Assembling the entire system might be a little tricky if you’ve never done it before. Some things you will want near you while doing this, is a cold drink, plenty of light, computer screws, all the manuals that came with the hardware you purchased, a screw driver and of course, your sanity. Oh and a word about static electricity. Make sure you de-static yourself (by touching your computer’s power supply or wearing a very expensive anti static bracelet), and it would be a good idea to work in a non-static area, such as on a table, or a kitchen counter, and away from carpet. Whatever you do, be very careful not to zap your components.

Configuring the motherboard jumpers.

Configuring the jumpers is the first thing that needs to be done. What you will want to do is consult your motherboard manual on how to set everything correctly. There are just to many motherboards out there that I can cover in this article. Most jumpers listed in your motherboards manual are already set up for you. The main ones you will have to configure are:

  1.  Power supply type. In the event that you have an AT/ATX motherboard you will need to set this one correctly. 
  2.  CPU external bus frequency. This is where you specify what bus frequency your CPU is at. 
  3. CPU to bus frequency ratio. Look at the little box that contained your CPU, it will show you the exact ratio (should be a number like 2x, 3.0x, 3.5x, etc.) 
  4.  CPU voltage. It’s really important that you get this one right, or else you’ll end up with a *really* hot CPU or a non-working board. 

Inserting the CPU.

This one is really easy. Take the CPU, and hold it with your right hand. Look on your motherboard for the CPU socket. With your left hand hold the motherboard with a firm grip while you insert your CPU. Then connect your CPU fan. Easy isn’t?

Screwing the motherboard to the computer case.

This process can be a little frustrating. A good thing to do would be to remove the piece where the motherboard screws too, which is a large panel within your computer case. Next you should have little plastic looking screws. Use these to secure all four corners of your motherboard. Don’t worry if you can’t secure each corner, more often than not you will only be able to get 2 to 3 corners.

Finally, you will see holes in the middle of the motherboard. You should be able to insert two screws to secure the middle of your board. Screw these in, but make absolutely certain that you have those little red rubber looking washers. This will protect your board from damage that the metal screws can cause. Like the corner screws, it’s really no big deal if you can only screw in one center support screw

Inserting your RAM.

Once your board is securely inserted within your case, you will want to pop in the RAM. Here you will discover exactly how easy it is to perform the 40-50 dollar job that CompUSA and other stores will charge you.

Look up in your motherboard manual exactly in what sockets your RAM has to go into. Then insert your RAM slowly, but firmly into its socket. DIMMs can only be inserted in one way. Simply align the indents found on the lower part of the DIMM to the indents found in the RAM socket.

LED cords and the RESET Switch cord.

In the lower right part of your case you will see a bunch of cords ending with black heads. These black heads will be labeled HDD, RST, PWR, TURBO, etc. If they are not labeled, then good luck trying to figure out which goes where. I’ve actually had the chance of trying to figure that out … it took me a few tries, but basically it’s trial and error.

Anyhow, take a hold of those cords, look up in your manual where the proper connectors go to, and plug them in.

Connecting your power supply to the board.

You should refer to your computer manual as to how exactly the power supply cords should be connected to your board, but generally the black cords of the two power supply strips will be found in the center of the two connecting power supply outlets on your motherboard.

Connecting your LPT, COM1 and COM2 cables.

On the outer edge of your motherboard, usually near the keyboard connector, you will have 3 outlets. The first two will be close together and are of the same size (small). This is COM1, and COM2. Not to far from these you will see an outlet that is just a little bigger, and this is your LPT outlet. Consult your board manual to find the exact location.

So you will have to take the gray ribbons with the red dots/stripe on the side and connect them to the correct connector.Make sure that the red stripe/dots face towards the left side of your motherboard (the side where your power supply is). 
These gray ribbons then go to a little metal bracket that holds another connector that looks exactly like your printer port. You will have to screw these brackets into your case.

Installing your floppy drive.

Next, take your floppy drive, insert it into an available bay (in the upper right hand corner of your case). Connect a power supply to the drive, which will be a thin cable coming out of your power supply. Next, take your floppy drive gray ribbon (it’s the only one that will connect to the floppy drive). Connect one end to the floppy drive, and the other to the board. Look in your manual if you’re not sure where this is located. Like in the above step (#6), the red stripe/dots must face towards the left part of your board.

Installing the IDE drives.

The IDE drives are the hard drives and CD-ROMs. Before putting them in their respective bays, make sure you have their jumpers set up right (consult their documentation). You will need your hard drive to be set as a master, or slave (depending on how many hard drives you have).

Then connect the IDE gray ribbon (it’s the only one that will fit to the IDE drives) to the drives themselves and then to the motherboard. Like in the above step (#6), the red stripe/dots must face towards the left part of your board. Finally, connect the power supply to the drives.

Inserting your expansion cards.

Next you will want to insert your expansion cards into your motherboard. These are the sound cards, video cards, modems, etc. Each one of these go into their correct slot (AGP, PCI or ISA) with the metal bracket facing the left part of the case so you can screw them in.

If you have an AGP card, this one will go into the AGP slot, which is brown, and there shouldn’t be more than one AGP slot on your board. Slowly but firmly insert the card into the slot. You will know when it’s all the way in.

  1. PCI cards will go into the PCI slots. These slots are the smaller white ones.
  2. The ISA cards will go into the ISA slots. These are the longer black slots. 
  3. If you got a sound card, which supports CD-ROM audio, now would be the perfect time to connect the digital audio cord to your CD-ROM. 

Booting up for the first time. Now it’s the moment of truth. Connect your monitor, mouse, keyboard and power cord to the computer. Don’t screw the exterior case cover just yet, because you might have to fix something that doesn’t work (let’s hope not).

Now turn the power on. If you see something on your screen that matches your CPU speed, then a Memory test that matches your amount of RAM, then you got it done!

Sure you may have to fix some problems, but you can rest assured you got the core stuff done. If you don’t see nothing, then you probably omitted one of the steps above, or you didn’t do it right. Consult your hardware manuals! They will explain to you exactly how everything needs to be connected.

Setting up your BIOS.

Once you boot up, you will probably see a heading labeled “Press DELETE to enter setup”, or maybe “Press ESC to enter setup”. Whatever the key, press it to enter your BIOS.

First thing you will want to do in your BIOS is set up your hard drive. More than likely you will have an option labeled “Auto-detect IDE devices”. Use this to configure your BIOS to use your hard drive(s).

You may also want to screw around with other items. I can’t really help you there, but grab your motherboard manual, and read what it says about your BIOS.

That’s it! You’re all done! Well at this point, if everything worked great, you deserve a good pat on the back. It sure isn’t an easy task to build your own computer. Some people tend to “rush build” their PCs. Well unless it’s a dire emergency, I don’t recommend this. You’re better off taking each step one at a time, and to make sure everything is securely screwed and connected.

Installing an Operating System (OS) Probably one of the easiest steps of all is to get your newly built computer set up with an operating system.

You have a very wide choice of operating systems: Windows 95/98/NT, Linux, FBSD, OS/2 …. and the list can go on.

I’ll be very honest right now. I will not explain how to install any OS except the main basics of getting Windows 95/98 (they both install the same way) installed. If you want to install a UNIX OS, Win NT or OS/2, then you probably know enough about computer to do it without my guidance.

First, you will need to create yourself a system disk. Grab yourself a new or used floppy disk, insert it into your current machine and format it.

To format, go to your desktop, open up the “My computer” icon, then right click on your Floppy drive icon. Then select format. Make sure you select “full”, and the “Copy system files” option. Then hit start.

Once done, you may want to perform the following. With your floppy disk still in your drive, go to a dos prompt. If you don’t know how to go to a DOS prompt, or if you have no clue what it is, well I’m sorry to inform you, that setting up an OS on your new computer will be nearly impossible. Take an hour or two to learn about DOS … do a little research about it on the web (a great place to start is Webfreebees.Net of course).

Anyhow, once you get to your DOS prompt, simply type in: SYS A: You can then exit your DOS prompt.

Next, go to your Start Menu, go to FIND then FILES OR FOLDERS.You will want to search for the following items (no need to be in order):

  1.  FORMAT.COM
  2. FDISK.EXE 

Each time when the program file appears in your search window, right click on it, then select the “SEND TO” option, then “send to” your 3 1/4 floppy drive icon.

Once both programs are copied, your all set to boot up your new computer again. Make sure your BIOS is set to read your floppy drive first for the boot up sequence.

Installing an Operating System (OS)

Insert your floppy and turn the power on. Once everything is done starting, you will be at a DOS prompt, that will look like this:
A:> What you will want to do now is type in FDISK.EXE. This will start the software required to prepare your hard drives. The software is fairly easy to use with step-by-step instructions.

If it allows it, I suggest that you enable large hard drives. This will save you the hassle of having to split up your large hard drive into smaller partitions.
Once FDISK is done, you will need to reboot your computer again. Make sure you keep the system disk in your floppy drive.

Once the system is done rebooting, and you find yourself to the great colorful A:> DOS prompt. Next task is to format your hard drive(s).

Simply type: FORMAT /S C 

Then your hard drive will be formatted. You will then want to reboot (take the system disk out of your floppy drive).

Once you reboot, if all went well, you will now see a C:> prompt. Now the next thing you will want to do is install your CD-ROM for DOS. Refer to your CD-ROM instructions for this.

You will probably have to reboot again, which is okay, since it will be one of the last times.

After you reboot, and you’re back to the C:>, insert your Windows95/98 CD-ROM into the CD-ROM drive, then type in:

D:>SETUP.EXE (replace the D: with the appropriate drive letter of your CD-ROM). If the Windows setup starts, then you’re all set, the rest is real easy stuff!
If not, you may want to load up HIMEM.SYS. Copy that file to your newly built computer’s hard drive (get it from your current computer) and make a CONFIG.SYS file that will load up that memory device.

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