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Guide for building your own system.


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crjdriver's Avatar
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01-Jan-2007, 11:44 PM #1
Guide for building your own system.
1 Parts selection

CPU I will not get into an AMD v Intel debate; both work well. Decide on which cpu you are going with then you can pick a board. If you go intel and you do not want to overclock the system, then I would go with a real intel board. Nothing beats the stability of an intel cpu running on a real intel board. If you want to overclock, then go with a board running an intel chipset. Stay away from the non-intel chipsets for an intel cpu. These would be via, sis, or nvidia.

If you go AMD, go with a board from a quality manufacture. There are many fine board makers AND I do not wish to start a debate. Stay away from anything made by ECS, Pcchips, Machspeed, or Jetway. A cheap low quality motherboard will cause you all kinds of grief. One thing I like to check when choosing a board is the web site of the board maker; is it easy to use, are there help links like FAQ, etc.
Board selection can get even more confusing simply because ECS does a lot of the actual manufacture of boards for many companies. Asrock is an example; Asus designs their boards however ECS does the actual manufacture of the board. A good rule is to post your board selection in the hardware forum BEFORE you buy it. We can give you an idea if it is a quality product or not.

Ram
Many of the problems we see on the hardware forum come from either buying parts that are not compatible or buying cheap low quality parts. Most motherboard manufactures publish lists of ram that work with their boards. This is ram that has been tested and found to work. If you buy ram not on the “Approved” list, it may work OR it may not. It is in your best interest to buy parts that have been found to work together. So once you decide on a cpu and motherboard, go to the site of the board maker and check for approved ram. Another method is to go to a name brand ram manufacturer such as Kingston, Corsair, or Crucial; they have a ram selector on their site. Input your board and it will find compatible ram.

Case and power supply
Choosing a case and power supply can be a very important part of your build. I like to buy them separately since most of the power supplies that come with cases are junk. The exception to this would be an antec or an enermax case. They come with a quality power supply.

Since modern dual core systems generate quite a bit of heat, I like cases that have good cooling. Look for either a single 120mm exhaust fan or dual 80mm exhaust fans. An exhaust fan located at the top of the case can be very helpful in dissipating heat as well. Stay away from the $20 case. These will be of very light construction and probably use spring steel “clips” instead of brass standoffs to mount the board.

Power supply. I cannot stress enough the need for a quality power supply. Modern dual core systems need stable power. When you put the system under a load [such as gaming] the 12V rail [which powers most things in a modern system] can drop and cause the system to either reboot or become unstable.

Buy a power supply that can supply your system. Obviously if you are building a single core system with onboard video, you can use a lower wattage power supply than you can if you are building a dual core system with a high end video card and raid. In addition you want some “room” for upgrades. When you install a power supply that is just powerful enough for the system, there is little room to add a second or third hard drive, upgrade the video card, or install a video capture card, etc Stay away from the $25 600W power supply. A quality power supply is going to cost some money; the higher the wattage the more money.

Hard drive
The modern interface is sata. Many new boards have only 1 ide port on the board so you will probably need to buy a sata drive. I am not going to recommend one drive maker over another since ALL drive makers have problems at times and go through periods of poor quality control or bad designs. I like Seagate simply because of the longer warranty.

I am not going to get into buying a floppy or CD / DVD drive. Just get them and install. We can now move on to basic assembly of the system.

2 Assembly of the system.
Now that we have the basic parts, we can continue with building your new computer. I recommend setting up the system outside of the case for its first post [power on self test] or boot. This can save you a lot of time troubleshooting the system. Ground yourself either with a wrist strap or I just touch the screw holding the light switch cover on the wall [this is one way of removing static from your body] Use some common sense; do not build the system on carpet while dragging your feet across the carpet. Place the board on the motherboard box for assembly.

Install the cpu and heatsink fan assembly. Note the socket 775 intels can be a real pain to install the heatsink fan. If you have an intel, insert the four push pins two at a time diagonally from each other. Turn the board over and make sure all four push pins fully engage the board. AMD64s are somewhat easier to install the hsf than the intels. With these you just engage the spring clips and lock down the lever arm. Connect the heatsink fan to the correct header on the motherboard. Note some boards will shutdown if they do not detect a fan signal. So read the manual and connect it to the correct one.

If you buy a retail cpu, it comes with a heatsink fan. The cooler will have a thermal pad already on it. Note some have protective tape you need to remove BEFORE assembly. If you choose to remove the pad, you can use something like Arctic Silver 5 for your thermal compound. This does do a better job however the removal of the thermal pad may void the warranty on your cpu so do be aware of this fact.


If you elect to remove the thermal pad and use Arctic Silver, thoroughly clean the heatsink fan with 99% or 91% alcohol. Do not use the 70% stuff you find in the supermarket; it contains lanolin and will leave a residue on the parts. For cpus with a heat spreader ie P4s and AMD64s you place a small amount [about the size of a BB or slightly more] in the center of the cpu. Do not spread it around. Install the heatsink fan, however do not completely lock it down. Now give the heatsink fan a few twists and lock it into place. For older cpus with an exposed die [Athlon XPs] you must put a small amount on the die and spread it around with your finger inside of a plastic bag. In any case if you remove a heatsink fan after you have assembled the system and powered it on, you must clean all parts and reapply the compound or pad. Do not reuse thermal compound. Detailed instructions for Arctic Silver 5

Now that we have the cpu / hsf installed, install your ram and video card [unless you are using onboard video] Connect your power supply [do make sure ALL of the power connectors are plugged in] many boards use one or even two extra power plugs. Connect your monitor to the video card. Plug in the power supply and monitor. Read your manual to find where the power switch from the case plugs into the board. We will use a small screwdriver or other metal part to jump across these two pins. Note if you use an epox motherboard they have an aux power switch already on the board; you just push it. Once you have everything connected, jump the power switch pins in the board. If all is well, you should get a display on the monitor. If the board does not power up, recheck ALL connections. If it powers up and shuts down after 30 seconds or so, you do not have the heatsink installed correctly. If the system posts ok, you can now shutdown and install the board in the case; you know it works. If it does not post you will need to swap parts with known working ones ie power supply, cpu, ram, motherboard. If all went well, remove the video card and disconnect the power supply. Install the power supply in the case. Now we will mount the board.

Remove the IO plate in the rear of the case. If your board came with one, we will use that one. Set the board in the case with the IO plate removed. Mark where you will need to install the standoffs. I use a sharpie to do this, however a pencil works also. Remove the board and install your standoffs. Now install the IO plate in the case. Set the board on the standoffs and slide it into the IO plate; secure it with the screws that came with your case. At this point I would reinstall your video card and again check that the system posts. If you made an error installing the board in the case, it can save you some time later when you have to disassemble everything ie drives, all cards, etc. If it again posts, you can install whatever cards you need to. I like to leave the slot under the video card empty. This is for cooling of the card. Install your drives and connect power to them. Connect your keyboard and mouse.

Note if you have a usb keyboard it may or may not work right now. It depends on the default setting in your bios to use usb support. I recommend using a ps2 keyboard at least until you can enter the bios and check the setting. Power on the system and enter the bios. Check your manual for the key to do this; most are the “DEL” however read the manual. Once in the bios, set the time and date. Set the boot order to CD as first boot device. Check your temps in the bios; again read the manual for the exact place to do this; each bios is a little different in where this is located. Again read the manual. Each cpu has a different “normal” temp. You want to see something <55C. If it is above that temp, you probably do not have the heatsink installed correctly. Save settings and reboot with your windows CD in the CD drive. You may or may not have to install the sata driver during setup. Run it and see. If windows finds your hard drive, great; if it does not, you will need to load a driver. Note this driver is included with your motherboard. It sometimes on a floppy OR your support cd will have an option to make the floppy disk. Again read your manual.

You now have a running system that you built yourself!! There is already an install guide for windows in the windows forum so I will not get into the actual install.
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Teck's Avatar
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01-Jan-2007, 11:59 PM #2
Nice guide. Is this not more related to description of parts then assembly ?
gotrootdude's Avatar
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02-Jan-2007, 02:35 AM #3
Quote:
Stay away from the $20 case.
Unless it's after a big rebate. I've gotten some real nice Antec, Themaltake, and Cooler Master cases for less than $20.

Quote:
Look for either a single 120mm exhaust fan or dual 80mm exhaust fans.
Personally, I'd steer clear of any case than doesn't have a rear 120mm fan mount, or two. Unless it's for a nano or micro build, or to sell on ebay.

Nice guide.

Last edited by gotrootdude; 02-Jan-2007 at 02:40 AM..
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02-Jan-2007, 08:08 AM #4
My case cost 90 dollars.
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02-Jan-2007, 09:29 AM #5
I would like to add,

When buying a motherboard and CPU you must make sure that the motherboard is the same socket that the CPU is.
Example:
AMD,
Socket AM2
Socket 939
Socket 940
Socket F
Socket S1
Socket 754

Intel:
LGA 775
Socket 478
Socket 604
Socket 771
Socket M
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Buying ram
You need to check your motherboard and what ram it supports
168-Pin SDRAM
184-Pin DDR SDRAM
184-Pin RDRAM (16bit)
240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM
Most desktops nowadays use 184-Pin DDR SDRAM or 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM

Also it is always best to match it up
Example:

This is not exact but will give you a good ideal what I mean.
DDR2 Is not faster it actually has higher latency times then DDR, but for faster Cpus with (using term FSB lightly here) Larger FSB of 1600,2000 ext.. DDR2 in dual mode allows the ram to run closer to that speed
Works something like this. (make note DDR will not fit in DDR2 slots or vise verse)
(X2= using in dual channel mode, two modules, always best to use the exact same manufacturer and speed of ram to get best performance.)
PC3200 (400Mhz) X2 = 800Mhz (184 Pin)
PC3500 (433Mhz) X2 = 866Mhz (184 Pin)

PC2-8000 (DDR2-1000) x2 = 2000Mhz (240 Pin)
PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066) x2 = 2132Mhz (240 Pin)

Now what does that mean?

Intel 4 Processor Prescott 3EGHz, 800MHz FSB
You see DDR PC3200 works great cause it has 800Mhz

Now
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ Dual Core 2.6GHz, 2x1MB, 2000MHz FSB
PC2-8000 (DDR2-1000) x2 = 2000Mhz works cause it has 2000Mhz


By matching allows you to get the maximum performance, If not the you will have one waiting on the other slowing the system.
But like I said In order to get the higher clock speeds they had to increase the latency on DDR2. over time I'm sure they will perfect that.

Another crude way to look at is: think of a hose with water flowing threw it, now we take that hose and connect it to a smaller hose (kind of like placing your finger over the end of the hose and spraying it) This actually slows the total amount of water coming out the end. Now you connect it to the exact same size of hose, It does not spray everywhere but it will allow a nice flow allowing more water to come out.
Large hose to smaller we get 10 Gallons a minute
Large hose to same size we get 13 Gallons a minute
Now you can see more work will get done by matching the ram with the CPU

2. the CAS speed of ram
CAS Latency: What Is It, and How Does It Impact Performance?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Video card,

What socket is your motherboard?
What connection does your monitor have? DVI ?VGA? If your video card has a DVI connection only and you monitor has a VGA connection only, you can buy an adaptor.
DVI is the digital connection and is the best to use. (some will see no difference where others will, This probably is up to what hardware is being used)

From slowest to fastest
ISA
PCI
AGP
PCI-E
Keep in mind AGP has 4X and 8X (a 8X card will work with a 4X and will be stepped down to the slower 4X)
Same for PCI-E , 8X and 16X (a 16X card will work with a 8X and will be stepped down to the slower 8X)
You usually will find that a motherboard that supports both 184 pin DDR and 240 pin DDR2 has only a 8X PCI-E slot.

You will need to make sure the video card you are buying is supported by you motherboard
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Buying a case:
1.Does it come with a PS?
Good quality PS, very important to have a good quality Power supply
2.Looks
Some just think they look cooler so they are worth more.
3.Cooling
Number of fans, size of fan, locations of fans. (good case airflow is very important)
4.Acessablity
Some have removable motherboard trays, some have easy no screw removal drive access.
5.Size
You have Full tower, mid tower and micro
6. Quality
The material used to build the case. Aluminum, Acrylic ext.. I have a Thermaltake case here at the house that weights about 40Lbs+ and I have a case that weights probably 8 Lbs. Cheaper case generally have sharp edges inside so be careful.

ATX motherboard will work with full tower or mid tower but not a micro case, Micro ATX motherboard will work with any off them (well 99%)
Bottom line, any case will work. Make sure you have a decent PS, make sure you have adequate airflow (fan blowing in from the front and one blowing out rear) and you will be just fine no matter what case you use.

PC airflow and heat - a cooling guide: At a glance

THE HEATSINK GUIDE: Case Cooling

How To: Quiet Your PC Using Free Software

Cooling your Computer

Edited by Cookiegal to fix scrolling problem for some users.

Last edited by Cookiegal; 24-Feb-2007 at 10:20 AM..
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02-Jan-2007, 09:47 AM #6
Good general guide, I dont bother with the out of case first thing, I install the stuff and fire it up in the case, if there is a problem then i may pull it out, but its so rare that you have a mounting issue if you take reasonable care.
You can get bargins on power supplies so that you dont have to spend a fortune, but as a general rule and unless you know what youre looking for its best to stick with the known good brands and spend the money.
The case/fan issue in general I agree with. I've had to work with a few cheapy cases and they are more trouble than theyre worth, if i tried to handle them as I would an Antec, or Thermaltake they will bend just from their own weight, price seems to be directly proportional to the gage thickness of sheet metal used to build the case, cheap case, thin sheet metal. In my case, a cheap Raidmax (<$50) was made with very thin sheet metal, thin plastic front, etc. where as a more costly Raidmax Sigatta case ($65) was very well made, thicker plastic, better fit & finish all around.
The fan issue is really not so simple as saying need a 120mm rear exhaust, for one thing not all fans are created equal, and for another some 80mm do a perfectly good job, case in point, client had an old silver grey colored Antec case from 4 years ago, with front 80mm and rear 80mm Antec fans, but he was only using it for a 754 pin Sempron2800+ with 6200AGP8x card, so no real heat was being generated by anything, the cpu temp sat at around 27C so even after hours of gaming the air coming out the exhaust was barely warm.
What I'm getting at is, as a general guide this covered things well, especially for the less experienced, but as your knowledge level increases some deviation from this guide is ok.
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Legend:
PSU = power supply unit, CPU = central processing unit
MB = motherboard, NIC = network interface card
OS = operating system, gfx = graphics
GPU = graphics processor, d/l = download, ob = on board
HDD = hard disk drive, FDD = floppy disk drive
HSF = heat sink w/ fan, FSB = front side bus
DM = device manager, KB = Keyboard
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02-Jan-2007, 10:14 AM #7
But cases look pretty. Plus they are good for when you go to lan.
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02-Jan-2007, 12:06 PM #8
crjdriver, nicely done. No need for a critique. As always anything can be expanded on. See "Theory of Relativity".
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02-Jan-2007, 09:43 PM #9
Nice guide CRJ. Me?? I just buy a bunch of crap and toss it together without thought.
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02-Jan-2007, 10:10 PM #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skivvywaver
Nice guide CRJ. Me?? I just buy a bunch of crap and toss it together without thought.
That's often the best info.
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03-Jan-2007, 10:42 PM #11
just a thought...
does anyone ever use any anti-static devices?
I never have.
I've shocked my newest mobo (my DQ6) 3 times so far.
I shocked my last computer 7 times.
Nothing happened after I did it... except I had to flash the bios.
am I just lucky or is the whole shock thing just overdone?
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04-Jan-2007, 07:49 AM #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackiefrost9
just a thought...
does anyone ever use any anti-static devices?
I never have.
I've shocked my newest mobo (my DQ6) 3 times so far.
I shocked my last computer 7 times.
Nothing happened after I did it... except I had to flash the bios.
am I just lucky or is the whole shock thing just overdone?
its one of those things that we probably all recommend but never do. I just make sure I touch the case alot, dont shuffle, that sort of thing, I'm moving around too much to have some stupid wire attached to me. Like i said its good practice but let somebody else do it. The important thing seems to be, be at the same electrically charge as the case, when youre holding pcb's hold them by the edges, etc., have never, ever had a problem. Its almost impossible to walk up to your case and touch your ram or something without touching the case first anyway.
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04-Jan-2007, 11:35 AM #13
Used a strap once, that was enough. Looks good hanging on my wall though. Real techie.
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04-Jan-2007, 10:10 PM #14
I should probably clarify that only 1 shock on the dq6 was static to case, and about 5 on my old computer were. The other 2 on the DQ6 were from starting it outside the case... i missed with the screwdriver lol. then I did it again about 30 second after. <--- retard.
same thing with my other one.

I thought I would share that lil piece of info.
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05-Jan-2007, 11:28 AM #15
May I add that motherboards.org has very good reviews of a lot of PC components, one of them being motherboards.

Some other good review sites:
Tomshardware.com
hardocp.com
newegg.com
While Newegg doesn't have professional reviews, they have many consumer reviews, which is helpful in telling you whether there are any problems with the item. Sometimes professional reviews overlook major bugs, and that's where actual consumer use will find falacies. Newegg is a good place to check products for bugs, etc.
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