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- How to Build your own Computer -

Putting it Together


Tools


You will need an anti-static mat and wrist band, a set of small screw drivers, some small long nose pliers, a head torch, plastic teasers, and an air duster (maintenance).


Preparation


Put your components on an anti-static mat connected to a grounding source (e.g. a special grounding wall plug with only a ground pin, or a crocodile clip attached to a radiator) and wear an anti-static wrist band attached to the mat. Note: failing the above you should usually be okay using the anti-static mat and touching a grounded object (e.g. a radiator) before working.


Putting the PC together


  1. Place the motherboard on the anti-static mat, and place the processor in the CPU socket.
  2. Apply the thermal paste to the top of the CPU, then attach the heat sink and heat sink fan.
  3. Plug the fan power cable into the motherboard CPU_FAN socket.
  4. Install the RAM into the RAM slots as specified by the motherboard user manual.
  5. Attach the motherboard to the case, then any case mounted fans.
  6. Attach the case front panel (FP), USB, audio, and fan cables to the motherboard as specified.
  7. Install PSU to the case, leaving the power cables out of the way.
  8. Install the HDD, optical drives, and any other front bay devices to the case. Plug their data cables into the appropriate type sockets on the motherboard.
  9. Remove the blanking plates from the rear of the case for the expansion slots that you want to use and install any expansion cards into the appropriate expansion slot on the motherboard.
  10. Connect the PSU power chords to all of the components: motherboard, disk drives, expansion cards, case fans, and any other components.
  11. Give everything a once over, check that the processor heat sink is secure, that the fan power and control cables are securely connected, the RAM is secure and locked, expansion cards and disk drives are secure and locked, and that their power and data cables are correctly and securely connected.
  12. Plug in your monitor, keyboard and mouse (non-USB) to the motherboards external I/O panel connectors.
  13. POST & BIOS: Boot-up your PC! While booting, keep an eye on the motherboard codes and beeps.
  14. When the boot has successfully completed, the motherboard BIOS screen should be displayed on your monitor! You are now ready to set up the BIOS and install the Operating System…!








Software Installation and Configuration


Once you have put the pieces of your PC together and powered it up successfully, it's time to set up and configure the software. The core pieces of software required to get your PC up and running are the motherboard BIOS, the Operating System, and the hardware drivers.



BIOS


A PCs BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is the first piece of code that runs when you turn on your PC and is stored in non-volatile ROM firmware on the motherboard. The first thing the BIOS does on power-up is to run the system power-on self-test, which identifies, initialises, and checks for the correct functioning of the installed components (i.e. processor, RAM, hard and optical disks, graphics and network cards, keyboard, mouse etc).


The BIOS then locates and loads the boot loader stored on the hard disk (or optical disk/flash if booting externally). The boot loader contains a small program necessary to start software running on the PC. Its main purpose is to locate and load the Operating System and device drivers into RAM. Once this is completed the boot loader exits, and control of the PC is given over to the Operating System.


The system BIOS has a user interface that can be accessed by pressing a specified key when the PC is first starting up (e.g. F1, F5, F12, del). The user interface displays all of the options available for configuring your motherboard (other than those set using pin jumpers) and certain boot and hardware settings. For example:




Configuring


You will have to check your motherboard manual for options and instructions for your particular motherboard BIOS. But the main features you should check for in the BIOS are that your HDD and optical drives have been picked up in the IDE/SATA controller page, and that your RAM memory has been picked up correctly. You should then set your boot priority (the order of devices for the bootloader to check, initially you can set TBD), and any other start up options, such as "check PCIe for graphics card first" if you are using a graphics expansion card, and enabling USB keyboard and mouse.







Operating System


The Operating System is the central piece of software required by a computer to function. It is the first piece of software to be loaded when the computer is turned on (after the BIOS and boot loader), and is the interface between all third party applications you may run and the hardware. It controls the computers processor and installed components, provides a GUI (Graphical User Interface) to the display for user viewing, and handles user input from peripherals (keyboard and mouse). It also manages the running of processes on the CPU, memory (RAM) management, and the file management system for creation, changing, and deletion of files on the hard disk. It also runs numerous background services, which are small applications required to run in the background for the operating system and other front end applications to run correctly (such as ActiveX, .NET, task schedulers, and other network services).


An Operating Systems main functions are:




Installation and Configuration


Installing your OS should be fairly simple. Ensure that "Boot from DVD" is enabled in your BIOS then insert your OS installation disk to the optical drive. Then exit the BIOS and restart your PC, which should pick up and run the OS installation disk. Then just follow the OS installation instructions. If you are using an old HDD, it is better to save any files you wanted from it externally, wipe the drive, and to carry out a clean install. You will probably be asked whether you want to perform a standard or custom installation, the custom installation will allow you to adjust the predefined hard disk partition settings and update options.







Drivers


A driver is a small piece of software that is designed to be the interface between the Operating System software and a hardware component. Each piece of hardware has a driver that converts the operating system commands into instructions compatible with the particular piece of hardware.


When you buy a hardware component, if it requires a driver it will come with a CD containing its required drivers. Because a driver is the interface between the operating system and the hardware, it will have a driver (or a set of drivers) for each operating system (e.g. Windows, Linux etc) and for 32-bit and 64-bit versions.


Installation


Installing a driver is very simple, just load the driver CD and follow the installation wizard instructions. It should automatically pick up your operating system version, but if not make sure you select the correct one. You should probably install your motherboard drivers first, then any graphics card and monitor drivers, then any other peripherals as necessary such as hard disk, keyboard, mouse.


Windows is also very good at picking up driver updates for common hardware components, but it is always a good idea to go to the hardware OEM website to check for and install the latest driver updates.







Security and Maintenance Software


Now all of the components required for your PC to run successfully are installed, you should install some software to make it safe and keep it running smoothly.


The two main security pieces of software you should install are a firewall, which stops anyone accessing your PC via a network connection (by monitoring traffic through your NIC), and anti-malware software that checks any files you download to your PC (i.e. pages you view on the internet, email, or downloaded files, that would otherwise get through your firewall) do not contain any viruses or spyware. Some firewall and anti-malware software even monitor newly starting processes on your CPU.


Now the PC is running and secure, it's a good idea to install some maintenance software to keep you PC running smoothly. There are numerous locations in your operating and file systems that can get clogged up and messy over time, slowing down the running of the operating system. So you should run a cleanup and maintenance routine at regular intervals. See the Maintenance pages in Tools and Quick Lists for some good tool recommendations and a solid cleanup process.







Installing Software


As a good idea to keep your PC installations clean, and to be able to find installed software quickly, you can create folders in both your "C:\Program Files\" and "C:\Program Files (x86)\" directories called (for example) "A Tools", "A Software", "A Games". Then whenever you install software, choose custom installation and install to one of these directories, you will then always be able to find your software! Note: If an application is preset to install in either "Program Files\" or "Program Files (x86)\" make sure that when you perform a custom installation to install it to a sub-folder of the same. "Program Files (x86)\" is for 32-bit applications and "Program Files\" for 64-bit applications. If you install software under the incorrect folder this can cause registry inconsistencies, and the application may not work correctly.


It's also a good idea to create a "Tools" folder on your desktop or in your "Documents" folder to store links to all installed software (enable "create desktop shortcut" when installing), you can then create sub folders for system tools, multimedia software, office applications etc.. You can also create a folder called "Quick Docs" to contain links to all of your frequently used documents. Create a link by right-clicking on the file and selecting create shortcut, then move the shortcut to your Quick Docs folder. You can then access any frequently used file on your computer from a single place. If you keep these folders on your desktop, then on your task bar enable the "Desktop" toolbar, you will then be able to access all of your installed software and frequently used documents in a single click.








Images



Motherboard Connectors

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Choosing your Parts


So, with the above said it is just a matter of choosing the parts. Below is a quick tick list of the component parts that are required, their features, and options:

A   PCI Slot  (e.g. Ethernet cards, sound cards, and modems).

B   PCI-E 16x Slot (e.g. graphics card).

C   PCI-E 1x (e.g. Ethernet cards, sound cards, and modems).

D   Northbridge (communication between the CPU, system memory, and PCI-E slots).

E   ATX 12V 2X and 4 Pin Power Connection (one of two power connections that supply power to the motherboard, this connection will come from your Power Supply).

F   CPU-Fan connector (allows the motherboard to control the speed of the processor fan based on the processor temperature).

G   Processor socket (to house the processor, surrounded by the four heatsink mounting brackets).

H   Memory slots (for RAM installation, colour coding used to match up RAM for dual-channel).

I    ATX Power Connector (the second of two power connections, this is the main power connection for the motherboard, and comes from the Power Supply).

J   IDE connector (floppy disk connector, obsolete disk drive connector).

K   Southbridge (controller for components such as PCI, onboard audio, and USB connections).

L   SATA connectors (e.g. hard and optical drives).

M  Front Panel connectors (for case front panel connectors, e.g. power on, drive activity).

N  FDD connector (floppy disk drive controller).

O  External USB connectors (for plugging in USB connections from your case or USB panel).

P  CMOS battery (the motherboard's battery to allow the CMOS to keep its settings).


Power Connectors








SATA                                                          Molex                              Berg















ATX Power                                                                e.g. Motherboard I/O Panel

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- Part 2: Assembly -