Ever wondered how to build your own computer?
Many people write it off as “too difficult”. This instructable will show you how simple it really is! I will take you through the entire process in plain easy language step-by-step and you will be amazed how easy it really is. Building your own computer is a very satisfying task, you will get exactly the PC you want that will run how you want it to. You may even save some money too, cool right? Getting your own custom PC up and running for the first time can be quite daunting, however this simple to follow process will make you a pro whether you're 12 or 60 years old, or if you're after a hardcore gaming computer, a simple workstation for email and documents or a budding video editor churning out YouTube videos at a rate of knots, you will craft this machine from the ground up to suit your needs. Thanks for using this step by step guide, enjoy!
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Step 1: Getting Started
Building a custom PC is not difficult, but it does take good preparation and the right tools to insure a smooth installation. One of the first things to think about before getting started is what are you going to be using your new computer for primarily?
Type of Machine? Is this machine going to be used as your daily computer to browse the internet, check e-mails, and do some word processing? Are you going to be doing a lot of digital or video editing? Maybe you want a machine that is capable of playing the latest games? Selecting the right hardware from the beginning is a key part of building your new machine, and you really need to have a plan for this. We will discuss in further detail the types of machines that you can build, and the right parts to choose for each one. What is your Budget? You should set a general budget for your custom PC project and try to stick to it. There are many different choices of hardware and you can generally streamline your options to come in under budget. The nice part about building your own computer, is that you can always upgrade and add parts in the future. Maybe you don’t have quite enough money to buy extra memory now, but you definitely can add it in the future for example.
Now let's get to it!
Step 2: Supplies/The Stuff You'll Need
Before jumping straight into how to build a computer, we have to talk about what parts you’re going to need and what computer parts are optional.
First, you’ll need tools to install your new computer parts
I used: SYBA Multimedia - 50 Piece Computer Network Installation Kit
This toolkit allows you to install, maintain, and troubleshoot complex networks. This tool kit accommodates a range of cabling types, termination and connector systems. It includes:
- Fully demagnetized tools offer you full protection of computer hard drive or magnetic media from damage
- LAN Cable Tester
- Tests RJ45, UTP, 10 Base-T, Token Ring, RJ-11/RJ-12 USOC and Coaxial BNC Cable
- Test Cable for Continuity, Short, Open and Check Cable Type
- Separated Remote Units Allow One Person Testing
- Slotted: 5, 6mm
- Philips: PH1, PH2
- Pozi: PZ1, PZ2
- Star: T10, T15, T20
You can purchase the SYBA Multimedia - 50 Piece Computer Network Installation Kit at BestBuy for the low price of just $37.24, just click the link below to buy it now.
One of the trickiest things about buying all the parts is making sure that your memory, CPU, video card, and motherboard will all be compatible with one another. Don’t get overwhelmed.The key is to make sure that everything fits with the motherboard. If you follow the specifications of the motherboard, you can’t go wrong.
Parts list for building a budget-friendly pc computer
You may be building a custom pc computer because you’re on a budget and cannot afford a full computer package, or you may be building a basic computer for a school project. No matter the reason here is a complete list of parts you’ll need to build a basic computer for under $415.
- Computer Case w/ Power Supply included-Ultra XB Mid-Tower V2 Case:$49.99
- Motherboard-GIGABYTE Motherboard:$45.99
- Hard Drive-Western Digital Blue Internal Hard Drive:$52.99
- Computer Processing Unit (CPU)-AMD A6-Series APU A6-7400K:$76.99
- CPU Fan-Thermaltake CPU Cooler:$9.99
- Memory-EVGA GeForce GT 610 Video Card:$44.99
- Keyboard-Insignia™ - USB Keyboard - Black: $9.99
- Mouse- Insignia™ - USB Optical Mouse - Black/Gray: $7.99
- Monitor- AOC - 18.5" LED Monitor - Black: $74.99
Optional Computer Parts and Accessories
Floppy Drive $21.75
Video Card (If there is no on-board video or you are building a gaming machine) $139.99
Sound Card (if there is no onboard sound or you want high quality surround sound) $26.99
Modem (Used for a dial up internet connection if you are not going with Cable or DSL) $68.99
Power Strip (Highly Recommended) $8.49
Step 3: Your Workspace
Selecting the proper workspace for your computer building project is very important. You need enough space to layout all of your parts, and you need good lighting to see what you are doing inside the case.
A large computer desk is a good area to work on, where you can have the parts all to one side. Another solution is a large kitchen table with overhead lights. You want to avoid working on the ground, and especially the carpet because of the threat of static electricity. You will need to have an ESD wrist strap handy and use it at all times when handling your PC parts and building your computer. Once you have selected your workspace, go ahead and layout all of your tools and parts. We are ready to get started building the PC!
Step 4: Preparing the Case
Now that we have our workspace ready to go with our parts and tools laid out, we need to get our case ready to install everything. Most cases are laid out generally the same way, but our example assumes that you are using a standard sized ATX type case. Some cases have a removable tray that the motherboard fits on also, but the holes to install the motherboard will be the same. If these directions don’t match the type of case you have, make sure to consult the documentation that came with your case.
Opening the Case
Open the left side of the case, by removing the two screws in the back that hold the side on. Once the screws are removed, you may need to slide the panel back completely along the rails to remove it. Once you have access to the inside of the case, you will probably see some hardware that has been included, including instructions. You may want to go ahead and open the bag of hardware and have the instructions handy as you follow along.Now is probably the best time to get your wrist strap out and get yourself properly grounded to avoid damage to your parts as we start working.
Follow the installation directions of your wrist strap and continue on below. If you choose to work without a wrist strap, make sure to touch the case every time you start working on the computer, to remove static electricity from your body.
Understanding the Inside of the Case
After taking a look inside the case for the first time, you should see a lot of wires running every which way. The twisted looking wires are used to connect such things are your case speaker, hard drive light, power light, and power switch. There may be an extra set of wires running from the top or the bottom of the case as well that connect to the USB ports on the front of your case if it so equipped.
Install Motherboard Standoffs
Now you will want to get that bag of hardware back out that came with your case, and remove the motherboard standoffs. You will probably also need to get your needle nose pliers ready for screwing them in. The motherboard standoffs are the small screws that have a male and female end to them. This will allow a base for your motherboard to set on, that you can then attach the screws to.
Remove your motherboard from the case and packaging and examine the holes that are present on the motherboard. This is where the screws will go.Examine the holes inside the case, and hold the motherboard inside the case, and figure out where you need to screw the standoffs into the case to match the holes on the motherboard. When you think you have them all in correctly, set the motherboard on top of the standoffs one last time to make sure you didn’t miss any.Make sure you get the standoffs screwed in tightly, as these will serve as the base and support for your motherboard on the case. You can now remove the motherboard, set it aside, and continue below. Install I/O Plate
The I/O plate is the metallic looking piece that fits in the large rectangular space on the back of the case. It should snap into the space with ease, and it will fit around all of the I/O ports on the back of the motherboard when it is installed.
We have successfully prepared the case for installing parts, and now it is time to move on and install the power supply if your case did not come with one already.
Step 5: Installing Power Supply
If the case that you bought already has a power supply installed, then you can skip this step. If not continue on below.
Take the power supply out of the box and make sure to switch to 115v if it is not already. Mount the power supply to the upper back part of the case by inserting the power supply through the side of the case, and then sliding it on the support rails in the back. (NOTE: If your power supply has two fans, make sure the second fan is pointing down.)If you have everything lined up correctly, you should be able to attach the power supply to the case with the four screws in the back that hold it in place.We now have the power source necessary to run everything! The next step is to prepare the motherboard for installation.
Step 6: Installing the Motherboard
Motherboards over time have lost many of the ‘jumpers’ that were required for configuring the board. Most of the setup is done with the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) that is accessible when you first turn on your computer.
It may not even be necessary to do anything on this step, depending on the age and type of your motherboard. You will need to view your motherboard instruction manual, and see if any jumpers need to be set on the motherboard itself for configuration.
Common settings include CPU voltage and bus speed, so read through the directions and make sure that these or anything else does not need to be configured on motherboard before continuing. After you set anything on the motherboard that is necessary, you will want to lay out the number of screws you need to install the motherboard inside the case, and set the motherboard on a flat surface so we can install the CPU and memory.
It is a good idea to keep the motherboard on the anti static bag that it came with to reduce the possibility of damage due to static.
Step 7: CPU and Heatsink Installation
Before installing the CPU, i recommend that you take it out of the packaging and check the pins on the underside of the processor, and make sure that all are straight with no damage. Try to avoid touching the pins with your bare fingers if possible.
If everything looks good continue on below.
Generally, all sockets on a motherboard have a latching feature, which holds the CPU in place.
NOTE: If these instructions do not match your motherboard and CPU type then consult the directions that came with your CPU for proper installation.
Unlatch the socket on the motherboard by pulling the lever up.You should see a small triangle on one corner of the socket. You will need to match this up to the triangle on the processor, so the triangles are oriented and in the same position. Once you have these lined up, simply set the CPU onto the socket and gently move until it falls into place. (You shouldn’t have to force the CPU in the socket, and if it is not going in easily, something is wrong. Check the pins for damage if it is not sliding in correctly)Push the lever back down to secure the CPU into the socket.
Processors run very hot, and it is necessary to attach a cooling device to control the temperature as your computer runs. I recommend following the directions that came with your CPU for specifics on attaching to the top of the CPU, but here are the general directions.
Remove the heatsink/fan from the box, and make sure to remove the plastic cover that is over the bottom. This plastic cover is to keep the thermal paste in place with shipment. You need to remove the plastic cover so the thermal paste can attach to the CPU and improve heat transfer.Place the heatsink squarely on the CPU. Attach the mounting brackets from the heatsink over the tabbed parts of your CPU socket. Many times this is a small square tab sticking out on each side of the socket. There may be a large lever that you need to turn clockwise and push down to finish attaching the heatsink. This insures the heatsink and fan are firmly attached.
Connect CPU Fan to Motherboard
Your motherboard should have a place to connect the wire from the CPU fan to, and it should match the number of pins that the connector has. Please consult your motherboard manual to see where you need to connect your CPU fan to for power. This is an important step, because we do not want to run the computer without proper cooling to the CPU, as it may cause damage. We have just installed the Processor and are ready to continue building your new computer. The next step in the process is memory installation.
Step 8: Installing the Memory
The next step is to get the memory installed and this is a very easy step.
Remove the memory from the packaging and notice the number of pins on the bottom of the memory module. One side will have more pins than the other side, and there will be a large gap in between the two sides of pins.
Look at the memory slots on the motherboard and you can see the same pattern, with one side having more pins than the other.Make sure you match the pattern up on both the memory stick and the motherboard, and place the memory into the slot, and firmly push down.
The memory should ‘snap’ into place, and you want to make sure that the plastic tabs at each end of the memory slot are tightly secure to the sides of the memory.If you have more than one memory module, repeat the above process to install the remainder of the memory.
NOTE: You should not have to really force the memory into the slot, it should go fairly easily. Make sure you have the memory turned the right way, and that the side tabs are not in your way as you push it into the slot.
That was easy huh?
Now that we have the ‘core’ of our components installed on the motherboard, it is time to install the motherboard itself. We installed the CPU and memory before installing the motherboard because it is generally easier to work with the motherboard out of the case. You could however install these things while the motherboard was in the case.
Step 9: Installing the Motherboard
Since we have already prepared the case, installing the motherboard into the case should be fairly easy.
Mount the Motherboard onto the Standoffs
Put the motherboard into the case, and set it onto the open screw holes which have been created by the standoffs. If you matched the pattern before to the case, you should have the same number of openings to insert screws into. (To get the holes to line up perfectly, you may need to push the motherboard back towards where the I/O plate is, as this generally fits snugly)
Insert screws into all of the holes and tighten gently. It is not necessary to overtighten these screws.You should now be looking at your motherboard installed inside the case!
The I/O ports should be sticking out the back and should fit squarely and snug. If you could not install all of the screws or the I/O ports do not fit correctly through the plate, make sure to correct this before you continue. The slots on the motherboard to line up correctly and be straight for add on cards to be easily installed.
We have the motherboard installed, and now it is time to get all of the cables on the inside connected.
Step 10: Connecting Case Cables to the Motherboard
With the motherboard installed, it is time to connect the internal cables that run from the case.
Connect the Cables from the Case
It is difficult to give detailed instructions for this, because every motherboard and case is different. In general, you should have twisted cables for the speaker, case fan, hard drive light, power light, power switch and reset buttons. You may also have cables for USB ports if your case has them built in. Your motherboard manual will have a detailed diagram on where to attach these.
Follow the directions on where these go for a smooth installation. Make sure to attach the wires in the correct orientation, usually each set of wires has a ground so it is pretty easy to figure out which way they go. On the Motherboard suggested, the cables and their plug in spots on the motherboard are labeled.
Step 11: Installing the Video Card
Remove the card from the original packaging and look at the slot type on the card. It should match the slot that is on your motherboard. (AGP and PCI Express are currently the most popular video card types)
Hold the card in the proximity of where it will be installed in the slot. You will need to remove the back cover plate with your screwdriver where the card will stick through the back of the case.Gently install the card into the slot, by pushing until it fits snug into place. There may be an extra tab as part of the slot the wraps around and helps secure the card.
Replace the screw that you removed for the slot, to secure the card to the back of the case.That is it for the video card installation, not too difficult is it? Next we need to attach the power supply connector(s) to our motherboard.
Step 12: Connecting the Power Supply to the Motherboard
This is a very quick step, and will allow us to prepare ourselves for a test to see how smoothly our computer building project is going.
Attach the Power Supply Connector
If you have an ATX style power supply, it will have one large connector, and possibly a smaller square connector that both need to be attached to provide power to the motherboard. They can only be attached on way, and each have a tab that needs to be pressed as you push them into their respective slots. You should hear a ‘click’ and be able to feel when they are secure.
Step 13: Perform a Power Up Test
With the CPU, memory, and video card installed on the motherboard, and our case cables and power supply connected, now is a good time to do a quick power up test to see if we get video or not, and to make sure that the fans are all operating correctly.
Plug in your power strip to the wall and turn it on, and then plug the PC power cable that came with your motherboard or power supply from the surge strip to the back of the power supply.
Make sure the power supply is set to the proper voltage (115v) and that the switch is in the on position. Plug the monitor and keyboard into their respective ports.Make sure your monitor is also plugged into your power strip.
NOTE: Make sure you have the CPU fan connected to the proper place on the motherboard for power. Starting the computer without proper CPU cooling can cause damage to the processor, even if it does not run for very long.
Now comes the moment of truth.
Go ahead and push the power button on the front of the case (it usually is the largest button on the front) and see what happens. If all is well, you should hear the power supply fan, CPU fan and case fan(s) start, a beep from the speaker, and see some video on the monitor for the first time. Here we want to make sure that all fans are operating as they should, and that we have video. If we can see something on the monitor, then it is very likely that the CPU and memory are operating properly and that everything is installed OK. If everything that was just mentioned happens, then shut off the computer and move on to the next step.
Oh No, Nothing is Happening!
If the computer will not power on, then double check your power connections from the power supply to the motherboard and try again. Double check to make sure your power switch cable is installed correctly to the motherboard. If you fail to see video then make sure your monitor is attached correctly. If you hear the fans starting but do not see any video make sure that you attached the second power connector from your power supply to the motherboard. It should be a smaller type connector. If you are still having problems, reverse your steps and reinstall the memory and video card and CPU. If you cannot get the machine to power on at this point, and are sure everything is installed correctly, then it is likely that you have a defective component. You will know if the power supply is defective because the fan will not run when you power it on. Consult with who you bought your parts from for more assistance on troubleshooting and determining which part is defective.
Step 14: Install the Hard Drive
Now that we know our main components are working after doing our quick power up test, we can finish building the computer. We are going to configure all of the drives, and install them in the case.
Installing the Hard Drive
Remove the hard drive from its packaging/anti static bag.Select where you want to place the hard drive within the case, usually there are a couple of spots labeled ‘HDD’ where the hard drive is intended to go. Once you have the drive setup correctly, push it into the slot you want and line up the screw holes with the case. Make sure to leave the back to attach connections open, so you will want this facing to the rear.Attach the four screws to the case and you are set!
Step 15: Connecting External Cables
Now that everything is finished up on the inside of the machine, we need to connect all of our external devices such as the keyboard, mouse, and monitor.
If you still have the monitor connected from before on our quick power up test great!
If not, go ahead and connect it to the video port on the video card now. If you have on board video this will be mixed in with the other I/O ports on the back of the case, and if you installed it separately to a slot it will be farther down in the back.
Connect the keyboard, mouse, and speakers to the matching I/O ports on the back of the case. Many times these are color coded so it makes it easier to connect. They are also labeled next to the ports with a mouse symbol for mouse, keyboard for keyboard etc. Connecting to the internet, is fairly easy, just connect you Ethernet cable to the network port on the back of your computer. It will be the port that looks similar to a phone jack, just slightly larger.With everything attached to the inside and the outside of your new computer, we are ready to try and do a full boot test for the first time. Keep the side off the case so we can make sure everything is functioning properly, and troubleshoot if necessary.
Step 16: Performing Your First Boot Up
The goal of the first boot, is to test out all of our hardware and make sure that there are no problems before we get ready to install the operating system.
Now that everything is connected, go ahead and press the power button to start the machine up. Check and make sure that things are operating like on our previous quick power on test, mainly that the fans are working and we have video. If the computer has been built correctly to this point, you should see a posting of the memory available and then a message stating that a first boot device or OS needs to be installed. Since we have nothing on the new hard drive, this is normal, and shows that the computer is properly seeing the hard drive.
Next we need to go into the BIOS and plug in a Flash Drive that is bootable for the installation of whatever Windows operating system you chose.
Step 17: Booting From the USB
You might want to boot from a USB device, like an external hard drive or a flash drive, for many different reasons.
When you boot from a USB device, what you're actually doing is running your computer with the operating system that's installed on the USB device. When you start your computer normally, you're running with the operating system installed on your hard drive. Follow these easy steps to boot from a flash drive, an external hard drive, or some other bootable USB device. Booting from a USB device usually takes less than 10 to 20 minutes.
How To Boot From a USB Device
Upon startup form your first boot, with the flash drive installed, repeatedly press the ESC button to pull up the BIOS Boot Menu. Change the BIOS boot order so the USB device option is listed first. The BIOS is rarely setup this way by default.If the USB boot option is not first in the boot order, your PC will start "normally" (i.e. boot from your hard drive) without even looking at any boot information that might be on your USB device.
Tip: The BIOS on most computers list the USB boot option as USB or Removable Devices.
Note: After setting your USB device as the first boot device, your computer will check it for boot information each time your PC starts. Leaving your computer configured this way shouldn't cause problems unless you plan on leaving the bootable USB device attached all the time. Attach the USB device to your computer via any available USB port.
Restart your computer. Watch for a Press any key to boot from external device... message.On some bootable devices, you may be prompted with a message to press a key before the computer will boot to the flash drive or other USB device.If you do nothing, your computer will check for boot information on the next boot device in the list in BIOS which will probably be your hard drive.
Your computer should now boot from the flash drive or USB based external hard drive.Note: What happens now depends on what the bootable USB device was intended for. If you're booting to Windows 10 or Windows 8 installation files on a flash drive, the operating system setup will begin. If you're booting to the DSL version of Linux, it will start. You get the idea.
Step 18: All Done
Congratulations! You have successfully built yourself a new PC computer!
You can now go ahead and put the side back on the case, and attach the screws to the back to hold it in place. The case is designed to direct air flow a certain way and you want to keep the case closed in most situations.
Installing software and learning about your new computer are probably going to be the next steps in your journey. Hopefully everything went smoothly as you built your new computer, if not Google answers all of my questions so try that out!