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Assembling a Computer

Assembling a computer is actually a rather simple procedure. Computers are modular, a collection of components. This means that we can select and purchase our components and then install them to complete an assembly. We will completely assemble a Desktop Computer in this demonstration. Most installations only require one tool, a Philips Head screwdriver.

The first step is to decide what components to purchase. Some components are required and others optional. It is recommended that you select components based on what you want to do with a computer rather than building a minimal configuration.

Minimal Configuration
Motherboard Processor Computer Case Power Supply Memory Hard Drive Optical Drive Operating System Monitor Keyboard Mouse

Must have onboard Video and Sound Must match Motherboard socket Any size from Mini ATX to Full ATX May be included with case 1 GB minimum depending on Operating System Any size CD/DVD combo drive Windows 7 recommended If replacing a computer can use existing monitor If replacing a computer can use existing keyboard If replacing a computer can use existing mouse

A minimal build is sufficient if the user is only planning to create text documents and browse the Internet. It will not perform as well if the user is planning to use advanced graphics such as video editing or use high demand programs such as 3D Games. In our demonstration we will be assembling a computer to match our requirements which will exceed the minimum required. Our computer will be used for high demand programs including 3D Games. TIP - When selecting components start with the Motherboard (Mainboard). All other components connect to the Motherboard so it will be a determining factor in the other components to purchase. All components must be compatible with the motherboard. When selecting my components I enlisted the aid of a very knowledgeable person at Compu X Parts. He helped me make sure that all my components matched.

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Our Computer
Motherboard made by Gigabyte LGA 775 socket for Intel Core Processor family/ Intel Pentium processor family/ Intel Celeron processor family

Full Form ATX Factor Takes Intel LGA 775 Processors Onboard High Definition audio Does not have onboard graphics 4 DDR2 Dual Channel memory slots up to 16 GB total USB 2.0, 8 in back, 4 more available for front RJ-45 Ethernet port PS2 keyboard and mouse ports 1 x PCI Express x16 slot 4 x PCI Express x1 expansion slots 2 x PCI expansion slots Intel Core 2 Duo, E7600, 3.06 GHz Smilodon mid-size case by RaidMAX 500 watt nVidia 220 w/1GB DDR2 graphics memory, PCI Express x16 2 x 2GB sticks 500GB Sata CD/DVD combo drive w/writer Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit 20 Flat Screen Use existing keyboard Use existing mouse

Processor Computer Case Power Supply Video Card Memory Hard Drive Optical Drive Operating System Monitor Keyboard Mouse

Assembling the Computer

Step 1 Unpack the Case
Unpack the case. Included should be an Installation or User Manual and accessories. Remove all packing materials and tapes.

Front View

One Side Open

Rear View

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Step 2 Install the Power Supply

If your case does not come with a power supply already installed you must install it. We are installing a 500w Power Supply to accommodate the use of a high power Video Card. A standard power supply is only 250w. The Video Card we are installing has a need of 300 watts. Different cards draw different wattages. Check the video cards specifications for the exact rating. A 500w power supply will handle the video card and all components being installed. It also allows for future additions without having to replace the power supply. We are installing it first because it is a heavy component and we want to eliminate the possibility of dropping it on another component. The power supply installs with 4 machine screws which are supplied. The screw holes are offset to insure correct alignment. Insert the power supply in the upper rear section of the case. Line up the screw holes. Install with 4 screws.

Power Supply Rear

Case Location

Screws lined up with holes

Step 3 Install the Motherboard

The motherboard will come with an Installation Manual, a User Guide, and an installation CD. Refer to the Installation Manual for specifics on installing your motherboard. Any manufacturers instructions supersede this demonstration. The installation CD will be used after the operating system is installed to install drivers for the motherboards functions. The motherboard is installed to the right side of the computer looking from the front. Our case allows the right side to be opened for easy access. In some different cases you will open the left side in order to access and install the motherboard to the right side.

Line up the motherboard to the I/O panel in the rear. A new I/O panel will be furnished with the motherboard. Pop out the old panel and replace with the new panel.

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There will be standoffs furnished with the case. They are put in pre-drilled holes in the side of the case. The hole placements are standard and will accommodate all sizes of motherboards. You will only use standoffs in locations that line up with holes in the motherboard. Remove any extra standoffs as they could short the motherboard to the case. Line up the motherboard to the new I/O panel and locate the places to insert a standoff. Insert the standoffs.

Standoffs in holes


Motherboard hole

Double check that the holes line up with the standoffs. Place the motherboard on the standoffs. Insert machine screws through the motherboard into the standoffs. Tighten the screws firmly but do not over tighten.

Screws properly inserted

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Step 4 Install the Processor (CPU) and CPU Cooling Fan

Take care when installing the CPU and cooling fan. Hold the CPU by the sides only. Do not touch the pins or sockets. The CPU socket has a protective cover. Raise the CPU socket lever and remove the cover. The CPU is keyed with a triangle which aligns with pin 1. There are also CPU notches to help line up the CPU. Insert gently then lower the socket lever and lock in position.

CPU socket with cover

Remove protective cover

Alignment notches

CPU pins and notches

Insert with pins down

Secure latch

The CPU cooling fan sits directly on the CPU. There are 4 latching pins that line up with 4 holes around the CPU. CPUs require a gel to make good contact between the fan and the CPU. Our CPU comes with the gel already on the fan. You may be directed to put gel on another CPU which is supplied with the CPU. Locate the fan on the CPU and line up the latching pins with the holes around the CPU. Press firmly on each latching pin until it clicks in place. There should be no give once the pins are seated fully. Connect the CPU fan plug to the CPU fan socket on the motherboard.

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CPU fan plug

Step 5 Install the Memory

Our computer has 4 memory slots available. The motherboard supports memory up to 16GB. Each slot can accept up to a 4GB memory stick. We are going to install a 64 bit operating system which can use all the available memory. Note a 32 bit operating system can only use up to 4GB maximum. The motherboard also utilizes a Dual Channel memory system. This is a faster system but requires that the memory sticks be inserted in matched pairs. Retailers sell memory stick pairs designed for this use. In order to use Dual Channel memory the pair must be inserted in matching colored slots. Always start with slot 0. Slot 0 is the slot closest to the CPU.

Matched memory sticks

Memory slots

To insert the memory sticks push back the tabs on each end of the socket. Line up the stick to the slots. Press firmly until the tabs snap back into place on both ends. The slots are keyed to prevent insertion in the wrong direction. If the stick does not seat with firm pressure turn it around and reinsert.

Push back tabs

Align and insert

Fully seated, tabs locked

Step 6 Install the Video Card

We are installing a video card to enhance the graphics. Graphics take a lot of processing power. A video card takes over the processing of graphics from the CPU. This frees the CPU to do all the other processing required without bogging down with graphics. Video processing, gaming, and any other high graphics operation will be speeded up greatly with the use of a video card.

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Our computer does not have video processing available on the motherboard. This was deliberate as we saved in cost by getting a motherboard without video. The video card will take over all video processing on our computer. Locate the PCI Express slot on the motherboard. Line up the video card with the socket and determine which baffle to remove. Remove the baffle. Realign the video card with the socket. Press firmly until the card is seated fully. There is a small tab at the back of the PCI Express slot which locks the card in place. Use a machine screw and lock the front of the card in place.

Video expansion card

PCI Express x16 slot

Remove baffle

Insert card until fully seated

Anchor with machine screw

The video card has a driver installation CD that will be run after installation of the operating system. Installation of any other expansion cards follows this basic procedure.

Step 7 Connect Cables to Internal Connectors

The case may have front connectors for Audio, USB, and etc. There are cables connected to those ports that must be connected to the motherboard. The location to connect these cables is usually called F_Panel. Each cable is labeled as to its use and must be matched to the corresponding pins in F_Panel. Refer to your Case Installation Manual for guidance on which pins to connect to.

Front Case Cables

Each one labeled

Push onto proper pins

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Step 8 Install Peripheral Drives

Peripheral drives include CD and DVD drives. Because it is backwards compatible with a CD drive we are installing a DVD drive. This is a 5 inch drive and must be installed in a 5 bay. It also must have external access for insertion of media. We will have to open one of the bays. Each bay has a protective Drive Cover and Metal plate which must be removed. Installation will use a pre-installed lock to anchor the drive. No screws will be required.

Remove covers

Remove metal plates

Slide in drive

Lock in place

Replace covers

Step 9 Install a Hard Drive

A hard drive is a 3 drive and must be installed in the 3 bay. Our computer will use rails attached to the side of the hard drive. The rails then slide into place and hold the drive securely.

Attach rails

Slide into bay

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Push until rails lock in place

Both drives installed

Step 10 Connect Data Cables

A data cable must be connected from each data drive to the motherboard with a data cable. The drives we installed are SATA drives and will use SATA connections. Note SATA is the new standard and is replacing PATA drives. If you are installing a PATA drive it will use an ATA cable. A SATA cable will connect each the drive. The only drives in our computer are the Hard Drive and the CD/DVD Drive. It is not required but you should try to connect the drives sequentially to the motherboard. Use SATA_0 then SATA_1.

SATA Data Cable

Sata motherboard connections

Sata Drive Connection

Cables connected

Step 11 Connect Power to Motherboard and Components

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Every component must be powered. Those components attached to the motherboard are powered by the motherboard. The video card, CPU, and CPU cooling fan will all be powered by the motherboard. Any other component including the motherboard must be connected to the power supply. There are two connections to supply power to the motherboard, a 24 pin connector, and a 4 pin connector. These are keyed connections so they cannot be connected incorrectly. Note - Some motherboards have a 20 pin vs a 24 pin connector. On our computer the 24 pin connector is a combination of a 20 pin and a 4 pin. They are also keyed to fit together.

24 pin socket

24 pin connector


4 pin socket

4 pin connector


SATA power adaptor

Sata to DVD drive

Sata to hard drive

4 pin to fan

All connections made

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The computer is now completely assembled. The next steps are to connect the peripherals keyboard, mouse, monitor, and etc. Then install the operating system. And finally install any drivers from the installation CDs provided. Install the operating system first. This is a fairly automatic process and is well documented. The installation follows a Wizard format and you simply supply answers to the questions it asks. To install drivers install the Motherboard drivers first. Then install any peripheral drivers. It is possible that Windows 7 will install drivers for you but always run the driver CDs to be sure.

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