Build Your Own Computer at Home

Build Your Own Computer at Home

Posted on January 27, 2010. Filed under: Build Your Own Computer at Home |

Congratulations on deciding to build a computer on your own. It isn’t as difficult as you might think.  If you can do a puzzle, you can do it.

If you know of a good computer parts store, you should go there directly (a physical store means you can return, exchange or ask questions easier), or you can order parts (compare prices) online at www.newegg.com, www.amazon.com and www.crucial.com.

You may or may not be able to build your computer for less money than if you were to buy one pre-built, but the main advantage is that you can put the exact components in that you choose, rather then just taking anything that happens to be bundled at your local computer store. You will also become so familar with your computer that you will easily be able to upgrade components as technology progresses- rather than purchasing an all new computer- this will save a lot of money in the end.

To begin, you might want to take a look inside your old computer to just get a feel for what it will look like.

Next, you need to pick out your processor (CPU). Read this article to help you make an informed choice about your processor.

After your processor is chosen you need to choose your motherboard based on the requirements of your processor which will indicate the type of motherboard slot. The motherboard will be named by its processor slot or socket (see chart below).

Make sure your motherboard has all of the ports (plugs) you want- if you need a FireWire port or the newer USB 2.0 port make sure it is there before you buy it. If you want the newer Sata hard drive- make sure your motherboard supports it (the old kind uses IDE) . Note however, that regardless of the motherboard’s native support, additional ports of all kinds as well as a card to connect a Sata hard drive can always be added via aPCI or PCIe (express)  adapter card.

If you want PCIe (express) slots instead of PCI or AGP slots, make sure your motherboard has those. The best expansion slot for a video card is a PCI-Express 3.0 X32 slot. It is the fastest video card slot.

For memory (RAM), you may prefer the faster dual-channel kind or the faster DDR3 memory modules. Whatever you think you might want or need- make sure your motherboard has it or that you can purchase a card for it.

At this point you will need to obtain the

hard drive(s) (with at least 160-300GB capacity),

the power supply (make sure the power supply is the right voltage for your country or has a voltage switch- and also (important!) the amount of wattage you need (250-500-watts).  Higher wattage power supplies might be required for more advanced systems that employ power-hungry graphics or multiple disk drives, for example.)

the computer shell,

the correct RAM  (memory)

operating system software (probably Windows Vista or Windows 7)

a monitor,

printer,

keyboard and mouse,

speakers,

CD/DVD drive  (i.e. RW, RE, RAM or DL,  Blu-ray?)

adapter cards for graphics and sound (or you can use the default, but if you buy adapter cards make sure they are compatible with your motherboards expansion slots- i.e. PCIe, PCI, AGP- note: higher end sound cards have a FireWire port)

Ethernet card and modem (for Internet).

Please click on the links to get more information about each component.

At home, take everything out on a large table.

Look at the computer shell and see if you need to add or remove any metal around the holes in the back. If you do, it will be clear what to do and any metal pieces will come with it. Remove one side of the computer shell.

Make sure that the computer shell has at least one fan attached to the back- if not you will need to buy a fan. Your rear chassis fan(s) should always be installed in the same orientation as the power supply fan- the front chassis fan should be installed in the reverse orientation.

The next thing to do is to attach the processor (CPU) to the motherboard. Do not force it- it should go in smoothly and firmly. A large fan will sit on top of the processor and is essential. Open and read the full-on manual that comes in the box- no skimming. For CPU heat sinks- you should buy a small tube of thermal transfer compound or paste to help with the cooling of the CPU. Apply the compound the size of a grain of rice in the center of the heat sink, not on the CPU, then attach the heat sink to the CPU. If the compound has been pre-applied then don’t add more.

Now you can screw the motherboard onto the computer shell through the holes provided. The screws should come with it. Following this you can install the power supply. Everything is pretty straight-forward until it comes to plugging cables into the motherboard. However, you should receive good instructions- a large map of the motherboard with directions as to what plugs go where.

Next, you can screw in the CD/DVD drive (only 2 screws on each side are necessary) and then the  hard drive – consult the map as to what plugs go where.

After everything is plugged in you can add the memory (RAM cards) and the graphic adapter and sound cards in the appropriate slots.

After making sure the fan is plugged into the motherboard correctly, put the computer shell back together, and set up the computer. Plug in the computer, printer and monitor and attach the monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers and printer to the computer.

If you have purchased a graphics card make sure your monitor is plugged into it and not the onboard, integrated port on the motherboard.

Once the computer is switched on you must listen to make sure that you can hear the whirring of the fans- it is vital that the fans are working or your computer will destroy itself in a short period of time. At this point the BIOS system should start up on the screen and simply run without you having to do anything.

After it runs its course you can install your operating system- which will probably be some version of Windows. This full version operating system will come with two disks- one that is 32-bit and one that is 64-bit. Which one should you use?

Your processor box and information should say whether or not it is 32-bit or 64- bit compatible.

If your processor is only 32-bit compatible than you must install the 32-bit operating system. If your processor is 64-bit compatible then you have a choice. You can install either the 32-bit or the 64- bit. The following are some things to consider when making this choice:

In order for a 64-bit version of Windows to work, not only do you need a 64-bit processor you also need 64-bit versions of the software you want to use.

A 64-bit operating system is twice the size of a 32-bit operating system. This means that your computer can process twice as much simultaneous data with a 64-bit OS. It is like the difference between a 32-lane highway and a 64-lane highway. A 64-lane highway avoids those traffic bottlenecks that causes a computer to slow down.

The 64-bit version of Windows is faster because it can address more physical memory (RAM) and can avoid using the much slower hard drive (referred to as the swap file) for active memory needs.

The 32-bit limitation for RAM access is 4 GB. To take full advantage of a 64-bit system, you should install 8 GB or more of RAM. This will super-speed your computer. However, before installing a 64-bit operating system- you need to make sure your software, digital camera, printer, etc. are all 64 -bit compatible- if in doubt use the 32- bit operating system.

Now it is time to install Windows. Put it in the drive and let it go on its own until it gets to the part that asks you to partition the hard drive.  You can always change this later, but for now you should allocate at least 200-300 GB (about 200,00 – 300,000 MB) to drive C (your system hard drive) depending on the capacity of your hard drive. Later (optional) you can change, create, format and partition drives  (ie. A:/, E:/, F:/- whatever you choose).  Just follow the onscreen instructions for the rest of the set up of Windows.

Next you will need to install the drivers for your software and printer. These probably come with a CD, if not you might be able to download the driver from the Internet once you have that up and running.

Congratulations on Building Your Own Computer!

Reference Chart: Match your processor (CPU)  with the correct motherboard slot.

Slot 1     Pentium II, Pentium III, Celeron and all SECC and SECC2

Slot 2      Pentium II Xeon, Pentium III Xeon (sever) – replaced by Socket 370

Slot A     Early AMD Athlon, replaced by Socket A

Sockets 1,2,3,6     486 and Pentium Overdrive

Socket 4     Pentium 60/66, Pentium 60/66 Overdrive

Socket 5     Pentium 75-133, Pentium 75+ OverDrive, AMD K5

Socet 7       Pentium 75-200, Pentium 75+ OverDrive, Pentium MMX, AMD K6

Super Socket 7     AMD K6-2, K6-111

Socket 8      Pentium Pro, replaced by Slot 1

Socket 370     Plastic PGA processors (Pentium III, Celeron)

Socket 423     Early Pentium 4

Socket A (462)     AMD Athlon, Athlon SP, Athlon XP-M, Athlon MP, Thunderbirtd, Duron, Sempron

Socket 478     Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, Celeron

Socket 479     Laptop Pentium M, Celeron M

Socket 563     AMD low-power movile Atholon XP-M

Socket 603     Intel Xenon

Socket 604     Intel Xeon with Micro Flip chip PGA (FCPGA) package

Socket 754     Athlon 64, Sempron, Turnion 64

Socket P     Core 2 Duo, Deleron M, and Pentium Dual Core

Socket T (LGA 775)     Pentium 4, Pentium D, Celeron D, Pentium Extreme Edition, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Extreme, Core 2 Quad

Socket J (LGA 771)     Dual-Core Xeoon (Server version of LGA 775)

Socket B (LGA 1366)     Intel Core i7

Socket 939      Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2, Opteron 100 series

Socket 940 Athlong 64 FX, Opteron (servers)

Socket F (1207)    Opteron multiprocessor system, replaces socket 940

Socket AM2     AMD singl-processor system, replaces socket 754 and 939

Socket AM3     Athlon X2, Sempron LE, Opteron (DDR3 capable)

Socket S1     AMD-based movile platforms, replaces socket 754

PAC418     Itanium

PAC611     Itanium2

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