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Build A PC - How To Assemble

Computer Assembly - How To Assemble A PC

First Boot

As a computer builder - a builder of PC's - you must make changes to BIOS parameters. Some people are a little squeamish about this, but that's the facts. Don't worry, you'll get over it. The BIOS parameters are stored in a type of memory called CMOS. Thus the name of the menu system for changing the parameters is "CMOS Setup Utility". The reason I'm telling you this right up front before the first boot is that it's possible to change the BIOS parameters in such a way that the computer will not boot - it will just sit there, dark and lifeless, with only the sound of the fans to keep you company. I suppose it's even possible that the motherboard could arrive with the BIOS parameters completely out of whack giving the same results without you having changed a thing. Therefore, it's important to know how to "clear the CMOS" as the first thing to try should this symptom occur.

Here is the sure-fire way to clear the CMOS. Use both the jumper pins to clear the CMOS, and simultaneously remove the CMOS battery. The battery is located as shown in the upper-right circle. The jumper pins are located as shown in the lower-left circle. Keep in mind I'm using the Gigabyte P55A-UD4P motherboard, so check the manual for your own motherboard if it's different. When clearing the CMOS, the computer should be turned off and everything unplugged from the back.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Gigabyte P55A-UD4P Motherboard CMOS Jumpers
The jumper pins are circled in this close-up, and the battery can be seen in the upper-right of the picture.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Motherboard CMOS Jumper Normal Setting and Battery
Now remove the battery. Leave the battery removed for at least fifteen seconds. In addition, a jumper can be placed on the jumper pins to clear the CMOS, although removing the battery is sufficient.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Motherboard CMOS Battery Removed
Then re-install the battery and remove the jumper from the jumper pins. The CMOS is now cleared and you're ready to go.

Ok, with that little bit of failure procedure out of the way, the computer is ready for it's first boot. Naturally it won't come all the way up. The hard drive has not even been installed yet. But this is an important test. It will verify the processor, CPU cooler, RAM and video card are all installed properly and working.

Here's how the back of the computer case looks at this point.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Antec Sonata 2 Computer Case With ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe Wireless Edition Motherboard Installed I/O Shield
Verify the power switch in the back of the computer is set to the off position (set to 0 - zero). If there is a red slider switch to set the voltage then set it to be correct for your country. The EarthWatts 500 power supply that comes with the Antec Sonata 3 does not have a voltage slider (first picture), but it's not uncommon. The second picture is an example from another power supply. The voltage slider can be set to one of two values which are normally labeled either 110 and 220 or 115 and 230. For the U.S., the correct setting is either the 110 or 115. There is a notch on the red slider to change the setting. Connect the power cord that came with the computer case into the back of the computer and plug it into a wall outlet. Connect the power cord that came with the monitor into the back of the monitor and plug it into a wall outlet.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Antec Earthwatts Power Supply Switch in Off Position   How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Antec Earthwatts Power Supply Red Voltage Slider
Connect the receiver for the wireless keyboard and mouse into the back of the computer. The receiver that comes with the Logitech LX710 connects to a USB port. Other receivers may use the PS/2 port. Circled in this picture are two USB ports on top and one PS/2 port. Both USB and PS/2 connections are keyed so they can only be plugged in one way. The PS/2 port is color coded.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Keyboard and Mouse Connectors
Connect the monitor cable to the video connector on the video card, circled in red in the picture below. The connection is keyed so it can only be plugged in one way. If there are two DVI ports on the video card, like I have, then either one can be used.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Video Connector on Video Card
With these connections made, the back of the computer looks like this.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Antec Sonata II Computer Case Rear Connections At First Boot
Turn the monitor on and give it 10 seconds to warm up. Letting the monitor warm up will ensure you see as much as possible when you turn on the computer. The monitor LED will probably be either steady orange or blinking green.

Flat panel LCD monitors typically have more than one input connector, such as to support both standard analog VGA monitors and digital DVI monitors. The Dell Ultrasharp 2001FP flat panel LCD monitor has four input connectors. For monitors with more than one input connector, configure the monitor to use the one that is connected. For the Dell Ultrasharp 2001FP, use the input selector button located on the front of the panel along the bottom. Press the input selector button until the monitor displays "DVI".

Probably the brightness and contrast controls on the monitor are fine for now, at least good enough so that whatever is displayed will be visible. But bear this in mind in case everything seems to be working but the monitor is not displaying anything. The controls may be at an extreme setting which blacks out the entire screen.

Leave the computer case cover off. You'll want to look inside as part of this test, plus you'll be getting back inside the computer soon enough, anyway. Flip the power switch in back of the computer to the on position (set to 1 - one). This is it! Press the power button on the front of the computer case. The power button is the larger button inside the yellow-circled area on the front of the Antec Sonata 3 case. The smaller button is the reset button.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Antec Sonata 3 Power Button and Reset Button
It will look as if nothing is happening for a few seconds, but you should hear the fans running. Check and make sure each fan is actually spinning including the computer case exhaust fan, CPU cooler fan, the fan mounted on the video card, the fan mounted in back of the power supply and any other fans mounted on the motherboard. The monitor screen will be blank. Then you'll hear the monitor make a degauss noise (for CRT monitors only) and the monitor indicator will burn steady green. If the computer is running but the fan on the CPU cooler is not turning then power off the computer immediately. The CPU will overheat in a matter of seconds without the CPU cooler fan running. If the CPU cooler fan is not running it's most likely because its power connection has not been made.

Next the computer emits a single beep from the internal speaker. The single beep indicates all is well. If the computer had detected something wrong then it would have emitted a beep code which could be any combination of long and short beeps. Immediately after the beep is emitted, a splash screen may be shown. The Gigabyte P55A-UD4P shows this splash screen. Notice at the bottom of the screen is message which indicates to use DEL to enter "BIOS SETUP".
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, Gigabyte P55A-UD4P Motherboard Boot Splash Screen
Some motherboards may display a screen like the one shown below, although the P55A-UD4P motherboard did not - or if did then it displayed for just a fraction of a second. This is a BIOS header screen and includes information such as how much RAM is configured in the computer. The BIOS header screen will also show the processor speed, but this may default to a slower speed than what is actually in the computer, which is fine. Even if shown as part of the normal boot sequence, the screen may only last for seconds and it may be hard to pick out this kind of information "on the fly" the first time. After a few seconds, it's possible the computer will halt showing a "CMOS checksum error - Defaults loaded" message. If so then you now have a chance to examine the screen at your leisure. But the Gigabyte P55A-UD4P did not encounter a checksum error and did not halt at this point.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, BIOS Main Menu CMOS Setup Utility
The Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse may need to be initialized before they will work. Turn the keyboard over and press the small "Connect" button. Turn the mouse over and press the small "Connect" button. And finally, press the "Connect" button on the Logitech wireless base. The wireless base should be in close proximity to the keyboard and mouse, say within a couple of feet. This initialization only has to be done one time ever. Of course, if the keyboard or mouse stops working for some reason then one thing to try is the "Connect" buttons again. The batteries in the mouse should last almost six months. The batteries in the keyboard should last over a year. If the keyboard or mouse ever stops responding and the "Connect" button doesn't do the trick then the problem is most likely the batteries.

Push the "Delete" key to enter the "CMOS Setup Utility" menu. It may take more than one try to enter the CMOS Setup Utility menu, due to having to get the keyboard and mouse ready, or other reasons. Also, it could take a moment to take in what's happening and find the Delete key. For most builds a single tap of the Delete key is sufficient, but needing to gently tap the Delete key at a rate of about twice a second is not unusual. And for the Gigabyte P55A-UD4P motherboard in particular I needed to press and hold the Delete key while the splash screen was displayed. By the way, holding the key like this causes the key to automatically repeat and eventually results in the computer emitting a muffled, rapid beeping noise to indicate there are too many key presses. If more than one try is needed to enter the CMOS Setup Utility then that's fine. Just turn the computer off and back on using the power button on the front of the computer case.

The menu for the CMOS Setup Utility appears. What needs to be done is to initialize the CMOS by loading in fail-safe default values. Any changes made to the CMOS that are saved are remembered the next time the computer boots. The battery mounted on the motherboard ensures CMOS data is not lost when the computer is powered off.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, BIOS Main Menu CMOS Setup Utility
Use the arrow keys to cursor over to the menu item called "Load Fail-Safe Defaults". Press the "Enter" key.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, BIOS Main Menu CMOS Setup Utility
A dialog box appears in the center of the screen with the prompt "Load Fail-Safe Defaults (Y/N)?" with the cursor on the "N" for No response.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, BIOS Main Menu CMOS Setup Utility
Change the "N" to a "Y" for Yes. Press "Enter".
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, BIOS Main Menu CMOS Setup Utility
The dialog box disappears. Cursor over to the "Save & Exit Setup" menu item and press "Enter". The F10 key is also a hot key as shown near the bottom of the menu where is states "F10 : Save & Exit Setup".
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, BIOS Main Menu CMOS Setup Utility
A dialog box appears with the prompt "SAVE to CMOS and EXIT (Y/N)?", with the cursor on the "Y" response. Press "Enter".
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, BIOS Main Menu CMOS Setup Utility
The screen goes blank and the computer starts the boot sequence again, so what you see is the same as when the computer was first turned on. Namely, the screen will be blank and nothing will appear to be happening, then the monitor indicator will change to burn steady green, then the computer will emit a single beep code, and so on. This screen appears and the computer stops. The message reads "DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER".
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, BIOS Main Menu CMOS Setup Utility
Congratulations! You made it as far as the computer can go with the components that are installed! That's great news since it means it's very likely that everything you've had to do to this point was done correctly.

It's ok to turn off the computer by pushing the power button on the front. Don't forget to turn off the monitor, too.

If you encountered a problem completing the steps on this page, then the next page might help.

Depending on the motherboard and BIOS used, the display may show additional information. For example, a box titled "System Configurations" could be displayed, showing the detected specifications of the system, such as the CPU Type, CPU Clock, Extended Memory, Pri. Master Disk, and so on. If additional information is shown and the information does not look exactly right then don't be concerned because the computer has not been configured in the BIOS yet. You could see a message at the bottom of the screen that reads something like:
Verifying DMI Pool Data ...........
DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER
as shown in this picture.
How To Assemble A Computer - PC Assembly Guide, First Boot Final Screen





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How To Build A Computer. Step By Step Instructions To Assemble. Skip To Any Assembly Step.

  Parts List
  Tools
  Computer Case and Power Supply
  Motherboard
  Processor, CPU Cooler and Thermal Compound
  RAM - System Memory
  Video Card
  Monitor
  Keyboard and Mouse
  Hard Drive
  DVD RW
  Speakers
  Install the Processor onto the Motherboard
  Install the CPU Cooler
  Install the RAM - System Memory
  Install the Motherboard into the Computer Case
  Install the Video Card
  Connect the Power Supply to the Motherboard
  Connect the System Panel Cables
  Ready the Monitor
  Ready the Keyboard and Mouse
  First Boot
  First Boot Common Problems
  Install the SATA Hard Drive
  Install the DVD RW Drive
  Connect the Speakers
  Second Boot
  Configure the BIOS Parameter Settings
  Test The Hard Drive
  Install the Operating System - Windows 7
  Driver Installation
  Speed Test - Windows Experience Index


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