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Everyone has their own preferences to build a PC, but the following is my method which has proven to be successful for me so far.
• Arrange all the parts you will need neatly so that you can keep track of them.
• Keep all manuals handy as you may need them.
• Have all the tools you will need ready (usually just a phillips screwdriver).
• Take out the motherboard and put it over the case so that you can get an idea of where the standoffs should go in the case. Standoffs are basically little risers which must be aligned in the holes in the case with the holes in the motherboard. The screws will bite into the standoffs to secure the motherboard. Ensure that each hole in the motherboard is aligned with a riser in the case to prevent static shock which can lead your computer to not power on.
• Place the motherboard on a flat surface and install the processor and secure it.
• Apply the thermal compound to the processor and heatsink as demonstrated in this video.
• Install the RAM (Consult the manual here. Most motherboards have requirements for RAM placement.)
• Install the motherboard into the case and secure it to the standoffs with the provided screws. Be careful not to press down on the motherboard too much ... it is possible to fracture it if too much pressure is applied.
• While the case is clear of any additional cables, follow the instructions in the motherboard manual to connect the power connectors from the case to the headers on the motherboard.
• Install the devices into the case such as cd-rom, floppy, hard drive, etc...
• Install all the IDE cables neatly. Neatness is important because it ensures proper airflow. If your PC looks like a mess inside, then airflow and cooling will suffer.
• Install all the PCI cards.
• Make all the power connections. Again, be neat!
• Make sure all the fans are installed and are directed to blow the air the right way. In general rear fans are exhaust, front are intake, and side are intake. The CPU fan should blow air on the processor - just think, on a hot day would you rather have a fan blowing air on you or away from you?
• Connect all your other equipment - keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor, etc...
• Connect the power cord from the socket to the power supply.
• Fire the system up while making sure that all the fans are running and blowing air in the proper directions.
• The system should POST. When you see the video come on the screen, press DEL on your keyboard (it may be another key but read the prompts on the screen) to enter the BIOS and make sure that your hardware is being recognized properly and the FSB is properly set.
If your system does not POST and you hear various beeping sounds, check your motherboard manual for what the beeping sounds mean and then proceed to correct the error from there.
•You can now begin to do a clean install of your operating system. For Windows XP, you can follow the FAQ in the XP FAQ.
• After you load your OS, install all new and updated drivers required for your hardware. You can obtain the latest drivers from the manufacturers websites.
• Viola! You just built your very own PC!