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How to build a computer.

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Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Introduction

I have noticed that we are getting many new users here at Overclockers forums. Frankly its nice to see fresh blood here, with new thoughts and idea's. We have many users with a wide variety of skill levels, from beginners to professionals, some even do this for a living rather than a hobby. This thread's focus is to teach the beginner how to build a PC from the ground up. Just the fundamentals on how to do it. Every person here has their way in doing it, however the outcome is essentially the same. We will also have a check list at the end, to be sure we did everything. During this thread, I will also include pictures on how to actually build your precious PC. After all, you just picked out all of the hardware... ;) Ok, lets get into the list of hardware that is needed to build your PC. I will get into each item, after I list everything.


  1. Case
  2. Power supply
  3. CPU
  4. RAM
  5. Motherboard
  6. Hard drive
  7. Media card reader
  8. DVD burner
  9. Video card (optional)
  10. Sound card (optional)
  11. Operating system

THE CASE

The case can pretty much be anything you want as long as you have the funds to get it.
There are many types as I list them below. What I recommend is buying a case without the power supply. We will buy it separately. Also the case material can be important to some. Flimsy cases are not good. The lower cost cases, $15 to $40, are light weight. Many people like their rig to look impressive, having cool fan, and lights all over it. To each their own... Its cool!

  1. ATX Desktop, full tower, mid tower, mini tower
  2. Micro-ATX, desktop, mid tower, mini tower, slim case
  3. Mini-ITX tower and desktop

The Power Supply

This topic has been beat to death many times over. However, it is the most important component when building your computer. Most common problem with random re-boots and freezing. Having enough power to run your rig is very important, especially if you plan on overclocking it. There are many manufacturers, but which one should you get? Below is a few recommendations, however in any order of the best. Every one below have "The best" in each class. Most basic systems should be between 500 and 650 watts, but get a good name, and your power supply will last!

Take a look at our very own list of recommended power supplies here



  1. Corsair
  2. Thermaltake
  3. PC power and cooling
  4. Antec
  5. Silverstone
  6. Seasonic
  7. Enermax

The CPU

This is a big decision for you. Will it be gaming or just surf the web and check e-mails? This is OCF, and most users push everyone to get the best right in the beginning, heck this is your first build right? Why the hell not! However, there are many different models but thankfully only two manufacturers. AMD and Intel. Both provide Single, dual, quad core and now six core options and in different socket types as well. Intel currently has 775, 1156 and 1366 and AMD has AM2, AM2+ and AM3. You'll need to figure out what you'll need for your task at hand; again, you'll be pushed to get the best you can afford!


The RAM

RAM can big a pain in the neck sometimes.. so many different types, speeds and voltages. The two most common types are DDR2 and DDR3. However, there are many manufacturers. What most people do when looking for RAM is to check the reviews. You can learn alot from that. If you do not plan on overclocking then stick with either 1066 or 1333 for DDR3 and 800 and 1066 for DDR2. However, for a few bucks more 1600Mhz DDR3 ram will give you the best of both worlds if you decide to overclock in the future.


  • DDR2 speeds are: 400, 533, 667, 800, 1000, 1066, 1100 and 1200 Mhz
  • DDR3 speeds are: 1066, 1333, 1600, 1800, 1866, 2000, 2133, 2200, 2250, and 2400 Mhz
Most common for DDR2 is 800 and 1066
Most common for DDR3 is 1066, 1333, and 1600 Mhz

The Motherboard

This must work around your case purchase. Either you get an ATX motherboard or a Micro ATX (uATX), it needs to fit in the case you just picked out. Again, there are many options to look at here. Intel is known for their Matrix RAID setups, the ICH7R, ICH8R, ICH9R, and ICH10R. These all have the RAID option. If you find these chipsets without the "R", it does not support RAID. However AMD offers a much cheaper solution when choosing a motherboard, also in ATX and micro ATX (uATX). I will list the key features people look for in motherboards.


  • Matrix RAID
  • SLI (Nvidia) or Cross fire (ATI)
  • USB 3.0 (5Gb/s) and SATA III (6Gb/s) P55 and x58 only
  • eSATA
  • Overclocking ability
  • How many SATA ports
The Hard drive

Most beginners will probably stick with a mechanical drive. For one, its much cheaper and two, you get a better bang for your buck in terms of overall space. However, SSD's (Solid State Disks) offer much better performance and the latency is pretty much nonexistent. Again, many sizes to choose from, you just need to find the one you really need. Western Digital has four drives that stick out at the moment.



The top two drives are 7200 RPM and offer 32MB cache. These are the fastest drives WD makes aside from the VelociRaptors. Each drive can achieve about 105MB per second continuous read with an average latency of about 12ms. That's pretty darn impressive for a 7200 RPM drive! However, the VR's can each do about 124MB per second, and have an average latency of 7ms but the price per megabyte is much higher. Samsung offers the spinpoint f3 series that is also very impressive that can achieve 124MB/s.

SATA 3

If you're looking into having SATA3 (6gbs), you should be aware that SATA3 SSD's will be the only type drive that will take advantage of this new technology. Currently only two drives support the new SATA3 spec. However, Seagate and Western Digital both make SATA3 mechanical drives. Don't fall for this marketing ploy. There is no benefit in getting a mechanical SATA3 hard drive.

RAID and short stroking

This is really not for the beginner, however if you are interested in reading another in depth article, take a look here.

The media card reader

This is really not a necessity, however connecting your camera via USB could get dangerous if you continue. Taking out the SD card seems safer for most users.

The DVD burner / BD-R

The DVD/CD burner is the cheapest component, and since it is so inexpensive, why get a ROM drive when a burner is only $24.99. To find the best bang for your buck, just look at the reviews... The Sony is clearly the winner here.

Blu-ray is starting to become much more affordable. For $150 bucks you can burn Blu-ray disks, but only if you can afford the blank media. Blu-ray disks can hold 25 gig single layer and 50 gig in dual layer.

The Video device


Depending on what type of system you're building the video card is optional. Intel chipsets with a leading G will have a Integrated Graphic processor (IGP). This option depending on the level of IGP, can be used to play mild games with low detail and also perfect for a HTPC. AMD boards offer nicer integrated video options as they have Geforce Nvidia 7000 and 8000 series.

The dedicated video card

Nvidia and AMD / ATI offer some great options for dedicated video options. This can and will drain your bank account and is a delicate subject for most. We don't want to offend anyone. There are Nvidia fanboys as well as ATI fanboys.. Someone will always bash one of these video card manufacturers... During the writing of this guide ATI is currently in the lead for DX11 graphics cards. Tessellation is the new "thing" for graphics cards and is very impressive. Here is the ATI line up:


As you can see, ATI has pretty much hit every level for any type of user that is out there. Everyone of these cards are DX11, from the cheapest to the most radical. Entry level gamers (if you want ATI) should start looking at the 5770 and up... However, the video card of choice has been the 5870. ATI is not into price gouging and has an MSRP of $399 for the 5870. The 5870 has been selling in the low $400's since its debut and has not moved and is currently the fastest single GPU card out there.

Here is Nvidia's line up:


We do know a few things about these two new cards. The GTX470 will have 1296MB of RAM and the GTX480 will have 1536MB, both GDDR5. More on this shortly.

The Sound Card

The integrated sound device is enough for most users. No need for the added expense. However, you might want to experience Dolby Digital Live, or DTS connect with an add in card allowing for 5.1 audio. Look for the the C-media 8788 chipset which can do this. This would be extreme audio, as you'll be needing an A/V receiver to accomplish this. You'll be connecting an optical cable from your sound card to your receiver at which it will be doing the decoding of the content for you.

The Operating System

Windows XP is pretty much dead, and that's too bad. It was a rock solid OS! However, there is a new kid on the block. WINDOWS 7!! Windows 7 comes in many different levels in both 32 and 64bit. 32bit supporting between 3 to 3.5Gig of RAM, and if you get the Ultimate version 192gig of RAM. Here is the list of the OS's and maximum see-able RAM.


  • Windows 7 Starter ; 32bit: 2gig | 64bit: 8gig
  • Windows 7 Home basic ; 32bit: 4gig | 64bit: 8gig
  • Windows 7 Home premium ; 32bit: 4gig | 64bit: 16gig
  • Windows 7 Professional ; 32bit: 4gig | 64bit: 192gig
  • Windows 7 Ultimate ; 32bit: 4gig | 64bit: 192gig
There are other alternatives such as Linux, this however should not be attempted by a beginner. Wait until you fully understand your computer and its function before you dive into a new type of OS.
 
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OP
Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Ok, Lets begin our build!

Take a look at the first image! We have all of our parts.

RAM, CPU, Heat sink, Hard drive, DVD drive, video card, mother board power supply and hardware that came with the case.

STEP 1

Ok, now this first step is very important and should be checked and then re-checked.

Mounting the motherboard in your case. Take a look at the second image.

Take note of the mounting holes..

I'm focusing on this because this is the most common problem.
Most people put too many mounting posts and short out the board from the bottom, and the system does not boot.

Notice this has 9 mounting holes...

Look in your hardware bag and find your mounting posts. Will either be silver or brass in color.

Look at the first image... by the hardware... it will look like those.

Ok, look at the fourth image. I added 9 mounting posts.
 

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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Ok, motherboard lines up perfectly..

Find your motherboard shield.. lets insert this.

Look at images 1 and 2.

-------------------------------

Lets mount the motherboard. You may need to put the motherboard in on an angle to get it in.

Do not tighten the screws until you have put all of them in around the board. You may need to move the board so everything lines up.

Look at images 3 and 4.

This is how it will look when its installed correctly.
 

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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Ok, lets add the CPU.

I like to wait to have the board mounted before I add the RAM and CPU / heat sink. Chances of me breaking the board is less likely.

Lets open up the CPU latch; please look at the first image. Socket 1156 and 1366 are very similar, this happens to be a socket 775

Once unlatched, you can pull up the retention arm and plate so we can mount our CPU.
-------------------


Take note: The CPU has notches on the edges

Take a look at images 2 and 3

4th image shows it mounted in the socket correctly.
 

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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Ok, now lets install the heat sink.

Rather simple, pretty much drop it in.

Then push on the pins.. start at the top right, to the bottom left, then top left to bottom right.

Grab it and make sure its secure.

Now look for the four pin power connector and connect the fan. Should be labeled CPU_FAN
 

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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Now lets install the RAM.

Open up the clips, and slide in the RAM, be sure the notch lines up with the slot.

With both thumbs, push evenly until you hear a click, and the clips lock the RAM into place.

------------

Lets find our USB and or Firewire cables. Front or top USB is typical, however firewire is an option on many cases...

Look for the headers for USB and firewire, labeled 1394 for firewire and USB_1 for USB.

Then plug them into the board.
 

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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Now lets mount the drives...

The hard drive and DVD rom drives are the easiest to install. Pretty much just slide them where they fit and screw them down.

If you're lucky you have a tooless case and will not require screws or a screw driver to add your drives...

Going to show you a tooless case, the Cooler Master Centurion 5.

With the Centurion 5, you have three locations to put internal drives. You can see the three silver sleeves. In front of that is an 80mm fan to keep them cool. You can see in the foreground the 3 pin power fan header for that fan.

 

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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
DVD is just as easy to install.. You have a choice of 1 of 5 bays for the DVD rom drive, I like to keep it on top. (Person preference)

Again, on the Centurion 5 case, and real simple to install.


-----------------------------

Now lets connect our panel header wires... You cant miss these things..
Many different color wires Yellow, black, green, blue orange, red, labeled with power, reset, HD LED, PWR LED, and speaker.

This board has it labeled nicely. Without going to the manual, the mother board clearly shows me where everything goes.

Lets look at the orange and wire wires for a moment, since we have a clear shot of it.
This is for the hard drive activity LED on the front of the case. The solid color indicates the positive lead.
Technically there are only two wires that need to be installed correctly because of polarity, the power LED and hard drive LED. The others are just switches which do not need to be connected in the same fashion, however having it look nice would be cool.

The +MSG- on the board is for the power LED.. Later, when you're done with your build and you power it on PC, if the LED is not on, no big deal, just spin it around and the LED should light. In rare cases, these LED's could be bad.

+PW- if for the power switch, -RES+ reset switch, notice that wire is two gray wires...

+SPEAK- is for the external speaker. Some cases have a speaker, as some mother boards don't have one on the board.
 

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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Ok we are almost done! Lets install our power supply

Installing the power supply is straight forward. Line up the holes on the case with the holes on the power supply.

------------------------

Now search for the (white) power cables...

Some power supplies will have 20 + 4, which is backward compatible with older mother boards. Some will have all 24 pins as one ATX connector pictured here.

To left of the ATX power connector is the standard 4 pin CPU power connector and to the right is an optional 8 pin power connector. You can use either. However, if you have a power hungry CPU, I would use the 8 pin if your mother board supports it.

The ATX connector can only go in one way.
 

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I.M.O.G.

Glorious Leader
Joined
Nov 12, 2002
Location
Rootstown, OH
I went ahead and fixed the media card reader for you, put the color BBcode inside the URL link. ;)

Things are coming along really well, nice!

We'll have to feature this on the frontpage once you are done, without a doubt. Probably best to just write an article stub for the blog, and link back to here since it would be easiest to maintain within forum posts rather than a full blown wordpress article duplicating what is here.
 
OP
Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Let's connect power to our drives and connect our data cables...

Lets find our power connectors for our drives...

Black sata connectors and white 4 pin molex connectors...
 

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dreadrok

Registered
Joined
Mar 1, 2010
OK. So when i started to build my computer this guide was not up yet. I researched so much for my first build and read so many how to build your own pc threads it was ridiculous.
I have to say this is THE BEST thread out of any i have read. I wish it was around when I started my build. It explains just about everything and with pictures!! gotta love it. When I was building my rig, I would have to do secondary research midway when one instructional would be vague or just skim over some part, leaving me confused and unsure. And if this is your first build like it was mine, thats a really awkward place to be, I remember i was scared to even take my mobo out of its plastic bag and handled everything like a newborn baby.

Good job Joeteck, this helps with the whole gamut of building a pc, from tips when picking your parts, to a logical and concise order of putting it all together.

I think this thread should be stickied at the top of the sticky list, I remember when i was searching other forums looking for how-to's thats the first place i would look, and if I didnt see it right away, it made looking for it a pain and I would usually abort and look elsewhere.
 
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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
OK. So when i started to build my computer this guide was not up yet. I researched so much for my first build and read so many how to build your own pc threads it was ridiculous.
I have to say this is THE BEST thread out of any i have read. I wish it was around when I started my build. It explains just about everything and with pictures!! gotta love it. When I was building my rig, I would have to do secondary research midway when one instructional would be vague or just skim over some part, leaving me confused and unsure. And if this is your first build like it was mine, thats a really awkward place to be, I remember i was scared to even take my mobo out of its plastic bag and handled everything like a newborn baby.

Good job Joeteck, this helps with the whole gamut of building a pc, from tips when picking your parts, to a logical and concise order of putting it all together.

I think this thread should be stickied at the top of the sticky list, I remember when i was searching other forums looking for how-to's thats the first place i would look, and if I didnt see it right away, it made looking for it a pain and I would usually abort and look elsewhere.


Thank you very much! That comment means alot to me. I'm going to finish it up today, hopefully.
 
OP
Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Lets install the (optional) video card.

The PCI-e slot closest to the power supply is always slot 1 and is the primary slot to be used when using a single video card.

Notice the blue PCI-e slot. For this board that is number 1. (Primary)

When you put the video card in, be sure you hear a click. That's the PCI-e lock, locking into place. This prevents heavy cards from falling out.

If your card requires external power, look for 6 + 2 or an 8 pin power connector. which provides 150 watts of power. 6 pin power connectors provide 75 watts of additional power. The PCI-e slot supplies up to 75 watts as well.

The video card pictured here is a 8600GTS requiring only one six pin power connector.
 

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Joeteck

Joeteck

Retired
Joined
Oct 5, 2001
Location
Long Island
Ok, we are done.

We are almost ready to power it on.


Make sure everything is in place. We should go over our check list.


  1. Mother board is securely in place with the correct number of posts?
  2. RAM is inserted correctly? Both clips are locked, on all used RAM slots?
  3. CPU and HSF (Heat Sink & Fan) are securely in place.
  4. Check to see if your Hard drive(s) and optical drive(s) are mounted correctly and have the data and power cables connected.
  5. Check Your ATX and CPU power connections.
  6. Make sure you connected the power switch wires to turn on the system, including the reset, power and HD LED's.
  7. If used, video card securely in place? Extra power connected? (If needed)
Ok, power it on! NICE JOB!

Just in case it does not turn on, be sure to check this at the back of your power supply. Some have a power switch there, and may be turned off.

Also, In VERY RARE cases, I've seen the power supply selector set for 220v instead of 115v. If this is the case, unplug it, and use a small screw driver and slide it to the 115v selection. Picture is supplied.
 

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[email protected]

Inactive Moderator
Joined
Sep 27, 2003
This thread is gorgeous!! Someone is going to thank you VERY much, or should I say MANY will thank you!!

Something funny: post #5 - I can see your full fingerprint. I'm going to take it to the FBI and do a scan and see who you really are!! :)

GREAT WORK, JOE!!! Bravo man!!