Whether it’s the first build or fiftieth, assembling a computer inevitably results in a few surprises. I have assembled here a list of items and details that most builders (even the pros) forget to address during one job or another. These points, while creating more work for you before you actually get to do the fun part of building a computer, will actually save you from grief and heartache later on.
Yes, I am as guilty of failing to do these as anyone else is… which is why I made the list. I have tried to list these items in a somewhat logical order, but many of these points interrelate to each other, and you would be best served to read the entire article first before going ahead with the steps.
Do your homework
Knowing what you want to build is always a good first step. This may sound like (and is) common sense, but oftentimes the builder has only a vague idea of what features are wanted in the build and assumes everything will fall into place at the right moment. Unfortunately, that right moment tends to occur after one or more components are returned because they are incompatible with the rest of the system. Common problems include:
Underpowered Power Supply Units (PSUs): the wattage is not as important as the current capacity of the individual voltage rails.
Wrong or mismatched interfaces: a PCI-e video card will not work in an AGP slot and vice-versa. Similarly, a 939-pin motherboard (Athlon) can’t be expected to accommodate a Pentium IV processor (427 pins).
One component too fast or slow: why buy a memory designed for a 400MHz front-side bus if your motherboard can only go up to 333MHz? If you plan on overclocking something, then you need to know now, so that you can factor that into your purchases.
Write down all the known requirements for the build, filling in as many details as possible. Then look for parts that will meet those requirements. Make sure that all the components will work with each other before making any purchases.
Now is a good time to learn more about computers in general and the new build specifically. Forums such as DevHardware’s can be a great source of this information.
Additionally, knowing exactly what is needed will help preclude the inevitable last-minute addition. Finding out that you need a more robust or different style of heatsink for the processor as you are trying to assemble not only delays the build, it can also break the budget, which, conveniently enough, is my next point.
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