Construct your PC

Read our guide on all you need to know when building a PC. From the components you will need and relevant buying advice, to how you put it all together; the WINDOWS Middle East team give you the full lowdown.

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Construct your PC
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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  April 13, 2010

The satisfaction one gets when creating something is often the motivating factor for building anything. The same goes for PCs. Sure, you could buy a pre-built PC, and it will take out the hassle of you putting one together.

But constructing your own PC can provide you with much satisfaction. And when you consider that you can build a top-dollar PC on a lower budget as oppossed to buying a pre-built PC, then it makes the PC building process that much more fun. In this guide we seek to build what will just be a standard PC. We’ll explain what each component does, provide you with buying advice for all your components and show you how to put everything together.

Safety first

The first issue to consider when putting together your PC is safety. Always be sure to touch a grounded metal object quite often so as to discharge any static buildup. Another thing to consider is that building a PC is a matter of trial and error; and, apart from consulting this guide, you will also need to search forums and do lots of Google searches when you come across a frustrating snag.

Checklist

Before we start with the PC building activity, here is a checklist of all the components we're going to show you how to put together. Obviously, you’ll need a toolkit, and in terms of components, you’ll need your case, motherboard, CPU, RAM, GPU, hard drive and heatsink. Ultimately, our PC is going to look like the image to the right, and we’ll put together the components in the above-mentioned order.

Motherboard and CPU

The Motherboard is the central printed circuit board in computers that has many of the components and connectors of the system. It’s often referred to as the main board, system board, mobo, or ‘logic board’ (for Apple computers).

Motherboard buying tips:

When buying a motherboard be aware that you first need to decide which CPU you’re going to have (either an Intel or AMD CPU). So, your board needs to be configured with the CPU that you buy. The reason why you can’t use any chip with any board is because both processor companies use different socket types, which are both pin and electrically incompatible with each other. Once you’ve decided on an AMD or Intel board, look for what chipset the motherboard is using.

If you want to use a rig with two or more graphics cards, check that your motherboard's chipset supports multi-GPU technology so that the board is compatible with more than one graphics card. Also consider the size and form factor of your chassis or case before buying a board as computer casings can be built to ATX, micro-ATX, FlexATX and BTX form factors. For your board to fit, you’ll have to ensure your board is of the same form factor. Take a look at the expansion slots offered by the motherboard as well because these slots enable you to attach graphics cards, SCSI controllers, sound cards and so on. If you’re going to be overclocking also check that the motherboard offers a tweak-friendly BIOS.

The board’s BIOS should at least offer FSB and CPU Vcore voltage manipulation, and you must further ensure it has a CPU multiplier, memory frequency and voltage options.

CPU

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the portion of a computer system that carries out the instruction of a computer program and is the primary element that carries out the computer’s functions. The CPU is know for carrying out what is called serial computing where software running on a single CPU breaks up a problem into a series of instructions, where only one instruction can be processed at a time.

Installing the motherboard and CPU

Installing a motherboard and CPU is not as difficult as it might look. Before you get started, you need to make sure that you have a PC case, screwdriver, motherboard, compatible CPU and a heatsink/fan.

Then you want to open up your case and get to know the interior of it a bit. Make sure that you familiarise yourself with it. You’re going to have to prepare your case and, when doing this, you’ll notice that your case will have brass standoffs that you have to screw your motherboard into.

CPU Buying Tips

Today it’s possible to get processors with many cores, which is akin to having multiple processors within one processor. If you’re going to  work with basic apps such as word processors, spreadsheet programs, web browsers and email clients, you can get away with using just a fast single core processor. If you play games at high resolutions, perform picture editing, MP3 encoding and watch HD videos on your PC, consider a multiple-core chip.

These standoffs separate the motherboard from the case, and they’re also threaded to help you screw your motherboard into them. When putting in the mobo later, be sure to size up your motherboard against the case to see where the holes line up. Often you’ll find that there are more holes then what you’ll need; so, you’ll have to line up the parts appropriately. The next step in this process is to check or replace the I/O shield. Not all motherboards will match the I/O shield that comes with your case, but fortunately most motherboards will come with their own shield. It’s also a simple matter with regard to replacing the shield, because you can push in the I/O shield until it pops out and then replace it with the new one. You might need to pop out a few covers in the shield to accommodate your board. Now that you've investigated your motherboard and case, it’s time to install the CPU, which is a delicate process.

You’ll need to unlock the CPU socket, which is usually a small plastic or metal arm that lies on the side of the CPU socket. Push the socket out and then pull it up. The next step is to align the CPU to the socket and different processors have different pin layouts on the bottom. Usually, one corner will have a diagonal section without any pins that will be different from others. (Sometimes this corner will be labeled by a small triangle on the top of the CPU as well.) Find the corresponding corner on your motherboard’s CPU socket and lower the CPU into the socket. Do not push or shove the CPU into place; the CPU should simply slot gracefully into its socket. It’s a simple process for the Intel CPU, but it’s a slightly different procedure when installing an AMD CPU into an AMD motherboard, owing to the fact that an AMD processor has a different composition with spindles that can break more easily. It’s very important that you line up the spindles with the tiny slots as pictured.

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