Today people use computers for business, education, government, cars, games, and more! Computers have become an important tribute to everyday life. Most people need a personal computer to get connected with life and make possibilities reality! You may be wondering if computers are difficult, complex machines to understand and build. The truth is that they aren’t as complex as you may think! Computer building can be very easy once you understand how they’re built.

 So first, you must decide what kind of computer you’re going to need. You must first decide if pre-built systems or your own custom built system is the right choice. There are advantages and disadvantages of both pre-built and custom-built computers. The biggest advantage about pre-built system is that it’s already configured! It works right out of the box! You don’t have to worry about part compatibility within the system, or what OS (Operating System) to install because it’s preinstalled and ready to go, and it’s pre-loaded with software such as Internet services, DVD (Digital Video Disc) burning suites, anti-virus (trials), Instant Messaging Clients, photo suites, etc. All this usually saves you the trouble of having to download and install the software which takes a lot of time. The disadvantage is that it can be expensive, and the system can’t be upgraded or has very limited upgrading capabilities for future standards. There is usually no control over the Operating System, no control over the quality of the parts, and in many cases, components are specific and expensive to replace when off warranty.  So with this in mind, pre-built systems would be favorable for business, a person who needs a quick system to manage their daily tasks, schedules, business information, and such. The main advantage of a custom built system is that you get what you want! A system that matches exactly your technical needs! You have your choice of operating system. There is no extra hardware or software, and you can easily upgrade it for future standards. However, the disadvantage is that this takes a lot of time to assemble. The windows OS is expensive, and it is up to you to make sure all the parts you’re ordering will be compatible with the motherboard.

            Now you have to decide what type of computer you want to build, what applications you need to run and what you are going to use it for. These are the two main questions to think about in order to decide what kind of PC is going to be built. When it comes to building your own PC, the possibilities are endless. Let’s say you’re going to need a PC for powerful video editing for home videos or movie projects. That means you have to get multiple hard drives to hold those huge videos, and a powerful graphics card to render the videos or movies in high quality. Then there are the gamer computers, which have the latest processor, gaming quality graphics card, and a hi-fidelity sound card. A quiet media center machine for the living room that will play movies, music, and slideshows on your TV. Or maybe you just want a small cheap PC to get your email and documents using under powered hardware. You can also put a PC together to do a little bit of all. But in a nutshell, if you need a very powerful PC to handle multiple end-user applications, you will need Dual Core CPUs (Central Processing Unit) made by Intel or AMD (Advanced Micro Devices). Four GB of high speed ram. Multiple SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) drives according to how much memory space you need, and maybe fire wire connectors for connecting video cameras.

            Once you have decided what type of computer you want to build, start researching the component parts, and the case. The case is the housing, which protects all the parts. This is the easiest part to choose. If you’re making a small simple PC, it is recommended to get a mini-ATX case. But for power users (people who need the latest in advanced technology), a mid tower or full tower would be highly recommended. Next thing to think about is the motherboard. The motherboard is the device that connects all of the component parts together, and this is where compatibility comes in. When choosing your motherboard, it would be best to choose it around the parts you’re going to pick out, so that way you have more flexibility between motherboard choices. For example, for a simple PC with inexpensive hardware, motherboards in the $50 range would be appropriate. Middle range PCs to do a bit multi-tasking and decent 3-d gaming, in the $100 range. For high-end PCs with the latest processor, HD gaming and video editing, then you would need the motherboards in the $200 range that would support those speeds. Now there are extreme motherboards, but these are only recommended for pros that know what they are doing. These mother boards are almost $300; they’re the same as high end but with features such as dual socket CPUs which allows for 2 processors instead of just one, extra RAM slots than normal motherboards have, cooling features to keep the processor and other key components from overheating, and extreme over clocking to fine tune electric settings to get optimum performance. Extreme motherboards are very complicated that you may be interested in after you’ve become experienced. Next is the processor. This is one major part of the entire system, CPU (central processing unit) is the brain of the computer, and it handles instructions in the billions per second. Do you want Intel or AMD? Many people rely on Intel chips because they tend to stay much cooler under extreme conditions than AMD chips do. Also, make sure that the pin configuration matches the motherboard. You can check this by looking at the motherboard specs and the CPU specs. Choosing one of these will cut the motherboard choices in half, so I would recommend choosing the processor first. Once you’ve choose your processor, now we have to go back to the motherboard choices and decide which size will be needed. Deciding which size you want depends on what you’re trying to build. For instance, if you’re building a small PC with a mini-ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) case, then you should get a mini-ATX motherboard other than that you can fit a regular motherboard in a mid-tower or full-tower case. Other things you should think about are how many USB ports you want, they’re usually built directly on the input/output modules where you plug the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Also, do you need fire wire for video editing?

After choosing the CPU and motherboard, the next crucial part is the Random Access Memory (RAM) Chips. RAM chips provide instant access to application data to the CPU, so there won’t be long delays for the CPU to access the HDDs (Hard Drive Disc). For Cheap PC users, at least 1 GB of RAM is recommended, but for power users 4 GB or more will be needed. Next is Graphics cards, which is the device that renders pictures, videos, and graphics to the monitor. Cheap PC users will only need to get a cheap motherboard with a built-in video card. Video editors or High-end gamers may want to consider middle range to high range nVidia (multinational corporation that manufactures graphics chipsets for computers) or ATI (Array Technologies Incorporation) graphics cards with at least 512 to 1GB of GDDR3 (Graphics Double Data Rate and the number defines the category) to get powerful applications or games done efficiently with a connection for PCI-E.  For HDDs where data is stored, do you want ATA(Advanced Technology Attachment) or SATA connections? Make sure the motherboard supports the connection you’re choosing. SATA is the latest technology to connect HDDs to the motherboard, which provides around 20x the transfer speed of regular ATA and the cables are a lot smaller, which would allow more space for air flow to keep the system cool. Also another main point on the motherboard is the number of PCI-E connections. This is important because most peripheral computer devices today connects by PCI-E and provides easy upgrade means for sound cards and graphic/video cards. Next parts to consider are the optical drives, devices that play CDs, DVDs, or the newer format Blu-ray. If you’re building a cheap PC, get the cheapest CD-ROM drive you can find. If you want to burn DVDs or Blu-ray (next break-through in optical discs that are mainly used for HD Movies), make sure the drive is DVD or Blu-ray compatible. Next is the power supply unit (PSU). This speaks for itself; it supplies power to the motherboard and the different components. Cheap PC users won’t need much power, so a very cheap 230 watt PSU will do the job. Other than that, it will vary depending on how much power all your parts require all together. Media centers may need 600 PSUs, and high-end power users may need 1000 PSUs. Just buy around the total power your parts may need and make sure the power supply unit will be compatible with the motherboard; you can simply check the motherboard power connectors and checking the PSU power connectors. Now, the last is the Operating System (OS), which is the master control program that handles USER input/output applications. Common OS’s used today are Windows XP and Linux. Windows XP comes in the forms of Home, Professional and Media Center. Linux has hundreds of different types and it comes free but wouldn’t recommend it for new users for it requires some experience. Windows Vista comes in Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate. Another OS that is coming out is Windows 7, due to release in early August 2009. This will be a more simplified user friendly version of Windows Vista. Choosing the OS is usually based around personal reference, but most people tend to rely on Windows, which I also prefer for its simple file management system and its wide range support for UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) hardware which clears up a lot of driver install issues.

            Now that you’ve picked out all the parts, it is time to get out and start purchasing them. You have a couple choices on where you can buy them. By mail order online, small local retail store such as Office Depot or Best Buy, or a huge retailer electronics store such as Fry’s Electronics. Along with buying your computer parts it’s also necessary to buy appropriate tools. All you need is a basic Philips screw driver. Magnetized is recommended so you won’t accidentally drop a screw in the case after installing the motherboard which is a complete hassle to clear up. Before you start the build, aware yourself of computer’s greatest enemy. That would be Electro Static Discharge (ESD). Most of the parts you will be handling contain highly sensitive modules that can be easily damaged by ESD. This means that if your body generates static and you touch a CPU, that chip will be rendered useless and you’ll end up having to buy a new one. To avoid ESD, you must ground yourself, discharge yourself of static. The best way to do this is to wear a wrist band that’s anti-static grade. This works by having a metal part on the band with a copper wire and attach to a copper pipe, a large piece of metal of some sort, or you can hook it up to the metal brim of the case. Another piece of safety equipment you should consider getting is a grounding mat for the motherboard. This will protect the motherboard from static while you’re working on it. If you don’t have the budget to get these tools, there are cheap effective methods as well. To ground yourself, install the PSU to the case and plug it in, then switch it on, and rub your hand up the brim of the case. This will discharge you. Also, when working on the motherboard, if you don’t have a grounding mat, you can use the anti static bag it came in. Please note that these bags are only anti-static on the inside, so cut the bag open and place it on the floor with the inside part upwards. Then you can safely put the motherboard on the bag and begin work.

            Do you have your parts purchased and Tools laid out? It’s time to start your building project! Each build is unique due to different parts and references but this is the general way to do it. If you don’t have any safety equipment, now is the best time to discharge yourself by using the cheap method I explained in the last paragraph. Other than that equip an ESD bracelet and hook up to a large piece of metal, prepare a grounding mat, or cut open the anti-static bag the motherboard came in. First, unwrap the motherboard and lay it out on your workplace. The first part we’re going to install into the motherboard is going to be the CPU. Take extra caution when handling the chip. Unwrap your CPU. The chip will have one marked corner that aligns with another marked corner on the motherboards socket. If you’re using dual sockets, the process will be the same for both. Raise the lever from the socket, and make sure it’s raised all the way till it stops or you risk bending one of the CPU’s pins while inserting it into the socket. This will render the chip useless instantly. Line up the chip on the socket and it should easily fall into place. There should be NO pressure applied at all when installing it. If it doesn’t fall in at all, make sure the marked corners are aligned; it only fits in one way. If it partially falls in but not all the way, then you probably have a bent pin. Once the CPU is in place, lock the level back down. Now we have to install the heat sink onto the processor, the reason the processor needs one is because the CPU burns at around 200 degrees, if it doesn’t have an aid to rid itself of heat. Since each heat sink is unique, follow the manual closely. If the heat sink doesn’t have silver compound paste pre-applied, you can get a tube of Arctic Silver paste and apply a couple of drops to the back of the heat sink before installation. What the silver compound does it maximizes heat transfer from the CPU to the heat sink, and it makes a huge difference to extending the operation life of your processor. General heat sink uses hinges to lock to the block of metal into place, along with a CPU fan screwed in on top.  Next thing to work on is the RAM. On the motherboard, look for the ram slot location, which is usually right next to the CPU socket. Once you’ve located it, look for the slot that has a tiny number 1 marked on it. Place the RAM into the slot and firmly press the RAM module into it. It will take a lot more pressure than you think to get the ram in place. While you’re inserting it, the clips should automatically snap into place. Now the motherboard is ready to be installed into the case. The motherboard comes with a back face plate for its connections, the input/output shield. Take out the cases input/output shield, if it already has one installed, and snap the new shield into place. In this part, you have to make sure the motherboards screw holes line up. An easy way to do this without having to do a repeated trial and error attempting to screw the motherboard in without knowing exactly where the screws are, is to scale it on a piece of paper. You can get a paper that’s about the size of your motherboard, or if you don’t just tape different pieces of paper together that fits the motherboard. Then put the paper against the inside of the case like you would with the motherboard, and trace every single screw hole on the motherboard. This way, you can easily scale the motherboard on the paper, and know exactly which screw holes to use on the case. Also, make sure that the motherboard lines up with the input/output shield when installing it. Don’t screw the motherboard in firmly. Just snug-fit, that way you don’t risk damaging the motherboard. If the power supply isn’t already installed, now is the time to do it. Slide the power case into the motherboard’s housing brackets and secure it with screws. Once you’ve installed the PSU; connect the power leads to the motherboard, the main power plugs to the motherboard. There is a large power lead and small power lead. This will be obvious where it goes because of its unique Lego like pattern. There will be 15 more wires that the specs will tell you exactly where each one goes. The next steps are to install our hard drive discs, and optical drives such as the CD, DVD and Blu-ray. Let’s start with the HDDs. The case has a removable bracket for the hard drive, release it and slide the HDD in one of the slots. Secure it by screwing in both sides with total of four screws. If you’re installing multiple hard drives, you’ll have as many slots as the case allows. Once you’ve finished installing all the drives, replace the bracket back into the case. If you have an ATA connection for the HDDs, then connect the cable strips to their corresponding slots, and connect one of the power cables to the drive, if you’re using SATA, you’ll have a smaller easier data transfer cable to connect. Install the optical drives next. The drive bays for optical devices are normally located in the top right corner of the case. Slide the optical drives in from the inside back of the case, and secure it with at least 2 screws. Connect the power cable to the device, and the data transfer cable from the device onto the motherboard. If you’re using more than one optical drive, you may have to connect them using the same power strip, such as the master and slave. Where you set the master drive which is the drive you’re going to be using primarily, is going to be the very top drive. If you have a video card or any other peripheral device, connect them to the PCI-E slots now. This is the simplest part to install besides the ram. PCI-E slots are usually located to the lower left section of the motherboard. If there are shield plates for the PCI-E slots, simply remove the screws and slide the shield off, and then you can connect the PCI-E slots with the input/output module facing outwards to the back of the case. Just like the RAM cards, this may take a lot more pressure than you think. If your devices use jumpers, such as old cheap computer parts, now is the time to configure them. Refer to your motherboard manual since each motherboard is unique. Sometimes the jumper connections on the motherboard will be marked with each name. If you have any extra USB ports, or multi-media card readers, connect them now.

            At this point, the system is now bare-boned, which means that it is a system that has all the crucial hardware components assembled in order to run. When you’re at this point, it is highly recommended to check your work, it would actually save you more time if you ensure the quality of your work, instead of figuring out why the system won’t boot later. Grab a high powered flashlight and make sure all the building you went through is neatly installed, no loose connections, etc. Check the power cables, make sure nothing is loose, make sure there are no cables blocking the fans, and, of course, blocking its path of operation. Make sure the CPU fan is properly installed, and last but not the least, the power lead to the motherboard.

            Now for the moment of truth - It’s time see if your hard efforts pay off. Prepare the case’s side door, and secure it with two thumb screws. Connect your mouse and keyboard, plug your monitor in, and connect it to the computer, and plug in your PC. Now it’s boot up time! Before you press the power switch on your computer, there are a couple things you want to look out for. On normal boot up, there will be a green light power indicator; the CPU and case fans start spinning, hard drive powers up, and on the screen a BIOS splash screen. Quickly press F2 or the designated key stated by the motherboard manual on the keyboard to access the BIOS, the bios allows you to configure and optimize settings on the motherboard for maximum performance, or to correct key issues. With the new BIOS versions in motherboards, you won’t have to worry about configuration settings. But here we’re going to make a quick change to install our OS, because if the setting isn’t changed, you won’t be able to boot the disc that contains your OS. Go to the setting tab BOOT using your keyboard arrows, and change the CD-ROM or whatever optical device you have to boot first. The BIOS has on-screen instructions on how to do this. Once you’ve finished changing the boot device priority, log-off the bios, but before you do so, install the OS of your choice, if it’s Windows or Linux. Now you can log-off and begin the OS installation which will guide you through the rest.

            Congratulations you now have a full working PC of your own preference along with your own choice of OS. Depending on how you built your system and where you brought your parts, you may have saved a lot of money than have buying a pre-built system of the same performance that would in fact come with extra things you wouldn’t need. Now it’s time to tidy up, organize the cables in the case so there won’t be so much clutter blocking air flow through the case. When you’re finished installing your OS, your components will come with CDs of drivers that will allow them to operate a lot more efficiently. If the devices didn’t come with a driver CD, and needs a driver, you can easily get them at the manufacturer’s website and download them straight to your PC. Once this is all done, you have perfected your PC Build. Congratulations once again. Be proud of your hard work, and enjoy your very own custom-built PC.


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