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Building Your Own PC

Friday, October 27th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Uncategorized

Building Your Own PC

Did you miss me?! I told you I was going to be back to finish up the last parts of building your own computer, so I hope I didn’t keep you hanging too long. If anything at all, I’ve probably given you some time to get caught up on things, so hopefully you’re now ready to move on and finish this thing up! Here comes parts 9 and 10!

Part 9

Next to installing RAM, installing the sound card and the graphics card are the easiest things to install in any computer. This article is going to be short and to the point. Let’s look at the motherboard picture to refresh your memory a little.

For the graphics card, we will be using what is outlined in blue and indicated by the number 4. For the sound card, we will be using what is outlined in light blue and indicated by the number 5. Let’s start with the graphics card. Here is an up close picture of what a PCI-Express graphics slot looks like:

If you do a little research, you will find that PCI-Express graphics slots do not differ much from AGP graphics slots. The installation process for both of them is the same, so you can also use this article to install an AGP graphics card if that’s what you plan on getting. Now, that doesn’t mean an AGP graphics card will fit in a PCI-Express slot or vice versa. Check your motherboard documentation on which you should be investing in.

Before we can install the graphics card, we have to do a little work to our case with our trusty screwdriver! If you look at the back of your computer case and near the bottom, you should see several removable metal tabs.

The basic idea is to go from step one to step two. The picture labeled Step 2 has a few more open slots than we will need. Since motherboards and cases are made differently, it will depend on which slot you will need to open. Typically, you will just have to open the top slot for your graphics and any other slot for your sound card. You will not have total control over which slots you want to use, because your motherboard will control that. To make things easier and less complicated, I would suggest removing them all for the time being.

Removing the Metal Tab From the Case

I mentioned earlier that cases are made differently. I simply can’t go over each and every case and explain how to remove the metal tabs. However, I will go over how to remove the tabs for the majority of the cases you will come across. The picture below will tell you all you need to know.

In the picture above, I circled the important part in red. Your case should come with a metal tab in the slot held on by a small screw. You will have to unscrew it and remove it before you can install either your graphics or sound card. You can either discard or save the metal tab. The next step is seating it into the PCI-Express slot and/or the PCI slot.

(PCI-Express for Graphics)

(PCI Slot for Sound)

You can take it easy on this step. The cards will only fit in the most logical way. When installing the cards, make sure you do not move the cards left and right, because that could damage the cards. The only way you should be moving the cards is up and down. Pulling or pushing on the card is the safest way to install them. Don’t worry too much about it though. It is rather difficult to actually break one of these cards.

After the cards are seated, you will need to replace the screws to hold the cards in place when you stand the computer back up. You final product should look similar to this:

In the next article, we are going to talk about the different types of hard drives and how to install them. So, are you ready? Then let’s keep going!

Part 10

Once again, you have a lot of options when it comes to finding the right hard drive for you. Before you choose one, you will need to know the different types of hard drives. There are three basic types of hard drives: SATA, ATA and SCSI. The first two are what we will be covering. The reason for not including SCSI hard drives is cost. SCSI hard drives offer the fastest speeds, but at a very steep price. The types are broken down into these three categories because of the way they connect to the motherboard and your power supply unit.

The above pictures are just a few examples of the types of cables you will need. Your motherboard should come with a few of the SATA cables and the basic IDE ribbon cables. The type of cable you use will depend on what type of hard drive you plan on getting.

You may be wondering why there are several different types of hard drives. You may be asking what the difference is between them. Well, the difference is speed! SATA hard drives can transfer data across your motherboard at faster speeds. However, if you have enough RAM, the speed increase between the two will hardly be noticeable. The prices of SATA and ATA hard drives are typically the same, unless you want to get a really fast hard drive. We are going to go over how to install both, SATA and IDE ATA, hard drives.

Installing a SATA Hard Drive

The first step to installing a hard drive is to mount it to your case. All hard drives come with small screw holes on both sides of it. There should be four.

Lining up the screw holes with your case will take patience. You may also want to get someone to help you. You need to hold the drive in place and screw it on the case as shown above. Be extremely careful to not touch the bottom circuit board on the hard drive. You will at least need to screw in two screws. If you can manage to take the door panel off the other side of your computer case, you should screw in the two remaining screws. All the screws should come supplied with either your case or your hard drive.

To make this process a lot easier, you just simply can not touch any part of the hard drive that you see in the picture above. Doing so will result in your computer not working. Take extreme caution not to touch this part. Also, DO NOT under any circumstances, shake the hard drive. It’s bad for the drive and it could turn it into a pile of junk if you do. Handle any type of hard drive with extreme caution!

Once you have your hard drive mounted, it is time to connect it to your motherboard.

There are several ways to connect an SATA hard drive to your motherboard and power supply unit. Let’s start by going over the most common way to do so. In the picture above, I have outlined the connections you need to make on the back of the hard drive. For now, disregard the long connector outlined in red. Focus on the smaller connector outlined in green. This is where you will connect one side of the SATA cable. Before you do so, you need to examine it closely, as well as, the SATA cable. A closer look will reveal a small protruding, sideways L shape. The SATA cable will have the same shape, but it will be inset.

Take one end of the SATA cable and match up the orientation and push it in to make a snug connection.

Your next step is going to be locating your SATA connections on your motherboard. If you are unable to find them yourself just refer to your motherboard documentation. Here is what they look like and as you can see, they are often labeled.

The cable orientation will be the same as it was on the back of the hard drive. Just take the other end of the cable and plug it into the connector, as shown below.

The last step to installing the hard drive is to connect it with power. For this, you will need to rummage through the jumbled wires that come from your power supply.

Somewhere in the jumble of wires circled above in red, you will need to find a wire that has a Molex connector on the end of one of the wires.

After you find one, you will need to connect it to the hard drive.

It will fit into the Molex power connector, which is outlined in blue in the picture above. It only fits one way. Just look at the shape of the Molex wire and the Molex connector on the back of the hard drive. It may take a little effort to push it in all the way, so do not be afraid to apply a little pressure. Molex connectors are known to be stubborn, so it may take awhile to get it in correctly.

Now, be sure to take caution when buying an SATA hard drive. Some SATA hard drives do not come with the Molex power connector. If your SATA hard drive does not come with one, you will need to buy a SATA cable with power. The cable looks like this:

If you have to get one of these, simply plug the longer end into the back of the hard drive. The connection to be made is outlined in red from the picture above. This cable will connect your hard drive to the motherboard and supply it with power. If your SATA hard drive does come with a Molex power connection and you plan on using this SATA cable, DO NOT connect a Molex cable into the power connector! It will damage the hard drive. Both your motherboard and your hard drive documentation will tell you this.

Installing an ATA Hard Drive

Installing an ATA hard drive is basically the same process, you’re just using a different cable. You will need to connect a Molex connector to the power connector on the back of the hard drive. Since we have already gone over how to plug in the Molex connector, go ahead and do so. If you are only using one hard drive, you can simply ignore the “jumpers” part of the hard drive. Most hard drives come configured with the best solution, so it would be in your best interest to leave it the way it is.

Next, you will need to grab an ATA IDE ribbon cable, which should have been supplied with your motherboard.

Most ATA IDE ribbon cables will be labeled for you. If not, just remember, the end that connects to your motherboard will almost always be a different color than the other ends. The same goes for the slave or master drive connector.

Take notice of all the tiny pins on the data connector on the back of your hard drive. You will notice that one of the pins appear to be missing. You can also see from the ATA IDE ribbon cable above that one of the slots for the pins is covered. You will have to match these up to get the cable to fit properly. Simply take one end of the cable (in most cases, the very end of the cable) and fit it into the back of the hard drive.

The opposite end of the cable is what you will plug into your motherboard. The slots to plug these into are different on most motherboards. Refer to your motherboard documentation if you need help finding them.

You will be looking for a slot similar to this. As you can see, the cable and this slot have the same “missing” pin that you will have to line up. The easiest way to connect this is to take note of the notch you see in the picture above, located in the center on the bottom. If you look at your ATA IDE cable, you will have a notch there as well. Just line these notches up and plug it in. Don’t be afraid to apply pressure here either. These connections can be a little stubborn as well.

So, that’s that. Now, I’m still not done with you! In the next article, we will cover the CD/DVD ROM and the floppy drive, so make sure you stay tuned for tomorrow’s newsletter!

~ Tony Coffee

P.S. – In case you missed any of the other parts of this article series, here are the links you’ll need to catch up.

Part 1 and 2
Part 3 and 4
Part 5 and 6
Part 7 and 8

Or just click here to keep going with parts 11 and 12.


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