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Old 15-09-11, 19:40   #1
 
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Building a New Computer – Parts 1,2,3,4,5

I recently decided to build myself a new desktop computer for my house, and after talking about it with a number of friends, I realized that most people have no idea what goes into building a computer yourself… so this series will explain the basics of building your own custom PC.

My primary goal with the new computer was to have a quad core machine with lots of memory, and two DVI ports so I can run dual monitors. I didn’t have a huge budget, so the configuration I chose was the best I could find for the money I had.





Why Should I Build a Computer Anyway?

Sure, building your own computer is something of a rite of passage for geeks… but that isn’t reason enough to build your own computer. Here’s a few reasons for you to ponder:
  • You can more easily upgrade a custom-built computer.
  • By hand-picking the components, you’ll end up with a much faster computer than buying a low-end Dell, which uses somewhat inferior components in order to keep the costs down.
  • You can overclock the computer to get a lot more speed than the components are spec’d for.
If you think you’ll be able to build yourself a cheaper computer than a low-end Dell, you are mistaken. If you are looking for absolute budget deals, buy a Dell. Otherwise, building a computer is a good option.


Pick Your Price Point

The first thing you need to do is figure out how much you are willing to spend… whether $500 or $5000.
You should be able to build a very fast computer for less than $1000, just keep in mind that the very latest components are going to be way more expensive than they are worth. If you choose the next edition down for any component, you’ll probably save a ton of money.


What Parts Do I Need?

Building your own computer gives you infinite possibilities in the components that you choose… want three hard drives? No problem! But what are the bare minimum parts you need for a computer?
  • Case with a Power Supply
  • Motherboard – Note: some motherboards come with integrated video, most have integrated sound and network.
  • Processor
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Hard Drive
  • Video Card
Optional parts:
  • DVD/CD drive – Not technically necessary, but important for installing the OS.
  • LCD Monitor- If you don’t already have one.
  • Keyboard/Mouse – If you don’t already have them.
  • Speakers – If you don’t already have them, and want sound.
  • Etc – There are many other optional components you could add, but we won’t cover them all.

The big question: AMD or Intel?


The biggest choice you have when building a computer is the processor… do you want to use AMD or Intel? There’s no right answer, but your choice will dictate the motherboards that you can use.
If you are completely unsure, choosing one of the Intel Core 2 CPUs is probably a decent choice. You can always check the CPU charts at Tom’s Hardware for benchmark comparisons between chips.


Once you’ve chosen the processor, you’ll need to examine the specs to figure out what type of motherboard you’ll need. For instance, if you look at the processor I chose, you’ll see that it has an LGA 775 socket type, and runs at 1066MHz bus:



Using this information, most sites allow you to do a power search by those characteristics:



This will help you make sure that your motherboard is going to match the processor that you chose. You can further refine by other specs, such as whether the board has integrated video, RAID, etc. (Note that if you plan to buy a separate video card you shouldn’t get a board with integrated video on it)

You also want to make sure that you choose a motherboard that will fit in the case. For instance, if your case is ATX, you’ll need an ATX motherboard:






What about my Graphics Card?

Choosing a video card hinges on the following question: Do you play PC video games?
If you do, then you should spend the money to get a good card. If you don’t, then you can pretty much pick up any $50 ATI or NVIDIA DVI video card and it will work perfectly fine for your needs. Just make sure that your motherboard has the correct slot… if you buy a PCI Express x16 card, your motherboard should have that slot (most do).


If you are a gamer, you should think about getting an NVIDIA 8800 GTS card, which is going to be blazing fast. You should note that many of the higher end video cards will require a separate power connector, so you should make sure that your power supply has the right connector.





I don’t usually play video games on my PC, so I decided to use an NVIDIA 7600 GT video card that I got from my brother. Even though it’s a slightly older card, it’s still blazing fast and more than meets my needs.




Note: If you are really not worried at all about video card performance, you could get a motherboard with integrated video, but it will be a lot slower.


How Much Memory Should I Get?

If you are going to run a 32-bit version of Windows or Linux, you should probably only get 3GB of memory since the system is not going to support more than 3.2GB of memory. If you want to use more memory, I’d recommend switching to 64-bit Windows Vista.
When buying memory, make sure that you buy memory that matches the memory standard… if the board only accepts DDR2 1066, 4×240 pin memory, make sure that you get memory that matches.





Note that sometimes the quick specs don’t tell the full story… for instance the motherboard that I bought supports DDR2 800 as well as DDR2 1066 memory, so I ended up getting the cheaper memory since I’m on a budget here… having more memory is more important than memory speed.




I wouldn’t advise wasting your money on the absolute fastest memory unless you plan to overclock the system.


What About DVD and Hard Drives?

There’s one very simple rule: Make sure you buy only SATA drives, for both hard drives and DVD drives. The SATA bus runs at 3.0Gb/second, which makes it much faster than the ancient IDE bus. This will also protect you for the future… someday there won’t be IDE ports on motherboards.





Your hard drive is the most likely component to have a failure, so the key things you want to look at are: good reviews from other buyers, and a good warranty. I recently had a hard drive come in the mail DOA… so being able to return it easily is very important.


Should I Get an Expensive Case?

When looking up cases you’ll quickly notice that some of them are very expensive, and some of them are very cheap. The more expensive cases will usually run quieter or cooler than the cheap ones, and they will give you easier access to the components. You’ll also find that the cheap cases come with cheap power supplies… which will not last as long and you’ll end up replacing them.





If you are building a computer for your basement, you don’t plan to open it often, and don’t really care what it looks like, you can get by with a fairly cheap case, but you might want to buy a decent power supply.
If you are building a computer for your bedroom that you’ll leave on… you should probably spend the money on a decent case that dampens the sound coming from the computer.


Make Sure to Get Feedback

Once you’ve picked out your components, you should get feedback from other people. Obviously checking the reviews for each component is necessary, but you want to get some opinions on the overall configuration.


Final Configuration

Here’s the hardware that I chose, note that the prices were as of the time I bought them. I’m not necessarily recommending this exact configuration, if I had to choose the parts again I would have bought a better case / power supply.


Update: These particular parts are somewhat out of date now, considering this article was written quite a while ago. Make sure to shop around.


Processor Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4GHz LGA 775ASUS P5K-E LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Motherboard $139 Memory mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $88 Hard Drive Samsung 750GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
$120 Case XION II XON-101 Black Steel ATX Mid Tower 450W Power Supply $70 Video Card NVIDIA 7600GT 256MB PCI Express x16 (This link is to a similar card)
$73 DVD LITE-ON 2MB Cache SATA DVD Burner with LightScribe
$30 Total Price:
$219 Motherboard
$739


Note: the video card in the list isn’t the exact card I used, and I didn’t have to pay for mine since it was a gift… but I figured I’d include it so you’d get the whole picture.


Here’s all the parts stacked up on my table at home:





Many Thanks to How To "The Geek"

Continued,,,,,,, Part 2
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Default Re: Building a New Computer – Parts 1,2,3,4,5

Building a New Computer – Part 2: Putting it Together



So you’ve picked out and purchased the hardware for your new computer, and you’ve already completed the most difficult step: Waiting for the parts to come in the mail. The next step is putting all of the pieces together, which we’ll cover here.

Note: This is meant to be an overview, to explain the basics… each configuration will be somewhat different, and you should always read the manuals carefully.

Putting the Computer Together

Tools required: Screwdriver, free time, patience, some cable ties or electrical tape, and maybe an anti-static band.
The first thing to do is start carefully removing the packaging from everything and enjoying the geek moment… be very careful when unwrapping the processor, and don’t drop it on the floor like I did.







I usually put the processor on the board before putting the board into the case, which makes it a little easier. Open up the latches on the processor socket…





…making sure to remove the little piece of plastic that protects the pins, of course. Note that these instructions are for an Intel processor, and might be slightly different for AMD.




Now very carefully insert the processor, making sure to align it correctly with the notches. Close the hatch carefully when you are done. You should wait to attach the fan until the motherboard is securely in place.





Your motherboard should come with a little metal cover for the back, where the ports will go. You should put that in before trying to stick the motherboard into the case.





Note: Before putting in the motherboard, make sure that the case has the right “pegs” in place for the motherboard to stand on. Some cases have the pegs built-in, but you might have to add a few. Check your manual.




Now you can carefully put the motherboard with the processor into the case, matching up the holes with the pegs.





Make sure that the motherboard lines up correctly with the holes in the port hole cover… you might end up having to bend some of the metal tabs on the inside if they were bent during shipment. The key is that all the ports should be unobstructed… make absolutely certain before screwing in the motherboard!





Now you can finally screw in the motherboard. Most motherboards have 9 screws, but that could vary. The key thing is that you should be putting the screws into the pegs so that the motherboard sits slightly above the case… and don’t fasten these screws too tightly… just snug enough that the board won’t be moving.





Next you’ll need to start plugging in some cables… most motherboards have a 4-pin power cable that needs to be plugged in near the processor. It’s important to plug this cable in first before adding the processor fan, otherwise it’s usually very difficult to reach.


Tip: When putting a computer together, you should think ahead… if you connect one cable or add in a new piece, is it going to block you from putting in the next one?






Now you can add the processor fan, carefully matching up the holes and making sure that you have enough slack in the cable to plug in the power. Notice how difficult it would have been to plug in the 4-pin power cable with the fan in the way!


Tip: It would be wise to use some thermal compound between the CPU and the fan, as it helps keep the temperature down. It’s pretty simple, just follow the directions on the back of the package. It’s not technically required, however.




Make sure to adjust the four fasteners so that they are positioned correctly according to the manual. If you are using a stock cooler, the bigger part of the groove needs to be pointed inwards.





Once you have the fan in place, you need to push down on each of the four fasteners in a diagonal pattern. For instance, I’d push down the upper left one in this picture first, since it’s crammed in the corner. Then I’d push down the one on the lower right next, and then the other two. (This is usually the most difficult step in the whole build process. Everything else is easy from here)




Next you’ll want to connect the motherboard wires to the wires coming from the case for the power and reset buttons. This will be completely different based on your motherboard, so you need to check the manual. My motherboard came with a little plastic piece that made it really easy to match them up…





This was then easily plugged into the motherboard (in the lower right on this picture). You’ll also need to connect your audio, USB, and any other cables coming from the case at this point, including the main motherboard power connectors. (Check your manual)





Now we’re getting somewhere… slide the DVD drive in place…





And make sure to align it with the front panel in place so that it fits correctly before adding the four screws on the side (it’s pretty simple). Make sure to fasten those tightly… remember that the DVD drive is a moving part and you don’t want it rattling.





Now you can add the hard drive to the case. I like to put mine so that the case fan is drawing air across the hard drive. You probably want to connect the SATA cables first before putting it into place. Make sure to securely screw in the four screws, because your hard drive can make a whole lot of rattling noises if you don’t.





At this point you should have most of the major pieces in place… but your cables are probably dangling all over. You should be able to use some of the included zip ties or some electrical tape to neatly tie the cables up so they aren’t dangling.





Something more like this… although I’ll admit I didn’t do the best job of making them look nice. The point is to make sure that the cables aren’t hanging around and hitting the fans if you move the machine. Making them look “pretty” is up to you. =)





I’m sure you probably thought I forgot about adding the RAM… well I didn’t. I’ve found that on many cases adding the ram first will block you from being able to insert the hard drive, so I wait to add it until we’re almost done.


First, consult your manual to figure out which memory slot you need to use. Next, make sure that the fasteners on either side are pushed Out, like you can see below:





You’ll notice that the notch in the memory indicates that you can only put it in facing one direction. Line up the notches, and simply push down on the memory stick, and the fasteners should snap into place magically like this:





Now you can add in your video card and any other add-on cards. Make sure that you knock the slot cover off the back first, and screw it into place securely. Remember that you’ll be connecting things to the back, so take a look to make sure you lined them up to make it easy to connect the cables later.





Checklist Before Closing Up the Computer

Before you go to the trouble of putting the case back together, you should check through this list to make sure you got everything. (Note that depending on your config you might need to plug in extra items… remember to read the manual)
  1. Did you plug in the power cables to the motherboard? There’s usually a 24-pin connector and a 4-pin one.
  2. Did you add the CPU with the fan… and did you plug in the fan power cable?
  3. Did you plug in the memory (RAM) securely?
  4. Did you plug in power cables to each of the drives (hard disk and DVD). What about the SATA cables?
  5. Did you remember to put four screws in each of the hard drives or DVD drives?
  6. Did you remember to screw in the motherboard?
  7. Did you plug in all the wires coming from the case into the motherboard?
  8. Are any cables dangling that might get caught in a fan?
Now you can add the panels back on the side of the case…





And you are done! That was rather fun, wasn’t it?
Plug in a monitor and turn your new machine on, and hopefully it will work immediately like mine did… success!







If It Doesn’t Turn On or Start Up

If the computer doesn’t turn on or work right away, don’t panic… the problem is most likely that something isn’t connected correctly. Go back through and verify that every single cable is connected exactly as the manual says it should be.

.
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Default Re: Building a New Computer – Parts 1,2,3,4,5

Building a New Computer – Part 3: Setting it Up

So you’ve picked out the parts you want, and put the computer together… so now we need to power it on and start setting things up. Sure, you could drop your install cd in the drive, but you’ll have better luck if you check a few BIOS settings and run some tests first, both of which we’ll cover here.

When the computer first powers on, you’ll be prompted to hit a key to enter setup (usually the Delete key). The settings you’ll find in here will be different for each motherboard and BIOS version, so I’ll try to be somewhat general in explaining the available options. When in doubt, open up your manual or ask on our forum.

Setting Up the BIOS Options

Some people might be quick to point out that you can likely install an operating system with the BIOS defaults, but I think it’s best to understand the important options and set them correctly before you do anything else. (Note: If you flash your BIOS to a newer version, the settings will often be wiped and you’ll have to redo them)

The first screen usually lets you set your clock to the correct time, as well as disable the floppy drive (note Legacy Diskette A is disabled below).





The System Information screen will show you the current BIOS version (more on that later), and you can verify that the CPU and memory are detected correctly. If you don’t see the correct numbers here, you need to verify that you installed the memory correctly. (check the manual if necessary)




The SATA Configuration screen has an option that is critically important: Do you want SATA to function as IDE or AHCI?




Here’s what you need to know:

* AHCI mode allows the computer to use the more advanced SATA functions, and will give you better performance.
* Windows XP does not natively support SATA mode. You must either create a slip-streamed install disc or use IDE mode here in order to install.
* Windows Vista or current versions of Linux will function perfectly in AHCI mode.
* Note: If you install in IDE mode and then want to switch to ACHI mode, you should follow these instructions.

You should also check to make sure your hard drive and CD/DVD drives are detected correctly. This screen will be different depending on your BIOS… in mine it was under AHCI Settings. If the drives aren’t detected correctly, verify that you installed them correctly.


The USB Configuration screen will let you disable/enable USB… the important setting here is that USB mode should be set to use HiSpeed (480Mbps), which is usually the default setting anyway.



There is usually also a screen that will allow you to do a couple of important things… for instance disabling the serial ports or the regular IDE controller. I recommend disabling the ports that you aren’t using, to keep Windows from loading unnecessary drivers for hardware you aren’t using.

The Power Management screen will let you choose the power management options. If you are running Windows Vista, you’ll want to make sure ACPI 2.0 is enabled.



And in the APM Configuration screen you can set a couple more important options:





Here’s what you need to know:
  • If you want to be able to wake the computer from sleep mode using the USB mouse or keyboard, you should enable that option.
  • If you want the computer to restart automatically after a power outage, set the “Restore on AC Power Loss” option.
  • If your BIOS has a “Wake on LAN” function, you should decide whether to enable or disable it… sometimes enabling it will cause the computer to wake up when you aren’t expecting it.
Your motherboard likely has a Hardware Monitor screen, where you can see detailed information about temperatures, voltages, and even the speed of the fan.





The Boot section is also very important: You want to make sure to set the CD/DVD drive as the first boot device so you can easily boot off the installation disc. You could also choose Removable Device here if you want to boot off a USB flash drive.

Note: After you are completely finished installing, you can set the hard drive as the first boot device to speed up boot time.
You can also choose whether you want a quick boot, and whether numlock is on by default. If you are building a computer that won’t have a keyboard attached (like a server), you might want to disable the “Wait For F1 If Error” option, which will allow the computer to boot even if there’s a keyboard error.

Most motherboards will have a System Performance and advanced chipset configuration screens, where you can configure various overclocking scenarios, which we might cover in a future article, but for now you should probably leave everything set to Auto and not really touch those settings.



Finally, there’s usually a section under Security or Boot that will allow you to set a supervisor or user password.

Usually you can set one password to prevent access to the BIOS, and another to prevent booting the system without the password. It’s very important to make sure that if you do use this, you don’t forget the password, because it’s typically a royal pain to reset it.
Note: If there are any other BIOS settings that you feel are important, feel free to mention them in the comments.
Updating Your BIOS
Depending on the hardware you’ve installed in your computer, you might need to upgrade the BIOS on the motherboard before things will work correctly. (For instance, the computer I built last year didn’t properly support the new Core 2 Duo processor until after I flashed it with the latest BIOS version)
In general, it’s best to be running the latest BIOS version, especially if you are buying a motherboard that has been sitting on a shelf for a while. You should check the manufacturer’s website for a new BIOS version (remember where we noticed the version earlier). Make sure to get the right version for your motherboard!
Unfortunately I can’t give you specifics on exactly how to flash the BIOS, since it’s going to be different for each motherboard. It’s very important to check that chapter in your motherboard manual and follow the directions exactly.
Some motherboards might have a flash utility built into the BIOS screen that will let you update the BIOS from a file saved on a flash drive:

Others may have software that you can use from within Windows once you’ve already gotten everything installed:

Still others might require you to boot from a floppy, bootable cd, or usb flash drive, usually running some version of DOS or FreeDOS. If this is the case and you need some help, be sure to leave a post over on our forums.
Important: Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when updating the BIOS. I’ve not had a bad BIOS update in many, many years… but if it happens the motherboard would probably need to be replaced. The most important thing to prevent problems is to not power the system off during the BIOS update.
Testing the Computer Before Installation
Now that you’ve setup all the BIOS options, it’s a good idea to test the computer to make sure everything is functioning correctly. The last thing you want to do is install Windows and use it for a week, only to find out that you have a bad memory stick causing all sorts of problems.
There are a couple of options for testing… I always use an Ubuntu live cd to test out a computer first, because you can quickly boot and test out the general working operations of the computer:

For instance, within a few minutes after putting the computer together and setting up the BIOS, I was online:



The only problem with using the live cd is that you won’t be testing the hard drive at all… but it’s still a worthy test and it feels great to have your new computer online almost immediately.

Ultimate Boot CD

There are also a number of boot cds which you can download that contain testing tools. If you have a favorite, then be sure to let us know in the comments, otherwise you can always use the Ultimate Boot CD, which contains dozens of testing tools you can use.
Once you boot off the cd, you’ll be nearly instantly prompted with the menu of tools.

If you look under Mainboard Tools, you’ll find the Memory Tests section, where you can choose from a number of memory tests.


I highly recommend at least running a memory test, since RAM problems can be extremely tricky to diagnose later, and can cause everything from corrupted files to complete system crashes. It’s better to know that you have a problem right away than to waste countless hours troubleshooting problems that end up being memory related.


You’ll also find CPU tests and Hard drive tests, although I’ll warn you that most of the generic hard drive tests won’t work for SATA drives. There’s a lot more options to look through if you want.
Note that I’m not necessarily recommending this boot cd over others, it’s just the one that I’m most familiar with. Hopefully our great readers will suggest some good pre-installation testing tools in the comments.



The Best Test

Installing Windows on your computer is the best test of how well everything is running, which is what we’ll cover in the next article. I was originally going to try and cover that here as well, but it really deserves an article by itself.
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Default Re: Building a New Computer – Parts 1,2,3,4,5


Building a New Computer – Part 4: Installing Windows and Loading Drivers



Now that we’ve put the computer together and setup the BIOS options, we need to get down to business: Installing the operating system. For the purposes of this article we’ll be focusing on Windows Vista, but we’ll try and briefly cover XP as well.

What You Need to Know Before Installing

It’s very important to stop and read these items, even if you don’t read the rest:

* If you are going to be dual-booting Windows XP and Windows Vista, you should always install XP first, then Vista.
* In a dual-boot scenario, make sure that you leave plenty of room for either operating system. Don’t try to get away with a tiny partition for one operating system just because you think you won’t use it as much. Also, buy a big hard drive, they are cheap.
* Windows XP does not have SATA drivers included. You’ll either need to create a slipstreamed install cd, or set SATA to IDE mode in the BIOS.
* If you want to use Linux instead, then great… unfortunately there are too many varieties to cover them here. I recommend Ubuntu, and for installation support you should check out the Ubuntu Forums.

Installing Windows Vista

I’m not going to cover every single step of installing Windows, but I would like to highlight a couple of very important options during the setup that can make a big difference. For the most part, installing Vista is a simple and easy task.

Step 1: Put the install disc in the drive, and boot up the computer.





You may or may not get this next screen, depending on your install disc. If you do, make sure that you select the version of Windows that you purchased, cause otherwise you’ll have to reinstall later. (I’m not sure that retail editions show this screen, and I’m using an MSDN copy)








You’ll be prompted to select whether you want to do an Upgrade or Custom install. If you selected an Upgrade edition, you’ll need to have a previous version of Windows. My install disc only allows for a clean install, so there’s not really a choice for me anyway.









Now comes the most important screen…. where do you want to install Windows? If you have previously installed XP, you will need to create a new partition in the space that you left open for Vista, which should say “Unallocated Space”. (Whatever you do, install XP first in a dual-boot scenario)



You should be done with the install options at this point, and you’ll see the install screen…





Your computer should reboot and you’ll have to go through a couple of simple screens to create a user account, none of which are difficult. The interesting part comes later, when we need to start getting all the drivers updated and tweaked.




Installing Windows XP


If you are going to install XP in a dual-boot scenario, you should absolutely install XP first so you don’t have to deal with the Vista boot loader being wiped out if you install XP second. I’m not going to go through the entire installation, but here’s the highlights.


Here’s what you need to know:

* Windows XP does not have SATA drivers included.
* You’ll either need to create a slipstreamed install cd, or set SATA to IDE mode in the BIOS.
* It’s very unlikely that your graphics card or network card will work until you load the drivers. You could include those in the slipstream cd if you like.

Once you get to the screen where you can choose the partition, you have a couple of options. If you want to only install XP, you could just hit the Enter key and be done with it. If you are planning on doing a dual boot, however, you need to use “C” to create a new partition.

Note: If you get the message “Setup did not find any hard disk drives”, then you need to create a slipstreamed install cd.






Choose the size for the partition, and I recommend leaving plenty of space for both Vista and XP. There’s nothing more annoying than running out of space on one of the partitions in a dual boot.


You could create a second partition at this point if you want, or just install on the new C: partition.



The rest of the install is more or less painless, and since XP has been around for nearly a decade I’m sure you are familiar with it, but here’s your next steps:
  • Install the Network Card Drivers (usually from the motherboard driver cd)
  • Install the Graphics Card Drivers
  • Install the rest of the drivers (motherboard, sound, etc)
  • Use Windows Update to patch the system. (Make sure you are patched through SP2 at least)
After Vista is Installed: Updates!

Now that you have Vista successfully installed, the first thing you should do is use Windows Update to get your system completely patched. This process will take… a long while. The annoying thing is that you’ll need to run Windows Update a bunch of times… that “Check for Updates” link is your friend. (Sometimes it will return with no updates, but if you check again they’ll show up.)



I would advise updating your system all the way through Service Pack 1 before you do anything else. It might take a lot of updates and a number of reboots to get to that point, but it will be worth it.
Note: if you don’t have internet access at this point, you need to install the network card drivers from the motherboard drivers disc.

Updating Your Drivers

Having a system that works well depends greatly on the drivers, which are the pieces of software that tells the hardware what to do. If the driver you are using has a flaw in it… bad things are going to happen. That’s why it’s important to use updated drivers.
You will also get the best performance out of your video card by using the drivers provided by the manufacturer rather than the built-in Vista drivers.

What you need to know:
  • The cd that comes with your motherboard likely has driver versions that are already old. If you can get online with the built-in Vista drivers, just put that cd to the side.
  • You should always grab the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s site for at least your motherboard chipset, video card, sound card and network card. Even better, get updates for all of them.
The first thing you can do is open up Device Manager through the start menu search box, and look for any items with question marks or exclamation points next to them. You’ll notice in the screenshot below that there’s an “Other devices” section with “Unknown device” in it, because I haven’t loaded the chipset drivers yet. If you look even closer you’ll see that the video card driver is the default Microsoft version, which is significantly slower than the latest manufacturer one.





Here’s a couple of download links to get you started, but depending on your system you might need to do some research. For instance, if your motherboard has integrated sound, you will need to head to the manufacturer’s site to get the latest driver for that.
Motherboard Chipset Drivers
Graphics Drivers
Usually the chipset drivers have a simple installer that handles it all for you, no need to do the right-click and update thing in Device Manager.





The graphics card drivers usually work very similarly, you can just run through a quick wizard and be done with it, after the obligatory 49th reboot or so.
Once you’ve installed the various drivers, you should be able to open up Device Manager and see that all the devices are functioning properly… no exclamation points or unknown devices, and you’ll notice my NVIDIA driver has been updated:



You can verify the version that you’ve installed for a component by going into the properties \ Drivers tab.


Note: I had lots of problems with this particular NVIDIA card under 64-bit Vista, so I switched it out with an 8800 GS during the middle of the build. Another reason why running benchmarks is useful (detailed below)

If you click the Update Driver button, you can either let Windows search for updated drivers (although this happens with Windows Update)…





Or you can choose the driver manually by clicking “Browse my computer for driver software”. On this screen you can either choose a location, such as the folder you extracted some drivers to, or you can pick from the list of installed drivers.



On this screen you can choose the actual version if there are multiple drivers installed (or you could use the Roll Back Driver button you might have noticed on the driver details screen).



For the most part, you can simply install the latest drivers and Vista should have no problems detecting and using the devices. If you have a problem, then try updating or rolling back.
Note: The only exception I’ve found to the “no fuss” rule is that NVIDIA drivers are just awful, especially under 64-bit Vista. They install easy enough, but they also crash really easily too.

Using Burn-In and Testing Tools

Now that we have all the drivers loaded, it’s time to give the machine some tests, to make sure everything is working properly… and also because you likely want to show off your Windows Experience Score, which we’ll start off with.
Open up Control Panel and navigate down to System and then “Check your computer’s Windows Experience Index base score”



At this point you are thinking… but it has a score, didn’t the installation do that for me? You’d be right, but that was before you loaded all the drivers… just click on the score:


And you’ll likely see “New hardware detected”, so you’ll need to click the Refresh Now button, which will immediately start running the tests (you should close other applications before doing this)


If you have a problem during this very simple test, then there’s probably something wrong with your drivers or hardware. If it all runs successfully, you’ll see your new score, which may or may not be better than the first one.



Note: You’ll notice my memory score increased quite a bit… this is because when running the first test I had installed the memory in single channel mode since I was waiting for the other two pieces. Make sure to read your manual when installing the memory.


Next, we’ll move on to some better benchmark tools… there are a lot of them out there, but some of the standards are the Futuremark tests with their two well-known utilities:
When you download these utilities, you’ll be prompted a few times to purchase it, which will give you additional tests. If you simply want to run a regular benchmark for free, you can wait a few seconds for the Continue button to become active.


Once there, you can run the benchmarks and see how your system performed.


Unfortunately the free version doesn’t give you much else besides a score via their website, and in my case it didn’t give me a very useful comparison, since the machine they compared it to was a quad core overclocked to 5GHz:



The real point of running these tests is to make sure your system can handle a load without dying. In my case, my machine locked up during the initial run because the old video card I started out with had serious video card/driver problems, so I replaced the video card with a better one and was able to successfully run the test.

Run a CPU Stress Test to Check Temperatures

If you got through the PCMark test, your system is no doubt running perfectly fine. This test is just to make sure that your processor isn’t going to overheat if you are maxing it out for a long time.
There’s a couple of tools you can use to max out the CPU, but the simplest one is called Max CPU by Kenny Kerr. All you have to do is move the slider to the number of CPUs you want to max out.
If you open up Task Manager and Core Temp at the same time, you can see that all the CPUs are running at 100%, and the cores are only running at 55 degrees or less, even after a couple of minutes.





If your temperatures are way out of range, you know that you either didn’t install the CPU cooler correctly, or you need to get a better aftermarket cooler.
The famous programming blogger Jeff Atwood even recommends taking some temperatures of the inside of the computer, and I can’t argue with him… if the motherboard and CPU are generating so much heat that you can’t touch them, then there’s likely a cooling problem.

Final Status

At this point, you should have a fully working system, and you can start loading all of your software on the machine. Don’t forget to load anti-virus and anti-spyware software before you start downloading random applications.
From the perspective of building the computer, we’re done… but I’m going to add one final article in the series and tell you about my favorite config tweaks that I apply to any new machine, so stay tuned for updates.
End

Thanks to The Geek


Personally folks, although I think that most points that "The Geek" recommends to build your own PC, maybe wherever possible ok, I would not recommend following all without proper research.

For example ,,,, I tried a few years ago to install W XP as a secondary system to W Vista, and there were so many complications, especially switching screens, through downloading VM, which is not mentionned above, I eventually removed it.

Even tho MS eventually extended their support for another year for XP, there were certain drivers and their extensions, that were NOT available, I have highlighted those points above,,,,
Ladybbird

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Default Re: Building a New Computer – Parts 1,2,3,4,5


Building a New Computer – Part 5: Tweaking Your New Computer


Now that we’ve put our computer together, setup the BIOS, and installed Windows, it’s time to get down to the business of tweaking our new computer. In the final installment of this series, I’m going to cover the basic configuration and software tweaks that you should use to keep your computer safe, secure, and running at peak performance, and a few tweaks to make Vista easier to use.

Note that no configuration is right for everybody, these are general rules that will help you.


Keep Your Computer Patched and Protected

If you’ve ever had to deal with your computer being infected with spyware or viruses, you know that keeping your computer protected is of immense importance. There’s a couple of quick steps you can do to keep the hackers out and your data safe:

* Always use a Firewall – You don’t have to buy any fancy firewall software unless you want to, the built-in Firewall in Windows will work just fine… as long as you make sure it’s enabled.
* Keep Your System Patched – I’d recommend that you leave Windows Update set to update automatically, so you don’t have to think about whether you have the latest patches installed.
* Keep Your Anti-Virus / Anti-Spyware Up to Date – What’s the point of using a malware protection package if you aren’t going to keep it up to date? For instance, if your trial version of some non-free package runs out, you are a lot less secure than if you simply used AVG Free with automatic updates enabled.

Windows Vista includes the Windows Security Center, which will tell you at a very quick glance how protected you are. You’ll notice in the screenshot below that Windows detected that my Anti-Virus is turned off.



A quick setting change in the AVG panel, and now everything is enabled, and you’ll notice the Update Manager component is active, so I’m receiving the latest updates as well.

I’m not necessarily endorsing AVG Anti-Virus over a paid solution, but it’s a pretty good product that will keep you protected… and you can’t beat the price of Free. Many of our great forum members both use and recommend it, and in my experience it doesn’t cause too many issues.


Keeping Your Computer Clean

Other than being infected with spyware, the biggest cause of system slowdown is clutter and junk all over your drive. You have a number of options to combat this, (including not installing every piece of software you see), but at the very least you should make sure to run the Disk Cleanup utility on a regular basis:



If you want a more powerful solution, however, you should run the excellent CCleaner utility once every week or two, as it will clean out temporary files from not just Windows applications, but also Firefox and many other sources of file bloat.



Important Note: CCleaner comes bundled with the Yahoo! toolbar, which you should make sure to uncheck during the installation.








Defragment Your Hard Drive Regularly




Over time, your hard drive builds up so many files that they end up becoming fragmented across your drive. This can happen because applications create temporary files, which then get deleted, leaving little chunks of free space everywhere. When new files are written, they end up needing to be split up into smaller chunks in order to fill in those small chunks of free space… which leads to a really disorganized hard drive. This is the reason why you defragment your drive, which re-organizes the files so that they are each in their own place.


Windows Vista has completely automatic defragmentation of your drives, and there’s really no need to mess with it.



If you want to manually defragment your drive, you can add an option to defrag to the right-click menu for your drive, or you can even create a batch file to defragment multiple drives at once.


Note: There are plenty of third party defrag tools that most likely do a much better job, but they always cost money.




(NOT TRUE- Ladybbird)



Backup Your Computer

Backing up your data is so important that I’m planning on writing a series to discuss it in more depth, but at the very least you should use the backup utility bundled in Windows Vista to back up your files to an external drive, and make sure to set the backup to run on a schedule. If you have the Ultimate version of Vista you’ll also have access to the “Complete PC Backup” feature, which will create an image of your hard drive. If you are using a Home version, you can check out Mysticgeek’s guide to using the freeware DriveImage XML application for the same purpose.







I would use online backup as a supplement to local backup, not as a total replacement.







Customizing the Look & Feel


Now that we are all safe and secure, it’s time to start customizing the user interface. Almost anything in Windows can be customized if you don’t mind spending a little time tweaking.



Add Shortcut Icons for Common Tasks






I like to add a bunch of useful shortcut icons to my Quick Launch bar for common tasks. Many of these I also place in my start menu so that I can use the hotkey features built into Windows.
These are just a few of the shortcuts that you can create… it’s really a matter of personal choice.


Power Up Your Context Menu




The context menu can be a powerful tool, giving you options specifically for a file type


Fix Some Vista Annoyances




The next stop is a couple of tweaks to severely reduce some of the annoyances in Windows Vista. Even though I wouldn’t choose a different operating system, there’s still a few things that grate on my nerves… but thankfully there are always workarounds.


Install Your Software

Now that we’ve patched, secured, tweaked and hacked our system, it’s time to start installing software so that we can actually use the computer for something useful. There’s no right configuration of software for everybody… if you like Internet Explorer better than Firefox, that’s your decision and there’s nothing wrong with it. I’d still recommend giving Firefox a try, but it’s really up to you.
Many people have asked me what software I personally use, so here’s a quick list of the mainstream software that I use, some of which is not free, and much of which won’t apply to you.
  • Firefox for web browsing, although I’ll admit that I often use both IE and Opera both for testing and because they start up a lot quicker.
  • Pidgin for instant messenger, because it works cross-platform and supports a dozen services so I can use all my accounts in one application.
  • CCleaner for cleaning up my system.
  • AVG Free for anti-virus.
  • AutoHotkey for incredibly powerful hotkey scripting.
  • Microsoft Outlook with Gmail IMAP for email.
Conclusion

I’ve had my custom-built computer for a few weeks now, and I could not be happier with it. If you are up to the task and like to use a desktop computer, I absolutely recommend that you build your own machine.
END Thanks again to "The Geek"

TIP from Ladybbird

Folks again I disagree with certain points made above that I have highlighted.

ie. CCleaner from Piriform may be regarded by many as the best cleaner, but check out Advanced System Care and download it free from CNET, you can also download ASC PRO from there as a free trial, if you are impressed with the basic version. You dont need to bother with ASC about clicking what you need to remove on start up with ASC, for things you need and use regularly that you do with CCleaner. ASC also has a built in defrag and scan, and you have the choice of whether to do a quick care and defrag, with the basic version, or a thorough of both with the PRO version




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