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Building Your Own Computer

Creator: Pineberry January 29, 2012 11:19am
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Aug 3rd, 2011
Permalink | Quote | PM | +Rep | Commend January 29, 2012 11:19am | Report
Pineberry's Guide To:
Building Your Own Computer

Hey all! In case you haven't seen me around before, I am Pineberry. I am writing this guide to give you a better understanding of how to build your own computer. Before we start, I would like to set up a few rules; Firstly: do not PM me with questions, post questions/problems here and they will be answered eventually. Secondly: I am not liable for anything you do, if you put in your processor backwards, and boot up your computer and fry it, I AM NOT LIABLE! Everything you see here is just a basic guideline on how to build a computer. I can assure you that it has been checked by the most knowledgeable people I know. So this is not some crackpot guide, I spent a few months crafting this for some old forums, and this has literally been copy pasted through several forums at this point and now here.

I must note that I borrowed some pictures from other websites since they were able to get much better pictures than what I was able to obtain. My digital camera was unable to take close up pictures (they came out blurry). So there will be small numbers that have links to where I acquired the pictures. A couple pictures of the headers were taken from my motherboard manual. Also note that this guide is somewhat old(in fact it's probably ancient. This guide was made when I was 13ish and my 16th birthday is coming up so yeah), as I made it quite a while back, but I'm very sure you can still build a decent computer with this. Anything pink were edits from an old techie friend of mine who no longer exists.


Here are the parts I choose to build my computer. Now when you build a computer your parts may not be exactly the same, but in most cases you’d build your computer the same way I did.

Power Supply
Video Card
CD/DVD Drives

Alright now that I got that out of the way, let's get started!


Q. Do I have to have a degree in computer science to build a computer or have any special skills in computers?

A. No! That's what makes building a computer so great! Almost anyone can build one, just to give you an example, I am 13 years old, not a computer genius and still managed to build one (with help from others including my dad!).

Q. Why write did you write this guide?

A. Uhh boredom, and because my dad wouldn't buy me a computer at first so I decided to make my own. However if I had such knowledge about this, why not share it with everyone else? And that is how it came to be.

Q. How much money does it take to build your own computer?

A. Depending on your elite shopping skills, a computer with all the accessories can cost anywhere from $500-$5000 USD

Q. $5000? That's expensive. If I were to spend that much money shouldn't I buy from a vendor?

Ah, excellent question. There are a few reasons why you may want to build your own computer as opposed to buying one that is pre-assembled:

A. Why Build?

1. It gives you a better understanding of your computer so if something goes wrong, you know what it is (and you don’t have to hit up on these forums)

2. You save a lot of money and get a better end product. This is especially true if you have a decent sized budget.

3. You can customize it to how you want it to look, no boring case that looks bland and says "Dell" on the side, no sir. My OLD computer can hold 10 CD drive bays in the front, glows blue when it is on, and has an acrylic side panel so you can see all the inner workings. It looks so much cooler then my current Acer laptop, but obviously performance beats it out, although it is a fine back-up when my laptop isn't working.

4. You can choose which aspects and components you need more easily than if you just hit the "Customize it" button on Dell only has a certain range of products, when you build, it is virtually limitless; no more you can only buy a 12X DVD burner combo kit, when you build, you can get that 20X you want.

5. It is really easy to change parts out when you want to upgrade different parts of the computer.

B. The parts of a Computer

There are several components that are the workings of the computer, I will describe them, tell you what specifications you should look for, and show a picture of each (you can see the picture by clicking on the red words).

1. Power supply- Quite simply this supplies power to all of the parts of your computer, you have several cables that run from this, one that runs directly into your video card, one that powers your motherboard, one that powers your processor, some that power CD drives... etc.

Some of the important specifications you want to look at when choosing a power supply are, the total wattage, amps on the 12v rail to power the video card, and efficiency. You do want to make sure you have enough wattage to cover everything on your system. The more powerful your video card (especially if you use ****vidia) the more devices and usb items you have, the more power you'll need.

2.Motherboard- This is what everything plugs into: your RAM, processor, all of it sits on your motherboard. It regulates communication between all the parts (e.g. RAM loads program from the hard drive through the Motherboard). Each motherboard looks a little bit different depending on what kinds of connectors it has, although they all pretty much have the same layout.

Some of the important specifications you want to look at when choosing a motherboard are, overclocking potential, whether it can support dual graphics cards, and if it has firewire esata, And you want to look at BUS speed. The higher the bus speed, the faster your processor can communicate with the rest of the system. Front end bus speed determines the highest RAM frequency you can have. For example, the motherboard used in this guide has a 1066/1333 front side bus. The higher those numbers, the faster data can move through the board. That particular board can use RAM running up to 1333 megaherz.

3.RAM: Short for Random access memory. This is the hardest component to describe what it does. Pretty much this is what your programs will run off of. It is temporary storage, thus when you shut your computer off, everything stored in the RAM is lost. When programs run, they load into the ram because that is faster than reading right off of the hard drive. The more ram you have, the better, your computer will run much more smoothly when you have more RAM.

Don't go nuts though, you don't want 8 GB of ram in Vista if you just use word and windows media player, waste of $. Note: Some pieces of RAM have a metal sheet on top of them, called a heat spreader; it helps keep the ram cooler. Ram can be a bit expensive or dead cheap, it all depends on what you get, generally, the sticks that hold less, cost less. What I mean by this is if you get 4 gigabytes of RAM in 4 Sticks of 1 Gigabyte it is going to be cheaper than if you get two sticks of two gigabytes. When calculating how much RAM you have, simply add up the sticks you put in (eg. 512MB + 512 MB = 1024MB= 1GB).

Some of the important specifications you want to look at when choosing RAM are, the brand with a life time warranty, the timings, and start up voltage. You also want to match the frequency of the RAM with your motherboards bus, as stated above. Also, you should know that unless you're using a 64 bit operating system you CANNOT use more than 4 gigs of ram. The system will not recognize it.

4. Hard Drive- This is where everything you save goes. Your operating system (XP, Vista, Ubuntu etc.) loads off of this when you start up your computer. The hard drive is also the slowest part of your computer. The bigger your Hard Drive the more stuff you can save. Hard drives are very cheap: I just bought a 750 GB hard drive for about $130 (that is a 7,200 RPM drive) which I will explain.

A hard drive works kind of like a CD, it spins around really fast (7,200 RPM - 15,000 RPM) as it reads/writes data. It actually has discs inside (hence why it is sometimes called a hard disk, because it has a disk inside which is hard not floppy, like a floppy disk). If you get a faster spinning drive, (15,000 vs 7,200) it will read stuff faster, therefore making your machine faster. However this is really cost ineffective, as faster spinning drives are really expensive. What many people do is buy one hard drive that spins fast, install their operating system on that so it boots up faster, then get a secondary cheap 7,200 RPM drive and use that for storage of media/movies

Some of the important specifications you want to look at when choosing a hard drive is, warranty, capacity, noise level and speed. You also want to look at whether the drive is IDE or SATA. You want to stick with SATA if your motherboard supports it. SATA is faster than IDE by a long shot. Also, if you get a RPM drive, just note that the faster a drive is, the shorter it's life expectancy. Faster drives will die out much sooner.

5. Processor- As the cliché goes "the brain of the computer". The processor executes all of the instructions that it gets from the rest of the computer. Take a program, it is just a list of instructions telling the processor what to do and the processor carries out the instructions. You can now get dual- and even quad-core processors, for multitasking and better speeds. I would suggest dual core if you are on a low budget or quad if you have a little more to spend. Quads are becoming more cost-effective as processor models progress.

I actually recommend staying away from quad core processors at this specific point in time. Quad core processors don't currently have the capabilities to run at the frequencies that a dual core can run. Also, there are only 3 games in the entire world that even utilize more than 2 cores. I recommend a high end dual core over a quad core right at this point in time. Once software technology catches up to the hardware we have available, my opinion on this might change.

6. Video Card- What puts the image you see on your screen right now there? The video card plugs into the monitor usually near the bottom and has an output so you can screw your monitor into it. Generally the more video memory you have the better, but there are some instances where a 256 Mbmodel offers the same performance as the 512 Mb model. Also the more memory you have the higher the resolution you can game at, and it allows for you to turn on antialiasing or even crank up the antialiasing value. Cards range from 64 Mb built in to 768 Mb built in. Usually a good, happy medium is 256-512MB (I have 640 MB though). Video cards are always changing and fluctuating in price; therefore, if you see a video card you have your heart set on but cant afford, wait because they tend to come down in price relatively quickly. You should always get a motherboard that allows you to use PCI-E, the most current connector for video cards, PCI-E will give you better results then any previous connector (AGP for example).

Unless you have to, due to budget, I wouldn't even get a board with an on-board video card. I know a lot of people like to do it so they don't have to get a video card right away, and that's fine if you need to save some money. But on on-board video card can never perform like a seperate processing board. And it hinders over-all performance of the rest of the system by taxing other resources. So IF you can afford it, I recommend getting a seperate video card.

7. Fans- Built into your case generally, they keep airflow going to keep your parts cooled, which is vital. You can buy fans and add them on of course if you need to cool your computer down. Fans may not be needed if you decide to go for water cooling instead. There are also fans that are built in (or come with) your video card and processor. Overall, we can put it like this: fans seem somewhat minor, but if you don't have any, your computer's data will fry and burn, or maybe even literally MELT.

I will note that cards and processors that have heatsyncs and fans built on should be taken off and reapplied if you have your own thermal paste (yes, buy some thermal paste). The reason being is when manufacturers put out their hardware their looking at the cheapest way to get it out the door, and EVERYONE skimps on thermal compound. I highly recommend that everyone gets a high end thermal compound and applies it themselves to any heatsync and fan. This doesn't include bolt mounted case fans, just on processors and graphics processors. Also, please note that if you do apply your own compound, you HAVE to scrape all of the previous stuff off and make sure the surface is clean and dry first.

That's the stuff I use. Also, this step isn't really important, you don't have to put it on yourself. But it well help your system run cooler. And it will increase the lifetime of what you're using it on.

8. Case- Ah yes, my favorite. The case is what holds all the parts, you screw your motherboard into the case and everything is inside the case. I like the case the best because it is what makes people say "Omg awesome looking computer". You can get everything from a simple modest case that is made of metal to a case that has acrylic windows, LED lights, glowing fans, you name it. I would recommend getting the fancy accessories because otherwise, what separates your machine from one made by ****ty old dell or gateway?

9. Connections- most of the parts you order will have these, but you will have to make sure you order them if they aren’t included. The basic parts include: connection for the hard drive to the motherboard, CD/DVD drive to motherboard connector.

10. Accessories- CD/DVD drives/burners – These read and write data on your DVDs or CDs. Some also allow you to inscribe things on your CDs to personalize them. Not much distinguishes one from the other, so I’d prefer to get one that is fairly quiet.
C. Choosing the right parts

This is one of the most difficult aspects of building a computer, what parts to choose. Needless to say all of your parts have to be compatible, but there is more to it than that, you have to ask yourself what you need. For example, if I am a hardcore 3D gamer, I want to put a lot of money into my video card, whereas if I am a nut about having all my music and movies on my hard drive then obviously I want to invest in a bigger hard drive.

There are several ways to choose parts:

1): One way is to browse until you find a motherboard you like, and then just build off of that. Another way to do it is use All of their parts in a given section are compatible (i.e. stick to high end and all the parts will work, but if you hop around they might not).

2): My personal recommendation if you are a first time builder is to use's hw leader board. It is very noob friendly and their choices are usually on the money. I suggest you stick to their builds, or mix and match and then post a topic here for someone to check to make sure that it is okay and compatible.

This all may seem very hard and complicated, but it’s really not, in terms of compatibility post a topic here and someone (possibly me) will answer it. As time goes on you will learn more and more until you have the confidence to do it yourself, don’t worry, we were all first-time builders once.

Some things to consider when you are choosing parts:

- If you are not a hardcore gamer, you don’t need to get something high-tech like an 8800 GTX, that’s like someone who drives in the city at 30 miles per hour getting a Ferrari, you spend to much money and you don’t get anything for it.

- If you are not a hardcore gamer, or video editor, or extreme multitasker you do not need to get a 3.0 ghz Quad core processor! Once again, use the Ferrari analogy, there is just no point!

- There is usually a sweet spot price range. For monitors at the moment it is 22 inches. A 22 inch monitor costs about $200 and you get a top quality, fast response monitor, step up to the 24 inch and that will cost you about $600 bucks. Is two inches worth 400 dollars? Not to me. However 22inch monitors only have 1680x1050 pixels, which isn’t big enough to display the HD format (1920x1080).

- Once again, I cant stress this enough, if you are new to building, post your builds on this forum and we(well I guess maybe only me, but I'm sure others would help) will look them over!
D. Building the Computer

Before you start make sure that you ground yourself so you don’t give a static shock to a part. Touch a piece of non-painted metal then wear an anti-static wrist strap. If you don’t have a wrist strap, just keep touching your case every so often. Do not complain if you mess something up! This is highly unlikely if you do your homework and follow my instructions down to the letter. Once again, use this guide at your own risk!

Don't touch any of the gold teeth/contacts with your fingers. As human oils don't mix well with electronics.

Keep track of all your boxes/papers/receipts as you made need them if you have a defective part.

1. Opening of the Case: You will get your new case and it will come all nice and shiny and you will be thinking OMG lets get started! Hold your horses there partner, take a minute to just examine the case and inspect. You want to be looking for how it opens. Although you could read the manual. Use this picture for help


As you see the red lines indicate two thumb screws at the back in addition to the side latches. Obviously in this particular case (My case) one would remove the thumb screws at the back, set them aside in a safe place, and then press the latches and lift up.

2. Inspecting the Inside: Once the case is open, you should set it on its side so that the just opened side is facing towards your ceiling. You should get a feel where everything goes at this point. (The manual that came with the case should be able to help you out here. The manual pretty much does all the work for you on this one
3. Installing the power supply: Ah yes, the first step to actually building your computer. If your computer is lying open before you, look in where the upper right hand corner would be if the computer was standing upright, there should be a hole that is around 6 inches tall X 4 inches across. Here is a picture to once again help you out. The hole to which I am referring is the one labeled “Power supply unit bay”.

Ok, once you have located this hole, insert the power supply into the case so that the plug is sticking outwards, and all the cable are sticking inwards. There is only one way that it can go in, and when it does you might hear a soft click when it is properly seated. Even if you do not hear a click you should know when you have got it properly inserted. Once you have done that, secure the power supply into the case with the screws that probably came with your power supply (if they didn’t there might be some you can use with your case). It should be snug, and not able to be moved around at all once it is properly screwed in.

4. Mounting the processor on the motherboard: At this point, if you have not grounded yourself (like you should have already) so put on your wrist band or touch your case.. Ok! For those of you, who at this point have no idea how to put a processor in, don’t worry. It is not as hard as it might sound. Find the part on your motherboard that looks like a square place where the processor might fit into (probably silverfish). It should look like this.

For those of us who are a little... Slower, I outlined the particular piece I am talking about (socket) in red. Once you locate this you need lift up the bar that can be found on the side of the socket lift up the metal door that lies on top of the socket, and remove all black plastic/coverings that may be covering the socket itself. Once you are done the socket should look something like this.

Right, assuming you did that correctly, you are now ready to insert the processor. If you a using the LGA 775 Socket you dont need to worry about bending any pins, which is cetainly nice. However if you are not, use caution and make sure not to bend any pins. When you insert it one corner of the processor should have a little triangle on it, it there should be an identical picture on your socket, line the two up and slowly lower your processor into the socket. Once it is, replace the metal cover and replace the metal bar to lock the processor in place. Once that is done you can move on to inserting the motherboard into the case.

5. Inserting (Mounting) the Motherboard inside the case: Okay, this should be a very simple step. Gently pick up your motherboard get it near to where you put your case after you mounted the power supply. Assuming you have the case in the same position, if you look closely along the back wall of the case you should see several tiny little holes. It should look something like this.

Okay, now pick up your motherboard and lower it into the case. Take a look and see which holes of the case line up with the holes in the motherboard. You can use a pencil or something to make markers if you need to. Once you have done this, find your standoff's; which are the usually brass things that have a hole on one end and a screw on the other. They look like this2

Now, screw your standoff's into the holes in which your motherboard lined up to. Once you have done that, take your motherboard and lower it on top of the standoff's. Now if you look there should be a hole that you can see that protrudes through the holes in the motherboard. Find some screws that came with your case, and screw the motherboard in place.

6. Mounting the heat sink/fan on to your processor: This step can vary depending on the type of processor that you have. Some come with a heat sink/fan that already has thermal paste applied, with others you have to apply it yourself, and the consequences of not using any thermal paste can be catastrophic. Determine whether or not your particular model of heat sink has paste already applied, if not apply a little amount, too much thermal paste can lead to poor heat transfer between the processor/heat sink which can lead to overheating of the processor. Once you have applied the thermal paste to either the top of the processor or the underside of the heat sink; line up the screws that you can see underneath the heat sink, they resemble posts a little bit. Once you have these lined up with the holes (usually 4) that can be found around the socket on the motherboard. Lower the heat sink into place and use the posts to screw the heat sink into the processor.

Those are the holes that i mentioned earlier. The posts that are mounted beside the heat sink should be inserted there.

7. Adding the RAM into your Computer: Ah yes, probably one of the easiest steps. Even if you are an average computer person, adding in RAM is probably something you have done before. All you have to do is locate your RAM modules, locate the ram sockets on the motherboard, and simply lower them into place and push down slightly and they will snap into place. I would like to point out that if you look at the RAM module, you will see that it has a slit in around 2/3 of the way up. And you will notice there likewise there is a bar on the socket which means that the RAM can only go in one way, the slit should line up with the bar perfectly. You will notice that there are 4 slots. Refer to your motherboard manual about where you should place each one for optimum performance.

As you can see, I have outlined the slots in red. When you install the ram correctly the white tabs on either side should spring up and click into place when the correct amount of pressure is used.

8. Installing the Video Card: This should be another easy step, locate your PCI-E slot(s) on your motherboard (see below) and after you have removed the cover on the back of your case (allowing the ports to stick out the back) simply lower the card in an press. Please note that this step can be a little harder if you have a card that is big and takes up two spaces on the back panel, in that case it just requires a little tweaking and manipulation until you can click it into place.

9. Hooking up the power:
At this point in time you should have the main components needed for the computer to work. At this point in time you want to do a test to make sure that everything is working up until this point. There should be thing things you need to hook power to before you can do the test.

1. The Motherboard
2. The CPU
3. The video card

Also make 100% certain you have the CPU fan hooked up to the fan connector that is next to the socket. It is a little white three pin connector label fan. VERY important you have this plugged in! Check your manual if you don’t know where to plug in the connector.

Once again we must return to our motherboard picture, each of the components listed above is labeled. The power for the video card can be found on the back of the card itself. In all of these different parts should be labeled with your power supply your video card power chord will say something like "PCI-E Power 1" the Processor one will say something like "CPU POWER". It is pretty self-explanatory.

Once you have everything hooked up, get your monitor, plug it in to the connector on the video card, plug it into a socket, and turn on the switch on the back of the power supply. At this point a light might (usually will) come on on the motherboard. If it does, this means all is well.

10. Connecting the front panel connectors:Now we need to connect some things from the front panel in order to power up your computer. If your power switch isn't turned on then how are we going to boot up the computer? There are four skinny wires that originate from around your power button. When you find them they should be labeled the following

1. Power- Hooks up to your power switch allow you to turn on the computer
2. Reset- Allows you to use the reset button which is like a reboot button
3. Hd-LED- Lights up when the hard drive is active
4. Power LED- Lights up when the computer is on

Now understand this is generally what they will say, they might say power switch or "Power SW" but they all pretty much mean the same thing. Now, refer to your motherboard manual and see which of the wires go on the connectors. The connectors themselves will come in a little block, and should look something like this.

Refer to your manual about which connector goes in which place; in the case of my motherboard it had a picture in the manual which spelled it all out.

Refer to this image if you want to see where the internal headers (pins) are located on my motherboard (and similar models)

Now, these connect very similarly to the fan connectors for the CPU. Once they are all plugged in and assuming you have powered up the rest of the parts I previously mentioned, you are ready to do your boot/video test.

10. The Boot/Video Test: Make sure your monitor is correctly hooked in/turned on, then hit the power button that you just connected on the front of your computer. If everything is working you should get some kind of a black screen with various things displayed on your monitor. Pat yourself on the back, you got your very first POST (power on self test)..

If you do not have anything displayed on your monitor, double check the connections, then try again. If still you still see nothing, refer to the LED readout on your motherboard.

There should be a message there assuming that you did something incorrectly. It will usually be a set of two numbers or letters. Once you have this message call your motherboard manufacturer and see what the code/message means.

11. Installing the Hard Drive:
This step is another easy one. Someone in your case (refer to the manual) you should have a "hard drive cage". This is where the hard drives sit when they are performing their various functions. Simply slit the hard drive in one of the slots, and screw it into place. Make sure that you have the power/connectors facing outwards and not toward the back of the cage. Connect the corresponding power connector from your power supply to your hard drive


Cage should look something like this.

12. Installing the CD Drives: This again, is very dependent on what kind of computer case you have. The basic idea is to slide them along, make sure the tray is facing outwards. It really depends on the kind of case you have how exactly to install them, but you should be able to figure it out. Once they are in place, power them up.

13. SATA Connecting your Hard Drives/CD Drives: In your motherboard manual you will find that certain sata slots have priority over others (some are checked first). You want certain things to be checked first so they can run that little bit faster. For example, you want your top CD drive to be checked before your secondary CD drive. Find out what the order is from your motherboard manual, then take the SATA cables that should have come with either your motherboard or your CD/Hard Drives and connect each device to the motherboard.

This is what your hard drive should look like once you have connected the power and the SATA cables


14. Connecting your Case Fans: This step is once again really easy, and also it should be your final step. Connect all the fans that are built into your case/install fans that you bought after market (refer to cooling guide on how to install your own fans). The fans can be connected in two ways.

1. By using the white fan connectors that can be found around your motherboard.
2. By using the alternate power connectors that come with your power supply.

Note that when you use the second option, you will not loose one of your power connectors because the fan itself gives you another output power source.

Once this is done all you have to do is install your operating system and download/install/update your programs. Then run 3dmark06 to see if all your hardware is working properly. With that step you’re finally done!

I hope this guide has been informative. Thanks for reading! Happy Building!

As a last reminder: buying the parts is always the hardest part about building a computer. Building is easy enough. Always make sure to do your research on what parts you purchase for what you feel you need. Good luck!
tombotron's Forum Avatar
Jan 27th, 2012
Permalink | Quote | PM | +Rep | Commend January 29, 2012 7:45pm | Report
Nice guide, must have taken some time!

Nothing about SSD's though?
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Searz's Forum Avatar
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Jun 6th, 2010
Permalink | Quote | PM | +Rep | Commend January 30, 2012 1:12pm | Report
Seems good.
Maybe a little long tho.

Just follow my motto; if it fits it belongs there.
Works ~90% of the time.
"Well, basically you should treat me like a prostitute." - TotalBiscuit
screwblum's Forum Avatar
May 20th, 2011
Permalink | Quote | PM | +Rep | Commend January 31, 2012 7:54am | Report
You did a great job with this. You know what you're doing!

Thank you WrathWaffleWarrior, spooon, L1LShadow, JEFFY40HANDS, jhoijhoi and palzm for the sigs :3

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