In our last blog post, we walked you through many of the things to consider when building a PC. From the case to the CPU, we went through several considerations for your very first build. We have all our parts picked out, and our goal is to build a high-performance gaming PC. One that Mike will be able to crush ‘Candy Crush’ while making his ascension to the Age of Empires eSports throne.
In this blog post, we’re going into some of the extra details that might come in handy for when you’re ready to build your system. Watch the video below to get an idea of how it all works.
We’ve put together some extra tips and tricks below, along with time code links back to the video where we talk about it. We hope you find this useful.
You’ve got all your parts all sorted, and you’re excited to build a PC. Most people would break out a screwdriver and start sticking parts into the case. But what happens when you assemble everything and nothing works? That’s why you should be testing your components outside of the case first.
Doing an assembly build outside of the case is an ingenious and convenient way of making sure your build goes smoothly. It gives you a chance to look at the parts for any damage and work out any compatibility issues that might impact your system start-up and function. You can then exchange or purchase compatible parts to alleviate those issues. Speaking of parts, this also gives you a chance to feel what kind of pressure is needed to connect the cables, which cables you will need, and where to find the motherboard’s connectors.
You can iron out are all your BIOS options. This screen comes up and helps you tell the motherboard what kind of parts you have plugged into it. It also gives instructions to the operating system. Most of the time, it can just nag you for not remembering to plug in a keyboard to something important like your CPU case fans have failed. Refer to the manual for all the options related to your motherboard.
Once you have those settings squared away, you can load the operating system. There are many guides on YouTube. If you’re going to have issues with your build, this is where it could happen. If you load all the updates from Microsoft, find all the drives online, and still have issues, you can now identify which parts are the problem. As you can imagine, this is all a lot easier before you bolt everything down into a case.
Not all motherboards have power and reset switches built onto them. You can trigger a power-up and power-down by shorting the + and – terminals for the power switch. Refer to the motherboard manual to locate them. If you don’t like the idea of using a metal screwdriver, you can also purchase external switches.
Your case, CPU cooler, and other parts can come with many small parts and screws. You’ll often get just the right amount of parts to assemble those components into your system. If you lose them, you might be stuck until you find replacements. A good way to organize these small components is with a magnetic tray. As long as you are using a solid-state drive and not a magnetic spinning platter-based hard drive, these will not harm your components. You can usually tell by the size difference.
I like using these types of trays to set my metal screwdrivers on. They help them maintain their magnetic properties. I will use labels to sort all my screws by component. I also keep them in their plastic bags till I’m ready. The added benefit is that if the tray gets bumped for some reason, the screws won’t end up all over the floor.
The power supply is the first component I normally install because it weights the case down. It also lets me pre-visualize where all the cables will route once I get the motherboard into the case. If you have a modular power supply, it’s a good time to attach the cables you need. Quite often, the space in the power supply compartment can be quite tight, so getting back in, once you screw it down, can be tougher. Some cases, like the be quiet! 500DX we’re using has a tool-free design, making it easier to access. I like keeping the number of extra steps to a minimum.
If you don’t have a modular power supply and have many cables to handle, try bundling them up with a few zip ties until you are ready to route power.
You should definitely install this component carefully. A bad motherboard can definitely end up in a badly running system, or at the very least, a system that doesn’t boot. But before you do anything else, you’ll want to make sure that you locate your motherboard IO shield, and you’ll want to make sure that the stand-offs, which are those little posts sticking up from the motherboard tray of your case, match exactly with the ones on your motherboard.
If you have extra stand-offs in your case or not enough, make sure you configure it correctly. Extras, sticking up in the wrong place, can short your motherboard out when you power it up. The best-case scenario is if you power it up with a stand-off in the wrong spot, your system will not boot. The worst case is that you’ll cause irreparable damage to your motherboard. Just double-check, and you’ll be fine.
Remember that IO shield? Make sure you install that before installing your motherboard. Nothing is more frustrating than building up your entire system, only to discover that you need to pull the motherboard out to install it.
How tight should the screws be? Finger tight and a quarter turn is all that is needed. More tightening can cause damage. A cracked motherboard is no fun.
You’ll want both your motherboard and case manual handy for this. You might also want to have a magnifying glass nearby as the tiny letters on the cables and the board are tiny. Speaking of small, the connectors are small as well. You may want to invest in some long needle nose plyers to help you grab hold of and push the plugs into the board. You can use tweezers in a pinch, but I prefer the needle-nose pliers if I need help. They have a better grip. Just get the ones with the smoothest ends.
One extra important thing is that you get the polarities correct. The + and – poles should always match. You might get a case or motherboard with a connector that doesn’t seem like it will fit or has too many pins. Don’t worry. As long as the + and – match up, the switch will function.
Plugging in your audio and USB headers should be the easiest. The manuals will be your guide to where to find them, and these connectors are often keyed, so you can’t plug them incorrectly. Do make sure that you plug these connectors in straight, however, as you might bend pins if you come in at too steep an angle. The needle nose plyers can come in handy. Just don’t apply too much pressure, or you can crush the connectors. What you think you need, and a little bit less pressure is a good rule of thumb.
Case fans come with standardized connectors that should plug into the ones on your motherboard. There is a key on them that guides the connector. It looks like a plastic flap sticking up with the pins. You may get some fans with fewer pins than on your motherboard, but as long as that guide is in the right spot, matched with your fan connector, everything should work fine.
What happens if you have too many fans to connect and there aren’t enough connectors on the motherboard? You can purchase fan splitters that allow you to connect two fans per connector. But, if you go this route, make sure that the fans are in the same area in the case. The system often controls the fan headers to regulate temperature. Making sure your pairs are grouped, the system, and the motherboard, can still do a great job cooling things down while sharing.
You’ll encounter a few things when installing a CPU cooler. The first thing is getting the right hardware mounted to your motherboard to support your CPU. Modern CPU cooler will support most boards and processors. First, all you need to do is find the right mounting screws and bracket inside the package and install that.
Next, you’ll want to figure out what the heatsink paste situation looks like. Many high-end coolers will come with a tube of it in the package just like our be quiet! Pure Cool liquid cooler. Some will have the CPU paste already applied, so all you need to do is remove the cover keeping the paste from contamination and screw the cooler on, ensuring that all the screws are applied in an even manner and the same amount of turns. This helps the surface of the cooler keep even pressure on the CPU.
If your CPU does not come pre-applied with heatsink paste, all you have to do is apply about a cooked rice grain size of the material onto the middle of the processor. Once you attach the heatsink, this material will spread evenly. As the CPU heat cycles, the paste will spread even more evenly, achieving maximum performance.
Power cables can be very stiff. You must do your best to connect them straight into the connectors onto the motherboard. Feel free to apply some pressure to the cables before plugging them in. Try to coax them in the direction you need before you attempt to power through. Too much pressure and you can damage your motherboard. The connectors on a motherboard, including your 4 and 8 pin CPU power and your 24 Pin ATX power connector, are all keyed, but they insert the smoothest when you push the connectors straight in. Be patient and work the cables in.
At this time, you’ll also want to run your graphics card power cables from the power supply. That way, they are ready to go, and you don’t have to go hunting for them.
Graphics cards are probably one of the easiest items to install. You have a large surface to hang on to, and you have a larger connector on your motherboard. It would be best if you started removing the slot covers at the back of the case to accommodate your graphics card. Most high-end graphics cards use two slots. So, you would remove two of them, including the one at the PCI-Express slot and the one directly to the left of it, when facing the back of the case. In some cases, removing a few more slots can make putting the graphics card easier.
You’ll want to carefully align the card into the slots parallel to the motherboard. When you push down, you should feel or hear a satisfying click. Now, keep in mind, if you ever want to remove the graphics card, you’ll need to disengage the locking mechanism that made that click. The erase end of a pencil or a single wooden chopstick can help it unlock. Once that’s done, pull the card straight up to remove it. You may have to keep the pressure on that level to get it started. Make sure you have removed the screws that retain the graphics card to the expansion slot as well.
Now all that is left is attaching your power cables. Our card uses two 8 pin connectors. However, other graphics cards can use a single 6 or 8 pin, two 6 pins, or a 6 and 8 pin. Today, most power supplies will come with at least one connector with 8 pins, with 2 pins that split off. The connectors are keyed, so going into the power connectors on your graphics card should be straightforward. By matching up the connectors and pushing them straight in and not at an angle, they should click in.
Cable management is truly a Zen moment. Well, at least for me, it is. I can spend hours finding new ways for cables to route better. But, for the most part, all you need to do in most modern cases is get the cables bundled up well enough so you can put them on the side panels. But if you want to do it right, here’s a quick and dirty.
Start by taking the power cables, including the 24 pin, 8 pin, and 4 pin, as applicable for your setup, and tuck those away, using zip ties and the little connectors along the back of the motherboard tray. Next, take care of your graphics card power cables. Sometimes, you can right them alongside your large 24 pin cable. Try to route these cables along but not over the top as introducing height can keep the back panel from closing.
You might have SATA power connectors around. I would lightly tie these away with a zip tie as they could be needed later, unlike the power and graphics card cables.
For the remainder of odds and ends like the fan power, front panel, and other miscellaneous cables, use the edges of the motherboard to tuck them under, pull cables into the back of the case, and secure them to larger cables or a cable tie connector. Ultimately, the purpose is to ensure the front of the case is clean—the back of the case is back for a reason.
By having good cable management, you can easily access cables, they don’t impede airflow, and your system looks great.
If you’ve done a good job with your cable management, closing up, the back panel should be no problem. One last look at the front of your system, and that panel should go on pretty easily. The only thing you will need to worry about is making sure you have the case screws handy. We be quiet! 500DX case has them attached to the back panel, but the front ones still need to be screwed on. In most cases, the back panel will use standard case screws that normally screw down with a Philips (+) head screwdriver.
When putting the case panel on, make sure everything looks flush and goes on relatively easily. If not, check to ensure there are no cables in any of the channels that the case panel goes into. Take your time.
Once you have the panels on, you can plug in your favourite gaming mouse and gaming keyboard, plug in your monitor, break out your gaming headset, and you’re ready to conquer your favourite game. You might even want to layout a fancy full-sized desk mousepad.
Remember when we asked you to pick a purpose for the system in the first part of this how to build a PC series? Well, it should at least be able to do what you built it for. Load up those apps and start using them. Do they feel more responsive? Tweak some settings. How does it feel now? Open your favourite games and check out how fast the system boots and how quickly the apps snap open. Congratulations. You built your first PC.
Now that you have a speedy PC, it’s time to check out more challenging apps that your previous system struggled with. Maybe you will want to revisit some old video editing projects that you’ve fallen behind on. This is your time to get to know your system.
In the third and final part of our how to build a PC series, we’ll be looking at some of the ways that you can check performance, accessorize, and get the most from your system. We’ll be focusing on gaming, but we’d love to hear some suggestions on what you want to see too. Let us know in the comments below.