How to Build Your Own Computer

Purpose: In this set of instructions, I will be detailing how to build a computer from its separate components.

Creating a computer is nowhere near as difficult as people believe and doing so is often less expensive for a better computer. An important thing before you construct your computer is to determine the kind of computer you need, and the parts quality will change accordingly. If you only plan to write documents on your computer, you won’t need many expensive parts. If, however, you plan on building a full gaming rig, expect to spend a lot of money for the CPU and graphics card especially, and most of the other components too. This set of instructions won’t teach you how to determine what components to buy, but rather how put them all together. Certain parts of the instruction may change depending on the parts you have purchased, so make sure to read any instructions the parts come with as well. This also assumes you have done research into your parts and know what they are and what they come with to at least a basic degree. I will be detailing installation of a GPU as well. I will not be detailing how to install certain extra parts, putting individual parts together, or anything like hooking up a monitor, only how to put a barebones working PC together. I also will not be detailing installation of an OS (Operating System), or any of the drivers that are necessary to install for your computer to be used, as these are done after the physical computer itself has been assembled.

I have been using computers both for gaming, school, and work for most of my life. I have built most of the computers I have used at home with the help of my father. Unlike what most people think, building a computer isn’t incredibly difficult to do. It simply requires that you read the instructions in full, then carefully carry them out. None of the instructions are extremely difficult to do. Almost all of them are simply plug part A into hole B or slot the part into place. Now on to the instructions.

 

Tools and Materials needed:

  • A Philips screwdriver
  • (optional) Needle nose pliers and/or tweezers.
  • A case for your computer. This is what contains all the other parts. Determine this AFTER your other parts, so you do not get a case that is too small to hold everything.
  • A CPU, or Central Processing Unit – Basically the brain of your computer.
  • A motherboard – what almost everything plugs into so they can all work together. Determine what CPU you want before this, as not all CPUs are compatible with all motherboards (Leo).
  • (Semi-optional) a GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit – Many CPUs have one pre-installed into them, but if you play games, or want extreme visuals from other applications, you will want a standalone GPU.
  • RAM, or Random Access Memory (amount varies, always in pairs) – Is in a sense short term memory for your computer. More RAM is better, but you do not generally need more than 32 gigs if you are going to be building a higher end gaming computer. All RAM comes in pairs, insure you keep the pairs of RAM sticks together.
  • Storage (Hard drives, HDDs, or solid-state drives, SSD) – Where all your computers data is stored. HDDs are cheaper, but SSDs are far faster, and quieter.
  • PSU, or Power Supply Unit– Provides power to your computer once it is provided power. What PSU you get depends on your other parts, as different models may take differing amounts of power (Leo).
  • Heatsink/fans – Cools down the computer, namely the CPU. While many CPUs generally also come with their own cooler, having a standalone one is a good idea, because if your CPU overheats and fries, your entire computer is dead until you replace it. The way to install these can highly vary, so double check how to install yours. Ensure that your heatsink does not block your RAM ports when choosing parts. This unfortunately might have to be determined manually after parts are purchased (Newegg, 4:33-4:45).

At this point you have a large variety of parts and are completely unsure of what to do. Now comes putting it all together. Almost the entire process is literally just putting things in the right spot and screwing them in or plugging cords into the right places.

 

SOME IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE BEFORE HAND.

Do NOT over tighten any screw. Make them snug, but do not crank them in. You can break the parts if you do this.

Do NOT force any part in. Parts shouldn’t take extreme force to put in. Double check you are putting the right part in the right place, in the right orientation.

With the CPU, do not touch the gold contacts. If you damage or break these, the CPU is useless.

While the CPU is the biggest one, do your best not to touch the contacts of any part.

Don’t plug the PSU into power until you are ready to turn on your PC. Even if you do, it probably will not hurt anything, but the keyword is probably. No point in risking it. (Newegg, 1:26-1:40)

Occasionally discharge static electricity from your hand while you work by resting your hand on any conductive surface, including the outside of your computer’s case if it is made of metal (Nystedt). Do not discharge any static electricity on you onto any conductive components of the computer or the inside of the case.

Try to keep all the cables inside the completed computer neat, organized, and away from other parts, especially the fans.

Look up a guide or video of building a computer beforehand. For the most part, I will not be describing what all parts look like, so it may be necessary for you to look elsewhere to know what they are.

CPU properly set into slot before closing door

Installation:

  1. Set up your workspace.
    • Make sure you have a decent sized, clean open space. Have a bowl or bag handy to place screws and other small parts in that may be lost otherwise. Make sure your work area is non-conductive, such as a wood table (Nystedt), as static electricity has the potential to damage intricate parts of the computer during installation.
  2. Remove your case from its container and remove its side panels and set to one side for later. Do not remove any of the internal cables.
  3. Remove your motherboard from its container and locate where the CPU is installed into it.
  4. Unlock the CPU bar, and then open the CPU door.
  5. Remove the CPU from its packaging, and carefully set it flush into the slot for it on the motherboard.
    • The CPU itself and the slot for the CPU on the motherboard has markings to insure you put it in in the correct orientation. Ensure all markings line up.
    • Do not force the CPU into the slot, just insure it is placed flush onto the slot for it in the correct orientation.
  6. Close the CPU door over the CPU and insure it fully covers the CPU and the socket.
    • Don’t press the CPU door down, simply place it fully over the socket.
  7. Move the CPU lever back towards its original position.
    • This will take a small amount of force, but do not push it with all your strength. If it feels like it is not moving correctly, stop and double check the CPU was inserted correctly, and that the door was in place properly.
    • When the CPU is fully inserted, a cover may pop off the CPU door. This does not always happen depending on your motherboard, but if it does it means that the CPU has been fully inserted into its socket. Keep the cover in case you ever decide to replace or remove the CPU (Lee).
  8. Once the lever is back in its original position, lock it into place if possible. By lock it into place, I mean something pre-existing for that purpose. Do not tape it closed or anything like that.
  9. Installing your cooler for you CPU is highly variable, the next few steps are a general guide, ENSURE YOU DOUBLE CHECK HOW TO INSTALL YOUR SPECIFIC HEATSINK.
  10. Install the backplate that came with your cooler onto the back of your motherboard.
  11. Apply thermal paste to the top of the CPU.
    • The size applied should be between a grain of rice to a pea (Newegg, 5:00-5:04).
    • When you finish installation of your cooler and press it down onto the CPU, the pressure will evenly distribute the paste for you. Do not try to spread it yourself.
  12. Install your cooler based on the instructions provided. Generally, it is just placing the cooler onto the CPU and then screwing it into the motherboard, but how this is done can vary. Follow the instructions that came with your specific cooler only.
  13. Plug the cable for the cooler’s fan into the port for the fan-header on the motherboard.
  14. Look at the RAM slots on your motherboard and identify where in the slot a part is filled in.
  15. Line your RAM stick with the gap in the contacts so it is above the filled area of the slot and ensure it is not hanging over any sides. Then simply press it in until it clicks.
    • If it is oriented correctly it will slide in relatively easily, but if it is rocking, you have it the wrong way around.
    • RAM needs to be installed in pairs. Read your motherboard’s manual to determine the correct order they are installed in.
  16. Install your motherboards I/O shield into the computer case by firmly pressing it into the corresponding slot on the case.
    • Double check the I/O shield against the motherboard before installing the shield, so that the shield is being put in the right orientation. You do not want to have to remove the entire motherboard later so you can re-install this correctly.
  17. Double check the inside of the case where the motherboard goes to see if you need to install any standoffs for the motherboard beforehand. Install them if needed.
  18. Place your motherboard into its area in the case, ensure that it is aligned correctly and has its I/O ports pushed into the shield properly.
  19. Screw in your motherboard, with the screws it came with, so that it is firmly in place and cannot move.
  20. Locate the hard drive bays on your case and remove enough holders for all the hard drives you are going to put in. This may require unscrewing some screws, generally no more than one or two, for each holder.
  21. Place your hard drives into the removed holders.
  22. Replace the holders with the hard drive back into the case and re-screw the holders in if necessary.
  23. Install your fans into the areas for them in the case. This area depends on your case. All that is needed to keep them in place are the screws they came with.
    • The back of the fan, the part that faces the inside of the case, is identified by four crossbars.
    • Ensure the cables from the fans are free and going towards the motherboard.
  24. Plug the cables from all fans into the nearest fan-header port on the motherboard.
  25. Place your PSU into its area inside the case and screw it into place.
  26. Plug the cables of the PSU to all components that need them.
    • This will include, but is not limited to, the motherboard, hard drives, fans, and GPU.
    • You will likely need to repeat this step as more parts are added, namely more hard drives if needed or the GPU.
    • You will likely have extra cables, unless you have a modular PSU.
    • Ensure the right cable goes to the right component, all the cables are labeled.
  27. Connect all the hard drives to the motherboard, using SATA cables, by plugging the SATA cables to the corresponding ports on both.
  28. Attach all cables that came with the case to the corresponding parts on the motherboard.
    • Both the cables and the motherboard have all the parts labeled. Double check that the parts are physically supposed to go together, and that you are putting it in the right port {e.g. the cable labeled USB going into a port labeled USB on the motherboard}.
  29. Remove a number of PCIe port covers from the case as determined by the size of your GPU.
  30. Pick up your GPU and insert it into the PCIe slot on your motherboard. Ensure that it is in the correct orientation before doing so.
    • Look closely at the case and motherboard to see if the GPU is properly lined up before moving to the next step.
  31. Screw the GPU into place using the screws and holes from removing the port covers, so that the GPU is hard to move.
  32. Plug the GPU into the PSU if necessary.
  33. Double check that everything is installed correctly and that all cables are correctly attached.
  34. Plug your now finished computer into a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. At this point you can plug the computer into a power outlet.
  35. Flip the power switch on the PSU on the back side of the computer.
  36. Turn on your computer using the button on the front and verify that it works correctly. If it does not turn on, skip to step 38.
  37. Double check that all parts are operating now that the computer is on. If everything is working correctly, skip to step 39.
  38. Turn off the computer if necessary and fix any incomplete or improperly done components if needed and return to step 36.
  39. Turn off the computer, and replace the side covers of the computer. Congratulations, you are finished! The computer is complete and is ready to go, excluding the installation of all drivers and an OS, if needed, which I am not covering.

Now that you have successfully set up your own computer, I hope you come away from this with the realization that it is not as hard as people, and some companies, make it out to be. While time-consuming at worst, it really is for the most part just plugging parts into the right thing in the right spot. I hope that these instructions helped you and that you enjoyed your time building your computer.

An example of the end result of your hard work

 

Works cited

Lee, Kevin, and Zak Storey. “How to build a PC: a step-by-step guide to building the best PC.” TechRadar, 15 July 2019, https://www.techradar.com/how-to/how-to-build-a-pc

Nystedt, Brendan. “Want to Learn More About Computers? Try Building Your Own PC.” Wired, 13 December 2018, www.wired.com/story/how-to-build-a-pc/.

Parrill, Leo. “Building a Gaming PC for the First Time? Don’t Panic, This Guide Can Help You Out.” Newegg Insider, 27 February 2019, https://www.newegg.com/insider/building-a-gaming-pc-for-the-first-time-dont-panic-this-guide-can-help-you-out/

“How To Build a PC – Newegg’s Step-By-Step Building Guide.” Youtube, uploaded by Newegg Studios, 29 August 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npGL2-pRXlU&feature=emb_title