“ Tips and advice from people who know... „
If you're contemplating to build your own PC, be it any kind – This is the Book for You!
This is the book for all who are thinking of building their own PC or those who just want to know what goes inside the PC. Actually Building a PC now a days is not only for Geeks but with this book any one interested can build.
This book will surely help to select the best components as per your need and assemble them into a working PC. And I'm sure the joy you get when you switch on your own built PC.
The book covers each chapter very well starting from the Fundamentals, Chapter1 covers -Why Build a PC?, Things to know before you start, Things you need to have and Troubleshooting – the main fear every first time builder has, if it doesn't start, then what? Thus this book Troubleshooting provides confidence in the first time builder.
Chapter2 covers Choosing and Buying the Component in detail. Every component in detail with finer points and buying guides.
After this comes various chapters on Building of different kinds of PCs. Each chapter (Chapter3 to Chapter 8) covering a type of PC, be it a Budget PC, A Mainstream System, An Extreme System, A media center system,Appliance/Nettop system, Home Server.
All these are covered in-depth. Each dedicated chapter is with lots of details and screenshots.
Computers and electronic components are changing all the time. Technological advances mean that technology is getting smaller and smaller, processors are getting faster and faster.
A lot of us probably have a computer on our desks that we bought for £1000 a few years ago that is now out of date. Sure it runs Windows and you can surf the net, but hey, wait, I cannot play the latest games, or I am running out of disk space.
Instead of buying a new computer you could look at upgrading the one you have.
If you are running out of disk space, consider deleting the programs you no longer use. Look at what files you could burn to a DVD disc. If you need even more space for video or other files, consider getting an external drive that connects via usb or firewire. They are quite cheap now and come from 40gb up to 500gb.
If your computer cannot play the games you want to play smoothly you could look at upgrading the processor on your computer and the graphics card.
On a very old PC you may not be able to upgrade to the newest components and would be better off buying a new PC altogether.
A lot of PC's you see in the shops will do the basic job of letting you surf the net, write letters, print photographs etc. But if you want a PC to be quite future proof and able to run the most up to date software, you may be better off building a PC to the spec you want.
If your pretty handy with electronics and have a little skill it may be worth buidling a PC yourself. That way you have have the exact spec you want.
If your after a gaming PC and a computer that can run and edit HD videos in the future you will need a beefy PC now.
From what I have read if you build a PC or buy one this is the sort of specification you should be considering.
Intel Duo Core Prcessor. (Better performance than AMD)
2 GB of Ram.
DX10 Compatible Graphics card.
Decent case and power supply.
A motherboard that possibly allows overclocking.
A number of companies are using particular combinations of components such as memory, motherboard and processor and overclocking the components so that they perform faster than kit that costs many of hundreds of pounds more. This ensures that you get as much performance for you money as possible. Overclocking could possibly damage the components though.
Whatever happens, rest assured that the computer you buy tomorrow will probably be out of date in five years time.
If you like playing games, I would advise keeping the old computer and buying a new games console.
I, personally, have never, and will never, buy a ready-built PC from a supplier such as Dell, Pc World, or Tiny. Don't get me wrong, they all do tend to provide an excellent service for people that require that kind of service. But for me, I'm a more hands-on dive-in-and-fix-it-myself kind of person. Huge savings can be made by building it yourself, and also by buying a ready-built PC from independent PC shops (I will tell more further down). Parts you need to buy to build your own PC: Basic componenents are as follows...... Motherboard (aka mainboard) This is basically what allows all the different components to 'talk' to eachother. Everything, in some way, is connected to the motherboard. There are a great many choices on the market, but I would advise not to buy one purely on price. A safe bet is to buy one in the middle price bracket. Processor (CPU) This, I suppose, can be referred to as the brain of the PC. All the processing is done here, so, naturally, the faster rated the processor is, the better it is at doing it's job! For both performance, and cost, I would choose an AMD one over an Intel any day. Heatsink & Fan for Processor As you probably know, with all the processing the CPU is doing it heats up a lot. So you do need to buy a good heatsink and fan to draw the heat away and keep the CPU running as well as possible. These tend to be rated by maximum CPU speed, and are also specific to each CPU manufacturer. Memory The main types of memory (RAM) available these days is DDR, RDRAM (RIMM) and SDRAM (DIMM). DDR is the most common and is basically an advance on the now mainly obsolete SDRAM. RDRAM is technically better than DDR, but is very expensive and as such is not used very much (albeit in server machines). The more memory your PC has, the faster it will process, as more RAM means more infomation can be processed at any one ti
me. Graphics Card This is needed to display ANYTHING on your monitor. Current standard seems to be leaning towards 64MB graphics cards, which are getting cheaper by the day. The better the graphics card, the better the quality of graphics and effects! Most modern graphics cards have an inbuilt processor of their own so take much of the processing away from the main CPU. Quite a few basic motherboards have an inbuilt graphics card, which generally is more than enough for work use, and some games. But for anything more such as 3D graphics, a seperate graphics card is a must! Almost all Graphics cards are AGP (Advanced Graphics Port), which means they can transfer data to/from the motherboard and CPU many times faster than the old PCI slot graphics cards. Sound Card Almost all motherboards have a basic sound card built into them, but many people prefer to pay a little extra to get something of a better quality. Hard Drive Another bigger-is-better item. Anything you install on your PC, be it Windows or games, is installed to your hard drive. Average tends to be 80GB currently, but there are hard drives with bigger capacities, and faster access speeds finding their way on to the market which is driving down the cost of your average hard drive. CD-ROM Drive / DVD drive As 99% of software is supplied on CD, this is an essential item. Very cheap to buy and simple to install. CD Writers are a little extra, but can be very useful for backing up files you do not want to lose. At the moment DVD drives are somewhat of a luxury, although more and more software is being released on DVD as opposed to multiple CD's. Floppy Disk Drive A bit of an outdated system, but still very useful for saving small files, and also essential for booting up your pc if, god forbid, it all goes wrong some day! Case (Including Power Supply) This is where all the compone
nts will be placed. You'll more than likely need an ATX case to fit all the parts to. Be sure to get one with a good power supply, as you do not want to be left with a PC that won't run because it is startved of power! Cables & leads (Usually supplied with Drives and Cases) The cables I refer to are what connects Hard Drive, Floppy Drive, and CD-ROM Drive to you motherboard. Essential obviously, but sometimes you need to buy these seperately. Monitor A good 17inch monitor is all you will basically neeed. They can be bought for very competitive prices currently as people are leaning towards LCD screens (which, I don't doubt, will be the standard within a couple of years) Speakers Without these your sound card is useless! Keyboard Without one of these you are kinda stuck! So many different makes available, so you can be choosy and find one you like for only a small cost. Mouse Another essential input device. Many different types such as Optical (no rolling ball), infra red (no cable), and of course, the bog standard mouse that I prefer! Modem If you need access to the internet, one of these is essential. A standard 56k modem will do you for dialup access, but you will need a specialised cable/ADSL modem to access broadband. Building your PC: Once you have all your parts back home you are faced with somewhat of a jigsaw! Before doing anything, I must warn you that static electricity can kill a PC component in seconds. Ground yourself by touching a water pipe, or even by touching the metal PC case! One other precaution. Remember PC components are very fragile. Any bending or forcing is likely to break the minute electrical connections (such as on the motherboard...I have done this before!) Easiest way to start, I find, is to install the CPU onto the motherboard, and the the heatsink & fan (rememb
er to connect the fan power lead from the case!). After this, add the memory, and then fit the motherboard into the case (usually easy to do, with clip on fastenings already present). Next, fit all the drives into the case by slotting them onto the runners at the front and fixing them into place by tightening screw along the sides of the runners. Connect the power cables fron the case to the drives, and connect the drives to the motherboard (making sure you get the connectors the right way round!) Then, attach all power cables from the case to the relevant slots on the motherboard (usually pretty straightforward as each connector is labelled, and each slot is identified in the motherboard's manual). Now, fit the graphics card into the AGP slot on the motherboard (identified in the manual again), and any other cards you have such as modem and sound. Fix these into place by tightening the screws at the rear of the case. Finally fit the cover back on to the case and plug in everything else at the rear of the case, such as power leads, keyboard, mouse, speakers and monitor. Switch it all on and proceed to install your software (Windows first of course...unless your a Linux fan!) Drawback include... being very fiddly in places trying to fit the tiny connectors, and the risk of damaging parts. Although saying this, I've only ever broken a motherboard once (sadly it was one I had sold to a friend and was fitting for him!) Buying the PC parts: Speaking from experience, the best places to buy from are independent retailers such as Glasgow's Priceless Computing, World of Computers, or Creative Computing. Very cheap, and they have online catalogues and shops (web addresses available, leave me a message and I'll give them out!) These companies also sell ready-built systems at a small premium, which still work out surprisingly cheaper than big high street chains. Some exampl
es: (prices from Priceless Computing) *Ready-built* Case AMD Athlon 2800XP CPU Motherboard (with sound) 256MB DDR RAM 80GB Hard DRive 56k Modem Lan card (for networking) Heatsink & fan DVD drive CD writer 64MB GEForce graphics card Floppy drive All for £399... just need to add speakers, monitor, keyboard and mouse (which they sell for under £100) Building it yourself would come in at £450 so basically you are paying and extra £50 if the build it for you, which is pretty damn reasonable! An Identical system from the likes of PC World would cost at least £800 (in fact the closest match I could find was £899 at PC World!) Only big difference is you get an operating system with PC's from big retailers. Think of it though... Who doesn't already have a windows CD?! So as you can see... opting for the build it yourself route can save you roughly 50%! Shocking isn't it?! I hope this review is of use to many people, as I have saved myself a lot of money over the years by being a skinflint and taking the cheap route (plus it is very satisfying to know that you did it all yourself!) thanks for reading Marc
Have you got a PC looking for a new one this article could save you £100`s. Your second/ Third or whatever pc even though it will be a better PC can be cheaper if you follow this. A package PC is great for your first PC when your just starting out, you get the software and all the hardware you need but after that a custom PC would be lots better and lots cheaper! After your fist PC you already have lots of software so you dont need all the extra software you get with a package PC also you already have lots of the hardware you need!! You will have; Monitor ( screen) Keyboard Mouse Speakers Hard Disc ( you may want to keep this as a extra one ) A operating system ( you can keep this or buy a new one) PC Case Sound card CD roms and more You might already have; A Scanner A Printer DVD ROM CD r/rw roms MODEM Most of the software you need and more So since you dont need to buy all that again that saves you lots the monitor will save you about £75 - £150+ and the operating system ( windows ) if you dont want to change it saves you about £100 ( i recomend you upgrade this) you have software so you save money from the software that comes with the new PC Were to go Local computer sales ( small ones ) NOT PC WORLD YOU WILL SPEND LOTS MORE What you will need to buy; CPU - you can buy 3 types of CPU ( INTELL, ATHON, DURON) INTELL is the most expensive but the fastest speed Athlon is the middle for cost but it performance does not suffer it fast DURON is the cheapest and SLOWEST i recomend you go for a ATHLON as it fast for the cost STATS; speed /OVERALL desktop performance INTELL pentium 4 1.8Ghz / 100% ATHLON AMD Athlon xp 1800+ / 115% So i would go for a ATHLON xp any speed ALSO YOU WIL
L NEED A CPU FAN ASK THE COMPUTER SALES MAN Motherboard - ASK you computer salesman for the best motherboard for you selected ~CPU you can get motherboards with build in Graphics cards and sound cards with can save you money but they lack in performance Memory - for a new PC you need at least 256mb RAM but you would be better getting 2 128mb RAM cards which = 256mb RAM as 2 cards will work faster. Also if the motherboard you selected has DDR conection your memory will need to be DDR this is a good thing as DDR is alot faster the PC 100 or PC 133 ( old memory) DDR( Double Data Rate ) works at depending on what speed you buy PC 2100 PC 2700 PC 3200 and PC 3700 the faster speed the higher the cost but i recomend you go for 2 128mb DDR or 1 256MB DDR if you are a extrem gamer you should think about getting more memory 512mb DDR Power pack - you may not need this if your old Power pack is good enough but they are cheap anyway HARD DRIVE - you may use your old one but its prob. full. With a NEW PC you would be looking at least 40gb recomened 60 - 80 gb a good 80gb can cost as low as £75. The more memory you buy the less it will cost per GB. YOU can never have enough space Graphics card - if you motherboard has not got a build in graphics card or you want a better one you will need this look for at least 64mb ddr AGP on you graphics card as the min. Sound card - prob. have this build in to your motherboard but if you want a better one buy one. ALL other stuff like MODEM CD ROMS DVD roms you can upgrade if you want but you dont have to or you can buy them over time You can get the computer sales man to fit all of these parts or you can save more money if you have the confidance to build it yourself. This also provides lots of knowledge of computers and is great for a hobbie I think this is the best way to a new PC as i dont like Package PC i have been upgrading and fixes
computers for a couple of years now and i find it EASY. People may think building computers is hard but i have done jigsaws harder. Everything fits togher like a jigsaw and it is hard to put it in the wrong place. I have build many computers anf fix them for people in my dads work and in my school I AM ONLY 14 well nearly 15 ( in august) i recomend to any person looking for there next PC to Buy a Custom and save money For my PC i saved £200 easly of the package price ( as i did not get all the software, printer and scanner as i had better equipment) My record is £450 saved ( thats with the same spec. with printer and scanner ) prob. due to the store was greedy. But for your first pc i say go for a PACKAGE PC after that its CUSTOM all the way hope you learned something and saved those £`s if you need any help e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org and check out my websites http://www.unwind.brad.com and http://www.vicecity.brad.com Thanks
I have now made an update for this opinion. I have enlisted the help of another Dooyoo member to aid in this update. Juliemaker kindly agreed to read through the opinion and pick out anything that seemed a bit technical for a novice computer user. From the feedback I received, I have compiled a basic glossary of terms that I have attached to the end of the opinion and will add to if necessary. I hope this will make clear some of the wording that I used. I would like to thank Julie for her help with this task. There is no definitive way to build a "perfect" computer, so this opinion will hopefully guide you gently through the task of building a computer in general. The reason I say this is because everyone has a different interpretation of the word "perfect". To some, the perfect computer is one with top of the range components, while others see perfection as a computer that never has a single crash. My experience tells me that building a computer is extremely easy. I have problems getting the thing to work efficiently. The main thing is not to get worried about building the system. I can guarantee that if you are flustered before you even start, you will encounter problems as you go. It is not an exam. No one is going to laugh at you if you get something wrong. Treat this experience like a hobby. Building a PC can be just like building a model aeroplane. I'd better get started then. I will go through this opinion as if I am building the PC on my table in the kitchen. I will start by the announcement to my mum that the kitchen is going to be cluttered with bits for a few days. This brings a tirade of abuse that we are always messing up her space. Take it from me, it is better to face the tantrum before you buy any bits. That way, she can't throw them across the room. When she calms down about our intrusion and the estimated total price, I sit down and read a few magazines and check out the Internet. I
am not going to go into what particular parts you should buy, because the components that are best will depend on your needs and budget. It also allows me to write an opinion in the "choosing components" section in the near future. Briefly, you will need to have these parts to build your system and get it working: Case, Power supply (if not built into case), Motherboard, Processor, Heatsink and fan, 3 1/2 inch floppy disk drive, CDROM drive, Hard disk drive, Graphics/video card, Memory (RAM), Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, Power cables (if not supplied with case and monitor), Operating system (Windows, Linux, etc), A bootable floppy disk. Those are essential items that are needed to start the computer and install your operating system. The following items are useful, but are optional at the time of building. I am splitting this into two lists in case you are on a tight budget. The following items can be added as and when required. Sound card, Modem, Printer, Scanner, Network card (if you have another PC that you wish to link), USB hub (Useful if you plan on buying lots of USB devices), Any cables not supplied for above items, Any other bits that take your fancy. You now have your list of desired components and you have priced up your list. But hang on a minute... Aren't you forgetting something in your excitement? Do you have the tools to put it together with? There is one essential tool that you will use to build your PC, a cross head screwdriver. I hope you didn't just go and get one out of the tool box. I don't mean the standard one, you will need an insulated electricians screwdriver. This will protect you if you forget to unplug the system after testing it. It also prevents any static electricity in your body being passed to the component. This leads me onto another piece of e
quipment that is not vital to build a computer, but is a VERY wise investment. I am talking about an anti-static mat. This isn't a mat on the floor, it is a smallish mat that you put on the table and lay components on. There are two wires attached to this mat. You will clip one wire onto the computer chassis and the other has a wristband, which you wrap round your wrist. This allows any static in your body to go to ground rather than into your new components. Finally, you might want to have a torch handy so you can see what you are doing when things start getting cluttered inside the case. One with a stand is good unless you have a very willing and patient son or daughter to point it over your shoulder for hours at a time. I have now got my screwdriver and my parts (no smart comments), so I am ready to dive in and build my system... What, well spotted at the back there, I forgot to look at the manuals that came with the products. Of all the manuals to read, the most intimidating one will be the manual for the motherboard. I know of people who bought the bits for a PC, looked at this manual and gave up there and then. I can say that a motherboard manual IS intimidating! I thought I heard gasps of shock there, as I didn't just say it's nothing to worry about. Just to reassure you though, it is only intimidating the first time you read one. After you have installed your first motherboard successfully, the following ones will follow the basic routine fairly closely. Right... So you've had a cup of tea and flicked rather hastily through the manuals and maybe getting through half a tobacco field in the process (tut, tut if that is you). If you are ready we will move to the operating theatre (or kitchen table). /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ STARTUP DISK \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Before you start tampering, if you are upgrading your system, f
irst create a boot disk. This will allow you to get to the Dos prompt and install your operating system when you have built the system. You can create a boot disk in Windows by clicking "start", "settings" and "Control panel". Then double-click on "Add/remove programs" in the control panel window. Select the "Startup disk" tab and follow the instructions. I am completely baffled, as I cannot see a way of installing Windows from the CD onto a completely blank system without having a startup disk with CDROM support. I can only think that you will be able to create a startup disk if you are reading this, because you have a working system already. If you are reading this from someone else's computer, get a boot disk from them, otherwise you will have to get hold of a copy of MSDOS on disks. Even in this day, DOS is a powerful tool. I still regularly use it to tamper with files. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ CASE & POWER SUPPLY \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ I start by opening up the case by removing the side panel or lid (depending on whether you have a desktop or tower case). That is fairly easy. Be careful though, as some cheap cases are not finished well and can have very sharp edges. Once the cover is off, young children should be kept well clear. Having said that, it is an ideal opportunity for them to learn about computers as long as you supervise them, but it is probably not a good idea for them to touch. I spent many hours watching my dad tinker with computers when I was younger. The first part to go into the case will be the power supply if it is not already in the case. I hope you have got your anti-static wristband on (I have). This will be very easy to fit. There are normally four screws that attach it to the case. --------------- UPDATE... --------------- Another omiss
ion... I completely forgot to attach the case cables to the motherboard. A SleepyDormouse pointed this one out to me. On the inside of the case, you will find several wires. They need to be attached to the sockets on the motherboard. You will have to refer to the diagram of the motherboard to see where they go. The wires on the case are generally: Power switch; this allows the motherboard to start when you press the power button on the front of the case. This cable norually goes from the power supply to the case and there is a micro-switch on the end that fits just behind the power button. The motherboard automatically powers up when the supply sends current to it. PC speaker; this wire connects the internal speaker to the motherboard. It is the one that goes beep and not a lot else. LED (light emitting diode); this cable connects the motherboard to the various lights on the front of the case. These lights are generally the power-on light and the hard disk activity light. There maybe other cables depending on the case purchased. The wires just plug onto pins on the motherboard but the placement of the pins will vary from board to board. ----------------- UPDATE ENDS ----------------- /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ MOTHERBOARD, HEATSINK & FAN, RAM, \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Before you do anything else, you will need to check the jumper settings on your motherboard. Some new boards have jumperfree modes and can be set up with the BIOS software, but many require some adjustments to prepare them for use. In case you don't know, I am not talking about a woolly jumper that you wear. A jumper is literally a pair of pins that can have a plastic "jumper" that will link them to connect the pins via a thin metal link. Through the use of jumpers, you are in effect altering the circuits on the motherboard and forc
ing the electric current to pass through certain areas and miss others. You will need to follow the manual to set up the jumpers correctly, as there are so many variations. Most manuals have step by step diagrams to work by. The jumpers are used mainly to tell the motherboard the clock speed of the CPU and the voltage that should be applied to it. There are also jumpers to do things like set the speed of the fan. I hope I have explained this part clearly enough, but I cannot tell you exactly how to set your jumpers. If you get stuck, it is best to get someone who knows in. You must be certain that these settings are correct or you could fry your CPU. I'm not trying to scare you, just be aware that this is the most complex part of setting up the PC. The next part is to fit the CPU and the heatsink and fan to the motherboard. You must handle the CPU with enormous care. The way it fits on will depend on whether you have an AMD or Intel chip. I have AMD systems, so I can only say for them. If you have a socket A motherboard and processor, the CPU is square but one of the corners has been taken off. Lift the lever on the motherboard. Line the cut corner on the CPU with the matching mark on the socket and the processor should just drop into place. Then just push down the lever again to secure the CPU. Once the CPU is fitted, you can fit the heatsink. In fact, you can ensure that the fan is attached to the heatsink first. You just place the fan on the heatsink and use the supplied self-tapping screws to attach it to the fins of the heatsink. Now remove the protective strip from the bottom of the heatsink, which will expose the sticky coating and carefully place onto the processor and fit the clip, following any instructions for safe fitment. There is a two pin female socket on the cable fitted to the fan. This needs to be attached to the relevant point on the motherboard. You will need to look the fan power point up on the diagram. This is because t
he fan is turned on and off by the motherboard. You can also fit the ram chip(s) at this point. I am going to use 168 pin SDRAM dimms as an example, as they are the present standard. You will see two notches between the pins at the bottom, so they are split into three uneven groups. All you have to do is align the groups of pins with the right size gaps and place in the slot. This type of ram can only fit in one direction, due to the uneven pin numbers so it is quite easy. Once placed, gently apply a little pressure with the fingertips to the top edge of the chip. The chip should slowly move into the slot and the retaining clips at either end should start to rise. You may find these difficult to push in, but start gently and slowly increase pressure. Once they click home, just flip up the retaining clips to secure them. If the memory doesn't go in at all, you will have to check that you have the right sort for your motherboard. The different types of SDRAM look very similar but those two notches are placed fractionally differently, to define the voltage of the chip and whether it is buffered, unbuffered or EEC. I would recommend that you order RAM after you have bought the motherboard. Then go to www.crucial.com/uk. You will be able to select the correct memory by selecting your motherboard from the easy to navigate drop-down menus. Now you can fit the motherboard. This is normally held in place with plastic or metal clips. It will depend on the case. Once the motherboard is in placed securely, look at the mass of cables that come from the supply. If you have an old AT style PC, there will be a pair of power cables that have 6 pin adapters on the end. The adapters also have clips that hold them on the motherboard. The adapters are next to each other on the motherboard but you have to get them the right way round. In my PC, the adapter with the yellow wire went on the right hand side as I look at it. The one with the white wire went
on the left, but you should check it against your manual. If you have an ATX PC (almost certain if you have bought all new parts), There is just a single power lead that will only plug in one direction. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ FLOPPY DRIVE, HARD DISK, CDROM \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Now the motherboard is in place, We can start adding the other parts. Before you start fitting, decide which bay you want to put each device in and make sure that the power cable will reach it. On a few occasions I have had to undo all the screws and move a disk drive. I will start with the floppy drive. You will need to press out one of the 31/2-inch panels at the front of your case. Some cases have a disk slot already and you just line the drive up with it. Depending on the design, you will slide the drive in from the front or back until the screw holes align with the holes in the bay. If you have removed a front panel, ensure the front of the drive is flush with the front surface of the case as well. Then just do up the screws to secure it in place. Now you must look for one of the smaller adapters on the power supply. It is a small flat shape adapter that has some springy metal slivers on it. Align the metal springs with the pins on the drive And slide into place. This reminds me of a telephone socket without the big square case. After fitting the power lead, you need to fit the data cable. This is the cable that allows data to flow from the drive to the motherboard. The adapters on each end of the cable are wide with two rows of seventeen pins. If you have bought the drive and cable new, the cable will have a twist worked into it. This is to aid you in putting it in the right way round. In my case, the twist was to my left as I look at the back of the drive. Then follow the diagram in the manual to fit the other end to the floppy port on the motherboard. You shoul
d use the end sockets to do this. There will be another socket two-thirds of the way along the cable. This is for attaching a second floppy drive in future. The hard disk is a logical next step. You don't need to remove a front panel for this. Just slide it into a vacant 31/2-inch bay and secure with the screws provided. The power adapter for this one is a female five-pin plug on the power supply. This is rectangular in shape, but the bottom corners are rounded to ensure you fit it the right way up. The IDE cable has a red line along one edge, It is on the right hand side for my drive, but there are to notches in the socket to ensure correct insertion. The other end is plugged into the PRIMARY IDE port on the motherboard. Refer to the manual to see where it is. There is another socket in the cable, which allows you to fit another hard drive in future. Use the end one for this drive though. The one in the middle of the cable will define an attached hard disk as a "slave" but don't worry about this now. I will explain in the "Operating System" section. --------------- UPDATE... --------------- I knew I would omit something and csh69 has pointed out in the comments about jumper settings on the hard disk and CDROM. On the back of each unit, there are groups of pins and there is a jumper clip on one pair. Look at the diagram on the unit or in the manual if there is one. It will tell you which pins to put the jumpers on to set the hard disk or CDROM as a master or slave device. I will defend myself on the IDE cable issue though. My latest motherboard sets everything up in the bios and the manual tells me to put the cables in in the order I describe. Of course, this may differ on the motherboard you get, but I am going through the way that I set my system up. (There are just too many variables in motherboards to describe them all. You can connect the CDROM
as a Primary Slave, but I prefer to put it on the Secondary port, to leave the rimary slave port free for a second hard disk. The other comment about recommending a DVDROM Drive over a CDROM drive... This is purely a matter of personal choice and I had to fit a decoder card as well as the DVDROM in my other computer. For ease of installation and reliabilty for the beginner, a CDROM is the way to go (In my opinion). By all means upgrade later, but this way, you will have a CDROM to fall back on if you have problems with the DVD. ----------------------- UPDATE ENDS ----------------------- Now we move on to the CDROM drive. You will need to use a 51/4-inch bay for this. If you have bought a DVD player, the general fitting will be the same but there are more cables and a decoder card to sort. For now we will just fit the drive. Press out a front panel and slide the drive in, then line up the drive and secure with the screws. The power adapter is the same as the one described for the hard disk. Now we have to fit the IDE cable to it. This socket has twenty holes and a central ridge that means it can only be pushed in one way. Fit the socket in the drive and then refer to the motherboard manual again. For the CDROM, you have to attach the cable to the SECONDARY IDE port. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ GRAPHICS/VIDEO CARD, (Optional) SOUNDCARD, (Optional) MODEM CARD, (Optional) NETWORK CARD \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ With your drives attached, you can start fitting your hardware cards. I will start with the graphics card. Now unless you are a complete cheapskate you will have an AGP card. I would have to say that it is pointless going for PCI graphics unless the computer is just for word-processing. The AGP slot is normally a different colour to the PCI slots and is easily distinguishable, as there is only one AGP slot, while there
will be several PCI (or maybe even ISA) slots. On modern motherboards like my Asus A7 Pro board, there is a safety tab at one end. DO NOT remove this tab unless you are using an AGP pro card. The standard card will slide about if the tab is removed and will cause damage to the card and motherboard. To fit this and any other hardware card, you will have to push out metal plates in the case. These are fairly easy to push out, but be careful, as the edges are sharp and can give a nasty cut if you slip. By pushing out the plate, you make a space for the sockets at the end of the card to show through. In the case of the graphics card, you can then attach the monitor cable to it. More about that later though. In some cases, the plates are held in with screws. You should keep the screws to secure the card in place after removing the plate. Align the pins on the card with the slot on the motherboard and press into place. When fitted, the ports and sockets on the card should show through the back of the case. Secure the card by screwing the metal tab on the card to the case. For the sound card, modem and network cards that you may have follow the same process as above. Line up the pins with the slot and press into place. Then screw the tab onto the case. In the case of the sound card, you will have to attach a wire to the soundcard. There will be several pairs of pins on the sound card. You press the socket onto the relevant pins, then attach the other end to the socket on the CDROM drive. This cable allows you to play music CDs through your sound card. If you have an old motherboard, you may have some ISA slots, but these have been phased out in favour of PCI slots. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ MONITOR (Optional) PRINTER, (Optional) SCANNER \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ The monitor is very easy to set up with just two steps. Firstly, connect the pow
er cable up. The power cable can be one of two types. You will either get a power lead that you plug in a standard wall socket, or you will get one with a three-pin socket at the end that you attach to the power supply located in the PC case. The other cable is attached to the graphics card. You will see a port on the back of the card that has three rows of holes. The port is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. Just press into position, do up the screws on the socket if there are any and the monitor is ready to go. Equally, all you need to do with the printer and scanner is plug them into the relevant port. This could be a Parallel (Wide with lots of pins) or a USB (Smaller without pins) port. Once you have carried out the installation of the operating system later in the opinion, install the drivers and they should be up and running fairly easily. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ KEYBOARD, MOUSE \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ The keyboard and mouse can be attached next. If you have an ATX case, you will need to have a PS/2 mouse and keyboard. PS/2 is the name given to the socket that attaches to the computer. In the old AT style cases, the mouse is attached to the 9-pin serial port and the keyboard attaches to a big round socket. The name for that escapes me at present. On modern motherboards, the mouse and keyboard ports are labelled so you will see which one goes where. That is just about it. I recommend leaving the case open for now, just in case something needs adjusting but whatever you do, DO NOT put your hands in the case while it is switched on. Even ensure that the plug is switched off at the mains before touching anything. The computer is now built. The next stage covers getting the thing to work. If you have just upgraded your system with a new card, the set up will be a lot easier. I will base the next stage on the assumption that you have started
from scratch with all new parts. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ OPERATING SYSTEM \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ I have re-read this section just before posting. Think of the above sections as the building the computer op. The stuff below covers some very technical points that you will probably not need to touch on to get the PC going. I think I will write another opinion at a later date covering this subject in depth, but hopefully you will pick up a few bits and pieces from the following... Firstly, insert the boot disk. Switch on the system, and as soon as you see the message "press delete to enter setup", do it. This will take you to the system BIOS. The BIOS is basically a collection of commands that tell the motherboard to do. It is stored permanently on the motherboard. By playing with this, you have ultimate power over the operation or malfunction of the motherboard. Many people would tell you not to go here unless you know what you are doing. This is a reasonable statement, but it is also rather harsh. I say that if you never even look at it, you will never know what you are doing. If you are really worried about messing up the computer, just look at the screens. There is an option to exit without saving, so you can look without breaking anything. When you read through the manual, you should carry out the instructions on saving a copy of the BIOS onto disk. This way, even if you do mess things up, it will be possible to restore the old settings. Most new motherboards have a Flash writable ROM for the BIOS. OK... You should now go through each option on the BIOS, checking it against the manual and selecting the option that suits your computer. If you are not sure about something, it is best to leave it. But for options like "Are you running a plug and play OS?" you would select yes if you have windows, but if you don'
t want to let windows to change settings that the BIOS originally selected, choose no. Using the BIOS is literally a matter of common sense. I learned about the BIOS by looking at it and then gingerly changing the basic options. As my confidence grew, I started playing with more options and although I admit making a few mistakes, they are always fixable. The only things I have never touched are the CPU core voltages and temperature settings. These have always been set to "Auto" on my system and I know better than to mess with that. With modern Jumperfree motherboards, it is possible to over-clock the processor just by typing a new number in the box. Seeing as this is a beginners guide, I will say don't try this. If you are seriously considering over-clocking, research the subject heavily on the Internet. There are tons of resources for this activity, but it gets very technical and will void the warranty on the CPU. In other words, If it gets fried, you are stuck. The CPU is labelled at that speed because that is the safest speed to ensure a long life. I have not tampered with my processor speed, but my brother reckons that I can over-clock my 900MHz Athlon to 1.2GHz with a better heatsink, but I am loathe to take that risk. I bet you thought I had forgotten the bit I put earlier about Master and Slave settings. Well I did forget and came back to this just before posting the opinion. In the BIOS, you can set the disk drives to be Master or Slave devices. This basically allows the BIOS to allocate drive letters by priority. Hence, the Primary Master Drive will be C:, The Primary Slave will be D:, the secondary master can be D: or E: depending whether the Primary Slave has been allocated or not and the Secondary slave can be D:, E: or F: You can confuse matters farther by partitioning the hard disk (splitting a disk into several parts). Partitioning is an opinion in itself. If you want to turn a 20GIG hard disk into
two 10GIG disks, e-mail me and I will go through the process with you. Anyway, If you have gone through the motherboard manual and checked the BIOS, you can now restart the PC with the boot disk and let the procedure run its course. A menu will pop up asking if you want CDROM support. Select this option and MSDOS will start. I do not know what the Linux procedure is, but for Windows, you place the CD in the drive, Type D: and enter. Then type SETUP and enter. I was assuming that the CD was D: due to only putting one hard disk in. Follow the instructions. CONGRATS, you are on your way to having a fully-fledged PC. Once Windows is installed, follow the instructions supplied with your Graphics card, etc to install the drivers. I cannot really go through this, because the process can be different for different brands. If Windows doesn't automatically set up your hardware, use the "Add new hardware" option in the control panel. Alternatively, double-click "system" in control panel, then select the "Device manager" tab and look for any exclamation marks next to hardware. If you see any, click the offending item and select "Properties". Then choose to install/update the driver as necessary from the CD or disk supplied with the hardware. If you have any problems with this guide whatsoever, my e-mail address is on my profile page. I am always willing to help so get in touch. I particularly want you to contact me if you are confused about the BIOS part, because this can be very technical. Above all, building a new PC should be fun, not a chore. My father, brother and I have built six or seven systems over the last ten years and I love building new systems. I await the comments eagerly, especially the ones pointing out bits I've missed. As usual I have given three stars, as this is a guide in general. I can't tell you if you should or shouldn't build a PC, that is your decision to
make. Thanks for reading. --------------- UPDATE... --------------- Glossary of terms: Startup disk. This is a disk that you use to start the computer if you have a big crash and the computer stops working. The disk basically allows you to start the computer and go to the DOS prompt to attempt to fix the problem. You also use the startup disk if you wish to start the computer without running Windows. This function is generally only used by people who are fluent in DOS. DOS. DOS or MSDOS stands for Microsoft Disk Operating System. This is the operating system that was used on almost all PCs before Windows was created. Windows is basically a glorified version of DOS. When I say glorified, I mean that instead of typing a command on a black screen with a white-flashing cursor, now you can click an icon on the screen, and behind the pictures, Windows types that same command in for you. I am fairly fluent with DOS commands, as I have used computers over many years. Anyone who is new to PCs will probably never see this program but it is there, hiding behind the Windows in some form. It is one of the most powerful tools for managing disks and files that you are likely to find. I will go into more detail on this in a future opinion that I have just thought of. CPU. This stands for "Central Processing Unit". It is the chip that fits to the motherboard and processes all the noughts and ones that make up the programs and commands on the system. To put it another way, when you see a computer advert and they say that there is "Intel inside", they are saying that there is an Intel CPU on the motherboard. AMD and Intel. AMD and Intel are the manufacturers that provide us with CPUs to put on our motherboards. AMD actually stands for "Advanced Micro Devices". Sorry for the self plug, but I have written an opinion that goes over the rough
history of the two companies. It is called "Tell your Duron from a Durex and your Celeron from your Celery". If you are not sure which manufacturer is inside your computer, you should see the name somewhere on the first screen that appears when you switch on your computer. Alternatively (if you have Windows 98 or later), click "start", then follow the menu to "programs", "accessories", "System tools" and then click on "System Information". The information that appears will tell you the make of processor in your system along with lots of other useful facts and figures. Heatsink. This component is something that you attach to the processor. When your computer is running, the processor is processing millions of numbers a second. Inevitably, this makes the processor hot. The heatsink is a chunk of metal that sits on the processor and soaks up the heat produced. You then have a fan screwed to the top of the heatsink and this moves air over it to take away the heat and send it away in the air. Without this component, a processor can quickly overhead and break. SDRAM, Unbuttered, ECC Registered, 168 pin, EDO, RDRAM, DDR. All these terms relate to the memory chips that go on the motherboard. SDRAM, DDR, RDRAM and EDO are all types of memory. The first three are written in order of speed. SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory I believe) is the standard at the moment. DDR (Double Data Rate) literally handles data at twice the rate as SDRAM. RDRAM is really mega-fast but is also mega-expensive compared to SDRAM (hence I don't know what RD stands for). EDO is still around for those who work with really old systems. EDO is now obsolete in new systems. ECC Registered relates to the type of memory. This type of memory contains "Error correcting Code". People who need maximum reliability at the cost of speed use it. ECC is not generally recommended to the a
verage home user due to the performance loss. Unbuffered relates to the chips again. The majority of home users will require this type of memory. Buffered memory is used mainly in servers, where reliable data handling is essential. SDRAM has 168 pins. Other types of memory have different numbers of pins and will therefore only fit in certain motherboards. Memory is a huge topic. You can find a lot more info in the help section on www.crucial.com/uk. This web site has a large FAQ section and I guarantee that they can describe things better than me. (I certainly hope they can anyway). 3-1/2 or 5-1/4 inch floppy drive. Floppy disk drives are referred to by size of the disk that is inserted in them. Back in the old days (about 10 years ago), There were really floppy disks. They measured 5-1/4 inches across and were made of very thin and bendy plastic. Then the modern 3-1/2 inch disk drive came along with the smaller and more robust disk that we know today. Look at your computer. I would be happy to guess that your present PC has one. The slot in the drive will measure 3-1/2 inches. If you happen to have an old Commodore computer in the loft, it will have an old 5-1/4 inch disk drive. IDE and SCSI. I have to admit that I am beaten here. I have always taken "as is" that you either have SCSI that is a little faster but more expensive, or the cheap and reliable IDE device. All I can do is suggest that you visit http://www.pcmech.com/index.htm and choose hard disks from the right hand menu. Scroll downward on the page and you should find an article about IDE versus SCSI. AGP and PCI. AGP stands for "Accelerated Graphics Port". Most modern motherboards have an AGP slot to take the graphics card. This type of card offers faster processing of graphics and alloys you to play games more smoothly. The alternative is the PCI graphics card. These are cheaper, but the graphics data gets chan
nelled through the processor and can slow the system to a crawl. PCI slots take all the other cards (modem, soundcard, etc). These slots are basically the link between the motherboard and your upgrades. 900MHz, 1.2GHz, etc. I used these numbers a couple of times. MHz stands for Megahertz and GHz stands for Gigahertz. I am talking about the clock speed of CPUs with these numbers. I'll put it another way. 100MHz could be a Metro, while a 1GHz is in comparison a highly tuned sports car. I will add to this glossary as and when I receive a question as to the meaning of something in the opinion. ----------------- END OF UPDATE -----------------
Building your own PC costs on average 1/3 less than buying one from a major retailer. Building a PC is no where near as daunting task as it may seem, set aside a couple of hours one afternoon and you shouldn?t have any problems. Planning your PC is very important because you do not want to end up with the wrong thing. The first stage is to decide what type of processor, AMD or Pentium. AMD tend to be cheaper, faster and probably the best option. The Motherboard: This is the central part of your computer onto which everything is connected. It looks like a large circuit board which sits inside your case. It is best to choose your motherboard first because this will influence what other parts you buy. Expect to pay around £100 for a good one and check that it is compatible with your chosen processor. Some motherboards come with video and sound built in which are a very economical way of building a PC but are not advised for a high spec gaming PC. Once of my PCs runs the very good PC Chips 810LMR motherboards with video, sound, a modem and LAN, all for £80. The CPU: This can be thought of as the brain of the CPU and its speed is the biggest factor in how well your PC will perform. At the moment I would either go for an Athlon 1.2GHz or an AMD XP 1600+. Both of these are very fast chips at a good price but they may not be suited to what you want. It is advisable not to drop below 1GHz due to future compatibility issues and the newer, faster chips tend to be very expensive. A CPU produces a huge amount of heat so a heatsink (a lump of metal to go on top of the chip) and fan are needed. These cost around £10 and a standard one will do. Expect the CPU to cost between £80 and £150 The RAM: This is the area in which the PC stores data it is working on in. The more the better really. Most PCs can take up to 1GHz, some can have more. I would recommend 256MB which will cost around £40. DDR RAM is fast RAM which works at
twice the speed of standard RAM and is slightly more expensive (around £55 for 256MB). If your Motherboard is a DDR one then you can only use DDR RAM, if it is not then you can only use standard RAM. The Graphics: A graphics card is a circuit board which is designed specifically for producing 3D graphics, one of these will cost between £50 and £300. GeForce is the make to go for and a GeForce 2 will suffice for most people however the hardcore gamer may be tempted by the highly acclaimed GeForce 3. The Sound: The sound card is another circuit board which provides a connection in which to place your speakers. A standard one for stereo speakers will cost around £30-40 and one for surround sound will cost about £100. This is not a terribly important aspect of your PC unless you intend to watch a lot of movies etc. The Modem: This is needed if you intend to use the internet or play games, for internet surfing a standard internal one (£20) will suffice however for online gaming a higher quality of modem is advised, external modems provide low ping rates and cost between £40 and £60. CD/DVD drive: This is needed to use CDs or to play DVDs. A CD drive can be picked up for around £30 while a DVD drive will cost in the region of £60. Personally I would go for a DVD drive as movies on DVD become more popular and some software is distributed on DVD (runs faster). CD writers and re writers are available for £100-£200 and these can be used as well as a CD drive or DVD drive. At least a CD drive is essential to load software Floppy drive: This is not necessary but you will probably use it at some point so for the £10 it cost it is probably worth having. Hard Disk drive: This is where all of your programs and personal files are stored, a minimum is 20GB (£80) and they are readily available in sizes of up to 60GB (£150). You will often see a speed in RPM in relation to hard
disks, the faster this is the faster it spins and the faster it reads/writes. 7200RPM is standard. Monitor: There is not that much to choose between monitors unless you can see the picture quality. The bigger it is the more expensive. Expect to pay around £200 for a good 17? one. 15? is really too small but 19? is great for gaming and DVDs. Case: You will need something in which to keep all this in and that?s what the case is for. Make sure that it is the right form factor (normally ATX) for your motherboard and that it has enough 5 ½? slots for your CD/DVD drives. Most cases come with a PSU but if not then you will need to buy one separately. 250W is the minimum and 200W is recommended. A small, cheap case will cost £40 and a larger, more solidly built one will cost around £60-£70 Accessories: Don?t forget to buy a keyboard, mouse, speakers, etc. These are fairly standard and cheap, you do not need anything special and they are nearly all compatible with everything else. Putting it all together: First get your case and take off the side. On your right you will see some metal bays for your drives, on the left there is a large open area, this is where the motherboard goes. Take it out and place it in so as the ports sticking up on the side fit into the spaces in the case for them. Now screw the motherboard firmly into the case. Next insert the processor, it can only go in in one way so don?t worry about getting it wrong. Place the heatsink and fan (normally one unit) on top of the CPU and clamp the heatsink onto the motherboard. Now plug the fan into one of the sets of 3 prongs on the motherboard. Next is the RAM, place your stick (or more) into the RAM socket, pull the side clips out, press firmly down on the RAM and then push the side clips in to secure it. Next is the graphics card, unscrew a plate at the back of the case and put the graphics card in the dark brown socket on the motherboard a
nd then screw it into the case. Next is the sound card and modem, these go in the light brown sockets in the same way as the graphics did. Place the Hard disk into its tray and connect the power lead from the PSU into it and a ribbon cable from the hard disk to one of the connectors on the motherboard. Now go to the front of the case and at the top there will be pieces of plastic protecting the bays, push hard on these from the outside and they should snap out. Now slide in your CD/DVD drive and floppy drive and connect them in the same way as the hard disk. Put the hard disk and CD drive(s) on 2 different cables so as it runs faster. The floppy uses the cable with a twist in it. Now connect all of the power switch cables etc to your motherboard (as shown in your instruction manual) and connect the PSU cable to the motherboard. Replace the case cover and turn it on and it should boot up. If not check inside to make sure that everything is properly connected. Software: You will need some sort of operating system for your PC. I recommend either windows 98 (£80) or windows XP home (£160), if you have a copy of windows already then you can use that. If everything goes to plan then you should have a working PC in around 3 hours. Remember to read the manual because it can give information specific to your hardware. Where to buy: Online retailers such as dabs.co.uk are the cheapest but your highstreet retailer will be able to answer any queries you may have about compatibility etc.
To build the perfect system, you need all the components of a computer. Each computer I build, has a different use and almost its own "personality". The no one person can EVER have the perfect system, it is just reality. Technology changes so fast that it changes every secons, from inventions made in the States to Japan. To start, you need components for the computer. If you live in the States, try www.newegg.com ( I am not sure if they ship internationally). For the UK, you might try buy.com or look for the components on DooYoo and click on the buy. You will need a motherboard, Hard drive, floppy drive, cd rom drive, processor, case, monitor, video card, sound card, modem (if you have high speed internet, you need a network interface card also called a network card) CPU fan, and a case fan. To locate good components, I reccomend www.anandtech.com to see what they think of the component. For prices in US $, and the best deals, go to www.pricewatch.com(pricewatch.co.uk works fine as well) . The other option is to read DooYoo reviews. People's experience will help you decide on what you want to spend your money on. USE PRICEWATCH, it really does find you the best deal or sites that have the best deals! If you look at some great reviews, you can find good components at good prices. Hope this helps! -Shlop
You've walked around the computer stores and read the monthly PC magazines looking for your perfect PC. MOst of the time you'll find it but if not, there is another way. Self building. This means buying the components and putting them together yourself. You have total control over everything and you are able to chop and change wherever necessary to get the PC of your dreams. The disadvantage to this is the cost, if you are not careful, it can spiral sky high - I specified my perfect PC last year and it has cost me £5,000. the flip side to that is I have all the components I need right now. for instance, you will be very hard pushed to find 1 gb of memory with 76bgb hard drive and a 21 inch monitor on the high street. One piece of advice about the motherboard, if you use a lot of IDE devices (CD, DVD, Zip, Hard drives etc.) ensure you buy a board with 4 channels, this will allow 8 devices. A tip when you are buying components: remember the stupid things like a disk drive, keyboard, mouse and internal cables. There is nothing worse than building a computer and not having those components to hand. yes, they may only cost £20 together but without them you are stuffed. to combat this, set up a checklist before you buy, list everything you need to build the computer and tick each item off as you get it. ensure you have enough slots and hard drive cages in your case and ensure that you have enough internal cables. Once you have all the components, you need a large table access to a radiator pipe and no distractions for a couple of hours. The radiator pipe is important: the number one killer of components is static electricity 0 earth yourself and preferable wear a wrist strap before touching any gear. Start off by putting the motherboard into the case and securing it as per the instructions. put the processor and fan assembly in place next and ensure its seated in the right way. The RAM
needs to be installed next ensuring it is put in properly without being forced. Next install the hard drive and a CD-ROM onto separate IDE channels. Finally, add the graphics card. Connect the mouse, keyboard and monitor and connect to the mains. This will give you a basic testbed setup. Install your version of windows (you did buy this?) and ensure everything is fine. after this, shut down the machine and add any other cards in one at a time. I prefer this method to remove any chances of conflicts. If you throw everything in at once, you may be left with a mess which would be harder to sort out. It would be an idea to keep a notepad by the side of you and make a note of what you are doing, then if things go wrong further down the line, you have a clearer understanding of what has happened. Finally, once everything is installed, go to the internet and update Windows (98, Me, 2000, XP) there will always be fixes or service packs to install. Self build may sound like a labourious task, and to be honest it is, but the end result is a personalised computer which meets your specifications. You also get a much better understanding of how the computer works and hopefully you save a bit of money in the process. Just remember that the only comeback you have is the warranty on the parts, if you kill the PC by not doing things right, you will not get any money back. overall, a worthy experience and one i'd do again.
Building your own computer will save you money... Wrong. It's a common myth and in most cases isn't true. Perhaps a more accurate adage would be: Building your own computer /can/ save you money. Let me show you how. PC retailers, (Tiny, Packard Bell, Compaq etc.) buy components in massive quantities, thus they recieve discount and pass on these cost-cuts on a per-system basis by retailing PCs at a cheaper cost than if those components had been purchased on an individual basis. This is very common business practice, in fact it is the basis of contemporary business practice. So why is it always assumed that building your own PC (whereby you do buy those components individually) is actually cheaper? I guess it's because of the negative press of the large technology companies such as Microsoft, people simply assume they are being taken for a ride by these companies and that if they could control the process themselves they could do it for far cheaper. Of course, the retailers do charge a percentage, we wouldn't expect otherwise - they have to make money after all. But if you buy components individually remember that those component manufacturers are also charging a percentage, and it's much higher than the one they charge to bulk-buying retailers. All in all, if you build a system from scratch it will probably cost you exactly the same as if you bought an identical system from a high-street retailer. However, you probably already own a computer. Unless you're reading this in an internet cafe or on a friend's computer then you almost /definitely/ own a computer. Despite the common perception that computer technology advances faster than anyone can keep up with, many parts of the computer you have now are still perfectly adequate - the floppy-drive, CD- or DVD-ROM, possibly even the hard-drive and graphics card. The route I suggest is that you make use of those perfectly adequate parts and simply add them to a base-system that you buil
d yourself. This way you can put together a top-of-the-range piece of equipment for a fraction of the price. I know, I did it. I'm writing this review on a 1.2 gig Athlon running on a Front Side Bus at 266 mhz with 256 MB of DDR RAM. How much did this cost me? A mere fraction over £300. To buy this system from a high-street retailer would cost over £1000. Building your own computer is too complicated for the layperson... Wrong. At least as long as that lay person is willing to do a bit of research. Building a computer /is/ complicated, don't get me wrong. But only in so far as learning what parts work with what other parts. Actually assembling the computer is fairly easy. I'm not going to go into great detail here about the hardware that is currently available and all the options for putting it together, there are far more effective resources available than a simple text based opinion forum like Dooyoo (such as www.sharkyextreme.com) - I simply want to give you the information that will allow you to evaluate whether or not you think it is worth your while putting your own system together. So what other benefits are inherent in assembling a computer manually? After all it must be quite a labor-intensive option? Well, it's true, putting an entire computer together, even when re-using parts, can be quite a job. But it is incredibly satisfying. With the common idea that computer's are incomprehensible to the average human, knowing that you yourself have built one is certainly something; but apart from the sense of childish superiority (nothing wrong with that!) there is the most important thing of all to consider: CONTROL. For a serious computer user this is all important - you want to know /exactly/ what your computer is made up of, that way you can string the best performance possible out of it. Those of you using retail computers... do you even know what make your motherboard is? let alone the speed of the FSB or the CAS latencec
y of your RAM? When you put together your own machine you choose exactly what you want, negating any future worries about compatibility issues because of unknown devices. You are also able to avoid the notorious 'filler' components that PC retailers are wont to include. Never again will you be lumbered with an onboard AGP chip that seriously inhibits your graphics upgradeability. So... to summarise, if you already have a computer which you can cannibalise for parts and are willing to conduct a bit of research into current computer technology trends and compatability you are in a perfect position to put together a top-of-the range system for a bargain basement price. Go ahead and do it. I did, and I haven't looked back.
Less than 6 months ago I eventually decided to do something about my old PC. When I switched it on it took over 3 minutes to boot up!!! I had a choice upgrade it, Buy a new Pc or Build a new PC. As nothing was salvageable from my old PC so I thought it would be better to Buy or Build. After looking through various manufactures deals and looking on the internet it came apparent to me tat building was a lot cheaper and it meant I got the PC I wanted and not the Pc I was told I Wanted. Now the only misgiving I had about building was conflicts between parts as when I had bought a new graphics card for my old PC it had taken me over a day to get it working right. After looking through various magazines and the internet I found that the cheapest place for everything was www.ebuyer.com So I ordered all of my Pc from there. I now just had to wait for it to come. When it came I just put everything into the different slots and connectors pressed the power button and..... It worked perfectly no problems whatsoever. A word of warning though to people who plan to use old parts with new parts to build a PC that is how you get those time consuming annoying conflicts. Anyone thinking of buying a new PC should think about this, After Christmas for example PC's suddenly become on sale some have £500 off, seems a good deal until you remember that that firm is still not losing any money on that PC Building is Cheaper, Satisfying and most importantly customisable to your choice
Building a computer had a geeky stereotyped image attached to it, which nowadays is totally wrong. Provididng you know a little about computers, and have maybe installed a piece of hardware before, such as RAM or a network card, you should be fine. Firstly, you will need to buy the components for your system. If you are starting from scratch, you will need: MONITOR - displays the picture CASE - contains all the hardware MOTHERBOARD - main piece of computer hardware, everything joins to this PROCESSOR - this is the "brain" of your computer RAM - this is memory, which speeds everything up. FAN - this cools the processor down SOUNDCARD - this makes sounds... SPEAKERS - which are emitted from these GRAPHICS CARD (optional)- this is recommended if you want to play games HARD DRIVE - this stores everything FLOPPY DRIVE - for floppy disks CD/DVD DRIVE - for CDs or DVDs MODEM - allows you to use the internet KEYBOARD - for typing MOUSE - obvious The best place to find the components is from an internet site, such as dabs.com. Make sure that you are buying from an english site though, otherwise the shipping will be very expensive. To build a system that isn't exactly cutting-egde, but will perform well for the majority of tasks, such as playing games, go for at least an 800Mhz processor, 128Mb RAM, 10 GB hard-drive, 56K modem, GeForce2 graphics card, Soundblaster sound card, 30x CD drive, and 17" monitor. This wsystem would probbly set you back around £350. Try to get the motherboard and case from the same manufacturer, so that they are guaranteed to fit together. You should get screws with the motherboard for screwing it to the case. This is just a case of lining up the holes and screwing (you should get manuals with the motherboard telling you how to do this anyway). Depending on the type on motherboa
rd, the slot for the processor is usually a large cream coloured square, which the processor fits onto. The fan sits on top of the processor, usually stuck together with double-sided tape. There will be a number of long black slots, which is where the RAM slots into. The smaller, cream coloured sockets are the PCI sockets, which is usually where the extras such as sound, network and modem cards fit. In the case, there will be compartments for the CD drive, and hard disk. These must be screwed in, but again you will be given manuals on how to do this. Then you must connect wires from these drives to the motherboard, before the main part is finished. Then it is just a case of fitting the colour-coded wires from the keyboard, mouse, etc to the back of the case. Remember to have a copy of Windows available the first time you switch your computer on, as it won't automatically be installed. You will also have to install drivers for all your hardware, bu these will be supplied with the manuals. Building a computer is definitely well worth it. You can easily build one for half the price that a shop would sell one for. You know exactly what you put in, so in the future if you need to upgrade it, you will know what to upgrade. The only downside is thatif things go wrong, you may only have yourself to blame. Above all, remember to discharge yourself from static electricity before handling the components, and never use excessive force.
So you fancy an upgrade on your computer, well the first thing to decide and stick to is “How much am I going to spend?” For a lot of people, money is tight, or you may have saved up a bit of spare cash. If money is no object, still pick an amount and STICK to it. This way you don’t and hopefully won’t go in the Red with the bank, because upgrading can be an expediential curve on the money front (I will cover this in a later article). The next big question is “What am I going to keep from the old system?” or rephrase that to “What am I happy with?”. Once you have got the answers in your mind your ready to go. Get hold of a good computer magazine and price up your choice of upgrade from one company. If you’re inside your limit you may well decide on picking a slightly better package for yourself, more RAM or a better processor chip. If you’re well over (most people are!), try another company. A good tip, if you have access to the internet, is to go to www.pcindex.co.uk, where the search engine picks out the company with the cheapest items you require, you can price match and it will tell you if one company sells all you require. Don’t forget you can mix and match between companies. Most do free deliveries with over £100 spent, so a few items from different companies can save you a few quid and enable you to get more RAM etc. Some company’s give you discount if you order by Internet or free delivery. If you are still well over drop down a level of one of your items, instead of 256 Megs of Ram, get 128. At a processor speed over 750 the prices shoot up, so maybe get a lower spec chip. You can spend a good 3 hours just looking at prices of items from magazines or the internet, and checking prices from other companies. With your choice package all written down with all the prices (Don’t forget to make sure you add VAT, most people don’t r
ealise how much this adds up. I do it as I go along with each item). Try different companies and see if they can beat your price. Lots of the local smaller dealers will try there hardest to gain your custom, so barter, take in your wish list and ask him how much he will sell it to you for. If he can’t beat it, tell him how much you can get it for and he may try a bit harder for you (you may tell a little white lie about the price, but don’t go overboard or he will guess your telling porkies from his own price book that customers don’t see). Big shops like PCWORLD will laugh at you if you try and haggle, unless you intend to spend a fortune. There are a lot cheaper places out there crying out for your trade, all you have to do is find them. It is well worth taking your time over the planning of an upgrade. You can save pounds by shopping around. Another little tip is when your adding up your upgrade, add VAT, and if it adds up to say £78:43, write it down as £80. This way at the end, you will be inside your budget with also a few quid to spare. Its really fooling yourself but it works!!
**Update** I am just puting together my latest DIY project. Its an AMD Duron 800Mhz machine which I intend to overclock, an ABIT KT7E motherboard, 256Mb RAM and most of the cards and drives from my old PC. The total cost of the project so far is £150! Cheap huh? Well read on and you could be saving pounds plus having some fun in the process... ********** I’m guessing that at least 50% of you reading this opinion, or even using this web site are doing so using a packaged and branded PC system. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m not going to make any comments about big name PC systems, or the shops that sell them. What I hope to do with this opinion is prod you gently into thinking about having a go at building your PC, and maybe starting you off in a new hobby/obsession. So let me ask you a few questions. How much did you pay for your PC? Was it more than £1000? It probably was right? How close to the latest spec is it? If its more than 6 months old its not going to be right up there with the 1.4Ghz Pentium 4’s. Finally the last and most important question – Do you care about any of the above? If the answer is YES then why not have a go at putting together your own PC? Why Do It Yourself? DIY PC building is not for the faint hearted. It can be fraught with pitfalls and can leave you with an unreliable machine and that feeling that you should have popped down PC World and picked up that Packard Bell after all. But it can be extremely rewarding and interesting too. Even the little problems you might experience can be turned into a learning exercise, and believe me, if you learn from problems and mistakes, you will learn lots when you build your own PC! You might think I’ve not exactly painted DIY PC‘s in the brightest of lights. I don’t want you to think its easy (every DooYoo op you’ll read on this will tell you the same) but I don’t want to put y
ou off either. If you do take the plunge and go DIY you’ll reap the rewards on several fronts. The first and most obvious area you’ll make gains in is cost. DIY machines offer you much more bang for your buck. You can opt to save cash overall (a good idea for your first DIY project) and put together a simple PC using reasonably good components. This can be a useful learning exercise for future projects. By building a basic machine you will gain an understanding of what the inside of the box looks like, what goes where and how it all fits together. You’ll get the opportunity to select the parts you use, allowing you to make decisions on what graphics card you have, how big the hard disk will be, what case it all goes into and what operating system you run etc. As you put the machine together you will find that your technical skills and confidence get huge boosts. Of course it is wise to find a friendly techie to oversee your first project, and I would strongly advise you to re-think the whole idea if you don’t know one. Under the watchful gaze of the expert eye, try to do as much of the construction and configuration yourself. The final area where DIY PC building has the edge over buying from a shop is future proofing. No matter what the PC world rent-a-geek tells you, PCs churned out by big manufacturers are not very upgradable. They tend to use custom parts that will only be supplied by the machines maker. Some machines are more suitable for modifiying (MESH, DAN, Evesham to name a few) and you may be able to use them a sound foundation for your own project. I recently noticed that both Dell and Compaq are using standard size boards and parts now, making them a great starting point for future modifications. You can be sure that your DIY PC will be built using the standard bits and bobs you can find on the classified pages of any computer mag or web site. Once you have it up and running, you will be able to turn
your basic system into a turbo charged, customised beast with relative ease, if you really want to. Come and have a go if you think your hard enough So you want to have a go? Good. First find your self that friendly IT bloke. It really is important to take things slowly, and make sure you have a helping hand with any of the things you are not sure of. As I said above, if you don’t feel 100% happy, and don’t have a helper on hand, proceed at your own peril. Next get an idea of what you want in your PC. If you have a machine already what don’t you like about it? Are there any parts of it you could re-use? The most expensive individual part of the system will be the monitor in most cases. Providing you have a PS2 mouse and keyboard (easily identifiable by the small, round, connector –identical on both) you can keep those too. Any other parts you can salvage will of course bring the cost down, but that’s up to you. Once you have your “freebie” parts, get an idea of what you want to buy for your new machine. I’ll add a list of links to the bottom of this rather long op to help you decide and cost out your components. Here’s a guide to what you’ll need – if I’ve missed out anything I’m sure I’ll get pulled up and I’ll add it to the list. Case – There are so many cases available you’ll go crazy looking for one. You can choose between two main styles. Desktop cases are typically thin horizontal boxes that allow the monitor to stand on top, making the traditional looking computer. Tower cases are my personal favourite. These boxes give an upright machine that can be tucked away under the desk. Go for a case with detachable side panels, rather than a lift off cover. Detachable panels make it much easier to work on the PC, and offer better room for future upgrades and tweaks (see the section on overclocking and customising fo
r more on this). The case you choose will dictate your motherboard, as they are designed to fit different shapes. However, the older style AT board is more or less phased out now, and you will probably be looking for an ATX form factor. You should get all the screws, fixings etc but may need to buy a PSU (Power Supply Unit) as an extra. If you do need a PSU, try to get a 300W AMD/Intel approved unit with twin fans. CPU – The core of your system is of course the CPU (Central Processing Unit). You have two main choices – AMD or Intel. I favour AMD (I hate Intel’s grip on the PC market and the chips are slower) but you need to make up your own mind here, as chip choice dictates motherboard choice. AMD have the edge over Intel in performance and cost, but the P4 chips are getting cheaper. Once you decide which manufacturer you want you have to choose between the chip type (getting scared yet?). AMD produce two processor types – Athlon and Duron. Intel offers the choice of Pentium or Celaron. The Duron and Celaron models are aimed at the value conscious buyer, while the Athlon and Pentium chips are for the high performance market. If you read between the lines of the marketing blurb you’ll see that the Duron and Celaron chips are based on a similar design to their higher speed siblings, but have less cache (on board memory) and are offered at lower speeds (sub 1Ghz). Research your choice before you look at the motherboard options. Remember – you should ideally go for the fastest CPU in the range you choose. Current CPU speeds are up to 1.4Ghz+. Make sure you purchase a cooling fan and heat sink suitable for your CPU’s power and size. Never ever run the machine without this part - CPUs get HOT! AMD's in particular will cook in minutes. Not having a heatsink will lead to serious damage. Check out the web sites (www.amd.com & www.intel.com for more details). Note that if you choose an ABIT motherboard y
ou will need to be very careful when selecting your heat sink. Certain models will not fit over the chip socket due to surrounding componants. Motherboard – The motherboard is the backbone for your system. Every component you choose will be connected to this board. The motherboard has a special attachment for the CPU which comes in two styles. Opt for a “Socket” model rather than a slot, as the current ranges of chips from both manufacturers are socket style. Be sure to select a board that suits your CPU. Each board has a “chipset” designed to work with a specific processor. The socket itself will only take the chip it is designed for; attempting to insert the wrong chip will only damage it. Think about what you want from your machine and select a board based on those criteria. Check what type of Memory the board takes – DDR RAM is becoming more widely available, but the most common choice is SDRAM – make sure you know which you board will take, and how much you can install. What extra features does the board have? If it offers on board sound and graphics I would suggest you rethink your choice. Generally the built in components are inferior to a specific card. Rather than opting for built in features check for what goodies the BIOS offers, such as CPU voltage settings and RAID, which will be useful to you as you progress to more advanced DIY jobs. Try to opt for a board with an Advanced Graphics Port (AGP), as you will have a wider choice of graphics cards available to you. A good sound choice would be any of the ABIT range. These all come with a tool called SoftmenuII or III. THis is basically a BIOS setup system that will llow you configure your system down to the tinyest detail. Chaintech and Asus also get good reviews. A word of warning. Choose a motherboard that is supplied with an english manual. Many a poor soul has been stuck with a cheaper motherboard complete with Kor
ean or Tiwanese instructions. RAM – Random Access Memory is available in a huge range of types and ratings. Check your board to see what you are permitted to use. Memory comes in various speeds. Most boards will run P133 RAM, while older boards only allow PC100. DDR RAM is available in 1400 and 2100 speeds – opt for the fastest speed you motherboard supports. Hard disk – Hard disks are available in two forms – SCSI and IDE. SCSI drives are generally faster, bigger and more expensive. Using SCSI drives requires a special adapter card or motherboard support. IDE drives will suit most home users. Opt for the biggest drive you can afford. Choose a drive from a reputable maker, such as IBM or Seagate. Make sure you purchase the correct cables to connect the drive to the main board. Floppy Drive – Essential for setting up the PC. Buy the correct cable for this too. DVD drive or CDROM drive – Most software vendors are shipping DVD’s nowadays. You will be able to run advanced games off your DVD drive, DVD movies (with software and graphics card), as well as standard CDs. A CDROM drive will be faster but will only read CDs. CD-ROMs are cheaper, but I would opt for the DVD to future proof your system. Graphics card – There are so many cards available you will be boggled. Your board will more than likely have an AGP port, so go for an AGP card. If you select a motherboard without AGP you’ll have to plump for a PCI graphics card (these are few and far between now, and cost more). The card you choose will decide what you can expect from your PC’s graphics. Go for a good 3D card, preferably a GeForce 2 or higher. Look for one with TV out and DVD capability and you’ve got yourself a DVD player for your TV. Sound Card – There are quite a number of sound card options. You would be best to choose a Sound Blaster model
for ease of use, but again, research your choice and opt for one that has the features you feel you’ll need. Modem - Prehaps this should be the most important part of the system? Without one your DooYoo experience might be a little bit dissapointing. Choose your weapons carefully, as modems are often the hardest piece of hardware to configure. I would recommend you avoid any internal modem (PCI modem) and instead opt for a Serial or USB model. These generally offer better performance and are much easier to set up in my exeperience. If you really must have it all inside make sure you go for a hardware modem instead of a software model. Opt for a reasonable brand such as a US Robotics/3Com. That’s about it. Order your bits and have fun putting it all together. Be careful when handling parts. Always use an anti-static wrist strap as this can save your chips from your electric personalities. Never ever force a component in. If you feel resistance you are probably fitting the part wrong. Read all manuals carefully, if you are unsure of anything check out the manufacturers website for further advise. One final note. You may buy the leading edge parts today, and your PC wil run well on them, but PCs move on so fast. Please dont be disheartend when the next chip line comes out (AMD launch thier Palamino chip any day now) and you are left behind again. Just pop the lid, whicp out the offending slow poke part and pop in the latest and greatest - thats the beauty of DIY. DIY PCs as a hobby Once you’ve got your machine up and running what next? Well, now you’ve proved your technical skills, why not have a go at customising your PC? The most common way to customise your PC is to overclock it. This is quite a serious step down the DIY PC highway. IT basically revolves around squeezing more and more speed out of your CPU and hardware, using various methods such as changing the CPU voltage and spee
d. Be warned – This is tricky stuff, and should be handled carefully, You will need to know the limits of your hardware, how much cooling your case needs and how to fix things when they go wrong! It becomes an obsession, with users squeezing 800Mhz processors up to 1Ghz and beyond. Why not see what your machine can do? While you’re at it, customise that boring old cream case. Check out the links below for more. Links Here are a few useful links for those bits and bobs and vital research. www.dabs.co.uk Good for all parts www.simply.co.uk Another good general parts supplier www.scan.co.uk Check them out for special offers and good low prices www.overclockers.co.uk Good for Cooling equipment (fans etc) links to reviews and more www.theoverclockingstore.co.uk Great for memory and overclocking bits. Check out their custom case section for some good ideas. www.qxl.co.uk A good resource if you know what you want – I got hold of a Duron 800 for £40!
Do you have a decent hi-fi system which is located near to your PC? If so have you thought about connecting your PC to it? If so Ian Robertson shows you how to do it and what you need. Firstly you will need a spare input on your hi-fi. Most decent hi-fi systems will come with at least one AUX input. If you have hi-fi separates you would definitely have an input suitable for you PC. Your PC can be connected to any line input (i.e CD, Tape, Video, DVD, Tuner etc) but in a lot of cases not the input marked phono. This because this is input is designed to be used with a turntable which has a lot weaker signal than that of a CD player or a computer etc. To get round this problem a lot of amps have whats called a phono preamp which amplifies the signal to line level. Once you have found a suitable input you need a lead which has 2 phono plugs on one end and a stereo 3.5mm jack on the other. These leads can be bought from shops like Maplin and cost around £4. The normal length of these cables is around 1m so you may need a to buy and extension lead, these are sold as headphone extensions leads. This will then plug into the 3.5m jack on the other cable. Once you have got the correct length of cable you need to connect the two phono amps into the back of your amp and the 3.5m plug into the output socket on your soundcard. Once you have done this you are away and you can now listen to your mp3s in HIFI quality and it cost you less than £5, the price of some of the worst computer speakers!
Some people, are tempted every now and again to build their own PC. I ask is this a good Idea?. Well there are those that do insist that it's not that difficult and they can build it there self cheaper than buying a PC from a computer store. Is this true, the answer is no. Those who think it would be cheaper to build there own are generally wrong. For example the equipment you need to build a middle of the range PC.( The prices of the components listed below are from computer fairs) would be as follows. 1) a motherboard,=£80 2) a case,=£30 3) a 800mhz processor,=£90 4) a sound card,=£12 5) a 16mb video card,=£75 6) floppy drive,=£15 7) cdrom player,=£30 8) 128mb Ram,=£35 9) speakers=£25, 10) 17inch monitor=£180 11) 20Gig hard drive=£75 12) Windows M.E. O/S=£80 to £90 Adding all the prices together the cost would be around £727.00 so you would find that it would be difficult to build a PC for less than £700, and of course if you foul things up you could have no warranty to fall back on. ****UPDATE**** As you can see from the specs above, this would be what is known as a budget or middle of the range system. If this was a top of the range system with top of the range components, and all the components was bought from a computer store and not a computer fair, the prices would be very different. E.G. An AGP ATi All in Wonder 128 32mb video card would cost around £133.00. And a decent sound card say a PCI SoundBlaster Live! 5.1 Platinum, would cost around another £155.00. Then there is the processor a say for example a Pentium III 1000/133 MHz cpu which would cost around £250.00, (and then theres the pentium 4,) and you could go on. As you can see just these three items would cost around £538.00. So if you was to replace the components from the budget/middle of the range system, with the top of the range components, this would then
make the price shoot upto £1,085 and to buy the same system already built would cost around £1,200.