For many of you, this may be the part you have been waiting for. You may be thinking “all this explanation on components is well and good, but I want to know HOW you actually build this thing”, and I am happy to report that we are finally there! Instead of drawing out this introduction any further, I am just going to jump right in.
For me, this part is the most fun. If you were ever a fan of Legos or taking apart electronics and seeing how everything is connected, then this may be your favorite part too. Before you touch any of your components, you will want to ensure two things. First, ensure you have a dry area to work in. Any drinks or potential liquids that could come into contact with your components or enter your computer case could ruin your entire build in a heartbeat. Second, take precautions necessary to prevent any static build up on yourself or discharge into your work area. A single static shock from your finger will annihilate any component caught in the blast. With that being said, it is time to build your machine!
1. Seat the Motherboard
The very first step is to get your case opened up and clear out any filler material such as cardboard, paper, or plastic bags that may have come inside it. If it included any short screws or little pegs, keep them. These will be used to secure the motherboard.
If you bought a power supply, it would be easier to install it before the motherboard. With the sensitive motherboard in place, it will be difficult to work the power supply box into the case. If your case came with any instructions about installing power supplies, read them and make sure you know where it will be installed. If you are unsure, look in one of the back corners of the case. It should have a vent and screw holes that will line up when it is placed.
Take out your motherboard and place it so that the ports for USB, audio, and network connections line up with the opening on the back of the case. You should see holes in the motherboard that will line up with screw holes in the case. This is where you will want to screw in any screws that came with your motherboard or case or insert any pegs to secure the motherboard.
When you are done, your motherboard should be secure enough for you to stand the case up and move it around without it shifting or wiggling. The ports on it should be easily accessible from the back of the case as well. In some cases, I have had motherboards whose ports did not fit through the holes in the back of the case. Do not panic! You can either cut out the space for them or you can simply squeeze it in as best you can. As long as you can access the ports and your motherboard is secure, you are fine.
2. Insert your Drives
All cases come with at least one slot for a hard drive. Usually, this slot has a tray that can be pulled out which has screw holes on it. Otherwise, it may just be an open slot where you can slide your hard drive in and insert two screws on each side to secure it. Securing your hard drives is possibly even more important than securing your motherboard. If you opted to use hard drives over solid state drives, you must remember that these have tiny moving parts in them. This makes them far less resilient to hard hits or being moved around too much. If they are not secured and are prone to wiggling, their life will be heavily reduced if you ever move, bump, or drop your computer case.
3. Connect your Components
With your motherboard in place and your power supply or hard drives installed, now is the best time to install any extra components such as graphics cards, sound cards, TV tuner, or network cards. Your motherboard should have come with a manual that will indicate which slots are which. This part is as simple as plugging everything into whichever slot they fit into.
The one exception will be the CPU. When you unbox your CPU chip, you will not be able to simply plug it right into the motherboard. First, make sure the latch that holds the CPU in is unhooked and opened. If there are any protective plastic pieces over the CPU slot, remove them. The same goes for the CPU itself. It may have a small plastic piece covering the top and/or bottom of the CPU. Next, look at the bottom of the CPU. You should see one corner has no prongs sticking out of it. This empty corner should match up with a similarly empty corner on the slot on the motherboard. Simply line these corners up when you put the CPU in place and it should fall right into place. Finally, close the latch that locks the CPU into place. This is usually fairly difficult and you might have to apply some force. Do not be afraid to really push down on the latch. Just be wary of how much force you are putting on the motherboard. If you seated the CPU wrong, you will absolutely ruin it if the prongs did not slide into their holes when doing this.
As for the other components, they should push into their respective slots with relative ease. RAM will lock into place to signify they have been seated appropriately. The other cards, however, may not have a locking mechanism. If this is the case, you will have to push them into place with some force to be sure they are fully seated. They should have a metal plate that lines up with an opening at the back of the case which can help you determine if they are inserted fully as well.
4. Power and Connectors
Now is the time to plug in all the connections to/from all components. This is where things can get a little tricky. The case may have built-in cables that will connect to the motherboard. These control things like the power button and USB ports on the front of the case. The connections they use on the motherboard can sometimes be obvious, but check your motherboard manual and case manual (if it came with one) to be sure they are going to the right place.
The power supply will have the majority of connections that need to be plugged in. For the most part, these should connect to fairly obvious places. You should have one significantly longer connector that will go to a long power port on the motherboard. Then, various components like hard drives and optical drives will have 4-port power connections that match 4-prong connectors coming from the power supply. Simply connect all of these together to power every device that requires it.
The power supply may come with other connectors that are less obvious what they belong to. If you find any connector you can’t find a place for, always consult your manuals to be sure you do not need it rather than ignoring it or assuming it is an extra piece. As someone who built multiple computers with absolutely zero training or instruction I can tell you that most things will be obvious, and if they are not then I was always able to figure things out by looking at a manual.
5. Booting Up
This is the moment it has all led up to. With all the components in place, you should now be able to close your case, stand it up, and plug it in. If your case has power indicator lights on the front or a window to see the components inside, you may see a light come on somewhere when you plug it in and flip the master power switch in the back. This is an excellent sign!
Prepare yourself and then hit that power button. If power is properly flowing to all components, nothing immediately overheats, and all your components are compatible you should see your machine-child come to life. Fans will whir, lights will blink, and on your monitor should appear a boot menu. It is from here that you will specify your boot device to install your chosen operating system. Typically, this means booting from an optical drive from an installation CD/DVD. More recently, this can be done from a USB drive for Windows 10. This is where I leave you.
There are quite a few things to consider if you want to build a computer yourself. Namely, what you plan to use the computer for. Once you have determined its role, you can decide which parts to shop for. The parts list is mostly universal, with a few add-ons needed for more powerful machines. Once you have selected the components you need, you can hit the shops. Whether you choose to find them online or in a store, this step has a critical reliance on the components being compatible with each other. Knowing which pieces to buy first will help significantly with choosing compatible parts that will fit the entire build. Once you have finished your shopping and acquired all the components, it really is a much simpler task than people think to throw them all together. Just pay attention to slot and port types, check your manuals, do a little googling if you get really stumped, and before you know it you will have your very own self-customized computer to show off to all your friends and family.