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Few basic rules for system builder / first time tinkerer
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Old 25-02-2007, 12:06   #1
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Few basic rules for system builder / first time tinkerer

Ok thought I would create a thread with some basic rules for the system builder / pc enthusiast.

Important steps.
First of all before working inside a machine ensure any and all important data is backed up safe and sound just in case something goes wrong
Make sure you take your time ensuring everything is correct before you commit yourself.
Read all manuals that come with the hardware or if misplaced download one from the manufacturers web site.
Power down and if your towers psu has a power switch turn this to off if not unplug the system.
Wear an antistatic wrist band if you can use an anti static mat if not maybe use anti static bags that ship with motherboards. I know some people argue the use of this but I always use one to ensure all components are in tip top condition.
When removing components handle with care and be careful of the capacitors and try not to handle chips to much but as long as your static free you should be ok. Also take care not to catch anything on the motherboard.

There are loads of different types and a few different sizes but one thing is common amongst them all and that is they are the backbone of your system. If you scrimp on this then your system will suffer. There are good cheaper boards out there but be prepared for them to be basic maybe not open to overclocking but they will suit budget machines. Ensure when buying a board it has all the features you need,good expansion for the future and obviously fits any hardware you want to fit to it.

When removing a cpu you need to be very careful as often on older systems the heatsink and fan assembly can be stuck to the cpu so care needs to be taken or you could damage the cpu specially if it pulls away from the motherboard with the heatsink.Allow the system to run upto operating temps prior as this could give you the give you need. Lift retaining clip and remove cpu. Take note of the orientation of the cpu as it will need to be installed the same way. When reinstalling cpu that isn’t of the LGA (pins on mobo not on cpu)type take great care not to bend or damge the pins when moving the cpu. On a motherboard that is of the LGA type take care not to damge the pins on the motherboard. Always use a good quality heat transfer compound. I use artic silver but there are other brands. On a cpu with a heat spreader use a small pea amount of paste central on the spreader(see pdf1). The heatsink will evenly spread the paste when fitted. On a cpu without a heat spreader carefully apply a small even layer on the core maybe use an old credit card or similar to spread the paste(see pdf 2). There are various types of cooler the older ones (old PII or Amd skt A etc)require more force and a small flat ended screw driver to reattach . On the newer systems the coolers are a lot simpler to fit and pull tight using a cam system. Always ensure the cooler is correctly attached and the 3 pin (or 4 pin on newer systems) is plugged into the board

Ram comes in varies types the most commonly found are SDR this is found in older machines and can still be bought if needed. DDR this comes in various frequencys there is no need to go into them all here. DDR II this is the most common on newer machines and also comes in various flavours. SODIMMS in laptops again plenty of different types of this so for whatever system you own ensure you know what type of ram you need before you buy it.
If installing system memory check to see if your system is capable of running dual channel mode.If so its always advisable to install ram for this mode. Most motherboard manuals will tell you to use matched pairs of ram.In my opinion if your buying all new ram then buy a kit if not all you have to do is ensure you install the same amount of ram on each channel so 2 x 512 on channel A and a 1 gig stick of ram on channel B should work. Try to buy the same frequency. There are some online testing sites that tell you the type of ram you need or you could use a piece of software ir Sisoft Sandra or Everest

Graphics cards and expansion cards.
Well there is AGP, PCI –E x16, PCI-E x1 and pci. Some older systems will have ISA slots but these not found much anymore.
When buying a graphics card ensure of course you know your slot type and if you wish to run 2 cards be sure to know whether your board is capable of running 2 and what type either SLI or Crossfire
Installing expansion cards is simple in the case of graphics simply follow important steps and ensure any retaining clip is set to allow fitting of card. Bring the card to the system and line up with slot and apply even force to fit. Apply retention clip and fit to case either with a screw or any thumb locking mechanism . Connect power if needed.
Fitting a pci card is the same only there will not be a clip or power to fit

ATA Devices
These basically can be either optical drives (Dvdrw Cdrw etc) or PATA hard disks. These basically connect to the motherboard via a 40 pin ribbon cable and can run 2 devices on a controller 1 in master (at the far end of the cable) and one as slave (middle of the cable).On the rear of the drive is a little plastic plug this is called a jumper and this makes the drive either master slave or cable select depending on the pins it shorts.The drive will have a diagram on the top to show what is what. These are very simple and if you cant attach one of these you should not be messing inside a pc.

These are mainly hard drives but there are optical drives of this type. They use a simple smaller cable to attach to the board and need power either from a 4 pin molex or a new type connector. Ensure your ppwer supply unit has provision for this. Newer machines will see one of these drives from post older machines will need a driver installed to be seen

Power Supply Units
Well I cant really say a lot about this. They come in either 20 pin atx or 24 pin atx 2 with a 12v 4 pin (some atx2 units come with 2 12 v 4 pin)cable and molex and sata power leads. Ensure your psu is correct for your board.

Again not a lot can be said. Use one big enough of good quality and ensure it has good air flow. Make sure all leads are neat and tidy to allow for good air flow

These are but a few basic tips for anyone who dabbles inside their machine.Ive not covered everything and im sure ive missed out some important points
I of course accept no blame for any screwups by anyone ever
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Old 25-02-2007, 18:11   #2
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Re: Few basic rules for system builder / first time tinkerer

Excellent article Zingle

From a topic I posted ages ago, a few other bits and pieces to remember.....

Buy the components in this order:

a) Case, Keyboard, Mouse, Monitor.
b) Power supply.
c) Drives (Hard drive, floppy, optical drives).
d) RAM, Graphics card, CPU, and Motherboard.

The reason I put them in this order is that it will be easier for when you build the machine, and you dont need componenets (d) until the end.
Remembering that anti static strap, its easier to put in your power supply and all drives in and screwed down first. Make sure you have prepared the case and punched out the adequate blanking plates too.
Then put in ram and cpu on the motherboard outside of the case. Then, once everything else is in, put the motherboard in the case, on the stand offs, and screw it down, adding in any extra cards and graphics cards last.

- Its worth adding a few extra fans in to keep temperatures low.
- Connect all data and power cables to drives, graphics cards, fans, etc.
Your motherboard guide will show you where these go.
- Don't overtighten screws, yet make sure they are not too loose either.
- Get a pack of rounded cables for your DVD drive and floppy for about £5 from overclockers. It will be easier to position them and not take up so much space.
- Leave space between the graphics card and PCI ports so it can breathe.

Its worth reminding people that although there are things that can go wrong, if you take care, and dont rush things, things normally go to plan.

- Most power supply and data cables now only fit one way so you cant get them plugged in the wrong way round.

- Gone are the days of setting jumper switches and manually adjusting clock settings for the CPU. Nearly all motherboards now autodetect hardware without a problem.

- Set yourself atleast a weekend if you never have done computer work before and do read the manuals you receive.
Working on a big table with a good light will help you to work more easily.

- When handling drives, RAM, and other components, handle by the edges. If you need to put it down, use the anti static bags that came with it.

- The most annoying things are normally the smallest cables so check your motherboard guide for where they go.

- Double check everything before you switch on. Are all the cables connected up and the fans / power supply cables attached.

- Common errors are people overtightening screws, not putting in stand offs in the case or metal touching motherboard contacts, Not using an anti static wristband and frying the Ram, setting the power supply switch to the wrong voltage, forgetting to plug in fans, forgetting to plug in P4 CPU power supply cable on motherboard.

- There is often more chance of software messing a system up than hardware, so bare that in mind.

- Any more help, just post on the forums, I'm sure everyone will help you out if all was to fail.

- Setting up your systems operating system is also fairly simple and if you have the Windows XP CD, it should auto boot and let you configure your drive, format it for you, and then customise your windows set up.

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