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Guide | New PC Assembly Procedure ]
Component Gathering and Inspection Procedure
This subprocedure of the New PC Assembly Procedure covers the
details of gathering and inspecting the components and tools necessary for a new PC build.
This is a step that many people skip when building a new PC, and the result is often that
they get half-way through the build and then realize that they are missing something they
need to complete the job. Taking a few minutes at the start of the process to catalog your
equipment can often save time in the long run and will also increase your chances of a
successful, problem-free build.
- Difficulty Level: 1 (Very low).
- Risk Factor: 2 (Low). Watch out for ESD
when handling loose components.
- Hardware Required: See below.
- Software Required: See below.
- Time to Perform: Assuming you have everything you need, about 10
- Preparation / Warnings: Every PC assembly job is different, so you may
need to adjust what you gather to match what you are putting into the system. This
procedure is a guideline and is meant to cover "the essentials".
- Gather and Inspect Primary Components: The following are the major components of
a modern PC:
- System Case: A new case normally
comes with many subcomponents that you need in order to assemble a new PC. See here for a list of what a case should contain.
Make sure you have all of these parts, and inspect everything to make sure there is no
damage before you begin--needing to return the case for exchange after you've
half-completed building the PC is not fun.
- Motherboard: The motherboard
should also come with several components that you
will need to assemble the PC. In particular, make sure you have the cables that go
with the motherboard--sometimes vendors omit these. Make sure you have the manual. Inspect
the motherboard closely to ensure that there is no damage; look for bent or broken pins or
- System Processor: Now is the time
to make sure that you have been sent the correct processor and that it is not damaged.
Look on the top of the chip and make sure it is the correct speed. Check for bent or
broken pins. Do not touch the pins!
- Secondary Cache Module (if
appropriate): Many motherboards today come with only integrated cache and do not
use a seperate cache module.
- System Memory: Make sure you have
the correct amount of the right type of memory. If you are using 72-pin SIMMs on a Pentium
class or later system, you need identical pairs of SIMMs. Handle modules by their edges.
- Video Card: Inspect the video
card carefully to make sure there is nothing missing or broken. You should also ensure
that the card has a manual and a driver disk or CD with it. Handle the card by its edges.
- Floppy Disk Drive: Pretty
straight-forward. Make sure it isn't broken in some odd way. Check the pins on the back of
the drive to make sure they are straight and whole.
- Hard Disk Drive: Inspect the
drive carefully to make sure it is the correct type and size. Do not touch the controller
board. Make sure the disk has a manual with it.
- CD-ROM Drive: Check the CD-ROM
drive to ensure that it is not damaged. You also want to check for two important pieces
that normally come with the drive: the CD audio cable (for attaching to the sound card)
and the driver disk (without which you likely won't be able to install the operating
- Sound Card: This should come with drivers and a manual. Inspect for
physical damage. Set aside for installation later on.
- Network Card: This should come with a manual and probably will come
with driver disks as well. Inspect for physical damage. Set aside for installation later
- Modem: This should come with a manual to help you with configuration,
and possibly a driver utility of some sort. Inspect for physical damage. Set aside for
installation later on.
- Mouse: You need a mouse, either serial or PS/2 style, depending on what
you're going to run on your system. Tip: During the initial installation, use a
mouse from another system that you know works, or test out the new mouse on an existing
system. This makes troubleshooting much easier if
there is a problem during assembly.
- Keyboard: You need a keyboard for the system. Make sure that it has the
correct sized plug for your motherboard; otherwise, you may need to purchase an adapter
(some keyboards come with them.) Tip: During the initial installation, use a
keyboard from another system that you know works, or test out the new keyboard on an
existing system. This makes troubleshooting much
easier if there is a problem during assembly.
- Monitor: Unpack the monitor and
check it for damage. Make sure you have its manual and interface cable. I strongly
recommend trying out a new monitor on an existing PC if at all possible before assembling
the PC. A monitor that is not functioning properly can cause you to think you have a
hardware problem with the new system and lead to a lot of hair pulling.
- Gather and Inspect Secondary Components: The following are the smaller components
needed for a new PC build:
- Heat Sink / Fan for the Processor:
You need a heat sink, usually with a fan, for most modern processors. Note that some
processors come with the heat sink already attached to them.
- Heat Sink Compound:
This white compound is used to ensure good thermal transfer between the CPU and the heat
sink. You don't need this if your heat sink is already attached to the CPU.
- IDE Cable(s): One IDE
cable normally comes with the motherboard. If you are planning to use two IDE channels
(which is common, one for the hard disk and one for the CD-ROM) then you need a second IDE
- Floppy Cable: This normally
comes with the motherboard.
- CD Audio Cable: This normally comes with the CD-ROM drive and is used
to allow audio CDs to be played through the sound card..
- Mounting Hardware: These are the metal and plastic spacers, standoffs
and screws that are used to attach the motherboard to the system case. They should come
with the system case.
- Drive Rails (if required): Some cases require these, and should supply
them with the case if so.
- Screws: You need screws to mount your storage devices into the case.
Sometimes these come with the device; sometimes they come with the case; sometimes they
come with neither and you will have to find some somewhere; a local computer store is a
good bet to try. Also, there are different sizes so make sure you have the right ones. Try
them out in the devices before you try to install.
- Y-Adapters (if required): Many system cases only come with power plugs
for four internal devices. If you have more than this number, you will need to purchase a
"Y adapter" (named for its shape) that lets two drives run off one power plug.
- Gather Tools and Other Equipment: See this
section for a discussion of the contents of a good tool kit. If you have a good kit,
you probably have all you need. Here specifically are the items of importance for building
- A good screwdriver, preferably with interchangeable flat and Phillips bits.
- Needle-nose pliers.
- Wire snips.
- A small flashlight, for peeking inside the case and looking under things.
- A 3/16" hexagonal nut driver. This is the size of nut used for mounting the
motherboard into the case, and for mounting the serial and parallel connectors to the case
(for AT form factor systems).
- Gather Software and Drivers: In order to complete the installation of the new
system, you will need certain software items:
- Boot Disks: You must have at least
one floppy boot disk to enable you to start up the new system when you are assembling a PC
with a new hard disk. I recommend that you have at least two, because floppies are prone
to failure. Make sure that they have the correct operating system on them; make them on
another PC that has the same operating system, or use the boot disk that comes with your
operating system CD-ROM. See this procedure for instructions on
creating boot disks.
- CD-ROM Driver: You must have a driver disk for your CD-ROM drive, to
allow the CD-ROM to be accessible so you can install the operating system.
- Operating System CD-ROM: You should have your operating system CD-ROM
ready for installation. Make sure you have the license key code and the manual.
- Video Card Driver: Your video card should come with a driver disk or
CD-ROM, which you will need during installation.
- Sound Card Driver: Your sound card should also come with a driver disk
or CD-ROM, which you will need.
- Other Drivers: Any other drivers needed for your hardware.
- Prepare the Work Environment: Get your work area ready for the new
build by clearing space and setting aside the components you will not need for the start
of the assembly job. These include the monitor, keyboard, mouse, sound card, modem, and
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