UPDATE: This guide is also an example for students of my Architecture and Operating Systems with Lab class written by Matthew B.
Since we get alot of new members asking about builds and parts I thought I'd break down buying and building your own PC. The first part of this guide will include some basic thoughts in the parts you want then the rest will include building it from the ground up. The first thing and probally the most important is deciding want you want this PC for. Are you building a gaming computer, a office computer, or just a new PC. Also you also want to take into thought how long you want this PC to last. If you can upgrade or buy a new PC every 3-6months then looking for a system with expandability doesn't really matter as much. Also after you have decided want purpose you want this PC to serve your next goal is selecting a motherboard/cpu. For this build were going to look at building a all around computer capable of handling the latest games and most tasking productivity suites.
Selecting a motherboard/cpu can be a task in its self. There are many factors you have to account for. Probally the biggest factor is deciding between AMD and Intel. Currently Intels are winning the higher end market war. These latest Intel boards use a 775 socket compatible motherboard. Don't think you need Intel, AMD has some powerfull processors out as well. Raffaz added
(AMD's new AM2 socket for there new line of processors) It goes back to what you want this computer to do. If you want to get the latest and greatest go for either a Intel Core2duo or Core2Quad. The next thing you want to look at is PCI/PCI-E slots the motherboard supports. If you plan on buying a single card you may be alright with 1 PCI-E slot. For reference PCI-E is taking over the world of graphics cards. There used to be standard PCI slots then came AGP with either 4x or 8x support. AGP is dying out and the cards are overpriced so look for PCI-E X 16 if your serious about future proofing your PC. Raffaz added
(PCI-E X 16 refers to the maximum bandwith flowing through the slot. The higher the bandwith the faster they can make your GPU's go). You can also look at boards that support SLI (Scalable Link interface)/Crossfire. This means you can run 2 identical cards and get up to double the performance depending on your Graphics card selected. If this computer is for office use ssc456
(pointed out that a motherboard with intergrated video would be just fine rather then spending money on a dedicated card). Next you want to plan how many normal PCI slots you need. Most boards come with 2 standard PCI slots. For reference you may loose a PCI slot if running a newer graphic card. They normally take up 2 slots on your motherboard. Also you want to look at how many dimm slots (memory slots) it has what is there max capacity. Pretty much every board today is using DDR2 memory. This basically stands for double data rate basically doubling the data sent and recieved. Normally when shopping it will list what the board supports. Example say the board your looking at supports 8gigs total/ 2 gigs max per dimm slot. That means you can use any DDR2 memory between 512mb/2gig per stick. When buying your memory you want to buy in pairs otherwise your memory will not run in dual channel. Your actually motherboard chipset is also very important if you plan on overclocking your memory/cpu. Since overclocking is in my intentions I selected a 680i board. Also you'll want to look at DVD/CD drives and Sata drives. I say Sata because IDE is loosing ground and most of todays boards support sata. Lastly in selecting a board you want to look at the audio. Are you going to buy a dedicated soundcard or are you planning on using onboard sound. Next up after you have decided a CPU/Motherboard will be deciding on a case.
Case selection can play a vital rule in your computers performance. Mostly i'm referring to cooling. You want to select a Case with good airflow. This becomes more important if you plan on overclocking your cpu/gpu's. Most cases come with at least a harddrive fan, exhaust fan, and side mounted fan. You can look for a case that supports more fans being added, replace stock fans with aftermarket higher CFM fans etc. If you don't plain on doing much overclocking most cases should have decent airflow. Check reviews for the cases your looking at and look for people complaining about poor airflow or the computer overheating.
I'm not going to go really in depth in regards to selecting components please ask the forum for help in selecting parts to meet your specific needs. Okay now lets assume you have selected your components. Now your ready to get everything installed and hooked up. First things first pull your motherboard out of the box and grab your CPU,CPU Fan,Ram and any motherboard fans. For the most part its easier to install these components then set it down in the system.
So heres my board I let it sit inside the plastic box it came in so I didn't have to worry about scraching it.
The first thing you want to do is install your CPU. This is as simple as pulling the lever on the side of the case and setting it down on the motherboard pins. Install may be a bit different for AMD systems this is on a Core2Duo build. After you have it set inside the socket go ahead and close the top and put the lever back into the locked position. Next you want to apply your thermal paste. I recommend Artic Silver 5 for your thermal needs. Apply a thin strip down the center of the heatsink. Taylor wrote
: (For any dual core processors its a line down with the arrow in the bottom left, for single core processors its a little rice sized dab in the middle, and for quad cores its a horizontal line across the middle with the arrow also in the bottom left). The heatsink is the metal top basically covering the actual chip. After you have your thin strip of thermal paste you will want to install your fan bracket or heatsink. Most aftermarket coolers come with a backplate and brace to help support the weight of a heavy aftermarket cooler. This is why I say its easier to do some of this outside the case. Take your fan/heatsink and rub it on top of the cpu heatsink to spread around the Artic silver coating the heatsinks. If your using the stock fan/heatsink all you need to do is push the pins into the hole you'll here a small snap the take a flat head screwdriver and give it about a quarter turn to the right. You'll feel and here it lock into place. After you have them locked in give a slight tug to make sure its solid. Here is a picture of a aftermarkt bracket installed awaiting to the actually cpu fan to be put in. You can see its a simple as putting the board on its side then placing the screw in and tighting it. The shiny center is the CPU heatsink. You'll apply the thermal paste in the center in a line about 1 inch long.
Now that the bracket is in place it was time to put the actual fan in place. As I said take the bottom of it and rub on your heatsink spread the past around and tighten it down. Note on the Zalman fan its easier to take the fan off because the screw is right underneath the fan. You can see it in the center of the bracket in this pic.
Here is a closer shot to see the mouting bracket in place. I was worried at first that this would clear the North bridge. You can see I have plenty of room.
Next its time to install the memory. You'll see them right in front of the CPU the 4 dimm slots. You'll notice that for the DDR2 memory that your slots are colored. This is setup for running in pairs to acheive the dual channel effect. Again why I suggested buying in pairs so the memory is slightly faster. If your using all 4 slots you don't have to worry about this. If only using 2 sticks put in either of the matching colored slots. Just push the tabs back and insert the memory. It will only fit into the groove 1 way. Just push it down and you'll see the white tabs lock into place. After you have it inserted push on the tabs just to make sure there locked in. Here is a pic of my memory fully inserted notice the tabs are all even in the locked position.