Building a computer isn't quite such a daunting task. You don't need a PhD in computer engineering or very much know how at all save for a few small tidbits. Most components and wiring will only fit into their respective slots in a specific way so there's no fear of miswiring your computer and having it burst into flames. The best part about building your own PC is that, instead of searching out an expensive custom computer from a retailer like Dell or Alienware, you can stay within your own budget and allocate money as you see fit to the components and features most important to you.
Step 1 - Buying Components
Most computer cases are standardized in ATX (Advanced Technology Extended), meaning that the inputs and outputs are all aligned in exactly the same way on all models so that your internal components will fit. You'll most likely want a large spacious ATX case so you will have room to work. If you want to get fancy you can even purchase cases with acrylic windows and LED lights. Some computer cases come with built-in power supplies--this is the unit that will plug into a wall unit and power all the components within the PC. For beginners, you'll want to purchase a case + power supply combo just because it's more convenient. Later on, you can pick out a power supply seperately. A power supply with 400 watts or more should be adequate for your needs. Similarly, most cases will also include 80mm or 120mm cooling fans so that your system does not overheat. Most cases come with adequate cooling systems, although if you want to overclock your system you will want to purchase additional fans, or a liquid cooling system.
Like cases, some motherboards are standardized to ATX. They pretty much bolt right onto the side of your case using four to eight screws with the inputs and outputs aligned along the back of the case. Some things you'll want to consider when you purchase a motherboard:
* '''Socket and CPU Type''' -- This will determine what type of Processor your computer will use
* '''Memory Slots''' -- This will determine the type and amount of RAM your computer will use
* '''Onboard Audio, Video, Network''' --Most motherboards will include integrated audio, video and networking
* '''Expansion Slots''' --Slots for additional hardware like graphics, audio, TV or networking cards
* '''Storage Devices''' -- This is the interface for your hard drive(s)
* '''USB, Firewire Ports''' -- Ports for peripherals like keyboard, mouse, external hard drive, flash drive, etc
The amount of RAM in your computer will determine how fast it can process data and how well it can multitask with multiple programs running. You'll need to determine which type of RAM is compatible with your motherboard, this information should be available in the specs list of your motherboard. It's important to note that Desktop Computer RAM and Notebook RAM are not compatible. Check our wiki for more information on RAM.
The speed of your processor will determine how much raw computing power your computer has. This will effect the amount of time a processor intensive task, like encoding or ripping a DVD, will take or how fast it can render graphics in a computer game--although graphics are far more dependent on graphics cards than processor speed. The two big manufacturers of processors are AMD and Intel. Intel processors are purported to perform better at multitasking desktop applications while AMD processors are better for graphics and gaming. Newer chips come in dual coremodels with quad core and multi-core systems on the way.
The graphics card will determine what kind of graphics your computer can handle. While many motherboards come equipped with integrated graphics, most are ill-equipped to handle the graphics demands of most first-person shooter games. The two largest developers of graphics cards are ATI and Nvidia.
Your audio card or sound card will determine the quality of sound able to be output by your computer.
Optical drives include CD and DVD ROM drives as well as CD and DVD burners. Optical drives connect primarily via IDE cables.
Step 3 -- Preparing the Case and Components
* Remove the cover from your case. It may be secured by a screw or latch.
* Set aside any screws that come with your case or components so that you can use them during assembly.
* Clean out any dust that has accumulated within the case or on the fans.
* Prepare all of your components by removing them from their plastic antistatic bags.
* Set jumpers on hard drives and optical drives.
** Jumpers are tiny plastic caps on the back of your hard drive or optical drive which are placed in one of three positions: master, slave or cable select.
** If you will only be using one hard drive and one optical drive then leaving the jumpers set to cable select or master is fine.
** If you have pairs of hard drives or optical drives then one of each must be set to master and one to slave.
Step 4 -- Assembly
* Install the processor onto the motherboard. The processor should drop effortlessly into the socket without any force. Depending on the socket design there will be some sort of locking mechanism to fasten the processor into place, usually a bar or lever.
* Attach the heatsink and fan combination that came with your processor on top of the processor and socket you just installed. The heatsink and fan should snap into place.
* Install RAM. There should be two or three slots to install RAM. You will have to undo the clasps on either side of the slot. Align the RAM chip into the slot and push down lightly with your thumbs until the chip snaps into place. Fasten the clasps to secure the RAM into place.
* Attach the motherboard to the case using the screws provided.
* Connect the power supply to the motherboard, this will be a ten prong rectangular plug.
* Connect all the fans to the power supply.
* Install the hard drive(s). There should be a removable cage to mount the drives. When this is complete connect the power and IDE or SATA cables.
* Install optical drives. You may need to remove the plastic face plates on the case. The optical drives will slide into the docking bays and fasten into place with screws or levers. Connect IDE and power cables.
* Install expansion cards--graphics, audio, networking, etc.--these should fit snugly into the expansion slots without very much effort. Some cards will require a connection to the power source.
* Replace the cover, plug in the power cord.
* Install operating system, this should come on a CD and should prompt you to install upon powering up the system.