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Old 07-05-2007, 03:01 AM   #1
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Default Custom building your own computer Builders Guide A-Z

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.

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Old 07-05-2007, 03:02 AM   #2
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Okay were making progress now. The next thing will look at is installing the fan on the Northbridge. This may be different depending on the motherboard you select. Also double check that it will not interfer with your cpu cooling. I was actually worried on my build it may be a conflict but I confirmed with EVGA that it will not cause a problem. It was a simple as sliping it over the heatsink and putting to screws in the bottom of it.



Next up for my build was installing the ram cooling fan. This is up to you if you feel like buying one or not. For the most part its not needed but if your using high voltage ram or overclocking it you may want to think about it. I choose a Cosair Dominator fan. Its a ver easy install. Its as simple as sliding it over the white tabs and plugging in the fan. You'll see the black cable thats the fan plug which goes into a auxilary fan input.



This is a pretty decent shot of the Memory Fan installed over the ram. It uses 3, 40mm fans. You can also get a good look at the tabs on the Dimm slots (The white locking tabs).



Okay now I have everything installed that I can before it goes into the case. I double check and make sure everything is secure and ready to go into the board. Heres a overhead of everything done and ready to go into the case.



Okay so next we need to get the case ready for the motherboard. Go ahead and sort out your case wire. I find it much easier to pull everything to the appropriate place. You want to keep cables from hanging around disrupting your airflow. It does take some work and planning but you want the best possible cooling. Heres a simple shot of the wires moved to the side.

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Old 07-05-2007, 03:02 AM   #3
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Default Re: Custom building your own computer Builders Guide A-Z

Next you'll want to insert the PSU. This may vary slightly from board to board. Its as simple as sliding it in the groove. Make sure you know how its setup on your case and you buy the appropriate PSU. What I mean is if your case has a bracket underneath it that covers the bottom completely you don't want a PSU that has a fan on the bottom of the unit. Here is a shot of the PSU set in place.



Next up is installing the bottom screws into the case that your motherboard will set on. Refer to your manual for placement. You can see there are alot of unused holes in my case. This is because its designed for multiple motherboards. Most case's should support different boards. The most popular form factor (Demensions of your motherboard) is an ATX form factor 12.0" x 9.6". Well here is a shot of the screws put in place.



Next up we want to set the board in the case. Raffaz added (buying a grounding strap so you don't conduct static and fry a component). If you don't feel like buying a strap you can touch the metel sides of your case to ground yourself and remove any static electricity in your body. Make sure you have removed the backplates were all your motherboard connections go and install the one that came with your motherboard. Just gently set it on top of the pins and line the holes up. Make sure its securly against the back and lines up with the back of your case. Otherwise you won't get your screws in or be able to get your PCI/PCI-E components in securely. So here's a shot of the board set down in and bolted down. You'll have screws and little washers put those on and tighten down. Do not overtighten. I go in a star pattern. Basically meaning I'll put one in the bottom right then move to the upper left and alternate tightening. After you have all screws in place go ahead and double check them all and make sure there fastened down securely.



Next we will concentrate on installing the PCI devices. First up is the graphics card. As I said i'm using PCI-E so you'll see a noticebly longer slot then the rest with a tab at the end almost like a hook. This is your PCI-E slot. If you selected a board with SLI or Crossfire you'll have 2 possibly 3 PCI-E slots. If your only installing one card which in my case you'll want to use the PCI-E slot closest to your CPU. Right now the most popular card out are Nvidia's 8800 series cards. Many people have concerns that it may not fit in your case. Be sure to look for that when selecting your case and make sure you'll have room. For comparision here is a shot of my 8800GTs next to my old X1650. You can see there is a huge difference in size!



Now here it is fully inserted into the PCI-E slot closest to the CPU. Just firmly press down and you'll here it snap into place. Also not it takes up a extra slot for the fan. Make sure you remove the backplate on your case otherwise the fan will blow into itself.

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Old 07-05-2007, 03:03 AM   #4
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Next up will install the rest of your PCI components. I prefer getting everything hooked up before I start wiring stuff so I don't run into hang ups when I go to hook everything up power wise. For my install I needed both PCI slots one for my dedicated soundcard and the other for my modem. Yes i'm on dial up :shrug:



If your using a higher end graphics card you'll notice a six pin connector at the card. Some even have 2, 6 pin connectors at the top. Here you'll see i've begun running some of my cables. In the center you'll see the 6 pin connected to the end of my graphics card. Also on the right hand side you'll see my harddrive cage. I prefer to run them underneath the cage and up to the HD connectors. Now for connecting your harddrives you'll need 2 things. Power the brownish cable going to the larger sata connection. Depending on the PSU you selected it may or may not have a actual cable to run direct to your harddrives. In my case I have a dedicated cable so I just run it from my powersupply to the harddrives. And the smaller red cable going to the motherboard. This is the cable that reports information to your motherboard/cpu. If you look at the red cable you'll see it routed underneath the cage pluging into the sata controller on the motherboard. Also note the cable on the bottom running into the boards blud socket. This is for my extra USB ports. Locations may differ depening on your board refer to your manual.



Next up go ahead and connect your 24pin ATX which is your part of the power supply to the board. You'll see beneath it a blue slot. This may be different depending on your board but this is for your IDE cables to your CD/DVD Drives. The actual drives themself are easy to install just pull the tabs or take out the screws and put in place. If using 2 drives make sure the top drive is set as primary/master and the 2nd drive set as the slave drive. Also make sure you plug them this way as well. You'll see your IDE cable labled primary/slave. Also check into rounded cables. IDE cables can be a pain since there in a ribbon and flop around. The actual rounded cables are much easier to work with. Also note how the cables run along side the bottom of the board so there not blocking airflow.



Next up its time to connect your power switchs. These can be in many different places you'll have to refer to your manual for specific locations. The main connections are Reset,PWRSW,PWRLED,HD_LED. After you have located them on your board go ahead and plug them in. You'll see in the below photo there the wires next to the bottom fan on my memory cooler. There the ones in green,black,read,white etc. There just little 2 push pin designs and slid onto the pins. Also this is the time when you would want to also hook up any auxilary IEEE or Audio connectors. Also you'll note the brownish cable on the upper left. This runs direct to my 8pin power supply on the motherboard. This is your 12 volt rail.



The final step is running power to the rest of your components. By this I mean hooking up the fans power, the CD,DVD drives power, The power switch to turn your computer on etc whatever you may have in your system. These normally consits of 4 pins that plug into each other. Don't worry you can't plug them in backwards they only go one way. Also you'll notice some of these have 2 connections running off them. This is so you can plug one into another component say pluging your exhaust fan in with your push button power and then hooking that pin to your PSU auxilary power connect. This saves you cables. I'll normally route a few things together. For example my Exhaust fan and Powerswitch are combined and my IDE power LED is combined with The power switch on the board. So heres the final shot cables all run. Notice how there is no cables hanging over the actuall board blocking the airflow. I'm kind of unhappy with the cable ball at the top but its not blocking the airflow. Next case I get is going to have a inclosed PSU so I can route the cables from the front. I guess there not seen unless you look in the upper corner of my case but when looking through the case window your mostly seeing the board which is free of wires. Also don't forget if you have a case fan plug it in before putting the panel back on. If you look at the top of my harddrive cage you'll see the fan controller that I plug my side fan into. So double check everything is in place and close it up.



And thats it next up is your boot up. Go ahead and put your OS in the CD/DVD drive and load the bios. If your memory is spec'd at a certain volt make sure you go into your bios and set it to the correct voltage. After you have confirmed your bios is up and running and checked your system monitor to make sure your temps are good go ahead and load your OS and enjoy you newly built custom computer!

Have fun hope this helps new builders out. Feel free to ask any questions.
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Old 07-05-2007, 03:29 AM   #5
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Default Re: Custom building your own computer Builders Guide A-Z

very nice mattie! one thing to add though, for the first post about the thermal paste, theres a few specifics about it, 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. looks very nice mattie, well done.
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Old 07-05-2007, 03:35 AM   #6
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Default Re: Custom building your own computer Builders Guide A-Z

Hey thanks. I went ahead and updated the first post to include your description of applying thermal paste for everything. I'm sure I'll add things on myself but if anybody has anything else they think I should add in somewhere let me know and i'll put in in.
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Old 07-05-2007, 04:46 AM   #7
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Default Re: Custom building your own computer Builders Guide A-Z

WOW amazing guide should be stickied ASAP. +1 big time
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Old 07-05-2007, 05:37 AM   #8
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Default Re: Custom building your own computer Builders Guide A-Z

yh nice guide and really nice build mate.

1 thing i dont think you said that if people are not going to be gaming then 9 times out of 10 the onboard graphics is good enough.

oh yh and + rep for ya
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Old 07-05-2007, 09:20 AM   #9
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Default Re: Custom building your own computer Builders Guide A-Z

Glad you guys like it! I'll go ahead and edit that in for you ssc456 thats a good point.
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Old 07-05-2007, 10:00 AM   #10
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Default Re: Custom building your own computer Builders Guide A-Z

i say we sticky this for a while
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