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A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a PC

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Step-by-Step Guide to Building a PC
Original Posting of Guide was Last Updated on February 12, 2012

This thread is to provide a step-by-step guide to how to build a PC. These are the general steps required in building a PC, which can be performed what sequence you feel best fits your needs.


  • Step One: Choosing your components:
  • Step Two: Prepare your case:
  • Step Three: Install components on motherboard (outside of case):
  • Step Four: Install Motherboard into case:
  • Step Five: Connect System Wires:
  • Step Six: Install Video Card(s):
  • Step Seven: Connect Power Supply:
  • Step Eight: Boot System for First Time:
  • Step Nine: Install Operating System / Drivers:
  • Step Ten: Test System and Have FUN!!



  • Step One: Choosing your components:
    Here are the components I have selected for this build: (First build since I decided to create this guide)


  • Other links to help with deciding on what components to get.




  • Remember from this point forward to ground yourself by touching the metal case before you handle any of your computer’s electronic components, it saves them from possible static discharge which can destroy hardware. Some people find it useful to use a Anti-static wrist band but I leave that to the individual, as I don't find them necessary, as long as you continue to touch the metal of your case.

    Step Two: Prepare your case:
    In this step you want to get your case ready for the install. Others may have different opinions on what should or shouldn’t be done at this stage but these are the steps I undertake when building a PC.
    • Remove both side panels off of the case.
    • Determine how to route your case wires to provide good cable management.

      Ready your case for your motherboard
    • Remove your motherboard from the box and protective covering.
    • Place the motherboard in the case to line up where the standoffs need to be placed.
    • Place the standoffs on the case in the locations matching up with your motherboard


  • Install Power Supply
    I choose to install the PSU during this phase of the process, so I can start planning in my mind how my cable management is going to flow for the build.
    • Remove the PSU from the box.
    • Place the PSU inside of the case and line up the with “PSU hole” on the case. Some cases have the PSU mounted at the top of the case, while others have it mounted at the bottom. For this build, the PSU is mounted at the bottom in the Antec 300
    • Connect the proper screws through the case to securely mount the PSU to the case.
    • Prepare the power supply cables for possible cable management. 1) For cases with room behind the MOBO tray, I recommend routing all of the wires through the opening in the top/bottom, so when you place the components inside the case, you can route them back inside the case for good cable management. 2) For cases with no room behind the MOBO tray, there isn’t much you can to prior with the cables to so just have them all setting outside of the case, as the case is laying on it’s side.



  • Install Hard Drive
    • Remove the HDD from the box/protective covering.
    • Remove HDD cage from case, if applicable.
    • Place drive into the internal 3.5” slot, in the appropriate location on your case. For my build, I’m installing in the lower HDD cage in the Antec 300.
    • Use the appropriate screws to screw the drive into the internal 3.5” slot. This isn’t required if you are using a tool less case or a “hot swaps” internal enclosure.
    • Install the HDD cage back into the case, if applicable.



  • Install CD/DVD Drive
    • Remove the drive from the box/protective covering.
    • Remove the front of the case to gain access to the external 5.25" panels, if applicable
    • Remove the appropriate bezel from the case in the location you want to install the drive.
    • Place drive into the external 5.25" slot, in the appropriate location on your case. For my build, I’m installing in the third slot down from the top in the Antec 300.
    • Use the appropriate screws to screw the drive into the external 5.25" slot. This isn’t required if you are using a tool less case.
    • Install the front of the case back on, if applicable.



  • Install Rear I/O Panel
    • Remove the generic I/O panel that comes to stock with your case. It may take a little more force than you think to remove.
    • Install the Rear I/O panel that comes with your motherboard. Install it so you can read the text when the case is laying flat were the motherboard would be facing up. As with removing, it may take a little more force than you think to install it on to your case.




  • Step Three: Install components on motherboard (outside of case):
    In this step you want to get your motherboard ready by installing components that are best install outside of the case; CPU, CPU Heatsink Fan and Memory.

    Install CPU
    • Remove the CPU from the box/protective covering.
      Intel
    • Unlock the CPU socket arm. Generally there will be a small plastic or metal arm that lies on the side of the CPU socket. To unlock it, just push it out and then pull it up.
    • Remove the CPU socket cover.
    • Align the triangle on the top of the CPU to with the corresponding corner on your motherboard's CPU socket and gently lower the CPU into the socket. Be aware, there should be no pushing or snapping involved in this process. The CPU, if correctly aligned, should simply fall (gently!) into place.
    • Lower and lock the socket arm, which in turn will lock your CPU into your motherboard.
      AMD
    • Unlock the CPU socket arm. Generally there will be a small plastic or metal arm that lies on the side of the CPU socket. To unlock it, just push it out and then pull it up.
    • Align the triangle on the top of the CPU to with the corresponding corner on your motherboard's CPU socket and gently lower the CPU into the socket. Be aware, there should be no pushing or snapping involved in this process. The CPU, if correctly aligned, should simply fall (gently!) into place.
    • Lower and lock the socket arm, which in turn will lock your CPU into your motherboard.



  • Install RAM – Review your motherboard manual for specifics on what slots to use.
    Updated: Moved to recommend installing RAM before installing the heat sink to help with the large heat sinks blocking RAM slots close to the motherboard. (Thanks for the recommendation sevyr)
    • Remove the RAM from the box/protective covering.
    • Push back the memory clips on the specific slots you are installing them on
    • Place the memory into the slots and push down on the RAM sticks. It may take a little more force than you think to push them fully into the slots. The memory clips should lock when you push the RAM in completely.



  • Install Heat Sink – Review your manual for specifics for your heat sink!
    Here is a more detailed guide on installing the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus... Installing the Cooler Master Hyper 212+
    • Remove the heat sink from the box/protective covering.
    • Prepare the heat sink bracket and screws.
    • Install the motherboard mounting bracket on the back of the motherboard.
    • Apply proper amount of thermal compound to the bottom of the CPU/heat sink (remember to remove the protective covering on the heat sink first… :D  ). Most common method is to apply a pea size dot to the center of the CPU. With newer HDT coolers, I recommend using this method… Proximon’s guide on to how to apply thermal past to Heatpipe Direct Touch (HDT) coolers
    • Apply the heat sink to the top of the CPU.
    • Attach the screws to the motherboard mounting bracket to secure the heat sink. Once you have the screws started, slightly twist the heat sink side to side to help with spreading out the thermal compound. I recommend tightening the heat sink down using a criss-cross tightening method (1-3-2-4). You want to repeat the tightening steps 4 or more times until the heat sink is firmly secured to the motherboard. Don't tighten one screw down at a time.
    • Connect the fan(s) to the heat sink, if applicable.
    • Connect the heat sink fan power connector to the appropriate CPU FAN slot on the motherboard.



  • Step Four: Install Motherboard into case:
    Some builders recommend breadboarding their system prior to installing into the case. If you breadboard, skip down to Step Five and perform the remaining steps with the motherboard outside of the case. Breadboarding ensures that you are installing known good parts in the case. Finish up with this step in breadboarding (Thanks for the reminder jsc!!)

    • Line up the motherboard with the Rear I/O panel, so the components are showing through the back side.
    • Line up the motherboard to the standoffs you installed in Step Two of the guide.
    • Place one motherboard screw on each opposite ends of the motherboard to secure the motherboard to your case.
    • Install of the required screws for your motherboard and tighten them down until the board is secured to the case.




  • Step Five: Connect System Wires:
    Case Connectors
    • Review your motherboard manual for specific locations of the case connections; example: Power Switch, Reset Button, Hard Drive Activity, USB Headers, Front Speaker/Mic connectors… etc.
    • Route the wires through the case to provide good cable management.
    • Attach the case connectors to the specific connectors on the motherboard
    • Install the Internal Case Speaker to the motherboard. This may or may not come with the case, so an additional purchase may be required.



  • Hard Drive SATA/IDE Cable
    • Connect the drive cable to the motherboard. Most motherboards will recommend installing the primary hard drive in SATA-0 on your motherboard. It is not a requirement but is a good practice to follow. For IDE cables, install the cable to the motherboard. Most modern motherboards only have one slot for IDE’s, so you don’t have options.
    • Route the cable through the case to provide good cable management.
    • Connect the other end of the cable to the drive.



  • CD/DVD Drive SATA/IDE Cable
    • Connect the drive cable to the motherboard. For IDE cables, install the cable to the motherboard. Most modern motherboards only have one slot for IDE’s, so you don’t have options.
    • Route the cable through the case to provide good cable management.
    • Connect the other end of the cable to the drive.



  • Step Six: Install Video Card(s):
    • Remove the case expansion slot bracket, on the slot the video card is to be installed
    • Install your video card in the first PCI-e x16 slot, which is the one closest to your CPU.
    • Press down on the video card, until it is fully seated. It may take more pressure than you think, so don’t worry if it is a little hard to apply.
    • Screw your video card down to the case by placing a screw through the card into the case expansion slot bracket and tighten it securely down.



    • If you have another video card, follow the above steps to install the card. Connect both cards with the appropriate SLI or Crossfire bridges.



  • Step Seven: Connect Power Supply:
    Hard Drive SATA/IDE Cable

    • Route the appropriate SATA or Molex power supply connector through the case for proper cable management.
    • Connect the appropriate SATA or Molex power supply connector to your device.



  • CD/DVD Drive SATA/IDE Cable

    • Route the appropriate SATA or Molex power supply connector through the case for proper cable management.
    • Connect the appropriate SATA or Molex power supply connector to your device.



  • Step Seven: Connect Power Supply: Continued

    Case Fans
    • Route the Molex power supply connector through the case for proper cable management.
    • Connect the Molex power supply connector to your device.


  • Video Cards (If applicable)

    • Route the appropriate PCI-e power supply connector (6-Pin or 8-Pin [6+2-Pin])through the case for proper cable management.
    • Connect the appropriate PCI-e power supply connector to your device. Your device may require more than one PCI-e power supply connector. Please review your video card requirements as part of purchasing your power supply.



  • Motherboard 20-pin/24-pin (20+4-pin) Power Cable

    • Route the power supply’s 20-pin/24-pin connector through the case for proper cable management.
    • Connect the power connector to the motherboard. Make sure to line up the appropriate “shapes” on the connectors to the connectors on the motherboard. It will take a slight force to push the connector in but you shouldn’t have to force it in.



  • Motherboard 4-pin/8-pin (4+4-pin) Power Cable

    • Route the power supply’s 4-pin/8-pin connector through the case for proper cable management.
    • Connect the power connector to the motherboard. Make sure to line up the appropriate “shapes” on the connectors to the connectors on the motherboard. It will take a slight force to push the connector in but you shouldn’t have to force it in.




  • Step Eight: Boot System for First Time: Updated
    • Plug the monitor cable into your graphics output source (on-board video or dedicated GPU)
    • Turn the power switch on the PSU on, to provide power to your computer
    • Press the power button on the case to start the system up.
    • Listen for your Internal PC speaker to beep once, which means you have a successful first boot. If your PC doesn’t post properly, I recommend reviewing shortstuff_mt’s thread on boot issues. This thread provides very good details on trouble shooting when you have boot issues after your build. You can contact technical support from your motherboard manufacturer at this point, as well for additional help.
    • During the post session, press your “del” key or the appropriate key to enter into your BIOS.
    • Review around your BIOS to make sure it has properly recognized your CPU, RAM, Hard Drive… etc. You may have to manually adjust your RAM timings and voltage at this point to have them set a Manufacturing specifications.
    • Set your boot sequence to boot from your CD/DVD drive first and hit the “F10” key to save your updated BIOS.


  • Step Nine: Install Operating System / Drivers:
    Operating System
    • During the reboot process after reviewing and updating your BIOS, install your OS disk into your CD/DVD drive.
    • When prompted by the post process, hit a key to boot from your OS disk to begin the install process.
    • Follow the one screen prompts from your operating system through the complete installation of your operating system. Your PC may restart a few times through this process, so don’t get worried. :) 


  • Motherboard/Video Card Drivers
    • Once the OS installation have been complete, it is time to begin installing your other drivers. I recommend installing updated drivers from the internet, over the CD. I normally download all of the required drivers a head of time onto a flash drive, so I use the current drivers.
    • Install all required motherboard drivers; chipset, audio, network… etc.
    • Install the required drivers for your video card(s)
    • Install your Virus Protection Software to protect your PC before going to the internet for Windows updates
    • Log onto the internet and run all the required Windows updated, including any Service Packs required for your operating system.
    • After all of the updated have been completed, don’t forget to go back into your BIOS and reset the boot sequence to boot first from your hard drive going forward.


  • Step Ten: Test System and Have FUN!!
    I recommend testing your system after all of the drivers have been installed and the system has been updated to make sure it is running stable.

    Test your system
    • Run Prime95’s Blend Test for at least one hour and use one of the following programs to monitor your temps; Real Temp, SpeedFan or Core Temp. This will help determine if you system is running too hot and is unstable.
    • Run 3DMark’s Vantage or 3DMark06 to benchmark your system to see how your new build compares to similar systems.
    • Option: Run MemTest86+ for seven passes to check your memory for any possible errors. This isn't required unless you think there might be an issue with your memory.


  • Download links for the above programs


  • Have Fun!!
    • Install all other Office Programs, Games, Music, Videos… etc. you want to put onto your system at this point
    • START HAVING FUN with your successful build and new PC!!



  • Here are some other useful guides in how to build a PC.


  • As with all new builds, I highly recommend doing your research before doing any build to determine what your needs are.

    I have provided what I find to be useful sites and areas to look for those answers.
    • Google - If you can't find it there... than you probably won't find it anywhere... :D 
    • Overclocking and Benchmarking Guides - This thread provides a very good guide to overclocking on different platforms.
    • CPU and Heatsink Lapping Guides - These thread provides information on lapping CPU's and Heatsinks to help improve the the thermal transfer between them.
    • CPU Buyer's Guide 2.0 - This thread provides good information on the end's & out's on what CPU to buy and related information.
    • Computer Power Supplies - A Guide - This is a newer thread that has been created to provide a nice guideline for ranked PSU's by AMP's and Tier Levels.
    • Useful SSD Articles - Part 2 - This a good thread to research on Solid State Drives and what you need to understand about them.
    • Power Requirements and Specs for Popular Graphics Cards Guide - This is a new thread providing recommended power supply direction based on the graphics card you plan on purchasing.
    • FrostyTech - Best Heat Sinks & PC Cooling - The website provides good reviews and rankings on all things heatsinks.
    • eXtreme Power Supply Calcuator Lite V2.5 - This site is a very useful site when you are trying to figure out what your power requirements are for your new build, so you get an idea on what PSU waltage you will need.
    • AnandTech: - I find this site has very good links to multiple reviews from many different sites you'll see referenced and pretty up-to-date on news.
    • techPowerUp! - I find this site has very good links to multiple reviews from many different sites you'll see referenced and pretty up-to-date on news.
    • JonnyGuru - The website provides good reivews and rankings on power supplies.
    • Mouse Ergonomics Guide from Razer - This is a good guide in providing an understanding the different grip styles for a mouse.


  • Extras: – These are tools that are useful to have ready for use in your build.


  • Final Results




    Thanks for taking the time to read through my step-by-step guide!!
    Can't find your answer ? Ask !