Build My Own Desktop Computer

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After spending weeks coming up with a list of PC components, waiting anxiously for them to go on sale, and having them delivered to your door, the time has come. You have a phillips head screwdriver in hand, and you are ready to go.

Build My Own Desktop Computer

For the purposes of our PC building guide, we have used the following sections as examples of how to build a complete computer. These components are also what you need to build a simple – if last generation – gaming PC.

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The first thing you want to do is remove the case as far as you can go. Remove every panel you can, and store them in a safe place (in a case box is the best bet). We recommend using a bowl (or a magnetic parts tray if you want to be fancy) to hold your screws throughout the process of building your PC.

If you have purchased some replacement or additional cooling fans, now is the time to install them where you need them. Try to keep your cooling setup balanced, so there is as much air being drawn in as blown out. If you’re not sure which way the wind will go, a plastic fan guard usually indicates where the air will go.

Typically you want two fans in the front pulling air in and at least one in the back blowing air out. You can also mount one or two more optional fans into the roof of the PC case for additional exhaust if your PC case has mounting points for it.

Before we install one of the best motherboards, you need to check a few things about your PC case. Check the pre-installed motherboard standoffs, make sure their number and order match the holes on your motherboard.

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Second, see if your PC case has a large CPU cutout or window cutout on the back of the motherboard frame. Otherwise, you may want to mount any CPU cooler backplates and M.2 solid state drives to this junction.

Now that’s done, first find the rear I/O shield of your motherboard, and push it into the rectangular slot on the back of your PC case. Make sure it’s on the right side by matching the cutout pattern to the arrangement of ports on the back of your motherboard.

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Next, place your motherboard in the chassis – carefully aligning its rear ports with the corresponding holes in the I/O shield you just installed – over the standoffs installed in your chassis.

Then it’s a simple case of locking the motherboard with the screws that come with your chassis. Make sure you use the right one here, as you don’t want to resolve a deadlock, in case you need to remove it later.

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The next agenda is to install the best RAM to take care of your computer’s memory. Push down the latches on both ends of the DDR4 slots on your motherboard. Then align the notch on the bottom of the memory with the notch in the slot. After that, you can install the memory by carefully pushing both sides of the memory into the slot. You should hear a click as the memory snaps into place and the latch clicks again.

Make sure you use the farthest and second closest slots from the CPU if you only use two memory sticks. Complete that and you’ll be good to go.

Here’s the last tricky part of the PC building process, figuring out which of the best CPU coolers to use.

Most third-party coolers require backplate assembly, which you may or may not have done from step three of our PC build guide. Each individual cooler will have its own set of instructions you’ll need to follow, but the gist of most installations involves attaching the backplate and mounting four pins to the back of your motherboard.

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From there, you’ll need to thermally patch if your CPU cooler doesn’t come with any pre-installed. Users will want to squeeze a small blob, about the size of half a pea, into the center of the CPU. This will spread once your cooler is installed, and provide a sufficient amount of thermal interface material to successfully transfer heat from the processor mold to your cooler of choice.

For air coolers, you need to install most models with the fan not connected. Carefully guide the heatsink onto the pins or threads of the mounting plate and fasten in place with any thumb screws or standard screws provided. After that, it’s just a case of reinstalling the fan on the tower, and plugging the 4-pin PWM fan header into the CPU Fan slot on the motherboard.

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Liquid cooling follows essentially the same process, but requires more upfront work. You may need to attach a fan to the radiator and install it into your PC case first. Depending on the liquid cooler you’re using, you may also need to plug a second four-pin cable into a dedicated AIO cooler or optional cooling header on your motherboard.

This is also a great opportunity to plug the rest of your system’s fans into any available slots on the board. Or alternatively, if your PC case has an integrated fan controller on the back of the chassis to route all your fans, then directly to the motherboard. It also needs to be connected to the motherboard via a USB header.

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Once the memory is in, it’s time to focus on some non-volatile memory storage, the best hard drives and the best SSDs (solid state drives). Our NZXT H400i happened to have a small SSD bracket on the front. Installing a 2.5-inch drive into this caddy is easy, as you can slide it into place with the option to fully secure it with four screws.

Most modern PC cases come with some type of SSD space. But if your case isn’t, the 3.5-inch drive caddy usually reserved for hard drives should have compatible mounting points. Regardless of the type of storage drive you install, make sure the connection port is facing the direction of the cable cutout in your chassis as it will make routing the cable easier.

Now that you have installed your motherboard, CPU and memory, you will want to choose the best PC power supply to run your new PC and then install it. If you have a modular PSU, determine the cables you need ahead of time, and plug them into your power supply first.

If your PC case comes with a PSU bracket, remove it ahead of time and attach it to the back of the unit. Next insert the cable through the PSU slot on the back of the case first, and then slide the PSU into place, securing the bracket back to the chassis.

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Otherwise, on older cases, you’ll have to insert the power supply in through the inside of the chassis and push it firmly against the inner wall as you mount it with the four screws.

Depending on the design of your case, you will need to direct the fan towards the ventilation area built into it. For most cases we recommend facing the fan down or to the side away from the inside of your PC. This way, your PSU can draw fresh air and exhaust heat through the back.

To get your front I/O power button to work properly, you need to plug in the correct cable. Fortunately, on our NZXT H400i, this is a block that plugs directly into the front I/O header on the motherboard, make sure you orient it the right way, then push it into place on the pins.

For everyone else, take the individual pins and, using the motherboard assembly manual, identify the pins and cables that need to be connected. Try to do this part slowly, so as not to bend the pin. It is important to note that any LED lights (HDD and Power), need to be oriented correctly, with the + and – cables attached to the + and – pins on the board.

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It’s also a good time to plug in your USB 3.0 header, USB 2.0 header, and audio path. Audio is located on the bottom left side of most motherboards. It will be labeled and the pinout will be different from the USB 2.0 header. Plug your USB 3.0 cable (marked with a blue tip) into any available slot on the board, making sure to align the pins with the holes in the USB 3.0 cable.

Identify your 8-pin EPS cable, and slide it up the back of the chassis, through the cable grommet and plug it into the 8-pin power slot on the top of the motherboard. Then, find the larger 24-pin cable, slide it through any of the cable routing recesses on the chassis and plug it into the corresponding 24-pin ATX power port on the motherboard.

Next, take your SATA power and connect it to any storage drive. If you have something installed

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