How to assemble a computer

3DNews has a large and diverse audience. The resource is visited by both enthusiastic enthusiasts who have collected not only one PC, but also readers who are just beginning to delve into all the wisdom of computer technology. The test laboratory elegantly scalps the processors and accelerates them to serious frequencies, conducts large-scale experiments to study the durability of drives, compares dozens of video cards in modern games and participates in adventures to purchase unusual iron abroad, but at the same time does not forget about inexperienced users. So there was a heading “Computer of the Month”, in which various configurations of system blocks are offered. After getting acquainted with the comments and personal communication with the readers of the site, it became clear to me that it’s time to tell in detail and show the beginners how to assemble the components in the article into a single whole. This is the subject of this material.


⇡ # Selection and compatibility of components

Sometimes it’s harder to decide on the set of components that your PC will consist of than to assemble the system unit at home in person. On sale you can find a huge number of processors, motherboards and video cards. You can argue a long time about which brand is preferable, and also discuss on a topic whose graphics are faster – the main thing is that when the final configuration is chosen, all the hardware is fully compatible with each other. By the way, I propose exactly such systems in the “Computer of the Month”. If you follow this rule, the assembly of the system unit differs little from the game in the designer, in which all the parts fit together. The size of the components, the parameters of the mounting holes and connectors – all the elements of the computer are strictly regulated, and therefore, for example, there can not be such that the DDR3 memory would suddenly work on the motherboard with DIMM slots intended for installation of exclusively DDR4-modules. You simply can not install them in the appropriate connectors.

For the full operation of the system unit, you must purchase the following devices: motherboard, CPU, cooler, RAM, hard disk or solid-state drive, graphics card (if the CPU or motherboard does not have a built-in graphics core), power supply and chassis. Additional accessories include optical drive, as well as various discrete devices: network and sound cards, additional cooling.

The motherboard is the backbone of any computer. It depends on it, what processors will be used, how many RAM modules, video cards and drives can be installed. The size of the motherboard plays an important role in the choice of the case. At the moment, among the motherboards, the most popular solutions are the form factors E-ATX (305 × 330 mm), ATX (305 × 244, 305 × 225 or 305 × 199 mm), mATX (244 × 244, 244 × 225 or 191 × 188 mm) and mini-ITX (170 × 170 mm), although the sizes of such devices are much larger. The form factor is always indicated in the technical specifications of the buildings.

The “dwelling” for accessories is also divided into types depending on the size and shape. As a rule, the more the computer case, the more productive iron we can install into it, while ensuring the quality cooling of all components of the system. Dependence, however, nonlinear – practice shows that in compact cases with a volume of 7-10 liters it is quite possible to build a powerful gaming PC. Simply preliminary it is necessary to select more carefully all accessories.

Among the PC cases, the most popular models are of four types: Midi-Tower (examples are Deepcool Dukase and Zalman Z11 Neo), Full Tower (Dark Quiet Pro 900), Mini Tower (Fractal Design Define Nano S) and Slim Desktop (Fractal Design Node 202). Naturally, the smaller the device, the less it has seats for the installation of discrete graphics cards, drives and case fans. For example, in the Node 202 of 10 liters you can install only 2.5-inch hard drives and SSD. All these features are conscientious manufacturer indicates in the technical characteristics of the device.

Types of buildings
Full-Tower Midi-Tower Mini-Tower Slim Desktop
Approximate height 550+ mm Up to 500 mm Up to 400 mm Up to 400 mm
Supported form-factor of motherboards E-ATX, ATX, mATX, mini-ITX E-ATX, ATX, mATX, mini-ITX mATX, mini-ITX mATX, mini-ITX
The number of expansion slots 1-7 1-7 1-4 1-4
The form factor of the power unit ATX ATX ATX, SFX ATX, SFX
Recommended cable length 4 + 4 ATX PS 12V for powering the CPU From 550 mm Up to 550 mm Up to 500 mm Up to 400 mm

When choosing components, pay attention to other limitations that any computer case has:

  • the maximum height of the processor cooler;
  • the maximum length of the video card;
  • the maximum length of the power unit.

Before buying a product, make sure that all devices are compatible with each other, do not conflict and are exactly placed in the computer case. The simplest logical chain that does not allow you to purchase inappropriate components is as follows:

  • Determine with the CPU model.
  • Choosing a motherboard with a suitable socket for this CPU.
  • We study the list of compatible equipment of the motherboard on the official site and select a set of RAM.
  • Choose drives that are compatible with the motherboard.
  • We select the video card, power supply, processor cooling and the housing, which will fit all the components.

Again, the above sequence is by no means an axiom. Since PC assembly is always a creative process, the sequence of choice of hardware can vary. For example, you like a certain case and want to collect your dream system only in it. Or you already have some parts on hand, and you need to buy everything else.


Variants of installation of water cooling system: A – three-section, two-section and one-section radiators; B – single-section radiator

If a non-serviced water cooling system for a processor or video card is used in the system unit, it is additionally necessary to find out the sizes of the supported radiators, as well as the places in which they can be installed. Obviously, the seats for installing the SVO coincide with the places where the fans are fixed. Single-section radiators are usually mounted on the rear wall, two-section radiators and three-section radiators on the top and / or front.


Everything is ready for the assembly of the system unit

In order to write this material, I based on the above selection sequence of components, used the following set of devices:

  • central processor AMD Ryzen 7 1700, socket AM4, 3.0 (3.7) GHz;
  • motherboard MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON, socket AM4, chipset X370;
  • Kingston HyperX Fury (HX426C16FR2K4 / 32), 4 × 8 GB, DDR4-2666;
  • solid state drive Kingston HyperX Predator (SHPM2280P2H / 480G), 480 GB;
  • graphics card MSI GeForce GTX 1070 GAMING X, 8 GB;
  • power supply Cooler Master MasterWatt, 500 W;
  • Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition;
  • processor cooling Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120.

As you can see, the most common form factors are used in the preparation of this material – ATX for the motherboard and Midi-Tower for the case. Similar options are offered in the “Computer of the Month” – because this type is the most universal and most popular. However, I can not say that the assembly process in the Mini-Tower and Slim Desktop cases is fundamentally different. Just the requirements for the selection of compatible with each other iron are much higher.

Additionally, I note that when selecting devices, all modern trends are taken into account. The main storage device is Kingston HyperX Predator model with PCI Express interface. And the choice in favor of Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition is made because of the possibility of installing a power supply in the bottom of the chassis, as well as the presence of mounting for drives on the barrier wall. Plus, very popular are maintenance-free liquid cooling systems. Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120 – a bright representative of one-section “dropsy”, which are already out of the box ready to work. The rest of the components are selected in such a way that ultimately we get a productive system unit for work and entertainment. The optical drive was not used. In my opinion, there is no need for it in 2017, and the Cooler Master MasterBox 5 MSI Edition (and many other new cases of this type) is deprived of seats for installing devices in 5.25-inch compartments.


Accessories that will be useful in assembling the system unit

To build a system unit, you will definitely need two Phillips screwdrivers with different spline diameters, nylon ties and wire cutters. Probably, pliers are useful – in cheap cases carving is cut to the eye, as well as double-sided adhesive tape, degreasing liquid and cotton buds. In order not to scratch the case and not damage the motherboard, I put all the accessories on a rubber mat. Antistatic bracelet or gloves, too, will be useful for beginners, but, frankly, more for giving self-confidence. Since the assembly of the PC – this includes the connection of small connectors to the motherboard, then without good lighting or a flashlight at hand is definitely not enough.

⇡ # Step # 1. Installing the processor and RAM

The motherboard user’s manual always describes the installation of all major components and connectors. Beginners, keep this book with you. The sequence of steps for assembling the system unit may vary depending on the type of components. For example, sometimes a processor cooler is better to install immediately, and sometimes – to the penultimate or the last turn. Even before the motherboard is fixed in the case, it is necessary to install the CPU and RAM into the corresponding sockets.


Installing the AMD Ryzen CPU in the AM4 socket

You probably know that the AMD and Intel processors are constructively different from each other. Thus, for AMD chips, the contacts that are called the “hardware” are located directly on the textolite substrate. But Intel chips do not have such elements – for these CPU contacts are located directly in the socket of the motherboard.

AMD chips are installed very simply: raise the lever, put the processor on a plastic substrate, lower the lever.


Installing the Intel CPU in the LGA115X socket

As for Intel solutions for LGA115X platforms, a similar technique is used here: together with the lever we raise the clamping frame, install the processor, lower the lever and the clamping frame.


Installing the Intel CPU in the LGA2011 and LGA2011-v3 slots

In the case of the Intel LGA2011 and LGA2011-v3 platforms, two levers will be released from the locking grooves to raise the clamping frame.

Please note that all CPUs and motherboards are equipped with pointers and the so-called foolproof. In principle, you can not install the chip into the socket in any other way, so when you build the computer, NEVER force it. Protection from improper connection is equipped with all the elements in the system unit. In addition to the CPU, you can not plug in any other way power supply cables, case connectors, fans, discrete devices, drives and RAM. More precisely, you can, but this will require maximum effort. I think the consequences of incorrect installation of PC components should not be mentioned once again.


Installing the RAM

After the CPU in the DIMM slots, usually located on the right side of the CPU, I install the RAM. The MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON supports DDR4 memory, and four ports are simultaneously disconnected on the PCB. In some motherboards, there may be only two (most often they are either the cheapest devices, or mini-ITX form-factor solutions, or unusual experiments from manufacturers), in the models for the LGA2011 and LGA2011-v3 platforms – eight. Typically, all DIMM slots are marked on the PCB.

Most modern AMD and Intel processors have dual-channel memory controllers. Therefore, motherboards use either two or four DIMM slots. Therefore, it is optimal to install either two or four RAM modules. In the first case, RAM is installed through one connector. On some motherboards special indicators are provided. For example, in MSI X370 GAMING PRO CARBON modules are installed in DIMMA2 and DIMMB2 slots – in this case, the RAM will work in two-channel mode. In other mattresses, there are inscriptions such as DDR4_A1 / DDR4_A2 / DDR4_B1 / DDR4_B2, DIMM_A1 / DIMM_A2 / DIMM_B1 / DIMM_B2, DDR4_1 / DDR4_2 / DDR4_3 / DDR4_4 – in such cases, modules must be installed in slots DDR4_A1 / DDR4_B1, DIMM_A1 / DIMM_B1 and DDR4_1 / DDR4_2 respectively.


” Protection from the fool” in memory

I already said that it’s impossible to insert RAM incorrectly, because the jumper is used in the design of the DIMM connectors. It is also used to ensure that the user can not “cram” the modules of another standard into the motherboard supporting DDR4.

The main memory cards are fixed using the latches located at the edges of the DIMM slots. In some motherboards, these latches are located only on one side of the connectors. This is done so that the user can freely change the RAM modules without removing, for example, the video card.


Installing boxed coolers (from left to right): for AMD AM1 / AM2 / AM2 + / AM3 / AM3 + / FM2 / FM2 + platforms; for the AMD AM4 platform; for Intel LGA115X platforms

After installing the CPU and RAM, you can immediately install a CPU cooler, but only if a small heatsink is used in its design. The use of the overall cooling system will complicate the installation of the motherboard, as well as the subsequent connection of the wires. In the photo above are examples of the installation of boxed coolers – the so-called CO, which are sold together with the processors. Coolers for AMD AM3 + and FM2 + platforms are fastened with plastic “ears” – a special metal clip with eyelets clings to them. Box cooling for Ryzen chips is installed differently, here it is necessary to work with a screwdriver: first remove the plastic attachment, and then screw the radiator to the backplane. The cooler for Intel processors is attached using plastic clips: install the heat sink on the CPU and press the latch until you hear a characteristic click. In general, in the case of the installation of box cooling systems, even beginners should not have problems.

Thermal paste has already been applied to the base of some coolers – its application significantly increases the efficiency of heat removal from the CPU. In any case, the thermal paste always comes with a processor cooler. For example, along with Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120 there was a small tube, which nevertheless should be enough for 3-4 times. Please do not forget to remove the protective film before installing the cooling system, if any, on the base of the device.

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