*** PC Building Guide **

Need some help? It could be here...
User avatar
Posts: 2464
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:11 pm
Location: Chelmsford UK

*** PC Building Guide **

Post #1 by huddy » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:01 am

Need help building your first PC? Just need a few tips or reminders?


From preparation to switching on, there's everything you need to know in this step-by-step guide on how to build your very first PC. There's an extensive troubleshooting guide too in case of any problems.

Part 1

Buying your components, before starting, knowing your screws, opening the case, installing the PSU, fitting the case fans and installing the optical drive.

Part 2

Motherboard Essentials, Fitting the CPU and HSF, Installing the memory.

Part 3

Installing the Motherboard, Fitting the HDDs, Connecting the Front panel connectors, the power and the HDD/optical drives to the motherboard, Choosing and fitting a dedicated graphics card.

Step 4

Final Inspection and the big switch on, A brief look at the BIOS, Installing Windows, testing your New PC and troubleshooting.

Please feel free to discuss or make any comments in this thread about the above articles - thanks

User avatar
Posts: 2464
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:11 pm
Location: Chelmsford UK

Huddy’s PC Building Guide - Part 1

Post #2 by huddy » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:47 am

Building a PC for the first may seem like a daunting task for someone contemplating building their first PC but it’s really as easy as building Lego, although it’s a little more expensive and herein lays the problem for some people. The prospect of damaging your expensive components can put a lot of people off but unless you’re totally careless then there is little reason why anyone can't make a successful build. It just requires a little forethought, care and a good guide to follow. Other than that PC building is child's play.

If you have already read a few PC building guides then you are almost certainly going to get a few conflicting opinions on how things should and shouldn't be done. The truth is that although there are defiantly some golden rules to follow there is no one correct way to build a PC. People have different ways in doing things to achieve the same result partly based on ability and experience and you'll soon realise there are better ways next time round so please bear this in mind when reading through the guide. This guide walks you through the building processes but there’s nothing to stop you making your own changes or adjustments along the way if you feel there is a better or simpler way of doing something. The objective is to make you feel comfortable with what you are doing and give you a clear view of what’s ahead.

Good Luck

In Part 1:

1. Buying your Components
2. Before Starting
3. Know your screws
4. Opening the case
5. Installing the Power Supply Unit (PSU)
6. Fitting the case fans
7. Installing the Optical Drive

Buying your Components

This guide already assumes you have chosen your components wisely and everything is compatible. It does not make any suggestions as to what you should be buying and their compatibility. All I will say is make sure you have the following:

  • That the CPU is compatible with the motherboard and is of the correct socket type
  • That the RAM is also compatible and is of the correct speed
  • That you have branded PSU that’s adequately powered for your hardware. Make sure the PSU is at least 80% efficient ( i.e. the amount of power it draws from the mains to achieve its quoted Wattage) and at least twice the amount you require.
  • That you have a suitable case for the job. Lager system with bigger graphics card may require larger cases. Bear in mind you may want to upgrade later so keep your options open.
  • That you have a display adapter. Most motherboards assume you’ll be using a discreet video card and don’t come with any video capability. If this is the case, make sure you have purchased a separate video card. However, if you don’t intend on using a separate card, then make sure the motherboard comes with at least the correct adaptors on the I/O panel.
  • That you have an optical drive. You’ll need this for the windows installation (if you are choosing Windows that is).
    A genuine copy of Windows or other OS such as Linux

If you are stuck on what components to buy many online PC component specialists run their own forums and are always worth registering with. There are always plenty of members who are more than willing to help you buy the right components depending on your budget plus you get the benefit of those that have experienced any problems too. You can also get good advice later should anything go wrong later. My website is completely impartial and I don’t recommended one particular store or forum but Google may point you in the right direction.

Anyway, for this guide I have chosen the following components:

Memory : OCZ Gold 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 PC3-12800C8 1600MHz Dual Channel Kit (OCZ3G1600LV4GK
CPU : Intel Core i3 530 2.93GHz (Clarkdale) (Socket LGA1156)
OS :Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium - Retail (Full Version)
Motherbaord :Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2H Intel H55 (Socket 1156) DDR3 microATX Motherboard
PSU : Corsair CX 400W ATX Power Supply (CMPSU-400CXUK)
Hard Drive : Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB SATA-II 16MB Cache - OEM (ST3500418AS)
Case : Coolermaster Elite 335 Case
Case Fan : Akasa AK-274CB-4BLS 120mm Blue LED Fan

Despite this being a budget PC, you can choose any components that meet tour requirements and budget. That’s the advantage of building PC, you call the shots.

Whatever you order, it’s always good to see the large parcel arrive on your doorstep.


Delivered items ready for fitting

Before Starting

Make sure you have plenty of space in which to operate in and your surface is clean and dust free. Ideally, your surface should be kitchen table height so you can stand comfortably because otherwise you’ll either be bending over or jumping in and out of your chair. However, this isn’t always possible and the kitchen isn’t the best place for building a PC.

Make sure you have the right tools for the job. Have handy the following:

  • A screwdriver set or at least one flat and Philips screw driver sizes #2 and # 3 (all non-magnetic)
  • A sharp knife
  • Long tweezers
  • Cable Ties
  • TIM cleaner, acetone or ethanol (denatured Alcohol). Do not use any paraffin based products such as White Spirit
  • A lint free dry cloth
  • Thermal Compound or paste
  • An Anti-static mat or wristband (optional). I use an anti-static mat which is earthed at all times. Although this is optional bear in mind you shouldn’t under estimated the forces of ESD (Electro Static Discharge) which can have a long term effect on your components. If you can get a mat or wristband, then make sure you touch a radiator or something that’s grounded before touching any components.
  • Blu-Tak – What? This is my little trick when you drop screws into the case which can’t be reached or when your fingers can’t hold a screw in a tight place. Simply place a small piece on the end of your screw driver and pick or stick the screw on the end. Simple.
  • Small grip nose pliers (not pictured)

Make sure you have the right tools for the job

Make sure you inspect and familiarise yourself with all your components before you start the build but put them back afterwards. Make sure you read all manuals and in particular the motherboard manual no matter how experienced you are. There may be a piece of information that may be vital and could save you time later on.

Discard the driver disks that come supplied, such as Chipset, Sound, Network and videos drivers, as these may be out of date. Instead download the latest drivers directly from the manufacturer’s website before starting and keep these on a USB flash stick ready for later.

Time wise you should allow at least a two hours for the build plus an hour for the windows installation. Applications and data restores etc is up to you. The main thing is not to rush things and don’t panic if things don’t go as expected.

Know your Screws

Standard “6-32” screws

These screws are by far the most common found in PCS and are easily identified by their hexagonal head. Used for PSUs, Hard drives, and expansion cards. 6/32s screws will fit into any hole threaded for M3 but will strip the thread so be careful when installing hard drives etc or you may damage the device.
Screw driver size required = Size #2 Phillips


M3 screws

These are the smaller metric alternative to 6/32s but with a narrower diameter. Used for hard drives, optical and floppy drives.
Screw driver size required = Size #2 Phillips


Flat Head Fan Screws

Dimensions : (h)10mm x 5mm
Case fans don’t normally come with threads so these flat head self-tapering screws are used to secure any fan fitting to a case where holes are provided. They are flat headed to ensure a flush fitting.
Screw driver size required # 3


Brass Motherboard “standoff” screws

Dimensions : (h)7.5mm + 4mm thread
The standoffs are used to raise the motherboard above the motherboard tray on the case. This prevents the delicate circuitry making any contact with the case and thereby shorting it. This is still the most common mistake made my novices when building PCs and can be a very costly mistake. Don’t worry I will remind you later. Nose pliers required

Many thanks to GreyWolf (OcUK forums) for kind permission to use these pictures.

Opening the case

Cases vary depending budget, aesthetics, usage and price; starting at the lower end budget range such as the £25 Coolermaster CM-335 to the £250 Silverstone TJ07 with its watercooling potential. However, although nearly all cases are different they all share one common purpose; to host your valuable PC components.
The Coolermaster-335 (CM-335) is certainly not the biggest or the best PC case on the market but it‘s large enough inside for pretty much anything you’ll need. It has plenty of tool-free HDD and Optical drive bays (ones that actually work), decent 12cm cooling back and front, a bargain for under £30 and it looks pretty good too.

The Coolermaster CM-335 A superb budget case for under £30.

Both side panels are easily removed by removing the screws at the rear.

All cases should have removable side panels. Depending on your case, these can be easily removed by either unscrewing the 6-32” screw fittings with a Philips #2 screw driver or by simply turning the finger tightening retention screws at the back. Our CM-335 has both. You may have to slid the panel from front to back but again, this will vary from case to case.

Remove both side panels and keep in a safe place along with the screws.

Goodies are normally packed inside the case

Inside the case you should find all the screw fittings you’ll need including motherboard risers, m3 screws, 6-32” screws, manual and so on. Again, keep these in a safe place for the moment.

Panel cables and screw fittings

If you are installing an Optical Drive(s) or a front case fan you may need to remove the front panel. These can usually be prised off from the inside but be careful not to break the lugs. Check the case manual before you attempt this.


The CM-335 front panel can be removed by pressing in the lugs just inside the case

Make sure you are familiar with your case. Make sure you note the motherboard riser holes on the motherboard tray. Are they clearly labelled? Check to the hard drive bays. Are they tool-free bays or do they require screws? Check what front panel cables you have: USB, Firewire Audio and a bundle of coloured wires (as shown above). These coloured cables are connected to the motherboard and control the power on button, reset button, speaker, HDD activity LED etc etc..
Every case should have a manual so always read the case instructions before continuing proceeding. This will answer all your questions above. We’ll explain those cables later along with the motherboard risers, drive bays etc. You just need to be familiar with them for now.


The case is now just a bare chassis but installing your components will be much easier.

Installing the Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Personally, I always install the PSU first. The reason for this is so you can plan ahead and map out where you are going to route all your power cables. This is much easier whilst the case is bare. You can decide now if you wish to make any modifications, such as custom made holes to route your cables through so they can’t be seen. This makes for a smarter looking PC inside. Modifications are beyond the scope of this article but with some pre-thought and careful planning you may not have to make any changes at all. Another benefit, depending on the size of your case and what you have installed, installing a PSU can be difficult as other components can obstruct its installation. I large CPU HSF is a typical example.

There’re two types of PSUs to consider. Modular and non-modular.

Non-Modular PSUs, such as the Corsair CM400 I’m using in this guide, have all the cables permanently attached. This makes them a cheaper option but you can end up with cables everywhere so you’ll have to work around these if they are in the way. As I said, if plan ahead, your cable management shouldn't be a problem.

Modular PSUs on the other hand are far more flexible and adaptable. You only need to install the cables you actually which leave the case presentable and spacious inside. However, Modular PSUs tend be a little more expense. If you’re lucky enough to own a Modular PSU, then don’t worry about installing any connections for now but have a think about which ones you will need and put them aside.


Simply insert and slide the PSU into the PSU retention bracket and line up the four screw holes at the back. The PSU in this guide is installed at the back/top but some cases have their PSUs installed at the back/bottom or even front bottom. If this is the case, make sure there is an adequate gap between the floor of the case and PSU fan to ensure the PSU is receiving a good supply of air. If not, you may have to install the PSU upside down. This isn’t too uncommon in high performance cases. In either case, the holes will only allow the PSU to be installed one way so you can’t get it wrong.

Once the PSU is in place, insert a standard 6/32 screw in each of the four holes and tighten in sequence until all screws are tight.

Make sure the PSU is tightly in place and won’t move. Don’t be tempted to attach he power cord at this point.


PSU installed - Check

Case fans and fitting

It’s important to remember that any modern PC will generate heat. The more components you have or higher the specification of the components then greater the heat generated and the greater need for additional cooling.

Your CPU, PSU and Graphics card (if installed) will have their own cooling mechanisms but their effectiveness will be severely hampered if the ambient temperature inside the case rises too high. Heat generated within the case needs to be efficiently dissipated and effective case cooling is required and case fans are essential for this.

Ideally, cool air must be drawn in from the front bottom of the case and the warmer air expelled from the top/back (as heat rises). This provides optimal airflow over all your components providing them with cooler air.


The above diagram shows how cool air is passed through the system from the front and warm air expelled from the rear.

Ideally, your PC should have at least two or more fans for the above configuration and I would only recommend only having one fan if you are running a very low end system with no expansion cards and only a single hard drive but make sure the single fan is at the back so it can still draw air from the front yet still expelling air outwards.

The trade-off for the extra fans is noise and establishing a good balance between the rate of airflow (measured in cfm) to noise (measured in db) has always been a difficult challenge as no one wants the sound of an aircraft taking off in their living rooms. Smaller fans (such as 6cm and 8cm fans) offer good air flow but are generally quite noisy. Make sure you don’t comprise airflow for low noise. 12cm fans offer a good compromise between good air flow and noise and operate around 900-1200rpm.

The Coolermaster CM-335 comes shipped with a 12cm preinstalled at the rear and has space for an additional 12cm fan at the lower front is one of the reasons why this budget case is such great value for money. I’ve purchased an additional fan to draw in cool air from the front. Even better, the fan is located just in front of the hard drive bays so they are kept nice and cool too.

Check how many case fans you will need to install and follow the same procedure for each fan fitted.


A typical 12cm fan with 4 fan screws and power lead. Note the 4 screw holes in each corner

Some cases, including the CM-335, have a space for side case fans. Although this may seem like a good idea to install a fan directly over the motherboard, this could actually be detrimental to the air flow provided by the front and rear fans as it will just cause turbulence inside. I would only install a side case fan when using a dedicated graphics card and even then one of very low rpm.

When installing a new fan it’s important to understand their orientation i.e. the direction in which the air travels. Most decent fans provide arrows which indicate the rotation of the fins and the direction of air flow. Make sure you place the front fans with the arrow facing inwards and the rear fan with the arrow facing away from the case.

Fan screws are normally short stumpy flat head screws and are normally with supplied with the fans. The fan casing has four holes in each corner for fixing to the chassis. These holes are slightly smaller than the diameter of the fan screws and don't tend to have a thread. Instead, with some strong force, the screw will self-taper when screwed in place.

With the fan facing in the correct orientation, align the first screw in place and screw in half way. The grinding noise as the screw tapers in to the plastic holes can be a little off putting as it sounds like the fan is cracking - don't worry this is normal. Repeat this process until all four screws are in place then secure them equally until the screws are flush.


Make sure all four screws are tightly fastened in all four corners.

Your fan(s) are now installed

Installing the Optical drive

The CDROM was he first optical drive to find its way into the PC and came as a welcome break from the now all but defunct floppy drives. CDROMS gave us higher density media storage which at the time surpassed even Hard Disk Drives. However, like most things in technology, CDROMS themselves have all but vanished and replaced with higher capacity disks such as DVD, the more recent Blu-Ray and even the internet has seen demise in optical storage use. However, they are still needed for Windows installation.

Optical drives are available with various interfaces, IDE, SCSI, SATA, USB and Firewall to name a few. Be sure you select the correct drive for your motherboard and it has the correct interface. Many newer motherboards don’t support IDE anymore. So if you are salvaging an old IDE drive from an old machine be sure your motherboard has at least one IDE channel or you may need to buy a newer SATA version which given these retail for around £15 may be a better option.
If you are installing an IDE optical drive, read the section on “IDE drives” later in this article as you will need to configure your drives before you install the drive.

If you have a SATA optical drive, as I have in this guide, then all is good because there is no configuration to be done before installation.


Apart from being clearly labelled, SATA drives are recognisable by there "L" shaped power and bus connectors.

So on to the installation.. Hopefully, if you have followed my guide so far then you may have removed all side panels and possibly the front panel. If not you may want to do this now.

The physical installing of both SATA and IDE are identical as they both occupy the same 5.25" drive bay as standard and traditionally optical drives are placed as near to the top of your case as possible. This is common sense since you’ll want to reach down to insert your DVD, game disk or whatever without having to be a contortionist.

Most cases have a pop-out section in the chassis, just in front of the 5.25” drive bay. Just remove the section from the front. You may have to use some force and twisting to get it out. Be careful, the edges on same cases can be quite sharp.

If you are using tool-free fitting (such as the CM-335) then you may want to remove these now. Refer to your case manual for instructions.

Simply insert the drive into the front bay of the chassis making sure it runs on the sliders and the holes on both sides align with the holes drive cage. Make sure also the front of the optical unit is protrudes far enough away from the front of the chassis so that the front of the drive is flush with the front panel.


Insert the drive carefully in to the front drive bay

So now is a good time to refit the front panel. Again, you may need to remove the bay cover so as to access the drive. Never discard these as you never know when you might need them.


In order to access your DVD drive, you may have to push out the cover from the front panel

Simply push the front cover back on to the chassis and hopefully the optical drive unit is flush with the front. You may have to play around with the alignment if not.


Once the front fans and optical drives are in place then the front panel can be re-fitted.

Once you are happy with the alignment, secure the drive with M3 screws or the tool-free mechanism, which your case has and make sure the drive is secured both sides. Ensure the drive can't be moved or pushed back in when inserting disks.


The tool free mechanism makes for easy installation. The CM-335 does a great job of this

Ok, so that's the optical drive in place. We’ll cover the connections in a later chapter.

That's it for Part 1. In Part 2 we'll start looking at the motherboard including installing the CPU, CPU HSF, and RAM

User avatar
Posts: 2464
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:11 pm
Location: Chelmsford UK

Huddy’s PC Building Guide - Part 2

Post #3 by huddy » Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:34 pm

In Part 1, we prepared and stripped down the case, installed the PSU and case fans. We even added the Optic drive. Now let's start looking at the Motherboard, CPU and the memory.

In part 2 we will discuss:

  • Motherboard Essentials
  • Fitting the CPU and the CPU Heat Sink and Fan (HSF)
  • Installing the Memory

Motherboard Essentials

Every component you are about to install will at some point be directly connected to the motherboard and is therefore the heart of your system.

I have covered everything you need to know about the motherboard in a separate article:

Knowing your Motherboard

Make sure you take time to read the motherboard manual making sure you are familiar with the motherboards features, ports and connections before commencing.

Installing the CPU and the CPU HSF

Installing the CPU and CPU HSF has been the nemesis for most beginners building their first PC. Stories such as inserting the CPU the wrong way, crushing the CPU die, forgetting the thermal paste and so on where all very much a reality rather than fiction and the prospect of damaging expensive equipment terrified even the most experienced of us at some stage in the past. Thankfully, things have moved on considerably and there are lots of safeguards to ensure correct installation.

The introduction of Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) CPUs made CPU installation easier and put an end to accidentally bending the pins. As the name implies, ZIF allows you to simply “drop-in” your CPU in to the socket with no effort. The socket also provides an orientation notch to ensure the CPU is installed the right way round. So if your CPU drops in place with no effort then you have inserted your CPU correctly.

Anyone who has installed older CPUs would remember the arduous tasks of fitting the HSF directly on to the delicate core and often resulted in crushed cores. A seriously expensive mistake. Modern CPUs however, are encased in an Integrated Heat-Spreader (IHS). The IHS provides a safe contact surface to place a large HSF onto without the worry of crushing any cores.

So although things have been made easier, you still however need to make sure that the CPU is installed correctly and the HSF is secured whilst making good contact IHS.

The evolution of the CPU has certainly made life easier for the PC builder.

CAUTION - Before handling your CPU always make sure you have taken the necessary ESD precautions.

The Heat Sink Fan (HSF)

Before you install your CPU, you will need to consider the most effective solution for dissipating the heat away from the CPU. This is normally done using a heat sink and fan (HSF).

Both Intel and AMD supply approved heat sinks with their respective retail versions of CPU. This is known as the “Stock” cooler. As such, retail CPUs are normally shipped with extended warranty over their or non-retail or OEM counterparts. This is something to consider when purchasing a CPU.
The general rule for this is if you intend to overclock your system i.e. run the CPU beyond the frequency it was shipped at. Overclocking normally requires more voltage and therefore produces more heat. In this case, it’s always advisable to purchase a third party cooler which are designed for overclocking and thereby able shift more heat than the stock version. Be warned though, overclocking will invalidated any CPU warranty.

When buying third party coolers make sure they compatible with the Socket type i.e. AM2+ or LGA1156 etc. Some HSFs are multi-purpose meaning they supply different attachments so they can fit a wide range of sockets. Check with vendor first.

Some of the very high end HSFs may require a fixing plate behind the motherboard which can make life a little awkward should you wish to remove it later or add one later. Some motherboards provide a hole in the motherboard tray for such purpose otherwise have to remove the motherboard.

If you are not going to overclock, then in nearly all cases the stock cooler provided is more than sufficient.

Applying Thermal Instrument Material (TIM)

Nearly all HSFs come pre-supplied with Thermal Instrument Material (TIM) are ready for installation out of the box. TIM is a conductive layer between the CPU and the HSF. It fills tiny imperfection on the metal surfaces that are invisible to the naked eye yet so that heat can be dissipated evenly and efficiently. Installing a CPU HSF without any thermal grease or compound would almost certainly damage your CPU.


The TIM provided on most HSFs is more than adequate, stock or third party coolers. If you are going to seriously overclock, then you may wish to replace this with a highly conductive alternative, such as Arctic Silver 5.

My guide is using the stock cooler which has a TIM pad pre-installed therefore the method of removing and applying replacement TIM is not covered in this guide. However, please read my article “Applying TIM” which covers this very topic.

Installing the CPU and the CPU HSF - Intel only

Release the CPU retention bracket by pressing down the retention lever then away from the socket. Pull the lever up to an upright position.


Gently push down and push to one side the retention lever to release the CPU retention bracket.

The pins on the motherboard are protected by a protection cover. Gently push down at the rear with indeed finger and lift from the front where it says “remove”. Do not touch any of the pins and only remove this cover when you are absolutely ready.

Once the protector is removed the socket is ready for the CPU.

Take your CPU by the sides holding by thumb and forefinger. If you have applied your own TIM, be careful not to touch the TIM.
Align the CPU using the two alignment keys (notches) on the socket and the pin one arrow to pin one the socket.


Align the triangle with pin one and the two alignment keys for correct CPU orientation as shown above.

There’s only one way this can go in so the CPU should just drop into the socket using zero insertion force (ZIF) as we described earlier. If it doesn't it’s in the wrong way round. Do not force it – take it out and try again. The CPU should just drop in with no force.


Now the CPU is in place, you’ll need to anchor it down it so it doesn't move. Push back the CPU retention bracket you opened earlier back to its original position. That may need just a little force but no more than finger strength. The retention bracket is normally locked into position by clipping back under the clip. Push down the push under.


Make sure the CPU is firmly in place using the retention bracket.

That’s it the CPU is in place, now to fit the cooler.

The following section describes how to install the Intel Stock cooler only. If you are fitting a third party cooler, please refer to manufactures fitting instructions.
Intel use a push-pin system which take a little getting used to. Firstly, ignore the arrows markers on the pins. These are for removal of the HSF, not installation. Do not be tempted to turn any of the pins otherwise you’ll run into problem. Place the HSF directly down on to the surface of the CPU and align the push-pins to the four holes. Do not tilt the HSF and never push down. Push the first pin down until you hear a “click”, the push the pin in the diagonal opposite.


Push the pins down firmly in the correct diagonal sequence. Then repeat until all four push-pins are secure.


Check the underside of the motherboard. Once all four push-pins are locked, you have completed this stage.

Installing the CPU and the CPU HSF - AMD Only

Gently press down on the retention lever then away from the socket. Pull the lever up to an upright position. This will open the holes ready for the CPU.
Take your CPU by the sides holding by thumb and forefinger. If you have applied your own TIM, be careful not to touch the TIM.
Align the pin one marker (small gold triangle) on the CPU to pin one the socket marked with a triangle.

There’s only one way this can go in so the CPU should just drop into the socket using zero insertion force (ZIF) as we described earlier. If it doesn’t it’s in the wrong way round. Do not force it – take it out and try again.

Push down the retention lever back to original position to lock the CPU in place. That’s it the CPU is in place, now to fit the cooler.
Place the HSF directly down on to the surface of the CPU. Do not tilt the HSF and never push down.

Use the central lever system to hook the clip over the mounting lug on the retention bracket.


Then push the clip straight down over the clip on the other side. At this stage both clips are hooked over the lugs. Push the arm from the left to the right to lock the HSF in place.

Once the HSF is locked, you have completed this stage.

NOTE – Third party coolers may have different fitting mechanisms. Please make sure you follow the manufactures instructions at all times.

Connecting the Power (Intel and AMD)

With the CPU and HSF installed, it’s time to connect the fan to a power source. This is many cases is provide by a 4-pin +12 power connector that is nearly always supplied with the HSF. Look at the pin carefully. You’ll notice that they connector is inverted on one side. This is yet another orientation notch to ensure correct installation. Connect this to the CPU Power fan on the mother make sure it slips in place and push all the way down.


Please note from experience, make sure that the cable isn't restricting the fins on the HSF. I got caught out once were I thought the fan wasn’t working. Turn out that the cable was restricting the fin!

That’s it.. Intel or AMD, your new CPU and HSF are now installed.

Installing the RAM

RAM has to be one of the most common PC upgrades because older PCs will benefit hugely from either faster or higher capacity RAM for very little outlay. It can bring an old PC back to life. So even the most disconcerting of us may have most likely fumbled around with memory at some stage or another.


As far as installation is concerned not much has really changed over the years and installing memory is still pretty much the same since the days of SDRAM. Of course, SDRAM, DDR, DDR2 and DDR3 all have different characteristics in the way they operate .i.e. varying voltages, timings, speed and so on so it’s important they are install into the correct motherboard that supports the RAM type. The only visible difference between each type is the location of the orientation notch.
The orientation notch has two purposes. Firstly, it ensures you install the correct type of memory into a motherboard that it supports. The second purpose is to ensure the modules is installed the correct way into the memory slot. You’ll notice that the orientation notch is further one end than the other and aligns with the slot on the motherboard. Each memory type will have the notch placed in a different location as you can see below. In a nutshell, if it fits then you are using the correct type of RAM.


When it comes to installing memory, check with your motherboard for to ensure which slots you should be using. If your system supports dual-channel or triple-channel memory, then you must make sure the RAM is installed into matching banks. . The banks are spread over two or three channels to provide the system with a greater bandwidth, so it’s a worthwhile feature to use if its available.

If you have a dual-channel memory capable motherboard, then you will need to install equal RAM modules in multiples of two in to the same memory bank normally indicated by the same colour scheme. i.e. blue or white. These are normally slots 1 and 3 or slots 2 and 4.


Installing equal RAM modules in to the blue or slots will enable dual-channel memory.

If you have a triple-channel memory capable motherboard like the X58 chipset, then you will need to install equal RAM modules in multiples of three in to the same memory bank. Again, like dual-channel memory, these are indicated by the same colour scheme. i.e. blue or white. These are normally slots 1, 3 and 6 or slots 2, 4 and 6 if there are six slots.

If the memory is installed into the wrong banks, don’t worry, the system will still boot and work but in a single memory channel configuration and there may be a slight hit on performance. The System normally indicates if dual or triple memory channel is enabled during the POST sequence during the boot process.
So now you know which slots to use then it’s time to install the memory.
Firstly, make sure all the required slot latches are open on the motherboard. These are normally located both end of the slot. These are opened by gently pushing the lever backwards in the opposite direction to the slot.

Before handling memory, make sure you take Anti-Static precautions because memory is delicate stuff. Carefully remove your memory from the packaging one at a time by holding the outer edges regardless if they have heat spreaders or not.


Carefully align the memory module length ways into the slot making sure the orientation notch is aligned correctly. When you are happy that the memory is aligned then push downwards by applying a little finger pressure on the top edge of the module and the memory should just snap in place. If it doesn't then you may have it the wrong way round. Never force it. Remove the memory and try again. You’ll know when the module is installed because the two slot latches will anchor into place. Make sure these latches are firmly is place before assuming the memory is secure.

Repeat the process for the remaining modules. How simple was that?

That's it for part 2. In Part 3 we'll look at installing the motherboard in to the case, fitting the hard drives and hooking everything up.

User avatar
Posts: 2464
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:11 pm
Location: Chelmsford UK

Huddy’s PC Building Guide - Part 3

Post #4 by huddy » Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:34 pm

In Part 2, we looked at the essential parts of your motherboard that you should be aware of. We installed the CPU and the HSF, then installed the memory. Your motherboard is ready for fitting...

In part 2 we will discuss:

  • Installing the Motherboard
  • Fitting the hard disk drive (HDD)
  • Making the right connections
  • Fitting a Dedicated Graphics card

Installing the Motherboard

Now that you have the CPU, CPU HSF and Memory installed on to the motherboard, you can now start to think about installing the motherboard into the case. But before you do, there are a few preparations to make before proceeding.

Firstly, and probably the most important, is to install the motherboard standoffs.

The motherboard stand offs are small hexagonal screws, normally brass, that rise the motherboard above the metallic casing therefore avoiding direct contact and shorting the motherboard. An expensive mistake to make.

Most cases accommodate for most combinations of form factors; ATX BTX, Mini and Macro ATX etc. This means that regardless of the case and motherboard combination, the standards imposed will guarantee that the standoff locations will match. The holes are normally marked to indicate which factor they are associated too.


Fixing the motherboard standoffs is essential if you don't want fireworks!

Lay the case on its side and insert a stand-off into each hole that corresponds to the form factor (ATX for example) then tighten each standoff with nose pliers to ensuring that each screw is firmly in place and can’t be easily turned.


Make sure you insert the standoffs into the correct ATX placement.

Next you’ll need to insert the rear I/O shield at the back of the case. Always use the I/O shied that came with the motherboard. Do not use I/O shields from other motherboards and certainly don’t use the I/O shield that is supplied with the case which is just for show. With the rear I/O void, place the new I/O shield towards the back of the case making sure that it’s the right way round then press firmly until you have a tight fit. You should have a flush fitting inside the case and around each connector. Be careful, these blighters can be razor sharp.


The rear IO shield needs to be fitted before you install the motherboard.

Tip.. Have a look if there any cables that can be routed under the motherboard, such as Control Panel Cables, 4/8pin power supply cables etc.. Make sure they will reach the designated connection on the motherboard when fitted. This isn’t essential but makes for a neater job.

You are now going to fit the motherboard in to the case. Make sure you take all necessary anti-ESD precautions and handle the motherboard by the edges only. DO NOT LIFT BY THE HSF or any other component!!

With the case still on its side, gently lower the Motherboard into the case making sure the edge where the rear I/O connectors are facing the I/O shield you have just fitted. When completely lowered push the motherboard towards the rear I/O plate until each rear I/O connector is pushed through and accessible from the outside. Check also that the standoff screws are visible in each of the stand-off holes.


Make sure you can see the standoff screw through the motherboard

When you are happy that all rear I/O connectors are visible and the standoff screws are visible, screw the motherboard down using the M3 screws. DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN! Only screw down as far as the strength of your fingers will allow. DO NOT USE PLIERS!! Over tightening will result in the standoff screw turning with the screws which makes life a bit more awkward.


Repeat the process until all screws are in place.

TIP.. Can’t reach all the screws? Here’s where the Blu-Tak comes in to play. Use a small ball of blue take and stick hard on the end of the screwdriver and gently pick up the screw with the Blu-Tak. As soon as the screw is in place, screw in a half turn and lift out. Remove the Blu-Tak from the screw driver and go back to finish the job.

With all the screws fastened, the motherboard is in place. Things are starting to shape up.


With the motherboard now attached, let’s install the Hard disk drive.

Installing the Hard Disk Drive

You may be forgiven if you said that not much has changed for the humble hard disk drive over the past ten years or so. Appearances are deceptive however, underneath the familiar shinny casing the HDD has seen many beneficial changes over the years. The SATA interface has replaced the all but defunct PATA interface. Storage space has increased significantly from just a few GB to ridiculously large TB (terabytes) drives. Improved platter design and densities have all contributed to hard drive performance and therefore it’s continued use. However, as CPUs, RAM etc break new boundaries in terms of performance; the aging mechanical drive is starting to hold back many high end systems. The appearance of Solid State Drives (SSDs) may see the beginning of the end for the traditional hard disk drive as we know it.

As I said at the very beginning of the guide, to a degree there’s no hardened rule as to which order you install your components. However, I have deliberately delayed the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) until now simply because in some cases, the drive can obstruct motherboard installation. This of course depends on the chassis design.

Hopefully, you’ll be installing a newer Serial ATA (SATA) drive but if you are installing or replacing a legacy IDE HDD, read my section on “Connecting and Configuring IDE devices” as you will need to configure the drives before installation,. Otherwise, apart from the cabling, fitting an IDE drive into the chassis is no different to installing a SATA drive.

All chassis will come with one or more HDD bays. Installing multiple drives can be useful for backups, RAID or even just for secondary storage from media files. For this guide however; we’ll just be installing a single drive.

Always check your chassis manual for HDD installation as many cases use different installation methods. Some higher end cases may use drive caddies which pop out of the case so one or more HDD drives can be installed altogether outside the case. The caddy then slips back in to place as one unit of drives. Personally, I’m not a great fan of drive caddies as invariably you have to disconnect all drives to get the caddy out.

Before installing your HDD(s) you must think about spacing and cooling. If you are installing more than one drive then make sure there is enough space between the drives. Leave one empty drive slot between them if you have enough room. Ideally, you’ll want to place the drives behind fan so that cool air passes over or underneath them. Some HDDs (including the CM-335) are located behind the front intake fan which is ideal.

If you are using tool-free fitting (such as the CM-335) then you may want to remove these now. Refer to your case manual for instructions.
WARNING – When handling your HDD make sure you take ESD precautions and hold the drive by the outside casing only, Never touch any circuitry underneath.

Simply insert the drive into the bay on the chassis or the caddy making sure it runs on the sliders provided. For most drive bays, the drive is inserted with circuitry down and the connectors facing into the case but this may be different from chassis to chassis.

Make sure that all four holes (two on each side) align with the chassis or caddy holes. If they don’t then you have the drive incorrectly placed. Remove drive and check.


Once aligned, secure the drive with M3 screws or the tool-free mechanism as you did with the optical unit. Make sure the drive is secured both sides and can't be moved.

TIP - Try fitting some rubber washes between the HDD and the chassis. This limits any vibration as the disk spin.

Installing Solid State Drives

Solid State Drives or SSDs, use NAND flash technology to store data rather than the conventional magnetic platters used by high HDD. Since there are no mechanical parts , SSDs are faster and silent in operation. SSDs in the past have been low capacity and very expensive so it isn't too uncommon to see installations with one small SSD for the Operating System only while having a secondary traditional Hard Drive for programs and file. You get the benefit of both types at relatively low cost. However, affordable and larger capacity SSDs are become more mainstream. The days of the hard Drive are nearly over.

SSDs are smaller by design and are normally 2.5” standard which are more associative with laptop hard drives than desktops. Installing an SSD isn’t much different to installing a standard HDD but you may need a 2.5” drive adaptor which fits’ inside the 5.25” drive bay. These are normally shipped with most SSDs but check first.

Retrospective of their very different technology, SSDs are still regarded as HDDs an installed he same way too.

Making the right connections

Now that all your components are installed, you’ll need to connect them to a power source, data cable or both. Your case, for example, comes with a host of different coloured cables which connect to your motherboard to enable you to switch on the PC on and your PSU will come with various different cables and connectors that will supply your PC and it’s components with the power it requires. To a beginner, the sight of the vast amount of cables can be quite daunting but generally, if the connector fits, then you have the right connection.

However, there’s nothing worse than a mess of cables inside a PC unit. Bad cable management can compromise the chassis air flow, obstruct fan operation and looks crude. Take time to plan and route your cables where they look neat and tidy. Use cable ties to anchor the cables out of the way and route the cables behind the motherboard tray where ever possible. If you have a modular PSU, only use the cables you need. Cable management takes time and practise but the finished job looks more professional.

It might be worth giving my article “PSU Cables and connections” to become familiar with all the different connectors before you start.

Power Adaptors

If your PSU doesn’t have the right connectors, don’t panic. In most cases you can purchase adaptors for many situations.
For example, if your PSU doesn’t have 15-pin SATA connectors for your SATA drives then you can use a 4-Molex to 15-pin SATA adaptor cable. Similarly, if your motherboard requires an 8 pin EPS12v connector but you only have a 4-pin ATX12v you can use a 4-pin Molex to EPS12v adaptor as shown below.


There's normally an adaptor for most situations where you don't have the required connector

Front Panel Connector

When you first opened your chassis earlier, you probably noticed various loose cables inside. These cables provide function for USB, Audio, Power on, System reset and so on. Each cable is connected to a header on the motherboard.

The power switch, reset switch, HDD activity LED etc are all connected to the motherboard via the front panel header. The front panel header is an array of pin heads each with their own function as shown in the picture below.

The coloured front panel header pins

The front panel cables are instantly recognisable as they come in pairs of coloured wires with small connectors on the end and each connector is marked with their function, such as PW (Power Switch) for example, and will also have positive (+) and negative (-) alignment markings. These must be connected to the corresponding pins on the front panel as shown in the following example.


Our motherboard fortunately labels each pin on the PCB underneath which makes identification easier but not all motherboards do so. In which case you must refer to your motherboard manual making sure you understand the layout of the header before making any connection. Many failed first time start-ups are because the power switch is in correctly fitted.

Don’t be alarmed if you don’t have all the connectors. Not all chassis come with an intruder alarm or HDD activity LED. I would however worry if there wasn’t a Power On switch.

Power Switch

The Power Switch enables you to switch on the PC from the case. The +/- connector must be connected to the corresponding PW+ and PW- pins respectively.

Reset Switch

The Rest Switch enables you to force a system reboot where the system has frozen causing the system to reboot as normal. The +/- connector must be connected to the corresponding RES+ and RES- pins respectively

Power LED

The power LED on the case indicates that the system is switched on and is receiving power. The +/- connector must be connected to the corresponding PWR+ and PWR- pins respectively

Hard Drive LED

The Hard Drive LED on the case indicates any activity on the connected internal Hard Drives. The +/- connector must be connected to the corresponding HD+ and HD- pins respectively.


Your case may come with a very basic internal speaker for basic keyboard errors and diagnostics. The speaker will emit a series of bleeps if any problems are found during the POST (Power On Self-Test) process and each bleep corresponds to an error. Likewise, a single bleep normally indicates that all is well. Although it’s not essential to operation, it’s a good idea to have a speaker connected. If your case doesn’t have a speaker, you can buy one from any good electronic retailer. The +/- connector must be connected to the corresponding SPEAK+ and SPEAK- pins respectively

Chassis Intruder

When connected, an alarm will raise when the case side panel is opened. Your case must be fitted with intruder sensor or switch. The +/- connector must be connected to the corresponding CI+ and CI- pins respectively

Message/Power/ Sleep LED

This is indicates the current power mode, i.e. Sleep or Powered On. The +/- connector must be connected to the corresponding MSG+ and MSG- pins respectively
Using a Front Panel Block connector

Connecting the front panel connectors to the header can be a fiddly and frustrating experience. Particularly when you have just learnt one is in the wrong place. To help, some motherboards supply a front panel block connector. The block connector shares the same pin orientation as that of the motherboard header allowing you to make all your connections to the block outside the PC. When all your connectors are in place simply attach the block to the front panel header in one easy connection.

Make sure all your connections are securely in place as they can be become easily disconnected when working inside the case.

USB Connectors

Most cases supply a number of USB ports for you to connect USB compatible devices. These are normally located on the front of the chassis for you convenience. The cables that supply the USB functions are connected to a 10 pin USB header on the motherboard.

The USB header has one pin missing (pin 9) and the corresponding pin on the connector is blocked out so that you can only place the connector one way. Simply slip the connector down the pins until it can’t go any further. If it does fit then rotate the connector. Never force it otherwise you may bend or break the pins.
Note - you may have more than one USB cables. Each must have it's own header.

Firewire IEEE1394

You’d be hard pushed to find a motherboard with Apples failed IEEE 1394 port today but if you do then you should know that firewire the connector and ports are identical to the USB so make sure you are using the right connection and not get them confused.

The Firewire (IEEE1394) and USB headers look identical so be sure you make the right connection.

Front Panel Audio

Your chassis may support some front panel audio ports much as headphone and mic jacks and these normally support either High Definition Audio (HD) or AC’97 audio. The cable that supplies the audio functions normally has two connectors on the same cable which is connected to a 10 pin audio header on the motherboard. The connectors will be marked to identify which one is which.

Some motherboards supply two separate headers, one for HD audio and the other for AC’97. Simply connect the corresponding connector to the associated header. If however, there is only one connector and the motherboard supports both HD and AC’97, the chances are that both HD and AC’97 connectors can be connected to the same header but you may to configure which one you are using in the BIOS or Software.

The Audio header has one pin missing (pin 8) and the corresponding pin on the connector is blocked out so that you can only place the connector one way. Simply slip the connector down the pins until it can’t go any further. If it does fit then rotate the connector. Never force it otherwise you may bend or break the pins.
Tip – Bundle the front panel, USB and Audio cables together using cable wrap. Make sure you mark out the correct length of wrap and some cables may need to exit the wrap sooner. It can make things look a bit neater but you can do this at a later date. In some cases, you can also route the wires behind the motherboard but this comes with a little experience.


That's all the front panel connections done, let's hook up some power...

Connecting the 20/24 pin ATX Motherboard connector

Unless you are building a PC from old parts, most modern ATX motherboards require a 24-pin ATX connecter as opposed to 20-pin of older generations . Make sure you have the right connector or adaptor to connect power to the motherboard.

Most 24-pin connectors use a combination of a 20-pin and 4-pin connector that is normally bundled on the same cable. The connector can normally be split or joined to fit either combination on your motherboard.

If however, your PSU has only a 20-pin connector but the motherboard requires a 24-pin connector then you can use a 20 to 24-pin adaptor as shown below. Likewise, if your 24-pin doesn’t split, you can also purchase 24 to 20-pin converters.

When fitting, simply align the ATX power connector with the motherboard socket. The connector will only go in one way. The connector will only go in one way so if the connector doesn’t push down then you may have the connector the wrong way round. If aligned correctly, push the connector firmly downwards until the connector clicks into place. Make sure the retention lever is over the lug on the socket.


A 24-pin ATX Connector securely in place. Note the retention lever is clipped over the socket lug.

Connecting the 4/8-pin CPU connector

Your motherboard may require a supplementary CPU power connection, which is either a 4-pin ATX12v or 8-pin EPS12v connector. The socket is normally located somewhere near the CPU.


As with the 20-24 pin, most modern PSUs supply both types of connectors on either separate cables or a single two way split (as shown below). Older PSUs however, may only come with single 4-pin ATX connectors. In this situation, you could use an 4 to 8 pin adaptor but in some cases you can connect the 4- pin ATX connector anyway by placing the connector into pins 1 -5 as shown below.

Again, align the connector with the socket. The connector will only go in one way. Push down firmly into place making sure the retention lever is over the lug on the socket.


The 4-pin ATX12c connector is in place.. Note the additional unconnected 4-pin connector for 8-pin EPS12v sockets.

Connecting your HDD and Optical drives

If you are installing a SATA hard drive, then you’ll need to connect a 15-pin Serial ATA power and a 7-pin data connector to your hard drive. They stand out from the rest of the connectors as they look flatter by comparison and have a slight alignment key to one side. This gives them an “L” shape appearance. The larger of the two is the power connector and the smaller is the data connector. Installing the HDD is identical to that of installing an Optical drive.

HDD/Optical Drive Power

For power, simply align the large 15-pin SATA connector from the PSU with the large header on the drive and push in securely. Don’t use too much force; the connectors can be easily broken.

The 15-pin SATA Power (left) and 7-pin SATA Data (right) headers are clearly visible on this DVD drive.

Older PATA drives will need to be connected to a standard at 4-pin Molex peripheral connector. Like many other connectors, the Molex connector can only be fitted one way where one side is flat whilst the other side has rounded corners. Unlike the SATA connector, Molex connectors may need some persuasion to make a full connection. Some can be pinched to help align the pins. Make sure the connector is all the way in and secure. Sometimes these can appear connected when they are not.

[color=FF0000]Connecting the data cables[/color]

You motherboard should supply at least a couple of 7-pin SATA data cables to connect your HDD/Optical drives to the motherboard Serial-ATA controller.
You should check which SATA version your drive requires to run at its maximum speed. For example, if you have the newer SATA-3 drives, you'll want this connected to a SATA-3 controller to enjoy the full benefits 6GB/s performance. All drives are backward compatible, so if you connect a SATA-3 drive to a SATA-2 controller it will still operate but at SATA-2 speeds.

Some motherboards also come with multiple controllers so you may well find two sets of SATA headers. Different speeds and different controllers are normally colour coded. Check your motherboard manual as to which set of SATA headers you should be using.


The distinctive array of 7-pin SATA ports are easy to identify by their "L" shape appearance.

Our motherboard only has the one set of SATA-2 controllers. Align one end of 7-pin SATA data cable with the smaller SATA Data header on the drive and push firmly into place. The other end of the drive is connected to any SATA header on the mainboard. As with the power connector, don't use too much force, the connectors can be easily broken.

Connecting power to the Chassis fans

Most fans supply 3-pin power connectors and most motherboards will have at least a system fan header (SYS_FAN). These are identical to the one used when connecting the CPU HSF earlier. Simply locate the header on the motherboard, align the connector and slip over the pins until the connector is at the bottom.
If your fans are supplied with 4-pin male Molex connectors, then the chances are these are just 2 pins inside. The fans must be connected to a spare female Molex connector.

The fans will work fine when either connected to the motherboard or Molex connector. However, the advantage of attaching your fans directly to the motherboard is that you can monitor and control fan speeds from either the BIOS or an application.

That's it for part 3. We're almost done. Everything should be in place and connected. It's nearly time for the big switch on. In chapter 4 we'll look at the final inspection and powering up for the first time, the BIOS, installing Windows and what happens if thing don't go quite to plan.

Fitting a Dedicated Graphics card

Fitting a dedicated graphics card is optional where the CPU has graphics support but advisable if you are using the PC for gaming. Our processor and motherboard supports low end graphics which is fine for general use and video playback.

Details about fitting a dedicated graphics card is available in section 3 in myGraphics Card Guide

User avatar
Posts: 2464
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:11 pm
Location: Chelmsford UK

Huddy’s PC Building Guide - Part 4

Post #5 by huddy » Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:34 pm

In Part 3, we installed our motherboard, fitted the hard drives and connected all our components to the motherboard and power source. We even looked at adding a dedicated graphics and other expansion card. The PC is nearly all done and we are ready for the big switch on.

In part 4 we will discuss:

  • Final Inspection and the big switch on
  • A brief look at the BIOS
  • Installing Windows for the first time
  • Final steps and testing your New PC
  • Diagnostics - When things don't go to plan

Final Inspection and the big switch on!

Ok, you’re almost ready for the big switch on but before you press the power button, spare a few moments to run through a few checks :

  • That you applied the correct amount of Thermal Instrument Material on the CPU
  • The HSF is securely in place and the fan cable attached to the CPU_FAN header on the motherboard
  • That the memory is securely fastened with retention brackets in a locked position
  • You have secured the 24-pin ATX power supply connector to the motherboard
  • If the motherboard requires a supplementary 4-pin or 8-pin power supply then make sure this in place and secure.
  • Ensure that all fans are connected to a power source.
  • Make sure that all fans spin freely and nothing is obstructing their operation
  • That the motherboard is on standoffs and not making direct contact with any conductive material. Check for any loose screws in chassis.
  • Check that all hard disks and optical drives have the required power attachment and the interface is connected to the motherboard.
  • The front panel cables are connected to the correct header on the motherboard

If the list above is in check, then connect all your essential peripherals, such as Mouse, Keyboard, and Monitor only. Do not connect any other devices at this stage, including LAN or internet connection.

Plug the PSU to the mains socket, switch the PS, wait a few seconds, hold breath and press the “Power On” button.
Within a few seconds, you should see the system boot. Depending on the motherboard you should see either the manufacturer’s splash screen (we can turn this off later) or the POST (Power On Self-Test) and system configuration messages as the system prepares the hardware for use. If you have an internal speaker, it should emit a single bleep indicating that POST completed normally.

If you have reached this stage, you should receive a message saying “No operating System Loaded” . This we’d expect from a new system.
Congratulation – you have built your first PC. Tidy any cables inside your PC so they don’t obstruct the air flow or become dislodged. Make so you visually inspect that all fans are spinning before replace the case side covers. Once you are done Proceed to next section “A brief look at the BIOS”.

If the PC did not boot then don’t panic. This happens to even the most experienced. Turn off your PC by holding down the Power Button for 10 seconds, unplug from mains and go through the checks above. If your PC still didn't work then consult “When things go wrong” section.

A brief look at the BIOS

Before loading your Operating System, you’ll need to make a check that your new system recognises all the components you’ve installed. You’ll also need to make a few adjustments in order to load your OS and to run your system at its optimal settings. Therefore, you’ll need to head into the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) or EFI for newer systems (I’ll refer to both as the BIOS from now on) and make changes to the CMOS settings.

The CMOS (Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) stores your system and hardware settings, including date and time. The settings on this semi-conductor are retained by being powered by a CMOS battery. This is normally a coin style lithium type. For most motherboards this is a battery type CR2032.
The BIOS is a program that provides the system with basic hardware configurations and boot instructions. Unlike the CMOS, the BIOS program is “burnt” into a chip and can only by updated using a “BIOS flashing” process.

The terms CMOS and BIOS are often confused so it’s important to remember which is which, when referring to updating.

Entering the BIOS

As the PC goes through the POST process hit the designated BIOS key to enter the BIOS.

The key combination may differ from motherboard and BIOS manufacturer. Check your motherboard manual or the manufacturer’s website for details but it’s likely to be F1, F2 or the DEL key.

Newer motherboards actually tell you as the machine boots “Press DEL to enter BIOS” and changes to “Entering BIOS when selected”. Older motherboards aren't so forthcoming with this information.

1. Check your system is running with the correct processor and the correct default speed.


If any are incorrect or not present, please consult my “Troubleshooting” Guide/.

2. Set the system to optimal settings. This is normally done by pressing a command key or selecting the “Load Optimized Defaults from the menu.

3. Check your PC health. In order obtain a stable PC during operation, it's important to check the temperatures and the base line voltages. This information is normally provided on the same BIOS screen but may be different for each motherboard and BIOS.

First check your CPU and system temperatures. Although the system will be running at a different rate when in Windows and indeed under load, it’s still good to know that your PC starts at an acceptable temperature and isn’t about self-combust. In the example below, the temperatures are shown under the “Hardware Monitor" menu within the "Power Menu". If the temperatures look too high, then please consult “Troubleshooting”. If you have any doubts, then either consult the manufacturer’s website or ask a hardware forum for advice.

Secondly, check the 3.3v 5v and 12v voltages as these will be providing the power to your system and its components. You'll be very lucky if each are spot on so as a guideline allow for some deviation of around 5% either side. For example, allow between +4.8v and +5.3v for the 5v line and between 11.4v and +12.6v for the 12v. If your voltages are outside these ranges, you could have a faulty PSU and run into stability problems.


Both the CPU and MB are nice and cool and should sustain as sudden load. The voltages are all within the recommended threshold too.

4. Check the date and time. In our example BIOS, this option is found under the “Standard CMOS features” menu.

5. Change the Boot disk priority. You’ll need to tell the BIOS to look for the Windows installer from the optic drive rather than the hard drive. If the hard drive is set to the highest priority then the system will look there first and if it can’t find a boot sector, it will show an error that “No OS is loaded or found”.


Change the “First Boot Device” to your optical device, then the “Second Boot Device” to your hard drive. In our example, these options are found under the “Advanced BIOS features” menu.

6. Change the boot logo. This can some time obstruct the POST messages. Set the Full screen Logo to Disabled. In our example, this option is found under the “Advanced BIOS features” menu.


7. If you have fast SATA 3/6 Gb/s SSD or HDD, then you may want to enable the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI). AHCI always better configuration of the SATA adapter meaning it can incorporate special features such as Command Queuing and Hot Swapping) A worthwhile feature. Simply change the Volume type in the BIOS to “AHCI”. This is normally set to “IDE” by default.


Using Intel SmartResponse? – You’ll need to set the Volume Type to “RAID” and install the latest Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) drivers and set the level of caching. To either enhanced or maximised..
Once you are done with the BIOS, then press Exit and save. If you have made any mistakes then make sure you press exit without saving. Either will normally force a system reboot.

Installing Windows for the first time

Assuming you have changed the boot priority in the BIOS to look for optical media first, then you should be ready to load windows.

Windows Licensing

There are three types of windows licensing, OEM, Retail and Volume Licensing Agreements.

An OEM licence provides a single use key within EULA restrictions. OEM licenses are normally shipped with new PCs but can be bought as individual keys. OEM licenses are non-transferrable which means once activated then they remain attached to that PC and can’t be activated on any other PC system. If you own an OEM copy of Windows which has been used on another system you will not be able to activate windows once installed.

Retails licenses however remove this restriction providing the license isn’t in use by more than one machine at any one time. So any previous windows installation must be removed before installing a new instance.

32 or 64 bit Versions

Each version of Windows comes in either 32-bit or 64-bit flavours. Which one you choose depends highly on the hardware you are running. Mostly all of today’s systems are 64-bit compatible meaning it can address more physical memory than its 32-bit predecessor. There are some limitations to consider when choosing which to install. If you intend to run more than 4GB of RAM then you are certainly going to need a 64-bit Windows Operating System as the 32-bit system is restricted to a 4GB limit. You may also see less available RAM in the System properties than you have physically installed.

OEM licences are restricted to either 32-bit or 64-bit, so if you decide to change later, you’ll have to buy a new license. As such, the OEM disk provides is that of your choice.

Retail licenses do not have this restriction and the retails package normally provide both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

In my opinion, there is no need to install 32-bit OS these days. Early problems with 64-bit drivers and compatibility issues seem to have been corrected. If you have legacy hardware or software, then check the manufacturers or suppliers support services for advice.

The installation

Microsoft have made installing windows easier than ever and installing Windows 7 and 8 is a breeze.

Insert the DVD into your optical unit, switch on or re-boot the PC. Press any key when prompt to boot from the media.

Wait for the system files to copy and load then follow the on screen instructions.



Windows 7 and 8 install screens.. just click the install buttons and you're off

The installation may require a couple of reboots. Do not take the DVD out of the drive until the process is complete. Just let it do its thing.

Before long you’ll be prompted to enter geographic details, date & time and the license key.

The install may attempt product activation. Although this can be skipped it’s best this is out of the way sooner rather than later. however, you may have no choice if the internet is unavailable as this point.

Once you arrive at the desktop, then download and install the following drivers in order:

Chipset > Network > Graphics > Sound > other hardware

Note – Avoid using the drivers supplied on CD/DVD from the hardware manufacturers as these may be out of date. Always use the current version of software and drivers from the manufacturers website.

(XP doesn't support Network drivers from the disk, you may have to install these from the motherboard disk first and update later. Alternatively, you can download the drivers to another machine and copy them across via a USB memory stick).

Install a reliable and trustworthy Anti-Virus solution. I use either Microsoft Essentials or Avast Home edition. Both are excellent anti-virus tools and are completely free.

Once your drivers are installed, update the latest Microsoft Service packs and/or security updates. These may take a while.

Make sure you check the status of your drivers in device manager looking for any device errors. Simply type "Device Manager" in windows search or on the start screen in Windows 8. The screen shows a list of known devices and their status. Look for any devices with yellow exclamation marks which demote that there is a problem with the device. This may down missing or corrupted drivers. Either download and install the correct device driver from the manufacturers website or right click on the device and select Update Driver as shown below.


Final steps and testing your New PC.

The only way to see if your PC is stable and running smoothly is to run some demanding applications, such as benchmark test. PCMark and 3Dmark by futuremark a is a popular choice. http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/3dmark/all

Compare the results of your benchmarks with others for similar scores.

Run the Event Viewer. Simply type Event Viewer in windows search or Event Viewer from the start screen in windows 8.

Right Click on Custom views in the left hand pane, and create custom view. Tick the Critical, Warning and Error Event level tick boxes and select "Windows logs" in the drop down list next to Event Logs as shown below.


Click Ok, then ok again. This will display a list of problems that need to be addressed, in particular, any Critical errors. Examine each entry in the list for any problems. Google anything you are not sure about or use http://www.eventID.net. Enter the event ID for a detailed description of the problem

Run the Microsoft Experience Index
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/wind ... ence-index

After that then there's nothing like running real time applications, so load and fire up your favorite game.

Check the Event viewer for occasionally just to be sure.

Diagnostics - When things don't go to plan

See my General Trouble trouble shooting guide.

We're done, enjoy your new PC.


User avatar
Posts: 2883
Joined: Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:57 pm
Location: Harwich, Essex

Re: *** PC Building Guide **

Post #6 by Gregster » Fri Aug 22, 2014 3:28 pm

Awesome guide Huddy :)
3930K @ 4.625 - Tri SLI Titans - RIVF - 16GB Avexir 2133Mhz
EVGA 1300W G2 - XSPC H2 case - Fully water cooled with EK/XSPC
Asus ROG Swift Monitor - Logitech G19/G502/G25 peripherals

User avatar
Lance Corporal
Lance Corporal
Posts: 174
Joined: Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:41 am
Location: Sudbury, Suffolk, UK

Re: *** PC Building Guide **

Post #7 by FullMetalTony » Fri Aug 22, 2014 3:43 pm

Brilliant, very comprehensive.

Though Huddy, when you talk about TIM removal liquid at the start you don't list IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol), is there a reason for that? Interested as I always use IPA having a 500ml bottle of it, it's going to take me years to get through it. But will stop if there's concerns about removing TIM with it.
i5 3570K; Asus P8Z77-V LX; 16GB 1600Mhz DDR3 (4x4GB); Sapphire reference R9 290; Antec 302 case; XFX Pro 550W PSU; 60GB SSD (OS) + 128GB SSD + 2TB Seagate Barracuda; Razer Naga Molten; Crappy stock Dell keyboard; BenQ GL2450; Sharkoon X-static digital surround 7.1 headphones

Return to “Useful Guides”

  Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest