Some of the components can be combined in one unit.1. Most commonly the reservoir is combined with the pump or the radiator. power consumption. . Some people prefer these combo units while others prefer to have all separate components to allow them to choose each component specifically. It is a good idea to keep an open mind and make a decision on what the best choice for you will be. The maximum flow rate of a pump is directly related to the cooling potential of the pump. Higher pressure loops.
705. The radiator can usually have fans put on either side to push and pull air through the radiator and out to the ambient air. This operating pressure is measured in psi or kPa. For most pumps. Maximum head pressure is different in that it is measured in either feet or meters.25” external drive bays. Reservoirs come in all shapes. The maximum temperature and noise are pretty self-explanatory specifications. Radiators are usually measured by how many of a certain size fan will fit along one side of the radiator. and having more of these fins equates to more area for the heat to dissipate across which is better for cooling potential.8. Radiators have heat dissipating fins. Reservoirs come in many different sizes and hold many varying amounts of coolant. Some pumps have Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) which allows for the control of power to the pump. the maximum temperature is far above the maximum temperature of the CPU. Radiators come in different sizes.433 or from meters to kPa by multiplying by 9. Larger area on a radiator will provide more cooling potential. basically bent metal in a wave pattern. They can be attached to the case in multiple ways. either by mounting it to any available space by bolting it to the case or by putting it into one or two open 5. Reservoirs are not always completely necessary in every loop but are definitely worth having in every loop as they make everything from installation to . Reservoir The reservoir is the part of the loop that holds excess coolant. This can be approximately converted from feet to psi by multiplying by 0. They can also have designs inside to give them a distinct appeal. Essentially the maximum head pressure of the pump the maximum height displacement of water.The maximum head pressure of a pump is different from maximum operating pressure. Radiator The radiator is the part of the loop that is used to expel heat out of the system. Waterblocks have a change in pressure that varies with the flow rate. Another specification for radiators is a measure of fins per inch (fpi). sizes and colors. This can be good when a quiet system is needed because when the pump is working less. So a quad 120mm radiator will fit four 120mm fans along one side. This is because heat is spread out across the radiator and there is more area to push air through the radiator to expel that heat. thus allowing the speed of the pump to vary. it will make less noise.2). You can find a comparison graph for most pumps if you are concerned with your pump not being strong enough for your loop. The maximum operating pressure is the maximum pressure of the system that the pump can operate at before it is in danger of breaking. Reservoirs can be attached to a pump or separate. Noise is measured in decibels as explained in the fans section of this guide (see Section 4.
Waterblock The waterblock is the part of the loop that connects the liquid cooling loop to the components that are to be cooled by the system. tubing comes with an inner diameter of ¼”. The inner diameter is important because that is the size of the tube that will affect the flow. The outer diameter is important for compression fittings since they go over the outer diameter of the tube. When the . Tubing also comes in different colors and will sometimes come with an anti-kink coil around it.maintenance much easier. Do some research on the specific waterblocks that you are considering. The rest of the Liquid Cooling section of this guide will assume that a reservoir is present in any custom liquid cooling loop. thicknesses. Waterblocks can mount on any component that you want to include in the liquid cooling system. Using an anti-kink coil around the tubing will help prevent the unwanted kinks. Waterblocks are an impedance on the flow which causes a pressure drop which will cause the flow rate to be lower. Tubing is made out of plastic which is has chemicals called plasticizer in it. Tubing comes in different sizes. Outer diameters are similar and go up to ¾”. Kinking is a problem with tubing because it constricts the flow and adds additional pressure loss to the system. colors and materials. There are many options when it comes to liquid cooling tubing. Plasticizer will also stain acrylic reservoirs leaving them with a permanent cloud. Tubing The tubing is the part of the loop that is used to transfer the coolant between each component of the liquid cooling loop. You can get waterblocks for many components such as the following: Processor Graphics Cards Bridges Hard Drives Memory Waterblocks come in many different shapes and designs. Plasticizer will cloud your coolant and will cause it to stop cooling as efficiently. Most commonly. Newer tubing designed for liquid cooling loops has taken steps to prevent this plasticizer leakage but have not been able to completely eliminate the problem. ½” or ⅝”. Most waterblocks have very minimal effect on the pressure but others are not as efficient. ⅜”.
The second way is a compression fitting. These are a very convenient type of fitting and most have a very minimal impact on the flow but cost significantly more since two are needed at each connection. adjustable fittings and even splitters. They require two parts. Fittings are used throughout the loop for various reasons but their general purpose is to serve as the connector between a major component of the loop such as the pump. See the maintenance part of this section below for more information about that. Fittings The fittings are the parts of the loop that are used to securely connect each component of the liquid cooling loop to the tubing. quick-disconnect (QDC). that damaged part should be cut off. These fittings need to be compatible in size to both the ID and OD of the tubing to ensure no leaking. Angled fittings can either attach directly to the tubing by one of the methods explained above or they can attach to one of the other components. There are two major ways that the fitting will attach to the tubing. The most common fitting is one that directly connects to the tubing. There are many types of fittings from angled fittings. . a male and female fitting. a sleeve fits over the top of the tube to compress it equally to prevent leaks. Some components do not attach this way and require a clamp to attach the tubing directly unless otherwise modified. The two come together by either pushing them until they lock together or by pushing and twisting into a locked position. QDCs are very helpful if the loop is going to be changed often due to upgrades or additions. There are a few common thread sizes that are used so it is important that the correct size thread is used to prevent damage or leaking at the connection point. Quick-disconnect (QDC) fittings connect differently than other fittings. The first is with a clamp. Some angled fittings are adjustable and allow the angle or direction to be changed after being attached. Compression fittings are used for a cleaner look. Tubing should also be replaced regularly. it should be cycled out and replaced with new coolant. Angled fittings are used to redirect the flow of liquid through the loop at a certain angle. The fitting slips into the tubing and then a clamp goes around the outer diameter (OD) of the tube and tightens it down to prevent any potential leaking. to function. radiator or waterblock and the tubing. One side of the QDC screws into the component while the other attaches to the tubing.coolant becomes cloudy. the tubing will become damaged at the connection point. When using clamps or compression fittings. reservoir. the fitting slips into the tubing but instead of a clamp. Every year or two is recommended because of microcracks in the tubing can form. Similar to the way a clamp fitting is attached. If a fitting is removed. Fittings connect to the different components of a liquid cooling loop with the use of a threaded end.
Additives and Biocide Additives and biocide are used to clean the coolant and kill any unwanted algae. This is because tap water contains unwanted chemicals and living organisms that cause problems in a liquid cooling loop. distilled water should be used instead of tap water. If water is going to be used as a coolant. Since distilled water is much cheaper than specialty coolants and is colorless. The frequency that coolant is replaced is described later in the maintenance part of this section. the most common coolant is simply water. Dyes can come in many different colors and can even be UV reactive to glow when exposed to UV lights. such as memory or PCIe cards such as GPUs. however. Coolant must be changed regularly so it never hurts to have some extra around so you won’t need to go to the store every time you change your coolant. Adding a little amount of dye won’t noticeably alter the effectiveness of the coolant it is put into. The splitter redirects the flow toward the components and then another splitter is used at the end of the parallel circuit to combine the flows into one. Some specialty coolants for liquid cooling loops perform better than distilled water. When components are going to be added into the loop in parallel. using a dye is the only way to change it to the color you want.Adjustable fittings are used commonly when putting multiple parts that are located near each other. These fittings are used when the distance between components is so short that using a tube is impractical. it is necessary to use an additive along with it because of a higher risk of algae and unwanted chemicals in the water. it is best to do some research on the coolants you are considering for your loop. Flow Meter . While there are many specialty coolants out there of different colors. As always. The most common biocide is pure silver and can be put into the system as a strip of silver or as a silver plug that can be put into the circuit through a special fitting or can be attached to the reservoir. It is also a good idea to use additives and biocide in specialty coolants as well. The parallel circuits can be recombined without a splitter fitting by emptying them directly into a reservoir. most of these specialty coolants are less effective. Dye Dye is used to color the coolant. in series into the loop. a splitter fitting is used to separate the flow evenly. Coolant The coolant is the liquid that flows through the liquid cooling loop. When using distilled water as the coolant.
and may save your components from a serious leak and possible damage. . These are used by some enthusiasts to monitor the performance of their loop to make sure there are no blockages in the loop and that the pump is still functioning properly. While a filter is not necessary. A filter will extend the time between required maintenance by passively cleaning the coolant during normal use. Nozzle The nozzle is the part of the loop that is used to limit the flow and is most commonly used for maintenance of the loop.The flow meter is the part of the loop that measures how much liquid is flowing through the loop in a certain amount of time. A flow meter is not necessary to have in a loop but can provide useful feedback on performance. Nozzles aren’t generally used except for aiding in emptying the loop and refilling it with new coolant. Leak Detector The leak detector is the part of the loop that detects moisture and alerts you to a possible leak. it is a very beneficial component to have. Leak detectors are not necessary components and are not used in every loop. They are a convenience though. It is generally not helpful to constrict the flow with a nozzle unless it is to close off an entire section of the loop such as a section used only for maintenance of the loop. A filter does not last indefinitely and will need to be replaced periodically. Filter The filter is the part of the loop that cleans the coolant during normal use.
For other cases. After the pump and reservoir have been selected.1. you must first design your loop. Some cases are too small to mount the pump and reservoir anywhere other than in a 5. biocide. You should also decide if you want a pump that attaches to a reservoir. you should decide the order in which the components will be cooled. After the components that are going to be cooled are selected. the additives. If a pump was chosen without a reservoir. Larger cases such as full tower cases will offer more choices in placement of the components in a custom liquid cooling loop. you may have a choice in the size tubing or you may not. The last necessary decision is to decide on number and size of radiators that are going to be used. The size of tubing that is used will also determine the size of the fittings that are required.2.4. you should decide which waterblocks will be used for those components. larger tubing will yield greater cooling potential but may be harder to work with and will take up much more space inside your case. The next step is to decide on which pump you want to use. Reservoirs are not always necessary but are a huge help with maintenance and are sometimes considered a necessary component for a liquid cooling loop because of this.9. The components that the flow reaches first after leaving the radiator will have the greatest cooling potential. After that has been decided. The final decisions are to decide which coolant is going to be used. The process of building a custom liquid cooling loop is the same as the process of building a new computer. mounting brackets are available for mounting radiators outside of the case. This is also the time when you will need to look at space requirements in your case. The first step is to decide which of the components in the computer are going to be included in the liquid cooling loop. . Some larger full tower cases will have convenient mounting locations built into the case for liquid cooling.25” external drive bay. You should also keep in mind case size constraints and mounting locations for the reservoir. the next thing to do when designing your loop is to choose a reservoir. Designing A Loop Before purchasing any components. and other extra parts of the loop that were mentioned in the components part of this section. If you have the ability to decide.
rinse everything with clean tap water to make sure all of the soap has been washed out. You should have already determined where each fitting will go during the design phase. It might be a good idea to let them dry before working with them. connect it to a running source of water such as a shower or a kitchen sink. leave it partially filled and give it a few good shakes. As you do this you should lightly scrub the parts as best as you can.1. you can use compressed air to blow out most of the leftover water in each component. the radiator. using this coolant for the final rinse will suffice. cause dangerous leaks. You can use soap and hot water when scrubbing the parts. Run the tap water continuously for around 10 minutes or so. The next step is to attach your fittings to the waterblocks and other components as necessary. If you don’t have the time to let them dry. Before you begin putting anything together you should clean out everything thoroughly. It will take a few hours to set up initially and will require that you check on it periodically throughout the day and usually the next day. Distilled water can be found at just about any grocery store and is available in gallon sizes. Then switch to the other side of the radiator and flush for another 10 minutes or so. These O-rings are made of a rubber or plastic that creates a watertight seal between the fitting and the component it goes into. it is time to attach all of the waterblocks to their proper components. refer to the instructions that came with the block for the proper way to attach it. especially if it is your first time. After you are done scrubbing. named because it is the shape of a circle or the letter ‘O’. Do not over-tighten the fittings as this may cause cracks or fissures which can. To do this. it is recommended that you go through this process twice for a new radiator. Finally fill the radiator with a diluted acidic liquid such as diluted vinegar and let it sit for around an hour or so. rinse the radiator out thoroughly with distilled water. After the diluted vinegar soak and before putting it in the loop. Installation Installation of a custom liquid cooling loop will take a lot of time.4. Many people have an idea of how long it takes to periodically test the loop until you can be confident that it will not leak.3. Since there are many different types of waterblocks that can mount in different ways. Just a quick rinse of each part without scrubbing will suffice. or flush.9. After the radiator has been flushed for 10 minutes through both sides. If you don’t have distilled water and are using a different coolant than distilled water. If there is any doubt. Once all the waterblocks have . Make sure to place each part in a clean area after they have been cleaned. This will make sure that all the dust is off of the part. Cleaning the radiator is done differently and is one of the most important parts to clean. Just to be sure. Simply tightening the fittings into the component by hand will create a secure connection with a watertight seal. Finally rinse everything using distilled water. scrub and then rinse every part with clean tap water. It works best to use a water filter to clean it. Most fittings will use a seal called an O-ring. it is best to continue to test for a longer period of time. over time. To clean. Once all of the fittings are in place.
The PS_ON# (usually green) connection will have to be connected to one of the COM (black) connections as shown in the diagram below. Before filling the loop it is important to make sure that if a leak does occur that it will not damage the components. This is the last chance before putting water in the loop. Even with the PSU unplugged and turned off. Put towels around every connection and just stuff the thing full of towels. Make sure to put towels over the power supply. are in their proper locations within the case. Note the orientation of the plug with the clip on the right with the end of the plug that would go into the motherboard facing towards you. and covering all other components. WARNING: Do not bridge the PS_ON# connection with any other connection other than a COM connection. well lit area and laying lots of towels around everything. covering the motherboard. . It seems to work best if you start from the bottom of the case and work up when placing the towels. This is done by taking the PC to a safe. you will need to bridge two of the connectors. it is time to add in the tubing. put the tubing in the case and visually find the correct length. To modify the main power connector. It would be a good idea to remove any components from the computer that are unnecessary to the test and unplug everything except for the pump from the power supply. First. It will be possible to cut off some extra tubing after the fact if you made it too long but it won’t be possible to make it longer. Make sure when you lay out the tubing that all bends are gradual and don’t cause any kinks. it still has enough power to cause serious physical harm. a sharper turn can be done without kinking the tubing by bending the tube and dipping it in hot water for a few seconds and then repeatedly dipping into cold water directly afterwards. The next step is to make sure that none of your components will power on during the cycle except for the pump.been attached and the parts. This will permanently damage the power supply and could result in physical injury or death from electrocution or fire. including pump. The 20-pin or 24-pin connector that would be in the motherboard is going to be modified to allow this test to happen without powering on any other systems. neatly of course. If you absolutely must. After the tubing has been cut and placed into the loop. This can be done with a specialized bridging clip or a simple paper clip. reservoir and radiator. To make sure you cut the correct tubing lengths. make sure the power supply is both switched off and unplugged from the wall. This would be the best time to double check every connection for tightness. It’s good to give yourself a few extra inches when cutting the tubing to make sure that it is long enough.
Turning the pump on and off to attempt to dislodge these bubbles should work for any air bubbles in the system. After the pump is off. Lay everything out in a way that all water and condensation will dry completely. As these bubbles go through the loop. Fill it up to a safe level that it isn’t overflowing but is still full and cap off the reservoir if necessary. Use compressed air in areas of the motherboard that may not dry as quickly such as PCI slots or SATA ports. start by filling the reservoir with the coolant. take apart the system and let everything dry completely. make sure to get them replaced and double check all connections before trying again. This is also the time to check for small leaks. If any large leaks are noticed. they will end up in the reservoir. Slowly remove all towels from the top down and check for any moisture either on the towel or by the connection points and the .After the connection has been bridged. If any fittings or components are found to be faulty after the second try. Once the loop is full. Make sure that the reservoir does not run dry to prevent any damage to the pump. take note of any air bubbles that are stuck in the system. refill the reservoir with more liquid and repeat the process until the loop is full of water. If everything has been done correctly. the power supply is ready to power the liquid cooling loop for testing. Make sure to turn off the pump before the coolant runs out in the reservoir. Don’t turn anything on yet as there is no water in the loop and running most pumps dry will damage them. the pump should start to run and will start pulling coolant from the reservoir and will start to push it through the loop. Don’t turn it off too late where the reservoir is completely empty and the pump is running dry. immediately turn off the pump. To fill the loop. Try again another time. Plug in the power supply and flip the switch to the on position.
After ensuring that the connection is secure. If no moisture is felt. Place a new paper towel over the connection and start to run the pump again. If any leaks are found.fittings. Be careful not to put too much stress or strain onto the tubing in the liquid cooling loop that might cause damage to the tubing and cause future leaks. Do not remove paper towels when switching to another connection. wrap a paper towel around the connection. and reconnect everything back into the computer. you should let the loop run for at least 6 hours. it will be safe to remove all paper towels. The cheapest fix may be to replace the O-ring in the fitting and trying again. If the leak persists. Once all connections have paper towels around them. . Leaks may not show for a couple hours but can still be present in the loop and will need to be recognized as early as possible. The worst case scenario is a faulty component that will need to be replaced entirely. dry the area of the leak and use compressed air to blow away any moisture at the connection. The longer you let it run the better because you can be more confident that there are no leaks in your loop. Once the leak test has been completed. Make sure to turn off the power supply and unplug it before removing the connection bridge that was put in to test the loop. you may need to empty the loop and repair the connection. Test each connection one at a time for about 15-30 minutes each and then move onto the next connection. turn off the pump and double check the connection by hand.
Flushing the system and replacing the coolant is recommended after 3-6 months. you will need to do another leak test so make sure to give yourself enough time to complete that as well. Maintenance The maintenance of a liquid cooling loop is much more time consuming and difficult than the maintenance of any other part of your computer. With every flush and replacement of coolant after this initial one at 3-6 months.4. Maintenance should normally be performed after every 9 months to a year or as necessary if the coolant is observed to be cloudy or contain debris. it is a good idea to take apart the waterblocks and clean them with a brush and then let them soak in an acidic solution such as vinegar. Remember that every time you take apart your system. This maintenance will need to be done more often in the beginning but periods between regular maintenance can be increased over the life of the loop.1.4. clean the system right away.9. If you notice any clouding or debris in the coolant. . Clean the radiator as was done when it was initially purchased.
way to add allure and awe to your computer. It is so easy because all you have to do most of the time is plug the lights in and watch them light up. and usually cheap. This is a very easy.2). Lighting Lighting effect with computers are the easiest technique that you can do to your computer to make it look flashier. Not too bright that it is distracting. Some lights have the ability to change colors. Some liquid cooling fluids (see section 4.1) are reactive to UV lights and will glow a certain color when exposed to this certain type of light. This is a technique that is not often done correctly the first time and is more of an art. Other options are single point LEDs. Some people put lights on their workstation. some put them on the back of their monitor. but not so soft that it is not noticeable. Sometimes UV lights are used as well when there are UV reactive components in the case. The easiest way to do this is with case fans that come pre-lit with LEDs (see Section 4. or Cold Cathode kits. It is a good idea to browse the internet and look at picture of computers and workstations with lighting effects and decide which effects you like and which ones you don’t. but most will put them inside their case. This will help you to plan out what colors you want to use and where you want to place the lights. Lights put inside a computer case are not only used for backlighting effects.9. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and try out different types of lighting to get the lighting effect that you desire. Backlighting is generally a soft color such as a soft white. some even react to sounds that they pick up through a microphone. EL wire is also a form of lighting that can be used either inside or outside the case. Cold Cathodes are generally in rods and are generally used not as a focal point. Lights put on the back of a monitor on a workstation are usually for backlighting effects and are generally less flashy. Case lighting is generally used to show off the internal components inside the case or to just make the case look more customized. which can come in different colors. You simply install the fan into the case and plug it into the motherboard as you normally would and watch it light up. can be used to produce a small single point or light. It is simply a wire or string that illuminates as one light source.9. but to illuminate the entire case as a whole.8.2. Single point LEDs are exactly as they sound. blue or soft red. The light is usually projected onto a wall or other surface in a way that it surrounds the item that it is directing your focus towards. They can also be used as a direct focal point of the computer in some cases. Backlighting is meant to direct your focus someplace other than directly at the light. A single point LED bulb.4. . This can give them a fun and unique feel by changing colors to match the mood of what is happening on your computer.
sizes and colors. Before attempting to modify any of your components. There is an entire community of PC builders that choose to customize their parts to make one of a kind computers. You can choose to purchase certain components for their looks as most people do or you can change the parts to look how you want them to. adding props related to that movie or show can really add some fun effects and add a lot to the theme of the build. do some research on different techniques used by others and find out some potential problems that may arise so that you can avoid them. .9.3.how the PC looks. If you are making a computer and designing it from a TV show or movie. most commonly. PC modders also like to modify their cases with windows of different shapes. a computer can be themed from an idea or themed to look like something else. you can carefully cut out shapes from your case. Be careful with this as a poorly cut out window may look much worse than having no window at all. It creates a common visual making all of the parts appear to belong together. Customizing your parts with a common logo or design will also personalize the computer making it one of a kind. It is important to note that nearly all modifications done to your components will void any warranty they may have. A theme doesn’t have to be from a movie or a show. They also like to add additional parts onto the case such as handles or other props. This new logo can be painted or laser etched. One technique that is done to customize parts is to remove logos and designs that come with them by carefully using a grinding tool and then putting a different logo or design onto the part. Custom PC Modifications One important aspect of high-end enthusiast PCs is the aesthetics . Make sure to use the proper tools when modding your case and take your time. Creativity is the key when doing any custom modifications. You can get clear plexiglass or even actual glass from the hardware store and cut it into the shapes that you need to put inside your case where the holes were cut out to give a more finished look. Do not try any of these modifications without accepting those risks.4. you can create a sense of unity for the entire system. PC modification is more of an art than a science. Adding props to a build can help when creating a themed build. There is also a great risk of damaging components. From laser etching a logo or design onto a component to cutting out entire sections of a case to put in a window. By putting your own logo or design onto all of the components in your computer. Using metal cutting tools. you can build a custom case out of many things. onto the part. There are many different modifications that can be done to every part of the computer.
understand that you may be taking the risk that one or more of the parts in your computer may become defective and need to be replaced. The manufacturer then sets those clocking speeds and voltages as the default for those components and usually guarantee them against failure when used at those settings for a certain period of time.4. Do some research on your motherboard. Before attempting to overclock any hardware. they test it to find the clocking speeds and voltages at which balance stability and performance. gpu or RAM module. When component manufacturers create a new component such as a cpu. the warranty is usually voided because the manufacturer does not guarantee the component to function properly at any setting other than those they have specified. Overclocking Overclocking is one of the most dangerous techniques used by computer enthusiasts to improve their computer. chipset and BIOS before attempting to overclock so that you can understand how to do it if overclocking is possible with your system. If a component is overclocked. . Overclockers are fighting overheating issues as well as potential hardware defects to get the absolute most out of their hardware. The act of overclocking is to manually change the voltages and clocking speeds of a piece of hardware to get it to perform better and faster at the risk of creating an unstable system. This will give you a better understanding of the process of overclocking as well as the performance boost that you can expect to receive from overclocking. Every BIOS is different and not all of them will have simple ways to alter the clocking speeds and voltages of certain components. The way an overclocker changes the clocking speed and voltages of a component is through the BIOS which is built into the motherboard. It is also important to read tutorials online that have been created to show people how to overclock certain components.9.4.
1.1. Many times. 4. .9. or RAID. Level 0 Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 10 Level 01 For the purposes of this guide.9. Some modern motherboards will come with an on-board RAID controller and include their own software along with the board. only the most common levels of RAID will be explained. All RAID setups require a RAID controller and software to be able to manage the RAID configuration properly. As the technology behind RAID advances.5. is a technique that is used to create redundancy in hard drives or to increase the performance of drives by changing the way data is sent. there more things that are needed other than the hard drives required. stored and read in a hard drive. new types of arrays will arise. This RAID controller card should come with its own software and drivers for managing certain RAID configurations. 5 and 10. RAID Controllers And Software In order to set up a RAID configuration in a computer. this will suffice for managing a RAID configuration but not all motherboards have these capabilities.4. it needs to be plugged into the motherboard and the hard drives must be plugged into the controller. To use a RAID controller. RAID controllers can be purchased as add-on cards for a computer and will usually plug right into a PCI slot on the motherboard. The most common levels of RAID are 0. It is important to note that it is generally not an acceptable practice to use RAID to create a backup disk because the data redundancy created in some RAID setups creates an exact copy of the disk in real time.5. Know that not all controllers and software support all the many different types of RAID configurations. There are 9 levels of RAID that exist. The 9 levels of RAID that are listed above may not be the entire list. RAID A Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks.
5. data is split between the two hard drives equally. RAID 0 RAID 0 requires only 2 identical hard drives. This repeats until the write operation has been completed. the first block of data is written to the first hard drive and the second is written to the second drive. . RAID 0 also has no loss of storage space as the total allowable storage space will be equal to twice the size of a single disk in the RAID setup.2.9. Without data redundancy. This level of RAID will speed up read/write times with your hard drive but will not create any redundancy of data. all data on both drives will be lost. In this level of raid. if one of the two drives in a RAID 0 setup fail. When data is written to the drives. If more than 2 drives are in RAID 0 configuration.4. the chance of total failure increases because the chance of at least one of the drives failing increases.
9. . The total allowable storage space will be equal to the size of one of the drives in the RAID setup. data is copied across both drives equally. RAID 1 RAID 1 also requires only 2 identical hard drives. RAID 1 has a loss of storage space because data takes up twice as much space in the RAID setup.3.5. the first block of data is written to both drives and the second is also written to both drives. When data is written to the drives. RAID 1 has minimum effect on performance in terms of write times but creates redundancy in case one of the drives fails due to hardware malfunction. In this level of RAID.4. There will be faster read times for drives in RAID 1 because the controller has to select the fastest drive to read from and can read from .
. If given the parity bit and either of the other two pieces of data. The parity case in a RAID 5 setup is created by using 1s and 0s to indicate a bit by bit comparison between the two bits of data. the next parity bit will be written on the second disk the next time the second disk is being written to and so on. a computer can recreate the lost piece of data. 11001 and 10011. RAID 5 has a loss of storage space equal to that of one of the hard drives in the setup. the second to the second drive and so on.4. third and fifth digits in each bit of data are the same digit and the second and fourth digits are opposite. if you have two bit of data.9.4.5. Some RAID controllers are able to set up a RAID 5 configuration with non-identical drives but the drive sizes must be multiples of the smallest drive to utilize all of the available space on every drive. The position of the parity bit changes for each grouping of three bits. This parity bit is to indicate that the first. RAID 5 does not create any redundancy in data but still allows for data to be recovered in the case of a disk failure unlike RAID 0. then the parity bit would be 01010. The data in a RAID 5 setup is written much like it is in RAID 0 where data the first piece of data is written to the first drive. The read performance of a RAID 5 setup is increased but the write speed is decreased since it must create and write one third more data than what would otherwise need to be written in a RAID setup without parity bits. In this level of RAID. If the parity bit is written to the third disk. The total allowable storage space in a RAID 5 setup is equal to twice the size of a single disk in the RAID setup. For instance. data is striped like with RAID 0 but includes a parity block which allows the computer to recreate data if it is lost due to drive failure in one of the hard drives. RAID 5 RAID 5 requires 3 identical hard drives.
. the second bit of data goes to both drives 3 and 4. the third bit of data goes to both drives 1 and 2 and so on. RAID 10 has the benefits of both RAID 1 and RAID 0 so the read/write times are sped up to that of a RAID 0 setup and redundancy is also achieved in the case of drive failure.4.5.9. In this level of RAID.5. So the first bit of data goes to both drives 1 and 2. Then the two groups of drives are written to as if they were in a RAID 1 configuration. RAID 10 RAID 10 (pronounced as “one-zero”) is a combination of RAID 1 and RAID 2 and requires 4 identical hard drives. drives 1 and 2 are grouped in a RAID 0 configuration as well as drives 3 and 4.
A tube of high quality thermal paste is very cheap and will usually last a very long time. Most stock CPU coolers use a heat sink attached to the CPU and then have a fan on top that sucks the hot air away from the CPU and blows it upward toward the side of the case. Pre-built liquid cooling loops are very easy and require no more maintenance than any other method of CPU cooling. Custom built liquid cooling loops (see Section 4. These tend to be larger coolers and . However. there are different hole positions to attach the CPU cooler. Just as there are different socket types with processors (see Section 4. Luckily they are consistent across each individual socket such that they can be named the same as the socket type to make things easier. They blow the air at various angles and directions usually so that it is directed toward an air exhaust section of the case. The most common way to cool modern CPUs is with a combination heat sink and fan setup. Some different socket types also have the same CPU cooler attachment hole pattern. There are many different shapes and sizes of CPU coolers. Other CPU coolers have a different idea. This thermal paste is usually of a below average quality and it is recommended to strip it off and then clean the cooler with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to remove any residue left by the thermal paste.1).9. fan or liquid cooling loop. Many CPUs will come with a stock cooling fan but many PC builders advise against using these stock fans. the AM3 and AM3+ are different sockets but have the same hole pattern for their CPU coolers so any cooler that will work for one will work for the other.10. difficult to install and require a great deal more maintenance on your part. these custom loops are almost always guaranteed to perform better and are usually more interesting to look at. For instance. Purchasing just one small tube of higher quality thermal paste is a quick and easy way to increase lifetime of the CPU and give a little performance boost while you are at it. with AMD sockets.4. CPU coolers will often time come with thermal paste (see Section 4.11) already on them. CPU Coolers There are many ways to cool a CPU with the help of a heat sink. This is done either by using multiple screw hole patterns or with the use of an adapter piece.1) are much more expensive. Most builders won’t need more than one or two tubes for all of their builds put together. This however is an enthusiast technique and should not be attempted without extreme caution. They vary in the size dimensions and the direction that hot air is blown. Some CPU coolers will be designed such that they can be attached to multiple sockets that wouldn’t otherwise be compatible.
Liquid cooling units have different size requirements. This is because they cool the CPU in a very different fashion. The requirement for putting a prebuilt liquid cooling loop into a case is to have an open area to put a fan. called the CPU block. If you choose a larger CPU cooler to cool your case.sometimes may be too large to fit in some cases. The part that attaches to the CPU.8. is usually very low profile and should fit into any size case. The radiator is the part that requires the most space.2). . Larger custom build loops require much more space than a pre-built unit. The technology behind a liquid cooling unit is to use water to move the heat away from the CPU and transport it to a radiator which expels the heat from the case. you need to ensure that the case is large enough to fit. The radiator works best when it is attached to fans on either side in a push/pull configuration (see Section 4.
Controller panels and cards can control all sorts of things. These parts are still important but are usually not as important to all builders.4. etc. These are used to take the load off your other components for controlling a RAID array or in the case that the motherboard being used does not support RAID.25” external drive bays for easy access. The first type turns fans on or off only with the flip of a switch. There are many different types of signal receivers for any type of signal that may be required.5) array to case lighting. There are three major functions of lighting controllers. These controllers are sometimes reactive to changing temperature and can react quickly without needing to be changed by the user. Controller Panels/Cards Controller panels and controller cards can go into either 5. Signal Receivers There are many different signal receivers that can go into computers. There are receivers that allow the computer to receive cable tv or radio signals as well. fan speeds etc.11. fans. green and blue strengths or with the use of a remote controller that has built in colors. There are three types of fan controllers. Bluetooth and more.25” external drive bays in your case (see Section 4. These parts can do all sorts of different functions from controlling a RAID (see Section 4. Some light strips have the ability to change color and some lighting controllers allow you to manually adjust this either with the use of three knobs that adjust the red. Another function of a lighting controller is simply manual control of the brightness of the lights or to act in a pattern. There are also components that can receive radio signals. The last possible function of a light controller is to change the color.9. Some are sensitive to sound and can be set to react to sounds received through a microphone in the controller to dim or turn all the way on or off in reaction to the audio.6).8. There are controllers that control RAID Arrays. This section will quickly touch on some of these components. There are also receivers that allow the computer to receive Bluetooth signals for Bluetooth devices like some mice and keyboards. And the final type combines fan controlling with a temperature monitor and is usually located in one of the 5. . There are cards that allows the computer to interact with a wireless network (WAN or WIFI) signal. case lighting. Controllers that are used to control a RAID setup generally go into a PCI slot in your motherboard and can control multiple types of RAID setups.1) or into PCI slots in your motherboard (see Section 4. The second type allows for you to adjust the speed of the fan with the use of a knob or slider. There are even TV tuner cards that can turn your computer into a media center or digital video recorder (DVR) by connecting to your cable tv. Other Parts There are many parts other than those listed so far in this guide.
Bluetooth receivers are most commonly built into the motherboard or are attached to the system as a small USB device. Since there was very little desire for an internal floppy drive with modern systems.0 ports are much faster than those that use USB 2. These cards are typically rated for the speed and strength of signal to allow for access at even farther distance and better signals through objects such as walls. TV tuner cards are used in most Home Theater PCs (HTPCs) because they allow the computer to receive cable tv signals and allow the system to be used as a DVR. Check that you will be using a Bluetooth device before considering getting a Bluetooth receiver if it is not built into the motherboard already. The speeds of these newer devices are comparable to the speeds that an internal drive will achieve for data transfer but these drives cost significantly more. Since there are so many different types of memory cards used by many different devices. If no Bluetooth devices are going to be used with the computer. This is the most common way for a computer to receive radio signals. external floppy drives and internal and external card readers.4). These cards usually go into a PCI or PCIe slot in the motherboard. External Blu-Ray/CD/DVD drives are much the same as their internal counterparts but are generally limited by the speeds of the USB port that they interact with the system through. Internal floppy drives are rarely supported with modern systems so they have been left out. Thermal Paste . Memory card readers can be either internal or external. Some people prefer to build their own DVR to get past the storage limits from small hard drives and allow for many other uses. There are external Blu-Ray/CD/DVD drives. Wireless access adapters can also be attached to the computer through one of its USB ports for some devices. Bluetooth capability should be ignored and getting a Bluetooth receiver will only use up power and take up an otherwise free USB port. Newer drives that connect to the system by USB 3. these are usually the only way to use a floppy disk with modern systems. For some TV tuner cards. Data Readers and Writers There are multiple external components that can be used to read and write data to a storage device other than the internal Blu-Ray/CD/DVD drives as discussed earlier in this guide (see Section 4. These devices can either be attached through an external USB port in the case of an external device or into an internal USB port on the motherboard in the case of an internal device. these readers will generally support multiple memory card types. an AM/FM radio signal receiver is also built in.There are different types of WIFI signals that are beyond the scope of this guide. These cards almost always connect to the computer through a PCI or PCIe slot in the motherboard but a few will also connect to the computer through a USB port.0 ports. External floppy drives are simply floppy drives that have been created to interact with the system through a USB port.
This is generally not the best option anymore as it may have been in the past because manufacturers have started putting much higher quality thermal paste on their components.Thermal paste is very important for all components that create lots of heat and will be using some sort of cooling device to transfer that heat away from the component. Be sure to read the directions before application as these requirements vary for each type of paste. This has to do with the chemical properties of the thermal paste. Many thermal pastes require the system to be run for a period of time to allow the paste work at its full potential. The thermal paste that comes on most modern components is often times better quality than many of the thermal pastes that can be bought at a store. Most coolers that do not come preattached will have a thermal past already applied. There are many types of thermal paste and many ways to apply it. Some builders feel that it is best to purchase thermal paste separately and use that instead of the thermal paste that comes on the component. .
Carries both audio and video as digital signals. 5. VGA . The Grey-to-Grey (G2G) response time and dynamic contrast ratio specifications should be taken with a grain of salt for what they represent. Carries only video as an analog signal.1) from the one built into your motherboard or processor. HDMI can carry HD formats greater than 1080p. The other most common connection type among HD monitors. In order to take full advantage of any computer. I will go more in depth as to what these two specifications represent and why they are so deceiving to the average consumer. then you will need to plug your monitor into a port on your motherboard. A good mouse and keyboard is also paramount to enjoying all that your computer has to offer. DVI-D can carry HD formats greater than 1080p.1. Most common connection type among non HD monitors. You must have a decent monitor to interact with your computer. a media center PC uses a TV instead of a monitor) but in most general cases. HDMI . Monitor Monitors are a very difficult peripheral to judge. .Standard definition connector. If you are not using a separate GPU. DVI / DVI-D . It is also important to understand which connections can transmit high definition (HD) signals and which support standard definition (SD) signals only. Only a few of the specifications can usually be trusted. Most of the specifications that are provided by manufacturers are deceptive at best. The speakers and headphones are also key components in a build.High definition connector.5. Choosing Peripherals The internal components of your computer are only one part of a PC building experience. One of the two most common connection types among HD monitors. But you may not know how to connect your monitor to your computer.5. By now you should already know what a monitor is and what it does. If you have a separate GPU (see Section 4. There are a number of different connectors that are used for connecting a monitor.High definition connector. then your monitor will need to be plugged into this. Some specific builds can get away without needing some of these (e. These are some of the things that many people overlook or do not think about.g. Carries only video as a digital signal. these are very important parts to your computer as they are the physical devices in which you communicate with your computer. you must have the proper peripherals.
Remember though. Not as common as other connector types. is used to tell the type of backlighting that is used by the monitor. If you want to use high definition format video. that represents the length of the screen from one corner to the direct opposite corner.High definition video.RCA component . there were four in the horizontal. Not very common for monitors. LCD monitors use cold cathode fluorescent lights (CCFLs) just like with CRT monitors but send that light through a film of liquid crystals instead of a series of tubes. Carries analog video signal through one cable and audio left and right through separate cables. The main benefits of an LCD monitor over a CRT monitor are that LCD monitors are much smaller in thickness and use much less power when compared to a CRT monitor. There are many different size screens. too many to list. DVI or DVI-D connector will be necessary. [Mini] Displayport . Manufacturers like to make this size specification the biggest thing on the box and want you to notice it first. Originally monitors came in 4:3 standard aspect ratio. The Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors that were huge could only support standard definition video and are rarely seen anymore.Standard definition connectors. There are two main types of monitors that you will see. when used with monitors. Transmits both audio and video as digital signals. This meant that for every three units of measurement in the vertical direction. This ratio is sometimes called a square because it looks most like a square in comparison to the other screen ratios. Just like with the 4:3 monitors. Monitors come in three common aspect ratios. for every 9 or 10 units of measurement in the vertical direction. Choosing the correct cable for your connection is important. a VGA connector is most common for monitors. This specification is a measurement. a very large monitor may not be the best choice. then an HDMI. there is another size listed for monitors. There are two aspect ratios that are common for widescreen format monitors. a monitor that is really big may look and sound great from a distance but when you are sitting directly in front of it for an extended amount of time. The term Light Emitting Diode (LED). Along with the aspect ratio. The difference between LED LCD and traditional LCD monitors is the light source that is used to shine . It is a good idea to go to a computer store and look at the different sizes and see which size is best for you at the distance you will be sitting from your monitor. Other types of monitors such as plasma and OLED are less common and use some newer or different technology than the CRT and LCD monitors that are most common. Used primarily for Mac computers but also used for some tablets. Widescreen monitors are shifting away from the 16:10 ratio and are moving toward the 16:9 aspect ratio. there are 16 in the horizontal depending on which size ratio it is. 16:10 and 16:9. Now we have LCD flat panel displays. usually measured in inches. Monitors generally don’t use displayport or mini displayport connectors and require an adapter to one of the other connection types listed to be able to use The main specification that most people look at when they are purchasing a monitor is size. For standard definition video. Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors uses the properties of liquid crystals to create the different colors needed to display the video from your computer.
A common refresh rate would be anywhere from 50 Hz to 60 Hz. the better the quality of the image. The science behind it is very advanced and for the purposes of this guide. The refresh rate represents how fast the monitor can refresh the screen. Max resolution is represented in pixels per inch (ppi) and is a measurement of the maximum number of dots. The more dots there are. viewing angles as well as color reproduction as opposed to their twisted nematic counterparts. it is only important that IPS monitors are higher quality in terms of response time. The way that a monitor displays images is by millions of tiny dots of color in an array. Viewing angles are explained later in this section. Measured in hertz (Hz). Grey to grey (GTG) response time and dynamic contrast ratio are the two most deceptive specifications listed with monitors. A better representation of response time would be a black to white response time because instead of a simple change of state from grey to another shade of grey. The refresh rate of a monitor is an important part of the monitor but is usually sufficient enough in modern monitors such that it won’t become a problem. a complete change of state. the refresh rate is how many times the screen refreshes in one second. In-Plane Switching (IPS) is a technology also used with LCD monitors that improve the viewing angles and color reproduction or ‘trueness’ of the colors being represented on the monitor. it has to go from full black to white. These two types of LCD monitor technology are twisted nematic (TN) and In-Plane Switching (IPS) displays. They have sufficient response times to reduce the effect of ghosting and shadowing with the monitors. A monitor with too low of a resolution will look blocky. or pixels. The major problem with TN monitors is that they have very limited viewing angles. The most common LCD monitors are TN monitors since these have been around longer and are very easy to produce. There are two subsets of LCD monitor technology that both have different advantages and disadvantages over each other. The GTG response time represents how much time it takes for the monitor to change states. This is done by specifically arranging the liquid crystal molecules. Viewing angles are generally ignored by most users but are very important specifications for monitors. The more dots there are in a small area. The maximum viewing angle specification that is listed represents the maximum angle to the screen that gives an acceptable visual presentation of the image on the screen. Dynamic contrast ratio is a measure of the change in brightness across the screen so that the lights can dim when a darker color is needed or brighten when a lighter color is needed. TN monitors also have decent brightness and sufficient color representation for general everyday purposes. specifically vertically. This number is usually . especially if you plan to use multiple monitors. Resolution of a monitor is very important. Manufacturers list the GTG response time because it is smaller and looks a lot better to the average consumer that doesn’t know any different. the easier it is for your brain to interpret it as a fluid image instead of a bunch of colored blocks next to each other. can be represented by the monitor in one inch.through the crystals. usually called pixelated.
. The less deceptive specification would be to list the static contrast ratio.incredibly large and looks great on paper but is not representative of the static contrast ratio. The static contrast ratio takes this into account and shows how well the monitor can deal with a problem such as this. This is because images that have small areas of very bright light surrounded by a really dark area will have light ‘bleed’ over into the dark area and cause problems.
Most typists and gamers. One major divider of keyboards is the switch type. extra USB ports. If you are interested in getting a mechanical keyboard or just learning more about them. but PS/2 cords are still popular due to not having a problem with key rollover. The other being the mouse (see Section 5.a standard keyboard may be good enough for you. Keyboard Keyboards are one of the two standard peripherals directly used for input to your computer. N-key rollover is used for higher end keyboards as it allows you to press any number of keys at one time and still be recognized by the keyboard. read this entire section. One major thing you will need to look out for when buying your keyboard is how it hooks up to your computer. A keycap is the physical thing that you press on your keyboard that covers the switch which is connected to the circuit board located inside your keyboard. numbers and symbols are printed onto each individual keycap differs as well. This could be something like pressing Ctrl + c or using the shift key along with another letter to capitalize it. Keyboards are categorized in many different ways and can have many different options such as media keys. The different types of switches will be elaborated on later in this section. This is useful for many reasons. All the other types are generally grouped as mechanical keyboards.2. Most motherboards and keyboards use the USB connection. As well as having different types of switches and connections. make sure it is supported by your motherboard. Standard rubber dome keyboards are usually the cheapest as they are the easiest to manufacture. Also. 2-key rollover is the minimum that you will find on a keyboard in most cases. This means that you could press 2 keys at the same time and it would still recognize each keystroke. There are two major types of connections that keyboards will use. Key rollover is a measure of how well your keyboard can handle multiple keystrokes at one time. If you plan to use PS/2. If you aren’t going to be using your keyboard much . PS/2 is much older than USB but has not died out because of some of the benefits over the newer USB. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your motherboard has the type of connection required to connect your keyboard to your computer.like in the case of a media center computer . so having n-key rollover can be very beneficial to them. the way that the letters. who both use their keyboards extensively. . etc. Or how many keys you can press simultaneously before the keyboard stops recognizing them.5. backlighting. gamers tend to press multiple keys at one time with.3). Keyboards that use rubber domes to activate the switch on the circuit board for your keyboard are generally the most common. though these types of keyboards are not typically present in budget builds or for general use computers. Some typists tend to hold onto keys as they transfer from one key to another requiring a higher N-key rollover. USB is currently the most common. prefer to use a mechanical keyboard. Those typing in braille will often use multiple keys at one time for a single character. A specification for keyboards that you will want to look at is called key rollover.
Sometimes this means that the last key that is pressed that caused the ghosting is ignored by the keyboard. Well this is not possible with this method. When certain combinations of keys are pressed at once. the letter will remain as crisp as before. is also not very effective in the long run. This is called ghosting. your keyboard may register additional keys as being pressed. while being efficient and cheap. different methods of printing characters onto keycaps are used by some manufacturers. Double shot injection molding uses two parts for the keycap. The keycap is then filled with ink where the character is such that the physical height of the character matches up with the height of the cover. The base of the keycap actually is of the desired color of the character and has the character physically raised up on the key so that it fits inside the cutout part of the cover perfectly. The character is physically unable to be worn out from the method of how the letter is made. The most common way for manufacturers to . Characters will easily fade over or be worn from use. The other two methods are significantly more difficult and expensive. Many newer or high end keyboards will have an anti-ghosting technology. You are probably used to seeing black keycaps with white or off-white lettering. This is called pad printing and is the cheapest and is a lot like putting a sticker on each keycap This method.The most common way to put these characters onto your keyboard is by printing them on with ink. The most expensive and most difficult method of printing a character onto a keycap is not actually printing it at all. This method of making keycaps with the letters already in them is the most difficult and most expensive way to manufacture. One slight disadvantage with this method is that you can’t print light color characters onto a dark color keycap. This method is not very common but some manufacturers still use this for their keyboards or for replacement keycaps. Laser etching. A die is set into the plastic of the keycap as more than just a layer like with pad printing. This method doesn’t wear down very easily but this method has other problems associated with it. A term that is used a lot with higher end keyboards is “ghosting” or “anti-ghosting”. It is easier to purchase new keycaps and use them to replace the keycaps in your keyboard. Keyboards very rarely are sold with keycaps made by double shot injection molding. This can become less of a problem as the keyboard begins to experience wear. the letters can be different colors and are much clearer than with laser etching. This makes the best keys of all. a base and a cover. This means that the die is deeper into the key so when the key starts to wear down from use. The major one by many is that the characters tend to be blurry as opposed to the crisper lettering that comes from pad printing and the other methods of character printing. dye sublimation and double shot injection molding are other methods used by keyboard manufacturers to print characters onto keycaps. Laser etching is the next most common method of printing characters onto keycaps. The other concern by some is that you can feel the character. This is called key blocking and is one technique used to prevent ghosting by your keyboard. It is simply using a laser to etch the character into the keycap. Dye sublimation is a more expensive way of printing characters than laser etching and pad printing. much like if a ghost had pressed one of the keys on your keyboard. Because of this problem. The latter being rather thin with the outline of the letter cut out. With this method. This is the next cheapest and easiest method of printing characters onto the keycaps after pad printing.
This means that it takes less force to press a . Cherry MX Black switches can be used easily for rapidly pressing the same button. brown. cause the problem to almost never happen. Each Cherry MX switch has a sort of angled piece that will push the circuit open when it is in the “up” position and allows the circuit to be tripped when it is in the “down” position. There are six different Cherry MX switches: black. For the rest of this section I am going to talk about the different types of switches in mechanical keyboards for selecting the right mechanical keyboard for your use. If you are not interested in learning more about mechanical keyboard you may skip to the next section of this guide. They are linear switches and are not tactile. Cherry MX switches use a spring underneath the key and the mechanism that completes the circuit to tell the keyboard that the key has been pressed is located off to the side. Another common switch type is the Alps switches. Topre switches are also something that you might come across and those will be explained as well. The corresponding force as you move from left to right on the top line shows the force that the key pushes back on your finger when you are pushing the key down. To read the force diagram. The next switch in the Cherry MX series is the Cherry MX Red. clear. Blacks have a rather stiff feel to them and require more force than the others. This means that the force to press the key changes linearly as shown in force diagram below. blue.prevent ghosting is to arrange the wiring in the keyboard such that the key press combinations that would produce ghosting are less common combinations. but the ‘ramp’ on the switch is at less of an angle than with the Cherry MX Black. follow the top line from left to right. The two versions of Alps switches are black and white. in most cases. This does not solve the problem completely but will. green and red. There is no tactile bump. The most common type of switch in mechanical keyboards is the Cherry MX series switches. The bottom line is read from right to left and shows the reaction as you let go of the key. These are the most common switches and are simply a lighter version of the Cherry MX Blacks. They provide a smooth feel for actuation and don’t give any feedback to your finger to say that it has been fully pressed until it hits the bottom.
They are also the switch that differs the most from the other Cherry MX switches in that its mechanism gives a distinct ‘click’ when it is fully pressed. This sleeve drops down after the key has been fully pressed down. This prevents you from repeatedly pressing the key very quickly because the key will have to come all the way back up before it can be pressed again. there is a separate sleeve that has the ‘ramp’ attached to it. The choice between these is personal preference. As of now. Cherry MX Blue switches have a bump in the ‘ramp’ that controls the switch in the circuit as described above. This bump is what is called a tactile switch. Here is the force diagram for the Cherry MX Red switch. This means that it takes more force to push them down. Cherry MX Blue switches are not linear like the Reds and Blacks.Cherry MX Red than a Black. Cherry MX Green switches are just like Cherry MX Blues but they are stronger/stiffer. Cherry MX Blue switches are not generally used by gamers or people who need to rapidly press the same key multiple times in a row. This tactile switch gives your finger some feedback in the form of a small click to tell you that the key is about to be fully pressed down. there aren’t any force diagrams available for this type of switch however you can infer what it would look like from the Cherry MX Blue force diagram. Here is the force diagram for a Cherry MX Blue switch. The choice between the Cherry MX Green and Cherry MX Blue comes down to personal preference of the . For this type of switch.
it comes down to personal preference. however. These switches. do not have the separate sleeve that drops down after the key is pressed. If you prefer the keys to be able to be pressed almost by just the weight of your finger. . Here is the force diagram for a Cherry MX Brown. These switches are essentially a more tactile version of the Cherry MX Brown switch.force that it takes to actuate the key. thus allowing you to type faster. it will take more force to press the key down with the Cherry MX Clear. you receive feedback that the button is about to be pressed so that you do not have to press the button completely to know that your keyboard has reacted to the key press. If you prefer to have a little more resistance to the keys. When making the choice between the Clear and Brown switches. then the Cherry MX Green switches will probably be your choice. Because of it being tactile. Gamers and typists like this because it can help you to not press the buttons down farther than needed. Because of this. The last of the Cherry MX switches are the Cherry MX Clear switches. much like when choosing between a tactile switch and a non-tactile switch. the lighter Cherry MX Blue switches will be the better choice for you. Here is the force diagram for the Cherry MX Clear switch. Cherry MX Brown switches are also tactile switches but less so than Cherry MX Blues and Greens. Because of this. The tactile bump on the ‘ramp’ is larger for the Cherry MX Clear than with the Brown. the Cherry MX Brown switch is considered to be the most versatile of the Cherry MX switches. This makes them great for gamers and typists who want to be able to press buttons very quickly.
a change in capacitance occurs that the keyboard can recognize as a key press. I urge you to do some research on how the switch works and take a look at the force . They come in different actuation forces as shown in the following force diagram. The Black and White Alps switches are both tactile in nature as you may be able to tell from the force diagram. These switches are a hybrid between the rubber dome and mechanical switch. Here is a combined Alps switch force diagram. The Black Alps are most like Cherry MX Clears or Browns while the White Alps are very similar to the Cherry MX Whites which have the distinct click after they are pressed. These are very nice switches to use but aren’t as common to find. The last switch that this guide is going to talk about is the Topre switches. There are two common versions of Alps switches that you may find . Those are the basics to mechanical keyboard switches. When the key is pressed. There are other less common versions of Alps switches that you will see on the following force diagram but I won’t go into them. But there are more than just those.Black Alps and White Alps. They have the distinct click from a mechanical switch as well as the resistance that comes with using a spring.All of those switches were from the Cherry MX series of switches. If there are any that you run across that are not on this list. but they also use a rubber dome to surround the spring. The main difference between them is what happens after the key is pressed.
but it is still a good idea to try it out before buying it. Because of the large size of some of the buttons. Costar stabilizers use a metal retention plate that uniformly moves with the large keys causing the entire key to go up or down as one piece. The two most common stabilizers you may run across are Costar and Cherry stabilizers. Costar stabilizers tend to be harder to repair in comparison to their Cherry counterparts. These stabilizers use a single metal wire to stabilize the key in one direction. Whenever possible it is a good idea to try out a keyboard before you buy it to know how it feels because mechanical keyboards usually cost upwards of $100.diagram. This gives them a more consistent feel with the other. Some may cost less. This helps to ensure that the keystroke is as smooth as possible to allow for easier and faster typing. Cherry stabilizers work very much in the same fashion as the keys themselves. smaller. a stabilizer must be used to assist with pressing the button. but some believe they have a “mushy” feel to them. much like rubber dome keyboards as opposed to the mechanical feel that comes with the different mechanical switches. but comes with its own pros and cons as opposed to the Costar counterparts. The Cherry stabilizers have often been considered easier to repair. This is effective enough for many users. . Along with the different switches there are also different stabilizers for the larger buttons like the space bar. keys on the keyboard.
These mice use an LED located on the bottom of the mouse to emit light and a light detector is located inside the mouse that allows the mouse to detect the speed that the mouse is moving and the direction of the movement. ask them to take it out and let you take it for a quick test spin before purchasing it. Each of these methods have their pros and cons that make them better or worse than the others. your mouse is a major component that is used for input to your computer. Optical mice are the most common. If you go to a computer store. These can either be in the form of a tiny microUSB or a larger hub which was more common when wireless mice first started coming out. . The second way is through a wireless transceiver that will connect to your computer through a USB port and act as a wireless hub. The speed of these three rollers is interpreted by the mouse and outputted to the computer. This method uses a small ball located on the bottom of the mouse. While the cheap bargain bin mouse may be good enough for some people. those that use computers often understand that choosing the right mouse is very important to properly enjoying the use of your computer. because of the ball rolling on the desk. Because these use LEDs as the light source. NOTE: You will need to ensure that your motherboard has an open PS/2 or USB slot for your mouse or that your computer has a Bluetooth receiver if you plan to use a Bluetooth mouse. it is a good idea to try out a mouse before you buy it. these mice collect dust and dirt very quickly and lose their accuracy from the rollers slipping. To connect via Bluetooth. Mouse Along with the keyboard (see Section 5. The most common methods are laser. three rollers begin to roll. They have been replaced with the other three types of mice. There are different methods that mice use to track movement. Like with your keyboard. optical mice are not very efficient on some surfaces like black surfaces or shiny surfaces. When this ball moves. While it is possible to use a computer without a mouse. They also do not work very well on transparent surfaces such as glass.5. Optical mice are cheaper than trackball or laser mice but generally have a lower resolution. however. it is an absolutely terrible idea.2).3. They will usually let you because some high end mice can cost as much as high end keyboards. Regular ball mice are much less common these days. This method sounds like it may be a very accurate approach. What many general computer users don’t know is that there are a lot of important things that you should consider when buying the right mouse for the job. The third and final way is through Bluetooth. trackball and ball/roller mice. The ball method is the oldest of the four methods and is usually the cheapest. optical. there are three main ways that a mouse will connect with your computer. First and foremost. The original and best way to connect a mouse is with a wire through either a PS/2 or USB connection just like with your keyboard. your computer must have a Bluetooth receiver built in.
This is going to be measured in dots per inch (DPI) and is much like the pixels on your computer monitor (see Section 5. Some mice will combine a trackball with an optical or laser mouse to give you the option to use whichever you prefer. These other buttons . Professional gamers tend to use high resolution mice with a high sensitivity to allow for fast and accurate movement. Professional gamers usually use a trackball mouse or a high resolution laser mouse based entirely on personal preference. instead most mice will have two main buttons . The sensitivity is a setting that can be changed in your system that affects the speed of the mouse as it moves across the screen. Laser mice also tend to have higher resolutions than optical mice as well. As mentioned before. There really is no range for the number of buttons that can be put onto a mouse as that keeps changing all the time as new mice are created. Mouse pads are made in many different shapes. These are also a great way to ensure that the surface you use your mouse on is clean. some mice can have a button to adjust the resolution on the fly without having to go into your system settings. while others are rougher. Laser mice are able to work on more surfaces than optical mice because of the type of light used. Sensitivity can range from 400 DPI to over 6000 DPI for different mice.5) option for mice as they allow your hand to rest at a comfortable position without straining the muscles in your wrist or hand much. you are rolling a ball that is staying in the same place. The resolution listed in the specifications of a mouse is the maximum DPI for that mouse. Some mouse pads will have a gel wrist rest for comfort. When shopping for the right mouse for you. Sometimes the scroll wheel will have a button as well that you can use by pressing the wheel all the way down instead of rolling it. something important is to look at the resolution of the mouse. These are very hard to get used to because instead of moving the mouse around on the desk.1). colors and even the materials they are made out of vary. The only difference in technology between laser and optical mice is the form of light that is emitted. Then most modern mice have what is called a scroll wheel which is usually located between the two buttons. Some companies will even allow you to print your own image onto a mouse pad for a more custom look. Trackballs are generally a more ergonomic (see Section 5. Some are smooth. sizes. Those that use computers for art or some other uses prefer a lower sensitivity for more control with the position of the mouse. It is all personal preference to use a mouse pad as well as all of the different options. The DPI of your mouse is a measure of how many pixels the mouse will recognize for every inch of physical movement. This is the most common configuration of buttons but some mice go even further.left and right. Every mouse has at least one button.Some mice use a small laser located in the bottom of the mouse to register distance travelled by the mouse by collecting the light emitted by the laser through a light detector much like with optical mice. Single button mice are not very common. Mouse pads are a great way to avoid the problems of optical mice not being able to function to the best of their ability on some surfaces. Resolution is different from sensitivity though. Many gaming mice will have even more buttons than that. Those who use trackball mice generally swear that they are the best. Some high DPI mice can have a button on the mouse that allows you to toggle between different DPI settings.
are usually configurable through software provided along with the component and can be set as a specific key or in some cases a combination of keys in the form of a macro. The size of your mouse can differ greatly. The larger. it would be a good idea to try out differently weighted mice and decide which you prefer. As I mentioned. Weight and weight distribution is more of a personal preference and is not often looked at by the general consumer. designs are generally not used by those who travel a lot and are generally at stationary computers much like the one you are probably trying to build. The more compact mice are generally used for laptops and with people who travel and need to carry a mouse with them that doesn’t take up much space. It is a good idea to find a mouse that fits to the shape of your hand well and is not awkward to use. Some higher end mice have even started allowing for size customization by allowing you to change the length and width of the mouse to fit your hand best. Some high end mice have ways to adjust the weight and distribution of that weight within the mouse for the best possible experience with that mouse. More ergonomical designs are larger and are sculpted to the shape of your hand better while some more compact designs are smaller and not hand forming. this is all personal preference and if you are looking for the perfect mouse without looking at a budget. . more ergonomic.
Most computer owners use a set of speakers for playing the sound from their computer but this is far from the only option. Therefore.1 occasionally. 5. These three main types are tweeters. The tweeters are designed to handle the high treble sounds and are generally very small.1.1. Speaker systems designed for use with computers can also come in 4. To understand the many different audio devices. Audio Devices There are many different types of devices used with computers to play and record audio. There are three main types of speakers as well which can sometimes be integrated into a single unit with multiple speakers inside. Headphones come in many different styles.1 or even 7. Having more than one subwoofer is very uncommon especially for computer systems. Midrange speakers are generally larger than tweeters and are designed to handle the midrange sounds better. it is common to have all three combined or to have the tweeter and midrange speakers combined with a separate subwoofer unit. For computer speakers. subwoofers. These three are much less common and are generally much more expensive. Personal audio devices such as headphones are also very popular among many people. . It is not uncommon for two or three of these to be combined. This denotes that there are two midrange or general speakers and either one or zero subwoofers. For computers. The sounds between the treble and bass are called midrange.4. Tweeters that are separate from a midrange speaker are not common for computer speakers or even for home theater systems. the most common are 2. They can vary a great deal across the board in terms of functionality. Some speakers are specialized to be better at only certain ranges of sound. is the largest of the three because they are designed for the low bass sounds.0 or 2.1 sound systems.5. The bass sounds are the low frequency sounds such as a drum. midrange and bass. Each device comes with its own set of pros and cons as described in this section. 5. There is a lot to know so you can choose the proper audio device. tweeters are not counted in the labeling of a speaker system normally. midrange and subwoofers. The last type. there is some important basic information about audio that needs to be understood first. Some people will divide this even further with high bass or mid-bass being the area between the midrange and bass and the high midrange or low treble as being the area between the midrange and bass. These three sections are treble. Speakers Speakers are a very wide subject. Speaker systems are labeled by the number of midrange (or midrange and tweeter combo) speakers and dedicated subwoofers present.4. quality and volume. The treble sounds are the higher frequency sounds that make high pitched sounds such as a flute or other high sounding instrument. There are three main sections of sound that is reproduced by a sound system.
In terms of functionality. Some speaker systems even have a built in equalizer to allow you to raise or lower the treble or bass for better quality sound.Speakers can also come integrated into many monitors. Some computer speaker systems will have a volume control with can either be as a separate unit or can be on one of the speakers or the subwoofer unit. There are also sound bars which combine the front left and right speakers into one unit. These integrated speakers are usually of a lower quality but can be more convenient than a separate speaker system. there are some extra options that some speaker systems have that make them stand apart from the rest. .
These over-ear headphones are more expensive because they are more difficult to produce and require more material but are worth it when long uses may be necessary. On-ear headphones sit lightly on the outside of the ear. Headphones Headphones can have better quality than most general computer speaker sets. these being on-ear and over-ear headphones. These over-ear headphones don’t always remove all of the strain as sometimes they can still push the ear in but they will lower the strain and allow for more comfort during longer uses. These two subsections of headphones are fairly self-explanatory. If done properly. People using these on-ear headphones often notice pain on the ear after prolonged use because of the stress being put on the ear to prevent the headphones from falling off. but headphones don’t have that problem because they control the environment for optimal sound. This is because they control the environment of sound much better. Over-ear headphones are designed to lower the amount of stress on the ear during use by holding on around the ear.4. There are two general types of headphones.5. a set of computer speakers can have the best sound of all.2. .
Having a microphone and headphones in a single unit also cuts down on the amount of cords and plugs that need to be attached to the computer.5. This is because of the convenience of a microphone for talking with other players and for the quality of the sound.4. Headsets are nearly always over-ear but there are some headsets that use on-ear headphones instead. .3. Headsets Headsets are simply just headphones with microphones attached and are most commonly used by online gamers. It is also a good idea to use a microphone with a personal audio device such as headphones because it reduces feedback caused by the microphone picking up audio from speakers and amplifying it in a loop until it becomes a loud high pitched noise. These are generally cheaper and lower quality but are not always a bad decision if a headphone/microphone unit is needed but the over-ear style is not affordable. Since personal audio devices lower the amount of sound that goes into the environment where the microphone could pick it up. feedback is basically eliminated.
.5.4. Because earphones are inserted into the ear. Higher end earphones are designed for more comfort during extended use but are not always for everyone. the sound that reaches our ear will be less distorted than that by speakers or headphones. Some earphones have very high quality audio but will be very costly while there are many cheap options for earphones that provide low to mid quality audio at a very low price. Earphones There is a very large range in audio quality among earphones or in ear monitors. The low end of earphones are designed for portability and convenience while the higher end of earphones have very good sound quality and are designed for more comfort during extended use. Earphones are inserted into the ear and come in many different shapes and sizes for comfort and fit.4. earphones may not be as comfortable as over-ear headphones or headsets may be for extended use. Depending on the shape and size of your ear.
having good ergonomics with your peripherals is important and this includes having a good desk and chair. If you do not know what ergonomics are. Get up and walk around for a bit every hour or two. There are also ergonomic mice and keyboards that can also be useful for those that spend their day at the computer. keyboards and monitors. Other Peripherals When most people think of computer peripherals. Even with the most ergonomic of setups. There is a new product on the market that should lower the strain on your eyes from staring at a computer monitor for long periods of time and claim to enhance the experience.5. Taking a break to get a drink or grab a snack in the middle of playing games will give your eyes and your brain a break to allow you to come back to the computer at your best. For those that use computers often. . There aren’t many reviews on these products yet as they are very new to the market at the moment. Computer glasses have recently hit the market. Having an ergonomically sound setup will help you to be able to work longer on the computer without experiencing discomfort. They are also very important aspects of the computer that are not a direct part of the tower itself. Staring at a computer monitor for too long has negative effects on vision and can cause headaches or even migraines. Some people may even consider the desk and chair to be peripherals. you should still take periodic breaks. Ergonomics (n): an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. they generally think of mice. the Merriam-Webster dictionary does a good job of describing it. Getting a desk at a comfortable height and a comfortable chair that can adjust will help a great amount with having an ergonomically sound setup.5.
Rebates and combo deals are very common for computer part stores as well as other types of deals. the next step is to purchase them. giving you more time to order the parts to get the best deals will be beneficial. receipt and another form be mailed to a rebate processing center that will then mail a prepaid card or check back to the amount of of the rebate. If a budget is an issue. Keep this in mind as you research the lowest price on your components and don’t be afraid to change your build around to accommodate a fluctuating market. Some companies will also guarantee a lowest price by price matching another company’s advertised price and will occasionally take a percentage off of that lower price to give the best deal. You might be able to get better components for cheaper than you had anticipated. There are a few computer stores that have many of the components that you will want but the best place to find all of the parts you have chosen is to search the internet for them. It is a good idea to monitor prices and sales. instant and mail-in rebates. Many stores will give you deals with ordering a cpu and motherboard together or purchasing a graphics card with a motherboard. . There are two types of rebates that are common with ordering computer parts. Luckily you will have many options online. Mail-in rebates are usually issued by the manufacturer and require that the proof of purchase. Ordering Parts Once you have selected all of the components and peripherals that you want.6. Instant rebates are usually issued by the seller and are the best because they will be applied at the point of purchase. The problem with mail-in rebates is that they can generally take a long time to process and require them to be mailed in within a certain amount of time after purchasing the part. Some cases will come with power supplies or may have deals when purchased with a certain power supply.
7. Putting It Together
Now that you’ve purchased all of your parts, it is time to put them all together. This should walk you step by step on how to put your computer together. Since not all cases are the same, it is a good idea to check the reviews for your case online for tips when you put your parts inside and it is also a good idea to reference the product manual for your case if there is any specific order that it recommends that you install your parts that is different from what is recommended in this guide. For most cases this should not be a problem but with mini tower cases, this could be an issue you might face (see Section 4.8.1). 7.1. Installing Components There are a few tools that you should get ahold of before attempting to assemble your computer. The most important tool is an electronics screwdriver. This is usually a small non-magnetized screwdriver; you should get both phillips head and flat head screwdrivers. Any other specialized tools to install components should be included with the component itself. Zip ties are also a great idea for cable management (see Section 7.2). Try to avoid large, heavy and bulky tools; you don’t want to damage your components while putting them into the case. Treat every component with care as if it is very fragile. So the first step to installing your new components is to open your case up and make sure there is no dirt or dust. If it is dirty, then give it a good cleaning. If there is just dust then you can blow it out with compressed air or shake the case to get it all out. Most cases will have two removable side panels, on on each side. If your case has removable side panels on both sides then remove these. Since there is only one place for a power supply to go in most cases, you should install that into the case first. Install the power supply without any modular cables attached to it and plug those in directly after installing the PSU. First take the PSU out of the case and place it into the case in the power supply spot. Use the screws that were included with your PSU to screw it into place. If you have not already, now would be a good time to read over the next two sections in this guide about cable management (see Section 7.2) and airflow (see Section 7.3) before adding anything else into the case. These sections will teach you how to place components to get the best airflow and how to organize your cables for a cleaner looking computer and so that cables don’t get caught in any fans. After installing the PSU without any modular cables attached, you should install your storage devices such as HDDs and SSDs without attaching any cables to them yet. If you have more than one of these devices, you should place them at least one slot away from each other if possible. This will allow for them to have more air flowing around them for cooling reasons. If this is not possible, SSDs take up less space so using one between HDDS will also help with airflow around the drives. Some cases will have quick release or screwless mounting brackets that make installing these drives easier. Others will require you to screw the drive in on both sides. You may have to remove a mounting bracket and screw the drive into that and then replace the mounting bracket. The screwless method is the easiest and makes it very easy to upgrade your system with new drives without too much trouble messing with screws.
Optical disk drives and anything going in any of the 5.25” external drive bays in your case should go in next. This is because sometimes you will need to remove the front bezel on your case to do this. After you put the drive in place, you should screw it into the case in at least three points, usually four, to secure it in the exact position that you want it. Many cases will allow for the drive to slide forward and backward a decent amount until it is secured by screws. You should make sure that it is in the correct position before tightening the screws. Don’t attach any cables yet unless they will be too difficult to reach later. Having to work around excess cables can make assembly very frustrating. Now is the time to install the motherboard after all of the other hardware has been installed into your case. You should now take your motherboard out of the anti-static sleeve that it came in and look at the position of the holes that will be needed to screw the board in. You can set it into the case to make note of which holes will be used but be sure to set it back down on the anti-static sleeve when you are done. Your case or your motherboard should have come with some little silver or gold screws that are called standoffs. They will be different from regular screws. One end will be threaded to screw into the case and the other will be threaded so that you can put another screw inside of it. Put the standoffs into the case at all of the screw holes that your motherboard will need to use by screwing them in by hand. This is very important. If you skip this step then the solder points on the bottom of your motherboard will short circuit with the metal on your case and could cause damage to your motherboard and possibly make it unusable. After the standoffs have been put into place, you should put the I/O panel cover into your case. This cover should be in the box for your motherboard. This cover cannot be put in after you motherboard has been put into place so make sure to do that now. And finally you can put the motherboard in your case. Use the screws that were included with your motherboard and screw it in at all points that should be connected to the case. NOTE: Do not attach any power connectors to the motherboard while it is sitting on the anti-static sleeve as this will short out the motherboard and damage the board. After the motherboard has been placed, you should start to run your cables. Start with the front panel cables on your case. You may need to refer to the manuals included with your motherboard and case to ensure that the cables are being plugged into the proper place on your motherboard. If there are any USB devices on the front panel, plug these into the proper USB ports on your motherboard. These will either be USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 and should be labeled on the plug intended for your motherboard which it is. If there are any front panel audio cables that need to be plugged in, there should be a place on your motherboard that is meant for this so plug that in too. Now, if you haven’t already, install all of the components that go into PCI or PCIe slots and all of your RAM into the proper slots on your motherboard. These should be rather simple to install. Now you can start to plug in PSU cables. If there is a side panel to hide these cables, use it. This will make your computer look cleaner and will prevent cables from interfering with the airflow in your case
or getting caught up in any fans. Run all power cables from your power supply to all components in your case. If the CPU power connection cannot be reached by passing the cable behind the motherboard in the side panel then you will need to install all of your PCI and PCIe components before running this cable up to the CPU power from your PSU. Be sure to run power to both places on your motherboard, each of the components that are in the 5.25” external drive bays and to each of your internal storage devices. Also be sure to plug in any PCIe power connectors that you may need. Use zip ties wherever necessary to keep cables together and organized. Once all of these power cables have been attached, you can install your CPU. Make sure to open up the CPU slot, usually by lifting up a lever, and putting the CPU into the slot in the correct orientation. If you are unsure of the proper orientation, refer to the documentation that came with your CPU and motherboard. After the CPU has been placed into the motherboard, put down the lever to lock it. After the CPU has been seated in the CPU slot on your motherboard you should install the CPU cooler. Follow the instructions that came with your CPU cooler to install it since there are many different ways that CPU coolers will need to be attached. Most CPU coolers will need to be plugged into the CPU fan header which is usually located near the CPU for easy access. Plug the CPU fan header into the motherboard. You should now attach all of the SATA or IDE cables to your SATA or IDE devices. Most likely you will be using SATA but you may still have a board that supports IDE. Don’t forget to keep these cables organized as well. While SATA and IDE cables are not very likely to get caught up in a fan, they may still get in the way of your airflow or take away from the clean look that you have been trying so hard to achieve with your other cables. The last thing that I suggest putting into your case are the fans. Some fans may need to be attached sooner in the build but in most cases, fans can be easily installed at the end of your build. The cables from fans are the most likely to get caught up in fans which could damage the cables or, at the very least, add lots of annoying noise to your case. It is very important to keep these cables under control in any way possible. After screwing in the fans, attach them to the motherboard fan headers. Now you should be ready to plug your computer in and turn it on. Go ahead and give it a try. It should boot up into the BIOS. Now you should install your operating system (see Section 8.1) and get started with installing drivers (see Section 8.2) from the included discs with your components and installing other software you might want (see Section 8.3).
8. They also aren’t very easily used with the back section of the case that is usually used for cable maintenance. Many cases (see Section 4. using zip ties and occasionally sleeves will make this much easier.7) and the ones leading from your fans (see Section 4. it is important to keep all of your cables under control.8. but be sure to keep them away from the fan blades. Fan cables are a little more difficult to organize. A computer with poor cable management can have many problems.7. an experienced builder can still make the cables look organized and out of the way.2. You might have to get creative with the placement of your fan cables. This will keep them together and make organization simpler in most cases. It is common practice to use cable sleeves around the power supply cables. Zip ties and clamps are also used commonly to tie the cables to the case to restrict movement of the cable within the case. This is usually called cable management and is a very important part of building any computer. Many experienced builders have spent a lot of time practicing cable maintenance by building multiple computers. Not all cases have an area like this to help with cable maintenance. This is because they are small and are already located near the fan. Loose cables also look messy in a case and take a lot away from the aesthetics of any build. The cables that you should really pay attention to are the ones connected to your PSU (see Section 4. Internal Cable Management When assembling all of the components of your computer together inside your case. In any computer. Do not expect to have perfect cable maintenance on your first try. Sometimes these holes will have rubber grommets for looks. Cables can get caught in fans which could damage the cable and the fan. These cables are small and are generally much longer than they need to be. For this. These rubber grommets will allow cables to pass through them but will help to hide the area of the case behind the motherboard where you run your cables through. disrupt your airflow and add lots of unwanted noise. there are a number of cables to organize which can get very difficult. .1) will come with holes that lead to an area behind the motherboard that is most commonly used for cable maintenance. These cases are much more difficult to work with a little creativity. or at the very least.2). The cables that get caught in fans are most commonly the cables that come from the fans.
the dust shouldn’t become much of a problem in your computer.e. . Don’t feel like you need to fill up every fan slot in your case if that is a concern with your budget or other requirements. it is not a good idea to set up all fans as intake fans to create a very high pressure. intake fans) is called a push fan. Air should be moving smoothly through the entire case to prevent hot air from pooling in one area of the case. This is because the air is being pushed through the radiator by one fan and then pulled out by the other fan.1). a fan that moves air from an area with a higher pressure to an area with a lower pressure (i. This means that it’s not really a good idea to try to pump heat out of the bottom of your case. The first thing to note about proper airflow is that heat rises. Having a higher pressure in the case will help to prevent dust from settling and causing damage to the components. Too much heat around a certain component can cause irreversible damage to that component. exhaust fans) is called a pull fan. you must plan for proper airflow. In the area of liquid cooling (see Section 4. Just putting fans (see Section 4.2). The only disadvantage to leaving a fan slot open is the possibility of dust being able to enter your system more easily. Having only intake fans will cause the hot air to pool in the case and will make the components overheat more quickly and will cause them to perform less efficiently and could cause damage.7. airflow is very important. but the more they are working. using fans on both sides of a radiator is called push/pull configuration. Dust is the biggest threat to a computer. Generally intake points for a case include the lower part of the front or bottom of the case. it is usually a better idea to pump cool air in from the bottom and sides of the case and exhaust the hot air from the top of the case. the more heat they produce.8.1) in terms of airflow will have lots of mesh and fan slots to allow for lots of air to pass through the case to move more hot air out of the case. Generally a fan that moves air from an area with a lower pressure to an area with a higher pressure (i. Instead. While having high pressure is important. Airflow Every computer builder should be concerned with the flow of air through their computer case. In the inverse case. To properly cool a computer. Many components in a computer perform better when they are cooler.8. Common exhaust points are the upper part of the rear or the top of the case. As long as you clean out your system often (see Section 9.2) into a computer case to blow over components is not enough to prevent damage and loss of performance from too much heat. damage due to dust can be prevented by having a higher pressure in the case than in the atmosphere surrounding the case. Plan to have both intake and exhaust fans while still creating a high pressure in the case for the best results.3. The sides of the case can be used for either depending on what is needed at that point.e. All fans have the ability to either push air into your case or pull air out of it. Even when choosing a liquid cooling system. A good case (see Section 4.9. High pressure is created by setting up fans such that there is more air intake than exhaust.
it is good to leave room between the components whenever possible.5. This was an exaggeration. you probably won’t ever find a case with only a couple intake slots and that many exhaust slots. it will help prevent problems with too much pressure because exhaust fans can sometimes bottleneck the air in the case if they aren’t able to move enough air fast enough out of the case. a builder could choose to use some higher volume flow fans for intake and fans that don’t move as much air for exhaust fans.When putting components in expansion slots such as the PCI or PCIe slots. By doing this they can take precautions to make sure that enough air flows around all of the components and areas of concern. This is because GPUs tend to get hotter than typical components that go such as wireless adapters and sound cards which generate less heat than a GPU does. For example. By leaving a slot open. keeping it from overheating and potentially damaging your components. instead of turning some exhaust slots into intake slots. This is a bigger problem with GPUs (see Section 4. if a case has 2 intake fan slots but 7 exhaust slots. which is great as long as you leave room in your case for that fan to be effective. the air can leave the case as fast as it needs to without potentially being slowed down by a fan. . Many PC builders will plan out the airflow of their case before even getting it. Many GPUs will come with a fan built in. This is done by taking a picture of the case and drawing arrows into and out of the case to show intake and exhaust. If you leave one slot open without a fan for exhaust. which could throw off the linear flow of air.1) than most other components that go in this area. They will also sketch in their components sometimes and mark out areas of concern for hot air to sit. This allows for more air to flow around the component. It can also help to choose which fans will be needed.
The term PC stands for personal computer and any computer used for personal reasons. There are two main methods to installing an operating system on a system. Both Windows and Mac OS are closed source which means that you do not have access to their source code while Linux is completely open source. Your operating system is going to be the main link between you and your new computer. no matter what operating system it uses. The way an operating system organizes files is called the file system. then it may not be as simple to partition a drive for that operating system. There are many more than three that exist. Another option would be to use an external optical disk drive that plugs into the system by way of a USB port. but there are three that are used much more commonly than the rest. The software you choose will help you make the most out of your system. As the result of an advertising campaign by Apple. Some computer builders prefer not to have an optical disk drive as a part of their system.5) and even your mouse and keyboard. If you are using any operating system other than the main three or are using an older version of the operating system. some people associate the term PC with a computer running Windows. Operating System. Over the past decade or so. Each operating system has a different way of organizing files. Mac OSX was designed to run on computers built by Apple. Operating System There are generally only three main operating systems used with desktop computers. Linux is used most commonly by those who know more about technology and usually have a basic understanding of programming. This can be done by using another computer to unpack the operating . The most common operating system is Windows with Mac OSX in second. It is more common in the artistic crowd such as video and audio editing as well as animation.8. falls under the category of PC. The term “hackintosh” is used with a custom built computer running a Mac OSX operating system. Drivers and Software So far we have covered the hardware side of building a computer. an optical drive can be temporarily rigged into the system just to install the operating system. The first and easiest way is by using a CD or DVD containing the required installation files for the operating system. so installing them on a computer requires part compatibility with the OS as well as with each other. Most operating system installers are able to run you through partitioning your storage device. sometimes referred to as a flash drive or thumb drive. and Linux. It should be rather simple if you are using any of the three major operating systems. Apple’s Macintosh (Mac) OSX. Operating systems are sold in this fashion and are intended for installation this way. To get around this. Setting up the storage device to run a certain file system is called partitioning the drive. but choosing the right operating system and software for your computer is also important. 8. without the use of an optical drive at all would be to use a USB storage device. Drivers are important for any hardware you use such as graphics cards and sound cards (see Section 4. These three are Microsoft’s Windows. A storage device must be set up on a certain file system to run the operating system which uses that file system. A third option.1. Apple’s Mac OSX has grown significantly among certain groups of people.
. To do this. you will need to have multiple partitions on your system for the different operating systems. it is completely free and has a very knowledgeable user base. There are certain programs out there that can help with this. whether by flash drive or by external optical disk drive. Some operating system disks will be upgrade disks that will require a previous version of the operating system to install properly. Windows has the largest number of programs written for it and is the most common operating system. Computers running Windows are also the most susceptible to getting infected by viruses. is the slowest method and can take a great deal of time to complete. Windows can also be pretty expensive for a license to install on your computer. You will also need to set something up to prompt which operating system to boot from. If you do not have a previous version of the operating system. you will need a full install disk to install that operating system onto your computer. It becomes even harder if it is a problem with a “hackintosh” since that user base is fairly small. For Linux. It is very easy to troubleshoot problems with Windows because of the large user base. Each operating system has its pros and cons. This is most common on the Windows and Mac OSX operating systems. malware. Having two operating systems on one machine is often referred to as dual-booting. Mac OSX can also be expensive just like Windows. However it is the hardest to maintain without a decent technical background. It is possible to install multiple operating systems on one machine however.system files onto a flash drive and making it a bootable device. Installing through a USB port. Mac OSX has a smaller number of professional programs written for it than Windows and smaller user base making it harder to troubleshoot when you have a problem. only one may be running at any given time. Mac OSX is not very susceptible to viruses and malware unlike Windows partially because there aren’t many that have been written to infect computers running Mac OSX yet. Dualbooting Windows and Linux is the most common among computers running multiple operating systems. Linux also has far fewer programs. etc.
2. Upgrading the BIOS to the most recent version is generally a good idea when first putting the computer together. Updating the BIOS can be dangerous sometimes but can also speed up the system and make it run safer and smoother with a successful upgrade. Some motherboards have implemented a way of allowing the system to connect to the internet and update the BIOS to the latest version by pressing a button or by choosing to do so in the BIOS settings. Updating the BIOS is often referred to as flashing the BIOS. installed in every version of the BIOS. .4) since it involves changing the voltages to these components to get better performance out of them. Many times the base BIOS version on a motherboard will have updates available that will fix problems.8. and sometimes a mouse as well. Both of these things are required for the normal functions of any computer.1. This is very important with overclocking (see Section 4. Drivers & BIOS The way a computer knows how to load an operating system is through a Basic Input/Output System. The way an operating system knows how to communicate with your hardware is through something called a driver. Others will allow for updating directly from a flash drive by placing the newer version of the BIOS onto a flash drive and updating either by pressing a button or by choosing to do so in the BIOS settings. BIOS The BIOS is a very powerful part of the system. It is a good idea to update your drivers often and know how to update your BIOS in case of problems. also called a BIOS. The BIOS should have the basic drivers for a keyboard. 8.2. These two technologies are not always available so you will need to reference the manual for your motherboard to find out how to flash or update the BIOS. a computer will be completely unable to run. The BIOS is the main user interface behind an operating system that allows for control of the voltages to things such as RAM and CPU. Without the BIOS. It is a good idea to update the BIOS when first building the computer and keep an eye out for new updates.9.
Sometimes updating a driver will require a system reboot to finish which will be indicated after the driver has been updated with a prompt asking to reboot the system. Download the driver update file and run it.2. Drivers Basic drivers for components such as keyboards. Since there are so many drivers out there. The most important drivers to keep on top of are those for graphics cards. . networking. the update file will usually have a . monitors and more will usually be packaged with the operating system to allow for basic use. It is important to install all of these drivers when a computer is first being built to ensure that the components will run properly with the system. It is also important to update to the most recent drivers by going to the motherboard manufacturer’s website and downloading them. mice. There are driver update management programs that will make sure you keep up to date but these are not always available for everything. Rebooting the system either after each update that requires it or after all updates have been implemented should not matter as long as the system gets rebooted.2. sound cards and other similar components. To update drivers. an operating system will need to be installed. many components will come with CDs that contain proper drivers and often times their own third party software.8. Checking for new updates every few months is a good idea. For Microsoft driver updates. When first putting a computer together.exe file extension but there are other extensions that may be used. it is hard to keep track of new updates as they can be released at any time. These will usually be located on the manufacturer’s website and should be checked for newer updates regularly.
and all drivers have been installed and updated. This section will cover basic software compatibility as well as what types of software are out there relating to PC performance. Creating a virtual machine can sometimes solve these compatibility issues but that topic will not be covered in this guide. Compatibility Not all software is compatible for different versions of the same operating system. Software After a computer has been built. To combat this.8. Eventually an older version of the software becomes outdated and stops being supported which causes problems with compatibility for use with future operating systems. operating system developers and PC users over the compatibility of software on different systems. Be aware that not all older software will run as well as it had on older operating systems. As operating system developers create newer operating systems.3.1. software developers will make updates to their software for a while to support the changes between operating systems. unsupported. Windows has a compatibility mode feature built into the programming to assist users who insist on running software designed for an older version of the Windows OS. Using this feature is usually quite simple within Windows. the operating system has been installed. Programs that may have once run on old operating systems such as Windows 98 will most likely not run on a newer operating system such as Windows 8. . Software developers are also working on updating their software as well adding newer features and making changes. Simply go into the properties of the program (usually right click on the icon and click on properties) and then go to the compatibility tab. Choosing the OS that the software was designed for in the compatibility mode for that program will usually solve most or all of the bugs that the software would experience with a newer.3. there can be many changes affecting software compatibility. Enabling this option allows for a previous version of the Windows OS to be selected. One of the options in this tab is to run the program in compatibility mode. however there are still many options out there. There may still be bugs. Most programs will still be compatible for one or two operating systems to each side (newer and older) of the operating system that it was designed to run on. There will always be a never ending battle between software developers. 8. The next thing everyone wants to do is install all their favorite software. version of the Windows operating system.
lighting colors and effects. Some people use these scores to compare their system to the systems of other people. A benchmarking score is computed with an algorithm combining the settings.3.2. benchmarking programs are used to place simplified numerical values on the overall performance of a system. . There are also different types of software that are used to testing the limits of a system. and some systems will use a combination of both by using hardware to relay certain data to software on the system to be displayed on the computer for monitoring or adjustment. There are different types of software for monitoring or adjusting things such as fan speeds. the minimum frames per second (fps). Performance Monitoring and Testing There are many methods of performance monitoring and testing for computers these days. the average fps and the maximum fps while running a simulation defined by the benchmarking software developer that is supposed to test out all aspects of performance of your hardware. it can be used as a load bearing program for breaking in a GPU or for when new thermal paste needs heat to set properly. Many computer enthusiasts take these benchmarking scores with little confidence since they often weigh aspects of performance differently than what enthusiasts might weigh them. Often controversial in the PC building community. Both hardware and software methods can be used. These are called benchmarking software. Other performance monitoring software will display the information in a window and can even provide the user with ways to adjust things such as fan speeds on the fly to change the way their system performs. temperatures and even power distribution. occasionally by displaying it on the user’s desktop in gadget-like form. Performance monitoring software can display information in many ways. Benchmarking programs are also good for breaking in certain aspects of a system. Since a benchmarking program is designed to push the limits of the different aspects of your system.8. Many of these pieces of software allow for the user to customize the display of their information.
You can get special electronics cleaning spray which will clean off your electronics as well as the areas around them without causing damage to the circuits inside if the spray happens to come in contact with them. Quick cleaning is more common and should be done at least 4 times a year when you clean your case (see Section 9. For a deep clean of your standard keyboard you will need a small flat head screwdriver. This will prevent damage to your mouse and will not take the pads off of the bottom of your mouse with the dirt.2). If you have an optical or laser mouse. Mice & Keyboards You should clean your mouse and keyboard out a few times a year or as needed. Don’t use anything too sharp and cut up the bottom of your mouse. if you forget the position of each letter. A complete clean is not necessary but once or twice a year or as needed. A quick cleaning of your keyboard will be the same. It is a good practice to clean them regularly as well as when they get dirty. Cleaning off a keyboard can be a little more difficult than cleaning off a mouse. If there is no window protecting the sensor in your mouse. cotton swabs. just remember the style of keyboard (usually QWERTY) and look up a pattern online. If you do not want to blow inside with your mouth. Also blow the dust from the ball and wipe it off with a rag before putting it back in the mouse. You will first need to make sure to note the position of all of your keys. Cleaning and Maintenance Every computer requires maintenance over time. Monitors need cleaning. You should know if your keyboard is mechanical or not when you buy it (see Section 5.2). wipe it off with a damp clean cloth and make sure the dirt is all gone.1. Cleaning a mouse is very simple. This is all a part of owning a computer. keyboards need cleaning and dusting. As much as you try to keep it clean. Some mice may have other cleaning requirements. do not clean the exposed sensor. Just remember that your keyboard will be disconnected . 9.3). To clean the top of your mouse. a clean lint-free rag and compressed air. Instead blow on it with compressed air. a can of compressed air will work quite nicely. There is no way to protect your computer from everything. You should take your rag and place it over the area you are trying to clean and scrape over the rag with your fingernail. If you have a non-standard mouse. For mice that use a rolling ball on the bottom for movement (see Section 5. you will need to take the ball out and clean the dirt and dust from the three rollers inside the mouse. If the dirt is still suck on the bottom of the mouse. for most mice you can just wipe the dirt from the pads on the bottom with a rag. it may take require a little scraping. Mechanical keyboards will have a slightly different procedure for a deep clean than the standard rubber dome keyboards. you can clean off the window to the sensor you can dampen a cloth with a little bit of window cleaner or screen cleaner and wipe over the sensor. You should also blow out any remaining dust from inside. even dust particles will begin to collect inside your keyboard and dirt will begin to collect on your mouse.9. it is a good idea to check the reference materials that came with your mouse. your case will need to be cleaned out on a regular basis as well. rubbing alcohol.
When you are done. All keys have the ability to be removed for a standard keyboard but some of them are more difficult to replace than others. reassembly or cleaning.2) and different types of switches have different requirements for how to clean them. that it is room temperature. use a coating on them that can be damaged by rubbing alcohol. but you should also clean the circuitry with rubbing alcohol as well. put them in the proper position and carefully push them until they click into place. you should place the keyboard flat on the desk again. There will usually be screws on the bottom holding it together. Make sure that all of the keys function properly after plugging it in and that all keys are completely seated. The simplest board to clean is one that uses Topre switches. First you will need to remove the keys as described above by using a flat head screwdriver. Check the reference material that came with your keyboard for any additional instructions on disassembly. You can clean your keys and casing using water and soap or by simply throwing them in the dishwasher. After all of the keys have been removed. Quick changes in temperature can also damage your keyboard so avoid these by . they are all fairly similar. clean out the area that would be below the keys to remove any dirt that still remains. you will not only need to clean the keys and the area underneath them. Do this will all of your keys and then wipe down your keyboard quickly with a cloth and plug it back into your computer. Using the rubbing alcohol with the cotton swabs. this is safe. Be sure to use distilled water and not tap water because the minerals in the tap water can leave residues that can quickly damage the board. place the flat head screwdriver underneath the key that you want to remove and gently pry upwards to remove the key. While each keyboard has its own way of opening up. Now is the real tricky part. As you remove keys from your keyboard you should use the cloth or cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol to clean each individual key. If this is the case. Mechanical Keyboards are a little more difficult to take apart. use water instead but be cautious not to use too much and damage your keyboard. You should also check to make sure that rubbing alcohol will not damage the keys. After you have gotten as much out of the keyboard as you can with the compressed air. use the compressed air to blow out dust as you hold the keyboard upside down to remove any loose debris. You will be using the flat head screwdriver to remove all of the keys (also called key caps) in your keyboard. For mechanical keyboards. There are other tools that you can purchase that are specifically for removing keys but a screwdriver is usually sufficient for this task. You may want to consider leaving the larger keys such as the spacebar or enter/return key in place while you clean your keyboard. wipe over it with the cloth. Be sure to remove all screws and be aware of any tabs that could be holding the two parts of the casing together. Take these apart and take the circuitry out. Some brands.and not working so you may need to look it up before cleaning. including Filco. Don’t worry. Then you will need to open up the keyboard and remove the casing. But first you should turn it upside down and try to shake out any debris inside the keyboard. Different mechanical keyboards use different types of switches (see Section 5. To replace the keys to your keyboard after removing them. You will start by unplugging your keyboard from your computer. Make sure the water is not hot or cold. This board just needs to be rinsed with distilled water. To remove a key.
you should make sure to leave all parts out for at least four to five hours to dry. Boards that use either Cherry MX switches or Alps switches can be cleaned in much the same way as each other. food or other substance that should not be inside your keyboard. For any keyboard that you deep clean. Compressed air can also be used but it is important to make sure all water is gone from the board and that it is completely dry before returning it to its case. But having any water or wetness on the board during use could permanently damage your board and will probably have voided any warranties you may have gotten on the keyboard. The best way to dry the board is to let it air dry by setting it upside down and then sideways like with the Topre switches. To clean these boards. Do not use a brush to scrub the board as it could wear down the PCB and make your keyboard more vulnerable to damage. If you notice any dirt. scrub it with just your finger to prevent any damage. dust. do not use tap water unless you put it through a water purifier. All parts must be completely dry to avoid this damage. Leaving it out overnight is the best. It is not recommended to use a blow dryer for these boards as well unless you are extremely careful not to leave it in one place for very long. After the board has been submerged and is fully soaked. . Using a large container for the water such as a sink is a good idea but a simple tupperware box will do just fine to save water. completely submerge them in distilled water. compressed air will work quite nicely. but nothing is as effective as setting it out to air dry. Shake the board very quickly in the distilled water to make sure that the water gets into the switches and cleans all of the hard to reach places. It is not a good idea to dry the circuit board with a blow dryer or other heat source unless you are very careful.using room temperature distilled water. If you are in a hurry for it to dry.
you should not remove that component (see Section 4. for other components such as the CPU. If you used thermal paste with a component. If you have a liquid cooled system (see Section 4. this can be very dangerous and potentially cause damage to your system. For that maintenance.9. .2. however.10) really well if it uses a fan. or four times per year. Your fans will collect the most dust in your system as that is generally how the dust gets into your computer. You should make sure to blow off dust from both sides of all of your fans. then you will have to do more maintenance on your system than what is described in this section.9. Case You should clean out your case at least every three months to get dust particles that have collected in your case out to prevent damage to any of your components. Also clean off your CPU fan (see Section 4. For some components such as the GPU or RAM. It is not usually a good idea to take out your components to clean them after they have been installed. If you are in a dusty environment you may want to clean it out as often as every month. You should make sure to dust out all of the corners of your case and pay special attention to your fans. refer to the liquid cooling section of this guide. For this. It is recommended that you clean out your case every three months. this may be safe. you should get a can of compressed air or another compressed air system to blow out all of the dust inside your case.1).11).
Using a microfiber cloth and the screen cleaner.9. dust or dirt that has accumulated on your screen. If you are using a CRT monitor with a glass screen. . For these screens. If your monitor does not have a glass screen. There really is no need to clean it off if it isn’t dirty. blow out dust in these slots with a can of compressed air or other compressed air device. gently rub in around your screen to get off any fingerprints. If your monitor has slots in the back.3. Monitor You should clean your monitor off as needed. For aesthetics. You should also wipe off the top of the monitor with a dry or damp cloth to remove dust. you will need to purchase LCD screen cleaner. it is a good idea to wipe off your monitor’s base with a dry or damp cloth though this is not really necessary. it might be fine to just dampen a cloth with window cleaner and wipe off the screen that way. Be careful not to push too hard on the screen so as to not damage the monitor. do not clean it this way.
your computer will be able to last longer and you will have far fewer problems with all of your parts as they gain more and more use over the years. .4.9. Desk Area Cleaning the area around your computer is important as well. You should also make sure to clean your desk that you put your keyboard and mouse on. By taking care of the area that you work as well as your computer. You should make sure there isn’t anything blocking the places around your computer for intake and exhaust. This will help keep your other peripherals and your computer much cleaner and will make your regular cleaning much quicker.
For Windows Vista and 7. then you should set it up to defragment weekly. defragmenting your hard drive (as explained later) is very beneficial to do often on a PC running the Windows OS but is not really necessary on the MAC OS X. This will be explained more in depth later on. do not defrag an SSD though. backing up all data periodically onto a separate backup drive is recommended. Choose a date and time that won’t interfere with your schedule. System Maintenance There are a few things in terms of maintenance that you should do on a regular basis with your computer.5. go into the disk defragmentation application in windows. You can set up a backup drive as an internal or external hard drive. If your OS is not listed. It is best to use a hard drive instead of a solid state drive because it will be writing large amounts of data often so using a high capacity hard drive will be the best for this application. The first thing to do with a windows system is to set up a disk defragmentation schedule. You should defrag all of your HDDs. Windows Windows is currently the most widely used operating system in the world.9. . click on change settings and set up a schedule for the computer to automatically defrag. This is because of the way that the two operating systems manage files. For Windows 8 users.1. These things may be different for different operating systems that may have different file system types.5. After you have entered the defragmentation application in windows. For any system. you may still be able to use most of these instructions to perform your system maintenance. Otherwise it would probably be fine to defragment every 4 weeks or so. Knowing how to run standard system maintenance on a machine running the Windows OS will be very beneficial to keeping a system with this OS running smoothly for many years. this can be found through the start menu (Start -> All Programs -> Applications -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter). the disk defragmentation application can be found by going into the control panel (move the mouse along the right side of the screen and click settings -> Control Panel -> Defragment and Optimize Drives). To set up the schedule. Windows 7 and Windows 8 for the Microsoft operating systems and the general MAC OS X maintenance. It is used by numerous companies and a large amount of users have the Windows OS on their own personal system. Different operating systems also come with different system maintenance tools that you should become familiar with and be comfortable that you are using them properly. For example. Defragging an SSD will not help the system run faster and will lower the life of the SSD with unneeded data read/write. For the purposes of this guide we will try to describe the most general way to perform system maintenance using the built in tools in your OS but since there are many versions of each OS we will only be talking about Windows Vista. If install and uninstall often or do a lot with your computer. 9.
It should be run on average once a month or more often for more frequent users. Set up the antivirus software to scan the system on a frequent and regular basis. There are many free options for this. You should run this application often.The next thing you should do for a computer that will be accessing the internet at any point is to get antivirus software. This disk cleanup utility can be found in windows in the same location as the defragmentation application but is instead called disk cleanup. Many of these files you may not even know were put onto your computer. Files are kept after Windows updates and other normal functions of Windows. These temporary files can accumulate over time and take up a significant amount of space on the hard drive . Do some research to find the best software for your needs. Another important technique for system maintenance on a PC running is to clear out any unneeded files. These temporary files are not needed and should be cleaned out regularly.
2. Defragmenting the drive is rarely necessary and should only be done occasionally. There is really only one thing to do with respect to maintenance. PCs running Mac OS X requires much less maintenance than PCs running a Windows OS. Search around the internet for the one that is best for your version of Mac OS X. Mac OS X Apple’s Mac OS X is one of the fastest growing operating systems currently. This can be done much easier with the use of a third party application. You should run the UNIX maintenance scripts either through the third party application or by typing in the following code directly into the terminal application: sudo periodic daily weekly monthly Type in that command exactly as it is written and all the maintenance will be run.9.5. The Mac OS X is based off the UNIX file system. .
com/page/download_bench http://www.uk/speccontent.hardwaresecrets.co.wikipedia.datarecovery.com/article/Understanding-RAM-Timings/26 http://en.html http://www.hardwaresecrets.overclock.reddit.htm Operating System http://www.net/articles/raid-levels-0-1-2-3.tftcentral.thexlab.jsp http://www.com/article/Memory-Overclocking/152 RAID http://www.com/psucalculatorlite.com/2010/08/raid-levels-tutorial/ http://www. Sources and Other Useful Links Processors http://www.net/t/33504/info-what-are-the-different-types-of-raid Power Supply http://www.reddit.htm#lcd http://www.tftcentral.net/t/491752/mechanical-keyboard-guide#post_6025354 Tools http://www.html Keyboards http://www.co.com/technology/power_usage/ Monitors http://www.thegeekstuff.outervision.com/index.com/page/download_id Lighting .wikipedia.jsp http://extreme.com/r/buildapc/comments/1087uc/computer_monitor_guide/ http://www.com/r/buildapc/comments/xd44g System Maintenance http://www.outervision.techpowerup.com/faqs/maintainingmacosx.com/r/buildapc/comments/1087uc/computer_monitor_guide/c6b8n0h http://www.hardwaresecrets.org/wiki/DDR2_SDRAM http://en.extreme.10.pcpower.reddit.uk/articles/calibrating.com/cpudb/ Memory http://www.org/wiki/DDR3_SDRAM http://www.hardwaresecrets.overclock.
html Game Settings http://www.wikibooks.org/wiki/How_To_Build_A_Computer http://issuu.wikipedia.html http://forums.extremeoverclocking.com/r/buildapc/comments/k33vz .extremeoverclocking.techspot.reddit.1910.com/techinstyle/docs/build_a_pc_2012-with-rog#download http://www.net/t/1198504/complete-overclocking-guide-sandy-bridge-ivy-bridge-asrockedition http://www.com/t355358.wikia.com/r/buildapc/wiki/partsguide CPU Cooling http://en.overclock.com/showthread.reddit.org/wiki/Computer_cooling Overclocking http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/wiki/gamesettingsguide Liquid Cooling http://www.180876/ http://forums.tomshardware.http://www.php?t=354844 Basics http://buildapc.com/wiki/Beginner%27s_Guide_to_Building_a_PC http://en.com/community/topics/the-watercooling-guide-from-a-to-z.com/reviews/case-modding.
Dedication and Thanks I want to extend my greatest thanks to the communities at reddit that encouraged the making of this guide especially those at /r/buildapc for being the most supportive and helpful. . do your research and have fun making a computer. I hope that the information that I have provided is useful and that I have presented it in a way that makes PC building less intimidating to first time builders. As always. I couldn’t have put something like this together without the help and support of everyone. Thank you to everyone who has read this guide and to everyone who has contributed in one way or another to the completion of this guide. I would like to thank my friends Tim and Dillian for all of their hard work in helping me to put this guide together.
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