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Tutorial: How to build your first computer


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#1 exicute

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 11:59 AM

I wanted to provide useful input to the Codecall forums, and since I'm very new to programming, I thouhgt it would be nice to write some tutorials on something I know quiet well, hardware.

(This is the first of a set of tutorials I will make on hardware, this being how to build a basic computer. Possible other tuts include: Raid controllers, graphic workstations, how to choose the right parts for the job, multi-monitor arrays, liquid cooling, tips on neat wiring, networking TCP/IP basics, how to make cables, ghostcast server basics, and perhaps more.)

The goal of this guide is to give a detailed, step-by-step, set of instructions from which anyone can build their very own computer.

First, a diagram of a motherboard:

Posted Image

Steps in building a computer:

**Note**These do not need to be in any particular order, but to make it simple and efficient I am going to write it as if I was building a new computer.
1.)	Install the CPU on the Motherboard
2.)	Install the CPU Fan
3.)	Install the i/o panel
4.)	Install the Motherboard into the case
5.)	Install the RAM
6.)	Install the PSU
7.)	Install Drives
8.)	Install GPU/PCI devices
9.)	Connect case buttons to motherboard
10.)	Connect Power to motherboard, drives, fans, and devices
11.)	Connect devices to motherboard
12.)	Setup i/o devices (Monitor/speakers/mouse/keyboard/ect)
13.)	Boot to the BIOS>Boot Options>Boot Order>set CD-ROM as primary boot device
14.)	Install OS
15.)    Install Drivers

[quote name='Exicute']1.) Install the CPU on the Motherboard[/QUOTE]
Alright, time to get into the thick of it. Take you motherboard and CPU out of their boxes and anti-static bags and close the motherboard's box. Set the motherboard on top of that box, unhook the CPU clamp, remove the plastic placeholder, and look for 2 bumps on the edges of the socket. Match those up with the indentations on the CPU and put it in gently (Don't want to bend a pin.) It should fit in there nice and flat. Now close the CPU clamp, but do not force it close. (It may require a little force, but not too much. If you build more than one computer you will start to realize when the CPU is not seated correctly.)

**Note** There are some people that believe that an anti static wrist bind is required when working with electo-static sensitive parts, but as long as you ground yourself every once and a while by touching the base of the tower (case) you should be fine. (I have done this for 4 years, working on over 1000 computers and never had a part ruined due to a static discharge.)

[quote name='Exicute']2.) Install the CPU Fan[/QUOTE]
You're probably wondering why I had you put the motherboard on top of it's box and here is why. When you install the CPU fan you need to push 4 plastic prongs through to hold it in place and when people do this in the case or try holding the motherboard the motherboard has a high chance of getting warped (Or bent, I use these interchangeably.) The main thing to keep in mind here is to use your thumb to push the prong through and the box will provide an even force against the motherboard so it doesn't warp.

[quote name='Exicute']3.) Install the i/o panel[/QUOTE]
If you buy a new case and a motherboard the case will have a generic panel on it's back where the i/o (Input/Output) panel specific to that motherboard goes. Take a screwdriver and use the handle to bust out the generic panel and then place the new panel in. (Just tap the 4 corners with the end of the handle to secure it in place.)

[quote name='Exicute']4.) Install the Motherboard into the case[/QUOTE]
Now if you're case does not have raised bumps under where the motherboard goes then you will have to use those gold "raisers" that come with your motherboard. (They work just like thumbscrews.) The purpose of the raisers or bumps is so that your motherboard does not touch the side of the case. (Static electricity could be transfered to it through the side.) Line up the back panel connectors with the i/o panel and screw in the motherboard. (Don't screw too tight however, it could cause the motherboard to warp and you'll have issue later on.)

[quote name='Exicute']5.) Install the RAM[/QUOTE]
This is one of the most simple parts to install, but one of the most important. The RAM will only go in 1 way into it's slot. Just push it in until both locks click on either side. (Don't be shy here, it might take some force. Be sure to push the middle of the stick at first and then move to the edge that needs to be locked in.)

**Note** I will go into Dual and Triple Channel RAM when I update this tutorial.

[quote name='Exicute']6.) Install the PSU[/QUOTE]
Simple, just slide it in it's place and put 4 screws into the back attaching it to the case.

[quote name='Exicute']7.) Install Drives[/QUOTE]
Now take your HDDs (Hard Disk Drives) and CD drive (Bly-ray, DVD, ect) and screw them into their respective drive bays. (3.5" for CD and 2.5" for HDD, typically.) 2 screws on each side is all you need.

[quote name='Exicute']8.) Install GPU/PCI devices[/QUOTE]
K, you've basically built your computer, time to make it better with PCI devices, such as a graphics card, sound card, or network card. Find the slot that matches what you need. (New graphic cards usually use PCI Express 2.0 x16) Take off the back panel, slide the card into the slot, and secure it with a screw.

[quote name='Exicute']9.) Connect case buttons to motherboard[/QUOTE]
This is my least favorite part of building a computer since you might not always be able to connect everything. Your motherboard should have came with a diagram stating what pins are which for the front LEDs, Power, Reset, and USB. If it didn't or you lost it, you can always read on the motherboard next to the pins. (Now you just have to match the connector (They are labeled.) with the matching pins.

[quote name='Exicute']10.) Connect Power to motherboard, drives, fans, and devices[/QUOTE]
Another simple part, just run the correct power connector to the device that needs it. Typical power connectors for devices:
Motherboard: 24-Pin (AKA ATX power) and a 4-Pin next to CPU fan (Sometime a 6-Pin)
Drives: 4-Pin (For IDE) or a SATA power (For Serial ATA drives, more computer these days are SATA.)
Fans: 4-Pin (If any.)
GPU: 1-2x 6-Pin

[quote name='Exicute']11.) Connect devices to motherboard[/QUOTE]
Alright, now you need to connect all those wonderful drives and fans to the motherboard so they can interact with each other. Again your drives will either be SATA or IDE. So, just find a SATA port or IDE port and plug'em in. As for the fans, usually only the backfan and CPU fan need to be connected to the mother through a 3-pin connection. (The pins will be close to the CPU socket.)

**Note** Most fans are starting to move to 4 pin connections since you can daisy-chain them form 1 4-pin connector.

[quote name='Exicute']12.) Setup i/o devices (Monitor/speakers/mouse/keyboard/ect)[/QUOTE]
Now close up your case and plug in your i/o devices. (The connections are simple, sometimes even color coded. Rule of thumb- If it fits, it probably belongs in there.)

**Note** Here is a great explanation of the possible i/o ports that can be located on your back panel.

[quote name='Exicute']13.) Boot to the BIOS>Boot Options>Boot Order>set CD-ROM as primary boot device[/QUOTE]
This step is for people that boot up their computer and already have an OS on it and cannot get their new OS CD-ROM to boot. To get into the bios restart your computer, and hit (F1, F2, or F10, depends on the motherboard manufacturer, but those are the common buttons used to access the BIOS.) Now you should be looking a GUI that resembles something like MS-DOS. Tab over to Boot Options, then use the arrow keys to get to Boot Order, then set CD-ROM and your primary boot device.

**Note** Every motherboard manufacturer sets up the BIOS differently then the rest so the name might not be the same, but should be close.

[quote name='Exicute']14.) Install OS[/QUOTE]
You're going to want to format your HDD when installing an OS if it prompts you, I typically use NTFS format (not quick).

[quote name='Exicute']15.) Install Drivers[/QUOTE]
Now you're going to need to find programs that tell the motherboard how to communicate with the other software you installed, drivers. In your search for these go to the motherboard's site (However, this isn't need since most motherboards come with a driver disk that contains all the drivers for the motherboard.) Now, if you installed a PCI device, you need to go that device's manufacturer's site and download the latest drivers.

Enjoy the fresh install and happy computing!

**Note**I assume that all the part are in working condition, a troubleshooting guide is soon to come to help you pinpoint exactly what part is bad. (If any.)

**Note**If anyone has a suggestion or finds and error in my guide, be sure to let me know. ;D

Edited by exicute, 10 February 2010 - 12:42 PM.

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#2 saeras

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 12:15 PM

Great guide i only have two things to say about it. First i couldn't find anything about anti static wrist or w.e they are(I don't use those myself but some ppl swear that they are absolutely necessary). Second, this guide is assuming all the parts are working out of the box. If possible could you add a part about troubleshooting when parts aren't working as they should and could need a replacement.
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#3 exicute

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 12:18 PM

Great guide i only have two things to say about it. First i couldn't find anything about anti static wrist or w.e they are(I don't use those myself but some ppl swear that they are absolutely necessary). Second, this guide is assuming all the parts are working out of the box. If possible could you add a part about troubleshooting when parts aren't working as they should and could need a replacement.


Great point, I'll perhaps write a second guide explaining how to troubleshoot exactly what part (if any) could be bad. Troubleshooting is a broad topic and a side note in this tut wouldn't be enough to cover the finer points.

Also, I'll add that anti static wrist, but as long as your not working on shag carpet and ground yourself by touching the case you shouldn't need one.

Thanks for you input,
Exicute
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#4 CommittedC0der

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 12:56 PM

Nice tut +rep ,I hope to build my own computer if I ever get the money.:D
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#5 lor

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 02:56 PM

This is great, deff +rep. Will be coming to this thread when I build a computer some day :).
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