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How to Build a Computer, Lesson 3: Building the Computer  December 6, 2015 – 10:46 am

How to Build a Computer, Lesson 3: Building the ComputerNow that you've bought all your components, it's time for the moment of truth: You're ready to actually put together the machine. Assembling your computer can seem daunting, but it's actually pretty easy. Here's what you need to do.

Step Zero: Plan and Test Before You Build

I recommend reading through this guide before you start so you know what you'll need to do, but despite the instructions, I actually recommend building your computer once outside your case before building it inside your case, as discussed in the video above. This will ensure all your components are working before you go through the trouble of screwing everything in.

Step One: Mount Your Motherboard

To start, open up your case's box, take out the case, and open it up. Usually this involves unscrewing a few thumb screws on the back of your case and sliding the side panels off. Take a good look around your case and get acquainted; note where the hard drive bays are, where your CD drive will go, whether the power supply mounts on the top or the bottom, and so on. There should also be a bag of screws inside your case; grab that now and set it aside because we'll need it in a few minutes.

Open up your motherboard box and take out the I/O shield, which is the metal plate that protects the ports on the back of your motherboard. You should see a rectangular space in the back of your case where this should go. Snap it into place. This takes quite a bit of force, so make sure all four sides are snapped in securely.

Next, pull out your motherboard and line up the ports on the back with the I/O shield. You should see that the holes on your motherboard line up with screw holes on the bottom of your case. There are probably more holes on your case than there are on your motherboard, so note which ones these are, and grab your motherboard standoffs from your bag of screws (they have a male screw end on one side, and a female screw hole on the other side). Screw the standoffs into those holes, and set your motherboard on top of them.How to Build a Computer, Lesson 3: Building the Computer Screw your motherboard screws into the standoffs so the motherboard is snugly mounted.

Note: Many of you have mentioned that you prefer to install the processor, cooler, RAM, and power supply before mounting the motherboard in the case. I've never done this myself, but in some cases, this may be simpler and save you some digging around in your case. I recommend using your motherboard box as a small "bench" for plugging these parts in if you're going to do it separately.

Step Two: Install Your Processor

Open up your processor's box and gently take it out. Your processor is one of the more fragile parts of the build, so this is one step in which you'll want to be careful. Find the coner of your processor that has a gold arrow on it, then look at your motherboard's processor socket for a similar arrowed corner. Line these two arrows up; this is the direction your processor will go into the socket.

Lift up the lever on the processor socket and put your processor in (Intel motherboards might also have a cover you have to lift up first). Pull the lever down to lock it into place. Again, do this gently—it shouldn't require any feats of strength on your part, so if it isn't falling into place easily, something's wrong. Take it out and try re-setting it, make sure your two arrows are lined up, and of course, double check that your motherboard and processor are of the same socket type.

How to Build a Computer, Lesson 3: Building the Computer

Once your processor's in, grab the cooler that came with your processor (remember, if you got an OEM processor you'll have to buy a cooler separately). It should already have some silver thermal paste on the bottom. If not, you'll need to pick some up from the computer store and put a very thin line on your processor—I usually use about the size of a grain of rice or two, that's all (see the video in Step Zero for more information on this).

Set your cooler on top of your processor. If you have an Intel cooler, you'll need to press down on the four pins until they click. You can find more info on this in your processor's manual (it takes a few tries, trust me). AMD coolers, like the one in the above video, are much easier—just hook the two latches on the sides onto the motherboard's square pegs, and pull the lever down to lock it into place.

Step Three: Install Your RAM

Installing RAM is very simple. Find the RAM sockets on your motherboard, and pull the two clips on the side down. Line up the notch in your RAM stick with the notch in the socket, and press the RAM down into place. This might take a bit of pressure, so don't worry about being overly gentle. The clips should snap back into place when the RAM is fully in the socket.

Step Four: Install Your PCI Cards

For your video card (or any other PCI expansion card), find the topmost slot that fits your card and match that up with its plate on the back of the case. Remove that plate and slide the PCI card's bracket in its place. The card should then be sitting on top of the socket, and all you need to do is press down to lock it into place. Screw the bracket onto the case, and you're good to go.

Note that if you need to remove it for any reason, there may be a small lever on the back of the socket you need to press before you pull it out.

Step Five: Install Your Hard Drive

Every case is a little bit different in how they install hard drives. Generally, there are two methods: on some cases, you have to pull out a hard drive tray, put the drive in, screw it in securely, and then slide the tray back in. Other motherboards just require you to slide the bare drive into the bay and then screw it in snug after the fact. Check your case's manual for more detailed instructions on this particular step.

If you're using multiple hard drives and a big case, it's usually a good idea to leave some open space between them—that is, putting them in the first and third bays instead of first and second. This allows for more airflow between them and will help keep them running cool.

Step Six: Install Your Optical Drive

The optical drive should be pretty self-explanatory. Just pull out the plastic cover on one of your 5.25" drive bays and slide in your optical drive. Screw it into place if necessary.

How to Build a Computer, Lesson 3: Building the Computer How to Build a Computer, Lesson 3: Building the Computer


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  • avatar Why do manufacturers offer hard drive diagnostic software.
    • To help customers determine if they have a problem or not, and to aid in warranty fulfilment.

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