Why would someone go out and buy a computer from a manufaturer like Dell or Gateway, when they could build a more powerful computer for less money? The answer, they do not know how to build it.
This may sound like a complicated process, but in all actuality, it is very simple.
This guide will help you build your very own computer.
I want to appologize in advance for the resolution of the pictures. I hope they are still easy to understand.
DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for any damage done to hardware during installation.
I also do not want to be contacted about computer problems. Go to your local repair shop (NOT GEEK SQUAD OR FIREDOG) and get it fixed. If the computer that is having problems was the one that you built (or tried to) then I will help. I just don't want a bunch of people who are asking how to fix unrelated issues.
I hope you enjoy building your computer. I did. In fact I'm using the computer pictured right now.
For those of you who think this is too hard or don't have the time to build a custom PC, I have set up a website that will allow you to choose the parts you want and I will set it up and mail it to you. The address is *EDIT, This site is no longer available, sorry*
If you want to build a laptop computer, check out my Instructable on that
Step 1: Get Parts!
This is the most expensive step. This is where you go and buy all the stuff for your computer. The thing about computers, is that you can't just keep adding parts and making it better until it works well. You need to buy all of your parts at the same time. You can upgrade those parts afterwords though.
In this instructable I will be building a very high performance computer. This is not nessesary at all.
I like to use Newegg.com because you can find some really cheap but quality items there.
The computer used in the demonstration:
Jetway 775GT1-LOGE Motherboard
4x WINTEC AMPO 1GB DDR2 Memory
2x eVGA GeForge 7300GT
500 Watt Power Supply
Intel Pentium D Processor 3.0GHz (Dual Core)
Genaric Ethernet Card
Seagate Barracuda 160GB SATA Hard Drive
2x Seagate Barracuda 80GB IDE Hard Drive
Samsung Lightscribe IDE DVD Burner
IDE Zip Disk Drive
Cooler Master Case - Not exactly, but it is screwless like mine.
Nice computer that is simular to the displayed one:
JetWay J775GT2-LOG Motherboard
2x WINTEC AMPO 1GB DDR2 Memory
eVGA GeForge 7300GT (buy 1 for good power and 2 for sweet power)
Seagate Barracuda 160GB SATA Hard Drive
ASUS DVD Lightscribe Burner
Intel Pentium D Processor 3.0GHz (Dual Core)
500 Watt Power Supply
This computer costs about $395 and is way better than anything Dell will sell.
Step 2: Installing the I/O Plate
The very first step is to install the I/O plate into the case. The I/O plate is the little piece of metal with a bunch of different shaped holes in it. It will come with the motherboard usually.
Open the case.
The I/O plate snaps in from the inside. All you need to do is push it into the rectangular hole and make sure all sides are firmly in place.
Step 3: Installing the Power Supply
Take the power supply (the big box with all the wires sticking out) and put it in the very top of the case where there is a hole for the fan and plug out the back. There are usually 4 screws to mount the power supply to the back of the case. Move the wires off to the side (ie. outside the case) because we won't need it until one of the last steps.
Step 4: Preparing the Case for the Motherboard
The case will usually come with a bunch of screws. In the Cooler Master cases (and many/most other cases) they will come with strange shaped ones that allow you to screw another screw into the top of them. You will need some kind of wrench to install them.
Take your motherboard out and line it up with where it will go in the case (with the ports on the back lining up with the holes in the I/O plate). Find the holes in the motherboard and put one of the strange screws under where a hole would be on the case. Screw it down and repeat for all the holes on the motherboard. If you do not have enough screws, make sure the outside of the motherboard is supported by screws and try to get as many in the middle as possible after that.
Step 5: Installing the Motherboard
BEFORE DOING THIS STEP MAKE SURE YOU ARE EITHER GROUNDED OR HAVE TOUCHED THE CASE WITH THE POWER SUPPLY PLUGGED IT. DO NOT CONTINUE THIS INSTRUCTABLE ON CARPETING OR OTHER FABRIC! STATIC IS A VERY BIG PROBLEM TO MOTHERBOARDS.
I am doing this on my bed, but I am also grounded and am not letting the circuitry touch the fabric.
Be very carful with the motherboard as it is very sensitive. DO NOT PICK IT UP BY THE HEATSINK ON IT (the piece of metal with a bunch of fins sticking up).
Place the motherboard in the case and push the ports out the back (through the I/O plate). The I/O plate may need some holes to be poked open.
Make sure that the holes in the motherboard line up with the screws underneath and take the regular looking screws (that usually come with the case) and screw the motherboard down. Make sure it is tight but do not use power tools or excesive force. You do not want to crack it.
Step 6: Installing the Memory
Next, the memory needs to be installed on our motherboard. Memory will look like a long rectangular circuit board with a bunch of black squares on top. It may have a heatsink (the memory in the links on the materials page does). The heatsink will make it look like a long rectangular piece of metal with a little circuitry sticking out of the bottom.
These will go in only one way on the motherboard. Refer to the picture to see what the slots might look like. Some motherboards have 2 slots, and some have 4. In rare cases, I have seen some with 3 slots. The motherboard pictured has 4 slots, but the motherboard in the recommended materials (second list) has only 2. If you can not find the memory slots on your motherboard, refer to the motherboards manual or quick start guide that came with it. The manuals will become your best friend in this process.
When installing memory, make sure the whole chip is lined up and that the notch in it is lined up with the notch on the slot. Push it straight down and make sure the clips on both sides push themselves in. When the clips go in, the memory is installed all the way.
If your motherboard has 4 slots, use the 1st and 3rd slots for 2 sticks of memory. If using only 1 stick of memory use the first slot (for all motherboards). If using 3 sticks, use 1st, 2nd and 3rd slots. If using 4 sticks, use all of the slots.
Step 7: Installing the Processor
The processor is the piece of your computer that lets you use your computer. Therefore, it is very sensative and expensive. In other words, be carful. Take the same precautions as the motherboard (not that you shouldn't for everything else).
On your motherboard you will find a small metal square (Intel Pentium 4 and newer processors [not AMD processors]). There will be a small bar next to it. Pop that bar away from the square and up. This will loosen the metal square. Move the sqare on its hinge to an upright position and take out the plastic piece that is in it. Rotate the processor so that the notches on the processor line up with the notches in the open slot (part touching motherboard and not connected with hinge). Put the processor straight down on top of it and make sure it is place. If you did not put it in place the first time, PICK IT UP, do not slide it around, and put it back down.
Make sure the bar is still up and close the square. Push the bar back into it's original position.
For other processor types check the motherboard or processor manual. They should have a pictured set of instructions on how to install the processor. The above instructions will work for the recommended setup.
Step 8: Installing the Processor's Heatsink
This is an important step because it keeps your processor cool. Without the heatsink, your computer would litterally overheat in about 5 seconds. Processors get very hot, and can get damaged without the proper cooling. The processors box should come with a heatsink and fan. The instructions are hard to describe for the heatsink, and I can't supply pictures (I am using water cooling instead). I suggest you look at the manual for the processor and/or the motherboard. It's pretty easy to do.
1. All heatsinks and cooling systems need thermal paste to conduct heat properly from the processor to the cooling system.
2. There are 4 types of thermal paste. Silver, ceramic, silicon and thermal pads. If using the stock heatsink, leave the thermal pad in tact. If using a different cooling methood, use silver or ceramic. Be careful with silver because it conducts electricity. Don't get it on any circuitry. Silicon is cheep and works well. If you can't find silver or ceramic, then buy the silicon.
3. Make sure it is installed correctly. Heatsinks should be really tight against the processor.
4. Make sure the fan is plugged into the fan slot. It will be a 3 or 4 pin connecter that can go on only one way.
Step 9: Wiring the Front Panel Buttons, USB and Audio
This is another step where you will need to rely almost exclusively on the motherboard and case manuals.
Cases usually have 2 buttons (Power and Reset) and 2 LEDs (Power and HDD). Looking in the motherboards manual you should be able to tell where the wires leading from the buttons and LEDs go. The colored wire is usually the positive and the white or black wire is usually the negative.
Most cases usually have a headphone and a microphone jack in the front also. This is called the AC'97 panel. You should be able to find instructions on where the wires go in the manual. There is a wiring map below for the standard AC'97 panel. Newer motherboards will sometimes list this as Front Audio and HD Audio too.
Cases generally have USB on the front too. This one is easy. The motherboard will have 2 places for it to fit. There is only one way for it to fit, and it doesn't matter which one. Check the manual if you can't find it.
The system speaker should be somewhere near the buttons and LEDs. This is not required for any real opperation, except telling you that something is messed up in your computer.
Step 10: Mounting Hard Drives, Floppies, and Optical Drives
This is a pretty simple step.
Take the front off of the case. Slide the optical drive (DVD burner/CD drive) in from the front. Screw into place with provided screws and mounting holes.
Slide the floppy drive (if you bought one) into the smaller slot below all the big slots. Again screw into place.
Slide hard drives into the 3.25" slots (under the floppy) from the inside. Once again, screw into place.
The display case uses a "screwless" system. This is pretty much the same, but looks a little different.
Step 11: Connecting Hard Drives, Floppies and Optical Drives
Your motherboard should have come with a grey or black ribbon and a thin black or red cable.
The ribbon is an IDE ribbon and the cable is a SATA cable. (See pictures below)
Connect the IDE ribbon to the optical drive (CD Drive) by pushing it straight into the slot that it fits on it. Use the top plug on the ribbon if there are more than 2 on it. Connect the other end of the ribbon to the same looking slot on the motherboard. There should be only one way for this to fit.
A floppy ribbon is installed exactly the same as above, but uses a slightly smaller jack.
Hard drives can come in either IDE or SATA. The recommended one is a SATA. If it is IDE follow the instructions for an optical drive. If using a SATA drive connect the cable to the hard drive, and the other end to the motherboard. See pictures for better idea of where everything goes.
Step 12: Installing Additional Cards
This is where we will install graphics cards and other cards like internet and dial-up modems.
These are pretty easy. Just push them into the slots they fit in, and screw down the one screw near the back of the case.
The graphics cards go in the PCI-Ex8 or PCI-Ex16. (See picture) If you have only one graphics card, put it in the middle PCI-E slot (PCI-Ex16). If you have 2 graphics cards, put them in the first and third slots. Then connect them with the SLI bridge that came with the motherboard.
The ethernet (broadband internet) card will go in either the PCI or the PCI-Ex1 slot.
Dial-up modems almost always go in the PCI slot.
[PCI-Ex8 and PCI-Ex16 will look exactly the same. If there are 3 slots, the middle one is PCI-Ex16]
Step 13: Power!!!
Now we finally get to plug the whole thing in.
There are 5 power connecters we will use:
-Molex (for optical drives, some hard drives and some motherboards)
The motherboard main will come in a 20 or 24 pin setup. The cable coming from the power supply will let you take off 4 pins to use in a 20 pin motherboard. Plug this one onto the motherboard first (check pictures for reference).
The motherboard 12v will come in a 4 or 8 pin connector. Again the power supply cable will allow you to take off 4 pins if nessesary. Both the main and the 12v will only go in one way.
The molex connector (4 pins in a flat and half round plug) will be used for the most applications. Most optical drives and IDE hard drives will use it. The motherboard might use one too. Just plug them in where ever you see a connecter for one. There is only one way to place them.
The SATA power is used only by SATA devices. They are very flat. Just plug them into your hard drive.
If your case fan is not yet plugged into the motherboard or a molex connecter, do so now. It may use a 3 pin fan connector like the processor fan. Use any available 3 pin connectors that look like the processors (pic below)
Step 14: DONE!!!!
You should now be able to plug the power cord into the back of the power supply and hit the power button.
If your screen comes on (assuming you plugged it into the computer) then congratulations.
If you hear beeping (one beep is normal more is not) then check to make sure that the memory, processor and graphics cards are all seated properly. For any other error, contact me via instructables mail.
If I have missed anything, please let me know.
If you do this, I would love to see some of the finished computers. Take a picture and post it.
Step 15: Tips From the Members
- Arctic Silver 5 is a good brand of thermal paste (warning: this is silver and has conductive properties)
-Some video cards require an additional power source. Some power supplies have a 6 pin connector for this
-When installing multiple hard drives, try to leave at least one space between them
-If you go to a local shop to get your computer fixed, be nice and they will treat you as friends and not customers
-Look around. Newegg.com isn't the only seller. Try others, like TigerDirect.com. Just make sure its compatible with your system.
-In motherboards where there is little support under the memory, install the memory before installing the motherboard to reduce stress on the board.
- Here is a nice guide to installing Windows
- Here is a guide to installing the free Ubuntu operating system
-For those looking to install Mac OSX 10.4 download it here install it with this guide and upgrade to 10.4.9 here (not saying that it's legal)
- Here is a nice instructable on water cooling.
Step 16: Other Computers You Can Build
All parts will be from Newegg.com because I like them.
Low end (cheap):
Windows Vista Home Basic
This is exactly the same as the Dell Inspiron 530s ($349) except that the custom one can burn DVDs.
Windows Vista Home Premium
This is exactly the same as the Dell Inspiron 530s ($699)
Windows Vista Home Premium
This is exactly the same as the Dell XPS 720 Red - Epic Power ($2919)