How to build a computer
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Self-assembly of a system unit is not only an exciting hobby, but also a significant savings. In addition, this is a little more creativity – from buying exactly the devices that you need, and ending with the pinpoint setting of the PC. However, beginners may hesitate for a long time to independently assemble the system unit. For those who have not yet joined this lesson, this material is intended

How to build a computer step by step you can find below

How to build a computer

Selection and compatibility of components of computer

Sometimes it is harder to decide on a set of components that will make up your PC than to assemble a system unit with your own hands at home. On sale you can find a huge number of processors, motherboards and video cards. You can argue for a long time about which brand is preferable, as well as discuss the topic whose graphics are faster – the main thing is that when making the final choice of the configuration, all the hardware is fully compatible with each other. If you follow this rule, assembling a system unit is not much different from playing a constructor set, in which all the parts fit together. The dimensions of the components, the parameters of the mounting holes and the connectors – all the elements of the computer are strictly regulated, and therefore, for example, it cannot be such that the DDR3 standard RAM would suddenly work on a motherboard with DIMM slots designed for installing exclusively DDR4 modules. You simply won’t be able to install them in their respective slots.

For the full functioning of the system unit, you must purchase the following devices: motherboard, central processor, cooler, RAM, hard disk or solid-state drive, video card (if the CPU or motherboard does not have an integrated graphics core), power supply and case. Additional components include an optical drive, as well as all kinds of discrete devices: network and sound cards, additional cooling.

How to build a computer

The motherboard is the foundation of any computer. It depends on it which processors will be used, how many modules of RAM, video cards and drives can be installed. Motherboard dimensions play an important role when choosing a case. At the moment, among the motherboards, the most popular are solutions of the form factors E-ATX (305 Γ— 330 mm), ATX (305 Γ— 244, 305 Γ— 225 or 305 Γ— 199 mm), mATX (244 Γ— 244, 244 Γ— 225 or 191 Γ— 188 mm) and mini-ITX (170 Γ— 170 mm), although there are many more standard sizes of such devices. The form factor is always indicated in the case specifications.

The very “dwelling” for components is also divided into types depending on the size and shape. As a rule, the larger the computer case, the more productive hardware we can install in it, while ensuring high-quality cooling of all system components. The dependence, however, is non-linear – practice shows that it is quite possible to assemble a powerful gaming PC in compact 7-10 liter cases. You just have to pre-select all the components more carefully.

Among PC cases, the most popular models are four types: Midi-Tower (examples – Deepcool Dukase and Zalman Z11 Neo), Full Tower (be quiet! Dark Base Pro 900), Mini-Tower (Fractal Design Define Nano S) and Slim Desktop (Fractal Design Node 202). Naturally, the more compact the device, the fewer seats it has for installing discrete video cards, drives and case fans. For example, a 10 liter Node 202 can only fit 2.5-inch hard drives and SSDs. All these features are indicated by a conscientious manufacturer in the technical characteristics of the device.

Types of computer cases
Full-Tower
Midi-Tower
Mini-Tower
Slim Desktop

Approximate height550+ ΠΌΠΌ
Up to 500 mmUp to 400 mmUp to 400 mm
Supported form factor of motherboardE-ATX, ATX, mATX, mini-ITX
E-ATX, ATX, mATX, mini-ITX
mATX, mini-ITX
mATX, mini-ITX

Number of expansion slots1-7
1-7
1-4
1-4

Power supply form factorATX
ATX
ATX, SFX
ATX, SFX

Recommended cable length 4 + 4 ATX PS 12V for CPU power supplyFrom 550 mmUp to 550 mmUp to 500 mmUp to 400 mm

When choosing components, pay attention to other limitations that any computer case has:

  • maximum height of the processor cooler;
  • maximum video card length;
  • maximum length of the power supply.
  • Before buying equipment, be sure to make sure that all devices are compatible with each other, do not conflict and fit exactly in the computer case. The simplest logical chain that will not allow you to purchase components that do not match each other is as follows:

We decide on the model of the central processor.
We select a motherboard with a suitable CPU socket.
We study the list of compatible motherboard equipment on the official website and select a set of RAM.


Choosing drives that are compatible with the motherboard.
We select a video card, power supply, processor cooling and a case that will fit all the components.

Again, this sequence is by no means an axiom. Since PC assembly is always a creative process, the sequence of hardware selection can vary. For example, you like a certain case and want to build your dream system only in it. Or you already have some components on hand, and you need to buy everything else.

How to build a computer
Installation options for the water cooling system: A – three-section, two-section and one-section radiators; B – one-piece radiator

If the system unit will use an unattended water cooling system for a processor or video card, then additionally it is necessary to find out the dimensions of the supported radiators, as well as the places in which they can be installed. Obviously, the seats for installing the SVO coincide with the mounting locations of the fans. Single-section radiators are usually installed on the back wall, two-section and three-section ones – on the top and / or front.

How to build a computer

To write this material, I used the following set of devices based on the above sequence for selecting components:

  • AMD Ryzen 7 1700 central processor, socket AM4, 3.0 (3.7) GHz;
  • MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON motherboard, socket AM4, X370 chipset;
  • RAM Kingston HyperX Fury (HX426C16FR2K4 / 32), 4 Γ— 8 GB, DDR4-2666;
  • SSD Kingston HyperX Predator (SHPM2280P2H / 480G), 480GB;
  • MSI GeForce GTX 1070 GAMING X 8 GB graphics card;
  • Cooler Master MasterWatt power supply unit, 500 W;
  • Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition case;
  • CPU cooler Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120.
  • As you can see, in the preparation of this material, the most common form factors are used – ATX for the motherboard and Midi-Tower for the case. Similar options are offered in “Computer of the Month” – because this standard size is the most versatile and most popular. However, I cannot say that the assembly process in Mini-Tower and Slim Desktop cases is fundamentally different. It’s just that the requirements for the selection of hardware compatible with each other turn out to be much higher.

Additionally, I note that when selecting devices, all modern trends were taken into account. The main drive is the Kingston HyperX Predator model with PCI Express interface. And the choice in favor of the Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition was made due to the possibility of installing the power supply unit in the lower part of the chassis, as well as the presence of a mount for drives on the barrier wall. Plus, maintenance-free liquid cooling systems are very popular.

Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120 is a striking representative of one-piece dropsies, which are ready to go out of the box. The rest of the components are selected in such a way that you end up with a productive system unit for work and entertainment. No optical drive was used. In my opinion, in 2017 there is no need for it, and the Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition (as well as many other new cases of this format) lacks seats for installing devices in 5.25-inch bays.

How to build a computer

To assemble the system unit, you will definitely need two Phillips screwdrivers with different slot diameters, nylon ties and wire cutters. Pliers may come in handy – in cheap cases, threads are cut by eye, as well as double-sided adhesive tape, degreasing liquid and cotton swabs. In order not to scratch the case and damage the motherboard, I put all the components on a rubber mat. An anti-static wrist strap or gloves are also useful for beginners, but to be honest, more to give confidence in their own abilities. Since the assembly of a PC is, among other things, connecting small connectors to the motherboard, then you definitely cannot do without good lighting or a flashlight at hand. Please follow below steps for finish how to build a computer…

Step # 1. Installing the processor and RAM

The motherboard user manual always contains a description of the installation of all major components and connectors. Beginners, keep this book with you. The sequence of steps for assembling the system unit may vary depending on the type of components. For example, sometimes it is better to install a processor cooler right away, and sometimes it is better to install it next to last or last. Even before fixing the motherboard in the case, you should install the central processor and RAM in the corresponding slots.

How to build a computer
Installing AMD Ryzen CPU in Socket AM4

You probably know that AMD and Intel processors are structurally different from each other. So, AMD chips have protruding contacts, called β€œlegs” of hardware, are located directly on the PCB substrate. But Intel chips do not have such elements – for these CPUs, the contacts are placed directly in the motherboard socket.

Installing AMD chips is very simple: raise the lever, place the processor on a plastic substrate, lower the lever.

How to build a computer
Installing an Intel CPU into an LGA115X socket

As for Intel solutions for LGA115X platforms, a similar technique is used here: together with the lever we raise the pressure frame, install the processor, lower the lever and the pressure frame.

How to build a computer
Installing Intel CPU in LGA2011 and LGA2011-v3 sockets

In the case of Intel LGA2011 and LGA2011-v3 platforms, two levers must be released from the fixing grooves to raise the pressure frame.

Please note that all CPUs and motherboards are equipped with pointers and so-called foolproof protection. In principle, you cannot install the chip in the socket any other way, so NEVER use force when assembling the computer. All elements in the system unit are protected against incorrect connection. Aside from the CPU, you cannot otherwise connect power supply cables, chassis connectors, fans, discrete devices, storage, and RAM. More precisely, you can, but this will require every effort. I don’t think it’s worth talking about the consequences of incorrect installation of PC components.

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How to build a computer
Installing RAM

After the CPU, I install RAM in the DIMM slots, usually located on the right side of the CPU. MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON supports DDR4 RAM, four ports are soldered on the PCB at once. In some motherboards, there may be only two of them (most often these are either the cheapest devices, or mini-ITX solutions, or unusual experiments from manufacturers), in models for the LGA2011 and LGA2011-v3 platforms – eight. Usually, all DIMM slots are marked on the PCB.

Most modern AMD and Intel processors have dual channel RAM controllers. Therefore, motherboards use either two or four DIMM slots. Therefore, it is considered optimal to install either two or four RAM modules. In the first case, the RAM is installed through one slot. Some motherboards have special pointers. For example, in MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON modules are installed in DIMMA2 and DIMMB2 slots – in this case, the RAM will work in dual-channel mode. In other motherboards, there are inscriptions of the type DDR4_A1 / DDR4_A2 / DDR4_B1 / DDR4_B2, DIMM_A1 / DIMM_A2 / DIMM_B1 / DIMM_B2, DDR4_1 / DDR4_2 / DDR4_3 / DDR4_4_channels / DIMB1 slots / DIM4_4_channels / DIMM_4_in order to ensure the operation of two modules and DDR4_1 / DDR4_2 respectively.

How to build a computer
“Foolproof” in RAM

I have already said that it will not work to insert the RAM incorrectly, since the design of the DIMM slots uses a jumper. It is also used to prevent the user from “squeezing” modules of a different standard into a motherboard that supports DDR4.

The RAM cards are secured with latches located along the edges of the DIMM slots. Some motherboards have these latches on only one side of the connectors. This is done so that the user can freely change the RAM modules without removing, for example, the video card.

How to build a computer
Installation of boxed coolers (from left to right): for AMD AM1 / AM2 / AM2 + / AM3 / AM3 + / FM2 / FM2 + platforms; for AMD AM4 platform; for Intel LGA115X platforms

After installing the CPU and RAM, you can immediately install the CPU cooler, but only if its design uses a small heatsink. The use of a large cooling system will complicate the installation of the motherboard, as well as the subsequent connection of wires. The photo above shows examples of installing boxed coolers – the so-called CO, which are sold together with the processors. Coolers for AMD AM3 + and FM2 + platforms are attached with plastic “ears” – a special metal bracket with lugs clings to them. Box cooling for Ryzen chips is installed differently, here you have to work with a screwdriver: first remove the plastic mount, and then screw the radiator to the backplate. The cooler for Intel processors is fixed with plastic clips: install the heatsink on the CPU and press the latch until you hear a characteristic click. In general, in the case of installing boxed cooling systems, even beginners should not have problems.

Thermal grease is already applied to the soles of some coolers – its use significantly increases the efficiency of heat removal from the CPU. In any case, thermal grease is always included with the processor cooler. For example, a small tube came with Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120, which should nevertheless be enough for 3-4 times. Please remember to remove the protective film before installing the cooling system, if there is one on the base of the device. The process of applying thermal paste is described in paragraph five.

But the installation of other coolers is carried out on an individual basis, since each manufacturer uses a mounting kit of its own design. Therefore, immediately remove the instruction from the CO from the package. Most devices are equipped with universal mounting mechanisms that are suitable for both AMD and Intel processors. True, the counterpart of the mount, which must be previously fixed on the board, is different for different platforms. The list of supported hardware, as well as the dimensions of the cooler, are always indicated in the technical specifications. And yet there are enough models on sale that are compatible with only one specific platform.

How to build a computer

Once again: if the device is large, or, as in my case, a maintenance-free liquid cooling system is used, then at the first stage it is enough to fix the back plate and frames on the board, which will hold the cooler radiator. We will install the radiator itself in the penultimate order after all the cables are connected to the motherboard. Yes, in cases of the Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition level, the barrier wall has a window for accessing the cooler backplate, but it is far from always convenient to use it.

Location of tower coolers
Location of tower coolers

If we talk about processor air coolers, the most popular are tower-type coolers. Depending on the platform used and on the specific model, the CO radiator can be installed in two positions. In the first case, the cooler fan will blow air through the back of the case, in the second case – through the top. The correct installation option is determined by the shape of the housing used. So, in the case of models of Full-, Midi- and Mini-Tower formats, it is better to use the first option. It is important that the used CO does not overlap the expansion slots, and also does not rest against the cooling elements of the motherboard power subsystem. For example, MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON does not conflict with even the largest tower coolers. Also, a wide processor cooler can prevent the installation of RAM modules with high cooling heatsinks. Therefore, it is better to use compact RAM kits, such as the Kingston HyperX Fury for example, or to make sure 100% that the cooling of the CPU and memory will not conflict with each other.

Our assembly uses a maintenance-free liquid cooling system Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120, so its installation will be carried out in the penultimate stage (step 5).

Fan connectors
Fan connectors

The cooler and case fans are connected to the motherboard using 3- and 4-pin connectors. MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON has six such elements wired at once, which is very convenient. The number of such ports is not regulated in any way, but at least two connectors on the board must be present: for connecting a CPU cooler fan and for a system (case) impeller. All connectors are labeled accordingly: CPU_FAN, SYS_FAN (or CHA_FAN). Sometimes the 4-pin connector intended for the processor cooler is highlighted in a different color (most often white). You can also find the PUMP_FAN connector in motherboards of mid and high price ranges. It is designed to connect the rotor of a water cooling pump, but at the same time it is suitable for any other fans. It’s just that a higher current is transmitted through this port.

The three-pin connector does not allow the speed control of the fan connected to it. But the 4-pin port has this capability, and modern motherboards are able to regulate the rotational speed of the “turntables” both with pulse width modulation (fans with four contacts) and without it (fans with three contacts).

If there are not enough connectors for connecting case fans, all kinds of adapters will help. It can be a conventional splitter that allows you to connect several impellers to one 3- or 4-pin port at once. Or a cable connected to a MOLEX or SATA connector. And then there are devices such as reobases, although their popularity has never been high. However, some cases are initially equipped with simple (most often three-position) controllers that control the fan speed by lowering the voltage from 12 to 7 or 5 V.

In the case of our PC, there is no need for additional adapters and splitters, since only two CBO fans and one case impeller need to be connected to the motherboard.

Step # 2. Installing the motherboard and connecting the case connectors

Now that the CPU and RAM are connected to the motherboard, it’s time to start working on the case.

Internal device Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition
Internal device Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition

For a long time, in tower cases, the power supply was installed mainly from the bottom. This was done both for aesthetic reasons (it is more convenient and easier to lay wires), and for the sake of increasing the cooling efficiency, primarily of the PSU itself. However, there are models of cases on sale with other options for installing a power supply unit.

Slots for power supply, 2.5- and 3.5-inch drives
Slots for power supply, 2.5- and 3.5-inch drives

The Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition is designed with a small cage with a sled that can hold two 3.5-inch hard drives. Smaller 2.5-inch drives are wall-mounted.

Installing a dummy from the motherboard I / O panel
Installing a dummy from the motherboard I / O panel

Installing the motherboard begins by securing the I / O panel plug into the dedicated rectangular hole. You will not have any difficulties. The plug is always included with the motherboard.

Fasteners: screw-stand for installing the motherboard; screws for securing the motherboard, video cards and power supply; screws for securing drives
Fasteners: screw-stand for installing the motherboard; screws for securing the motherboard, video cards and power supply; screws for securing drives

Mounting accessories are always supplied with the housing. Together with the Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition, I found three types of screws, as well as plastic clips for installing additional fans. Other housings may have more mounting options. On some models, the stand screws required to install the motherboard are already screwed into the corresponding threaded holes on the barrier. In the case of Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition, you will have to do this procedure yourself.

build computer

So, the case supports the installation of motherboards of mini-ITX, mATX, ATX and even E-ATX form factors. There are symbols on the wall (a similar memo is used in many models). Since the assembly uses an ATX form-factor board, you need to screw all eight stand screws into the threaded holes marked with the letter “A”. However, not all motherboards related to this standard size correspond to the parameters of length and width 305 Γ— 244 mm. For example, the MSI Z270A-PRO is 19 mm narrower than the MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON, so it cannot be fixed in the case along the right edge. Therefore, when connecting wires from the power supply or installing memory modules in DIMM slots, the textolite will bend. Install these elements more carefully in such cases.

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Connecting controls and chassis connectors to the motherboard
Connecting controls and chassis connectors to the motherboard

After the motherboard is secured, personally I immediately connect the controls and connectors on the front panel of the case. On the front wall of the Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition, there are two USB 3.0 A-type ports, two 3.5 mm mini-jacks for headphones and a microphone, as well as the system power and forced restart keys. Difficulties can arise only when connecting controls – this is a bundle of wires with Power LED- and Power LED + connectors (transmit information to the computer status indicator), Power SW (responsible for the operation of the power key), HDD LED- and HDD LED + (transfers information to the drive activity indicator ), as well as Reset SW (responsible for the forced reset button). Some elements may not be on the “face” of the case, since not all devices are equipped, for example, with a Reset button or LED indicators. However, in all cases, these connectors are connected in a specific sequence, as shown in the table below. It’s just that motherboard manufacturers use their own designations for essentially the same contact pad: JFP1 in MSI motherboards; PANEL at ASUS; PANEL1 in ASRock and F_PANEL in GIGABYTE.

Power LED+
Power LED-
Power SW
Power SW

HDD LED+
HDD LED-
Reset SW
Reset SW
How to build a computer

In addition, among the internal connectors on the motherboard, there may be contact pads for connecting USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 ports, RGB tapes, TPM module, FP audio and a speaker.

Step # 3. Installing and connecting drives

Modern AMD and Intel platforms allow several types of drives to be installed. You can easily find SSDs with SATA 6 Gb / s and PCI Express interfaces on sale.

Installing drives
Installing drives

The 3.5 ” hard drives in the Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition are easy to install in the basket. The plastic skids are equipped with a screwless fastening system and also have anti-vibration washers. 2.5-inch storage devices can also be placed here, but in this case, you will have to work extra with a screwdriver.

SSD with a SATA 6 Gb / s connector and compact HDDs connected to the motherboard using a flexible cable are also attached to the partition wall. This solution looks very attractive. There are four screws per drive.

Installing an M.2 Drive Using a PCI Express x4 Card
Installing an M.2 Drive Using a PCI Express x4 Card

In our system unit, the main drive is the 480 GB Kingston HyperX Predator. This SSD comes with a PCI Express x4 expansion card, which is useful for those users who do not have an M.2 port on their motherboard. MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON has two such connectors at once: the upper one has four PCI Express 3.0 lanes, the lower one also has four lanes, but PCI Express 2.0. Supports installation of drives in lengths of 42, 60, 80 and even 110 mm, although the most common format today is the M.2 2280 size (where “22” is the width of the printed circuit board in millimeters, and “80” is the length).

The M.2 form factor implies the presence of two types of keys – “B” (Socket 2 for two PCI Express lanes) and “M” (Socket 3 for four PCI Express lanes), but in modern motherboards only the second option is used. M.2 drives with both SATA interface (on such SSDs there are both cutout keys at once) and PCI Express are suitable for it. However, be sure to check that the motherboard you choose supports M.2 SATA SSD, M.2 PCI Express SSD, or both before purchasing.

The Kingston HyperX Predator model is designed to be installed in an M.2 slot with an β€œM” key (Socket 3), to which four PCI Express lanes are connected. Since MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON has two such ports at once, there is no need to use an expansion card. I simply inserted the Kingston HyperX Predator into the top M.2 slot and secured the drive using the small screw that came with the SSD. No drivers are needed for this SSD to work, since the BIOS of the motherboard detects the drive itself.

Typically, when using an M.2 drive in SATA mode, one of the pads on the motherboard is disabled. The port number to be deactivated is necessarily indicated in the instruction manual.

Connecting SATA Cables to Drives and Motherboard
Connecting SATA Cables to Drives and Motherboard

The convenience of M.2 SSDs is that you don’t need to connect wires to them. But to “ordinary” drives you need to pull both power cables and data transmission cables. However, there is nothing complicated in this. SATA 6Gb / s flex cables are included with the motherboard. Just keep in mind that only a couple of cables are put together with the cheap “mothers”.

Step # 4. Installing and connecting the power supply

For this build, we used a 500W Cooler Master MasterWatt PSU – this is an inexpensive model, the power of which is nevertheless quite sufficient for the stable operation of all components. The power supply unit is non-modular: its design does not provide for the use of detachable wires, however, during the assembly, all wires were involved, except for the cable with MOLEX and FDD connectors. The photo below shows all the connectors that any modern power supply has. The dependence is natural: the higher the power of the device, the more different connectors it has. For example, the Cooler Master MasterWatt 500W is only suitable for gaming systems with one video card.

MOLEX
Power supply connectors (from left to right): 20 + 4 pins for motherboard power supply; 4 + 4 pins for powering the central processor; PCI-E 6 + 2 for video card power supply; SATA for powering drives; MOLEX for powering drives, fans and other equipment; FDD for powering floppy drive

Please note that the power cable connectors for the motherboard, CPU and video card are separate. Naturally, this was done on purpose, since there are components on sale with different connectors. Honestly, I haven’t seen boards with a 20-pin port for a long time. But there are plenty of devices on sale with a 4-pin connector for powering the central processor.

In fact, one 4-pin connector is enough for any motherboard. Through it to the CPU, up to 192 watts of electricity is transmitted over a 12-volt line. You can absolutely safely insert the 4-pin power supply connector into the edge of the 8-pin connector on the motherboard and the system will be fully functional. This is what users do when they buy the cheapest PSUs with a limited set of cables. Additional four pins on the motherboard and power supply allow you to transfer twice as much power, which is important mainly when overclocking the CPU.

The location of power connectors on motherboards is usually the same. This applies to all form factors. In very rare devices, you can find two ports for powering the CPU.

Video cards are also equipped with different connectors. Some graphics accelerators do not require additional power at all. This means that 75 watts is enough for them, which are transmitted through the PCI Express x16 slot. More efficient adapters require one wire with six or eight pins. The MSI GeForce GTX 1070 GAMING X used in our system requires one 6-pin and one 8-pin power supply connector at the same time.

Some PSUs do not have that many PCI-E ports. Either this power supply unit does not have the necessary power for stable power supply of the video card, or the manufacturer simply saved on wires. In the second case, you will have to use a MOLEX-to-PCI-E adapter. It often comes bundled with a graphics adapter.

Connecting the power supply cables to the motherboard, drives, and video card
Connecting the power supply cables to the motherboard, drives, and video card

Incorrectly inserting the power supply connectors into the corresponding ports on the motherboard and video card will not work – all the elements are equipped with protection (although sometimes there are especially stubborn craftsmen). As a result, a pair of power supply cables (4 + 4 and 20 + 4) are connected to the motherboard, and two more to SATA drives. Two PCI-E 6 + 2 slots required for the operation of the video card are implemented on one wire. MOLEX and FDD in the case of our assembly are out of work.

how to build computer

Before connecting all cables, you must secure the power supply itself. To do this, we use the four screws that come with the case. Then we stretch all the wires (except for the cable with MOLEX, since it is not needed in this assembly) behind the barrier wall and alternately connect them to the motherboard and drives. We don’t touch the video card cable yet.

The only confusion that can happen is the lack of a 4 + 4-pin wire length to power the CPU. The use of an extension cord will help to correct the situation, but, as I said, it is better to check these moments in advance, even at the stage of selecting components.

Step # 5. Installing a cooler and video card

After the work done, there are only two things left to do: install the processor cooling system and the video card. Let’s start with the cooler. Since the test PC uses a maintenance-free water cooling system, you must start by attaching the radiator to one of the walls. As we already found out, the Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition supports the installation of a 120mm single-section CBO radiator on the back. Naturally, installation should be done in such a way that the Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120 fans blow air out of the case.

Transferring the fan from the rear panel to the front panel, applying thermal paste and installing the CBO on the rear panel
Transferring the fan from the rear panel to the front panel, applying thermal paste and installing the CBO on the rear panel

Therefore, the first thing to do is remove the 120 mm fan from the rear wall and move it to the front panel, but in such a way that it works for blowing. For installation, we use four threaded mounting screws or plastic clips from the kit. Then we connect the fan to one of the 4-pin connectors on the motherboard, for example, to the SYS_FAN4 connector.

Now you need to apply thermal grease to the processor surface. To do this, squeeze out a small amount of liquid substance from the tube that comes with the cooling system. The main thing here is not to overdo it. The debate about how to properly apply thermal paste is still ongoing. Someone just leaves a drop of thermal interface exactly in the middle of the CPU cover. Personally, I use a plastic card or a cardboard business card, with which I spread the paste evenly. The processor and cooler base are preliminarily wiped with a cleaning cloth or cotton swabs moistened with some technical liquid (alcohol, solvent or Nefras gasoline). This will remove grease and dust from the surface of the chip and the CO sole.

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After applying the thermal interface, all that remains is to fix the CBO radiator on the back of the case, and the water block with the pump in the processor socket. Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120 comes with a splitter that allows you to connect two fans to one 4-pin header on the motherboard. I have used it. We bring out all the wires from the CBO through special holes behind the dividing wall and immediately bring them to the appropriate connectors: the cable from the pump to the PUMP_FAN1 port, the cable from the fans to the CPU_FAN1 port.

Installing a cooler and video card

The video card is installed last. The longest motherboard expansion slots are used, called PCI Express x16 (also called PEG ports). The prefix “x16” means that 16 PCI Express lanes are connected to the connector, but when several discrete devices are used, their operating mode may change. For example, when two video adapters are installed in MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON, PCI Express x16 ports will operate in x8 + x8 mode. In principle, this bandwidth (for the 3.0 standard – 7.9 + 7.9 GB / s) will be quite enough even for the fastest single-chip video cards.

First, remove the two plugs from the back of the case. Most often, the graphics adapter is installed in the first (closest to the socket) PCI Express x16 slot. MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON supports AMD CrossFire and NVIDIA SLI technologies, allowing multiple graphics cards to be combined in one system at once. If desired, you can install a second 3D accelerator in the second PEG slot.

In very cheap cases, the plugs will have to be broken out, that is, they will not be able to be fixed back. And some other cases allow using long video cards only on condition that the basket (or baskets) for drives are dismantled in advance.

The final stage of installing a video card is connecting cables from the power supply to it.

Step 6. First launch and cosmetic work

All connectors are connected, and in fact the system unit is ready to start. I advise you to connect the cable from the monitor to it and make the first start. If the computer β€œstarts up” by pressing the button on the case, all the fans rotate, and the screen saver of the motherboard appears on the screen, then all wires and connectors are connected correctly. You can turn off your PC and tidy up the appearance of the system unit. If the system does not start at all, namely, after pressing the power button, the fan blades do not rotate, then first of all we check whether the external cable is connected to the power supply unit, and whether the power supply toggle switch is in the “On” position. Next, we look at the 24-pin connector connected to the motherboard. It may not be fully inserted into the motherboard port. Finally, we check the correctness of the connection of the body button itself. Perhaps it is faulty – in this case, you can start the system by closing the Power_SW contacts on the motherboard with a screwdriver or scissors. If this does not help, then it is necessary to look for the “hero of the occasion.” It’s worth starting with the power supply, namely, take another, one hundred percent working model (for example, ask a friend) and try to start the system with it.

If, by all external signs, the PC starts up, but there is no image on the screen, then in the course of self-diagnosis, we first check whether we have correctly connected the power connectors of the central processor and video card. Sometimes systems behave this way when they have problems with RAM compatibility. Also, a black screen may be associated with an outdated BIOS version of the motherboard that does not recognize the new processor. For example, this is possible when buying a chip of the Intel Kaby Lake generation and a motherboard based on any hundredth series chipset. However, as I already said, the issues of component compatibility must be resolved even before buying all the devices.

Some motherboards have special indicators that indicate at what stage the computer is booting. This could be a screen displaying POST signals. The decoding of these signals can be found on the Internet. MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON has an EZ Debug LED block, which clearly demonstrates at what stage the system is booting – at the stage of initializing the processor, RAM, video card or storage.

how much cost build

The cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition is good because it has a lot of space for wiring, as well as a large number of eyelets to which nylon ties are attached. The task of the assembler is to lay all the wires in such a way that they do not stick out and spoil the appearance of the system unit, as well as that nothing interferes with the closure of the side wall. Plus, tidy cable routing helps improve air circulation inside the case and reduces dust build-up.

It is interesting that even some eminent assemblers are not so careful about wiring. In lower-quality cases (especially in those where the power supply is mounted on top and there is absolutely no free space behind the dividing wall), it is not always possible to lay the wires beautifully and neatly. Especially when using a power supply with non-detachable wires. In such a situation, try to free up maximum space for unhindered air circulation inside the case.

When all the cables are routed and assembled, once again make sure that all the wires are connected, and you can close both covers.

how to build a computer

Many newer Full-Tower, Midi-Tower and Mini-Tower models have a visor that covers the power supply. A very attractive thing, as it helps to remove the unused heap of wires out of sight.

System stability check and performance evaluation

We are absolute finish with asnwer on our question – how to build a computer….

Now the system unit is fully assembled and ready to perform the tasks assigned to it. Of course, the best reward for the user for the work done will be the stable operation of the computer, but you still need to make sure of this. Therefore, a newly assembled system unit clearly does not hurt a little testing.

Click BIOS Main Menu 5
Click BIOS Main Menu 5

Comprehensive information about the system is provided by the motherboard BIOS. You can activate the firmware GUI using the Delete button on your keyboard. It must be pressed when the screen saver of the motherboard appears on the monitor when the computer is turned on. In general, when you first turn on the PC, the system will force the user to go to the BIOS menu. This happens every time you change the central processor or RAM.

First, the firmware will show whether the motherboard has recognized the devices connected to it, namely drives and RAM. Secondly, we can find out the temperature of the CPU and the chipset. Thirdly, when using a high-frequency RAM kit, its XMP-profile (eXtreme Memory Profile) must be activated. So, by default, the Kingston HyperX Fury HX426C16FR2K4 / 32 set on the MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON motherboard operates at an effective frequency of 2133 MHz with the main delays of 15-15-15-36. After activating the XMP profile, the frequency of the RAM set will increase to 2666 MHz, and the timings to 16-18-18-39. The Click BIOS 5 firmware, used in modern MSI motherboards, allows you to enable the XMP profile by pressing the corresponding key in the main BIOS menu. In ASUS, ASRock and GIGABYTE devices, this function is activated in the same way. Some RAM modules have multiple XMP profiles at once.

When using a drive connected to the M.2 slot via PCI Express, as in our case, make sure that this slot is operating in x4 mode. For example, MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON does not have such options, but they are found in motherboards for Intel LGA1151 platform. Sometimes the M.2 slot works in PCI Express x2 mode by default, since PCI Express lines are shared with other slots as well.

With the help of the BIOS, if such an opportunity is provided, the central processor and RAM are overclocked, but overclocking is a topic for a separate material, we will definitely pay due attention to it.

After configuring and saving changes to BIOS settings, you must install the operating system and drivers on the main drive. Our PC does not have an optical drive, so there is no point in using the driver discs that manufacturers put together with the motherboard and video card. It’s easier to immediately download all the software you need from MSI and NVIDIA websites. Plus, most often the disc contains outdated software.

How to build a computer
System information

For example, the small utility CPU-Z provides all the information you need about the processor, motherboard, and RAM. The program has a built-in benchmark that allows you to compare the system with other processors, as well as a stress test mode.

How to build a computer
Checking the stability of the processor and memory, as well as the efficiency of the cooling system

To be 100% sure of the stable operation of your system, it is better to test the processor and RAM in the Prime95 program. It puts a heavy load on these PC components – more than the vast majority of applications used in everyday life. And if in “Prime” the system works stably (without failures and overheating), then in other tasks nothing will happen to the computer.

The temperature of the central processor can be monitored using various programs. I use the free HWiNFO64. For Intel processors of the Haswell, Broadwell, Skylake and Kaby Lake generations, the core heating limit at which the chip does not reset the clock frequency is 100 degrees Celsius. When the CPU overheats, it either reduces the frequency (this process is called throttling), or protection is triggered and the system turns off. AMD Ryzen processors, like modern Intel solutions, activate throttling when they reach 100 degrees Celsius. Therefore, when testing the Prime95 system, you need to make sure that the chip is not overheating or dropping the frequency. If you have correctly selected the cooler for the central processor and installed it correctly, then there will be no overheating.

The graphics component of the computer can be checked in benchmarks such as 3DMark and Unigine Heaven. At the same time, look not only at the temperatures, but also at the picture – a faulty video card can produce artifacts noticeable to the naked eye, as well as produce an abnormally low number of frames per second, or even freeze. 3DMark and Heaven in this case are good because the results obtained by the system can always be compared with the results of other computers.

How to build a computer
Measuring storage performance

Conclusions

Each user may have their own reasons to assemble the system unit on their own. Some do not want to overpay for work that they can do themselves. Others want complete control over the entire process: from the selection of components to assembly and system configuration. And for some, “digging” with iron is just a hobby. Whatever the motive, but the most difficult action when assembling a system unit is the choice of components, and in this the 3DNews team always tries to help its readers. If you have selected fully compatible components, then it will not be difficult to complete all the other steps for assembling a PC. Just approach this lesson as responsibly as possible, when working with iron, be careful and careful – you collect it for yourself. Then you will not have any problems either at the stage of assembly, or at the stage of software installation and testing.

The article contains the simplest, but at the same time the most common version of assembling a system unit using one central processor, video card and power supply. However, creating a computer, for example, in a more compact Slim Desktop case with the use of other components, is fundamentally no different. Once a fully compatible hardware is selected, the same steps are followed in the same sequence.

List of useful utilities
The name of the programLink to download
System information and monitoring of key indicators
CPU-ZDownload
GPU-ZDownload
HWiNFO64Download
MSI AfterburnerDownload
Testing the video card
3DMarkDownload
Unigine HeavenDownload
FurMarkDownload
CPU and memory testing
Prime95Download
Testing drives
CrystalDiskMarkDownload
CrystalDiskInfoDownload
AS SSDDownload
Anvil’s Storage UtilitiesDownload

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By Vinceslav

Journalist, writer. I write articles and reviews on equipment such as cars, computers, games. Worked for 6 years in the auto and auto parts business. And all my life I have been engaged in computer technology.

4 thoughts on “How to build a computer”
  1. Thank you for another informative website. The place else could I am getting that type of information written in such a perfect approach? I have a challenge that I’m just now working on, and I’ve been on the glance out for such info.

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