First-time Build Jitters

I'm one of those people who knows a lot about computers but never really had the money to apply any of that hardware knowledge before now.

I'm confident that the majority of the components that I plan to buy will be compatible, but I'd have no idea what to do if one of them is DOA. Obviously bad components can be returned, but trying to figure out what component is causing the problem seems difficult if the damn computer won't fire up in the first place.

Unfortunately I don't have any spare components lying around to test with, so if any you can offer any general pointers on how to handle this it would be greatly appreciated.

Plus, a few questions...

1) If I buy a processor that already comes with a heatsink and fan, do I still need to apply any thermal paste?

2) If a motherboard has a Qualified Vendor List for memory, what rules would you generally follow to ensure that the memory you select will work provided that it isn't on the list? Is it even a good idea to stray from the list?

3) Any common stumbling blocks to avoid for first-time builders? Specifically based on my desired setup below?

My wislist:

Case: Cooler Master Cavalier 3
Power Supply: Antec Smartpower 2.0, 500W
Motherboard: Asus P5B-E
CPU: Core 2 Duo E6400
Memory: Kingston DDR2 667 Dual-Channel 2 x 1GB
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD2500KS 320GB, SATA II
DVD Burner: NEC ND-3550A
Video Card: MSI GeForce 7900GT, 256MB
TV Tuner: ATI TV Wonder 650
Monitor: Dell 19" 1907FP
OS: Vista Premium

Sorry for the long post, but any insight/advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
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  1. I checked the manual for the ASUS P5B-E and it didn't say much with regard to POST issues.

    Again, if a piece of hardware is DOA, is there an easy way to determine which piece of hardware would be the source of the problem if spare parts aren't readily available?
  2. Thanks MP.

    Anyone have any suggestions/critiques for the setup I've chosen? See above.
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