Tips And Treats
Personal Computer Building Tips
Building your own personal computer from custom components can seem like a daunting task. How do you know which CPU, motherboard, hard drive or monitor to buy? How do the components fit together? Will the final computer system work flawlessly?
Here you can find simple tips that will help you understand the easiest way to build your own Personal Computer. You don't have to be a Hardware engineer to follow these simple Tips.
Last Updated - 29th September 2005
In order to build your own computer you're going to need some basic cheap computer tool kits. If you shop around online you should be able to find some good, cheap deals.
Tools Required - (Need to be Non Magnetic)
- Antistatic wrist band - Your computer's components are very sensitive to static electricity. Make sure that you always have your anti static wrist band on when working on your computer. Other options include working on anti static mats while wearing a wristband.
- Needle-nose pliers and Tweezers - These tools come in use when handling small screws and bits of metal. Your computer's circuitry is very precise and you'll need some good tweezers and pliers to hold things into place.
- Screwdrivers - You should have at least one small Phillips and Flathead screwdriver in your kit.
- Spare parts container - They can be used to store small parts, screws, spacers, etc.
- Nut drivers - Although these aren't a requirement for your tool kit, most tool kits come with some nut drivers.
- Small flash light - It is a good thing to have when your working in a dark computer case.
Computer Parts Required .
- Computer case - You have tons of choices for these; colors, sizes, number of drive bays, etc. Most motherboards are built for an ATX case, which are larger than the AT cases. Make sure you have at least two hard drive bays and three to four 5.25" drive bays for things like CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs. Keep in mind when you choose computer parts that you can get computer cases with one clear side so you can show of those colorful and glowing parts. Also, some cases come with a power supply, so look into that as well.
- Power Supply - Most basic computers are fine with a 250 to 300 watt power supply. But if you plan on adding more demanding video and sound cards, you may want to get a more powerful power supply.
- Motherboard - This is the core computer part. It determines how easily you can upgrade your computer in the future. Try to select one that will easily allow you to add RAM, upgrade processors, built in Ethernet, and allow you to use many PCI cards. Try to stay away from motherboards with built in video; they tend to become outdated very quickly.
- Processor - This is the second most important decision you'll make when you choose computer parts. When building a new computer, you'll want to get at least a Pentium 3 or an AMD processor. Try to get at least 2 GHz of speed on that processor or it will become very obsolete and you'll find your computer getting sluggish over time.
- Types of RAM - Although Windows XP recommends a ridiculously low amount of RAM, it's advisable to get at least 256 MB to start. When you're ready for more speed, it's just a simple addition of more RAM!
- Floppy disk drive - There is really no "special" type of floppy drive to get. Just get a basic one, they can be had for pretty cheap.
- Hard drive - Consider getting at least one hard drive with 40 GB of space. Manufacturers have made it extremely cheap to get a hard drive with a ton of free space.
- CD-ROM - Get at least a CD-ROM drive, but preferably a CD-RW so you can store more data or burn your own CD's. A 32x speed should be plenty fast.
- DVD-ROM - If you ever want to view DVD movies on your computer, then this would be a great investment. You can also get DVD-ROMs that read CD-ROMs and that can also burn CD's, so shop around!
- Graphics Card - A good graphics card can be the difference between good and great image quality on any monitor. Be sure to get a 32 MB AGP at the least.
- Ethernet Card - Try to get a motherboard with a built-in Ethernet plug. These type are generally more reliable and you won't have to take up a PCI slot to have the Internet.
- Sound Card - If you don't plan on having surround sound or anything that requires crystal clear quality sound, look for a motherboard with built in sound.
- Modem - Although dial-up is becoming increasingly less popular, if you have it then you need a good modem. Modems are so cheap today you should opt to get a 56K modem to give you a little extra speed out of your dial up.
- Monitor - If you have extra money in your budget, definitely spring for an LCD. Not only are they more attractive than a CRT, but they don't take up hardly any room on your desk.
- Keyboard and Mouse - There are two main types of keyboards, corded and cordless. If you want to cut back on the amount of cords, then get a cordless keyboard, but keep in mind that it'll use batteries. Ball mouses are pretty obsolete. Get at least an optical mouse and a cordless one if you don't like the cords!
Opening the Case -
- Don't stress out about it when you decide to choose computer parts. Just be sure to do your research, make sure you have options to upgrade cheaply in the future, and compare prices. If you do all of those you shouldn't have any trouble when you choose computer parts!
- Although it is relatively simple to open a computer case, if you've never had the need to, then you probably don't know how.
- If your computer has hardware installed, be sure to disconnect the power cable.
- Locate the screws on the rear of the computer, there should be a couple on the top and a couple on each side. Remove them.
- Now to open a computer case, you need to pull up and towards the front of the computer. It should come off easily. If your computer case is not coming of, look for any screws that you might have missed and remove them.
- Replacing the computer case is just the opposite of when you open a computer case.
Installing PCI Cards
To install PCI cards, you need to:
- Unplug your computer from the wall and remove your computer's case cover so that you have plenty of room to work. Also have your antistatic wristband on because PCI cards are VERY sensitive to static electricity.
- Locate your PCI card slots on your motherboard. Then use a screwdriver to remove the screw holding the PCI slot cover. Once removed, set aside the screw, you'll need that later!
- Align your PCI card with the slots on the motherboard and make sure the hole in the face of the PCI card lines up over the hole which you removed the screw.
- Now to install the PCI slot card, firmly press down on it until it is in position. Finally, replace the screw that you removed before to secure the PCI card into place.
- Plug your computer back in and turn it on. Your computer should detect the new card and be prepared to install any new drivers.
Troubleshooting when you install PCI cards
- If your computer doesn't turn on make sure the power cable is plugged into the wall and plugged into the computer's power supply.
- After installing your PCI card, if your computer turns on but beeps a couple times and the operating system does not load, repeat the install process but try the PCI card in different slots on the motherboard, it is possible that you have a bad slot.
- If all else fails when you install your PCI card, contact its manufacturer for more help.
Installing a CPU
- Remove the mother board form the cabinet before you install the CPU
- Pull up the lever beside the CPU's socket.
- The CPU will only go into the socket one way, by lining up the notch in the socket and the gold triangle on the CPU. Then CPU should simply drop into place. You should not have to force the CPU into the socket.
- Now pull the lever down to lock the CPU into place and secure the lever in its plastic retainer, if there is one available.
- Now you're almost done installing a processor. The final step is the CPU fan installation, to keep that CPU cool.
Installing a Motherboard
- If your computer is plugged in, unplug it. Make sure you have your antistatic wrist band on and open the computer's case.
- Next, screw in the spacers that should have come with your case into the holes that you selected above. Some computers may also have snap-in spacers instead of the screw in spacers.
- Hold the motherboard just above the case to find which holes of the case line up with the holes in the mother board.
- Once the spacers are securely in, it's time to install your motherboard by gently laying it in the case onto the spacers. When the holes of the motherboard line up with the holes of the spacers, screw the motherboard in place with the screws provided with the case. Do not over tighten these screws as they can crack and ruin your motherboard. If the screw's head looks too wide and it may disrupt the motherboards circuitry you can place a rubber buffer between the screw and the board.
- Finally, the last step for installing a motherboard is to make some of the basic connections. Which include the case's on/off switch, case indicator lights, reset button, and speakers. The location of these connections are different in every computer, so check your motherboard's user manual. Also connect the computer power supply to the motherboard, usually two to three connections depending on your motherboard, and you are ready to do a preliminary test.
Testing a Motherboard
- Insert your video graphics card into the AGP slot of your mother board and secure it to the computer case with a screw.
- Hook up your monitor, keyboard, and mouse; and plug the computer into a power outlet.
- Your computer should beep and display the basic BIOS information on the screen. If this doesn't happen or your computer doesn't turn on, check all of the connections you made while installing your motherboard.
- If you've completed installing a motherboard, congratulations.
Install Power Supply
- Open up your computer case so you have plenty of room to install a power supply. Also make sure you have your antistatic wrist band on.
- While removing the power supply, it helps to make a diagram to remember where everything goes when you are ready to install a power supply.
- Remove the screws holding the power supply into the case. Be sure to support it so that it doesn't fall after the screws have been removed.
- Disconnect the power supply from the motherboard and from the drives and any fans that it is connected directly to.
- Carefully remove the power supply from the computer case.
- That's it for removing a power supply.
- And now how to install a power supply. It's not difficult at all, installation is the exact opposite of removing a power supply. Place your new power supply in the same location of the old one. Note the location of screw holes and make sure they line up! Install the screws to secure it in place. Connect the power supply to the motherboard, the amount of connections vary between motherboards, mine has three. Then connect the power supply to all of the drives and any extra fans you might have.
- Double check all of your work, make sure all connections are good and secure. Also make sure that your power supply is securely screwed in.
- Plug in your computer and make sure it turns on and everything is running ok. Then continue by placing the computer's case back onto the computer.
Install Ram Memory
It's extremely easy to install RAM memory onto your computer's motherboard. Has your computer been getting sluggish lately? Installing new RAM is a very cost effective way to give your computer some extra juice.
Upgrading your RAM memory gives you the most bang for the buck when attempting to make your computer faster and it doesn't take a specialist to do it.
- First, you need to unplug your computer from the wall and open your computer case to get access to the motherboard.
- In order to install RAM you must first locate where your current RAM is on your motherboard and what it looks like. Chances are there are extra slots next to your current RAM. The great thing about most types of RAM is you can leave your current memory in your computer and place your new RAM in the next available slot.
- Remove your RAM from its antistatic bag and hold it by the edges. Make sure you have your antistatic wrist band on so that you don't ruin your new RAM.
- To next step to install your RAM is to determine which slot to place it into. You want to install your RAM in the lowest numbered slot or the empty slot that is closest to your filled memory slots.
- You can only install RAM in one direction. Look on the bottom of the RAM stick. You need to line up the notches in the RAM with the keys in the slot on your motherboard.
- Make sure the retainer clips for the RAM are all the way open. Place the RAM in the slot and gently push it straight down with your thumbs. You may have to press hard to "set" the RAM correctly. When you press down hard enough the retaining clips on either side of the RAM will snap into place, making a "clicking" sound.
- Before closing the computer case up you should test to see if you were able to install the RAM correctly. Power up your PC and everything should work normally.
Ram Installation Troubleshooting
- If you powered on your PC and it did not turn on, IMMEDIATELY turn your computer off.
- Check the simple things first, make sure your computer is properly connected to a power source.
- Make sure the RAM is set all the way down in its slot. The retaining clips on either side should be all the way up. Also, make sure your RAM is installed in the lowest numbered slot or in the slot closest to you current RAM.
- If trying the above fails, contact the manufacturer of the RAM and they should be able to help you install RAM in no time!
Install a Hard Drive
- Unplug the power cable and open up your computer case. Make sure you have your antistatic wrist band on.
- Pick the drive bay that you are going to install the hard drive in. You'll want to install it in the farthest drive bay down.
- Before you install a hard drive, make sure you set the proper jumper settings. Since we are only installing a single hard drive, set the jumpers as MASTER. The jumper settings are different for each hard drive, so consult your owner's manual so you know which pins to cover up.
- Now that you have the jumpers set, it's time to install your hard drive in the computer's case. Secure the hard drive in the drive bay that you selected above with some screws.
- First, connect the power cable to the back of the hard drive. Next, connect the ribbon cable to the back of the hard drive. Note that the ribbon cable has 3 connectors, one on each end and one in the middle. Connect your hard drive to one of the end connectors, and then connect the other end connector to the motherboard. There are two slots on a motherboard that will connect to a ribbon cable. Select the one that is red or the one that is labeled with the lowest number. The unused middle connector on the ribbon cable is a "SLAVE" connector that is used when you install a second hard drive.
- Plug in your computer and power it on. Your computer should recognize the new hard drive. If it doesn't, go into your motherboards BIOS and search around for the IDE channels, they need to be set to AUTO.
- That's all there is to install a hard drive.
- Now you should be ready to format the disk with software provided by your hard drives manufacturer and install an operating system.
Install a CD-ROM / DVD-ROM Drive
- Want to record your own CD's or watch your favorite DVD's on your computer? Installing a new CD-ROM drive or DVD-ROM makes this possible and we show you how here!
- Unplug the power cable from your power supply and open up your computer case. Don't forget to wear your antistatic wrist band.
- Determine which drive bay you are going to install a CD-ROM into. You should pick on of the uppermost drive bays.
- Before you install a CD-ROM, make sure you have the proper jumper settings. Since we are only installing a single CD-ROM, set the jumpers as MASTER. The jumper settings are different for each CD-ROM drive, so consult your owner's manual so you know which pins to cover up.
- Once you have the jumpers set, install your CD-ROM in the computer's case. How you secure the CD-ROM in one of the uppermost drive bays depends on your case. Some CD-ROM drives have to be screwed into the drive bay, like how you install a floppy drive, while other cases come with brackets to attach to the CD-ROM drive so that it slides into the drive bay and locks in place.
- Connect the power to the back of the CD-ROM drive, then connect the ribbon cable to the back of the CD-ROM drive. Your ribbon cable has three connectors, one in the middle and one on each end. The middle connector is a "SLAVE" connector that is used if you would install an additional CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. Connect one of the end connectors to the CD-ROM drive, and connect the other end connector to the appropriate spot on your motherboard. Note, hard drives and CD-ROM drives have the same style of connector on the motherboard. You want to connect your CD-ROM drive to the motherboard slot that isn't red or is the highest numbered of all the IDE slots.
- Power on your computer after you plug it in. Your computer should recognize the new CD-ROM. If it doesn't, go into your motherboards BIOS and search around for the IDE channels, they need to be set to AUTO.
- That's all there is to install a CD-ROM drive or DVD-ROM.
Install a Floppy Drive
One of the most basic drives on your computer is the floppy drive. Sometimes they will unexpectedly stop working and you'll need to install a new floppy drive.
- Unplug your computer and open the computer's case so you can work on it. Also make sure your grounded with a antistatic wrist band so you don't fry your PC's components.
- If you already have a floppy drive installed, you'll have to remove it first, just follow these directions in reverse.
- Mount your floppy disk drive in the case. For most computers cases, you slide the floppy drive into the empty drive bay from the front. Use the screws provided to install a floppy drive into the drive bay. If your drive bay does not slide out you may have to screw in the rear screw by hand like how I did.
- Once you've installed your floppy drive in the case, connect a power source to the floppy drive. Then you must connect the ribbon cable to the back of the floppy drive. Now you must note the where the floppy drive connects to the motherboard, use the other end of the ribbon cable to make this connection.
- Plug in your computer and power it on. Your computer should automatically recognize the new floppy disk drive.
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