After knowing all the basic specifications of the hardware in the previous post, now were going to get our hands drity, and put the pieces together. In this post, we would only be looking at the assembly of the internal hardware and would covering the details of each hardware in future posts.
0. Preparations & Precautions
Before we dive in to the assembly part, we need some tools.
#2 phillips-head screwdriver
Never install anything while the power is on. This will cause static charges and ruin your hardware.
Do not assemble anything by force. All hardware is foolproof designed. So, if it doesn't fit, you're most probably doing it wrong.
Yeah, that's about it.
- The Chassis
First, let's take a look at our chassis (a.k.a casing/housing). After removing the left panel of the chassis, it should look something like this...
After identifying the respective parts of the chassis, and the standoffs (spacers, usually a hexagonal brass heads for fastening screws). We are ready to go on to the next step.
- Motherboard, Power Supply and Disk Drives
Sometimes the motherboard and power supply would be in the way of each other. So, you could either fasten the motherboard, along with the I/O shield, to the standoffs on the chassis first; or fasten the power supply to the power supply slot. But for now, DO NOT TURN ON THE POWER SUPPLY!!! Slot in the hard disk (or SSD) onto the hard disk slot and fasten it with the screws and we're done with the bigger parts of the hard disk.
Now, let us take a look at the motherboard and identify the ports before we go to the next step.
Probably the hardest part of the assembly is installing the CPU, as it is the most fragile part of the whole PC. Place the CPU onto it's holder, with the golden pads facing downwards. Now you could apply the thermal grease onto the metal cover of the CPU. It is recommended to apply the thermal grease after fastening the CPU as it prevents accidents of the grease to stick on the golden pads and ruin the CPU.
Next, fasten the CPU fan on top of the CPU. Remember to apply heatsink and plug on the power cables for the fan onto the CPU. This step is sometimes forgotten and could ruin the CPU due to overheat.
Before installing our RAM, we should take note on what kind of port our motherboard supports. Most motherboards now should be using either DDR3 or DDR4. In our case, we are using DDR3, so it's important that we buy a RAM that fits our specs. With the golden pads facing downwards, press the RAM on both sides until you get a light click. It is good to double check if the RAM is securely fastened as I've known a couple of cases where the RAM was burnt due to improper installment.
Back when everything was not integrated on the motherboard, sound cards, network cards, and graphic cards were all plugged on the motherboard through the PCI-e slots. Now, most computers have them integrated on the motherboard. But for those who want a better gaming experience (or mine virtual currency), an independent GPU is a must. This doesn't only apply for graphics, but also for sound cards, network interface cards and even NVMe expansion cards etc. If the integrated card on the motherboard is broken, or if you want to have the ultimate Dolby surround sound experience, Wi-Fi etc., you could get yourself an internal (or external) sound card and network card. Just like RAMs, it is important to check if our GPU fits the PCI-e specs of the motherboard. After installing the GPU, it is best if you lock it to the panel with a screw so that it would stay tight. If your motherboard has an extra space for providing power to the GPU, or if your power supply has an extra cable for providing power, you could plug it in as well, just make sure that the specs are right.
Finally, before we could boot our PC, we have to have everything connected to the power supply. There are quite a few things going on here and I'll try to list them all out.
- ATX Power Cables
The motherboard is basically powered by ATX cables, and depending on the size of the motherboard, the cables would vary. Most of them are now a 24-pin (or 20-pin) adapter based on the expanded EPS12V standard. The 24-pin ATX connectors provide power to the whole motherboard. Some motherboards would also have a 4-pin (or 8—pin) ATX adapter to provide power for the processor voltage regulator. If your power supply only has a 20-pin adapter, but your motherboard is a 24-pin socket, it could actually still work. Plug on the adapter to the socket locking the latch to the clip.
These are the cables for the hard disk. IDE's (Integrated Drive Electronics) are flat 40-pin grey ribbons for PATA (Parallel ATA) drives. PATA drives are powered by a 4-pin Molex connector. The 4o-pins of the IDEs have a block for foolproof. Now, most hard disk drives (and solid state drives) use SATA (Serial ATA) cables as it is slimmer and has a higher data transfer speed. SATA disks are powered by a 15-pin SATA cable, it looks like a wider version of the normal SATA cable. SATA cables use an L-shaped adapter for foolproof.
- Front Panel Connectors
Probably the hardest of all cables, as there are a few different standards and the chassis would have different adapters. It is vital to plug in the connectors accurately as your PC would not function properly, or even not boot at all. The cables are mainly:
- USB (for the USB ports on the front panel, usually have a separated plug)
- PWRSW (power switch)
- RESET (reset switch)
- P_LED (power LED, indicating whether the PC is on/off)
- SPEAKER (speaker for the beep code of the motherboard)
- IDE_LED (or HDD_LED, indicating the hard disk status)
- HD_AUDIO (some front panels that have audio ports, usually have a separated plug)
There are a few types of front panel connectors, but the common ones are the ones shown above. If your motherboard/chassis has a different format, you could find more information from the user manual, search the internet, or try to contact your service provider for help.
After making sure everything is plugged in firmly, we could test our PC. Switch on the power supply and press the power button on the front panel and see if things run smoothly. You'll hear a beep (if you have a beep alert speaker) indicating that
the motherboard is working fine. If you could hear weird noises, it would be due to some wires blocking the fan. Tighten the cables with some cable ties and arrange them neatly.