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Do's and Don'ts of Computer Building.

Feel free to comment with suggestions. If you want to help me maintain / edit this article pm me.

DO's
• Touch something metallic before you handle anything hardware related. You don't want any static buildup to discharge onto your fragile motherboard. When installing in the case, plug in the psu and leave the switch off to ground the case as well.
• Align the CPU, PSU, RAM, Cooler, and everything else the right way. (If you have 2 sticks of RAM and there's 4 slots it doesn't mean they go next to each other. Make sure they're in the right slots)
• Use about the size of a grain of rice for your thermal paste (or half a pea size) in the center of the CPU before applying the heatsink.
• Put on the I/O panel before the motherboard.
• Screw in the "stand-offs" or mounts before installing the motherboard in the case. (These prevent shorts aka fires!)
• Don't forget to flip the switch of the PSU to "on" when finished installing.
• Remove standoffs that you're not using. The extra ones can short out circuits on the underside of the board. You can also scratch the traces and permanently ruin the motherboard.
• Verify if your video card requires two separate power cables or not and that you have the correct cables coming from your PSU.
• Read motherboard manual for front io connector help. (power,reset,hdd status, etc)
• Always put the SSD on a 6 Gb/s port, and always use the chipset-native ports (on the Intel or AMD controller) first. Don't use the marvel/aftermarket sata controllers unless you absolutely need to.
• With some CPU coolers it's wise to install the mounting bracket BEFORE installing the mobo in the case because the heatsink mount sometimes has to be installed UNDER the MOBO.
• Plan out your airflow before installing your fans into your case. Usually there's an exhaust on the back, and and an intake on the front. Therefore, your CPU cooler should blow toward the back of the case.
• Build your PC out of the case before you build it in the case, and start with the minimum - mobo, 1 stick of ram, processor and GPU - then build it up from there. This will save you a ton of headache if one of your parts is defective. Most build it on top of the motherboard box or some insulating surface.
• Make sure a big aftermarket CPU cooler will fit if you buy or are using high-profile (tall) RAM.

Mistakes
• Don't overspend! You probably won't need a 1000W PSU, $300 mobo, or even SLI.
• Don't cheap out on PSU's. It can be the most important part in a build.
• Don't buy a PSU with a 220/110V switch. It means it won't have Power Factor Correction too! If you do have one make sure it's set to 110V if you're in the USA.
• Buying a case too large for their needs. Unless you're planning on many HDD's and a super overclocking watercooling unit, don't do it.
• Installing too many fans. A few large fans can move as much air as speedy, loud small ones.
• Not planning ahead. GPU's/PSU's/Coolers can all conflict in some way if you don't plan and read ahead.
• Slowly collecting parts. What if one of the parts that is sitting there idly is defective and the 30-day return / replacement is now obsolete?
• Not using cable management.
• Throwing away the little plastic jumper piece on the mobo. It allows you to reset your BIOS.
• Interchanging +5V and -5V for frontal USB. Can fry a flash drive.
• Plugging in your monitor into the integrated display adapter (I/O port) if you have discrete graphics (a "graphic card")
• Mixing up the internal USB and 1394.
• Don't plug anything in while the computer is running!
• Forgetting to use windows update after installing the OS. Get the latest driver from the AMD/Nvidia website, not the disc in the box.
• Over-tightening screws when mounting your motherboard, heat sink, and so on.
• Not wiping your hard drive before an OS install. Don't think you can use your previous build /drivers on your new build.
• Touching the bottom of the processor or CPU socket.
• Not cleaning your your case. Dust is the main source of failure to electronics. It can short
• Buying 1.65V RAM, running it at 1.5V and wondering why you have instability issues.
• Not jumping into BIOS immediately after boot. (usually by tapping f12, or del)
• Failing to realize some cases have a backplate for cable management.
• Realizing the CPU has its OWN separate power cord.
• Buying a $500 single graphic card or running two cards in SLI and then only planning to use it on one small resolution monitor
• Picking a triple channel ram kit and pairing it with a dual channel motherboard
• Failing to keep sensitive pieces inside anti-static bags instead of on top of them
• Forgetting thermal paste if not using a stock cpu fan.
• Failing to remove the plastic film stuck to the heatsink when mounting it to the CPU.
• Don't defrag an SSD.
• Failing to set the SSD to AHCI in the BIOS.
• Failing to get out a screw / part that fell into the case. It could short a hardware component.
• Getting an i7 or another hyper-threading cpu when you are strictly building a gaming pc.
• Failing to realize video cards need power as well from the power supply.
• Failing to verify that all the fans are plugged in before powering on.

TIPS
• The CPU bracket needs a considerable amount of force to lock it in. Lock in the processor before you put the heatsink on. Installing RAM needs some force as well to 'lock' it into place.
• Make sure the RAM/Motherboard (pins) are compatible as well as the CPU/Motherboard (socket). This information is usually found online or in the manual.
• Does your PSU have a 4 pin 12v connector for your CPU? Or 8 pin? Make sure it has enough sata power cables for all your hdds/ssds also.
• Do not trust power supply calculators from manufacturer websites!
• If you're not going to play games or video/CUDA programming, on-board video is fine. The card will just create extra noise you don't want even when it's idle because it still generates heat that will cause other fans to spin faster.
• The CPU fan should always be a 4-pin header. Case fans can be either, but are often 3-pin. Fancier motherboards may have 4-pin case fan headers, but these are backwards compatible.
• Those tabs on the IO shield should not actually go inside any ports/jacks. They should also not be bent off as they act as grounding agents. The main one to look out for is the one near the LAN port.
• Some CPU's are meant for overclocking, some aren't. Usually a 'k' means it's unlocked and overclockable.
• Make sure the monitor is on the right input
• Buying an Optical Drive is usually not needed anymore. Everything can be done with a flash drive these days. The only thing you might use a DVD drive for on a new computer is installing the LAN driver but even then Window 8 should find it for you. Therefore, it's handy to have a laptop or backup computer when going the non-optical drive route.
• When removing a PCI-Express or SATA cable, be sure to disengage the card with the unlocking-mechanism attached to the mobo
• Backup obviously before reformatting.
• SSD's if you can afford them are amazing.
• Most people are just find with on-board audio these days.

Comments (23)

-Have an anitvirus on a CD before connecting the ethernet cable to the internet. It only takes 13 seconds to get infected.
-Don't buy too many 4 pin molex to whatever adaptors.
-Buy the cheapest cases. With zip ties and good wire management, it can look as good as a 200 dollar case.
-Never buy a case with an included PSU unless its Antec.
-PSU Brands on PcPartPicker.com to stay away from; Apevia, Apex, Athena Power, AZZA, CoolMax, most Cooler Master, Diablotek, ePower, some FSP Group, Enermax, HEC, some InWin, most KingWin, Logisys (a big no-no!!), Raidmax, cheaper Rosewills, some Sparkle, StarTech, most Thermaltake, Thortech (except Thunderbolt 1000w), VisionTek, XClio, Xion, and Xigmatek.

-PSU brands to buy; Antec, Corsair, Cougar, EVGA, Fractal Design, Gigabyte, LEPA, NZXT, OCZ, PC Power and Cooling, Seasonic, Silverstone, Ultra, XFX, and Zalman.


Great guide anyways! My work here is done.
remember to make sure the ram is in the right slots if using 2 sticks when there are 4 slots availiable
I disagree with the "Buying a case too large for their needs" part. Needs may change over time, if you plan to expand you should buy a Full Tower ATX case and leave it at that. Many times I made the mistake of choosing a Mid Tower case to only later choose to expand my build and not have enough room. It's a costly mistake especially for quality built cases that could've been avoided had I started with a good Full Tower ATX instead of a Mid Tower.

Think of a computer case as a house, your computer parts have to live there for a long time. If you decide to have a bunch of kids later how are they going to fit if you bought a house too small?
6GB/s and 3GB/z, in most REAL WORLD situations people won't notice the difference, consider 1136/1156/775 that don't have 6GB/s SATA ports. Also, the 'Don't buy 1.65v RAM' part is a bit silly, nothing at all wrong with 1.65v RAM, just make sure you set it at 1.65v.
Very comprehensive advice. I would only add this for those interested in a "gaming" rig? Buy a little larger power supply than you think you will need. Make double darn sure it has a "Single 12volt Rail" and it carries plenty of amps...minimum of 50 amps...more is better if SLI or Crossfire is on the agenda. Hope this helps.
I failed and defragged my ssd once. multiple times. but where in the BIOS do you set it to AHCI?
I don't believe you mentioned the mistake of "plugging something in while the system is running". LOL, the first time building my PC I made this mistake by connecting a system LED-light wire into my motherboard while my PC was on.... Shorted my entire motherboard.
i find, over and over again, i should unplug my computers then stick a screwdriver into the case....... lovely feeling..
I would add...

Buy a decent case right away.

I tried to cheap out on my last budget build and get the cheapest case and PSU in town. The computer ran incredibly hot, even when I got an aftermarket cooler, it ran hotter at stock speeds than comparable setups were doing while overclocked. I blame the temps for the cheap PSU going out sooner than it might have too... It lasted less than a year.

So I replaced the PSU with a 650 watt OCZ for $40 after a killer rebate on Amazon, because it had good reviews. Then I immediately got a Cooler Master HAF 912 for $45 from Amazon, again based on good reviews. In the end they were both about $20 more than the first one I bought... But it was a world of difference. Before the case even came, I had the PSU in, and the entire computer was cooler by 5C, and noticeably quieter. When the case came, it dropped the temps to more in line with others that had my setup (high 20's low 30's at idle), and I was able to actually try to overclock it finally. Plus all of the other obvious perks, it was easier to build, cable management actually exists, and I have room to upgrade for as long as I want as well. Money saved in the long run.

If I would have bought the PSU I have now (an OCZ ModXtreme 650w) and the case (Cooler Master HAF 912) right from the beginning, I would have spent about $50 more. But since I didn't, I ended up spending that $50 plus another $55 for the cheapo case and supply I bought in the first place. I lost $50 trying to save $55, don't make the same mistake I did.
every high end gaming build that iv seen runs an intel i7 proccessor.....
Perhaps a better wording for "Plugging in your monitor into the motherboard adapter if you have a GPU" would be easier to understand at first;
suggestion:
'Plugging in your monitor in the integrated display adapter (I/O port) if you have discrete graphics (a "graphic card")'
@DizturbedOne

Nope!
(see sigrig for reference)

although I have to admit this case is actually decent
Thanks for this!!

This ones my fav!

• If you're not going to play games or video/CUDA programming, on-board video is fine. The card will just create extra noise you don't want even when it's idle because it still generates heat that will cause other fans to spin faster.
Thanks for the guide!

Could you elaborate more about this one?
• Those tabs on the IO shield should not actually go inside any ports/jacks. They should also not be bent off as they act as grounding agents. The main one to look out for is the one near the LAN port.

@exzacklyright Some SSDs require as part of the firmware upgrade process require unplugging and plugging in the drive while the system is running (not during writing the firmware to the drive, but as part of the process). Samsung SSD 840 firmware boot CD said it and I've read forum posts about some Intel drives requiring it as well. I would avoid whenever possible though.

I had problems when reading the pictures of the processor install guide from Intel. I kept turning the pins to unlock on the i5-2400 heatsync / fan and was confused when it kept popping off of the motherboard, lol. I also tried to do a full Ubuntu linux install to my flash drive (which I knew wasn't recommended), but I didn't realize that it was going to put the bootloader on the flash drive as well. I had to have that flash drive in my PC in order to boot windows until I formatted :'(

@SmokinWaffle
I've read that recent Intel processors don't do very well with 1.65V ram, but I'm not sure if it's myth or fact. I just avoid 1.65V ram.

Don't: Don't assemble your computer while in a canoe on a river.
-Just because that 500W PSU is $30 after rebate doesn't mean it's a good deal. Do your research, and remember that OEMs are more important than brand.
-Check your motherboard's manual to see which SATA ports are native Intel/AMD and which are not. It should say so.
-When inserting cables, be firm, but DO NOT force it. If the USB 2.0 header won't fit, it's probably because you're trying to stick it in a Firewire port. Likewise, don't try and stick an 8-pin PCIe cable into the CPU port.
-Making sure your fans are in some sort of equal configuration for positive air flow.
I cannot believe someone said stay away from FSP Group and Enermax PSUs. FSP makes many of the PSUs for high-end sellers. Furthermore, their branded PSUs are some of the best ones out there, if expensive. All the ones I have seen are 80+ gold rated and top of line (though pricier than the Seasonic's |I usually purchase).

As of Enermax, their Platimax line is on the best I have ever seen. Even Cooler Master now has a high-end line of Seasonic-manufactured PSUs that Jonny Guru rated as top-of-the-line. Even Thermaltake make some decent PSUs for the money (their SMART series, Black Widow) and some that are down-right high-end (the ToughPower line). Although I am fiercely loyal to Seasonic (with a softspot for some Delta-made units), I can respect that other companies can make quality products.

And Caples is just dead wrong. A canoe in the river is a GREAT place to assemble a PC. Just make sure to have a decent UPS in between the generator and the PSU when powering up, and do not spill the generator's diesel on the components. Also, with a generator you can easily power a silent motor to power the canoe so you need not waste time and energy with the long paddle-thingies canoes come with.
Rosewill's Capstone and Tachyon PSUs are made by Super Flower. Not sure about the Lightning PSUs.
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