Assembling a Power PC

It’s not difficult to get an assembled personal computer from your local vendor, however, one cannot ensure the reliability of the products that have gone into its making. Branded products don’t always give you the configuration that you need and if you have specific requirements, limited budget and some time on your hands, it might be a good idea to consider assembling your own PC. Windows Middle East takes you through a step-by-step guide on how to assemble a power PC.

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By  Vijaya George Published  January 27, 2002

I|~||~||~|It’s not difficult to get an assembled personal computer from your local vendor, however, one cannot ensure the reliability of the products that have gone into its making. Branded products don’t always give you the configuration that you need and if you have specific requirements, limited budget and some time on your hands, it might be a good idea to consider assembling your own PC. This enables you to choose your hardware with care, it helps you understand your PC better and will, undoubtedly, make you a better informed IT user and consumer.

In this month’s Workshop, Windows Middle East teams up with Direct Computer Systems (DCS) to take you through a step-by-step guide on assembling a PC.

Buying the right hardware
It is a good idea to buy branded products from the market for your PC. Unless you are absolutely sure of alternative brands, stick to safe choices where the processor, mother board, video card and so on are concerned.

What we used

ATX case (desktop case): Ensure that your ATX case matches the motherboard you buy. We used an ATX PIV case to match the Pentium IV motherboard.
Motherboard: The Pentium IV motherboard comes with a separate panel that can be fixed into the back of the ATX case because it is different from the standard panel. This motherboard also comes with in-built sound, thereby, eliminating the need for a sound card. It also automatically detects the processor speed. So you don’t need to set it up separately. If there is no automatic detection, you can update your BIOS by going to the Intel web site and rectify the error.
Processor: A 2.0 GHz Intel CPU
Memory: 512 MB of RD RAM. There were 2 additional slots if we needed to add more memory.
Video Card: The nVidia GeForce 3 is one of the most powerful video cards available today. So, it was our obvious choice.
Modem: Creative Modem 56k
Floppy Drive: Sony 1.4 MB, 3.5”
DVD drive: Toshiba, 16x
PC speakers: The Creative soundworks SW 320
Monitor: Digital monitor from DCS.
Some more essentials: Ensure that there are enough screws and memory banks with the motherboard and ATX case; two fans, one that goes above the CPU (standard) and another cooling case fan, which is essential if you are using a PIV system.

||**||II|~||~||~|Installing the Motherboard
A motherboard contains a computer’s basic circuitry and components. A typical motherboard has the circuitry imprinted or affixed to its surface and is usually manufactured in a single step. A common motherboard design in desktop computers is the AT, based on the IBM AT motherboard. But a more recent motherboard specification that is becoming popular is the ATX, which improves on the AT design. In both the AT and ATX designs, there are things to look for before you choose a motherboard.

Your board’s bus speed determines how fast data is moved around throughout your board. The minimum bus speeds you want for your motherboard will be 66mhz and you can go as high as is available.
There’s nothing you can do without a CPU.

Random access memory (RAM) is another important thing for your computer. Without it, you won’t really get far. Nowadays you should only consider a motherboard that can support DIMM RAM. This type of RAM is a little more expensive, but much faster than it’s antiquated ancestor, SIMM RAM.

ISA, PCI, AGP—These are the slots available for the various cards you will be putting into your computer, such as video cards, sound cards and modems. If you’re looking to be using a lot of video and 3D games, then make sure the board you get has an AGP slot. AGP video cards are the best for video because they deliver the best speeds. Since most cards built today are PCI (modems, network cards, video, sound) you may want to get a board that has more PCI slots than ISA. Although if you’re not really concerned about very high quality 3D audio, fast network cards, or high tech 3D cards.

In-built sound and video may sound like less hassle than fixing your own cards but they are not always the best options unless you are sure of the motherboard. Ensure that you get a branded motherboard that people have told you is good if it comes with inbuilt sound and video.

USB is a basic feature these days because almost every type of peripheral seems to need one these days. Ensure that your motherboard comes with this.

Try to get a minimum of 512K cache. Anything above is even better because this improves your computer speed.

For now, our aim is to fix the mother board to the base of the ATX case. First ensure that the ATX devices on the motherboard such as the ports and output connections that jut out of the motherboard fit correctly into the corresponding cut out in the panel. Then arrange the mounting screws in the right places so that the motherboard can be held tightly in place with screws.

||**||III|~||~||~|Installing a CPU (processor)
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is one of the most important parts of the computer. Consider it as the “brains” of your computer. It consists of a single chip inside a computer that does most of the computer’s work.

There is a specific processor socket on the motherboard to affix the CPU. Lift the brown lock on the socket and insert the CPU. To ensure that the CPU is going in correctly, check for a little arrow mark to one corner of the CPU. This side of the CPU must coincide with a fainter indication on the CPU socket on the motherboard. There is no need to force the CPU in. When it is placed correctly, it will slide in easily. There is no need to set the speed of the CPU if you are using a PIV motherboard. It automatically detects the speed.

Installing the fan
The fan must be placed right above the CPU. It comes with two metal clips, one on either side to lock it in place on the processor socket.

The CPU fan has a power cable. This must be inserted into the CPU fan power socket on your motherboard. It can be fixed only one way. So if it doesn’t go in one way, turn it around.

Installing Memory
We decided on 512 RDRAM for this machine, with two 256 MB RAMs, one to fit into each slot of bank zero. To insert a memory card, gently release the white clips on either of the bank before sliding the memory stick into place. When you clip it in correctly, the white clips will move back into place. This motherboard comes with two banks (Bank0 and bank1), each with two slots.
If you plan to use only 2 slots, you must fix the two RAMs on the bank zero slot first. The other two slots must not be left empty. Rather, fill them in with memory blanks (usually supplied with the motherboard). This is to ensure that the motherboard can operate within a closed circuit.

Additionally, you can’t have two different RAM configurations on one bank. If you have 256 in one slot, you must have the same on the other slot as well although the configuration can differ on the next bank.

||**||IV|~||~||~|Installing the Floppy Drive
Take a good look at the back of your floppy drive and the connectors behind. This is different from the IDE connector and uses a different cable. The white connector is the power connector for the floppy drive and the other is a data cable connector.

If at the end, you switch on the computer and the floppy drive give a continuous light, it means the data cable has been connected upside down. Turn it around and connect it again. Remember that data cables have a serial connection; each of which has to connect to the correct pin. Every data cable has a pin number one, which comes in red or blue colours. This pin number one must go into pin number one slots on the motherboard and drive. Otherwise, the motherboard will not detect the drive.

For now, insert the floppy drive into the FDD mounting slot as shown in the picture. Use screws to secure it.

Installing the Hard Drive
You will find a jumper setting next to the IDE connector. Set this to Master, which is the default setting for a new HDD. Any other device sharing the same IDE cable should be set to Slave. Different hard drives have different jumper settings. Next to the jumpers, to your right, is the power connector. Every device except the FDD uses this type of power connector.

Place your hard drive into the HDD mounting slot of your case, make sure the IDE/ATA connector is facing outwards. Screw the HDD to the case using screws provided with the HDD or the ATX case.
Insert the ATA 66 cable into the ATA connector of the HDD. Make sure the pin one on the cable is connected to pin one on the HDD connector. Most new IDE/ATA cables go in only one way to correspond with pin one.

Push in the power cable. Connect the other end of the ATA 66 cable to the primary ATA socket of your motherboard. Ensure that pin one on the cable connects to pin one on the ATA socket.

Installing a DVD-ROM
Insert the DVD-ROM into the slot on the ATX case. The procedure to install additional optical drives is the same. The ATX case has additional slots to take in extras.

The Intel PIV motherboard that we used came with an in-built sound card. This is visible from the outside if you take a look at the output connections on the back of the motherboard that sticks out of the ATX case.

There are two ways to ensure that you get sound when you run an audio CD. You may either use operating systems such as Windows Millennium or higher. Otherwise, you have the option of connecting an audio cable from the DVD-ROM to the sound card on the motherboard.

Installing a Modem
A modem is a device that allows computers to transmit information to one another via an ordinary telephone line. It can either be internal or an external peripheral device.

It is recommended that you use the last socket on the motherboard for communication devices such as modems and network card. If there are two such devices, connect the last slot to the modem and reserve the second one for the network card. Lock the modem into place.

Installing a Video card
There is a special brown colour slot called the AGP bus on the motherboard that looks very different from the rest of the slots. This is made especially for the video card. Place your AGP card on top of the slot and gently push it down. Screw the card in place.

||**|||~||~||~|Installing a cooling case fan
There is an additional cooling case fan that is specially used for Pentium IV systems. This is very important because the new technology creates more hot than the standard systems. So, additional fans are essential to create a cooling environment within the system. This fan is fixed to the back of the ATX case.

Setting the cables in place
The only things remaining are some of the most important connections that will determine if you have set your connections right. Data cables must be connected from the motherboard to the floppy drive and from the IDE1 to the hard drive. A separate cable is connected from the IDE2 to the DVD. If you intend to use more than one hard drive, you have to ensure that one functions as the master and the other as the slave drive. These connections are indicated on the back of the IDE devices. The power cables must have a minimum of 300 watts. Each cable has a different number of fitting slots to avoid confusion. The front panel LEDs and switches on the ATX case which operate the power switch, power LED, restart button, hard drive LED and Speakers must be connected at this stage. Most of these cables are labelled.

Although the corresponding connectors on the motherboard may be labelled, these are often difficult to read. Luckily, most of these cables come with a different number of pins and usually, no two are alike. So, it ideally shouldn’t be difficult to match pairs. This cabling will need some help from a professional or alternatively, look up the manual that came with your motherboard. Read this carefully to figure out the right connections. Now comes the most important part. Don’t close your ATX case just yet. You need to check if your PC is working. Connect the relevant cables to the back of your ATX case. Connect the monitor as well. Switch on the ATX power supply at the back. the monitor and your PC in that order. The PC should boot if all’s well. Good luck!||**||

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