Hello and welcome to porterjw's Build Guide!
Building a computer. Yes, actually *building* a computer... While that may seem like a daunting task, it's far more simple than many people think. Components today are almost entirely modular and installing an Operating System has never been easier.
As a precursor before we begin - this is not a guide that explains the differences between case styles, CPU types, pros/cons of HDD vs SSD, or different RAM speeds - we have separate, detailed guides on those subjects already. This is meant to be a tutorial for a few types of people: those curious about building their own PC and wondering if it's something they can/want to do, those who decided to take the plunge and build their own custom setup, and those that have built one years ago and perhaps just want a refresher.
The test subject for this Guide is a system I built in 2013 and currently serves as my backup desktop. While the technology and processing power has changed in the years since, the core components and assembly of them has not, and will not for quite a while to come. Since this is a backup system, I had the option to do a complete tear-down and cleaning, and then a rebuild so you can see everything from bare chassis to finished unit.
What type of system do you want to build? Will it be a family PC, a system that be used for business, something for video editing, or a full-powered gaming rig? Different builds require different levels of performance - the computer is no longer a one-size-fits-all machine. Family and Office systems can get away with lower power/performance parts since they'll be used mainly for emails, homework, and general internet browsing. Video editing systems will want to focus heavily on higher and faster RAM while gaming setups will typically have a higher-end CPU and extensive video processing capability. It's good to have a general idea of what sort of system you want to build before jumping in.
Choosing a case is partly dependent on the type of system you want, the desk area you have to work with, and personal preference. Finding the right balance between the first two and the third can take a lot of research.
Unless you purchased a bare case, it should come equipped with at least 2 fans (front and rear). Yours may have more, or it may have none. The number of fans and their location is something to look at during the case selection process. Airflow is extremely important inside your case as it helps keep your system cool by exhausting the heat dissipated by your heat sinks over your processor and chipsets.
And now we begin the actual build... The first thing you want to do is place the case on a level surface. If you're worried about scratching the finish of your work area, a piece of cardboard will protect both the table and case as you move it about. While many people (at times myself included) have built systems on a carpeted floor, it's not recommended to do so due to the potential of static discharge.
Next we'll remove both side panels and (optionally if you are installing front fans) the front fascia. This process will vary depending on case model or Brand and may require a phillip's screwdriver. Most cases now offer tool-less designs and larger-headed thumb screws that remove easily with just your fingers, and both side panels will more than likely have this feature. Your front fascia is held in place by clips that will pop out with gentle but firm force and will have wires attached to it - these feed the power/reset buttons, indicator lights, and front USB ports if applicable.
(Front fascia pulled forward)
(Wire loom for front Power/USB ports)
These wires will connect to the motherboard eventually, but for now they will just be in a bundle and tucked into the chassis. If you have enough room to pivot the fascia without removing it to install the fan, that would be ideal. If not, you'll have to gently pull the wires through the opening until you have enough space to work in. If you purchased a case with a window (glass or acrylic) it will have a protective sheet over the outside. *DO NOT* remove this sheet until you finish building the system and have everything put together as the acrylic especially can scratch easy. Set the side panels and fascia (if removed) aside in a safe area.
Contained in the chassis will be a random bag of stand-offs, different sized screws, perhaps a zip tie or two, and maybe a spare latch or other random part. Best advice one can give here is put the bag in a bowl before you open it as these are small parts and it's very easy to spill as you're fishing around for what you need and then spend time looking for whatever fell to the floor. You're going to need parts from the bag for the next step, so just open it in a bowl and gently empty the bag. If you're lucky you'll get a case from a supplier that bags each size screw separately. If this is true for you, don't open the individual bags, just lay them out on your work surface.
(Your case will have fewer or more types of screws depending on the brand and size)
Power Supply Unit (PSU) Installation
This will be the very first thing we actually want to install. We're going to do this first for two reasons: 1) this is typically the bulkiest part of the build and we'll want to secure it in place now rather than risk maneuvering it over sensitive components later, and 2) we'll want to get whatever cable loom connected to it out of the way (either draped over the top of the frame or routed out a rear frame opening) so we're not trying to fish it between other components in later steps. When selecting a PSU, you'll often see the terms 'modular' and 'fully modular' used. A standard (non-modular) PSU will have all of the wires needed to power the system permanently attached. A modular PSU will usually have only the main motherboard wire bundle attached and smaller cables that power the CPU and other components can be added as-needed. A fully modular PSU will have the option of removing every wire bundle (Note: for modular/fully modular PSU's, even though you may not have any/many wire bundles on the PSU itself, it's still recommended to install this first.)
(Fully modular PSU - every wire bundle can be removed and added indivudually)
Depending on case style, your PSU will either be installed on the top or bottom. The screws to secure this to the chassis will be slightly larger with a broader head.
(Mounted in lower part of case)
(View from rear of case - four screws secure the unit)
Case Fans (and where to power them from)
If you ordered a case without fans, or decided to replace the stock ones with either higher CFM (Cubic Foot per Minute) airflow or lower noise units, we'll install those next. Your exhaust fans will mount inside the chassis either on the rear or upper part of the case, but your intake(s) could possibly mount in the space between the front fascia and chassis, or inside the chassis but require the screws to be installed from behind the fascia.
The 'Golden Rule' of airflow is this:
Front/Bottom fan = INTAKE, Rear/Upper fan = EXHAUST
(Lower front intake fan)
(Upper rear exhaust fan)
Airflow works best when the air actually flows, not meets opposing air every few inches. A system that follows the above rule and uses only two case fans that have a middle-of-the-road airflow rating will run cooler than a system with fans providing a higher airflow rating pushing air everywhere and causing turbulence in your case. Your heat sinks (covered later) have one purpose - pull generated heat into their fins to cool the components they are attached to. Similarly, your fans have one purpose - flow air over the heat sink fins to carry that warmth out of your system. Different cases will have differently-sized fan diameters - if you need to purchase fans, make sure you look at the case specifications page to determine what size you need.
You have two different options to power your fans; 3 or 4 pin headers on the motherboard (usually identified by the SYS_FAN(X) designation where X is the header number), or by SATA/Molex connector. The number of 3/4 pin headers will mainly vary depending on the size of the motherboard and, to a lesser degree, the Brand (some companies like to skimp). For a micro ATX board, you're looking at 2-3 fan headers in addition to the CPU and for a full ATX board, you'll generally see 3-5 headers in addition to the CPU. The locations of these fan headers will vary between motherboards. In this instance, Fan 1 is located near a PCIE slot and Fan 2 is located at the very bottom of the board.
Three pin headers will provide power for a fan to run at it's rated speed constantly while four pin headers will allow for fan throttling. Simply put, throttling a fan will allow it to run at a lower speed under lower loads, or be user-adjustable. SATA/Molex connected fans will run at their rated speed only.
(Note: your CPU will have it's own fan header, usually designated by CPU_FAN, and that header will be very close to the CPU Socket. This header should be used to power ONLY the CPU fan.)
(Note: some aftermarket CPU coolers require the installation of a bracket on the back side of the Motherboard before the actual cooler can be mounted. If this holds true for you and your case does not have a removable Motherboard tray or direct access to the rear of the socket, you MUST install the bracket before securing the Motherboard to the case!
If you are using an above-mentioned bracketed cooler, it is highly recommended that the CPU and heat sink assembly are installed before installing the Motherboard inside the case! See the two areas below this segment for those instructions if you'd like to get those squared away before proceeding with this part.)
The type of Motherboard you are using will depend on the location for the grounding (standoff) posts. Almost all mid/full-tower cases (seriously, you have to actively search to find one that doesn't) will support at least micro- and full-ATX boards, meaning you should see far more threaded holes in the case than you will be using. Simply look to see where the holes on your board are and thread the posts into the corresponding spots on the case frame.
(Your mounting points look like this)
(Motherboard case standoffs)
(Standoffs screwed into proper holes. Make sure you only install where your motherboard has a screw hole)
It's perfectly fine to gently position the board in the case to get a better idea if you aren't sure where to place a few of them, just make sure you don't bend the board or excessively scrape it around on the frame.
Your motherboard will also come with a shield plate to protect the ports on the back of the case. This plate will be specific to your motherboard's I/O features. This should be installed prior to securing the board in the case. There are no screws, it simply snaps into the opening in the rear of the case.
Once the posts are installed in their correct positions, it's time to mount the board to them. Simply place the board on top and use the screws provided to secure and ground the board. Hand tight is what we're looking for here. Not hand tight plus another quarter turn, not hand tight until you can't turn anymore...just hand tighten until you feel resistance. PCB can take a bump or two, but applying too much pressure to such a small area such as a screw opening can damage the surrounding area.
(Continued in Post 2)
HP has just announced a recall and replacement program for Lithium-Ion laptop batteries, with a multitude of models affected. There are an estimated 52,000+ devices impacted in North America alone, according to Consumer Reports. The danger is a common one with electronic devices nowadays; the batteries have the “potential to overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard to customers”. Since many of these sleek modern HP systems affected sport non user-replaceable batteries, users will have to return the whole system for service. HP will cover the full costs of new battery plus any technician service time required.
The HP recall involves lithium-ion batteries for the HP ProBook (64x G2 and G3 series, 65x G2 and G3 series); HPx360 310 G2; HP Envy m6; HP Pavilion x360; HP 11; and HP ZBook (17 G3, 17 G4, and Studio G3) – or check the table below. Please note that the HP ZBook Studio G4 is a product that is compatible with, but did not ship with, the affected batteries.
If the above list and reference table still leaves you in some doubt whether your system is affected or not, HP has created a special Battery Program Validation Utility. The utility takes under 30 sec to confirm whether or not your PC is affected.
For those that do find out that their HP system is covered by the recall and replacement program, HP asks these users to apply a BIOS update putting the system into Battery Safety Mode. This special BIOS allows safe use of affected systems when connected to an HP power adapter. After the BIOS update, reboot and the battery will discharge and cease future charging until it has been replaced.
According to Consumer Reports, HP has received eight reports of batteries overheating, melting, or charring. In one case a user received a first degree burn on their hand, and there were three incidents of property damage totaling $1,500.