Introduction: How to Build a Custom PC: the Complete N0ob's Guide to Building a Computer

Picture of How to Build a Custom PC: the Complete N0ob's Guide to Building a Computer

This Instructable will take you through the basic steps of building a computer. What you will need for this is:

~Computer Case
~Power supply (if not included with case)
~Hard Drive
~CD Rom drive/DVD Rom drive/Floppy Drive
~Modem/Ethernet card/Wireless card
~Extra Fans (if you would like)

Any input is welcome!

Please vote for me in the book contest if you enjoyed this Instructable! Thanks!

Step 1: Get Your Stuff

Picture of Get Your Stuff

I usually get most of my stuff online at New Egg, but you can get them at Tiger Direct or any electronics place. (It's a topic for another instructable, so I won't get carried away.)

Another great site for cheap parts, courtesy of mas-retals:

In general:
~Power Supplies
--->Make sure your motherboard is compatible with the processor you choose! (Socket AM2, etc.)
~AMD Processors
~Intel Processors
~Hard Drives
~CD / DVD Drives / Burners
--Make sure that your motherboard supports your drives' data interfaces (Serial ATA< Parallel ATA, or any other type, same with PCI and AGP devices)

Once you get your parts, make sure you also have:

~ Phillip's or flat head screw driver (The size of the screws on the outside of the case)
--This depends on the type of screws in your computer case

~Small head Phillip's/Flat head screw drivers
--For mounting the motherboard/hard drive/DVD rom/CD rom/Floppy drive

~Anti-static gloves
--May be unnecessary, but always be careful when handling delicate computer components, such as the processor.

Step 2: Install Components - Power Supply

Picture of Install Components - Power Supply

This step is for those people whose cases did not have power supplies currently residing in their bare abodes.

First, you must switch the power output to your appropriate voltage. For America and Canada, the voltage is around 110 - 120 VAC at 60 Hz, but for Europe, you would set it to 230 VAC at 50 Hz. If you don't set this correctly, you risk frying your motherboard!

(Thanks to CameronSS and Phesarnion for the input about this!)

There are about four (4) screws you need deal with to screw it into your case. Just make sure that it's going the correct way (check the outside faceplate) and it's pretty much self explanatory from there.

Next, we'll move onto the motherboard.

Step 3: Install Components - Motherboard

Picture of Install Components - Motherboard

The motherboard connects all of the PC together. It is home to the CPU and the interfaces for the disk drives and hard drives.

First, we want to mount the motherboard before we connect any wires or put in the processor. There are most probably four to six screws in the mounting.

After the motherboard is mounted, the next step is to insert the processor. Though it varies with technicalities, all processors generally are locked into place and then the heatsink is put on top of them to, well, remove the heat and prevent the processor from overheating. Instructions for installing both of these components lie inside their boxes, so check there if you need specifics.

Step 4: Inserting the RAM & PCI Components

Picture of Inserting the RAM & PCI Components

To install the RAM (Random Access Memory, the amount of space a computer has to function), simply pull up the two fins and slide it in. Again, it varies from machine to machine, but always be gentle with these parts. They will break. A friend of mine broke his motherboard when trying to force the RAM into its slot.

The PCI components range from Ethernet cards to modems. A wireless card and a TV tuner card are being used in my demonstration. To put these in, you either need to take a cover off of the back (see pictures) or simply screw the card in after it's put in. Once more, be careful with the cards, but also MAKE SURE they are fully inserted.

AGP components are installed just like PCI cards, except in the AGP port. AGP cards are graphics card, while PCI and PCI express cards can be any type of component. You can check your motherboard manual to discern which slots are PCI or PCI express or AGP. Generally there is only one AGP slot.

Step 5: Installing & Connecting the Drives

Picture of Installing & Connecting the Drives

Any 5.25" optical disk drive fits into the 5.25" drive bay, or the front section of the computer case. The hard drive, though, is connected in the lower drive bay (3.5") as opposed to the upper part where most internal drives are located. If you want to use an old school floppy drive, you'll most likely need to secure it in the smaller drive bay as well. The most common form of securing these in place is by using screws on either side of the drive bay.

To do this, you will need both case covers off so you can reach both sides of the drive bay. Simply slide the drive into place, whether it be DVD or CD, line up the screw holes with the holes on the drive bay, and tighten the screws in place. In my demonstration, I only use fours screws per drive.

As for connections, the white connectors with four large holes in it them are the power cables that plug into the optical and hard drives. Also plugging into the hard drives are ATA data cables (either serial, which are the small black cables, or parallel, the older wide cables)

Step 6: Extra Ventilation & Finish

Picture of Extra Ventilation & Finish

In my case, I wanted to make sure my computer was cool enough because there wasn't any fan blowing in cool air/extracting hot air. I picked up a fan at my local Micro Center and screwed it into the holed area on the back of the case. I then hooked it up to a molex connector with the adapter included and was done.

Finally, you can plug in the rest of the power cables to the motherboard. After this, screw up your case, plug in the power, monitor, mouse, and keyboard, and get ready to install an operating system. (My next Instructable).

Step 7: Your Custom Comps!

blckpythn -
'"'i built my first computer a little over a year ago
and im just now upgrading it
i now have 1gig of RAM
an AMD athlon 64-bit x2 4300+ 2.4ghz
EVGA GeForce 8600 256mb
and with the new processor i also got an Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro
~i also have 240 gig hard drive"

hondagofast -
"I built a perfectly good computer with:

A Dell Optiplex GX240 mintower case that had a 250W PS and a motherboard with a 1.6GHz CPU (bought at a garage sale)
1gig of DDR memory
A 120GB Maxtor drive (very old and slow) and a 40GB Seagate for backup
A DVD-ROM (now dead)
A DVD/CD burner (dead, don't buy cheap products people!)
A Creative Soundblaster Audigy
A Nvidia GeForce 4200
A USB 2.0 card
A U.S. Robotics Wireless card

The case I have opens like a clamshell and is easy to work on, it just doesn't have any space for extra fans..."

"I am a bit of a geek overlord myself. My most powerful self constructed computer has 2 quad core xeon processors, 8 gb memory, and 2 tb hardrive(s) 2gb video cache, 12 usb 2.0 ports, 4 dvd dual layer r/w and 2 floppy. It took me 3 years to complete it.


TherealThefirewolves (author)2016-06-09

^^^^ U wot username?

TherealThefirewolves (author)2016-06-09

Im going to use this to biuld my gaming pc this summer!

Also, Mesaynaysayer/, Yes. Linux is great...not for gaming, though.

www139 (author)2015-06-10

We were recently cleaning through a storage unit. I came across what appears to be an old half-built server. It is not completely built so I am looking to finish building it. It is custom built, so there are no stickers or modal numbers that I can see. It has 4x 1gb ram chips. Two hard drives (with room for three more), fans, processor, and dvd drive. I knew how to insert the ram chips but I don't know how to connect all the power cables inside. I'm hoping to find instructions some place. I could use some help. I have done some computer programming, so I know what the parts look like and function to some degree but not enough to put this together. I don't want to risk damaging it since it may be worth a lot more than a 10+year old pc. I don't think there is an operating system loaded, and I'm not sure how to go about that either. Any suggestions?

konichiwah1337 made it! (author)2015-04-19

Hey everyone, I built a PC recently off of this tutorial. Because of this tutorial, I figured out how to do the most basic things in building a computer. The other things, like where to put some of the cables, I resorted to the manuals for (particularly the one for the motherboard.). I want to personally thank the tutorial maker by taking a few photos for him and show him the work I managed to complete. I started this project when I was 14, I turned 15 almost recently. Technically, I built this when I was still 14. Now that's an achievement! Thanks @Tutorial maker and all the other tutorials I found. If I could do it, to the younger people, I know you can too!! Also, this build costed me $2000 in TOTAL, so a protip for me is to have a flexible wager of money. If you go over $2500, you're overspending, trust me.

Sckydome31 (author)2014-08-20

um... im not using ubuntu Linux because i would like to have a gaming computer. For a gaming computer i would use Microsoft Windows 7 or XP. Just Saying

Linux is having a much stronger adoption lately than it has in previous years, especially with the upcoming Steam Machines. Additionally, XP should never be used for anything due to its end of support being 6 months ago.

bmgp778 (author)2014-02-18

The best custom PC building guide ever, The screen shorts and procedures make it so simple to understand by a lay man. I really appreciate it ;) See more about A custom PC Here

nmccloud (author)2012-07-27

No Standoffs? Most PSU's come set at the appropriate voltage.

Goldtalon (author)2012-05-13

Really good information. I read this and I really considered building my own PC. I would've if I didn't find out about I priced the parts that I was going to get compared to what they had and it was only $70 more not including the $20 off promotion they have if you do an unboxing video and put it on YouTube. So for $50 I get a professionally built computer, 4 year warranty, and lifetime technical support.

There is nothing wrong with building your own PC, if you do then that's great for you, but for the money I wanted to put into the PC I honestly felt more comfortable having a professional build it.

CharlieFrancis (author)2011-07-26

wow!!! that's really cool! :D
man, I'm new to all of this stuff and it was actually my math teacher who introduced the class to how much cheaper it is to make your own computer than to spend like $700+ for one that someone else probably spent like 79cents a piece! Could you give me some cool suggestions for places to buy these products?

tinker234 (author)2011-06-11

wow you know there was a article in pc world a wile ago i might use there pc and bulid one

drresearch (author)2010-03-25

I built my own computer around two years ago (counting from 2010) and that's what I am still using. When I built it I had about the latest hardware at that time (Intel Core 2 Duo, 160 GB HDD, 2 GB Ram, etc.), now I discovered that my system is already outdated. This is the problem with computers, once I had to change my motherboard and I couldn't find the same model again. Luckily I found another one which was compatible with my processor, and I didn't have to re-install the os since I use linux (Ubuntu, for those of you who know more about linux). I didn't really build a custom computer since it was the first one I built.

_Scratch_ (author)drresearch2011-04-25

oops.. didnt mean to say "top of the line", meant to quote you saying you used the "latest hardware"

_Scratch_ (author)drresearch2011-04-25

Um... 2008, they had quad cores, most 400$ computers had 4gb of ram and at least 320GB hard drives.... Sorry, not top of the line, even for 2008

Fox-san48 (author)drresearch2010-04-20

Ubuntu rules :D. your comp was outdated, but worked as long as it works and is still reasonibly fast your ok lol, in my books anyway

drresearch (author)Fox-san482010-04-21

Well, Linux has the good thing that it doesn't have (almost) any driver problems, so I could change my motherboard with no problem, and the computer isn't really too old (2 years), but what I mean is that everything evolves really fast!

hitachi8 (author)drresearch2010-07-24

You have more Driver/Software problem with Linux than with windows . i repair computer all day long and i never had any problem with windows , the problem with linux is that some driver dont even exist for some hardware . ohh , and linux is useless if you want to play game , and no i never had any problem with virus and i am using windows since windows 3.0.

octopuscabbage (author)hitachi82010-11-11

Incorrect on both facts: Linux has more drivers then windows, and with WINE and play on linux you can run any game you want.

Exactly! And Linux has MUCH better plug and play support, when I bought my printer I just had to plug it in and it worked, no driver installation.

hitachi8 (author)drresearch2010-11-12

yeah , it is why i was never able to connect on the internet with my Wifi key , even with the help of all your "community".

octopuscabbage (author)hitachi82010-11-12

It's not linux's fault you can't figure things out O.o

hitachi8 (author)octopuscabbage2010-11-12

Try to run GTA 4 on Wine .
see you later in 5years . Haha .

octopuscabbage (author)hitachi82010-11-12

GTA 4 is a terribly written game, thats not linux's fault. I have a hard time running it on my gaming rig because it's so awfully coded.

drresearch (author)hitachi82010-07-24

Once I installed windows on my pc and I had to install audio and ethernet drivers before I could get those working, on Linux I just installed the OS and EVERY piece of hardware worked immediately. Then once I added a PCI ethernet card and I just had to plug it in, switch on the computer and configure the network, no driver installation. Also, try installing windows on a pc, then pull out the hard drive and put it in another computer with different hardware, it will not work as well or at all. With Linux I can practically install it on a USB drive and boot from it on any computer. Yeah, there are some pieces of hardware that don't have a driver for linux, that I have to admit. I don't say that you should have problems with windows, but you do have to install new drivers for almost every piece of hardware you add. It is true that linux is not good for playing games (even though some games DO run on linux), but after all windows sucks in security, not only regarding viruses. I don't know how you managed to never have problems with viruses, I did find some viruses once on my computer when I used windows. Anyway, Linux guys use Linux, Windows guys use Windows, and we can stop arguing about this.

Fox-san48 (author)drresearch2010-05-03

yeh really fast, i got my Compaq CQ60 when it was like top of the range, and its out of date already, its hard to keep up lol, but im not gonna upgrade until i need too, its a waste of money just keeping up just to have the best, i mean i love computers and all, but wasting money like that isnt my sort of thing really, but everyone is different

drresearch (author)Fox-san482010-11-12

I also wound not upgrade my computer when the old hardware still works, in this case the mainboard had stopped working, though (no choice!).

_Scratch_ (author)2011-04-25

I took my old Acer aspire, and added a nzxt guardian 921 RB case, about 5 new fans, a 575W PSU, a top of the line Spire aftermarket tower cpu heatsink, and a Nvidia GTS 450 GPU. It also has 4gb of ddr 2 ram, and a AMD athlon 64 x2 5000+ dual core CPU, which never gets above 23*C even under a max load

Ebj8 (author)2011-03-27

Wow this looks really cool! I just have a few questions. First off can I build this out of an old desktop (around the year 2000 or 2001) and two laptops (one is a 1995 and the other is a 1998.) They're all just taking up space, but I don't like to throw things away. thanks

killersquirel11 (author)2011-03-15

This list is a fairly complete ranking of the good, the bad, and the ugly of PSUs

knex_ftw (author)2011-02-16

This website has some decent graphics cards (and a LOT of other geeky stuff) for REALLY cheap. Very useful and very legit.

Hayden102 (author)2010-11-22

i want to overclock my intel celeron dual core but there are no options in the bios to even try it, i even tryed my AMD sempron single core which i can't overclock either, there must be somthing wrong, anyone have some tips>

mesaynaysayer (author)2007-10-07

This is a very nice instructable, i do like people helping others with their computers, and great pictures and clear construction. I am a bit of a geek overlord myself. My most powerful self constructed computer has 2 quad core xeon processors, 8 gb memory, and 2 tb hardrive(s) 2gb video cache, 12 usb 2.0 ports, 4 dvd dual layer r/w and 2 floppy. It took me 3 years to complete it. LINUX RULES!!!!!!

Muscelz (author)mesaynaysayer2009-02-05

what the hell!!?? 3 years to complete it! it takes 1hour 2 put a pc togetha including OS and etc, and your not to good on telling ur specs to aye, why the hell would we need to know how many USB ports u hav??? or a dvd drive? why? and 8gb of ram? what speed? ddr1 400 ir 266 , ddr2 533 or 667 or 800, ,ddr3 1.8 -6ghz? and 2gb of video cache? what the hell? its called a apature size, and what wher your cards? no single card has 2gb or ram? you would of had to hav cards with 1gig of ram on each, what wer you running? there would have to be 2cards in sli my setup Intel Core i7 965 @ 4ghz (45oC idle "liquid") ASUS Rampage II Extreme Motherboard (I7) Gainward Radeon 4870 X2 Rampage700 GS GLH Edition x2 OCZ DDR3 PC3-15000 Reaper 4x2gb 8gb total @2ghz Thermaltake Sword Aluminium Liquid Cooled Case Thermaltake Toughpower 1.2Kw Modular

octopuscabbage (author)Muscelz2010-11-11

It's called building a computer over time...obviously he didn't sit there staring at it for 3 years. And why would we need to know anything about his computer? and why are you questioning 8gb of ram, thats fairly straightforward. And because you just complained about him listing his usb ports why would you want him to list his ram speed? Both excessive things. And no, incorrect it is NOT called apature size, every store and every person ever will call it cache. And they do make 2gb cards. has 4gb.

dungeon runner (author)Muscelz2010-03-23

Calm down. He probably couldn't afford all of the parts at once (which is reasonable considering the impressive hardware lineup). So what if it took him a while to build it? What do you care?

technick29 (author)mesaynaysayer2007-10-07

Thanks! Is a "+" in order? :D That's a pretty INSANE setup. Mind if I add it to the custom computers step? What kind of Linux do you run? I'm currently in between OS's because opensuse and fedora's xwindow system died on me (silly nvidia drivers...)

Muscelz (author)technick292009-02-05

nvida drivers arnt hard to get your hands on, you can download pretty much any driver for any NVIDIA card out GO KDE 4.2!!!!! i run it sandboxed for my amusement

Derin (author)technick292008-09-14

use pardus!I recommend it since it's the first Turkish production os,its awesome,and it has Turkish AND english.

technick29 (author)mesaynaysayer2008-09-16

Wow, that's ridiculous man.

jeymeowmix (author)mesaynaysayer2008-09-15


yourcat (author)mesaynaysayer2008-05-23

How much did your's cost?

my word thats a beast.

All that, then floppy drives? May I ask why?

JAK101 (author)2009-05-11

Can you please, technick29, give me a list of parts, to build a computer from scratch, I see that you were having some problems with the components you listed in you example. I have a budget of 400 dollars, do you think that its too little, should I use more money, I'm a cheap person, but I want a computer that lasts. Please Help!

octopuscabbage (author)JAK1012010-11-11 - Just go there and find parts that are onsale or comboed. I saved over $700 versus pre assembled computers.

dungeon runner (author)JAK1012010-03-23

If you buy smartly, that's about three times more than enough.

cotton (author)2007-12-06

i hate amd but good job and can youtell me how to overclock any amd so if i try amd i can overclock

octopuscabbage (author)cotton2010-11-11

Why do u hate amd? Im an intel user and i don't /hate/ amd. And just go into bios and start messing with numbers, or try google. The first idea seems more practical.

dungeon runner (author)cotton2010-03-23

I wouldn't recommend it. Overclocking is extremely dangerous if you don't know what you're doing, potentially destroying your system or worse. If you want more power then just buy a better processor from eBay (the computer builder's bestest friend).