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By: O'Reilly Media
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    Table of Contents:
  • Fundamentals
  • Why Build a PC?
  • Designing the Perfect PC
  • Designing a quiet PC
  • Designing a small PC
  • Things to Know and Do Before You Start
  • Good Advice for First-Time System Builders
  • Getting to Know Your Motherboard
  • Troubleshooting
  • Problem: When you apply power, nothing happens.
  • Problem: The system seems to start normally, but the display remains black.
  • Problem: The optical drive appears to play audio CDs, but no sound comes from the speakers.
  • Problem: The monitor displays BIOS boot text, but the system doesn’t boot and displays no error message.
  • Problem: The monitor displays a No Boot Device, Missing Operating System, or similar error message.

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    (Page 1 of 14 )

    Yes, Virginia, you can build your own PC. Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson explain how--and why--to design and build your own PC, including many useful tips on design and troubleshooting. This excerpt is from Chapter 1 of Building the Perfect PCby Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson (O'Reilly, ISBN:0596006632).

    The idea of building a PC for the first time intimidates a lot of people, but there’s really nothing to worry about. Building a PC is no more technically challenging than changing the oil in your car or hooking up a VCR. Compared to assembling one of those “connect Tab A to Slot B” toys for your kids, it’s a breeze.

    PC components connect like building blocks. Component sizes, screw threads, mounting hole positions, cable connectors, and so on are standardized, so you needn’t worry about whether something will fit. There are minor exceptions, of course—for example, some small cases accept only half-height or half-length expansion cards. And there are important details, certainly. You must verify, for example, that the motherboard you intend to use supports the processor you plan to use. But overall, there are few “gotchas” involved in building a PC. If you follow our advice in the project system chapters, everything will fit and everything will work together.

    Most compatibility issues arise when you mix new components with older ones. For example, an older video card may not fit the AGP slot in a new motherboard, or a new processor may not be compatible with an older motherboard. If you build a PC from all-new components, you are likely to encounter few such issues. Still, it’s a good idea to verify compatibility between the motherboard and other major components, particularly AGP video adapters, processors, and memory. The configurations in this book have been tested for compatibility.

    Nor do you need to worry much about damaging the PC, or it damaging you. Taking simple precautions such as grounding yourself before touching static-sensitive components and verifying cable connections before you apply power is sufficient to prevent damage to all those expensive parts you bought. Other than inside the power supply—which you should neve r open—the highest voltage used inside a modern PC is 12V, which presents no shock hazard.

    This chapter doesn’t cover the nuts-and-bolts details of assembling a PC, because that’s covered exhaustively in text and images in the project system chapters. Instead, this chapter explains the fundamentals—everything you need to prepare yourself properly. It examines the advantages of building your own PC and explains how to design a PC that is perfect for your needs. It tells you what you need to know and do before you start the project, and lists the components, hand tools, and software tools you’ll need to build your system. Because the motherboard is the heart of a PC, we include a “motherboard tour” section to illustrate each major part of the motherboard. Finally, because the best way to troubleshoot is to avoid problems in the first place, we include a detailed troubleshooting section.

    Let’s get started.

    This chapter is from Building the Perfect PC by Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson (O'Reilly, 2004, ISBN: 0596006632). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

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