Building Your Own PC
Are you ready for another lesson on building your very own computer? I hope you enjoyed what we went over yesterday. Today we’re going to dive into even more, so let’s get started. You’re going to love it, I promise!
There are hundreds of brands and thousands of choices! How are you to ever know which one is right for you?
In the first part of this series, you were introduced to a motherboard. Each and every motherboard is typically the same in layout and design, thanks to what we call “form factors.” Motherboard and computer case manufacturers all decided to get together and design motherboards all the same way. By doing this, it ensures that no matter what motherboard you choose, you will always have a motherboard that fits perfectly into your computer case. Motherboards have gone through several different form factors over the years. Today, you will most commonly see ATX, MicroATX or MiniATX motherboards. When it comes to selecting a case and a motherboard, you will have to make sure their form factors are the same. If you don’t, your motherboard will not fit in your case.
Aside from form factors, there are several different features each and every motherboard will provide. In order to pick the one you need with the features you want, you will have to ask yourself what you are going to use your computer for. What you will use your computer for will have a direct effect on the total cost of your computer. In today’s day and age, technology is rapidly changing. What’s new today may be old tomorrow. That is why it is best to build a computer based on flexibility. The main features you need to concern yourself with when selecting a motherboard are socket type, supported CPU, supported types of RAM, graphics interface, the number of expansion slots, on board audio and supported storage device types. We will talk about each of these briefly and then get into more detail later. This is just here to give you a general idea of what you need to look for when selecting a motherboard.
Socket Type and Supported CPU
Both of these items will directly affect which type of processor or CPU you will get. As of today, there are a total of eight supported socket types between AMD and Intel. All but two of them are in the process of being phased out. This means that if you get a motherboard with an older socket type, then in the near future, you may have problems finding replacement parts. That is why it is better to get a motherboard with one of the most recent socket types. AMD is currently making faster and better processors for sockets 939 and their new M2 socket. Intel just released one of the fastest processors on the market built for socket LGA 775. For flexibility and possibly future upgrades, it is advised to purchase a motherboard that has one of these three sockets. It will save you time and money in the long run.
Each motherboard is built to support a specific type of RAM. Most commonly, you will find that today’s motherboards are built for PC-3200 / DDR400 RAM. This type of RAM is considered to be the standard type. There are several different types of RAM available, but typically your safest bet is to get a motherboard that supports PC3200 / DDR400 RAM. If you have already selected your motherboard, just be sure that you get RAM that is actually recommended for it.
Graphics is what makes everything on your computer screen what it is. Without graphics, we would be stuck with computers that had nothing but a black screen with white text. The three most common types of graphics are on board, PCI-Express and AGP. If you are a casual computer user and don’t play games, on board graphics should be the way for you to go. If you are into games, you should choose either an AGP or PCI-Express graphics interface.
Number of Expansion Slots
These are the number of PCI slots that are on motherboards. If you plan on adding a dial-up modem, more USB ports or any other add on card, you will want to make sure that you will have enough PCI slots to accommodate them. In most cases, the only things you would want to add are a dial-up modem and a sound card.
On Board Audio
Most motherboards will come with on board audio. If you choose a motherboard with on board audio, you can save yourself a little bit of money by not having to buy a sound card. On board audio is typically good enough for users who plan on having two to four speakers. If you want to hook up a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system, you may have to look into getting a sound card.
Supported Storage Devices
Storage devices are hard drives. Hard drives come with different storage capacities and device types. The storage capacity is totally up to you. Motherboards can and will support any amount of capacity you want. Hard drive device types come in three different forms. We will only cover two: IDE ATA and SATA.
All this information is imperative when you are searching for the right motherboard. In a latter article, we will cover each of those topics in more detail, but for now, you should at least have a general idea of which type of motherboard you would want. As of now, you should have enough information to make an educated decision on which motherboard to buy. So, have fun and go shopping!
In the next article, you will see an illustrated guide to installing the motherboard to your computer case. So, are you ready for more? Let’s keep going!
For most motherboards, you will need a few tools for installing it into the case. All but one should be supplied with the computer case, which is a Phillips screwdriver. When you open a new computer case for the first time, you will see a manual, a small bag of screws, a power cord and a few other wires. Take everything out of the case. If it doesn’t come out, just move if off to the side and keep it away from the center back piece of the case. Open up the small bag of screws and get out nine golden spacers. They look like this:
Set them off to the side for a second and take a look inside your computer case. You will see holes on the center back panel of your case. There should be more than nine, but you will only need to use nine. Set your computer case on its side to where the back panel is facing up. This will make it a lot easier to install the motherboard. Begin screwing the spacers into each hole. Just use your hands and make them hand tight. You will generally want something similar to this:
You may have to do some testing and moving around to get your motherboard lined up correctly.
Before you get down to mounting the motherboard to your case, you will need to place the back plate that came with your motherboard. The face plates will look something like this:
To install this, you just simply need to find where it goes on the inside of your case. It’s usually near the bottom. Push it through the inside of the case.
Once you get all the spacers placed and the faceplate on, take a look at your motherboard. Look for small holes across the entire motherboard (indicated in the picture by blue circles). They will look similar to this:
Now, set the motherboard into the case on top of the golden spacers. Try your best to line them up. You should be able to see the golden spacer through the holes on the motherboard. The motherboard will just sit on top of these golden spacers. Once you have lined them up, get nine motherboard screws:
Now, grab your Phillips screwdriver and begin placing and tightening these screws into the golden spacers. Be careful not to tighten them too much. If you do, you may crack your motherboard if you do. It only has to be tight enough to be able to stand your computer case up without the motherboard moving or falling.
And that’s that. In the next part, we will discuss choosing the right CPU. There are so many available that the options could be confusing. Hopefully, in the next section, I will be able to clear up some of this confusion, so be sure to join me again tomorrow for even more on building your own PC. It’s getting good now!
Click here  to see parts 5 and 6 and continue on!
~ Tony Coffee