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Build your own PC

It is increasingly popular to build your own computer. In most cases, it saves money, nobody can cheat on you, and it guarantees you get what you want. It also assures you avoid proprietary designs many companies use to keep you coming to them for new parts. Best of all, having built the system yourself, you become very familiar with that system and with computers in general.

Purchase/selecting the Components

The most difficult thing of building your own PC is finding the best components for your budget. How much money do you have, what do you need for that PC, which parts do I buy, which are the best, and what kind of your job? These are the question that you have to think before you decide to by the stuffs. This is the parts that you need for your computer.

1) The motherboard

The motherboard is the main component on your computer that everything else plugs into. Sometimes it is called the system board.

Each component on the motherboard:


This is the heart of the motherboard. It is the computer's brain. It's job is to process information and sling information around to all of the various hardware that needs it. For the most part your choices are 386, 486, 586, and "686". The 586 is the most commonly known as the Pentium (for copyright reasons); the 686 is probably for the new P6 (Pentium II). Anyway, it makes sense. 386es are the slowest, "686"es are the fastest (and, not coincidentally, the most expensive..). Actually, CPU's get two numbers that classify it. One is the type (486, Pentium, Pentium II) and the other is the megahertz rating. Both numbers are important in knowing what kind of CPU you have, and how fast it is. Nowadays, the common speeds of CPU on the market are Pentium (MMX) 166, 200, 233, 266 and Pentium II 233, 266, 300, 333, 350, 400Mhz (and higher..). There are a few different manufacturers of CPUs, Intel.

being the leader and they are also the most expensive. AMD chips is find too, without problem. And the other company is Cyrix.

Math Coprocessor

A math coprocessor greatly increases the speed of mathematical calculations. 386s don't have math coprocessors built into them--it's available as a separate chip. 486s have them if their name ends in DX. So a 486DX has a coprocessor, a 486SX doesn't have. A 486DX2 means that it is two times faster than a standard 486DX. Today's modern CPU's (Pentium) all come with a math-coprocessor embedded into the CPU itself, so don't worry about it.


A cache is a memory medium that provides faster access than the medium where the data is customarily stored. A cache memory architecture combines SRAM's speed with DRAM's cost effectiveness. It provides a small amount (usually 64KB or less) of fast SRAM (the cache) that is logically located between the processor and main memory (which is usually simple DRAM). If you have 8 MB of ram, should have a 128k - 256k cache, 16 MB should have a 256k cache, and 32 MB would be really swell with a 512k cache.


The BIOS is another very important part of your computer that makes its home on your motherboard. "BIOS" stands for Basic Input/Output System. It usually resides in a series of chips. If the CPU is the brain, the BIOS is the nervous system. It takes care of the behind-the-scenes stuff. The BIOS records what size hard drive, how much RAM, and other system information. Phoenix and Award are the big BIOS makers. Make sure you get the most recent BIOS chip possible and you may save yourself some problems.

The bus

A bus is the data path on the computer's motherboard that interconnects the microprocessor with attachments to the motherboard in expansion slots (such as hard disk drives, CD-ROM drives, and graphics adapters). What options do you have for the bus? ISA, VLB, EISA, PCI, and probably a few others. If you have a PCI bus, you plug PCI cards into it (like a video card). If you have an ISA bus, you use ISA cards. Many buses have both built in. VLB is also really common and faster than ISA. PCI is the fastest of the ones listed here, but the most expensive. 586 (Pentium) motherboards are PCI-based. The 586 PCI systems almost always include ISA and/or VLB slots too.

Integrated Circuitry

Usually, I/O adapters on the motherboard are of the IDE/EIDE interface and they are marked HDD for hard drive and FDD for the floppy. You simply plug your data ribbons into these and you can bypass the need for a separate I/O card. The downside is that if you want to use a system other than that on the motherboard, you have to disable the circuitry on the board.

2) RAM

RAM stands for Random Access Memory and it is where information is stored while the computer is on. It is volatile memory, meaning all data is lost when power is turned off. The RAM is used for temporary storage of program data, allowing performance to be optimum. Having more RAM in your computer reduces the number of times that the computer processor has to read data in from your hard disk, an operation that takes much longer than reading data from RAM. The more RAM you have, the more able you are to handle large amounts of data and big programs. The most common RAM chips are SIMMs (Single Inline Memory Modules). SIMMs chips come in 2 sizes: 30 pin and 72 pin. Lower-end motherboards usually use 30 pin, higher-end 72 pin. Some motherboards can take both. In a 586 (Pentium) motherboard, 72 pin SIMMs must be installed in pairs. The more slots on motherboard the better. You can expand RAM more easily later.

Types of RAM:
SDRAM - synchronous dynamic RAM

Sending data from main memory to the system processor is consistently one of the biggest performance bottlenecks in any PC. Even the fastest standard DRAM and EDO memory cannot keep up with the 66-MHz bus speeds used on many Pentium systems. SDRAM incorporates new features that allow it to keep pace with bus speeds as high as 100 MHz. It does this primarily by allowing two sets of memory addresses to be opened simultaneously. Data can then be retrieved alternately from each set, eliminating the delays that normally occur when one bank of addresses must be shut down and another prepared for reading during each request.

DRAM - dynamic RAM

DRAM is the Hershey's chocolate of readable/writable memory: it's not the best, but it's cheap, does the job, and is available almost everywhere you look. DRAM data resides in a cell made of a capacitor and a transistor. The capacitor tends to lose data unless it's recharged every couple of milliseconds, and this recharging tends to slow down the performance of DRAM compared to speedier RAM types.

EDO RAM - extended data-out RAM

This form of dynamic RAM speeds access to memory locations by working on a simple assumption: the next time memory is accessed, it will be at a contiguous address in a contiguous chunk of hardware. This assumption speeds up memory access times by up to 10 percent over standard DRAM.

SRAM - static RAM

SRAM is like DRAM on steroids. Since it stores its data in capacitors that don't require constant recharging to retain their data, it performs better (though it is pricier to produce). SRAM is typically used for secondary caches because its speed falls somewhere between that of DRAMs and a CPU-based cache (typically 8ns to 20ns, as opposed to 60ns to 80ns for DRAM).

3) Hard-Drives

There are 2 types you can go with hard drives: IDE (and EIDE) or SCSI.

I) IDE: Integrated Drive Electronics

IDE is the most common and least expensive. If you have a 586 system, odds are that you have the controller built into the motherboard so you won't need to buy a card. The interface most of us use, that we call IDE, is actually called ATA, or AT Attachment. Most drives today are IDE. These drives have the controller built on. They plug into a bus connector on the motherboard or an adapter card. Such drives are easy to install and require a minimum number of cables. EIDE: Extended Integrated Drive Electronics EIDE is defined as an improved version of IDE/AT Attachment, with faster data rates, 32-bit transactions, and (in some drives) DMA (Direct Memory Access-the device speaks directly to memory bypassing the CPU).

The IDE "bus" only supports two devices - master and slave per controller. But the advantages are much lower price and equal or greater speeds than many SCSI drives. Also IDE drives are the de facto standard for PC's and everything is compatible with IDE.

II) SCSI: Small Computer System Interface SCSI is much better, faster, and cooler. SCSI is an entirely different interface than the more popular IDE. It is more of a system level interface, meaning that it does not only deal with disk drives. It is not a controller, like IDE, but a separate bus that is hooked to the system bus via a host adapter. It is capable of 7 drives on one card and you can plug multiple cards into your system. If you have a SCSI card you can plug in SCSI hard drives, SCSI tape drives, SCSI scanners, SCSI brain surgery kits--anything SCSI. SCSI drives are more expensive than IDE. RPM: This is how fast the drive spins. Common numbers are between 3600 and 7200. The faster the drive is spinning, the faster it can send information to the computer. A higher RPM drive will cost more and the only possible downside is that it will run hotter.

Nowadays, the memory on the hard drives on the market are 2.1GB, 3.2GB, 4.3GB, 6.4GB, and higher.

4) The Floppy Drives

The floppy drive is one of the easiest parts of the computer to work with. And, considering other parts, there isn't that much to know about floppy drives. These puppies come in two flavors: 3.5 inch and 5.25 inch. But I have never seen 5.25 inch for a long time. These diskettes come in different densities. The old ones are single-density. They only hold 720K of data. The standard disks of today are called high-density. They usually hold 1.44MB of data.

5) Sound Cards

Today, with sound cards being so affordable, it is a piece of cake to turn your PC into a high-fidelity sound system. And, with even common business software using sound now, a sound card is a requirement for most software. The first, and most important, feature is what type of MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) synthesis your sound card will have. MIDI is just a set of commands issued by the application that tells the sound card which instrument to play, at what note, and for what duration. The superior method of MIDI synthesis used on some modern soundboards is called wavetable synthesis. A wavetable lookup synthesizer uses digitized samples of actual instrument sounds that are stored on what is called a wavetable. However, not all wavetable cards have the same amount of stored samples. Some cards have 4MB of samples while others will have 8MB. 3-D sound effects are also included on some cards. Whether the system used is SRS (Sound Retrieval System), Q-Sound, or Spatializer, it is designed to improve the perceived stereo effect of your speakers.

If you head on over to the computer store in your area to buy a sound card, you will find that there are now numerous PCI versions available. The PCI bus, on the other hand, offers a 100-MBps bandwidth or higher. Several simultaneous sound channels are no problem for the PCI bus.

6) Video Cards

The video card is the basis of your display. It contains all the circuitry relating to your computer's ability to send a picture to the monitor. When buying a new video card, it needs to be matched with the monitor. It is best to buy the video card first, then buy a suitable monitor. Most video cards these days are accelerated for graphical operating systems. For instance, a 1 meg card usually will only allow 256 colors at 1024x768 while a 2 meg card usually allows at least 16-bit (about 65,000 or so) color. You need 4 meg of video memory to use 24-bit (true color: 16 million) color at 1024x768.

What makes a video card faster is the type of memory on the card. DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) is used on the majority of video cards these days. VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) is different than DRAM in that it features a dual-ported design allowing two devices (the CRT controller and the CPU) to access the memory at the same time. Some companies are now using EDO RAM that is supposed to reduce memory access time by an average of 10% compared to standard DRAM.

7) CD-ROM and DVD


CDs are now the main medium for distribution of software. CD-ROM drives are turning into a must have. Lots of software is distributed on it, and if you want to do any multimedia, you pretty much have to have one. A single CD can hold about 650 MB of data and it costs less then a dollar to make. CD-ROM players come in many styles. They are both external and internal. They also come in different speeds. The speed compares how much faster it is than a standard audio CD player. A 2X drive is twice the speed of your stereo's CD player, and so on. Technology has advanced quite a bit. Today, 24X or 32X is standard. CD-ROMs are becoming more and more advanced as time goes on. They are getting faster and cheaper now.


There has been a lot of talk lately about the advances in DVD. Many claim it to be the next step beyond the CD-ROM. The DVD acronym is a little vague. Some call it Digital Video Disk while other call it Digital Versatile Disk. It doesn't really matter, though. It is indeed the next step beyond CD-ROM. Each disk can hold anywhere from 4.7GB to 17GB! A standard CD can hold only 650MB. While this is good, DVD also plays a big role in bringing the computer to the level of the TV. Many movies are now distributed on DVD-ROM. These movies often allow the user to select custom camera angles or view it in different languages. A DVD drive come with more than just the drive. Most kits come with the ATAPI/EIDE drive, an MPEG II decoder card, and various cables and sample software titles. While they are a little more involved than installing a CD-ROM but it's not that hard.

8) Cases

The case is that metal and plastic box you see when you look at your computer. Most people don't think of it as an important part of the computer. It supports the parts of your computer. It seems easy to find a case, yes! But not a good one. Lots of them are scrawny thin tin pieces of junk. If you can inspect the case, here are some things to look for:

- Does it feel physically sturdy? - Can you twist it easily?

- Is it big enough for all the components you need to put in there?

- Will things be easy to access once they are installed?

- Is there enough space to work inside the case easily?

A clean case with lots of space inside helps the air-flow through the system. Also, a closed case's design actually helps to funnel the air through the system over the components that need it, such as the CPU. The two main types of case are the tower and the desktop. A tower is the most common and is taller than it is wide. The desktop's main advantage is the placement on the desk and space saving design. It is not a good cooling case. Make sure your case comes with a power supply, or you'll have to buy one. The power supply is a very important part of your computer, and also the most likely to fail. Today, they go as high as 500 watts. The average computer today uses 230 watt or 250 watt.


9) Monitors

Monitors are not important because of their impact on performance, but their impact on the usability of the PC. A bad quality monitor can hamper the use of an otherwise high tech PC simply because a monitor that is hard to look at can make the PC hard to use. There are many kinds of monitors. An EGA monitor works with a 9-pin connector and the EGA video card. EGA screens can show 64 different colors. VGA monitors use a 15-pin connector, setting them apart from RGB and EGA. VGA monitors can show millions of colors.

10) Keyboard

There are a ton of keyboards on the market. Some keyboards have a trackball built into them. This item is up to you. Go for it if you want.

11) Other


A mouse is a small device that a computer user pushes across a desk surface in order to point to a place on a display screen and to select one or more actions to take from that position. A mouse consists of a metal or plastic housing or casing, a ball that sticks out of the bottom of the casing and is rolled on a flat surface, one or more buttons on the top of the casing, and a cable that connects the mouse to the computer. As the ball is moved over the surface in any direction, a sensor sends impulses to the computer that causes a mouse-responsive program to reposition a visible indicator (called a cursor) on the display screen.

Network Interface Card

A network interface card (NIC) is a computer circuit board or card that is installed in a computer so that it can be connected to a network. Personal computers and workstations on local area networks (LANs) typically contain a network interface card specifically designed for the LAN transmission technology, such as Ethernet or Token Ring.


A modem modulates digital signals from a computer or other digital device to analog signals for a conventional copper twisted-pair telephone line and demodulates the analog signal and converts it to a digital signal for the digital device.

Removable Storage (Zip drive)

Today, with the heavy use of computers, data storage and data safety is of the most important. The Iomega ZIP drive basically started it. It is pretty cheap, holds 100MB per disk, and is a snap to install and use. The ZIP drive is best for backup purposes. While you can run files off of the disk itself, the speed is not adequate. The drive is only 4 or 5 times faster than a standard floppy drive.

After you know the component of the PC, it is the time to make your decision to buy that stuffs on your budget and you need. There are tons of different sources for parts to build your own machine. Hit some of the local stores in your area and see what they have in stock. Also you can also pick up a copy of Computer Shopper which has about a million ads in it. Have fun choosing your stuffs!!

Put everything together

After you get everything, it is the time to put everything together.


  1. Remove and prepare the case: This is a very easy step. Basically, you are just taking the cover off of your new case. Most cases have the power supply connected to the cases power switch. Make sure it is set to the proper voltage of your area- 110V for U.S. and 220V for some countries.
  2. Configure Your Motherboard: Its time to get your motherboard ready to install. The first step is to configure it. Configuring your motherboard usually requires setting jumpers on the motherboard according to the CPU you plan on putting on it. You need to have the manual for your board available. If you do not have the manual, log on to the manufacturer's web site and see if you can find this info there. You should 1) Read the Manual. Always. 2) Set the voltage settings. 3) Set the processor speed. 4) Some boards make use of a jumper to set the cache size and type. Set this now. 5) Double-check the other settings that were set my the manufacturer to make sure they are correct.
  3. Install the CPU: Installing the CPU is a pretty straight-forward process. Doing this step too fast or carelessly can result in damage to the processor. Therefore, don't get nervous. It is an easy step, but do it with care. After CPU is installed in the motherboard, you need to install the heat sink and fan.
  4. Install the Cache Module: On many late-486's and early Pentiums, external cache, or Level 2 cache, was installed in a slot. This was later abandoned in favor of on-board cache, which most modern boards have. If you are installing a newer board with on-board cache, you can skip this step. Push the module into the slot. This may require a bit of pressure, but don't force it. Make sure the motherboard is on a flat surface so that you don't flex the board. Like a card, it may be easier to rock the module, installing one side, then the other.
  5. Install Memory: Just take the RAM, and put it in the white slots. It won't let you put it in backwards. It goes in at an angle, and snaps in. Make sure that it is in all the way. You may have to change some jumpers on your motherboard depending upon what type of RAM it is, and what size it is. The information should be in your motherboard manual. On a Pentium system, 72-pin SIMMs must be installed in pairs. DIMMs can be installed alone. On 486 class machines, 72-pin SIMMs can be installed alone while 30-pin SIMMs must be installed in groups of four.
  6. Install the Motherboard: Now you need to install the motherboard into the case. Make sure all of the jumpers are set correctly for your motherboard. The information is in your motherboard's manual. Take the board and line it up in the case so that the keyboard port on the motherboard lines up with the keyboard hole in the case. Then see where the screw/riser holes in the motherboard line up with the holes in the case. You should have gotten some white tabs called spacers, some brass screws with screw holes in the top of the (risers), and some other screws with your case. The risers screw into the case and line with the holes in the motherboard. Then you screw a screw through the hole in the motherboard into the top of the brass screw. Put the plastic washer between the screws and the motherboard. You'll also need to put the spacers in the motherboard and line them up with the holes in the case. This keeps the motherboard from touching the case and shorting out.  Next, you have to attach the power supply to the motherboard. There will be two wide power cables coming out of the power supply. There will be a matching connection on the motherboard. Plug them in with the 4 black wires in the middle. Double check your work. Check to be sure that the back of the motherboard is not touching any part of the case or mounting plate.
  7. Install the Video Card: Find a expansion slot ideal for your video card. The slot must be the correct type, and it should be as far as possible from other hardware in the system. Insert the video card in the slot. You might need to rock the card in, inserting one end first, then rocking the rest of the pins into place. When pushing down, make sure the motherboard does not flex and screw the card into place.
  8. The First test: you have the RAM in the motherboard, the motherboard in the case and connected to the power supply, and the video card installed, you can give it a test. Just to make sure everything is working before adding new hardware. Plug your monitor into the video card, plug the computer into the wall, and flip the switch. you'll get some sort of startup screen. If you did, congratulations!. If not, check everything again from the first step.
  9. Install/Connect the Floppy Drive: First plug in a card, just like you did with the video card. If your motherboard has on board floppy controllers, don't worry about this. Then physically install the floppy drive into a drive bay. Just slide the puppy in there and screw it in with the screws provided with the case or the drive. Then plug the drive into the card/motherboard. The floppy drive ribbon will have a twist in the center of it. Plug the "twist" end into the drive with the colored part of the ribbon towards the center (one edge of the ribbon will be colored or have some dots on it, or something). Then plug the other end into the card/motherboard. The colored part of the ribbon will go on pin 1's side (this is what the color indicates). Pin one on the card/motherboard will be indicated with a 1 in that corner or a dot or something. If it isn't, check your manual. Then you need to plug the drive into the power supply. It will be one of the narrow white plugs coming out of the power supply. It can only be installed one way onto the drive.
  10. Install/Connect the Hard Drive: Set the jumpers correctly on the hard drive. With SCSI you'll have to set a SCSI ID. The card itself is usually 7, so set the drive to 0. If you are using IDE drives you need to set Master/Slave. Set the first drive to master and the second to slave. Follow the manual. Mount the hard drive into the case like you did with the floppy drive. Plug ribbon into the drive with the colored part of the ribbon towards the power on the drive. At the other end, plug the colored part of the ribbon into pin 1, just like the floppy drive again. For power do the same as the floppy, but use the larger white plug.
  11. Install/Connect the CD-ROM or DVD: Just like a hard drive, just find a free 4-wire power plug and plug it into the power connector on the CD-ROM or DVD. If it has a card, install it just like you would your video card.
  12. Install the other card: Just like you did with the rest. Check their jumper settings, put them in any of the appropriate available slots and secure them to the case.
  13. Plug in your keyboard and monitor.
  14. The second test: Plug the computer back into the wall and turn on the power. Odds are that it didn't work. Something is always in backwards. Unplug the computer and check everything again.
  15. Configure The BIOS: You'll probably get some error in BIOS because it hasn't been configured. Hold down the delete key (not backspace!) to enter the BIOS settings (on most boards--yours may vary). You may have to set the RAM amount, and you'll most definitely have to tell it your hard drive settings (unless it's SCSI). All this stuff should be in your manuals or printed on the drive or available from the dealer/manufacturer.
  16. Install your hard drive and CD-ROM or DVD
  17. Install The Operating System: An operating system (sometimes abbreviated as "OS") is the program that, after being initially loaded into the computer by a bootstrap program, manages all the other programs in a computer. After you install CD-ROM, you are ready to install the operating system. First, assume that you will be installing Windows 95/98 on this machine. Windows 95/98 is, by far, the most popular operating system for the PC. UNIX, Windows 95/98, DEC's VMS, IBM's OS/2, Linux, AIX, and OS/390 are all examples of operating systems.. It is up to you which one you prefer.
Congratulation !! Finally, you got your own PC.




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  8. Inc. The Operating System. (1998, August 2)
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