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