7. HOW TO INSTALL THE RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY (RAM)
RAM memory chips are the short-term memory for your computer. This memory is very fast and allows your computer to store the most frequently used code close to the CPU. This way the processor doesn't have to access the much slower hard drive every time it needs those commonly-used pieces of data. Increasing the amount of RAM is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve the speed and performance of your computer.
Your RAM memory should look very similar to the ones in the picture above. Some will have a shroud covering the chips like the set pictured on the left but beneath the shroud they all look the same. Notice the notch in the bottom row of gold pins. That notch is important because it must line up with the notch in the memory slot on the motherboard. The RAM chips can only be inserted one way due to the notch.
The RAM memory chips will be installed into the DDR3 DIMM Memory slots at the top of the motherboard photo. This motherboard has four slots so you can install up to four RAM DDR3 chips. If you are installing two RAM chips you usually install them in the second and fourth slots (the blue slots in the picture). You should refer to the user manual to be sure which slots to use for the number of RAM chips you are installing. The process for actually installing the chips into the slots is the same for all motherboards so you can use the instructions below.
To install the RAM chip first unlock the slot by pressing out and down on the white clips on the end of the slot. Now you must align the notch in the chip to the notch in the socket slot. Once you are sure you have it lined up properly just push down on the top of the chip using your thumbs. You should not have to press too hard. As you press down the white clips on the sides will come up and click into place.
After you have installed the first RAM chip go ahead and install the second one in the other slot. If you bought additional RAM DDR3 chips you can install them in the first and third (black) slots.
8. HOW TO INSTALL THE VIDEO CARD OR GRAPHICS PROCESSING UNIT (GPU)
The video card (also known as the graphics processing unit or GPU) is the component that operates the monitor. It interprets instructions from Windows or another program and displays images, graphics and videos on your screen. The video card is almost a separate computer because it has it's own processor chip and memory. This is as important if not more important than your CPU when it comes to gaming and will likely be one of the most expensive components in your computer.
Locate the long blue PCI Express slot near the middle of the motherboard (yours may be a different color). You will need to remove the metal bracket cover on the back of the case that corresponds to the blue PCI Express slot. The rear panel of the video card will stick out the back of the case so you can plug the monitor cable into the video card. Be very careful when removing the metal bracket cover to make sure you don't scrape, gouge or scratch the motherboard.
Installing the video card into the slot is similar to the way you installed the RAM chips. You first need to line up the notch in the gold-pinned cardbus connector with the notch in the blue slot. Once you have it aligned you press down with your thumbs until the card is firmly seated in the slot.
The metal bracket of the video card should now be aligned with the screwhole in the case frame. Insert a case screw into the hole to permanently afix the video card.
If your video card has a power plug you can go ahead and attach it to a corresponding cable from the power supply.
9. HOW TO INSTALL THE HARD DRIVE (HDD OR SSD)
The hard drive serves as storage device for files and programs in your computer. You can have multiple hard drives for extra storage or even backups in case one drive fails. If you have valuable files that you cannot afford to lose then I recommend getting two of the same type of HDD and RAID them. I won't explain how to set up a RAID 0 in this walkthrough but it essentially makes two hard drives mirror images of one another so if one of them fails, the other has the exact same information on it as a backup.
One setup that is becoming more common includes the use of a solid state drive (SSD). SSD's access the drives information much more quickly than an HDD which makes them optimal for installing your programs on. All HDD's look pretty much the same and all SSD's look pretty much the same. Above on the left is an image of an HDD and on the right a SSD. Most HDD's used in desktops are 3.5 inch but 2.5 inch drives can be used as well. All SDD's like the one above are 2.5 inch
Most modern computer cases are similar in layout of where the different drives are placed and located but the bays are accessed a little differently depending on the type. You may need to refer to your user manual for the computer case but they are usually lever or button activated. The bays all hold the drives the same but inserting them into the case may be a little different from one case to the other.
In most cases you will see a number of 5.25 inch drive bays in the upper front and a number of 3.5 inch bays in the lower front. CD/DVD and Blu-ray drives are 5.25 inch, while hard drives and floppy drives are 3.5 inch or 2.5 inch. Don't worry if your hard drive is one or the other, most harnesses are compatible with either size.
The first step in installing the hard drive is to remove the top 3.5 inch tray by pulling it out the side of the bay. Place the hard drive into the tray. Line up the holes in the harness with the ones in the hard drive and gently tighten case screws if you style of case uses screws to hold the drive securely in the harness. Put the tray back into the bay with the plugs facing toward the interior of the case. We chose the top bay because that one is least likely to interfere with airflow coming from the fan in the front panel.
For other cases you generally slide the drive into the bay from the back and then hold it in place using four screws.
Once the drive is firmly seated in the drive bay you can plug a SATA power cable from the power supply into the plug on the back of the hard drive.
Next you will insert one end of a SATA cable provided in the motherboard box into the plug on the back of the hard drive. Insert the other end into the SATA socket in the lower right area of the motherboard.
10. HOW TO INSTALL AN OPTICAL DISK DRIVE (CD, DVD, Blu-ray, ETC.)
The optical disk drive allows you to install software, play music CDs and watch DVD and even Blu-ray movies. You can also use this drive to make your own music CD's and copy or backup movies and files. You can even inscribe the disks with an attractive label using the LightScribe technology. The cost of Blu-ray drives are decreasing and getting one that reads Blu-rays and burns DVD's is becoming affordable and is recommended. Blu-ray burners are still rather expensive and not advisable unless you have a need to burn Blu-ray discs.
Installation of these drives is slightly different from one case to the next but the concept is the same. You may need to consult your computer case user manual if you cannot figure out how the drive bay operates. To install the optical drive, remove the front bay cover of the top 5.25 inch drive bay. Flip the side latch back then up. Place the drive into the bay. Slide the drive back into the bay with the plugs facing into the interior of the case. Flip the side latch down then forward to lock it into place. Some cases use screws to secure the drive into the bay but many newer ones have simple locking mechanisms.
If you are using a different case just slide the disk drive into a 5.25 inch bay with front access and hold it in place with four screws.
Using the SATA cable provided in the motherboard box, plug the blue end into the blue SATA socket in the lower right of your motherboard. Then plug the other end into your disk drive. Make sure the jumper on the back of the drive is set to Master. You will also noticed on the top of the disk drive there is a diagram of what each connection is for and where to plug in your power and data cables.
You can now attach a straight 4-pin power cable from the power supply into the back of the disk drive. YOUR COMPUTER IS NOW FINISHED BEING BUILT! Well, the hardware part is at least...
11. TURNING THE COMPUTER ON FOR THE FIRST TIME
You may now plug in all of your computer input and output devices (mouse, keyboard, and monitor). Now that your computer is completely assembled, let's get ready to turn it on for the first time! Make sure the side panel is removed from the computer case during this phase. Please refer to your motherboard's user manual for help with the first boot and proper BIOS settings. You can plug in the power supply to the wall outlet. It is highly recommended that you have a surge suppressor so go ahead and plug it in. Make sure the switch on the back of the power supply is set to 110/115 volts if you live in the US (otherwise be sure to use the correct voltage setting for your country). Before you turn on the computer you need to watch for a couple of things. As soon as you turn on the computer you will want to make sure all the fans are spinning, especially the one on the CPU heat sink and the one on the video card. If any of the fans are not spinning then immediately turn off the computer's power by flipping the switch on the power supply. Doublecheck to make sure all of the fans are plugged in properly. The CPU will overheat and be ruined in a matter of seconds if the heat sink fan is not working.
Go ahead and turn the monitor on by hitting it's power button. Then position yourself so you can see into the computer case.
Turn on the computer by flipping the switch on the back of the power supply to ON. Then press the power button on the front of the computer case.
Quickly make sure all the fans are spinning. You should hear a single beep from the computer. This beep indicates all is well. If don't hear a beep you didn't plug the jumper cables from the case into the motherboard properly and should refer to section 4. HOW TO INSTALL THE MOTHERBOARD: Attach the Cables to the Motherboard. If you here multiple beeps then you have an error code. The most important step is to make sure the computer is assembled properly and everything is working. If you heard an error code (multiple beeps) you probably will not be able to proceed with the instructions on the rest of this page until you fix the problem. Usually the problem is an improperly installed or defective component. Make sure all the components are seated correctly and plugged in. If you still have problems refer to the Troubleshooting page. When the computer starts running you will want to make sure all of your fans are working. If you notice that some of the fans are not operating then turn the computer back off by flipping the power button on the back of the PSU. Make sure your fans are all connected to the power connectors on the motherboard.
If everything is running correctly and you heard one beep from the internal computer speaker then we are ready to move on! Next, we need to change a couple of settings in the system BIOS in preparation for installing the operating system software (Windows 7 or Windows 8 is recommended). Please refer to your motherboard's user manual for help with the first boot and proper BIOS settings.
The monitor should be displaying some text on the screen. Usually you will have an error message on the screen saying the computer could not proceed. This is normal and the message you receive varies depending on which motherboard and BIOS you have. Usually it will be a "checksum error" or maybe a "disk error". If you see the text "Press F1, F10, or DEL to continue or enter SETUP", go ahead and hit the key on your keyboard to enter "SETUP". You will then enter the BIOS screen which will look different depending on your motherboard manufacturer.
If you don't see the "Press F1, F10, or DEL to continue or enter SETUP" option you will need to restart the computer. You can press the reset button or just turn the computer off. Wait for the fans to stop, then turn the computer on again. As the computer re-boots you will need to tap the DEL key repeatedly until you are taken to the BIOS screen that should look similar to either of these:
BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System and is the software that allows the computer's different components to communicate with each other. It comes pre-installed in a flash memory chip on the motherboard, but it can be updated if necessary. Follow the instructions in the user manual should you ever need to update the BIOS. The BIOS is used primarily when the computer is booting up and loading the operating system software.
In the MAIN tab you can set the system time and date. Do this by using the arrow keys on your keyboard or use the mouse if your BIOS allows you to and move the cursor.
Now go to the BOOT tab. Here you will need to change the Boot Device Priority. You need to make sure the computer will boot directly to the CD/DVD or Blu-ray optical drive or whichever drive you will be installing your operating system from. Make the 1st Boot Device the drive you will be installing from. Make the 2nd Boot Device the Primary HDD or SSD.
Once all your changes are made you can press the F10 key (typically) on your keyboard to save your changes and exit the BIOS. Now when your computer boots up it should come to a screen that says no operating system found or disk boot failure. You are now ready to proceed to install the operating system.
12. HOW TO INSTALL THE OPERATING SYSTEM
Now that you have built your own computer and booted it up for the first time you are ready to install some software. Without software your computer is useless. Software is the computer programming that operates the computer. The first and most important software we will be installing is the operating system. We will proceed under the assumption that a version of Microsoft Windows is being installed.
Insert the operating system DVD and press any key on your keyboard. The setup screen should load and you will just follow the on-screen instructions from here on. CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE A BRAND NEW COMPUTER!