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System build guide

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by davidjc, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Disclaimer: The following is what I do when I build a PC. I am not responsible if it all goes wrong and something gets broken or doesn’t work.

    Step 1: Choose your hardware
    In simple terms to build your basic PC you are going to need the following parts.
    1. Motherboard
    2. Processor (CPU)
    3. Memory (Ram)
    4. Hard drive(s)
    5. Graphics card(s)
    6. Power supply (PSU)
    7. CPU cooler
    8. Case fans
    9. Case
    10. CD/DVDRW drive(s)
    11. Optional: Sound card (motherboards also have onboard sound)

    The PC built in this guide will have the following hardware.
    1. Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3R Intel P45 (Socket 775)
    2. Processor (CPU): Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 (LGA 775)
    3. Memory (Ram): Corsair Dominator 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 (PC2-8500)
    4. Hard drive: Samsung SpinPoint F1 320GB SATA-II 16MB Cache
    5. Graphics card: Nvidia 8800GT 512MB PCI-E
    6. Power supply (PSU): Corsair 520w modular PSU
    7. CPU cooler: Thermalright Ultra-120A Extreme (LGA775)
    8. Case fans: 2x 120mm
    9. Case: Antec 300 Three Hundred Ultimate Gaming
    10. CD/DVDRW drive: Sony 22x DVD±RW SATA
    11. Sound card: Creative X-FI Xtreme music PCI

    Note: The sound card is an optional extra as there is onboard sound on the motherboard.
    Note: The number and size of case fans you require will depend on your case and if your CPU cooler requires extra fans.
    Note: You do not need to buy extra thermal paste; most if not all CPU coolers come with thermal paste pre-applied. Although it is handy to have extra thermal paste as if you ever take the cooler off, new paste will be needed. After market thermal paste may also give better temps.
    Note: You will not need to buy extra cables such as SATA and IDE cables. These come with the motherboard.

    Basic motherboard layout
    [​IMG]

    Tips:
    1. Never touch the copper contact pads or pins.
    2. Always handle the electrical components by the edges of the chip or board.
    3. If its going to fit it will slot in easily, don't force components or cables into place.
    4. Before you touch any electrical components make sure you are well grounded, this will help reduce the risk of static electrical damage to components. Once the PSU is fitted into the case I usually plug the PSU into the wall socket, although not switched on. This allows you to ground yourself on the case when you touch a metal part of the case.
  2. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Step 2: Getting the case ready
    To get started, take off both sides of the case to gain access. Usually this is done via removing four screws on the rear of the case and then sliding the side panels backwards.
    [​IMG]
    The next job is to fit the power supply into the case. Simply work out which way up the power supply goes. This is done by seeing which way up the screw holes in the PSU align with the holes in the case. If the PSU can fit both ways up, fit it so that the fan in the PSU has access to most ventilation. As shown below.
    [​IMG]
    Using the screws supplied with the case. Screw in the power supply, this is usually done via four screws. As shown below.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  3. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Now that the PSU is fitted the next task is to fit the CD/DVDRW drive. To do this you may need to remove the front panel from the case. Different cases have differed methods of removing the front panel. The front panel is usually held in place by either a few screws hidden on the inside of the case. Or plastic clips which again will be just inside the case. As shown below.
    You may also need to remove the blank on the front panel and inside the case to allow the drive to be fitted into the slot. With the Antec 300 there is no need to remove the front panel for fitting the CD/DVDRW drive.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Once the front panel is removed if needed, simply slide the drive into a 5.25 bay aligning it with the screw holes inside the case.
    [​IMG]
    Now using a M3 sized screw, screw the drive in securely on both sides. This is usually done with four screws. Some cases offer screw / tool less fixing for drives.
  4. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Now that the CD/DVDRW drive is fitted the next step is to fit the case fans. Some cases will come with the fans pre installed. If so skip this step.
    Most cases will have front intake fan(s) and a rear exhaust fan(s), and possibly a top exhaust and side fan. These can range in size but are usually around 120mm in size.
    The photo below shows which way the air will blow so you get the fans the right way round. The case fan(s) should intake cool air at the front of the case and expel hot air at the back.
    [​IMG]
    Align the fan with the screw holes in the case and with the supplied case fan screws screw the fan to the case. This may take a bit of force as the screws have to tap into the plastic screw hole in the fan.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  5. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Now that the case fans are installed the next step is to fit the I/O shield plate. This is the plate which coves around the holes where the rear motherboard input / output ports are.
    Some cases come with an I/O shield plate already installed. This is pretty useless as it will not align with your motherboard as the ports will be in different places. Remove this one if it is there and in its place put the one that came with your motherboard. Make sure you put the plate in the correct way up so it will align with the motherboard ports. To attach the I/O shield to the case simply push it in the correct way up until it is fully secured.
    [​IMG]
    The next step is to screw the motherboard standoffs into the case. These are standoffs which keep the motherboard from touching the case.
    [​IMG]
    The motherboard will have screw holes in it. Take the motherboard out of its anti-static wrapping and place it either on top of the motherboard box or onto an anti-static mat. You could also cut open and unfold the anti-static bag and place the board down onto what would have been the inside of the bag which offers anti-static protection. I personally just put the motherboard down onto the outside of the anti-static bag, although do this at your own risk as the outside of the anti-static bag does not offer anti-static protection.
    Look at the motherboard and where there is a screw hole, screw a standoff into the case so when you put the motherboard into the case the holes in the board will align with the standoffs underneath. Usuaally marked on the case next to the holes will be a letter or abbreviation which shows what size of motherboard that hole was indented to be used with. In this case the ATX sized motherboard screw holes are indicated with the letter A next to the holes. The standoffs will later be screwed into and so hold the motherboard in place.
    [​IMG]
  6. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Step 3: Getting the motherboard ready
    Leave the motherboard on top of the box, folded out anti-static bag or anti-static mat if you have used one.
    Firstly you are going to want to fit the memory (RAM), which fits into the slots shown below.
    [​IMG]

    If you are only using one stick of memory (RAM) skip down to the memory fitting instructions.
    For your RAM to work in dual or triple channel (dual on this build guide) the RAM sticks will have to be matched pairs and also be put into the correct slots. Usually the slots are colour coded. Eg two out of the four slots (sometimes there is only two slots) will be yellow the other two will be red. So you will put your matched pair in the yellow slots and if you have another two matches sticks they will go into the two red slots. If you buy a pack of for example 4x 2GB sticks, it does not matter in what order they are put in as they will all match.
    If the slots are not colour coded you will have to read the manual to find out which slots pair up. Usually (reading from left to right) it’s the 1st slot then the 3rd slot and for the second set the 2nd and 4th slots. As shown below.
    [​IMG]
    To fit the RAM simply push down the clips at each end of the slot. Then take the RAM stick and align it so the notch in the slot aligns with the notch in the RAM stick. Then push the RAM down into the slot. Then as you do this, close the clips at both ends of the slot. Thus locking the RAM into place
    [youtube]lSeZ6bSzOOg[/youtube]
    [​IMG]
  7. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    The next step after the Ram is to fit the processor (CPU), which fits into the socket shown below.
    [​IMG]
    You are firstly going to want to undo the catch holding the socket hatch shut. To do this, push down on the catch leaver and then slightly sideways. This allows you to open the hatch. If it’s a new motherboard being used a black socket protector will be fitted over the hatch, this should be removed and is no longer needed.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Next take your CPU and look at how it aligns with the socket. There will be several notches which align only one way, and so stop you from putting the CPU in the wrong way round. There will also be a triangle in one corner of the CPU and on the socket; these should be aligned as shown below.
    [​IMG]
    Once you have aligned the CPU just gently drop it into place. Then shut the hatch and secure by using the leaver as before and as shown below.
    [youtube]zl7VtNMBgOs[/youtube]
    The hatch leaver can take a bit of force to close, so don’t worry if you think it’s too tight.
    Now that the CPU is in place you are going to want to fit the CPU cooler.
  8. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    There are many different methods for fitting CPU coolers depending on your model of CPU cooler. This guide will show you how to fit the Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme cooler. Although the general principles apply to all coolers. It is usually just the method of attaching the cooler to the board eg via bolts or push pins that changes.
    The CPU cooler will attach to the motherboard via four holes around the edge of CPU socket. As shown below.
    [​IMG]
    If your cooler is a push pin method like the generic Intel cooler that comes with retail Intel CPUs, align the pins with the holes and push down on each corner pin to lock it into place. This may sound easy but I have found the method to be very frustrating and not as easy to do as it sounds. I recommend getting a cooler with a bolt fitting design.
    Before you attach any cooler you have to check if the cooler has thermal paste pre applied or not. Simply look at the underside of the cooler if there is a grey/white paste pre applied you will not need to add any.
    If none is applied you will need to apply it to the CPU. Squirt out a piece of thermal paste the size of a grain of rice onto the middle of the CPU. This is all that is needed. When you attach the cooler it will squash down, filling any slight dips / scratches and so gives a good seal between the heatsink and CPU which will increase heat conductivity from the CPU to the cooler.
    [​IMG]
    Note: If you ever remove the cooler it will break the seal created and the thermal paste will need to be cleaned off both the CPU and cooler and re-applied in the above fashion.

    The Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme cooler is secured via bolts in to a back plate behind the motherboard.
    [​IMG]
    The back plate should be positioned so that the corners poke through the socket holes in the board and so gives the bolts something to screw into.
    [​IMG]
  9. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Next put the Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme cooler on top of the processor in the correct orientation as shown below.
    [​IMG]
    Now insert the X shaped clamp through the cooler and then expand it to its full size so that the holes in the clamp align with the holes in the back plate as shown below.
    [​IMG]
    Now place the bolts down through the holes in the clamp and working diagonally turn each bolt a few turns, then repeat until the bolts stop turning.
    [​IMG]
    Now that the cooler is attached to the motherboard it is time to fit the motherboard into the case.
  10. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Step 4: Fitting the motherboard
    Lower the motherboard down on to the motherboard standoffs that you previously attached to the case. Making sure that you align the holes in the board with the standoffs and with the I/O shield.
    [youtube]o-WTMc-ZPpk[/youtube]
    [​IMG]
    Next with the supplied screws, screw the motherboard into place. You do not need to over tighten these screws.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  11. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Step 5: Fitting the hard drive
    A little forward thinking is needed here. Ideally you do not want to mount the hard drive into the case so that is on the same level as where the graphics card will fit. This can get a bit cramped in smaller cases especially when you try to plug in the power into each of them.
    Slide the hard drive in to a 3.5 bay and align the holes in the hard drive with the holes in the case, making sure the power and SATA ports are facing the correct way. Then with the supplied screws, screw the drive into the case. As with the CD/DVDRW drive the hard drive will require screwing in from both sides.
    [​IMG]
  12. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Step 6: Attaching the front panel headers / USB / Audio / Firewire
    So that you will be able to turn the computer on, reset it, see the activity LED and use the front USB/Audio/Firewire you will need to plug in the front panel headers. These usually consist of the power switch, reset switch, activity LED and power LED. Followed by the USB / Audio / Firewire headers. To get the + and - round the right way on the reverse of the writing there will be an arrow pointing to the positive pin. The headers are normally labelled as the following.
    Power switch
    [​IMG]
    Hard drive activity LED
    [​IMG]
    Power on LED
    [​IMG]
    Reset switch
    [​IMG]
    USB / Firewire / Audio look like the following
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  13. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    The front panel headers plug into the front panel pin out on the motherboard which is usually located on the bottom right of the motherboard.
    [​IMG]
    The front panel pin out vary on layout on each motherboard, sometimes they are labelled on the board and other times you will have to look in the manual. But the method of simply pushing the header over the pins remains the same.
    [​IMG]
    The USB, Audio and Firewire are easier to fit. They usually come in a block and plug straight into sockets on the motherboard. The location of the sockets vary on each board, so you will need to look it up in the manual, although generally they will be to the bottom of the motherboard. Also, the block will usually have a pin hole blocked off which will align with the missing pin on the socket. This allows you to plug in the header into the socket the correct way round.
  14. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Step 7: Fitting cables
    In this step the fans, CD/DVDRW drive and hard drive will be connect to the motherboard.
    The first fan to connect is the CPU cooling fan. This is connected to the motherboard via a 3 pin plug / socket. This is usually labelled on the motherboard as “CPU fan” or similar to this. If it is not you will need to look it up in the motherboard manual but it will be situated near to the CPU cooler. The plug can only fit one way round due to the guide lines in the plug, as shown below.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The next to plug in is the case fans. These either attach via a 3 pin plug / socket such as the CPU fan or via a 4 pin molex plug. If yours connect via the four pin, skip this step for now. For the 3 pin connecting fans simply plug them into the motherboard as you did with the CPU fan. The sockets are usually labelled on the motherboard “case fan”. If not, you will have to look it up in the motherboard manual.
    [​IMG]
    Note: Some fans have both 3 pin and 4 pin molex connectors. Only one of these needs to be plugged in for the fan to work, the choice is yours. Usually I stick to the 3 pin if possible.
  15. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Next is the CD/DVDRW drive. This connects to the motherboard via a SATA cable, although older ones connect via an IDE cable. A SATA and IDE cable ends are shown below. They are usually both included with the motherboard.
    SATA
    [​IMG]
    IDE
    [​IMG]
    With SATA cables it does not matter which end you connect to the motherboard and which to the drive. Also the SATA cable can only connect one way due to the L shaped connector, so no worry of getting it the wrong way round.

    Plug one end into the drive and the other into a SATA port on the motherboard. You can usually plug it into any SATA port but I usually plug it into 1 to keep things neat and also so you know which port it’s in. Each port should be numbered next to it on the motherboard if not check the motherboard manual.
    [​IMG]
    Next is the hard drive. This is exactly the same as the CD/DVDRW drive. But instead plug the SATA cable into SATA port 0. Again it does not matter which SATA port number, apart from keeping things neat and knowing which port the hard drive is in.
    Do not worry about plugging in the power cables to the above yet, this will be done on a later stage.
  16. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Step 8: Fitting the sound card.
    Firstly find out if your sound card is either PCI or PCI-e. Then select a suitable slot on the motherboard. If the graphics card is a double slot card make sure you leave enough room next to the PCI-E 16x slot. Once you have selected which slot you will use, you will need to remove the backing plate from the case for that slot so that you will have access to the rear ports on the card. On most cases you can unscrew the backing plate or on cheaper cases they push out.
    [​IMG]

    Once the plate is removed align the card with the slot and gently push it down into the slot. The bracket on the card should now be inline with the case and be ready to be screwed down.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    With the screw from the backing plate, screw the card into place.

    Note: Some sound cards require extra power to work, if yours does remember to attach the power to the card on the PSU connecting up step which will follow soon.

    Step 9: Fitting the graphics card.
    This is very similar to the sound card step. The latest graphics cards use PCI-E 16x slot.
    Again remove the backing plate from the case. As before gently push the card into place followed by screwing it down via the bracket.
    Note: Most graphics cards require extra power to work, remember to attach the power to the card on the PSU connecting up step.
    Note: Usually the PCI-E 16x has a catch on it which will need to be released if you want to remove the card.

    Before you go any further a quick check is a good idea.
    1. Motherboard fully screwed down?
    2. PSU fully screwed in?
    3. Ram seated in the slots correctly and clipped in?
    4. Sound card and graphics card seated in the slots correctly and screwed in?
    5. Fans all connected? (apart from any 4 pin ones)
    6. CPU cooler attached firmly?
    7. CPU cooler fan plugged in?
    8. Hard drive and CD/DVDRW drive screwed in?
    9. CD/DVDRW drive plugged in at both ends?
    10. Hard drive plugged in at both ends?
  17. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Step 10: Connecting up the power cables
    This step involves connecting up the power cables from the PSU to the required hardware. Simply push the power plugs over the sockets. They will only fit one way round due to the shaping on the sockets.
    When selecting a PSU for your build check to make sure that the PSU offers all of the power connectors you will require. As a substitute you can also buy splitter cables which connect to a 4 pin molex and so can give you either two molex or a range of other power connectors such as SATA. You can also get a Y splitter that connects to the PCI-E cable to give you two PCI-E connectors. Although if possible try to get all the connectors you need included with the PSU.
    Firstly connect the 24 pin cable to the 24 pin slot on the motherboard.
    Note: This clips into place.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Next connect the 8 pin cable to the motherboard which will clip into place
    Note: This is some times a 4 pin plug/socket or is absent.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Next connect a PCI-E 6 pin cable to the graphics card which will clip into place.
    Note: Some graphics cards require more than one PCI-E 6 pin.
    Note: Some graphics cards require two 6 pin PCI-E power cables.
    Note: Some graphics cards require one or two 8 pin PCI-E power cables.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
  18. davidjc

    davidjc New Member

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    Next connect a SATA power cable to the CD/DVDRW drive.
    Note: This has an L shape design as shown below.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Next connect a SATA power plug to the hard drive.
    Note: This has an L shape design as shown below.

    [​IMG]

    Lastly connect any 4 pin Molex fans via a 4 pin Molex cable. Note: If the fan is already connected to the motherboard via the 3 pin you will not need to connect it to the 4 pin Molex as well.
    [​IMG]

    This is now all of the hardware fully connected to the PSU. Any unused cables from the PSU can be tucked away. This being a benefit of a modular PSU where you only connect the needed cables to the PSU.


    All you have to do now is screw the side panels back onto the case and you’re ready to install an operating system. Remember to go into the bios and change the boot priority to cd drive first if you are installing the OS via cd.
  19. killap4oc

    killap4oc Girl Power!

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    I must say very nice guide on how to assemble a computer =D. I'm sure this will give new builders a chance to build something that they once had to purchase a pre-assembled computer for due to lack of knowledge. Wonderful thread =).
  20. Aruffell

    Aruffell The Don Staff Member

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    Brilliant guide, and i hope this benefits a lot of people.

    Andy

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