Build Your First PC

Discussion in 'Links' started by Psychosematic, Jul 31, 2003.

  1. Psychosematic

    Psychosematic Ancient Guru

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    To build or not to build...
    Most people have said that building a PC yourself is cheaper than buying a pre-built one, and that they would opt to do so if they only knew how. Well, before we accept that statement as the golden rule, I am going to go against these comments and say some people are better off buying pre-builts. You have to come to the decision on whether or not to build yourself, based on the following questions:

    - Am I willing to take the time and effort needed to build an efficient and problem-free PC?
    - Do I have the patience to deal with any problems that may arise, including defective hardware?
    - Do I have the budget to buy more parts after the fact, because I forgot something the first time?

    If you don't have the time, don't want to put in the effort, don't have the patience, or don't have a decent budget, it's probably NOT the time to start building PCs (doh!)

    But if you're ready to rock and roll hen let's get started!
     
  2. Psychosematic

    Psychosematic Ancient Guru

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    (Phase 1) Pre-Build
    Step 1 - Educate

    First you should read up on current hardware specs, pricing, availability, compatibility and recommendations. Some good places to start are:

    www.guru3d.com (duh)
    www.anandtech.com
    www.amdmb.com
    www.xbitlabs.com
    www.tomshardware.com
    www.hardocp.com

    Step 2 - Inquire

    Ask Ask Ask! Ask people you know, people on forums, and any people you can find that are knowledgable on hardware! WHAT you should be asking is, "For gaming, what motherboard do you recommend", or "For video editing, what processor is best?" ... these are things that change with time, so you can't always trust articles and guides as the solid word on what to buy, you have to ask people!

    Step 3 - Compare

    Having a general idea of what you'll want for hardware, compare everything about them... make a list of features, compare prices, compare how reputable the company is, compare online retailers (or brick stores) for their return policies and customer service. Eliminate ANYTHING that you are unsure of, the last thing you want is to jump to conclusions or start building a PC you aren't sure about. If it's your first PC, it should be something you are positive about.

    (Phase 2) Purchase and Assemble
    Step 1 - Narrow Retailers

    You'll be needing ALL of the following, and possible more depending on your individual needs:

    - Case
    - Power Supply (could be with Case)
    - Motherboard
    - Processor
    - Heatsink/Fan for CPU (could be with Processor)
    - Thermal Compound (could be with Heatsink/Fan)
    - Memory
    - Video Card (could be on-board)
    - Sound Card (could be on-board)
    - Hard Disk Drive(s)
    - CD/DVD Drive(s)
    - Floppy Drive
    - Keyboard & Mouse
    - Monitor
    - Speakers

    Once you have each of those items picked out, you have to pick a place or places to purchase from. My suggestion at this step is to shorten the amount of retailers to 1 or 2. If you're buying online, visit www.resellerratings.com and look up your seller. If they are under an 8.0, I would advise going somewhere else for your first big buy. If you buy from 5 or 6 different places, and for whatever reason you have a problem with something, it's more confusing and difficult to get the problem solved... 1 or 2 retailers for your first build is a good idea, and always get some REAL testamonials from places like resellerratings or from right here on Guru3D!

    Step 2 - Pre-Assembly
    When everythign arrives, before you unpack you should clean a good sized area, preferably static free like a kitchen or hardwood floored room. Get all the tools you need first, these will include:

    - Box knife
    - Anti-Static wrist strap
    - Philips screwdriver
    - Ultra-Fine sandpaper
    - Compressed air
    - Rubbing alcohol/Isopropic alcohol
    - Paper towels
    - Tweezers
    - Flashlight or bright room light

    Unpack everything and make sure it's all there. The first thing I do when building is open the case and make sure it's not defective. If everything is in order, clean the case with compressed air and a dry paper towel. Next remove the drive cages, if they exist, from the case. Check the power supply switch and make sure it is on the correct voltage setting for your house. Usually they are set properly but it's something you MUST check because it could cause serious problems! Install the power supply in the case if it isn't already there, ensure it's secured with nothing blocking it's airflow. Figure out which AGP/PCI slots on the back of the case will be needed for your devices and punch out the metal slot blockers for the slots you will be using. You should also remove the on-board functions connector panel and use the one that came with your motherboard. Make sure all appropriate connector holes have been cleared so your motherboard will fit into the slots nicely. Locate the screws that came with the case and screw in all of the tall gold mounting screws into the case where the motherboard will be mounted. You should refer to your board to make sure it has holes in all the places you have mounting screws, and vice versa. Unwrap the motherboard from it's anti-static bag, but leave it in it's original box directly on top of the foam underneath. Open your motherboard manual and read through it, make sure you are familiar with everything that is on the board. You MUST know what each jumper does, what each slot accepts, and what each switch or lever does! Set the jumpers/DIP Switches on the motherboard according to your hardware and individual needs. This usually includes CPU FSB, special power-on functions, and on-board device controls. Open up your hard drive(s) and mount them in the drive cages. Make sure the connectors face towards the middle of the case, and try not to stack drives on top of each other. If you got a floppy drive you can mount it now. Do not mount the drive cages into the case yet. Open up the heatsink and make sure it looks in working order. If you have a seperate fan for the heatsink, mount it on the heatsink now. Use the ultra-fine sandpaper to polish the bottom of the heatsink to a smooth shine. Use figure 8 patterns and don't dig too deep, it's a finishing touch not a grinding scrape. Wipe the heatsink with a clean paper towel that has been moisened with rubbing alcohol. Make sure there are no gashes in the heatsink and that it has completely dried.

    Step 3 - Assembly
    Now you can prepare to install the CPU. Open the CPU and be careful NOT to touch any of the pins on the underside or the core on the top! Hold it by it's edges and align the CPU in the socket. It will not take any force to fall in, so you WON'T have to push on the CPU! Leave any stickers that may be on the CPU, on the CPU! These are probably warranty stickers and you could void your warranty by removing them. The only time this is an issue is if the sticker overlaps onto the CPU core. In this case, you should contact the retailer for instructions, they will probably have you return the CPU for a new one. Once the CPU is in place, get your thermal compound, your knife, and a paper towel. Thermal compound can be gooey and a mess, so be careful. Squirt a tiny amount onto the paper towel to make sure it comes out smooth and not chunky. Now squirt a tiny amount onto the CPU core itself and recap the compound. Use the knife to spread the compound evenly across the core, make sure there are no mounds or missed spots, and make sure you use a THIN LAYER of compound, do not load up the core with paste, it should be almost as thin as you can make it, while still completely covering the core! Here comes the toughest part, installing the heatsink. For this, you have to use extreme care, and I suggest the motherboard still remains in it's box with foam underneath, at a somewhat tall height, like your stomach, so you don't put too much pressure on the CPU. Make sure the heatsink will fit into the socket before letting it contact the CPU. Often, heatsinks have a small indent which usually means that side faces the extruded part of the CPU socket. If you have a screw-down heatsink, you'll have to make sure all the holes will line up. Clip-on heatsinks should be installed as parallel as possible to the CPU, try not to tilt the heatsink when snapping on the clips. If a clip snaps in and the heatsink is tilted, it could gouge both the heatsink and the CPU. You'll have to use quite a bit of force to get a clip-on heatsink attached, but make sure you apply the pressure to the clip itself, and not the top of the heatsink! If you apply too much pressure to the top or center of the heatsink, it will crush and damage the CPU core! Apply pressure to the clip, and secure it to the CPU socket. Grab your RAM and install it into the appropriate slots on the motherboard. Your memory should be as far in as can be, and the locking clips on the sides should be locked once the RAM is in it's final position. Give everything another look to make sure it's clean, flat, and secure. Lay your case on it's side and gently place the motherboard (with CPU, heatink, and RAM installed) into the case, on top of the mounting screws. Do NOT! slide the motherboard either on the case or on the mounting screws! If you have to reposition it, pick it up and put it back down, don't slide it. Secure the motherboard in all of the mounting screws and make sure the connectors all line up at the back of the case. With the motherboard secure, your next step should be to wire the case buttons and LEDs. These can be tricky and you will have to consult your motherboard manual for proper wiring diagrams. Double check everything you've done so far at this step. Then you can install your optical drives and connect the appropriate cables to the power supply and motherboard. Next you should install the hard drive/floppy cages and connect their appropriate power and motherboard cables. Now you can begin installing AGP/PCI components. I suggest starting with PCI components and working your way up from the bottom of the motherboard. Once installed, you can wire anything that needs power or connection to another device.
     
  3. Psychosematic

    Psychosematic Ancient Guru

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    (Phase 3) The Software
    Step 1 - First Boot
    Start connecting your components to the back of the system. Save the power cable for last because some motherboards have auto-powerup and it could be dangerous to power up without being ready for what could lie ahead. Consult your motherboard manual for instructions on how to get into the BIOS setup. Once you know how, you can plug in the power cable and hopefully you'll be greeted with a BIOS POST! Enter the BIOS setup and configure it as needed. Most of the time you'll have to set your CPU's front side bus, you're memory's latency, and your on-board functions parameters before getting your system to boot properly. Give EVERYTHING in the BIOS a double check, make sure you have your boot order set properly because you'll need to boot from floppy or CD to get an OS installed, and save your settings.

    Step 2 - Continue your quest for perfection!
    Good luck! I hope you've been able to successfully assemble your first PC, always remember that your hardware is only as good as the software that runs it, and for that reason you should follow every instruction in your manuals as far as driver installation and obtaining software updates!

    Thank you very much for reading :)
     
  4. SaNTaCRuZ77

    SaNTaCRuZ77 Maha Guru

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    Wow, great article, very helpful. Do the manuals for your Mobo/Ram list the appropriate Ram speed settings and FSB? Also, is it that important to wear static free gloves? Does everything like the mobo and fans directly wire and power from the Power supply? Also, do you apply thermalpaste to the motherboard to mount the cpu or to the cpu to mount the heatsink? Thanks, if you could answer my questions that be great.
     

  5. Psychosematic

    Psychosematic Ancient Guru

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    The manual for your motherboard will list how to change the FSB settings, but won't list the approriate ones for you CPU/RAM. You'll have to find out what FSB your CPU and RAM are designed to run at.

    It is not required to wear an anti-static wrist strap, but it is suggested. The amount of voltage required to damage an electrical device is very smaller, smaller than what is needed to feel, see, or hear anything. So even if you don't feel/see/hear a spark, you could have damaged something permanently. Better safe than sorry.

    Most of the components will wire directly to the PSU. In some cases, the CPU heatsink fan will use a 3-pin connector that is meant to plug in to the motherboard near the CPU socket. There are other exceptions to, some motherboards require an extra 12V connector from the PSU. For proper power wiring, consult your motherboard and component manuals.

    Thermal paste is applied to the core of the CPU only. It is meant to transfer heat from the CPU core to the heatsink, and it fills in the microscopic ridges and bumps along both the CPU core and heatsink to ensure maximum cooling.
     
  6. WildStyle

    WildStyle Ancient Guru

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    Whilst this is an old thread, there have been a number people here recently asking for help on building their first PC. This thread has been forgotten about even though it's pretty useful so I think it should be stuck again. Besides, this section is looking pretty lonely with only one sticky.
    Share your thoughts.
     
  7. death__machine

    death__machine Master Guru

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    Very helpful guide for noobs thumbs up:D
    Hey you could also tell about sata drives cuz many people dont get tht too
     
  8. Dr. Vodka

    Dr. Vodka Ancient Guru

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    nice guide.. I think the part of setting up the jumpers pins and cables is the most difficult one, if you plug something not in its correct place.. BOOM!! joking.. is there a guide on what are all the jumpers' and pins' functions???
     
  9. stefanie

    stefanie Master Guru

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    I just want to throw my opinion about building your own pc out to everyone.:) It is 100% worth the time to build your own and become familiar with your hardware software and other components. I built my own and after I did the satisfaction from doing it was like creating a new edition to my family.;-) Seriously if you have time, go for it! It tends to take a little of the trouble out of trouble shooting.. Have a nice weekend.
     
  10. stefanie

    stefanie Master Guru

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    One thing left to say. Thank you for posting such a thread to help and educate others who pursue building their own.:)
     

  11. Gilbo

    Gilbo Ancient Guru

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    I think these tend to differ from motherboard to motherboard. Your motherboard's manual should have detailed diagrams explaining all of the jumpers and pins and their functions.
     
  12. instantcrash

    instantcrash Active Member

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    Could I suggest a piece on RAID? I have seen alot of people asking about that recently! Good Guide! later
     
  13. vintageone

    vintageone Member Guru

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    What an awesome guide for people going into the world of custom pc building, this will help them very much, and a tip for people looking for a good place to get parts, i suggest www.newegg.com

    They sell everythign (Up to my knowlege) and its easy to buy new parts, and they have VERY IN-DEPTH Descriptions and For motherboard they do explain what memory is compatible.
     
  14. PETEY

    PETEY Master Guru

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    I have to say, it is a good guide, but really I don't think budget is much of a thing here. I am 13, and I have already built a PC, and I tell you - I am hardly middle class (No, Not High Either).
     
  15. PETEY

    PETEY Master Guru

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    Also, when you put on the thermal paste, what exactly is the core? When I applied the thermal paste onto my processor, I really just put it on the copper circle looking thing on the proccesor. I didn't even it out or anything, and I am running just fine. I do happen to have a more powerful heatsink though, probably making up for my mistake.
     

  16. {HLH}

    {HLH} Guest

    i prefer to know whats inside my machine :cool:
     
  17. Bubbaganoosh

    Bubbaganoosh Maha Guru

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    REMINDER

    don't put jumpers on 3 pin fan connetors.
     
  18. WildStyle

    WildStyle Ancient Guru

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  19. SL-spirit

    SL-spirit Master Guru

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    Cool website WildStyle. Useful for new PC builders!!! I might indeed start building a PC myself prob.
     
  20. Esskie

    Esskie Member Guru

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    Definately worthwhile keeping!

    Hi There,
    Although the post is old the info is the bizz!, there seems to have been an upswing in the number of folks building their own puters over the last couple of years IMHO.
    This could be credited to the initial overclocking of CPUs and GPUs, the modding of graphics cards to add H/Sinks & fans, cases etc, it's now possible to buy 'ready modded' parts off the shelf. I just bought a new 9980 silver windowed case myself a few days ago. Infact, it's now possible to buy ready modded PCs ready to go!.

    Having just built the system I'm using atm, I agree with many of the points made in the above posts, from the satisfaction of that first boot to the, perhaps more important, becoming familiar with your h/ware, s/ware and how things work.
    I don't mind admitting that ended up installing windows twice with this PC as I inadvertently got landed with a virus after the 1st install that affected the 'wininet.dll'.
    Nomatter how many times my vs found & renamed it for deleting it had re-instated itself after every boot and attempted to dial & connect to a porn site. Luckily, thanx to not having a dial-up modem it couldn't as I bet it was a 0906 #!.
    The annoying thing was I couldn't install, uninstall or even execute the majority of my progz so the only thing left was to format /q & start again.

    I apologise for going on but my point, before I started waffling, is that the second install went much smoother than the first due to knowing what disc was needed and when etc,.
    Ok, I still have a couple of little teething probz to be sorted out but it makes you use your brain which can't be a bad thing?.

    Regards, Esskie.
     

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