A Beginner's Guide To Building Your Own PC: The Assembly
Making a custom PC is a thrilling experience that not only helps you save some extra bucks but lets you gain a deeper understanding of how a computer works that’ll come in handy if you have to make changes, upgrade it or repair it yourself. Also, you’re your own master while building it as you can analyze your needs and customize it exactly how you want to. An added plus is the sense of pride and achievement you get from owning something you built, all on your own.
But joining the community, though, fun and inclusive can also seem daunting and intimidating. In the previous article we spoke about the components, what they do and how to pick the right parts - this one will cover how to put it together.
The first and the most important step is to be careful at all times and tackle static electricity with caution. It’s all fun and games until you use static electricity to shock your friends after rubbing your socks on the carpet but it truly has the power to render your parts dead. Most of your parts come in an anti-static bag so it’s best to leave them be until you install them. Another possible solution is to get an anti-static wristband. The wristband can be put on your wrist with the other side clipping on the case, helping you stay grounded.
Pro-tip: In case you can’t get an anti-static wristband you can always put your power supply in the case and plug it in. But don’t power it on, if you touch the case frequently, it has the same effect.
The first place to start would be the motherboard. The best thing to do is to remove the motherboard from plastic covering and assemble it on the box itself. The first thing you will do for this is to put the CPU in. The motherboard would have a large socket which is usually a square socket somewhere in the middle. Remember! This can definitely vary depending on the parts you buy. The CPU is designed to fit into place only in one way so you lift the hatch and gently place your CPU. You will be able to spot a golden triangle on the CPU and the motherboard so make sure they line up and then put the latch down where you might feel some resistance but that’s normal!
*If you’re using a M.2 SSD then you can put the SSD in the motherboard now as well as since the board is out, it’s easier to deal with the smaller screws.
After the CPU, you can now put in the RAM. There will be long slots with two (or one depending on your motherboard) latches where you can line up the notch on your RAM with the one on the motherboard. Simply push down on both sides, you will click on the latches which will mean that it’s in. If you’re using two RAM sticks then, make sure you put it in the correct slots. Check the manual and it will tell you which two slots to put it in. It is obviously not as simple as putting it next to each other.
Cooler, ahh the cooler. This can get a little tricky. The first step is thermal paste, this acts as a conductor between the chip and the cooler which allows the heat transfer efficiently and easily. Firstly, you’ll want to put a dot, the size of a pea at the center of the chip. Now, if you use the stock coolers that come packaged, these occasionally have thermal paste applied and are the simplest to put on and simply plug into the connection labelled ‘CPU_FAN’ it’ll be the closest to the CPU. Some third party coolers require a back plate that attaches behind the motherboard.
Now it’s time to put the motherboard in the case. Open your case and check for four standoffs that can be removed, they look unusual and are screws and sometimes are in a different color as well! The orientation really depends on where your I/O panel is. This is essential as it has your USB, Ethernet and more. You fit the I/O shield first in your case and then line up the motherboard to the ports in the case. Just make sure to peel the plastic off first.
The next step is purely dependent on whether or not you are using a graphics card. If you don’t have a dedicated GPU then you can skip this step! Most cards these days use what is known as a PCI-Express slot. This is a long thin connector which is on the motherboard below the processor. You’ll want to use the top PCIe slot. Now, before slotting the graphics card in, there will be a backplate in your case at the back that needs to be removed, this is where the graphics card connection is. Depending on your graphics card, you will have to remove one or two backplates. For this, you have to take out thumbscrews, place the graphics card in the slot and reinsert them.
If your graphics card needs more power than the PCIe slot can provide then, you will find a power connector facing outwards, it would be square plastic pins that are either in eight or six. The PCIe slots are also where you might attach other components such as a wireless card or sound and video capture card (such as an Elgato) and is the same as the GPU.
Next is storage! If you’re using the M.2 SSD we’ve covered how to do that in the CPU section but if you have additional drives or are using only SSD or HDD drives, then you will find drive bays in the case. Depending on what type of storage device you’re using, the drive bays will differ in size, the first one is a 3.5 inch which is usually for Hard Disk Drives as they are the biggest whereas SSD’s are 2.5-inch size.
There might be a mount of cage with screw holes that align with the hard drives. It’s as simple as slotting it into the mount on the cage, and simply align the holes for the screw but ensure that the data connectors are facing towards the motherboard. If it’s an SSD, it will either require an adapter so it can be secure in the 3.5 inch bay or your case will have a slot for the drive. Both hard drives require power and data but they will be in the shape of an L so you won’t mess up plugging it into the wrong slot.
One of the last steps is the power supply. This also varies if your power supply is fully modular then, you have no cables attached whereas partially modular only has the primary motherboard power cables, hardwired or not modular which is everything hardwired! Check your case, it may have the option to face the power supply up or down, there would be a big fan on the top of your power supply. If your case has a vent at the bottom, you can face the power supply downwards so cool air is pulled from the bottom but if you’re putting it on a carpet or your case doesn’t have a vent at the bottom then you can face the power supply fan up.
To put it in the case, some cases might have a mounting bracket that needs to be screwed in the power supply which simply slides in and you use the screws that came either with the power supply or the case. Then, screw it tight and use the thumbscrews of the case to secure the mounting bracket. If your power supply is a modular one then it’s better to attach the necessary cables first before slotting it in.
Now comes powering everything, you can usually check the manuals to see where what goes because they vary but the best part is that everything has its place. The general idea is your hard drive requires power from an L-shaped SATA connector (unless it’s PCIe), your graphics card will need power and these will be in a six or eight pin. They are easy to spot and fit on the interior of the card in a single orientation.
The CPU cooler also requires power, it will be a little wire in three or four sockets which connects to a four pin on the motherboard. Your case will have slots for the wires to pass through and be hidden in the back which is for cable management. The main cable is the 24 pin ATX power cable which slots into the 24 pin in the motherboard. Make sure to remember to plug in the case connections such as power and I/O into the motherboard as well. They are labelled for your convenience.
That should be it! Now before closing everything its best to turn it on and check if everything is working and it’s booting into the bios. Switch on the power supply and press the 'on' button. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t turn on the first time because it happens. This is why we go check the connections again but if boots to the OS then, congratulations! You have officially built your first PC! Now install your OS and enjoy!