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PC Building, P7 - Putting it All Together

Posted June 13, 2014 8:00 PM by cheme_wordsmithy

It's been a long process going through the selection of all the parts for my desktop computer build. In reality, it only took me about two weeks to decide on all the parts, and another couple waiting for the right prices. But I learned a lot more in those few weeks than I could write about in one or two posts, so thanks for sticking with me! Now on to the last step in the process: the build.

To begin, here is a list of all the parts of my computer build:

  • Processor: Intel i-5 4670k
  • Motherboard: ATX Fatal1ty Z87 Killer (pictured right)
  • RAM: DDR3 1600 MHz 4GB module (x2)
  • Hard Drive: Crucial M500 250GB Solid State Drive
  • Power Supply: ASUS 600W 80+ Bronze Certified
  • Graphics Card: ASUS Geforce 760GT

I also ordered an aftermarket heatsink for improved CPU cooling, the NZXT Source 210 case to house everything, and a few computer fans to help keep the case environment cool.

So here I am, all my parts spread out on my desk like LEGOs or puzzle pieces. But unlike LEGOs and puzzles, a computer was not something I felt suicidal brave enough to attempt to build without directions, so I turned to this excellent video from EasyPCBuilder.com (via Youtube), which provides a step-by-step guide to computer building. There are plenty of well-written computer building guides out there, so I won't pretend to be the expert here. But, I will give a basic rundown of my build experience and share some takeaways that I learned along the way.

STEP 1: INSTALL POWER SUPPLY IN CASE. To begin my building journey, I started with the power supply unit, which (from the outside) is basically a big box with cables sticking out of it. My computer case has a designated area at the bottom to fit the power supply, with the power plug and switch end of the unit positioned out the back side of the case. After screwing the PSU into position, I plugged the power cord into the PSU and power strip, leaving all the switches turned off.

STEP 2: GROUND YOURSELF. Pretty much everything I read on computer building emphasized the importance of this step. Don't touch any computer parts outside their packaging without first grounding yourself in some way; I used an anti-static wristband (see pictures on right and left), attaching it to a screw on the case that connects to the PSU. If you ignore this step, your body could carry or build an electrostatic charge that could shock sensitive computer parts without you even knowing it. This is the same charge that builds when you rub your feet on the carpet or rub a balloon against your hair. Static electricity can damage or destroy electronic components, which is why computer parts usually come in electrostatic protective bags. On the same note, while building, it's best best to have your computer parts and yourself on a hard surface rather than on carpet.

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STEP 3: INSTALL CPU, CPU COOLER, AND RAM ON MOTHERBOARD. After grounding, I could (more) safely handle my computer parts. Before putting the motherboard into the case, I first needed to put the processor and RAM into their designated socket/slots. After fitting those pieces gently (but firmly) in place, I applied thermal paste on top of the processor and installed my aftermarket CPU cooler, ensuring its position synergized with the airflow direction of my case fans (see step 7). The picture on the left shows the RAM modules in their slots, and the CPU heatsink fan to the left.

STEP 4: INSTALL MOTHERBOARD IN CASE. This was more work than I thought, requiring that I first screw in risers into the correct case holes before laying the board on top and aligning properly. I made sure all the screws were square before tightening any of them in order to prevent any uneven pressure or tension on the board that could cause warping.

STEP 5: INSTALL GRAPHICS CARD. The graphics card installs in the PCI-Express (x16) slot and requires a good amount of firm pressure to fit. Like the RAM slots, there is typically a distinguishable click or snap when the card fits into place and is seated correctly.

STEP 6: HARD DRIVE INSTALL. There are a number of 3.5" expansion slots on the front side of my case for seating harddrives other devices. I installed my hard drive on the bottom slot to avoid blocking my fans. Since my SSD is 2.5", I used a 2.5" to 3.5" converter and fit the drive.

STEP 7: INSTALL COMPUTER FANS. To keep the case cool, you need fans that can pull cool air in and blow hot air out. In order to install the CPU cooler correctly, I had to decide on the airflow design of my case before putting in the fans. My case allows for 2 fans in front, 1 on the back, 2 on top and 1 on the bottom. Because my GPU and CPU (the two units that produce the most heat) are closer to the back, I decided my setup would blow air through the front (two fans) and out the back (one fan plus the CPU fan). Although I had enough fans to also add some to the top or bottom, this would disrupt the airflow and not really add any benefit.

STEP 8: CABLE MANAGEMENT… After putting everything in the case, let me just say there were a lot of power cords and cables going everywhere. After figuring out where everything needed to go, I spent a good deal of time wrapping groups of cords in twisty ties and maneuvering them as efficiently as I could to keep them neat, leaving as much open space as possible in the center for airflow. Luckily, the back portion of my case included a panel to route and house a lot of the excess cable length.

STEP 9: PLUG AND PLAY! So after connecting everything (including externals like the mouse, keyboard, and monitor cable), the only thing left to do is cross your fingers and power it up. If you're lucky (like me!), the system will POST and none of the hardware will present problems. At this point, it's time to set up the system and have fun!

So that's a simple rundown of the steps I took. The tedium and time comes with connecting all the power cords and pieces to the motherboard, but I'll leave those details to the extensive guides and manuals.

What a fun project; I learned so much about computer hardware and how it all works together! And the end result was a really high-performing system that I can look at and know I built myself. It's been a very rewarding experience which I highly recommend to all who might be interested. Thanks for following my progress these past couple months; I hope you learned something too!

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Join Date: Nov 2012
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#1

Re: PC Building, P7 - Putting it All Together

06/15/2014 12:41 AM

Re: PC Building, P7 - Putting it All Together

Great write up! I built my first computer last year. I considered doing a little write up like yours but to be honest there is little I could add.

My objective was to build a reliable, reasonably efficient machine for work that is capable of being upgraded as need arises. I do a little graphics work, some spread sheets and occasionally back up a disk for my video collection. In theory the mother board I chose is a fairly tough piece of gear. Nothing else is exceptional about the build. I collected the parts over about a year buying everything on sale. It took a Saturday afternoon to complete the actual build.

I set a budget of about $500. By watching Tiger Direct and New Egg like a hawk for sale items I was able to complete my build including Win 7 OS for around $560.

Consider building your own. It's not that tough and you start out with a virgin machine not full of crap ware to slow it down.

SAMSUNG DVD Burner 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 8X DVD+R DL $16.49

ASUS Blu Ray Burner $60 after rebate

AMD FX4100 4 Core 3600MHZ 8 AM+MB AM+3 $90

MSI 990XA-GD55 Mother board $120

XFX GeForce 9600 GSO 512MB DDR3 PCIe $39

A couple of Kingswin 120mm fans (Free with rebate)

Key board $9.95

SYX 310 Gaming case $10 after rebate?

Samsung 1TB 3.5 SATA 3G 7200 HARD DRIVE ~ $70

Patriot Viper Extreme 4 GB 1600 X2 $59 after rebate

Win 7 From Royal $60

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