Computers are a staple in our society, but how do you build your own? There are many different types of computers that can be built for any budget. This article will provide the basics of what you need to know to get started.
Building a computer can be confusing. If you are new to the world of building computers, this article will help you understand what is needed and how to build one.
We’ve been working on something for all of our readers who want to learn more about constructing a computer from the ground up.
We wanted to provide something a little more user-friendly than an in-depth video or instruction list, so we made a step-by-step computer assembly infographic to teach you how to put your own computer together, complete with images for each step.
Perhaps you’ve never constructed a computer before…
or maybe you simply want to brush up on what goes into putting a computer together from components.
In any case, we’re certain that our DIY computer assembly infographic will cover you.
It’s ideal for people who want to gain a sense of what they’re getting themselves into if they decide to build a PC, or for those who just need a refresher!
If you need to, move ahead to your area of interest, and at the bottom of the infographic, you’ll find some more detailed text describing each phase and what to watch out for.
We receive a lot of inquiries from individuals who have never constructed a computer before, but it’s not that tough if you know what you’re doing.
So, if you’ve ever found yourself asking any of the following questions…
What information do I need to construct my own computer?
What goes into building a computer from the ground up?
Is it possible that I’ll be in over my head?
What is the best way to assemble a completely customized computer from parts?
…then we believe our illustrated step-by-step guide will help you obtain a fast overview of the whole PC building procedure!
So, if you’re new to PC assembly and want to learn more, check out our infographic below for a step-by-step tutorial with photos on how to construct your own computer.
The written text, which you’ll see below the picture, goes into a little more information.
Please leave a comment below to let us know what you think!
Planning Your Build (First and foremost, Safety!)
If this is your first computer, it may be worthwhile to do some preparation ahead of time.
- Make sure you have a decent work place with lots of light and space.
- Make sure you have all of the necessary tools on hand for quick access. Keep a container handy to store loose components such as screws.
- Keep a guide or reference material handy (this guide, or an instructional video). You may also wish to read over the appropriate portions of the manuals for the various components you’ll be putting together. These are usually included in the product package as a paper insert.
- Make sure your workspace is free of static electricity, which may harm your components.
- Keep in mind the safety measures.
Surprisingly, just a few tools are required to assemble a PC.
- Screwdriver (Philips head) – For virtually all screws, such as case and component mounting screws.
- Flat-head screwdriver — You may need this to install your CPU cooler, so have one on hand just in case.
Extras available as options include:
- Anti-Static Wrist Strap — If you’re concerned about static harming your components, an anti-static wrist strap is an option.
- Cable ties are an absolute need for cable management (unless your case has some included with it). These will keep all of your case’s cabling tidy.
- Scissors — For trimming extra cable ties and removing any annoying plastic wrapping from your computer components.
- If you need a little more light to see what you’re doing, bring a flashlight.
Your Computer Parts and Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)
You’ve probably heard that electrostatic discharge (ESD) or simply “static” may damage computer components. This is what you’re talking about if you’ve ever been shocked by static while touching a metal item.
ESD may reach hundreds of volts on rare occasions, posing a threat to computer components.
In most cases, though, it is very uncommon. It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll have any ESD problems if you follow proper practice (i.e. grounding oneself to eliminate any static build-up).
Simply contact the metal shell of your computer case to bring yourself to the same electrical potential as it to ground yourself. This may be done many times throughout the assembling process to discharge any electrical potential that has built up.
Limit how much you walk about and what you touch to avoid accumulating any charge on your body (for example, you don’t want to be shuffling your feet on a carpeted floor on a dry day while assembling your new PC). If you get concerned, just release yourself by touching the computer casing with your bare hands once again.
If you’re still worried about static, you may purchase an anti-static wrist strap, which basically keeps your body in touch with the computer casing at all times while you work on it.
About Our Step-by-Step Computer Building Instructions
There are a few various approaches to constructing a computer, and when it comes down to it, go with the one that seems the most natural to you.
The method described in our computer construction infographic is only one of the ways we like to build PCs, although it does have some leeway.
You may, for example, simply swap around stages (like we did when we went through our comprehensive build process) or even conduct a ‘out of the case’ build.
You’ll find views all over the internet, and the reality is that almost all of the various ways are legitimate, with their own set of benefits and drawbacks. Other construction orders that may be used, as well as several common ‘build techniques,’ include:
1. Creating a Case Outside of the Case:
This technique entails partly building the motherboard and related components (CPU, CPU cooler, and RAM) outside of the chassis, then transplanting the whole unit into the case before continuing with the construction.
- You have enough of ‘working area’ outside the casing to install the CPU, cooling, and RAM.
- You get a better view of the components to ensure they are properly installed.
- It’s possible that mounting the components on the motherboard without properly supporting it may result in harm.
- Depending on where the motherboard mounts are situated, it may be difficult to put the motherboard into the case with components such as the CPU cooler already attached. If other components, such as the CPU cooler or RAM, come in the way, you may not be able to get your screwdriver where it needs to go.
2. Changing the Mounting Components’ Order
You may assemble individual components in almost any sequence you choose, whether you construct ‘inside the case’ or ‘outside the case.’
- Motherboard -> CPU -> RAM -> Graphics card -> Storage and optical disks -> Power supply
- Storage and optical disks -> Motherboard -> Power supply -> Graphics card -> CPU -> RAM
- It’s all up to you! If you’re a beginner, we recommend following a construction guide until you figure out your own preferences for build sequence.
- Some components may get in the way of other parts while attempting to mount them, or result in reduced working space/room within the case for installing other parts, depending on the sequence of construction.
- Keep in mind that certain components must be placed in a specific sequence (for instance, you cannot install the CPU cooler without first installing the CPU).
- If you deviate from the recommended order, keep in mind that you may not be able to access fastening points (for example, some graphics card/motherboard combinations may prevent you from releasing the RAM fastening clips once the graphics card is installed; in this case, you would need to install your RAM first).
Steps to Putting Together a Computer
Open the case in the first step.
- Remove the screws from the rear.
- Remove the side cover.
Working on your computer is simplest when it’s lying sideways on a level surface, with the open side facing up. Before you begin assembling components, remember to ground yourself (by touching the casing).
Separate any screws that came with the case and keep track of the various kinds. Most cases will arrive with a few different packs of screws, each with a different size or thread, so be sure to match them up as closely as possible with the proper mounting positions. If you’re unsure, see the documentation that comes with your machine.
Step 2: Install the Motherboard
- The motherboard standoffs should be screwed into the casing.
- If the case has a rear I/O plate, remove it and replace it with the motherboard I/O plate.
- Place the motherboard on top of the mounting standoffs and secure it.
Because motherboards come in a variety of sizes (also known as “form factors”), most cases include screw locations that can handle the various sizes of motherboard. You don’t have to put mounting standoffs in every one; only the ones that match your motherboard will suffice.
The input-output plate (I/O plate) is a metal cover that is tailored to your motherboard. You’ll need to take off the default I/O plate that came with your case and replace it with the one that came with your motherboard.
Screws and standoffs are often included with your computer case, although motherboard screws may also be included.
Step 3: Install the processor (CPU)
- On the motherboard, look for the CPU socket holder.
- To release and hinge open the CPU socket cover, lift up the latch lever.
- Line up any alignment notches or the triangle indicated on the corner of the CPU to the triangle marked on the motherboard while holding the CPU by its sides. To seat the CPU, gently put it straight down into the motherboard socket.
- Close the CPU socket holder by lowering the CPU socket cover over the CPU and closing the latch lever.
To seat the CPU, don’t use force. Avoid pushing down on the back of the CPU with your fingers, as any residue from your hands may damage the heat transfer surface for the cooler that will be installed next.
Before installing your CPU and cooler, be sure you remove any plastic wrapping from around the CPU socket cover. Around the CPU socket cover, there is usually a piece of detachable hard plastic that protects the CPU terminal pins on the motherboard. As you install your CPU, be sure to remove and destroy this.
Step 4: Set up the CPU Cooler
Make sure the CPU cooler is mounted directly to the metal casing of the CPU. We’ve heard of cases where the plastic wrapping on the CPU socket cover (which is supposed to be destroyed after CPU installation) was left on and the CPU cooler was accidentally mounted to it. Don’t make this costly error, as it will result in overheating and damage to your CPU.
- Apply thermal paste to the rear of the CPU if necessary.
- Place the CPU heatsink/cooler in place and secure it.
- Connect the cooler fan’s power cord to the motherboard’s connection.
You may skip step 1 if your CPU cooler comes with a thermal pad already installed. If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to add thermal paste to the processor’s surface before installing the CPU cooler.
The placement of cable headers on motherboards varies depending on the motherboard. Look for the labeling on the motherboard to determine the right header; they are always labeled next to the header with the intended connection, for example:
- CPUFAN is the abbreviation for CPU fan.
- SYS FAN1 SYS FAN1 SYS FAN1 SYS FAN1 (any general fan can be plugged in here)
- SYS FAN2 SYS FAN2 SYS FAN2 SYS FAN2 (any general fan can be plugged in here)
Step 5: Connect the power source (PSU)
- Install the power supply and secure it to the case mounting points using screws.
- Connect the power supply’s biggest cabling connection to the motherboard’s power connector.
- Connect the power supply’s 8-pin cabling connection to the CPU power connector.
Most power supply will have a slew of cables and connections protruding from the back. Others may feature plug-in sockets for cables. We find it easier to connect the power cabling for each hardware component to the power source as you build the PC (rather than waiting until all components are completed and plugging in all power cables at once); this way, you won’t forget to attach power to any device by mistake.
Mount Memory (Step 6) (RAM)
- To open the clamps at both ends of the RAM installation slots, press them together.
- Align the RAM stick’s notch with the mounting slot.
- Place the RAM in the slot and firmly push it down. As you push the RAM down, the tabs should immediately latch closed, locking the RAM in place.
- Using the same procedure, install any additional RAM sticks.
Multiple RAM installation slots may be found on most motherboards. Install RAM sticks in the same color slots on the motherboard if you’re installing pairs.
To ensure that the RAM is correctly placed in the motherboard mounting slots, you’ll frequently need to apply quite a bit of force. When pressing down on the rear of the RAM stick, be cautious not to bend the motherboard too much — it may assist to hold the edge of the board with your spare hand if required to prevent bending the motherboard too much.
Step 7: Set up the Graphics Card
A dedicated graphics card is not available on all PCs. You may skip this step if you’ve chosen to utilize the on-board graphics on your motherboar instead of installing a separate graphics card.
- Remove the expansion slot covers from the graphics card’s location at the back of your case.
- The graphics card is installed in a PCI expansion slot on the motherboard’s bottom half. To seat the card, align it and push down firmly.
- Install the screws that will secure the graphics card in place.
- Connect your power supply’s power connection wires to the graphics card’s power connector (if one exists; not all graphics cards need external power).
When connecting your display monitor, always utilize the output ports of the graphics card first (if one is present), rather than the motherboard’s output ports. This guarantees that your graphics card is in use!
Step 8: Install the Hard Drives
Storage drives are available in two sizes: 3.5′′ and 2.5′′ form factors. 2.5′′ drives may need an adaptor plate to install them inside your PC case due to their lower size. From computer case to computer case, the precise mounting method for storage devices will differ.
In order to put drives into the drive bays, you may need to consult the handbook for your case.
- Install storage drives in the drive bays of the casing. Screw the storage drive into the case frame using screws that go through the case frame and into the case mounting holes on the storage drive.
- Using a SATA cable, connect the drive to the motherboard.
- Connect the power cable to the storage drive.
- Any additional storage disks may be mounted in the same manner.
External storage devices usually need two connections: power and data, which is why we use two different cords for each drive. A SATA cable links the motherboard to the storage drive, and the data connection cable is a SATA cable. The power connection cable connects the power source to the drive and provides electricity to the drive.
Step 9: Install the Optical Drive
Optical drives aren’t needed unless you want to read or write CDs, DVDs, or Bluray discs. If they don’t intend to use optical discs, some individuals prefer not to include an optical drive in their PC design.
- Remove any front panels from the computer case that will be used to house the optical drive.
- Fix the optical drive in the case using screws that go through the case frame and into the optical drive’s case mounting holes.
- Using a SATA cable, connect the optical drive to the motherboard.
- Connect the optical drive to your power source through power cabling.
Optical disks, like the external storage devices we installed in Step 8, need two connections: power and data. The data connection cable, which links the optical drive to the motherboard, is another SATA cable. The power connection cable connects the power source to the drive and provides electricity to the drive.
Step 10: Connect the front panel connections and case fans.
Some computer cases have case fans that are already installed and placed within the case. However, the power cords for these fans must still be plugged into a header port on your motherboard. This provides the fan with the necessary power to function.
In certain instances, you may need to install your own case fans, or you may opt to operate your computer without any at all.
The components on the front panel may vary depending on your case, but they usually include audio, USB, and power/reset/lights, among other things. These will be present in the form of wires coming from the front panel, with the ends hanging free in your case. You’ll need to connect them to the right places on your motherboard.
- Using the provided screws or clips, mount any case fans inside your case as needed.
- Connect any case fan power connections to the motherboard’s numerous fan headers, which are situated in different locations.
- Identify the cabling from your PC’s front panel ports. These front panel connections must be connected into the motherboard for your case’s front panel buttons and inputs/outputs (I/O) to function.
- Connect any front panel audio connections to the front audio header on the motherboard.
- Connect any USB connections on the front panel to the motherboard USB headers.
- Connect the front panel case connections to the front panel I/O headers on the motherboard.
Although various computer cases may have somewhat different I/O connections, most connectors and motherboard headers are labeled, so take advantage of this when figuring out where to insert each cable connector! If in doubt, consult the paperwork that came with your motherboard, which should specify where these components should be connected.
Close the case and connect the peripherals in step 11
Before fully sealing your case, perform some ‘cable management,’ which entails tucking away, rerouting, or eliminating and securing any free slack from cables that might otherwise be hanging about loose in your case.
To securely bind wires in bundles and away from any moving components, we suggest using cable ties (such as fans).
- Return the side cover to its original position.
- Case screws are used to secure the side panel.
- Connect peripherals such as a mouse, monitor, keyboard, and speakers.
Connecting peripherals to your computer once it’s all put together is as simple as ensuring sure everything you want to use with it (such a keyboard, mouse, and speakers) is plugged in correctly. As a guide, the following list should be used:
Connect to USB ports:
- Dongle for using a wireless network
Connect to 2.5mm sockets:
- Devices with a line-in and a line-out
Connect to ethernet ports:
- Connection to the internet
- LAN (local area network) cables
Connect to the display ports:
- Screens / monitors
- Make sure you’re using the right display ports: instead of the motherboard display ports, use the graphics card display output (if you have one).
- If you don’t have a dedicated graphics card, use the display output ports on the motherboard.
You should now have a completely built computer if you’ve made it this far! It’s time to turn on your new computer after a last check to verify there are no loose screws in your case and that all connections are free of any moving components.
If you’re new to computer construction, having a video to follow along with may also help you see what components belong where.
Do you need more assistance or would like to see more detailed instructions for each step? The video below, from Newegg TV, is a great tutorial to constructing a PC, with portions that are simple to understand.
The pc build calculator is a website that allows users to input their specs and it will provide them with an estimated cost of the computer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it cheaper to build your own computer?
This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many variables. For example, if you buy all the parts and build your own computer yourself, it will be cheaper than buying one pre-built. However, if you buy a pre-built computer and install software on it, it may be cheaper than building your own.
What do you need to build your own PC?
You need to have a computer with an Intel processor, at least 4GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GPU.
Is it hard to build your own PC?
It is not difficult to build your own PC, but it does require some knowledge and skill.
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