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How To Build A Computer

The other day, when my computer got messed up and I had to rebuild it, I figured it would be interesting to take pictures for people who have never built their own computers. This won't be super detailed but it will give you a general overview of the most basic assembly steps.




  1. Select a case. 99% of the time you'll be using an ATX form factor case. There are other form factors, most notably mini ATX, but unless you're building a special kind of computer it will be ATX. I had a case already.
  2. Select a motherboard. This should actually be step #1, but since, like I said, you'll pretty much always be using ATX cases, it doesn't really matter. The motherboard is the most important selection. It determines which kind of processor you can use(Intel or AMD, generally), what kind of video card(s) you'll use(if any), how much RAM you can use, if you can use RAID, etc. So, decide what you want to do with your computer and choose your mobo based off that.
  3. Choose your processor. This will generally go hand in hand with choosing your mobo.
  4. Choose your video card. For gamers, this choice comes first and everything else is built around it. ;)
  5. Pick a power supply. Make sure it has the same connections as your mobo(see below) and video card(s). I tend to get power supplies these days around 500 watts. It seems to be enough to power all the drives, video cards, mobo, peripherals, etc. Modern video cards tend to require their own power supply connection, so make sure your power supply has them, if you need them or might upgrade.
  6. Purchase your RAM. 1GB is the minimum I would build anything with any more.
  7. Purchase your drives. You'll need at least one hard drive(or solid state drive if you're leet) and one CD/DVD drive(unless you plan to install your OS over ethernet or something else crazy). These days they will pretty much all be SATA(thin red cables), but if you do end up getting IDE(old style, wide, flat ribbon cables) make sure your mobo is compatible.
  8. Pick out peripherals. Obviously you'll need at least a keyboard and mouse.
  9. Assemble.
  10. Cry when it doesn't work.
  11. I KEED!


Assembly:



Your case will come with a bunch of small "standoff" screws. They have both a male and female side. The purpose is to keep the mobo off the side of the case to let air flow through behind it. Screw at least nine of them into the side of the case, in line with the mounting holes on the mobo. Then insert the thin metal port cover into the slot in the case where the ports will exit. Slide the mobo into the case, aligning the ports with the port cover and then screw into place.

Mount your power supply, usually with four screws from the outside of the case. You can see mine mounted to the right, in this picture, which is actually the top of the case.



Mount the processor. Gently align the processor with the holes in the socket and drop it in, then secure according to directions. If you are re-mounting a processor the outside may look like this. You need to clean all that old thermal paste off with alcohol until it is completely clean.



Like this. Then spread a nice thick layer of thermal paste to completely cover the processor and the heat sink faces.



Like so. Don't forget to clean the heat sink base before recoating it too.





Mount the heat sink on the processor as per the directions. Sometimes this is a PITA, but you'll get it on there eventually. Don't forget to plug in the fan.



Remember I said earlier to make sure your power supply had the same connectors as your mobo? See the six pronged power cord and the four slot mobo connector? Doh! Looks like my old power supply wasn't compatible. Generally that's not a big problem, because you can just plug in four of the prongs, but in this case there is a diode or capacitor or something right under where the other four prongs would hit, so I couldn't get it on there. I ended up taking a hack saw to the other four prongs to get in it. Don't do that at home, kids.



Insert your video card and plug in the power cord if needed. You can also see to the right and above the video card the second mobo power plug plugged in.



This used to be the most annoying part of computer building, attaching all the little wires for the power, HD, etc LEDs and the USB ports. Lately they've been integrating them into easier to handle groups to plug in like these. Before you had to plug in each individual wire, arrgghh!



Mount a hard drive and plug in the data and power cables.



A better picture of the mobo power connection and the RAM slots.



Insert your RAM sticks. They only fit in one way.



New power supply, 4 prong plug! lol



Everything plugged in, power turned on, push the power button...will it boot?



It boots(I had in a different computer's drive for testing)! Amazing, there's a first time for everything.



Adding in more hard drives and DVD drive.



Formatting new drive before installing Winders. OMG, never use full format(use quick format), it takes hours!



Vanity pic of one of my other linux machines running Compiz/Beryl. Four desktops on a cube that you can rotate by click-dragging or alt-tabbing. Very sleek.


Full Flickr set with larger images here

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Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
troymccluresf
Mar. 24th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
Nice.

A friend came up to build Brendan's computer, it was kind of fun to watch. Hell, I think it's always fun to watch a bunch of parts become a whole. I always helped build sets in high school when I could.
thingstouchme
Mar. 24th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC)
This is sweet! :)
kamdrimar
Mar. 24th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
Just a note, you don't actually want a thick application of thermal paste. The metal of the CPU and heat sink conducts heat far better than thermal paste, so you want as much of them touching as possible. The thermal paste is to fill in any microscopic imperfections in the metal, so you don't have air pockets causing problems. You generally want to use as little paste as possible to completely cover the surface of the CPU.
democritus
Mar. 24th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)
I know that's the theory, but I've always been generous with the thermal paste and have achieved the same or better temperatures than expected. Most overclocker sites concur with a generous application as well. If your heatsink is applied with a good pressure any excess will eventually seep out the sides as things heat up anyway.
kamdrimar
Mar. 24th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
Point taken. It depends on the hardware too, I've noticed. For example, the XBox 360's CPU and GPU are clocked so high, and attached to their heat sinks with such a wonky method that they heat up _bad_, and too much thermal paste will actually boil away and leave air bubbles.
(Deleted comment)
democritus
Mar. 24th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
Oh man, me too. I've pretty much given up on the stock Intel coolers(I just had this one on because the machine was a pre-made Alienware). I usually use Zalman heat sink fans because they cool really well and are super easy to mount.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
The AMDs aren't much better. I never, ever get a satisfying 'click' when I latch the fan assembly down.
flyp
Mar. 25th, 2008 01:47 am (UTC)
Sorry, the above is me. Just so's ya know who ya's talkin to.
lumpyone
Mar. 25th, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
Haven't built my own machine in years, mostly because I've switched to laptops and try to find all the parts to build one of those! Not as easy, yet.

Seeing this post makes me want to build my own computer again though, and switch back to a desktop for home.
democritus
Mar. 25th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, I've never tried to build a laptop before. Actually I just got the first laptop I've had in years. They're great, but I need a desktop for home.
tpbrcombo
Mar. 26th, 2008 03:59 am (UTC)
I ended up taking a hack saw to the other four prongs to get in it.

So YOU'RE the dude who trained all the teenage IT support officers I've ever worked with.
democritus
Mar. 26th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
LOL. No man, I'm just old school. If it doesn't fit, MAKE it fit!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )