If you’ve decided to take on the intimidating project of building your own PC from scratch, you’re about to tackle one of the most satisfying projects a technology enthusiast can take on.
As daunting as it may sound, the installation of the parts is fairly straightforward; however, there are several mistakes that even a seasoned builder can make. I’m going to run through some of the steps that I botched while building my first few computers.
The following five pieces of advice may help you avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced.
1. Make sure you purchase compatible parts. A major challenge I faced in building my first few computers was understanding compatibility restrictions. On your first build you’ll have many unanswered questions. Will a given motherboard fit in a case? Is the video card too long? Does the power supply have sufficient wattage to power all components? Which RAM matches up with the CPU and motherboard you choose? Luckily there’s an excellent website for designed to help you pick the correct parts. When you’re ready to check the compatibility of your parts visit PCPartPicker.com.
2. Thermal paste application and heatsink installation. When new system builders attempt to install CPU coolers or heatsinks, they tend to make three mistakes: They use too much (or too little) interface material, they seat the cooler improperly, or they point the cooling fan in the wrong direction.
It’s best to use just enough to cover the processor’s integrated heat spreader with a paper-thin layer. A dab a little larger than a BB but smaller than a pea will do.
I learned the hard way how important it is that the cooler or heatsink is seated properly and making good contact with the CPU. If a CPU cooler is even slightly off-kilter, the processor is likely to overheat and be damaged. On one of my early build a literally cooked a brand new CPU due to improperly applying the thermal paste.
3. Motherboard installation. Before installing the motherboard into the case, you should first put the custom I/O shield that comes in the box. This is important to remember because the shield can’t be installed once the motherboard is locked down. Another hard lesson I learned was when I left one of the brass standoffs in the case when I installed the motherboard. The standoff shorted out against the bottom of the board and began to arc, spark and smoke; before ultimately ending up in the trash. Needless to say, I never made this mistake again.
Be sure to use the correct amount of standoffs and make sure there is one for each hole in the motherboard. Never over-tighten the screws on the motherboard, they only need to gently hold the board in place so there’s no vibration.
4. Proper temperature and fan installation. Heat and dust are the worst threats to the health and performance of a PC. It’s absolutely imperative that there is an adequate CPU cooler and an enough case fans. Excess heat will not only damage parts, but will destroy the performance of your new build. If you live in a hot climate like me, you’ll need to take into consideration the ambient temperature. My computer is in a room that averages 85 degrees in the summer, because of this I had to install six, 120 millimeter fans on my most recent build.
5. Cable management. The organization and position of the cables can have a huge impact on temperature of your new build. It’s important that they’re arranged so that proper air flow is promoted. This also serves to reduce the surface area for dust to collect. Your finished product will look much better with nicely arranged cables.
There are often unexpected challenges that come up when building your own PC. Hopefully, by remembering the tips listed above, you’ll never have to lose time or money on those particular issues like I did. Take your time and if you do make a mistake, don’t worry, consider it a learning experience.