This will be an instructional guide on how one would build their own, custom personal computer. Though some may think it's simply cheaper and more convenient to buy a prebuilt PC, most users would find it is actually less expensive to put together their own, provided they know how. It's best to spend more money on the parts that you need, while saving money on parts that you don't. Knowing how to build your own PC is a valuable skill, especially if you are looking for it to perform a specific task.
In order to properly put together a PC, you will need the following components.
Case: Where you will be putting everything. Naturally, it's a bit important. Make sure it fits your other components.
Motherboard: The most critical part of the PC, where most of your internal parts will be placed. Should fit motherboard and have proper standoffs and I/O plate.
CPU & Heat Sink: A CPU, preferably new with undamaged pins, as well as a heat sink to cool it, and thermal paste to be placed between the two parts.
Power Supply: Set to the correct voltage, as well. Including all necessary cables.
Hard Drive: Preferably new. Must be compatible with Motherboard.
RAM: Undamaged, and functional.
Toolkit: Should include items such as non-magnetic screwdrivers, screws, anti-static wrist strap, etc.
Fans: Should fit in case, and be completely in tact for full heat prevention.
Speaker: For ensuring the computer is operational when testing power.
Cable Management: Zip ties, Velcro, or anything else to keep cables together within the case.
Step 1: Have Everything You Need!
The Motherboard, important tools, and components that you will be working with. Specifically, the power supply, important cables, and case should be set aside, with the motherboard, video adapter, RAM, hard drive, heat sink, and relevant tools within reach. I also recommend you use an anti-static wrist strap and mat. If the case is near, you can ground it to that! Note that the motherboard should not be in the case yet. Finally, if you do not have the CPU installed, do so now.
In picture 1, is the CPU port and latch. Picture 2 shows a top down view of the port. See that tiny etching on the top right corner? Now in picture 3, see the golden corner? Simply line those two up, and the CPU should slide in no problem. After insertion, please latch it.
Step 2: Install Video Adapter
The first step is to install the video adapter and RAM. The order you do this does not particularly matter, though it's normally easier to install the video adapter first. Make sure the notch in the card is aligned with the one in the AGP port, and press down firmly. Don't be scared of breaking it, it's much stronger than the CPU pins!
Side note: See that protrusion in the third picture, that's standing the adapter up at an angle? That's for connecting it to the case. However, while installing, that can be a be a bit of a headache, as the card can't completely connect to the motherboard. Simply lift the motherboard, or move that edge so it is not on a flat surface.
Step 3: Install RAM
Step 3! Well, more like step 2.5... Anyway, this parts easy, just locate the memory ports! They're easy to identify, normally being close together and including those securing latches on each side. Pull those latches back, align that little notch on the ram with the port, and press it in. The latches should automatically click in when it's installed.
Step 4: Heat Sink and Thermal Paste
See that computer fan strapped on top of a tiny radiator? That's the heat sink, pretty easy to spot. Don't have this installed, don't bother trying to run a computer without it. Well, you could try to substitute it with, say, dry ice, but it's best not to get out of the proven method for your first build.
Okay, let's return to the CPU. On top of it, your going to want to get your thermal paste tube and put a tiny amount on top of it. Should be no larger than a pea. This is where you'll be putting the heat sink, but hold up. There should be a black border around the CPU with little pieces to fit the latches on the heat sink. Make sure it's properly aligned before setting it.
Also, do not forget to plug it in, where it says SYS_FAN.
Step 5: Test Power
Alright, let's test our power supply. This is a bit of a big step, so I'll split it up a bit. Instead of screwing everything into the case and then learning somethings wrong, it's best to do this while the motherboard is still on your table.
First things first, plug the speaker into the the motherboard, right on those pins that say "Speaker." Should be next to the SATA ports. The speaker will be the defining factor to learning that our power supply is working.
Next, check your power supply. Please make sure that the power is switched off ('o' on the switch) and that the voltage is set to 115v. Then, you can plug the power cord in to an outlet. Now, there are a lot of cables on the power supply, but don't let that intimidate. First, grab the 24 pin motherboard connector. As the name implies, it has 24 pins, should be the biggest connector there Just plug it into the corresponding port, near the RAM.
Next, plug in the SATAs. These are easy, they're normally labeled, and their ports look sort of like an L. Right next to the 24 pin in the picture above. Two SATAs should be very close together in the cables, so plug those two in. Finally, plug in the 4 pin ATX 12v in the port above, and the 6/8 pin in it's corresponding port. If you only have six pins, you can still plug in to the 8 pin.
Step 6: Test Power (Continued)
The image of the hard drive is not mine, sadly. Credit to Myce.Com
Now, grab the hard drive, there should be three ports on the bottom. A large and small SATA port, and a PATA power connector. Depending on your power supply, you may have both SATA connectors, but with this one, we only have the larger one, so plug that one in. And, of course, plug the power connector in too.
With all connections done, the computer power can be tested. Flip the switch to 'I' from 'O' on the power supply, and get a screwdriver, preferably flat head. There are a series of pins near the SATA ports, and where you plugged in the speaker. There are marked as F-Panel, SYS_FAN2, etc. There's also a line of pins marked as 'PLED' and 'PW', all of that. You're aiming for the ones indicated PW.
Touch the screwdriver between the two pins, and this should immediately start the computer, with the heat sink fan spinning. Then, after a few seconds, you should hear a single beep. This means everything is in order, and you can start putting everything in the case! It'll probably be less of a hassle to disconnect the motherboard from the power supply, but regardless, it's a bit simple from here on out.
Note: If there is no beep whatsoever, check that the speaker is properly connected. If there is a rapid beeping, there may be a more serious issue. Check if the RAM is properly inserted, that the hard drive is plugged, and that the heat sink is working.
Step 7: Put Parts Into the Case
Now, with everything installed in the Motherboard, and the power confirmed to work, it's time to finish up. Place the motherboard in the case so that the Ethernet, USB, etc ports are aligned with the I/O plate above. This should also align the standoffs. After it's firmly situated, screw it in.
Same with the power supply. Align it, make sure it's as tight against the case as possible, and screw it in.
For this case in particular, the hard drive does not have to be screwed in. The case comes with these black and red plastic pins to secure the hard drive. Just slide it in, put in the pin, and turn it to secure. They are a bit fragile so, be wary of that.
And don't forget your fans. There should be two to screw in, one right near the motherboard, in the grate pictured above, and one towards the front, where you installed the hard drive.
Step 8: Plug Everything in and Close Case
All those connections that you made when testing the power? If you weren't able to get the motherboard in without unplugging them, you're going to have to plug them in now. If you have trouble, refer back to steps 5 & 6. The rest is pretty straight forward, plug in the fans (sys_fan2), hard drive (SATA), etc. The more complicated stuff is the power. Those pins you used to start the computer are where you'll be plugging in your front panel cables. Each should be labeled as their function. For example, "power" into PW, "reset" into RES.
After that, close your case. Screwing closed the case panel is optional with this case, as you can just slide it closed. I don't seal mine because you never know if you have to get back in there.
From here, you're pretty much done! Collect your tools, plug in a keyboard and mouse and enjoy your first custom build!