What are the steps that one would take to build your own PC? Sure you can go to any computer store (like any normal person would) and tell them you want a PC and they’ll give one to you perhaps over the counter, but we’re not normal people. So here are the steps you would take to BYOP (Build your own PC)
Identifying the components for your PC
Identifying what the PC will be used for is the key step as it denotes what components you will be purchasing. If you’re using the PC for specialized use such as Gaming or video animation and rendering, then you would need slightly higher end components for reliability and 24/7 operation.
However, if you’re assembling ye basic run of the mill PC, then you will need just the basic components.
- Processor AKA (CPU) – The brain of the PC.
- Motherboard – A large PCB (Printed circuit board) that is used to connect all components to.
- Memory (RAM) – Also known as Random Access Memory, this is volatile or temporary memory, that needs static electricity to store information. So when there is no power, the information stored is erased.
- Hard Drive or SSD – This is where you store your data. An SSD or Solid state drive is much faster than a regular HDD and has no moving parts. Think of it as a really fast pen drive.
- Optical Drive – Used if you’re reading and writing CDs and DVDs
- Power Supply – For powering up components and the PC
- Case – Used to house all components and cables.
- SATA Cables – For connecting drives to the motherboard
- Processor Fan – To keep the CPU cool.
- Case Fan – To keep the system cool
All you need is a screwdriver. Really!
We’re not kidding. Most people think that assembling a PC requires a degree in Computer Science and several years of experience. Well, that’s not entirely true. If you have sufficient knowledge of what goes where, and you can handle a screwdriver, then that’s all the knowledge you will need.
However, if you want to make sure your assembling process is methodical and organized, you can invest in the following utensils as well:
- A pocket knife
- A flashlight
- Small container to hold screws
- Heatsink compound
- Grounding Strap
Putting it all together
Now that we have all the components and tools needed, it’s time to get our hands dirty. Make sure your workplace is well lit.
Unpack the casing from the box it comes in. Pay attention to the orientation of it and locate screws needed to open up the panels to access the casing. Make sure to keep all screws in a place that you can find easily.
Once you have opened up the case, look inside to locate and parts or packaging that you would need to take out. This includes screws to fix the Motherboard to the casing, HDD screws and Optical Drive screws. You may also get cable ties which you can use to bunch up unwanted cables and keep the interior of the PC clutter free.
Take note of the cables inside the case as you will need these later on, when connecting headers such as front panel, USB and Audio to the motherboard. If you are having difficulty in identifying the cables, refer to the user’s manual that is given along with the casing.
Make sure that you’re well-grounded to prevent a buildup of static electricity which can be harmful to the PC components.
Installing the Motherboard
Carefully take the Motherboard out of the box it comes in. Make sure to take note of all accessories that it comes with. This includes the I/O Shield, cables, driver CD and even stickers that you can paste on the casing.
The I/O Shield is a metal panel that gets fitted to the back of the casing. In some cases (pun intended), the I/O shield gets installed on the top of the case if it’s an inverted design. Here again, you can refer to the user manual of the case if you have any doubts.
Once that is done, install standoffs to the case. The standoffs screw into the motherboard mounting holes. Be sure to check the screw hole locations on the motherboard for exact placement.
Once the I/O Shield is firmly in place, align the ports of the motherboard to the cutouts in the I/O shield and align the standoffs with the screw holes in the motherboard. Once they are all aligned, find the motherboard screws and use your screwdriver to install them. Be sure to pay particular attention to the standoffs and also to the screws used to fasten the standoff to the motherboard. An incorrectly sized screw can damage the motherboard.
Installing the Hard Disk Drive
Locate a 3.5″ drive bay to install the drive in. If the drive is an SSD (Solid state drive), you will either have to use a 2.5”-3.5” converter bay or if your casing supports SSD mounting natively, then you can go ahead and install the drive. The drives have screw holes on either side which you have to align on the casing. If you have trouble finding a place to mount the drive refer to your case documentation for suggestions. Slide the drive into place until the screw holes on the sides are lined up with the holes in the case.
Installing the Optical Drive
I’d just like to mention that Optical drives are going the way of the Dodo with access to high capacity drives and portable devices dropping in price. However, if you absolutely must have an optical drive in the PC you’re assembling, then all you need to do is locate the drive bay . You may also have to open the front of the casing to take out the front drive bay. Slide the drive into the drive bay until the screw holes are lined up and the front of the drive is aligned with the drive and then screw it in.
Installing the CPU and Heatsink/Fan
This is an area you have to be extremely careful about. As stated earlier, the CPU or Processor is the brain of the computer. It is placed in the Processor socket located towards middle to top area of the motherboard. If you cannot locate it, consult the user manual of the motherboard.
Lift the small metal rod next to the socket, and pull back the square lock. Locate the corner marking that designates pin 1 of the CPU and find the corresponding marking on the CPU socket. Insert the CPU so that the markings are lined up. Make sure not to bend any of the pins on the motherboard and gently place the CPU in the CPU socket. Once done, push the rod down to lock the processor in place.
To install the CPU, heatsink/fan, apply thermal compound to the CPU and align the 4 feet of the CPU fan with the 4 CPU fan holes in the motherboard. Once done, gently press down on each of the four tabs on the CPU fan till you hear a small click. This means that the tab is secured to the motherboard. Failure to do so could result in the overheating of the CPU. Once that’s done,
connect the fan power connector to the motherboard.
Installing the RAM
RAM or Random Access Memory is the temporary memory location that the processor works from. The RAM is considered volatile or temporary memory, in that it needs static electricity to store information. So when there is no power, the information stored is erased.
When installing a RAM on to the Motherboard, a person should take note of the memory type compatible with the Mother board. For example, a DDR4 RAM is not compatible with a DDR3 motherboard. Fortunately, on the underside of the RAM module is a small notch. This notch is placed differently with the DD4, DDR3 and DDR2 RAM modules, the last two of which are no longer in production.
To install the ram, seat it in the ram slot paying particular attention to alignment of the notch in the ram module and the slot on the motherboard. If it is not aligned, flip the ram around and align it. If it still doesn’t align, make sure the ram you have is compatible with the motherboard you have. Once done, press down on both ends of the tabs, thus locking the ram into place. A special note, pressing the ram module in when the tab is not aligned could cause damage to the ram module as well as the motherboard itself.
Installing additional cards such as graphics and sound cards
These are not required for a basic PC as video and sound are provided onboard via the CPU and audio chips on the Motherboard itself. However, if you do at any point wish to install a graphic card or sound card, you will need to locate the relevant slot on the motherboard. This is usually a PCI Express x16 slot for the graphics card and a PCI x1 slot for the sound card. Carefully install the graphics card/sound card onto the relevant slot and align the metal bracket of it to the casing and use a screw to secure it in place. Be careful as your fingers can generate static electricity if it comes into contact with the PCB of the component.
Installing the PSU and connecting the cables
Align the PSU (Power Supply Unit) with the mounting holes in the case, insert and tighten screws. If you are not sure of what screws to use, consult the user manual of your casing and also the PSU. PSU mounting screws are usually given with the PSU itself.
Now that you have installed everything, it’s time to connect everything to everything else. The motherboard will require a 24 pin or 20+4 pin power connector. The CPU will require either a 4 pin or a 4+4 pin connector. These connectors are labelled on the PSU, thus making it easier to identify. SATA drives such as HDDs and optical drives have separate connectors that need to be connected. Fans and other components usually get connected to IDE/Molex connectors. Once the power cables are connected, the next step would be to connect the data cable from the HDD/SSD and Optical drives to the motherboard.
Once that is done, the next step would be to connect the front panel devices to the motherboard. If you are unsure of what goes where, refer to the motherboard documentation for the exact placement of connectors as incorrect connections can damage components and cause bodily injury.
Power it up
Once all the cables are connected, power up the PC to see if everything works. If it does, you will see the system BIOS loading screen on your monitor. If it doesn’t, and you hear a beep, chances are you’ve done something wrong. Power down the system and do a once over to ensure that all components are correctly plugged in and seated properly.
Once everything is working as it should be, you can sit back and revel in the moment. Yep, that’s right. You just built your first PC.
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