How To Build A Computer
Hello and welcome to CoFo! This guide will detail how to assemble your shiny stack of parts into a new computer. Plan to spend 2-3 hours if this is your first time building. Keep in mind that these steps can and probably will vary depending on your set up and what components you have to work with. For example you might have a sound card you’re installing or more hard drives. Head over to the Desktop Computer section if you need help with a parts list.
For a full photo album of this build and the ability to see the pictures at a higher resolution check out the Flickr album. https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157649783879600/
Disclaimer: I assume no responsibility for damaging of parts or anything else as a result of you following this guide. I have built several computers and am confident in my abilities, just be aware that following this guide agrees that you do it all at your own risk. Also make use of any manuals that come with your specific hardware if you are unsure, particularly your motherboard manual.
As opposed to building a fresh new system I’m going to simply tear down my current system, dust it, and rebuild it. The parts I use here are as follows.
CPU: AMD Vishera FX-8320
Motherboard: MSI 970A-G45
GPU: Sapphire 7970 3GB OC with Boost
RAM: 12GB DDR3 1600MHz (2x2GB RipJawX + 2x4GB Kingston HyperX Blu)
PSU: Corsair CX600
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212+
Storage: 120GB Samsung Evo 840 SSD + 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM
ALERT: Static electricity is something you need to be aware of before you start. It can build up simply by moving around. Each time you’re about to handle a component, touch some metal on the case first to discharge any built up static you might have. This is called grounding yourself and I've left several reminder throughout the guide to always ground yourself. Whenever you're about to handle a component, touch the case first. This is especially crucial when handling the CPU, RAM, and GPU. To further reduce the risk you should wear.... less clothes. I'm not saying you should be building in your birthday suit, but lose the jacket. Avoid socks or slippers as well and either go barefoot or wear real shoes. Also staying away from carpet helps, but it isn't a dealbreaker either if that's all you have to work with. If you want to get an Anti-Static wrist band that’s fine but ultimately not needed.
Preparing Your Workspace
First you will want to find a good place to work. A sizable table works well and preferably on a floor other than carpet. You want to avoid static electricity as much as possible. Building on the floor is fine if you want, but avoid carpet. I used a ping pong table. Also grab a Phillip’s head screwdriver. Magnetized ones are helpful but not required. Your case or motherboard may have come with some plastic zipties, or if not, grab some of your own.
Prepare the Case
First step you will want to start with is get your case ready.
If you have any extra fans you’re adding to you case install those now. Keep in mind of how you’ll want to hook these up later, whether it be to the motherboard or directly to the power supply. If you’re hooking them up to the motherboard they’ll use a 3 pin connector and if they’re being plugged in to the PSU they’ll use a 4 pin Molex connector. Also take note of the direction of airflow. There’s normally an arrow on the side of the fan showing the direction of airflow. Typically you want the front and side fans (if you have any) to be intake and the top and back to be exhaust. Again this will vary depending on your set up. Fans installed on the front of the case will sometimes use longer screws. They go in through the front of fan then screw in to the case.
3 Pin Fan Plug (left) - Plug into Motherboard or Fan Controller
Molex (right) - Plug in to PSU
Now that your fans are ready it’s time to install the standoffs. These little metal pieces lift the motherboard off the case and prevent it from shorting out. These are REQUIRED. If you forget one the board can and probably will short and the computer won’t turn on. The layout for these will vary depending on your motherboard form factor but ATX is the most common and what I have here. Consult your motherboard (or case) manual if you are unsure. There is also a chance that the standoffs come preinstalled. If they do make sure they are in the same configuration as the motherboard you’re using. If not, arrange them correctly and just finger tighten them down in the correct place.
Once the standoffs are in you’ll have to install the I/O shield. If the case comes with one already in there go ahead and pop it out by pushing on it from the outside. If it doesn’t have one, which it probably won’t, just grab the one that came with your motherboard and put it in. Be careful not to bend the metal prongs on it as they’re there to prevent the motherboard from shorting again the shield. Just line it up and snap it into place. Pressure along the edges of the shield works best.
Now your case is ready!
Motherboard and Core Components
Place your motherboard on a piece of cardboard or a similar non conductive surface. The box your motherboard came in works perfectly for this. Starting off we’ll install the RAM.
The RAM is one of the easiest things to install. Your RAM slots will most likely be near your CPU socket. With DDR3 RAM as shown here there will be a notch in both the slot and the stick of RAM. Line these up. Make sure the little plastic clips on the end of each slot are out and then line up the stick and press it into place. This can take a decent amount of pressure. Apply even pressure at both ends until the clips snap fully into place. Motherboards frequently make use of Dual Channel mode which operates slightly faster than without. This means you’ll want to install the RAM sticks in corresponding lanes. Typically the first and third slot and the second and fourth slot. Consult your motherboard manual for what is recommended as some prefer to use slots one and three over two and four, or vice versa. If you have two kits of two sticks each just make sure they correspond similar to how I have mine here.
The CPU and the CPU cooler are probably the scariest things to install. Fear not though, it’s still relatively simple. This step will vary slightly depending on if you have an AMD or an Intel chip. For my AMD chip there’s simply a lever, for Intels, it’s a bit different as they have a “door” of sorts built in that you put the CPU under then clamp down. Be very careful of how you handle the CPU. Only hold it by the edges and DON'T BEND THE PINS. Find the little triangle on the corner of the CPU and line it up with the corresponding triangle on the CPU socket. If you can’t find the triangle on the socket (it’s pretty hard to find sometimes) try and use the layout of the pins on the bottom of the CPU or consult your motherboard manual. For mine it’s in the upper left. The CPU can only go in one way so make sure you have it facing the correct direction. With the lever lifted up and the door out of the way if applicable, PLACE the CPU in to the socket. Do not apply any sort of pressure to the chip. It should simply fit right in to place. If it’s not sitting completely flush you probably have it in the wrong way. Once it’s in, lower the retention lever until it is clipped in to place.
Note: As pointed out to me by StrangleHold, some larger air coolers can block access to the spots where your motherboards screws in to the case. Figure out where these are and see if your cooler will obstruct them. If it does then skip this step and come back to it after you've install the board in to the case. It's still possible to install the cooler while it's in the case, but I find it easier to do it outside of it, cooler permitting.
The CPU cooler is definitely the hardest and this step will vary significantly depending on your cooler. AMD chips at time of writing use a pretty simple clip on each side. Intels use a push pin setup that is also relatively simple. Some coolers will come with the thermal paste already applied. If not you’ll have to do it yourself. Squeeze a very small amount in the middle of the CPU. No bigger than a grain of rice, if that even. Refer to the picture for reference on size. You’ll need to consult your manual for your cooler on how to install it or even a video on Youtube as the instructions can be pretty cryptic. My cooler for example has a backplate you screw into the board using washers then a pair of crossed arms go underneath the cooler and are screwed in to place as shown. Notice the four screw down points in the first picture.
Also don’t forget to plug in the fan to the CPU Cooler header. It should be near the CPU socket. Consult your motherboard manual if you can’t find it.
Alright your motherboard is ready to go in to the case, so let’s do just that!
Into the Case
Being careful to line up the standoffs as well as the I/O shield, place your motherboard into the case. Be extra careful of lining everything up. In my experience the board will like to shift away from the I/O shield as it tends to push on it. Go around and screw the motherboard into the standoffs with the provided screws. If the holes aren’t perfectly lined up you might have to apply pressure on the side of the board as you screw it in. Make sure you get ALL of the spots that have a standoff.
On to Post 2 due to image limits!