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PC Builders’ Guide to Hardware Setup

  • Post category:Windows
Building a PC is an exciting project, and PC component makers do a pretty good job of making it as easy as possible. There are still a few precautions you need to take to avoid problems such as overheating, damage to PCI cards and running out of room to fit all of your components in the case. The most important component in the system is the CPU, and many common problems related to improper CPU installation can lead to overheating as well as permanent damage to your processor and possibly your motherboard.

Depending on the type of system you’re building, you may have to watch out for components that get in the way of installing other components. For example, if you’re building a high-end gaming PC, the heat spreader on your RAM can get in the way of your graphics card, if the slots are close together. Another problem to watch out for is blocking a PCI slot with a hard drive bay. In small cases, such as Micro ATX or Mini ATX cases, there isn’t always enough room to use all the hard drive compartments as well as each PCI slot.

Installing the Motherboard and CPU

The motherboard is the trickiest component to install because it requires the largest number of thumbscrews and fasteners. It’s also frustrating to have to remove it again if you accidentally install a component incorrectly, but sometimes you can’t avoid this outcome. The most important thing to remember when installing the motherboard is to use very little pressure when turning the thumbscrews. These screws are made from brass, which is softer than steel and allows the threading to become stripped more easily. You only need to tighten them with your fingers; using a screwdriver can easily strip them and possibly jar loose a component attached to the board.

Before installing the motherboard, it’s usually best to insert the CPU because many cases don’t provide enough headroom for this step when the motherboard is bolted down. There is only one way to insert the CPU into the socket, and you have to be careful not to bend the pins by forcing the processor down the wrong way. Intel CPUs don’t have exposed pins on the underside, but AMD chips do. If they become bent, the CPU will not function properly and may become overheated. Other problems that can cause overheating include dirt or debris in the socket, too much or too little thermal compound, and installing the cooling fan in the wrong direction. The fan should blow away from the CPU to ventilate the hot air out of the case.

RAM, Graphics Cards and PCI Slots

RAM is probably the simplest component to install because there is only one way to fit it in the slot. However, some motherboards require all four channels to be installed together in order for the RAM to work properly. Also, be sure to buy the right RAM for your board; DDR3 RAM is incompatible with DDR2 motherboard slots.

When installing the graphics card, you should always put it in the PCI slot nearest the CPU. This slot always has proper PCI Express x16 wiring, while the other slots may not receive the same amount of power. If your graphics card is high-end, it has a dedicated power input, and you must plug it directly into the power supply.

Otherwise, your computer won’t have video output and may not boot at all. The power supply is another simple component to install, and you just have to make sure that the fan points down or toward the outside of the case, depending on your system.

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