Jump to content
Crazy_Nate

How To Successfully Build A Computer

Recommended Posts

How to successfully build a computer

Also known as, how Crazy_Nate builds a computer

 

Often, when somebody builds a computer, the necessary steps to ensure stability are not taken. In my opinion, the easiest way -- and best time to do this, is when you first get your hardware. Here's my method of figuring everything out. I have used it over and over and it's even helped me figure out problems that have occurred after a working computer had been running for a while.

 

If you're in a hurry to get started...jump straight down to "Preliminary Preparations"

 

Choosing hardware

The internet is a wonderful place, with lots of computer oriented communities who are more than willing to give advice on the best hardware...OCC being a top option ;)

 

Reviews are everywhere. Some may be a little biased, some not. I would average the opinions of several reviews before pushing the 'buy' button. If you're going to get verification from an online forum, please post:

 

  • Your budget.
     
  • The purpose of the computer (gaming, CAD, rendering, etc). Often, for gaming, knowing which games you want to play is very helpful...and what resolution!
     
  • Where you are. This can help people locate stores or online venues that you can actually use.

Beyond that...I have only one major hardware suggestion. Buy a quality power supply.

 

For cases, the good ones give you better airflow, which, results in lower temperatures. A rule of thumb (pardon the expression) is that for every 10 degrees you lower the temperatures, it doubles the effective life of the component. Not sure what is used for reference, but, you get the point. Good fans and filters are an adamant computer user's best friend. I happen to like the medium speed 120mm Panaflo's as a good compromise between noise and air flow (other people have their favorites, as well). Fan controllers are sometimes necessary with fans like this.

 

If you must go with a cheaper case, take a look at the modding link below. A blowhole and / or intake and exhaust mods may be necessary.

 

Since airflow was brought up, I'll say a couple words about it. A computer case is a box with a lot of aerodynamic obstacles in it. Fans work to move cool air to components that need cooling, including the CPU, graphics card, chipset / northbridge / southbridge, harddrives, and the power supply, to name a few. Consider an analogy to a case as a pipe with a rough interior. The more stuff inside (obstacles) the greater the pressure drop along the pipe section...like having a rougher wall. Fans can provide a certain amount of volumetric flow rate (usually in CFM - cubic feet of air per minute), however, these values are usually for no pressure restrictions on the fan (which reduces the flow rates...). Simply put, some fans may not perform exactly as they're listed. Some manufacturers may list a stagnation pressure as a form of rating.

 

In order to alleviate some of the pressure inside a case...exhaust fans are used. I typically like to have matched in- and out- flowrates, erring on the side of higher intake (for the same reason they do it in buildings, infiltration - for computers, this means dust would sneak in through the edges on a computer case with an internal gauge pressure that is negative - essentially, lower pressure inside, than normal ambient atmospheric pressure).

 

A note about heat flow and other sorts of technical bits...

 

There are 3 types of heat transfer...conduction, convection and radiation. We won't worry about the last because of the relatively low temperatures that computers operate at. Conduction happens between two surfaces, in contact, with different temperatures. Convection happens between a fluid (in computers...air, water, or a refrigerant) and a surface with a temperature difference between the two. There are two types of convection...natural and forced (and a third, if you consider mixed convection where natural convection is not a negligible portion of the two, combined). Natural is driven by buoyant forces (hot air rises, refrigerant evaporates within a heatpipe and rises, etc) and works best in vertical orientations. Forced convection, is, well, forced. Usually by a fan, or pump. Think of any heatsink with a fan attached.

 

Within convection, there are some important concepts. One of which is flow regime. Laminar, transitional, or turbulent, in order of increasing Reynolds number (from no mixing, to lots of mixing). Laminar requires the least amount of pressure and is the quietest, but has lower heat transfer properties. Transitional is in between. Turbulent has larger flow requirements relative to a characteristic length or diameter. Simply put, laminar is smooth, turbulent is rough. Certain things like adding bumps, ridges or similar aerodynamic devices to roughen the surface can change the heat transfer properties - usually for the better.

 

Short of modeling every little component and custom designing heatsinks, fans and ducting...the best you can usually do is have high quality fans / heatsinks (think about how you choose to orient them) and cool ambient temperatures.

 

So, with all that said...take care of your computer and it will last a long time. Temperatures and dust are enemies thwarted by good cooling, fans, filters, and the occasional dusting (with an air can - not air from a home or shop compressor <may contain water>) or vacuuming.

 

Preliminary preparations

 

  1. Download Memtest86 from: memtest86_logo_med.jpg
     
     
  2. Download the latest motherboard drivers from your motherboard manufacturers website, as well as, any other additional drivers you may need. If you wish to upgrade your BIOS to a later version, download a bootable disk version (I would not recommend trying through windows).
     
     
  3. Download the latest graphics drivers from: nvidia_logo.gif or AMD_logo_us-en.gif
     
     
  4. Burn the Memtest86 ISO.
     
     
  5. Put all your drivers on to a CD - or flash drive.
     
     
  6. Download and burn any stability testing programs or benchmarks, as well as, temperature measuring programs. My recommendations are:
     

 

[*]Verify that you have access to an operating system install disk. Some of the aforementioned programs are for windows...

 

 

[*]Verify that you have adequate space to build your computer. A desk is nice. Light is good. If you have carpet, you may have to take precautions to not discharge any static electricity. Paul has a good suggestion about static discharge here. Use caution and be patient. It will help remove any headaches.

DSCF0097.jpg

 

 

[*]Find some tools. I would definitely recommend at least two sizes of Phillips head screwdrivers.

DSCF0099.jpg

 

 

[*]Find a tube of TIM (thermal interface media / material)...if you are going to need it (IE. an aftermarket heatsink). I happen to like both AS5 and Ceramique (for it's nonconducting / inert properties).

DSCF0101.jpg

 

 

[*]Get ready to have some fun. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Building your computer

  1. Open all of your boxes. Verify no visible damage to components. Make a nice, neat pile. Just like Christmas!
    DSCF0001.jpg
     
     
  2. Put the motherboard on top of the motherboard box.
    DSCF0104.jpg
     
     
  3. Following the instructions in either the motherboard manual, or on the box for your processor, insert it into the socket.
    DSCF0106.jpg
     
     
  4. Attach either the stock heatsink that comes with retail processors, or an aftermarket heatsink, also following the instructions on either box. AS5 Instructions
    DSCF0108.jpg
    DSCF0110.jpg
     
     
  5. Place one DIMM (AKA stick of RAM) in an appropriate memory slot (check your motherboard manual - If it doesn't say, feel free to find the slot numbered 1 and carefully insert).
    DSCF0111.jpg
     
     
  6. Clear the CMOS. Instructions are usually in the motherboard manual. This may or may not involve removing the motherboard battery. Don't forget to put it back where it was (or the correct position...see the manual)
    DSCF0113.jpg
     
     
  7. Attach the power supply connections to the motherboard. This involves at least a 24-pin connector, and a CPU connector - either 4 pin or the 8 pin EPS. Some motherboards may have additional power connections for stability purposes. Consult motherboard manual if unsure.
    DSCF0116.jpg
     
     
  8. Add a PCI-express graphics card, verify that it sits all the way into the slot and that there is no interference with any of the motherboard components. Attach any appropriate power connectors (6 pin, 2x6 pin, 6 pin + 8 pin, etc). Consult graphics card manual.
    DSCF0119.jpg
     
     
  9. Attach a monitor to either a DVI output or a VGA output on the graphics card. Also make a mental note if there is any onboard graphics (can be seen by one of those connectors on the motherboard back panel). You will want to disable it through BIOS, initially.
     
     
  10. Verify that your power supply is set to the correct voltage range, if there is a 110 / 220 switch. See power supply manual. With the power supply power switch (the one with a 0 and a 1) in the 0 position, plug the power supply cable into the back of the power supply, and into a surge protector (powered).
     
     
  11. Add a pushbutton to the appropriate motherboard connection for the "on" switch. Some motherboards have buttons already. Consult manual as needed. This would also be a good time to figure out which keyboard button gets you into your BIOS and which brings up the boot menu.
    DSCF0122.jpg
     
     
  12. Add a PS2 keyboard. Or, if you have a USB keyboard, use a USB->PS2 converter.
    DSCF0124.jpg
     
     
  13. Flip the power supply switch to the 1 position.
    DSCF0003.jpg
     
     
  14. Push the "on" switch that you connected before. Here's what to do if you don't have a button connected:
    Computerbuildpics009.jpg
     
     
  15. Push the appropriate button on the keyboard for your BIOS. Enter. Go to your memory settings. Change the voltage to what is recommended by the manufacturer. Set the primary timings that are also recommended by your manufacturer (CAS/tRCD/tRP/tRAS/CMD - or CPC).
    DSCF0094.jpg
    DSCF0095.jpg
     
     
  16. Exit and save. Power down the computer.
    Note: Any time you change any of your hardware, verify that your computer is off, the power supply switch is in the off position, and the power cable to the power supply is unplugged.
     
     
  17. If your motherboard does not have memtest86 built in, now would be the time to go find that CD you burned. Install a optical drive (SATA or PATA) and power connection (SATA power or 4-pin molex).
     
     
  18. Plug in your computer, flip the PSU switch, and hit the "on" button. Push the keyboard key to get to the boot menu. Select boot from optical drive.
     
     
  19. Fire up memtest, verify ten passes on tests 5 & 8...then at least a couple hours on all tests.
    DSCF0004.jpg
    DSCF0001-1.jpg
     
     
  20. Add more memory, in the appropriate motherboard slot -- for dual channel. Consult motherboard manual as needed.
    Computerbuildpics003.jpg
     
     
  21. Memtest again, using the same procedure as above.
     
     
  22. Power down, unplug. Install a hard drive (most likely SATAII) and it's power connection. You probably will want to install a mouse at this point.
    Computerbuildpics011.jpg
     
     
  23. Install windows. If you want to, have a RAID disk on hand.
     
     
  24. When you get into windows, install your motherboard drivers and graphics drivers at this point. Reboot as needed. Check CPUz and GPUz. Install Everest + temperature monitoring software.
     
     
  25. Install / open Prime95. Run for a minimum of 8 hours at stock settings (no overclocking...yet ;)). I like to do at least 24 hours. Monitor temperatures. 60C is the threshold I like to have for processors.
    prime.jpg
     
     
  26. Run the 3dmark suites and any other benchmarking / stability programs that you like.
     
     
  27. Turn off the computer...install any other hardware you wish (sound card, TV card, etc), one at a time. Verify that there are no IRQ conflicts. (Start -> Control Panel -> System -> Hardware -> Device manager -> View -> Resources by connection)
     
     
  28. If you've made it this far...without any problems...Congratulations! You are "stock stable". From this point you may increase your performance by "overclocking". Have fun...and, as always, verify stability!
     
     
  29. At this time, you can also put your computer into your case. If you begin to have problems...turning on, or power related, you may have a motherboard standoff in the wrong position. (My girlfriend clocked me at 29.5 minutes...not bad for swapping processors, video cards, adding a sound card and a TV card, getting everything into the case, wire management, and...moving the HDTV and case) :)
     
    Before:
    Computerbuildpics013.jpg
     
     
    After:
    Computerbuildpics014.jpg

 

:thumbs-up:

 

 

Additional Information and links

 

OCC Hardware Reviews

 

[retro] The Original Diy-street Amd64 Overclocking Guide, 300,000+ downloads later, it is still quite useful!

 

OCC Recommended Power Supplies List

 

Modding & Computer Stores, Hardware, components, search engines, all around the world!

 

The Official OCC Raid Guide, Version 2.0

 

Watercooling Information & Suggestions

 

OCC Overclocking FAQ

 

Folding At Home for OCC

 

OCC CS:S Dedicated Server

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Great guide, hope it will be stickied. Nice 4 ref too. :thumbs-up:

 

Thank you for the kind words. :)

 

Hopefully I haven't been too explicit with the instructions. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its not to explicit if ur talking to n00bs.

 

13. Flip the power supply switch to the 1 position.

14. Push the "on" switch that you connected before.

 

:lol: :lol: :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If it's a guide for people that are new to building a PC, it NEEDS to be explicit :D

 

Nice job man.

 

Thanks!

 

If anybody has any comments, or thinks I should add anything, feel free to say so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good guide, only thing i would add is in adition to the good power supply note is a another note tell them to make sure they use good cooling/airflow. and that they keep it free of dust. dont know how many computers ive seen break due to bad cooling/airflow and dust.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the best lessons I've learned when buying parts is "Cheap doesn't always = Good". Basically it boils down to "You get what you pay for".....

 

Many people are on budgets and that's understandable, but sometimes, certain parts should NOT be skimped on. The Power Supply is at the top of that list. If a good reliable/reputable power supply doesn't fit into your budget at this time, wait a week or two and find a way to make it fit. The NOW, NOW, NOW people will usually spend more money in the long run because they are impatient and will not get the results they expected and will end up having to buy different parts.

 

The Power Supply will usually be that part. Make sure it's in the power range you will need, has the right amount of power to the +12v rail that you will need to power your video card. Make sure it has the right amount and kind of connectors you'll need to power all your accessories and hardware. For most gaming systems, 500-600w is good. I prefer to go 700w or better just to make sure :P BUT... look at the specs for that power supply. the wattage isn't the only spec to look at. The amount of +12v rails is something to take into consideration. Many power supplies have only 1 rail. It's better to have at least two +12v rails, and also make sure those rails have at least 20a or above to power your accessories effeciently.

 

Another part that shouldn't be skimped on is the Video Card. Figure out what you'll be doing most with this PC, and find the video card that'll get you the performance you'll need. Spending $150 on something now, and then it not performing the way you want, and then having to go spend another $250 to get what you want is hardly cost effective. Spending the extra $100 to begin with would've paid off better.

 

Last, the Memory. If you're running XP, 2gb is sufficient for just about anything. For Vista, 2gb is good, but for gaming or anything graphics intensive, 3gb-4gb is better. Skimping on memory will result in a sluggish PC and alot of swearing. :lol: Remember, 32 bit operating systems usually will not recognize more than 3.25gb of memory, even if you have 4gb installed. 64 bit OS's will recognize more, but sometimes be limited to what the motherboard is capable of recognizing.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent guide...Will definitely be referring to it/using it as a checklist tomorrow eve. when I'm finishing my build (Yay! no more 1 Ghz PIII/512 DDR!).

Dled and printed.

 

Sticky!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

this thread got me excited... because now it's sticky

 

:lol:

 

nice guide :thumbs-up:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One of the best lessons I've learned when buying parts is "Cheap doesn't always = Good". Basically it boils down to "You get what you pay for".....

 

Many people are on budgets and that's understandable, but sometimes, certain parts should NOT be skimped on. The Power Supply is at the top of that list. If a good reliable/reputable power supply doesn't fit into your budget at this time, wait a week or two and find a way to make it fit. The NOW, NOW, NOW people will usually spend more money in the long run because they are impatient and will not get the results they expected and will end up having to buy different parts.

 

The Power Supply will usually be that part. Make sure it's in the power range you will need, has the right amount of power to the +12v rail that you will need to power your video card. Make sure it has the right amount and kind of connectors you'll need to power all your accessories and hardware. For most gaming systems, 500-600w is good. I prefer to go 700w or better just to make sure :P BUT... look at the specs for that power supply. the wattage isn't the only spec to look at. The amount of +12v rails is something to take into consideration. Many power supplies have only 1 rail. It's better to have at least two +12v rails, and also make sure those rails have at least 20a or above to power your accessories effeciently.

 

Another part that shouldn't be skimped on is the Video Card. Figure out what you'll be doing most with this PC, and find the video card that'll get you the performance you'll need. Spending $150 on something now, and then it not performing the way you want, and then having to go spend another $250 to get what you want is hardly cost effective. Spending the extra $100 to begin with would've paid off better.

 

Last, the Memory. If you're running XP, 2gb is sufficient for just about anything. For Vista, 2gb is good, but for gaming or anything graphics intensive, 3gb-4gb is better. Skimping on memory will result in a sluggish PC and alot of swearing. :lol: Remember, 32 bit operating systems usually will not recognize more than 3.25gb of memory, even if you have 4gb installed. 64 bit OS's will recognize more, but sometimes be limited to what the motherboard is capable of recognizing.

 

I agree, wholeheartedly, about quality in general. If you want to have a very well performing PC, do your research and buy quality components that will last you for a while. I have had success with running my computer for about 4 years now and I've only upgraded the processor and graphics card after 3.5 years. I've also rotated the power supply to a different rig.

 

For memory, 4 gig DDR2 kits are cheap. That seems the way to go. There also seems to be not much reason against going with a 64-bit version of Vista (unless you like Linux of course ;)).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×