DIY PC Building

Written by sara williams
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DIY PC Building
The only way to get exactly the computer of your dreams is to build it yourself. (computer image by Ewe Degiampietro from

Building your own personal computer makes sense, because you have complete control over the new machine's specifications. For example, if you want a powerful graphics card but only need a small amount of disk space, it is easy to splurge on the card and spend less on a hard drive. Furthermore, learning how to build a PC makes it easier if a part fails later, because instead of getting a new computer or paying a technician to fix it, you will understand how to replace the part yourself.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer case
  • ATX power supply
  • Motherboard
  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Optical drive
  • Hard drive
  • Monitor
  • Operating system software

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    Build Your PC

  1. 1

    All computers require a minimum number of parts to power up and operate: motherboard, processor, memory, and a power supply. Beyond this, to actually operate the computer you'll need a keyboard, monitor, and possibly a graphics card (if your motherboard does not come with integrated graphics, which is a feature of Intel boards). Compatibility of the parts is most important, so research well before buying. If you feel overwhelmed, then consider purchasing a "bare-bones" computer kit. These kits, offered by such retailers as TigerDirect, typically come with the case, power supply, motherboard, processor, and memory. Some kits are essentially unassembled computers with everything you need.

  2. 2

    Set up your case and the other computer parts in a safe, flat place away from carpeting, pets, and anything else that potentially carries static electricity. If you have access to an anti-static wrist strap, wear one. Take the input/output (I/O) plate out of the motherboard box and install it in the case where you would normally see the ports of the computer. Besides screws, there are small metal "stand-offs" that raise the board off the mounting side of the case so that the motherboard does not touch the metal case. Line these up, along with the board, and screw the board into the case.

  3. 3

    Take out your processor, also called a "CPU," and carefully set it into its slot on the motherboard. There is only one way that it will fit, so if the processor does not go in, or the shield does not fit over it correctly, then reposition it. Put a little thermal paste, which should have come with the processor, on the metal part on top of the processor. Position the heat sink and fan over the processor, and secure them either with its clips or by screwing it in, depending on the model. Plug in the small power connector attached to the fan into the motherboard.

  4. 4

    Take your power supply and slide it into the case, lining up the back with the square-shaped hole in the back of your case. Screw it in from the outside, and then connect the 24-pin and 4-pin connectors to the motherboard. Do not plug anything into the socket until you have finished building the PC, as this would create an electrical hazard.

  5. 5

    Line up your memory with the memory slots and push them in. If they do not go in, then face the memory sticks the other way. There are notches in the memory and in the banks on the motherboard to prevent incorrect installation. Flip in the clips on the sides so that they fit into the notches on the side of the memory.

  6. 6

    Take your drives and put them into the drive banks at the front of the case. Screw them in so that they don't rattle in the case. Connect power supply cables to them, and then connect their data cables. The current standard for data cables are SATA, which are typically thin, flat, and red. The data cables must connect each drive to the motherboard, just as the power cables connect each drive to the power supply.

  7. 7

    Install any cards you require, such as graphics or Ethernet. Chances are, you will only need to install a graphics card, and only if you have purchased an AMD-based motherboard. Push the card into its compatible slot and secure it with a screw at the top of its metal plate. Close the case and plug in your monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Plug in your Ethernet cable or wireless adaptor if you are connecting to the Internet. Finally, plug in the power cable to the wall and your computer.

  8. 8

    Boot up your computer by pressing the power button, and make sure your monitor is on. If you have an operating system to install, open up the disk drive and quickly insert the disk. If there are beeps when the computer boots, or an error, consult with the motherboard's troubleshooting guide.

Tips and warnings

  • Buy a bare-bones kit that comes with everything but the operating system. Doing so will make it unnecessary to research and check every part you buy for compatibility, and save you time.
  • Never work on an open computer while it is plugged in or near a source of static electricity.

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