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How to Build Your Own PC - Save A Buck And Learn A Lot

Discussion in 'Tech, Gadgets & Science Forum' started by MziziMkavu, Dec 21, 2010.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    Welcome to the online version of How to Build Your Own PC, adapted from the print book by Charlie Palmer. My name is Charles and I am the publisher and webmaster of The PC Guide; I hope you will find this material a useful addition to the site.
    Here are some tips for understanding how the material is organized and how best to navigate through it:

    • Hierarchy Navigation: Near the top of each page of the site you will see in a blue-outlined box a cascading set of links that reflect your current position in the organizational structure of this Guide. You can click any of these links to go up one or more levels in the hierarchy.
    • Accessing the Table Of Contents: To the left of the hierarchy navigation box is the table of contents button. Click it to bring up the full contents of.the Guide.
    • Next/Previous Section/Topic Navigation: At the top and bottom of each page is a solid blue box that contains buttons and links for moving sequentially through the Guide. On the far left and far right of this box are text links and large arrows that take you directly to the start of the previous or next full topic or section. These always take you to the first page of any topic that has multiple pages, to allow you to skip all the pages of any topic you don't want to read.
    • Direct Page Navigation: In the middle of the blue box you will see a navigation display for moving easily through the pages of a topic. Each page number is listed, with the current page shown in white text on a dark background, and the other pages hyperlinked for easy direct access.
    • Next/Previous Page Navigation: You will also see in the blue box smaller arrows that take you to the previous or next page of the Guide. The small left arrow goes to the previous page of the current topic, or if you are on its first (or only) page, the last page of the previous topic. The right arrow goes to the next page of the current topic, or if you are on its last (or only) page, takes you to the first page of the next topic. You can use these arrow to move sequentially through the entire Guide.
    • Text Links: At the bottom of each page are a set of text links that take you to the top of this Guide or its table of contents. There are also links to the PCGuide.com home page, and the page where you can contact me with questions or feedback. I welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions.
    Just a reminder that all of the material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced without permission. Also, the material is provided on an as-is basis and I am not responsible for any loss that may result from your use of it.
    Last but definitely not least: this site is provided as an online reference resource for casual use.




    [SIZE=+2]Chapter 1: Purchasing Components[/SIZE]

    Assembling a PC is rather easy, but how do you choose which components to purchase and assemble? In particular, how do you decide upon a CPU and a mainboard? This advice will help you select components not just now, but far into the future.
     
  2. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Basic Steps in Building Your PC[/SIZE]

    Building your own PC involves selecting and buying a few key components (see Figure 1) and then connecting them together with ribbon cables (Figure 2) and other standard connectors that are usually provided with the components. For example, most power connectors come permanently attached to the power supply which itself usually comes with your computer case.

    Figure 1: All the parts you need to build your own PC, except the case
    In front is a mainboard with RAM, CPU, and heatsink installed. Above the mainboard are an AGP video card and a PCI modem card. To the left is the hard drive with its ribbon cable. To the right is the CD-RW drive and floppy drive.
    [​IMG]

    Some components, such as PCI expansion cards and the mainboard, will also require using a Phillips screwdriver to secure them properly. A Phillips screwdriver is probably the only tool you’ll need. A small flat-nosed screwdriver is sometimes useful for prying out PCI expansion slot covers or the case’s I/O shield. If you have short fingernails and you need to change jumpers, a needle-nose pliers is sometimes handy.

    Figure 2: Ribbon cables
    . On the left is a hard drive ribbon cable. On the right is a floppy drive ribbon cable. Notice the twist in the floppy cable. The end with the twist plugs into the floppy drive. The other end plugs into the mainboard.
    [​IMG]

    After assembling your computer, you’ll need to install an operating system, which is really just a software procedure. It’s common to talk about “installing” software, even though it only involves inserting CDs into the CD drive as required.
    Your PC will be fully assembled before we install software. We’ll take you through installing an operating system step-by-step in detail in another chapter.
    You may also want to examine and/or modify your system’s BIOS, which we’ll discuss later. Many times, you’ll be able to get your PC up and running adequately without tinkering with the mainboard’s BIOS at all. But, tweaking the BIOS may enhance your system’s performance. Make changes to BIOS very carefully. For example, if you update your mainboard’s BIOS with Flash BIOS and your computer hangs, it’s possible your PC will no longer boot at all.
    We’ll also discuss partitioning and formatting a hard drive. But, first, we need to get our parts together.
     
  3. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Tips for Safe Component Handling[/SIZE]

    There are three key points to handling components safely.
    First, be sure to draw off any static electricity that may be built up on your hands before you touch a sensitive part. You should touch the metal PC case before touching the components. Metal will draw off any built-up charge. Even if you wear a grounding wrist strap, touch the PC case anyway as an extra precaution. Touching the case’s power supply is usually recommended, because some say that touching a heavily painted case will sometimes fail to draw off the charge. The power supply is unpainted metal that is always grounded.
    Second, touch the parts where they’re the least sensitive to being harmed by ESD. Pick up mainboards by the edges (Figure 3). Pick up PCI cards by the metal part that attaches them to the back of the case and then handle them by the edges (Figure 4). Try to handle all sensitive parts by the edges.

    Figure 3: Holding a mainboard properly, by the corners
    [​IMG]



    Figure 4: Holding a PCI card properly, by the metal and the edges




    [​IMG]

     
  4. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Planning Ahead Before Opening Components[/SIZE]

    Third, always plan where you’ll set a component before removing it from its electrostatic protection pouch. For example, after removing a RAM chip, you probably want to be near the mainboard, so that you can place the chip in the mainboard immediately. If you plan to place a mainboard in the PC case, it’s good to have a pre-planned place to set the board, such as on top of the box the mainboard came in. Try to remove components from their protective pouches only right before you’re ready to install them. For example, pick up RAM by the edges, and make sure the mainboard is ready to accept it. Then you can push the RAM into place from the top (Figure 5).

    [​IMG]


    Figure 5: Holding RAM chips properly, by the sides
    . You can push them into their sockets from the top. Always prepare your work area in advance. For example, have your mainboard out and ready before removing the RAM chips from their packaging.

     
  5. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Key PC Components[/SIZE]

    The key components you'll need to purchase are:

    • Case and Power Supply
    • Mainboard
    • CPU With Heatsink and Fan
    • RAM (Memory Chip)
    • Video Card
    • Hard Drive
    • CD-RW and/or DVD Drive
    • Other Removable Media Drives (optional)
    • Sound Card (If your mainboard doesn't have onboard sound)
    • Modem
    • Network Interface Card (NIC) and Other PCI Cards (optional)
    • Operating System
    • Monitor
    • Keyboard and Mouse
    The above components are all you need. Most of the physical components connect together easily with standardized connections. Again, Figure 1 shows all the parts you need.
     
  6. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Case and Power Supply[/SIZE]

    The computer case holds all the internal parts of your PC. Many case variations are available including tower cases, mid-tower cases, and desktop models. The case pictured in Figure 6 is an Enlight mid-tower ATX case that comes with an AMD Athlon approved 360 watt power supply.

    Figure 6: A new PC case
    [​IMG]
     
  7. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    Quick navigation to subsections and regular topics in this section


    [SIZE=+2]Case Sizes and Form Factors[/SIZE]

    Most do-it-yourselfers choose tower or mid-tower cases. Most builders also prefer the ATX form factor. Smaller cases are said to have a smaller footprint and they save space. However, larger cases offer more room for expansion options. And, working inside a larger case is somewhat easier.
    I’d recommend choosing a quality mid-tower or full-tower ATX case for your first PC build. These cases are designed to be paired with any ATX mainboard.


    Most cases will cost between $40 and $100. Unless mainboard manufacturers change the basic ATX case style in the future, your case should last a long time and serve you through several years of mainboard upgrades. Choosing a quality case is a good investment.


    Many quality PC manufacturers, such as Gateway and Dell, use proprietary mainboards and case designs that have unique drilling patterns that connect the mainboard to the case. This means that many cases from big-name PC manufacturers are not as easily upgraded.
    For example, if you have a Dell computer case, you won’t be able to replace an older mainboard with a



    newer mainboard from another manufacturer. You’ll need to upgrade with Dell boards only. From a consumer’s standpoint, this is somewhat undesirable because it means you can’t upgrade by just adding a standard, but newer and better, ATX mainboard in the future. If you find a really great deal on a standard ATX mainboard, you can’t just add it to your Dell case.


    Building your own PC and using standard components will give you maximum upgrade potential. Choose the ATX form factor for your case.
    With a standard ATX case, you’ll have the fullest range of upgrade options to newer, more powerful mainboards. This standardization of components, which allows easy upgrades, is one big advantage of building your own PC rather than buying one.
     
  8. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Matching the Power Supply to the Case[/SIZE]

    Power supplies come with most cases today (Figure 7). The power supply has many power connectors to power the mainboard, hard drives, CD-RW drives, and other components.

    Figure 7: Inside of a new PC case
    Here, the power supply sits at the top left of the case. Notice the many power connectors dangling from the power supply.
    [​IMG]

    Be sure that your case and power supply match the type of mainboard you want to install. This usually means purchasing an ATX style mainboard and case. Be sure your case supports a full ATX mainboard. I’d avoid micro-ATX and cases designed to hold only smaller boards.
     
  9. T

    Taso JF-Expert Member

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    hii labda kwa nchi nyingine huko, hapa kwetu hata spea za magari mpya hakuna, itakuwa za computer?

    na zikiwepo ni bei aghali
     
  10. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Power Connectors[/SIZE]

    Most mainboards today are ATX style. You can identify an ATX power supply and case by looking for an ATX power connection. See Figure 8.

    Figure 8: ATX power connector
    Most power connectors today are made so that they can only be plugged in one way. This connector provides power to the ATX mainboard.
    [​IMG]

    Most important power connectors, such as the twenty-pin ATX power connection, are designed so that they can only be plugged in one way. This prevents plugging the connector in the wrong way and causing damage to components by putting too high a voltage on a pin that isn’t designed to take it.
    Newer ATX power supplies also have a special four-pin power connector (Figure 9), which is used with Pentium 4 mainboards. If you’re installing an AMD Athlon, you won’t need this special four-pin connector. Just leave it disconnected.

    Figure 9: The special 4-pin Pentium 4 power header
    If you’re building an AMD system, just leave this power connector unconnected.
    [​IMG]

    If you’re building a Pentium 4 system, be sure your power supply has the necessary 4-pin power supply connector in addition to the standard ATX power supply connector. All newer cases will have it. When in doubt, ask if the ATX case is approved for the Pentium 4.
    If your power supply ever needs replacement, you can keep the case and just purchase a new ATX power supply. Replacing the power supply only requires your trusty Phillips screwdriver.
    As a general rule, most cases will have several extra power connectors which will remain unused when your system is built. Just tuck the unneeded power connectors out of the way when you close up your PC case. They don’t all need to be connected to something. If you later add another hard drive or a DVD player, for example, you’ll use one of the remaining power connectors to supply power to it.
    If you run out of power connectors (unlikely), you can purchase Y Splitters which are small cables designed to give you more than one power connector from one existing power supply connection. It’s just like purchasing a power
    How To Build Your Own PC: Component Overview
    strip that plugs into your wall outlet and provides six or eight new outlet sockets. Cyberguys.com is one source of different types of Y adapters.
    Similarly, if you find some component needs a unique power connection that isn’t provided for from your existing power supply connections, you can purchase a Y splitter or an adapter which will give you the specific connector you need. This is relatively rare as most modern power supplies offer a cornucopia of power connectors. There are also extension adapters which give power supply cables more length. You probably won’t need these either, unless you install a new power supply in a large case.
     
  11. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Sizing the Power Supply[/SIZE]

    Choose an adequate power supply. Today, that probably means at least 300 watts. Too large a power supply will make more noise than necessary and will consume more electricity.
    If you’re building your PC with an AMD Duron or Athlon CPU, be sure that your power supply is AMD Athlon approved. In particular, the AMD Athlon requires a more stable source of power than a Pentium CPU. If you’re uncertain whether a particular case and its power supply is AMD Athlon approved, visit AMD.com.


    [SIZE=+2]Other Case Connectors and Switches[/SIZE]

    Other connectors from the case don’t supply power, but they connect the front panel of the computer case to the mainboard. These connectors are thin wires with little connectors on the ends that plug into pins on the mainboard (Figure 10).

    Figure 10: Thin-wire connectors connect the front of the PC case to the mainboard
    Even though these connectors can be plugged in backward, don’t fear, because doing so won’t harm your system. Try to get them onto the right pins on the mainboard.
    [​IMG]

    For example, to turn the computer on and off, there is an on-off switch on the case. The small Power SW wire connects the power button on the case to the mainboard to let the mainboard know when you want the PC to turn on or off. This small two-pin connector may be plugged-in in either direction on the mainboard.
    Basic switches can usually be installed in either direction, because they are designed to either open or close a circuit. So, the orientation of the two pins doesn’t usually matter.
    Examine your mainboard manual carefully to determine the proper pins to connect these thin-wire case panel connectors to. Also examine your mainboard carefully before installing it in the case, because you’ll often have a better view of the pins when the mainboard is out of the case. Usually, a row of many pins will be provided on the mainboard (Figure 11). It’s easy to plug the little fellers on the wrong pins if you don’t pay attention to the mainboard manual.

    Figure 11: Corner of the mainboard
    The thin-wire connectors from the case will connect here. It’s easy to plug them in wrong.
    [​IMG]



     
  12. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Thin-Wire Connectors[/SIZE]

    Most of these other small, thin-wire connectors are also ambidextrous. The thin-wire connectors typically include:

    • Power Switch (P SW): This can be connected in either direction to the proper two pins on the mainboard. It turns the computer on and off.
    • Reset Switch (Reset): This can be connected in either direction to the proper two pins on the mainboard. If Ctrl+Alt+Del doesn’t work to reboot your hung-up PC, you can always use the reset switch to restart your computer. There should be a small reset button on the front of your case. Using the reset switch is more desirable than turning a PC on and off again rapidly. Always wait a couple of minutes after turning a PC completely off before turning it on again. This prevents a surge of current and charge from hitting components that may not have drained their existing charge yet.
    • Power LED: LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode. These are the little blinky things on the front of your computer case. LEDs light up when a small current passes through them in the correct direction. The power LED goes on when the system is powered up. The small current to light the LED is provided by the mainboard.
    • HD LED: This front case panel LED blinks when the hard drive is active. If this connector is installed in the wrong direction, your computer will work fine except your hard drive LED probably won’t light up or it will remain on rather than blinking with activity. If you notice that it isn’t working, just reorient the connector.
    • Speaker connection: This connects the small case speaker to the mainboard.
    Those front panel connectors that aren’t ambidextrous (such as the hard drive LED, which lights up on the front panel to show activity on the hard drive) won’t damage your system if they are hooked up backward. These thin-wire connectors to the mainboard aren’t supplying power to the mainboard.

    [SIZE=+2]AT and ATX Cases and Power Supplies[/SIZE]

    The ATX power supply also typically provides a small current to the mainboard even when the computer is off. So you should always disconnect the power supply cord before upgrading your PC or working on its internals. Or, turn off your power strip or uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that your computer is attached to before working on it. The ATX power supply also usually provides a power switch at the back of the PC, labeled “O” for off and “1” for on. But, it’s best if the power is off before reaching the PC power cord.
    ATX mainboards often have an LED on the mainboard which will remain lighted all the time, even when the PC is turned off. This lets you know there is power to the mainboard. And, hopefully, reminds you to unplug the power cord before proceeding further! Inserting and removing parts on an ATX mainboard that has power can damage components.
    Plugging your PC into the wall outlet or UPS will be the last step in building your PC. I recommend your purchase a UPS to protect your new PC from electrical surges. At today’s prices, a UPS is a great purchase. If power fails, the UPS will give you time to shut down your system properly. Do not plug in your power supply cord to an outlet until you have assembled your PC.
    The older AT case style is outdated. Connections from the power supply differ between the ATX and AT style. Older AT cases will not work with a newer ATX mainboard. (You can buy adapters to convert AT power to ATX power. But, I’d recommend against this, because with your newer components, you’ll probably want a bigger and more stable power supply anyway.)
    Your case and mainboard will probably be based upon the ATX style. But, if you ever need to repair or upgrade an older AT style, it’s very important to be sure that the two AT power connectors are connected with the black wires toward the middle of the two connectors. This is one of the few power connectors than can be assembled incorrectly causing damage. You don’t need to worry about this with the ATX style cases. If you’re working with new PCs, you’ll probably never use the older AT style power connectors.

     
  13. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Using a Case from an Existing System[/SIZE]

    If you disassemble an existing system, you might want to make yourself a drawing showing how things were connected, so you’ll be able to reconnect them exactly the same way.
    Many builders purchase a new notebook and they keep a diary of their build, recording the steps they take, the components used, and the settings. This helps knowing what was done to the PC and the components and how things were connected. For example, how is the jumper set on your hard drive?
    One side of your case will contain an inner panel to which you’ll attach the mainboard with standoffs and a couple of screws (see Figure 12). The panel is predrilled and the drilling patterns for an ATX and an AT mainboard differ.
    The standoffs and screws will come with the case. The drilling patterns for an ATX case are designed to match up with any ATX mainboard. That’s the theory, anyway.

    [​IMG]





    Figure 12: Standoffs inside the case

    These standoffs hold the bottom of the mainboard above the case. Each standoff (whether plastic or metal) should line up with a hole in the mainboard.
     
  14. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Matching Standoffs and Screws to Mainboard Holes[/SIZE]

    If you examine your mainboard, you’ll notice holes (see Figure 13). These holes are meant to line up with the standoffs in the case. The standoffs that don’t line up with holes can be removed. The purpose of the standoffs is to hold the bottom of the mainboard above the metal of the case. If the bottom of the mainboard were allowed to rest on the metal case directly, it’s possible the mainboard would short out and be damaged.

    Figure 13: The mainboard sits on top of standoffs
    Notice the standoff sits below a hole in the mainboard. All standoffs must line up with holes in the mainboard. Be sure to remove any standoffs that don’t line up with holes.
    [​IMG]

    You’ll learn about static electricity in another section, but all sensitive electronic parts such as mainboards, PCI cards, and CPUs should be carefully handled to avoid damage from static electricity. Touch your hands to something metal to ground yourself before picking up your mainboard or CPU. This draws away any small charge that might remain on your hands so that it doesn’t zap a sensitive component.

    Be sure to remove any extra standoffs that don’t match up with any holes in the mainboard.
    It’s possible that an extra and unnecessary standoff that doesn’t match up with any hole would improperly sit on the bottom of the mainboard shorting it out.

    I’d count the number of holes in your mainboard and count the number of standoffs on the case and be sure the numbers are equal. Or, at least, have the number of holes exceed the number of standoffs. Then be certain that every standoff is visible through one of the holes in the mainboard. For example, if you’ve counted eight standoffs, your mainboard should have eight holes and all eight standoffs should be visible through the holes when the mainboard is seated.

    You don’t need to place a standoff below every mainboard hole. But, be sure to place all the standoffs near where the ATX power supply, hard drive, and floppy drive cables will plug into the board.
    Figure 13 shows a standoff near the IDE and floppy connectors on the mainboard. It takes a bit of pressure to insert these cables, and you want the bottom of the mainboard supported in this region. You don’t want the mainboard to flex as you push in cables.

    Some cheap cases and mainboards don’t match up as well as they should. But, usually, matching an ATX mainboard with an ATX case will work. If it doesn’t, it isn’t your fault. Blame the manufacturers for poor tolerances! And, you can always omit an offending standoff that just won’t line up with a mainboard hole. Your mainboard should attach to your case easily, as long as you’re matching an ATX case with an ATX mainboard.

    If you examine the edge of one of the holes in the mainboard, you’ll notice a ring of metal around the hole. If a metal standoff is below and if a screw is used to secure the board to the standoff, that will properly ground the board to the case.
     
  15. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]I/O, I/O, it’s Into or Out of the Computer We Go[/SIZE]

    When placing the mainboard inside the case, it will be necessary to push the mainboard toward what’s called the I/O shield (input/output shield) of the case, as seen in Figure 14.
    The I/O shield usually has several metal fins sticking out toward the mainboard. Various connectors that are permanently attached to the mainboard will protrude from the I/O shield. The serial ports, parallel port, PS/2 keyboard connector, and PS/2 mouse connector are among these I/O devices that protrude from the I/O shield. USB ports and Firewire IEEE 1394 connectors are other connectors that might protrude from the I/O shield. (If you’re big into video editing, you might want to select a mainboard with a Firewire port. Otherwise, you can purchase a PCI card that gives your system a Firewire connection.)

    Figure 14: The mainboard sits behind the I/O shield
    The keyboard and other devices will attach through this I/O shield at the back of the case.
    [​IMG]

    The metal fins on the I/O shield ground the I/O connectors to the case and they will offer some resistance to the mainboard when it is placed. This is natural. Just manipulate and push the mainboard toward the I/O shield until the I/O device connectors protrude and the mainboard holes line up with the case standoffs.

    If all the mainboard holes appear to be off just a bit, you probably need to push the mainboard more toward the I/O shield for it to sit properly. The I/O shield might provide some resistance and push the mainboard away from the shield. Just hold the mainboard in place as you secure it with a screw to the case.

    We should note that the I/O shields are easily removable, and an I/O shield should come with your mainboard. Just replace the I/O shield that is part of the case with the one that comes with your mainboard. This might be necessary, for example, if your mainboard offers several USB connections through the I/O shield and the I/O shield that comes with the case won’t accommodate them. Or your mainboard might have connectors for built-in sound or a network connection that wouldn’t be accommodated by the standard I/O shield.

    Some newer mainboards are using USB connectors in place of “legacy” keyboard and mouse connectors. If you purchase one of these boards, you’ll need to use USB keyboards and mice or purchase adapters to use your older keyboard and mouse components.

    Usually, when you open a PC case by taking off one side, you want to take off the side of the case opposite the mainboard. This allows you to easily install the mainboard and other components.
    To see which side of the case must come off, examine the back of the case and find the side that contains the I/O shield. The side with the I/O shield is the side on which the mainboard sits. Take off the panel on the other side to get easy access to everything. There is usually little reason to remove the side of the case that secures the mainboard. And, if the PC is already built, PCI and other

    expansion cards will usually prevent the side with the mainboard from coming off conveniently. You’d need to remove all the PCI cards before you could take that side off.
    Some cases have a removable panel to which you first attach the mainboard. Then, the panel is replaced and attached to the case. Other cases just have the mainboard attach directly to the side of the case.
    Choose a quality case. It can be used for years and through many upgrades.
     
  16. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Mainboard[/SIZE]

    The mainboard and CPU are the key components of your computer. Your mainboard provides connections to all other components that must attach to it (see Figure 15). The mainboard and CPU serve as the main computational and processing source of your PC.

    Figure 15: The mainboard
    . Notice the white square socket toward the left. The CPU will sit there. Above the CPU socket are three banks for RAM. The mainboard will determine the type of CPU you must use. To the right are six PCI expansion slots (white).
    [​IMG]

    Your mainboard will determine the maximum number of expansion PCI cards and the amount of memory (RAM, random access memory) which can be installed. The mainboard will also determine the type of CPU you can use because each mainboard is designed to seat a particular CPU. For example, a mainboard designed to seat a Pentium 4 CPU won’t seat an AMD Athlon CPU.
    Be sure your mainboard has a 4x AGP video slot or better. Once you’ve selected a mainboard, follow the advice in the chapter about purchasing components. Search for reviews of that mainboard on google.com. You can also visit the manufacturer’s website and download a full mainboard manual to read about its capabilities.
     
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    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]CPU[/SIZE]

    Figure 16 shows an AMD Athlon 2000+ XP processor. AMD processors are solid and slightly less expensive alternatives to Intel Pentiums. Either an Intel or an AMD CPU is a great choice.

    Figure 16: CPU chip
    The other side of the chip contains pins which will insert into the pin holes of the CPU socket in the mainboard.
    [​IMG]

    Notice the plus sign (+) after the 2000 for the AMD. This means that the AMD processor clock speed isn’t actually 2 GHz (Giga Hertz). Rather, the effective speed of the AMD is comparable to a 2 GHz Pentium 4. The actual clock speed of the AMD Athlon 2000+ is 1.67 GHz. However, the Athlon is more efficient in that each clock cycle processes more instructions. This makes an Athlon running at an actual clock speed of 1.67 GHz comparable to a Pentium running at 2 GHz as far as getting things done goes.
    CPUs are designed to fit into their socket in the mainboard in only one way. For example, with the Athlon, two sides have triangle corners, where the pins at the corner of the CPU end in a triangular formation rather than a square (i.e., the pin in the corner is missing for two corners). Thus, when you put the CPU in its socket, it will sit there naturally if placed in the proper orientation. But, it won’t fit in at all if the orientation isn’t right. There is also a small triangle drawing on the CPU to show the proper orientation.
    The two most common CPUs for today’s builders are the AMD Athlon XP (Socket A) and the Intel Pentium 4 Socket 478 CPU. I’d recommend using one of these CPUs and certainly nothing older.
     
  18. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Heatsink and Fan[/SIZE]

    All CPUs will need a heatsink and a fan (see Figure 17). The heatsink draws heat away from the CPU. The fins of the heatsink and the fan then dissipate this heat into the case. If an Intel Pentium overheats, it will stop working and your system will freeze up.

    Figure 17: Heatsink and fan
    The heatsink sits on top of the CPU and keeps it cool.
    [​IMG]

    The AMD CPUs can actually burn themselves up. They aren’t designed to shut down if they overheat. This isn’t usually a problem as long as you properly install a top quality heatsink/fan combination with your AMD Athlon. If you purchase a retail box version of your CPU, it will include a quality heatsink and fan.
    For the system built in this book, the Athlon 2000+ XP was purchased in its retail box version which includes a heatsink and a fan. The package also has detailed and excellent instructions about installing the CPU and the heatsink/ fan. We’ll show the installation of the Athlon XP CPU and heatsink/fan later.
     
  19. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Random Access Memory (RAM)[/SIZE]

    DDR-RAM. RAM is comparable to short-term human memory. It holds what the computer is thinking about now. When the computer is turned off, the information in RAM is lost. This is why it’s important to save important files regularly as you work on them, especially if you don’t have a UPS providing emergency power. In general, the more RAM, the better.
    Today, 256 MB of RAM is considered a minimum. You might want to purchase 512 MB. If you plan to do video editing or other memory intensive activities, you might purchase several Gigs of RAM. The mainboard will determine the number of memory slots and how much total RAM can be installed.
    For the computer built in this book, we purchased one 512 MB Kingston Value Ram DDR memory chip for $40 after mail-in rebates from Best Buy (see Figure 18).

    Figure 18: RAM memory chip
    This chip is a 512 MB DDR chip. Like CPUs, memory chips are designed so that they can only be plugged in one way. This prevents installing the chip wrong. There is a hole between the row of metal leads. Because each side has a different length, the RAM chip can only be installed in one orientation.
    [​IMG]

    To learn what kind of memory your mainboard requires, see your mainboard’s manual. If you examine the connectors on a memory chip, they should be a golden color. Similarly, if you examine the connectors inside a memory socket on the mainboard, they should also be a golden color. Gold connectors are the best. It’s relatively rare, but you might find a tin connector on either a memory chip or on a memory socket. These connectors will be silvery in color and not gold. It’s recommended that you don’t mix gold and tin connectors, because when dissimilar metals come in contact the result is often corrosion of one of the metals. The odds are great that you don’t have to worry about this at all. Both connectors will be gold.
     
  20. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

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    [SIZE=+2]Video Card[/SIZE]

    You’ll want to purchase an AGP video card, which is better than a PCI video card. Be sure your mainboard has an AGP slot for an AGP video card. The video card will have a connector into which you’ll plug your monitor (see Figure 19).
    The video connector will be visible from the back of the PC. Most video monitors use the older analog connector that is common with CRT computer monitors.

    Figure 19: AGP video card
    Notice the black blob of spikes. That’s a heatsink to help draw heat away from the card. Some video cards will have their own fan which gets power from the AGP slot. You can identify AGP cards because the back of the card has a little notch to help secure it.
    [​IMG]

    Newer video cards often have two monitor connectors—one for use with CRT monitors and the other a digital connector for use with LCD monitors. While many LCD monitors support the older analog connection, if you plan to use an LCD monitor, it’s best to choose a video card with a digital connector.
    I’d recommend avoiding mainboards with built-in video connectors. It’s better to use a video card.
     
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