Questions/Tips about assembling a PC
In the next few days I'll be assembling my first PC. I basically bought the mid-priced system build of the September marathon series with the only difference being I bought the Thermaltake Armor extreme edition case. Could the experienced souls of this forum share some tips on actually assembling this beast? I know I need to keep it grounded and avoid shocks, but what order should I put the parts in? What are some common mistakes first timers make? Any tips/suggestions/advice/know how will be much appreciated. Thanks guys.
1) Read the manuals cover to cover first, particularly the mobo and case manuals.
2) Install the cooler, fan, and memory on the mobo outside the case. The only tricky part is making certain that the cooler is mounted properly, and you need to see the underside of the mobo to do that. It is often hard to mount the cpu fan and memory in cramped quarters, so I like to do it outside the case.
3) Sometimes the front panel headers are hard to identify, so you might mount these also, while the mobo is outside the case.
4) There should be about 9 mobo standoffs. Make certain that they line up with your mobo, and that there are none where you do not have a hole in the mobo for them.
5) I have found that a #2 magnetic head phillips screwdriver is most helpful in getting those small screws to their proper place without dropping a screw into the works. Prudence says you should be careful when you use it, but I have never had a problem.
put the cpu/hsf in while the mobo is outside of the case... dont assemble the computer while on carpet. there really arnt too many mistakes you can make... just make sure everything is plugged in first!
also, not sure what case you have.. but try to keep your cables out of the way to improve airflow. zipties are a good idea.
TT Armor case is a great case to work with... LOTS of room.. unless you got the Jr. series..
Anyways.. I agree h/s fan first get those mounted.. DONT FORGET THERMAL PASTE ..If it doesnt already have some lol... been there done that....Read the manual for the mobo to get all the conections on there right specificall the power switch / reset switch... and the little 2 wire speaker.. (Usefull to hear errors tones on first time startup if needed)
Again find the screw holes on the Mobo and line up the motherboard standoff to these holes..
When you start putting stuff in the case.. put the Power supply in first.. than all of your HDD's and CD-Roms floppy and so forth..
than very carefully put the mobo in making sure to put all the screws in for the mobo.
Next.. hook up your power supply.. depending on the mobo.. you may have several power hookups. At the very least you will have 2..(One 20 Pin Power hookup.. you cant screw this one up. Only goes one way.. You will also have a 4 ping..Square looking connection.. This may hook up directly next to the 20pin... or possible around the CPU socket somewhere. For me I actually have 2 4pin Connections above my CPU socket.. so be sure to check.)
Next slap your video and sound cards in.. if your video has a 4 pin power hookup on it.. make sure that plugged in
Now hookup your HHD and CDRoms...If you have multiple IDE / Sata hookups on your mobo.. be sure to check which one your plugging into.. IE.. you main HDD on either IDE1 or Sata1. Again plug power into these devices as well...
Once all that is done you should be able to fire it up.. However if it does not do anything when you hit the button.. dont get frustrated... some mobos out there you need to reset the CMOS before they will start.. mine did lol...
From there If you have any problems you know where to post
You know I have never done this myself, but I see lot's of people suggest it, and I am starting to come around to the idea. Assemble it outside the case to the point that you can get it to POST. This way if you have a problem, you'll know before you waste a bunch of time putting it into the case. Then if you POST and subsequently have problems once it's in the case, you can be relatively sure that your problem is related to how you put it in the case. Again this isn't something I have ever done myself, but after seeing numerous people posting about systems that don't POST after assembly, it just might be something I try next time.
As for assembling and powering up outside of the case, you'll need CPU/HSF, RAM, video card, PSU hooked up (ATX connector, AUX/CPU connector, one or more PCI-E connectors depending on your video card). Make sure to build on a non-conductive surface and place the motherboard on the anti-stat bag it was in. To power up your system without a switch (like you'll have with your case), find the two pins on the header that you'll connect your cases power switch to, and very carefully short them momentarily. One pin is monitored by the motherboard, the other is ground. The monitored pin is pulled up to some voltage (never measured it myself, most likely 5V) through a resistor, when shorted the motherboard see's the level change and powers up the rest of the motherboard. As long as you are sure which pins you are shorting, you will be fine. If the system POSTs, go into the BIOS and check things like voltages and temperatures. If everything is fine, shut the system down by momentarily shorting the same two pins. At this point you have proven that the system will POST with the major hardware and that it is functioning on a basic level. Disconnect the PSU, and remove the video card.
At this point prep your case, install motherboard standoffs (be sure to only install those that are shown in your motherboard manual), and install PSU. Depending on how much room your case has, you could also install your optical drive(s) and HDD(s). You can also save them for after you install your motherboard if you'd like the extra room. Install the IO shield into the case, you may have to remove the one that came in the case. At this point you should be ready to install the motherboard. Carefully set the motherboad onto the standoffs, you will have slide the motherboard putting slight pressure in the direction of the IO shield to get the holes on the motherboad to line up with the standoffs. This is due to the tabs on the IO shield pushing against the IO blocks on the motherboard. When you are setting the motherboard down onto the standoffs, make sure you line them up as close as possible to start with, you don't want to be dragging the bottom of your motherboard over the standoffs (you could damage it). Once the holes are lined up, start putting your screws in. Don't tighten them up completely until you have all of them in. Also don't overtighten them once you tighten them up, again you want to avoid damaging your motherboard. You now should be done the most critical parts of the build, ie the part where you can screw up the worst.
The rest is pretty straight forward. Now is the time to install your optical drive(s) and HDD(s) if you didn't do it before the motherboard. Install your graphics card. I don't normally install any other add-in cards until I have Windows installed and the motherboard drivers and graphics card drivers installed. Go for the least common denominator is my approach, so if you say add a sound card and start having problems, you'll know right away and not have to start eliminatiing things one at a time later. Once all the hardware is in that's needed to boot and install the OS, start your wiring. This is sort of a personal preference, drive data cables (SATA, IDE), ATX power, AUX/CPU power, PCI-E power, drive power (molex, floppy, SATA power). Then connect all your front panel connectors (power switch, reset, HDD activity etc). Triple check all your wiring, you don't want to forget anything, though in most cases you won't damage anything if you leave something unplugged, you'll just give yourself high blood pressure when it doesn't power up. Remember when plugging everything in, place the cables close to the positions you'll want them in when you go to tidy it up later. Don't start bundling your cabling yet. Once your certain everything is connected properly, you can plug your PSU in, connect your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and try to power up. It should power up (if it did outside the case), if it doesn't just go over everything you did and make sure everything is connected correctly.
That's pretty much it for the physical build. If everything is looking good once you have the OS loaded and all your drivers installed (motherboard, graphic, and sound if your using onboard sound), and if you have any other hardware you want to install (sound, wireless, etc) install them one at a time with their drivers checking after each install that your system is OK. Once your entire hardware build is complete, run some stability testing software (OCCT, Super PI, Othoros, 3DMark 05/06, Memtestx86, etc) to be sure your system is stable, while doing this use some sort of monitoring software (nTune, Riva-Tuner, SpeedFan, Everest, etc) to monitor your temperatures. After you are convinced that everything is working to your satisfaction and all your software is installed (usually after a few days) tidy up your wiring. This is important to leave this until last, no point in putting a bunch of effort into routing cables neatly only to have to tear it apart to change out hardware.
After reading all of this, I must advise you to read all the documentation with each piece of hardware you purchase before starting and if anything in it contradicts what I have said, follow it's instructions not mine.
The number one noobie mistake is putting the HSF on incorrectly. What CPU cooler are you using and are you going to overclock? On my first build I didn't install the HSF correctly. Its also easier to use your "clean finger" to spread the thermal compond, spreading out from the center.
I know some of you are thinking using your finger is not a good idea, but when your processer runs at stock E6600 at 18c idle and 27c loaded how can you argrue with that. I found it difficult to use anything else but my finger. Everything else is very easy after you install the HSF correctly.