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Joel Up Front

Building a computer

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The most delicate electronic thing I've ever done is casemod my slim PS2 (and I messed that up because I bent the fliptop) but this is something else.  My case will arrive tomorrow and I quite frankly can't wait to get it running, but all these guides I'm reading are only putting that whole "this will only go downhill" image in my mind.  I have no carpet in my room and I have an antistatic wristband ready but I'm the least dextrous person I know.  I at least have an OS and Microsoft Office, but I don't want to end up with nothing to install it on because I ESD'd something and fried it before I started.

Where does the wristband go?  How do I know that I won't end up screwing or pushing something too hard?  Can I take the fans from my old PC?  Does the case come installed with all the miscellaneous SATA/IDE/whatever cables and cords?

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Good lord, who still uses IDE's!?  Anyways SATA cables should come along with the motherboard you purchased.  Power supplies come with all the necessary cables/wires whether you bought a modular or non-modular.

 

You can use your old fans but you have to make sure it actually fits in the new case and should clean them out.

 

Wristband goes where else?  The wrist lol.  Honestly every system I built, I never really went through these safety precautions, but yeah, I wouldn't take chances if you haven't done it many times.

 

In most cases, you shouldn't be able to fail that bad unless some parts you buy are DOA.  If you'd like a tutorial, search up people like LinusTechTips or TechofTomorrow (I think), anyone reputable and I'm sure they have guides on how to assemble everything; as I am a horrible teacher and rather do it hands on.  [newegg's YouTube channel I think has guides as well.]

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Slow down, Joel, and take a deep breath. I've been building my own rigs for 20 years and back then there weren't too many guides to learn from. Peacemak3r gave you some good advice. You can also try your local library or go online for Maximum PC magazine's guides because they frequently do step by step builds in their issues. Seeing as you're in Valley Stream maybe you can make a trip over to Merrick Ave by Old Country Road where there is a Microcenter computer store across from Eisenhower Park. I'm pretty sure they have builder guides in stock. Either way I wish you good luck. Just take your time and RTFM. If you aren't aquainted with that term it just means to " read the f..... manual. I also recommend the forums at Anandtech or Tom's Hardware if you have any questions. Carry on.

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Wristband goes where else?  The wrist lol.  Honestly every system I built, I never really went through these safety precautions, but yeah, I wouldn't take chances if you haven't done it many times.

 

That's the given, but I heard that the alligator clip attached to it had to be clipped to a ground so I wouldn't fry anything.

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The static thing is an overblown risk, but gives peace-of-mind. I've done every single computer without any static protection and I've had no problems.

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In general, when building a computer, parts that don't physically fit together are generally not meant to be connected (common sense). That just leaves the issue of what to connect and how to secure it, which boils down to a checklist (in order of completion):

  • Secure power supply to case (if it didn't come with one already).
  • Install CPU.
  • Install thermal dissipation device (usually thermal paste, heatsink, and fan for an average build).
  • Connect power supply to motherboard.
  • Install RAM memory chips.
  • Secure motherboard to case interior.
  • Install any PCI/PCIe cards (for graphics, sound, television tuning, etc.).
  • Install internal drives and their connectors.
  • Connect power supply to any other device that requires power from the power supply (like the drives and graphics cards).

I do it in that order mainly because things become hard to reach when done in any other way. Sometimes the internal drives have to be secured to the case first before putting the motherboard in the case as with many mini-ITX systems.

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Seeing as you're in Valley Stream maybe you can make a trip over to Merrick Ave by Old Country Road where there is a Microcenter computer store across from Eisenhower Park. I'm pretty sure they have builder guides in stock.

I really wanted to go here, but the prevailing issue (and the reason I joined this site 3 years ago) is that I don't have my license.  Not that I don't want it...

 

That's right off Stewart Avenue past the Meadowbrook, but there's literally no easy way for me to get there.  My case was marked as "Out for Delivery" at quarter to three this morning, and I know that the UPS center in Uniondale sends its trucks out at 9:00 AM. 

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In general, when building a computer, parts that don't physically fit together are generally not meant to be connected (common sense). That just leaves the issue of what to connect and how to secure it, which boils down to a checklist (in order of completion):

  • Secure power supply to case (if it didn't come with one already).
  • Install CPU.
  • Install thermal dissipation device (usually thermal paste, heatsink, and fan for an average build).
  • Connect power supply to motherboard.
  • Install RAM memory chips.
  • Secure motherboard to case interior.
  • Install any PCI/PCIe cards (for graphics, sound, television tuning, etc.).
  • Install internal drives and their connectors.
  • Connect power supply to any other device that requires power from the power supply (like the drives and graphics cards).

I do it in that order mainly because things become hard to reach when done in any other way. Sometimes the internal drives have to be secured to the case first before putting the motherboard in the case as with many mini-ITX systems.

 

 

Pretty much this.  But I've never used an antistatic wristband before so I'm thinking its one of those things you're supposed to do in a professional environment as added precaution.  I been in IT for a long time and even in the office I rarely see them.  

 

Slow down, Joel, and take a deep breath. I've been building my own rigs for 20 years and back then there weren't too many guides to learn from. Peacemak3r gave you some good advice. You can also try your local library or go online for Maximum PC magazine's guides because they frequently do step by step builds in their issues. Seeing as you're in Valley Stream maybe you can make a trip over to Merrick Ave by Old Country Road where there is a Microcenter computer store across from Eisenhower Park. I'm pretty sure they have builder guides in stock. Either way I wish you good luck. Just take your time and RTFM. If you aren't aquainted with that term it just means to " read the f..... manual. I also recommend the forums at Anandtech or Tom's Hardware if you have any questions. Carry on.

 

Have you built anything recently?  I could use an opinion on AMD processors if you got some pointers available.  I'm thinking about upgrading the chip on mine since the motherboard is able to handle something about 2 gens higher.

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I'm reading some great posts here, may I give some additional suggestions? I'll give a broad overview:
 
You won't necessarily need an ESD wrist strap when working on a computer. All you really need to do is touch the side of anything metal that is of a different ground source. A side of a table leg or something. The fact you are not working on carpet is a major plus.
 
When handling a motherboard make sure that you are at least placing it on a non-conductive surface such as a rubber foam mat to ensure you don't zap the components on it. You can even use cardboard, that will work too.
 
Make sure when installing RAM you are putting into the right slots on the motherboard. If there are more than four slots, they are usually marked A and B and/or color coded, if neither then refer to the manual to identify the slots. Make sure the memory usage match (meaning you have the RAM in the correct slots) and that you purchased the correct RAM for the motherboard or it will result in a boot failure either way. (No not permanent damage but it may not boot, or if anything not all the memory usage available will be utilized).
 
Make sure all your parts are compatible in terms of memory, bus, and socket type. After it is assembled, if it does not work at first do not get nervous and throw up your hands --- use your troubleshooting skills. It can be a simple reseating of expansion cards, if any, or the reseating of the CPU or RAM, cables, and so forth. Sometimes oxidation might have occurred on the peripherals if the stock parts has been sitting on the shelf for a minute, you can fix that by using a pencil eraser for the cleanup. The voltage setting on the power supply may be set wrong, another possibility. Those are all common occurrences during a PC assembly that are easy fixes.
 
If the computer fails to boot into the OS remember to check jumper settings on the motherboard, if any, in case the memory speeds are set too low by default, or cards, if any, to make sure it is set correctly to match the bus speed, and that the BIOS is set correctly as well, depending on what sort of HDDs you are using. Higher speed HDDs uses an AHCI setting on the BIOS, keep that in mind. Also if the computer fails to boot into the OS again the BIOS boot sequence might be wrong, again an easy fix. If it continues to happen then check the CMOS battery, reseat it or get another one. Check the jumpers if using a SATA drive to make sure the jumpers are set correctly.
 
And lastly remember do not forget any loose screws in the case.

Edited by realizm
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Yeah.  I don't even keep the screws in the case.  I line em up on top of like a strip of electrical tape with the adhesive face up.  bend the strip backwards at the end and I know they aren't going anywhere after that.

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Have you built anything recently?  I could use an opinion on AMD processors if you got some pointers available.  I'm thinking about upgrading the chip on mine since the motherboard is able to handle something about 2 gens higher.

My advice is not to upgrade unless you could use the extra computing resources offered by a new CPU and you don't want to pay the upfront costs of buying all the other parts. Intel's offerings are currently power-efficient and have all the right features in the low-end, while scaling to the high-end with Xeon, so they are cheaper over a period of time by saving on electricity.

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Already stuck.  I know AMD's processors normally have a white triangle to indicate pin one but my motherboard doesn't have the appropriate marking.  I know I did buy the right motherboard (the box even said "AMD" on the front!)...

 

Also, one of the standoffs for the motherboard just happens to be RIGHT UNDER the top.  That wouldn't be an issue if that top-mounted cooling fan wasn't there.  I was thinking about just skipping over that and using the other eight holes.

 

I really am nervous about ESD as well.... how are you supposed to handle this?

EDIT: Motherboard (slightly different but you should see where the processor would go, that's my issue) http://www.techreaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/board-2.jpg

Edited by Joel Up Front

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Already stuck.  I know AMD's processors normally have a white triangle to indicate pin one but my motherboard doesn't have the appropriate marking.  I know I did buy the right motherboard (the box even said "AMD" on the front!)...

 

Also, one of the standoffs for the motherboard just happens to be RIGHT UNDER the top.  That wouldn't be an issue if that top-mounted cooling fan wasn't there.  I was thinking about just skipping over that and using the other eight holes.

 

I really am nervous about ESD as well.... how are you supposed to handle this?

 

EDIT: Motherboard (slightly different but you should see where the processor would go, that's my issue) http://www.techreaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/board-2.jpg

You could try different rotations until it drops right in, then pull the level down, but I would look carefully in the motherboard's documentation on CPU installation first. It usually comes with the motherboard. (I get it right on the first time every time, so I'm not sure why this should be trouble for anyone.) Under no circumstances should you apply lateral force to the pins. Bent pins will make the CPU useless, so make sure to never do anything to the CPU except let it drop into the holes (if it's oriented right). If it doesn't drop in, pick it off the motherboard vertically.

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I managed to get it in but the stupid guide that I followed said that a huge card almost the length of my case would fit... I'll just go out and pick up a card tomorrow.


There is also about 10 feet of cable coiled up inside and I still can't figure out what goes where.

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Just because a box says AMD doesn't mean ALL AMD chips will fit in it.  Like if a box says Intel, doesn't mean ALL Intel chips would fit.

 

But glad you got the chip in.

 

Like I said earlier, things like these are hard for me to explain unless I see some pictures of what you're trying to explain.

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Building computers is like building stuff out of legos...once you're familiar with the pieces, it becomes easy to assemble them.

 

Motherboards are built in various specifications, the most common are ATX, MicroATX & Mini-ITX. MicroATX motherboards are compatible with ATX cases, but not vice versa. Mini-ITX boards will only fit Mini-ITX cases. Make sure the holes and the standoffs line up properly to place the screws to secure the board to the case. At least four screws will be more than enough to secure the board to the case.

 

For starters, most connectors are made so that you can only fit them in a particular way. SATA cables, PSU cables, CPU fan cables are among the connectors made to fit one particular way.

 

installing a processor shouldn't be an issue as long as you have the correct socket for a particular processor (for example an AMD Phenom x6 socket AM3 processor will only fit inside a socket AM3 motherboard)

 

RAM will fit in one way so that you cannot install it the wrong way. In addition, they have a gap somewhere in the module so that you cannot install the wrong type of ram (i.e DDR3 RAM cannot be fitted in a DDR4 RAM slot & vice versa).

 

The connectors for the power button, power LED, HDD led and reset button (if any) should fit in the correct slot. same is true for any internal USB components (card reader, front USB ports, etc) and for the audio jacks. Just make sure you check the connector's pin layout and the same on the motherboard.

 

Installing video cards, expansion cards just slide right in the correct slot...Depending on the case, you'll need to secure the screw that should hold the card, or there's a piece of metal that secures all the cards with a screw.

 

Case fans should connect properly without a problem. 3-pin fans are backwards compatible on the 4-pin fan connectors. Some case fans use molex connectors as well. Make sure they are the right size to be screwed in the appropriate sized area.

 

Installing the hard drives and any optical drives you choose to add on should be easy to install as long as you have the correct cables.

 

Depending on the motherboard you choose, you might have to configure the BIOS or the UEFI, but most of the time, you won't need to do so.

 

Once you make sure it powers up correctly into the BIOS or UEFI (or shows the motherboard manufacturer's logo), proceed to install the OS and install the drivers afterwards (or in the case of a Hackintosh, Kernel Extensions).

Edited by -CT1660-

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Just because a box says AMD doesn't mean ALL AMD chips will fit in it.  Like if a box says Intel, doesn't mean ALL Intel chips would fit.

 

But glad you got the chip in.

 

Like I said earlier, things like these are hard for me to explain unless I see some pictures of what you're trying to explain.

No, the processor fits and I manged to get the heatsink fan on without much trouble, but my card is 290mm/11.6 inches and it's too long for my case.  I might be able to find a case for cheap here.

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No, the processor fits and I manged to get the heatsink fan on without much trouble, but my card is 290mm/11.6 inches and it's too long for my case.  I might be able to find a case for cheap here.

 

Again, make sure you got the correct form factor case and motherboard (keep in mind, Micro-ATX motherboards fit fine on ATX cases but not vice versa)

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UPDATE:

 

Links so you know what I'm talking about:

 

http://www.gigabyte.com/fileupload/product/2/3894/5499_m.jpg (MOBO)

 

http://www.pureoverclock.com/wp-content/uploads/images/review/video_cards/his_7870iceqx/his_7870iceqx_4.jpg (GPU)

 

I installed the mobo+processor/heatsink , GPU, and the PSU.  However, it looks like my GPU is blocking the ever-vital SATA ports (for my hard drive).  Also, my case did come with two HUGE fans (120mm, I think) and there are some neat buttons on the top of the case for controlling the speed of those fans and accompanying status LEDs, but I have no idea where anything goes.  I managed to figure out that I could connect the fans to the motherboard itself, but I don't know what these wires from the PSU are for.
 

The GPU is also flexing slightly, but that's probably because I had to mount it upside down - it wouldn't fit in the motherboard in any other orientation.

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Your motherboard manual (since it's your first time, I presume) will tell you where your front port connectors connect to the motherboard.

 

Like Trainmaster5 states, there is really only one way a graphics card goes in and that's your PCI-e slot.  That being said, I don't quite understand what you mean but putting it upside down.

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UPDATE:

 

Links so you know what I'm talking about:

 

http://www.gigabyte.com/fileupload/product/2/3894/5499_m.jpg (MOBO)

 

http://www.pureoverclock.com/wp-content/uploads/images/review/video_cards/his_7870iceqx/his_7870iceqx_4.jpg (GPU)

 

I installed the mobo+processor/heatsink , GPU, and the PSU.  However, it looks like my GPU is blocking the ever-vital SATA ports (for my hard drive).  Also, my case did come with two HUGE fans (120mm, I think) and there are some neat buttons on the top of the case for controlling the speed of those fans and accompanying status LEDs, but I have no idea where anything goes.  I managed to figure out that I could connect the fans to the motherboard itself, but I don't know what these wires from the PSU are for.

 

The GPU is also flexing slightly, but that's probably because I had to mount it upside down - it wouldn't fit in the motherboard in any other orientation.

Aren't the SATA ports sideways? Mine go in from the side. The garphics card is no bother.

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Aren't the SATA ports sideways? Mine go in from the side. The garphics card is no bother.

 

It's probably the clearance with his case, like his hard drive bay is probably right next the end of his graphics card which would make the wiring a bit tougher with the little amount of room.  Had experienced this with an older case but luckily the hard drive bays were modular and I just placed it lower to accommodate the room.

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It's probably the clearance with his case, like his hard drive bay is probably right next the end of his graphics card which would make the wiring a bit tougher with the little amount of room.  Had experienced this with an older case but luckily the hard drive bays were modular and I just placed it lower to accommodate the room.

My SATA cables are bent at right-angles on one end. They're made for tight situation like this.

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