Building a Computer from Scratch (provided you have all the hardware)

This is a tutorial that is completely originated by me. I have not copied this text from anywhere and it is all based on what I have learned over the years.
I decided to write this tutorial because it is my strongest field and it will always come in handy for anyone. If any parts are incomplete please contact me on So, letís make a start.

First you need to take the case out of the cardboard box. Today most cases are standard ATX so for this we only need to take off one side, the side that the motherboard faces, usually (if looking from the back) the right hand side. Once this is off you want to untie any cables that are tied and separate them so that they are all untangled and free, next you need to hang all the cables over the sides of the case so that they are out of the way.

Look at the motherboard and see which faceplates you need to pop out. Note that most of them will be broken out but sometimes not all of them need to be. For example, the face plate for an on-board Ethernet card does not need to be removed if there is no on-board Ethernet card. So take out the required faceplates.

The next thing you need to do is get your motherboard ready, you need to take the bolts that came with it and screw them into the appropriate places, making sure that you only screw them into holes that will align with the holes on the motherboard. If even one bolt is placed in the wrong position, then after the board is powered up it can short circuit and stop working.

Then you need to attach the fan and CPU. Most CPU fans come with a sticker on them which is supposed to act as a heat transfer, but in 9 out of 10 cases they always come back with the CPU had been over heated. We use a silver heat transfer paste which seems to work wonders. Place the CPU in the CPU socket and then get the fan ready. Place the heat transfer paste on the bottom of the fan and then line the fan up in the correct position to be attached to the CPU. Hook one of the clips on the fan to the motherboard, and then using a screw driver very carefully push the other clip into place.

In most cases there will be a two wire power lead from the fan which plugs into the motherboard. Twist these two wires around each other, and then place it around the chassis of the fan until it doesnít seem to move and hang free. It should be done as so it reaches the motherboard place it is supposed to go neatly.

Place the motherboard in the case carefully making sure not to damage it to much. In most cases a cradle for hard drives or floppyís will be in the way and you will have to place the motherboard in on an angle. Once it is in and you are sure there are no bolts touching the underside of the motherboard place the screws in the appropriate places and tighten them not so they are tight, but so that they donít fall out. After all the screws are in this position, and the motherboard doesnít seem to be under any unusual stress, tighten the screws up.

Now as I move along I like to place the wires in as I place the hardware in, unless itís going to get in the way later on. So I usually at this point plug the motherboard power cable in. this usually doesnít get in the way because it is close to the power supply, but in some cases it does obstruct the area in which you place the RAM.

For all devices except the hard drives, I recommend you place them in the case by sliding them in through the front, instead of having trouble getting them in through the back of the cradles.

The next thing is the CD-ROMís this is because it is close to the top of the case and once done, doesnít get in the way for later tasks. Firstly, count how many devices need to be installed. For example, letís say two, one CD reader and one CD burner.

Just by force of habit, I usually take out three faceplates because there are two devices, this is because it is easier to install and makes it easier for certain repair jobs. Once this is done, decide which device you want to be the master and which one you want to be the slave. If I have two CD-ROMís I have them both on the same IDE, and the hard drives on a separate IDE. If there were two CD-ROMís then, depending on what the user will use the computer for, I would have one CD and one hard drive on each IDE.

So, place the jumpers in the correct position so that each one is either a master or a slave. Preferably the CD-ROM would be the master as it usually has a higher read speed and games like to be run from the master drive. After this slide the CD-ROMís in and screw them up. Make sure that the front of the deviceís are aligned with the front of the case. If it is a case where the front is detachable, tighten the devices up now and align them later on.

Depending which has more room in the cradle, above the floppy drive or below the floppy drive, is where you put your hard drive, make sure it has been set to master. Yes its true, hard drives do have an up and a down. The down is usually the part that has circuit boards showing. But I check it by the power plug being on the right hand side (looking from the back). You can cross check it by making sure the power plug is on the same side as the CD-ROMís. Place the hard drive in the desired position and tighten so it doesnít move.

The next piece of hardware is the floppy drive. Depending on the case, this can be a little tricky to install, but I will help you through it. So, this follows the same procedure as installing the hard drive, but you can only install the floppy in one place (for standard ATX cases). Look at the floppy and whereabouts it will fit in your case. Notice the eject button on the floppy, if you are able to use that once it is fixed to the case, align it to the front like you did the CD-ROMís and screw it up so its tight. If it is a case in where you have this little plastic chip and the floppy is behind the cover for the case, then you have to screw the floppy in so that it can slide around easily without too much force. This is because later you have to adjust it just right otherwise the floppy wont read the disk that is inserted.

Then you install your RAM. usually 256Mb SDRAM is plenty for normal systems but i like to be on the safe side and install 512Mb, usually most boards wont let you go over this limit. the ram sticks only go in one way and by looking at the chip there are two missing peices, the side with the longest straight edge goes to the right. sometimes you need to push hard to get the ram in so dont be afraid of breaking it

Ok, next thing on the list is to plug all this stuff in. start with the IDE cables. Start with the CD-ROMís, plug the cables in up that end but donít plug them into the mother board yet. Next is the hard drive, do the same with the IDE cable but donít plug it into the motherboard, just leave it hanging out the side of the case. Same with the floppy, the make your way and start plugging the IDE cables into the motherboard. Remember, on the motherboard, plug the hard drives into IDE1 and the CD-ROMís into IDE2 and the floppy IDE cable will only go into one place.

Ok, now start plugging the power cables in, try to find cables that seem to Ďfití into the right place. By this I mean donít stretch the cables, there will always be a cable that is the right length and the right place. Once all these power cables are in, get some cable ties and tidy the power cables up, making sure they donít get in the way of any fans, particularly the CPU fan or the chassis fan. If any of the IDE cables seem to be to close to any of the fans, tie them up as well, but if they arenít leave them.

Next you need to plug in all the LEDís and connect the correct wires to the motherboard. This is all very simple and can be done easily with reference to the manual. But, I have a habit of twisting all the connected wires, then braiding them all together. This then insulates all of the wires using each other. Smart isnít it. But for all those guys who didnít have an older or younger sister and didnít learn how to braid, its very simple and I recommend you ask someone close to you to prevent embarrassment.

Once everything it tidied up, start to place your video card, sound card ect. In. if you put your video card in the AGP port, make sure this is enabled in the bios. I wonít go into details on where or how to enable this in the bios as all of them are different. It is usually situated under the Ďintegrated peripheralsí section from the main menu.

Ok, the next step is to go through the bios and enable everything that need to be done. As I said, all biosí are different and I canít explain how to do it in detail. In most up-to-date biosí there should be an option of loading optimised settings, select that and everything should be sweet. Also, under standard option, the boot sequence should be set to:
1st Boot: CD-ROM
2nd Boot: Floppy
3rd Boot: HDD0

This is the preferred booting sequence.

The next thing is to format the hard drive. I prefer to use Partition Magic 7.0 or higher, but we will just use the old dos format. To do this you need a formatted disk with the dos format, and then dos fdisk program on there. Place this in the floppy drive and restart the machine. The floppy should boot and present a command prompt; type Ďfdiskí and a menu should come up. You need to create a partition, preferably again, using FAT32. I canít go through the details because I donít have one on hand. If this section doesnít tell you how to do it exactly itís because I didnít get around to looking and writing it down. Anyway, once the partition has been made, restart the machine with the floppy still in the drive. Once the command prompt comes up, type Ďformat c:í and it will ask you to confirm this saying that all data will be destroyed yada yada. Confirm this and wait until the format is complete. After this, remove the floppy and restart the machine. You should now have a fully formatted hard drive in which you can install your preferred operating system on it. For example, if you are installing windows XP then just place the CD in the CD-ROM and restart the machine. If the boot sequence is set right it should say Ďpress any key to boot from CDí press any key and away you go.

I will bring out other tutorials on how to install and setup operating systems including Windows and Linux platforms. I will also bring out a tutorial on how to setup a dual boot system for Red Hat 8.0 and a selected windows platform.

If there is any information that is incomplete please contact me on