Building a System from Scratch

I was not sure where to post this, so here it goes.

Soon I will be undertaking a project of custom building a computer. I've never done it before so, I don't know how to perform a few of the actions necessary to get the computer working. I will be using the following hardware. I have not purchased the hardware yet so any suggestions are

Asus A7V motherboard. AMD Athlon/Thunderbird, Socket A, 1 GHz CPU. Western Digital 40 gig, 7200 RPM hard drive. Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! Value PCI. 3Com 56k V.90 internal PCI Performance Pro FaxModem. Creative Labs 52x CD-ROM. Altec Lansing ACS45.2 speakers. Microsoft Natural Elite keyboard. Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer, optical mouse. 128 meg PC133 SDRAM from Crucial. Addtronics 6890a case with 300w power supply. Creative Labs Annihilator 2 GeForce2 GTS 32meg DDR AGP video card. A ViewSonic 19” PF790 monitor. I will be running Windows 98 SE on this machine. I have that on CD.

I don't know the order in which I should install the components. I know how to install all the hardware. I've done most of it before. But, tips are still welcome. specificaly, I need detailed help in what is done after the hardware is assembled. I have never touched BIOS in my life nor have I installed an OS. If I am going to need help in order to undertake this project.

Thank you for whatever help you can provide me with.

Mark Fitzsimmons
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  1. First note of major importance: ALWAYS GROUND YOURSELF! Never ever ever ever touch a component without making absolutely sure that you aren't going to zap it. It really sucks to zap things when you're putting the system together yourself.

    Second note of major importance: Make sure that your power supply is set to the proper voltage. If not you're going to fry things. Sometimes the switch gets jostled in shipping and/or handling and no one thinks to look ... until after their computer is a campfire. So always look.

    Take the case cover off.

    Now you'll have to join the heat sink, the CPU, the motherboard, and the memory in unholy matrimony.

    I prefer to set everything by jumper/DIP instead of relying on BIOS. If you do too, remember to read the manuals carefully to make sure that's all set up correctly. There's nothing worse than a really fast computer that is underclocked. :)
    If you don't prefer manually setting things, then if I remember correctly, you can just set all of that up in BIOS which I'll get to later.

    Then you'll have to help them move into their new house (case). And then you have to hook up their utilities. (The power supply cables to the motherboard.)

    Then you'll have to give them the video card as a house warming gift. No one likes moving into a new house and not having a TV after all.

    Then you'll need to park the car(hard drive) in the garage.

    Now you're almost ready to boot up into BIOS. However, you'll need to figure out if you're going to be booting from floppy or from CD ROM and hook that up as well. After all, if you have no way of getting software into the computer, it's just a really big paper weight. :)

    Now it's time to see if you screwed up badly. Plug the computer in. Hook up the keyboard and mouse and monitor. Then turn on the computer. See any smoke? Hopefully no.

    So now hopefully you are seeing text on your screen. Hopefully that text says something like, "Press ___ to enter BIOS."

    Press whatever key it says to get into BIOS. Time to make sure that your hard drive and everything else is set up correctly. Generally, I've found that BIOS lately is pretty good at auto-detecting everything. But it never hurts to manually verify and correct any mistakes.

    Navigating through BIOS is hopefully pretty straight forward and easy. Each BIOS is different, so it's hard to say exactly what you'll have to do. But basically check that your hard drive is set up properly and that your CPU is as well. Also check your memory settings and anything else you can think of. It never hurts to check things. And while you're in there, set it to boot up from your hard drive and whichever media your OS boot disk is on. Or, be overcautious and set it to boot from floppy, CD, and hard drive. And remember to save your settings when you exit BIOS.

    Congrats. You should now have a computer with absolutely no operating system and probably a non-bootable disk error.

    So, now hopefully whichever boot system you're using (floppy or CD ROM) can format your hard drive and all. They usually do. Microsoft is good about that. (Unless of course you tried to save money and buy the upgrade and not the installation.) So put that OS in, and try to convince your computer to boot with that.

    The Microsoft is pretty good about making their OS straight forward for installation. Just follow through what choices there are using common sense, and all should turn out good. It'll take a long while and will probably require a massively long running of scan disk before it will install. So go out for a pizza or something if you get bored waiting.

    Now you should be able to boot up into Windows. Let it autoconfigure your hardware settings in Windows. The reason you haven't hooked all of your hardware up yet is because I've found that Windows likes to freak out when it's detecting too many new things at one time.

    So once that's done, it's time to hook the rest of the hardware up. I do it piece by piece, letting Windows detect each individually. I've found it freaks out a lot less that way.

    And eventually, you should be done with a bright shiny new PC. Oh ... and you can put the case cover back on now.

    Hopefully I haven't missed anything. Oh, and a million possible things can go wrong. This is where experience helps figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it. Ideally, everything should work. And usually it does. But in case it doesn't, either be prepared for extra hours of work or to take the parts to a pro and have them fix it ... for a price of course.

    - Anything can be fixed with duct tape, a swiss army knife, and WD-40. :)
  2. no matter what you do first, second, whatever... read every manual that comes with your parts and try to understand it. i especially recommend reading your motherboard manual. it often will have a guide on how to install your components in it (if it's worth anything at all).
  3. I just build such a simular system. Also my first time.
    The only difficult thing I experienced was the mounting of the cooler on the CPU. It required a lot of brute force to put it on. Not easy!
    The rest wasn't difficult at all!
    Oh ye, make sure you buy a socket A-compatible cooler!

    Have fun.
  4. I'd get the abit kt7-raid. I have that motherboard and it rocks. I seen alot of post about the Asus A7V motherboard and problems trying to install it.

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