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Building a Computer Answered

So, in continuing my series of stupid newbie computer questions, I present: Building Your Own Computer!

-The Computer-
As you've heard, I first had a computer that messed up, then I took it to the computer dudes, and they said it was completely FUBAR, then I asked how I should salvage it. Now, after laying my eyes on the beautiful Linux-running $72 Computer, I said to myself that I should make one...

-What I Have-
I stripped my computer tonight, and I came up with a CD drive (doesn't burn, just reads), Floppy drive, hard drive, power supply (how the heck do I understand all those wires?), nice looking heatsink with matching fan, and various other parts from the Windows 98 computer.

-The Problems-
-I checked the links provided at the link above, and the prices had either raised, the item is out of stock, or the item had vanished completely...
-I would like to buy a minimum of parts because I am in debt with my parents, and being 13, I don't have a job to pay them off.
-I would like to run Linux, as it is one of the coolest things I've found recently.
-I do know that the link above is thumb-drive booted, and I would like to avoid that, but no biggie if I can't.
-I also don't know that much about computers, so I want to keep the computer sweet and simple.
-The components that I salvaged might not work with the new components (I.E. Motherboard)
-Maybe more.

-It will be cheap.
-Case mods should be easy.
-Mistakes dont cost much.
-Linux is free.
-Linux looks very nice.
-It shouldn't need much RAM to run (Am I correct here?), so I can run more complex programs without it costing me.
-I have extra parts from the old Win98 computer that died.
-Probably more, but this is all I got right now...
First post
Second post
I am saying this right now- I suck at understanding computers, and if possible, comment to me like you would your 93 year old grandpa.


my computor says disk boot failure insert disk and press enter wtf!!!?

its running 98, but he said it has a 2000 sticker on it (i think, i could be very wrong though), so im thinkings its probably an IDE drive. however, it is getting harder to find motherboards with enough IDE slots for a hard drive and optical drive(s).

yeah, the reason I posted the link to those prices is that, unless it contains vital data, sometimes it is more trouble than it is worth. I remember my first HD, it had 10 whole MEG on it LOL my 8088, sigh

i wish i had known enough at my first computer to have known the specs for it. all i can remember is that it ran dos, and was built before 1987... oh yeah, it could run windows 3.1. ah yes, hot dog stand... a lovely color scheme for a 5 year old. his hard drive does contain alot of music he said, but he would still have to put it into another computer to pull the data off first...

Well, the music was copied there from another one, so it isn't my only copy of it, and therefore not a big deal if I lose it. My dad has a computer at work that runs on Windows 3.1...Still works, and is their only computer there.

eeeewww, I hated Windows before WIN95.....I purposely held onto Norton Commander for that very reason.

1987 ? It could be a 386 The company and serial number on the HD is probably searchable online to discover what it is.

we got rid of the computer about 10 years or so ago... i wouldnt even begin to know where in the world (literally) it may be.

You said you do still have the HD, right? If it is a Seagate or other popular brand of the time, it shouldn't be hard to find online (unless someone removed the label ;-) ).

nope, i dont have the hard drive. i kind of wish i did though, just to have it...

Oh, well, if you still have memory chips from it, they are probably obsolete

10mbs? Wow, that's small... Yeah...I could buy one, but I'd like to recycle as much of it as I can, because I'm cheap, and the components are practically new.

Hey, at the time, I was working with a Co-CO II (no HD, only floppies) and a Commodore 64 (no HD either), so 10 MB looked like it was the universe (this is also back when space was tight so programmers were not so sloppy). That 8088 was a sweet machine in comparison...

You were close. The sticker said Windows 98, but I think that the computer booted up using 2000. Like I said before, I'm almost positive that it is an IDE drive, because it uses that ribbon cable thing. I could be hopelessly wrong, though.

The computer is a Win98, as I said, but it is in very good shape, and all of the parts looks brand new. I'm assuming by IDE you mean it uses that ribbon cable with all those pins. If so, then yes, it is a IDE hard drive. I did a quick google search, on the difference between a internal and external HD, and apparently one uses a USB cable, and the other a IDE ribbon cable. I usually would look on eBay, but it's right before Christmas, and I don't have the money for one. My parents are usually supportive of my building activities, and would probably chip in if I were to build one...although they would probably buy a new one if it was cheap... Thanks for the help. I would avoid asking such newbie questions here, but I know everyone here, and I know I'll get top-notch answers.

and I know I'll get top-notch answers

Or at least top notch attempts to answer :-) along with some humor....for instance you said the computer was not in a good "shape", so what shape is it in? Ovoid ? LOL sorry, that was uncalled for.....

Ha, yeah, but I'm getting bored around here, and want to build something I can use for once...I guess I could cast a metal lathe, but we don't have the room.

. A 500MHz/128MB machine is not going to be very useful, except for small projects.
. If you want to experiment with building your own system, I'd suggest finding a modern mobo to stick in your case. I've had good luck buying parts from TigerDirect (no connection, just a happy customer). Your HDD, CD-ROM, and floppy drive should all work with the new mobo. You may need to upgrade your power supply.
. PS: most of the connectors on the PS are "unique" and polarized, so it's _almost_ impossible to plug them into the wrong spot or backwards.

i found a computer like that with an 80gb SATA hard drive, i cleared it out completely its now working happily in my computer as a second hard drive

Smaller older machines are ok for things like surveillance monitoring and such; home security systems etc.

its not that you dont have a job, there is those stupid child labor laws that doesnt allow us to get any money....living in the middle of nowhere sucks

Alright, i'm going to put this in simple words (i hope) When the computer guy said that your computer is FUBAR, there could only be 3 possibilities: 1) the motherboard (thats the large circuit board) is dead 2) or your processor is dead, thats the thing under the heat sink. 3) your RAMs are dead, and he don't have the replacements for them (older EDO, NV, SD Rams) The first two reasons are more probable. So first you will need to find a motherboard and a processor that fits. Here are the extras you can salvage from your old computer: 1) graphic card - slotted horizontally either onto a brown colored AVG slot, or white colored PCI slot. Where you plug the monitor. 2) the power supply - extract the power supply. If the power supply have a thick black wire that goes straight onto the front panel's ON/OFF switch, that means you have an AT power supply + mboard. Otherwise it's an ATX. Get it, here's a good chance the power supply is still alive. 3) Get the modem and network card (if any) - normally network cards are not built onto the motherboard on older computers, it should on the white PCI slots. Modem normally slotted onto the shorter (around 2") brown/black slot. 4) The RAMs - locate the word DIMM1 on your motherboard. The words are very very small, so look care fully. The slot next to the word should be where the RAM chips is/are. Extract it and check the stickers on the RAMs. See whether it's a PC-133 or PC-100, or something else. 5) Sound card - the place where you plug your speakers. If it's integrated onto the mother board then it cant be extracted. Depending on what you are able to extract and their specifications, you need to first buy a motherboard and make sure the specifications match: 1) The processor it can take - each mobo have a specific type and speed range of processor it can take, it will be stated clearly. You may need to buy a matching processor. 2) ATX or AT? - depends on the old power supply and casing. 3) RAM - make sure the RAM matches the RAM you've extracted. Note, if your RAM says PC-133, it can be used without problem with mobo that says PC-100. Not the other way round. 4) Integrated sound? - if yes then no need to purchase a sound card. If no then you'll need to buy one (or use the one you've extracted, if any) 5) VGA graphic - see whether it's 2X or 4X., integrated or not. If integrated, you wont need to bother using your extracted graphic card. If not, take note, a 4X graphic card can be used on a 2X mobo, not the other way round. 6) HDD - You can use the old HDD. Do note the maximum size you mobo can handle. If you plan to use today's hard drive (say a 40GB or 80GB) with your mobo, set the jumper on the back of the HDD to "cap limit". Only when you've gotten all the stuff, you can start thinking of the assembly. Then you can start to look for drivers, this will be the hard part. Until then, all the best.

You know what? I don't trust our local computer people. A while ago we took our computer that had been struck by lightening to him to fix it, and he said that "everything" was messed up. How? I don't know, because he got some of it working. Then, we assumed we would get it back nearly the same as we left it, but he gave it back, in a new case with lights and Plexi, and with a bunch of our information edited out! APPARENTLY he was "cleaning out" the HDD...bull. We didn't even need the lights, because it was going in a cabinet! He didn't even ask us!
THEN, I was looking at the CPU fan today, and guess what? He didn't even plug it back in!

Jeeze...people make me mad sometimes...
Sorry for the rant.

He said that he replaced both the memory and the processor, and it still didin't boot up, so he said it was the motherboard.
I just did a google search, andI came up with this.
Will that work? Looks like it to me.

1)I didn't see one. It (the plug) seems to be hooked straight into the mobo.
2)It is ATX. It doesn't have a cord going straight to the supply.
Then it has a list of output powers.
There is more if you need it.

3)Hmmm...it does have one, that plugs into the PCI slot, and connects to the phone line. Other than that, none others.
I was thinking...could I use a wireless router to pick up the connection? If so, would this work?
4)another hmmmm...one RAM thing has one sticker:
and after some searching, I found that it is PC-100.
The other has three, but after some searching I determine that it is this, PC-100.
5)The sound card is integrated.

Do I need to save the ribbon cables from the mobo? There is a bunch.

And, when I'm salvaging the stuff, I need to touch a ground first, right?

1) the one I mentioned came with one.
2)the power supply I have is ATX...and the mobo I linked to uses that. It should work, right?
3)It doesn't say on that link I gave you what RAM it supports...
4)I believe it is integrated onto the mobo...
5)Absolutely no idea...doesn't say on the link I gave what it is....
6)I will probably keep the 6.5mb one I have, until I have the money to upgade it.

Hopefully I can get my parents to buy the mobo for me...they usually support me.

If you are planning to use this mobo then you wont be able to use most of the stuff you salvaged from the old computer:
1) You will need to buy a new set of RAM - DDR-Ram, as your old RAMs won't be compatible.
2) Higher wattage ATX power supply (ie 450-500watt) - your old power supply just won't have enough juice.

This mobo has sound + video + network, integrated, so no extra purchases needed there.
You should be able to add the 802.11g Wireless LAN Card without issues.

Using that same mobo you gave above, here's one way to connect things. There are other options, but I don't think you should go there yet.


Never trust local computer guys, I've fixed a couple of desktops for coworkers who first went to local guys and were told that the machine was dead and unfixable, but that they were having a great sale on new machines. And you know what? One still had the warranty seal on the case, they never even opened it, and the other, there was NOTHING wrong with it, booted right up, they ended up having a faulty power strip.

Ha, really? That's just sad. And I think someone opened the CD drive...the WARRANTY VOID sticker was ripped. And I sure didn't open it...

I'm on the Laptop, and we have another one, that is a desktop. The one I stripped never had the internet.