Building Your Own PC
Welcome back! We’re down to the wire now. These last two sections of the series will finish up what you need to do to complete your computer building project. Along with that, I will sum up everything we’ve gone over. It’s been quite a lot of information to swallow, but if you print these tips out and take your time with them, you’ll be a computer building pro in no time. So, let’s get started here today. Here come parts 11 and 12! Don’t miss it!
Choosing a CD/DVD ROM Drive
There are quite a few different CD/DVD ROM drives available to you, but honestly, all you will need is a basic CD/DVD ROM combo drive. Getting one of these will ensure that you can play both CD ROMs and DVD ROMs. The only reason you will ever have to consider getting a different type is if you plan on burning DVDs or using the same CD to add or remove files from a CD. In that case, you will need a CD/DVD RW (Rewriter) ROM drive. However, the majority of you will probably just be using the combo drive to play CDs and DVDs and maybe burn some music to a CD. If that is the case, simply stick with a basic CD/DVD ROM drive. Different types offer different speeds, but it really doesn’t matter. CD/DVD ROMs can only spin so fast and honestly, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow your combo drive is.
Installing the Floppy Drive
You may have noticed that I skipped the “choosing a floppy drive” part. This is because floppy drives will make almost no difference with your computer. As long as you stick with a normal 3.5’’ drive, it shouldn’t matter which type you get. The process for installing the floppy and the CD/DVD ROM drive is the same for the IDE ATA hard drive (refer to yesterday’s article for information on that). The best part of choosing a floppy is, if you choose an IDE ATA hard drive, you may not need a floppy drive. You will begin by doing a little work to your computer case.
All cases are made differently, so this process may be a little different, depending on the type of case you have. Before you attempt to do this part, refer to your case documentation. Here we are going to cover how to install the drives based on how the majority of today’s cases are made. You will want to start by removing the front panel of your computer case. I can not go into specifics on how to do this, because every case is different. So, please refer to your case documentation before you do this step! Some cases will not require you to remove the front panel, so double check before you start with the rest of this article.
You will want your case to look similar to the “panel removed” picture above. The idea is to expose the entire “from” side of your case. The next thing you will have to do is remove the metal tabs guarding the bays. As you can see above, it has already been done for both the floppy and the combo drive.
Here is a closer look at the floppy drive bay. As you can see, the top of the bay is missing the metal tab that the bottom has. The process for removing these tabs are case specific, so once again, refer to your case documentation for instructions on how to remove them. Coming from someone who has built quite a few computers, you will not need to keep the tabs after you are done removing them. The plastic tabs, pulled off of the case, will cover up any open slots.
After you have removed the metal tabs for both the floppy and combo drive, you will need to go through a similar process to remove the plastic tabs on the front panel of your case. Again, all cases are different, so refer to your case documentation for information on how to remove them. Do not remove them all. Only remove those that you need to.
Some cases will make it easy to install the drives and other will make it harder. In the case we choose to work with (the case shown in the pictures), the drive bays for the floppy and the combo drive are removable. This makes it easier to mount the drives to their bays. It is the same process as mounting the hard drive. It takes two to four screws to mount them.
After you are done, simply slide the bay back into the case from the front.
Connecting the Floppy to the Motherboard and Giving It Power
After you have mounted your floppy drive to your case, you can begin connecting it to the motherboard and give it power. This process is the same as installing a hard drive. You will need to rummage through the jumble of wires connected to your power supply and look for a different wire. The wire you are looking for is going to look like this:
This is the power cord for your floppy and it connects to the back of the floppy, as shown in the picture below (circled in red).
The last step you need to do for your floppy drive is attach the IDE ribbon cable to it. The ribbon cable for the floppy is different than the ribbon cable to your hard drive and your combo drive. You can identify it by the twist in the cable, circled in blue in the picture below.
The twist in the cable sets it apart from the others, so you should have no trouble getting it confused with other cables. It will also have a missing pin, like the hard drive did, so make sure you line up the cable’s covered pin to the drive’s missing pin. The same goes for connecting it to the motherboard. You can easily identify the place on the motherboard you need to connect it to, because it is shorter than the other connections, usually a different color (black in most cases) and it is labeled on your motherboard as FLOPPY or FLOPPY1. If you are having trouble locating it, refer to your motherboard documentation again.
Installing the CD/DVD ROM Drive
This process is going to be a lot less of a hassle and a lot easier. Your case should have been sent with what is called “rack mounts” or “rail mounts.” These are for your CD/DVD ROM drives and look something like these:
These rails come in all shapes and sizes and depending on your drive and your case, you may not even need them. Refer to your documentation on whether or not you need them. These rails will screw onto the CD/DVD ROM combo drive you have. It will be much like how you screwed the hard drive and the floppy onto the case. Instead of screwing the drive onto the case, you will screw two of these rails onto the drive and simply slide the drive in from the front of your case.
Connecting the CD/DVD ROM to the Motherboard
Simply grab an IDE ribbon cable and follow the same steps for connecting the ribbon cable from the floppy and hard drive instructions. The location to connect it to the motherboard should be right beside where your hard drive is connected, if you choose an IDE ATA hard drive.
Your CD/DVD ROM drive will also need a Molex power cable. The cable should come from your power supply unit and it connects exactly like your hard drive did.
If you had to remove the front panel from your case to install these devices, now is the time to place it back onto your case.
In the next section, we are going to connect power to your motherboard and tie up a few loose ends. By the time you are done, you will be ready to boot up your computer for the first time, so hang in there. Let’s keep going!
Refer to your motherboard documentation if you need help finding these two connections. Something to take note of is that not all motherboards will require the smaller power connection, so depending on the motherboard you have, you may be able to skip that part of this step. Once again, you will need to search through your cables coming from your power supply unit while looking for these two wires.
Depending on your case and your motherboard, you may run into a little discrepancy when trying to connect the ATX 12V main power to your motherboard. Some power supplies come with this cable to hook up to a power connector on the motherboard with the incorrect number of pins. For example, the cord coming from the power supply may have either 20 or 24 pins, while the connection on the motherboard may have 20 or 24 pins. If you haven’t done so yet, you will need to check both your motherboard documentation and your case documentation (if it came with a power supply unit) and see if they both have the same number of pins. If they do not, you can purchase converter cables at a low price, so don’t worry too much about it.
The ATX 12V main power and the smaller power connectors will only fit in their slots in one way. It will be up to you to figure out how to connect them. This information should be in your documentation.
Connecting Your Case Power Switch to Your Motherboard
The small wires you see here are connected to the front of your case. In the beginning of this series, we had pushed these to the side to make it easier to work on other things. Different cases may label these wires differently. However, motherboards will label the connections on the motherboard in generally the same way. To locate the spot shown above, refer to your motherboard documentation. The placement is usually near an edge of any side of the motherboard and is extremely small. You may need to use a magnifying glass to see them clearly. There should be approximately five wires labeled something like the following: Speaker, Reset SW, Power SW, HDD LED and PWR LED. Since all cases and motherboards will differ, I can not go into specifics about how to connect these. Your motherboard documentation should cover this step to its full extent. Just know that this step must be completed if you want to be able to turn your computer on!
Connecting Your Case Fans to Power
Depending on the type of case you use, you may or may not see fans similar to this mounted to the sides of your case.
Usually, you should have at least one fan attached to the inside rear of your computer case (outlined in blue below).
You will make the connection with a Molex connector, which is a similar process to hooking the hard drive up with power. The only difference is that you will connect two Molex connectors together, one being a male and the other a female. Make sure that you make the following connection for all of your case fans.
Finalizing the Insides
Well, you did it! You have assembled a PC piece by piece! But, now isn’t the time to get hasty. You should go over a few more things before you put the case back together and boot it up for the first time. Now is the best time to go over all your hardware and check for compatibility issues, check your connections on all wires and cables and go over everything and make sure you didn’t miss anything. If you don’t feel like rummaging through all the pages to find each and every step, below you will find a checklist to go by. Simply grab the documentation for your motherboard and follow along, double checking everything on the following list.
Double Check for Compatibility
- Make sure the RAM you purchased for your motherboard is supported by your motherboard. If everything else is connected properly from this entire series, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about other compatibilities.
Double Check Your Connections
- Make sure all cables are firmly connected to the motherboard and their respective devices. If a cable is loose, something may go wrong during installation of your operating system.
Double Check Your Graphics and Sound Card Connection
- Give these two cards a quick little downwards push. This will let you know if the card was seated correctly or not.
Double Check the Drives That Are Mounted to the Inside of Your Case
- Retighten the screws that you used to mount your drives to your case. You don’t want them to fall when you set your case back up.
Tighten All Other Screws
- You may even want to tighten the screws that hold your motherboard to the case. Before you put your case back together, you will want to tighten all the other screws that we used during this entire series. But be sure not to over do it.
Go Over Your Motherboard Documentation
- Your motherboard may have some special feature that we didn’t cover in this series, so be sure to read over your motherboard documentation one last time.
If you have followed all the steps in this series to the letter, you should be able to reassemble your case, stand it up and get ready to install the operating system.
In the last article, we are going to go through the process of installing your operating system and I will sum everything up for you and you will be able to place the finishing touches on your project. So, all I can say is make sure you come back tomorrow as we all say goodbye to this article series!
Click here  to finish up with part 13.
~ Tony Coffee