2. - The Motherboard, Processor & RAM
3. - The Disk Drives
5. - The Dial-Up Modem
Note that in March 2012 both the first and second generation Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors were available.
The third-generation of quad-core Core i5 and i7 processors for desktop and laptop PCs, code-named Ivy Bridge, using the same Socket LGA1155 motherboards as the previous Sandy Bridge models, were made available in April 2012. There are no Ivy Bridge Core i3 models. All of the new processors have an onboard graphics chip. With three generations of Core i5 and i7 and the first two generations of Core i3 processors available, care should be taken to make sure that you are purchasing the intended generation. The second wave of dual-core third generation are expected to be released later this year, which will include Intel Core i3 and i5 models.
The third generation of chips for the desktop PC - Core i5 and Core i7 - will run on motherboards using most of the previous generation Sandy Bridge chipsets, but some will require the replacement of the chipset by the motherboard manufacturer; a mere BIOS update does not suffice. Intel recommends that confirmation that a particular Socket LGA1155 motherboard is capable of running the new processors - or that the purchaser buys a motherboard with a 7-Series chipset. It may also be possible to run an Ivy Bridge processor on a motherboard designed for a Sandy Bridge processor, but that option depends on the motherboard manufacturer. Note that there is not much increase in performance when compared with the second-genation chips.
The first generation chips use Socket LGA1156 motherboards and the second generation uses Socket LGA1155 motherboards. The first generation chips cannot be used on the motherboards that run the second generation chips, which are superior, and vice versa, so it is advisable to avoid buying the first-generation chips unless you are upgrading a PC with a Socket LGA1156 motherboard to a faster first-generation Core i processor.
Several models of AMD and Intel processors now have an onboard graphics chip, making it unnecessary to have a separate graphics card or a graphics chip built into the motherboard. If the graphics chip is integrated into the motherboard or the processor, the motherboard has to provide the port that connects the graphics capability to the monitor.
The high-end models of AMD's A-Series APU processors all have onboard graphics chips that can play the latest 3D games in high detail, such as Dirt 3, on their own without the support of an AMD graphics card running in tandem with them in CrossFire mode, which improves the already good graphics performance significantly. These processors run from Socket FM1 motherboards, which provide the graphics ports.
All of Intel's second-generation Core i3, i5, and i7 processors (except the the extreme high-end Core i7-3930K and Core i7-3960X, which run on LGA2011 motherboards) run from Socket LGA1155 motherboards. All of these second-generation processors have onboard graphics chips, so all Socket LGA1155 motherboards provide graphics ports (usually analog VGA and digital DVI ports). Note that with the first generation of Core i processors, not all of them provide onboard graphics chips, so if you want to use the onboard graphics, a H57 or H55 chipset is required on the Socket LGA1156 motherboards that run those Core i processors. In short, not all Socket LGA1156 motherboards provide the graphics ports required to use onboard graphics. Note that unlike AMD's A-Series APU peocessors, none of Intel's Core i processors can play the latest PC games at playable frame rates using their onboard graphics chips.
If you are intent on buying a motherboard for an existing computer as an upgrade or as part of of a new computer you are building, make sure that it supports the processor you that you already have or want to buy. Some motherboards might require a BIOS update to be installed before it can run certain processors, but you won't be able to update the BIOS unless you have a processor that is already supported by the motherboard, because the update will have to be applied before the motherboard supports certain processors. For example, don't buy a Socket AM3 motherboard that will run an AMD Phenom II quad-core processor but only if a BIOS update is installed unless you already have, say, a Socket AM3 AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor that the motherboard already supports.More information is provided on making the choice further down this page. Every boxed retail motherboard come with a user manual, which must be read and consulted during the building process. If you buy a second-hand motherboard, say, from eBay, and it doesn't come with a manual, you just have to identify the make/model and then download a manual in the PDF format (requires a free PDF reader, such as the Foxit Reader made available on the web) from its manufacturer's website.
The image below shows an ATX motherboard installed in an ATX PC midi-tower case standing as it would on a desktop, but with a side panel removed. There is a single hard disk drive installed in the drive bay on the left. The ports panel on the left side of the motherboard will show the ports at the back of the case. There is a single adapter card installed in one of the two PCI slots white. The port(s) of that card will also appear at the back of the case. To install or remove this hard drive would involve either removing the other side panel to access the two screws securing it on the other side of the bay or removing the drive bay itself if the case has removable bays, which are removed by removing the front panel and then unclipping and sliding the bay out from the front of the case.
Note that Page 9 of this Build Your Own PC guide provides the order of the installations. I have provided the information on how to install each component or device in pages 1 to 8 of the guide.
Note well that if you are upgrading a system with new hardware components, you must make sure that the power supply unit (PSU) is capable of powering the new hardware, because hardware that is only a few years old uses much less power, and is much more tolerant of a slightly erratic supply of power than most of the latest hardware - video cards, RAM, processor, etc. - This article contains more advice on power supply units (aka PSUs/power supplies).
You should configure any jumpers or DIP switches, according to the motherboard's manual, and install the processor and the RAM on to the motherboard before you fit the motherboard in the case.
Just remember not to place the motherboard on any kind of electricity-conducting material when you configure it, or install the processor, its cooling unit, and the RAM modules. Always place it on insulating material such as the plastic or cardboard covering it came in. And always earth yourself by touching earthed metal such as a radiator before you touch electronic components, or wear an antistatic wrist strap that is attached to earthed metal.
You will then install all of the other components - motherboard in the case, adapter cards into their relevant slots, disk drives, etc. - and then attach the cables coming from the devices (or the front of the case) to the motherboard. The disk drives can usually be installed into their bays in the case before or after the motherboard has been fitted. I prefer to install them first in case I damage the motherboard accidentally by dropping a tool on it.
Note that in a new case there will be thin metal blanking plates that seal the openings in the ports panel and the drive bays in the case. The blanking plates that cover the PCI/AGP/PCI Express openings for adapter cards can be removed by unscrewing the screw that holds them in place.
In cheaper cases, the ones that cover the drive bays at the front of the case are usually held in place by threads that can easily be punched out manually, or removed with the aid of pair of pliers, but take care when removing them because you can easily cut yourself on the sharp edges. They cannot usually be replaced when removed, but if you have a high-quality computer case, you can often remove and replace these blanking plates whenever you like.
Information on how to install a motherboard in its case is provided on the next page of this article. If you need additional information, the motherboard's user manual provides instructions on how to install it in the case, which are not as comprehensive as the instructiions provided on that page. However, there is information in the motherboard's user manual that cannot be provided by a generalised instruction guide such as this one. For example, the manual will provide detailed information on the motherboard's BIOS settings and on how to install the memory in the memory slots in single-channel or dual-channel mode, etc., and what the maximum memory-module capacity per slot is.
If you don't know the make/model of the motherboard, you can use a free utility, such as the free CPU-Z utility from cpuid.com, to identify it and then use a search engine to find the manufacturer's site from where you can download a copy in the PDF format that requires a free PDF reader, such as the Foxit Reader.
Installing the motherboard in the case is very easy. The motherboard comes with standoff screws that screw into specific points on a slide out plate in the case that match insulated holes in the motherboard. The motherboard is then screwed into the standoff screws with other screws that are also supplied. You have to make sure that the ports on the motherboard appear through the ports panel at the back of the case. Detailed information on installing a motherboard is supplied on this page of this article.
You will have to make a choice between an AMD or an Intel processor, and then purchase a quality motherboard that supports your choice of processor. Preferably a motherboard that is as upgradable, or, at least, as overclockable as possible.
Visit the Processors section of this website for detailed information on them.
Visit this Motherboard, PC Cases, and Power Supplies page on this website for more information on overclocking a processor, which can include overclocking the RAM memory and an additional graphics card.
The following excellent article on overclocking an AMD A-Series A8-3870K (first-generation Llano) APU, which can play the latest games without help from an additional graphics card, covers the overclocked components - the processor, memory and the additional Radeon HD 6670 graphics card. The beginning is a very informative interview with overclocking expert, Sami Mäkinen. The processor is tested on five platforms running the latest games.
Professional Help: Getting The Best Overclock From AMD's A8-3870K -
You can do this by visiting a local vendor that sells motherboards, buy one from one of the mail-order suppliers that advertise in PC magazines, such as Computer Shopper (called Expert Reviews online), or bid for one at an auction website such as eBay.
Note well that you should read all of the support pages on how to sell, how to buy, and how to find out the information on sellers and buyers - the feedback from other users - before using an auction site. There is a great deal of information available about con artists and protection against them. For instance, on eBay, if you see the image of a pair of dark glasses beside a seller's name, you should check his or her feedback thoroughly. Check the items that the seller has sold. Every time someone provides feedback, the item that was purchased appears under the Items heading. You just have to click on the link to go to that auction. Make sure that the seller has a record of selling exensive items if you are about to purchase one yourself, because it is easy to sell cheap goods and get good feedback and then 'sell' and expensive item that doesn't exist.
If a con artist cashes your cheque, you will not be able to find out who the person is from the bank that cashed your cheque, because the bank will not be able to disclose information to third parties about its clients. This is the case even if your money has effectively been stolen.
There is an article called Using eBay safely at the bottom of the PC Purchase Checklist page of this website.
The following page provides access to the specification information on all of the processors made available to date by AMD and Intel. The further down a particular list a processor appears, the more recent it is.
Desktop CPU Comparison Guide -
Click here! to view an annotated images of an ATX Intel Socket LGA775 and AMD Socket A motherboard for the first Athlon socketed processors, and an annotated image of an ATX AMD Socket 939 motherboard for Athlon 64 anf 64 FX processors. - Click your browser's Back button to return here.
These days, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to purchasing a motherboard.
And probably thanks to a far more knowledgeable buying public, and the chronic need of computer manufacturers to cut down on support costs, bad or poor motherboards (and other components) have become almost but not completely extinct.
You will have to buy a motherboard that supports the processor that you want to use. Intel processors will not run on motherboards designed to run AMD processors, and vice versa.
You should choose a dual-core (2), quad-core (4) or higher (up to 8 cores by August 2012) Intel or AMD processor instead of a single-core processor, and then choose a motherboard which has the features that you want. A single-core processor has one processor core, a dual-core processor has two processor cores, and a quad-core processor had four processor cores.
All of the latest motherboards that run dual-core processors use DDR2 RAM or DDR3 memory, or a combination of both types installed in separate memory slots. You should not consider using less than 1GB of RAM memory if you are going to use the Windows Vista Home Premium or Vista Ultimate versions. The 32-bit versions of Windows Vista run best on between 2GB and 3.5GB, but cannot use more than that. The 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista can use up to 128GB of memory. Only the Vista Home Basic version has 512MB as its recommended minimum amount of memory. A system using Windows XP can run comfortably on 512MB of memory if it isn't used to run memory-hungry applications, as is the case with video-editing, etc.
Do your research and make up your mind which make of processor you want - from Intel or AMD.
Any PC-orientated magazine contains many suppliers' catalogues that list them. - And then look for a motherboard that supports it and which meets your computing needs and/or your financial means.
You will need a heatsink and fan unit to cool the processor. Boxed, retail processors made by Intel and AMD come with a recommended cooling unit, but you can also buy more expensive, fancier, more effective cooling units. The image below shows a basic standard Cooler Master heatsink and fan unit.
Note well that some of the heatsink and fan units for modern high-speed processors can have some form of sticky heat transfer material on the underside of the heatsink - usually in the form of a small square - that fits over the processor's central core where the main processing chip is housed. This will help the heat to conduct away from the core to the heatsink so that the fan can dissipate the heat into the case. Since it is sticky, a thin protective plastic cover will have to be removed prior to fitting the cooler to the processor. Failure to do so can cause the processor to overheat rapidly enough to destroy itself.
If the heatsink and fan unit came with a strip of film covering thermal compound, you should not remove the heatsink and fan from the processor after it has been installed and expect the compound to function properly again, because it can only be used once.
If the cooling unit doesn't provide any heat transfer material, you can use thermal paste - or a thermal pad can be used. - Read more about this topic further down this page.
Keeping Your CPU [Processor] Going If Your Cooler Fails -http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/cpu-cooler-fails,review-29650.html
Information about water-cooled systems is provided in the table below.
Water-cooled systems have been available for some time, but it is expensive compared to using the usual heatsink and fan coolers. For most users a water-cooling system is not necessary; only the users who want the highest possible performance from an overclocked system would have need of one. Here are a beginners guide on how to install a water-cooling system and some other useful articles on water cooling systems:
A Beginner's Guide For WaterCooling Your PC -
Corsair H70: Next-Gen Self-Contained Liquid Cooling -
Comparing Water Coolers: We Follow Your Lead -
Radical CPU Coolers from CoolIT -
Quality cooling units are usually fairly cheap and are easy to install, but they can also be expensive. Make sure that the unit is designed to be used with the make and model of the processor you have, or intend to purchase.
The more high-end and power-consuming the components are, and the heavier the duty that the PC is put to, the more will it be necessary for an expensive cooling unit for the processor, and even, if necessary, the video/graphics card.
Remember, you can purchase additional case fans to cool the case and other high-end components that get hot, such as a hard disk drive.
You can also purchase additional fans to fit in the case. The image below of a case fan is not of the same scale as the heatsink and fan unit shown above.
If you want a computer that is a quiet as possible, fans of 120mm (12cm/4.72") are recommended because they spin slowly compared to smaller fans and therefore don't make as much noise. If you buy a case, find out the size of its case fan(s).
I have a case which has a transparent side that has a 100mm (10cm/3.93") fan in its middle that has a blue LED light in each of its corners that cast blue light into the case. If I want to see if the processors fan is working, I just have to look into the case. The noise the fan makes is slight. The base unit (tower case) stands on a computer desk so that the side of the case with the fan in it faces the monitor, so it blows air across the desktop, which I find refreshing, even in winter.
If there isn't a ready-made mounting position or opening in the case, you may have to cut an opening in it to fit a case fan, depending on how many fans are already in the case, or where in the case you want it.
Just make sure that you attach the plug for the fan to the motherboard connector the right way round. You don't want the fan to spin in reverse and suck air into the computer when the intention is to make it expel air.
You should have the fans arranged so that they create a flow of air across the components. Therefore, you can have a fan at the front of the case pulling air into the case and one at the back of the case that expels it. What you don't want is two fans that are both drawing air into the case.
Different processor/sockets have different ways in which a cooling unit (usually a heatsink and fan unit) is attached to the installed processor.
A heatsink and fan unit usually has clips that are fastened to projecting connection points on the processor's socket - or it fits on to a special fitting built into the motherboard - or the cooler has four feet that clip into holes in the motherboard.
The image below shows a Socket 478 motherboard (still available, but a socket that is no longer being used by Intel for its latest processors). The processor's socket is surrounded by the fitting to which the heatsink and fan unit is fitted. It is an unusual board because it only has one PCI slot (white, bottom left-hand corner)and an AGP slot for a graphics card.
Intel's Pentium 4 Socket LGA775 processors and later Intel processors (Socket LGA1366, LGA1156, LGA1155) don't have pins on the underside of the unit that fit into matching holes in the socket; they have metal contact points called a land grid array (LGA). The flat contacts on the processor's underside make contact with tiny coils on pins inside the socket. The processor sits on top of them.
The coils inside the socket are mounted on pieces of metal (pins), which give them a bit of spring so that they push up and make firm contact with the metal contact points on the processor. When you install or remove the processor, it's possible to bend or move the pins. If one or more of the coils can't make contact with the processor, the computer won't start up. If that hapens after you've installed the processor or removed and reinstalled it, examine the socket from above. The pattern of pinsshould be completely ordered and symmetrical.
If any of the pins are out of line, you can use a knife with a sharp point or a pin to ease them back into position, but you must make sure that you don't cause a short circuit by leaving any of them making contact with each other.
The idea is to get the vertical part of each of these inner pins into an upright position and equidistant from the surrounding pins. It might not be possible to get them exactly equidistant from one another, but as long as their locations are approximately right, they should be able to make contact with the contact points on the processor. If you replace the processor and its heatsink and starting up the computer fails, you'll have to try adjusting the pins until startup takes place.
If the cooling unit is too cheap or poor quality it is likely to break down and cause overheating problems, which can be many and varied failures with error messages that have nothing to do with the problems that would result if there is no overheating shutdown protection built into the motherboard's circuitry or set in its BIOS setup program . And if there is such shutdown protection, which was built into all motherboards soon after the arrival of processors running at 1GHz, unsaved data can be lost when the system suddenly shuts down.
Make sure that you purchase a cooling unit made for the type of processor you are using. As shown in the image above, an Intel Pentium4 (Socket 478) processor, requires a special cooling unit that is designed to clip over the matching structure of the processor's socket. It cannot be used for any other type of processor.
Note that many motherboards are able to report the temperature in the BIOS setup program. Some also include interface software for reporting vital statistics in Windows, thereby allowing you to actively monitor the temperature. You might also be able to set an alarm level at which the BIOS issues a warning sound. For instance, you could set the alarm or shutdown levels at 60 degrees Celsius (60°C) for the processor.
In any case, the motherboard's manual will contain the information you need to know about any onboard temperature monitoring if it is available.
If possible, if you buy an expensive cooling unit, you should buy one that attaches to a plug from the power supply instead of one that plugs into the motherboard, because the fan might draw more power than the motherboard connection can supply and short it.
A standard ATX motherboard (ordinary size, or micro-ATX) will fit into a standard ATX case. You should know that proprietary makes of computer, such as Dell, Compaq, and Hewlett Packard do not use standard cases or motherboards. They use their own customised ones, which means that you cannot install a standard board in their cases - you have to use their products - if they are available - usually sold at a premium over standard motherboards.
If you purchase a new, boxed motherboard, it will come with a full set of cables for the number of hard disk drives and floppy disk drives that it supports, and a user manual that provides all of the installation and configuration information, including the BIOS settings, much of which will be illustrated.
If this is not the case, visit the motherboard's website to find out if you can download a manual. Otherwise, unless you can work out how to configure and install the motherboard, don't purchase it.
Read the BIOS section of this website for more information on the BIOS setup program.
Read its manual all the way through before you attempt to install the motherboard. If it doesn't make complete sense to you, ask for help from a computer forum, such as the one at Tom' s Hardware Guide, a newsgroup, such as alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt, or your local computer store. You can also search the Usenet Newsgroups database at Google (Google Groups) . It provides all of the backdated postings to these newsgroups. Advanced searches are available.
In order to install a particular make and model of processor in a motherboard, that motherboard and its BIOS setup program must support it. All of the recent and current processors made by Intel and AMD just have to be installed in a motherboard that is properly installed in a PC's case with the RAM memory and the video/graphics card installed in order to be able to boot into the BIOS by pressing its entry key when the startup screen appears.
A hard disk drive has to be installed, and an operating system, which is usually a version of Windows, has to be installed on the hard drive before any application software, such as MS Office, can be installed.
The installation of a socketed processor is merely a matter of lifting the lever beside the Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) processor socket, inserting the processor into it the correct way round, and pressing the lever back into place. The socket's lever in the image below is brown, and it is located on the bottom side of the socket - held in place under a protrusion from the socket itself.
The two clipped corners of this Socket 370 socket (now a redundant socket type) are clearly seen in the bottom corners of the socket. An Intel Socket 370 processor's pin grid array will match its shape.
The processor can be correctly aligned in the socket by matching the clipped corner(s) of the socket with the clipped corner(s) on the underside of the processor.
The clipped corner, seen on the images below of the front and bottom of an AMD Athlon 64 processor, is fitted to the matching corner of the processor socket on the motherboard.
Note that if you bend a pin on the processor so that it doesn't make a connection, you very probably won't be able to start the computer. Note that Intel's latest processors do not have pins on the underside of the processor that fit into matching holes in the processor's socket; they have contact points that match contact points in the socket.
There will always be an easy way to align a processor in its socket correctly. Read the instructions that came with a boxed retail processor, or visit the manufacturer's website for instructions if you have bought a bare, OEM product, or a second-hand processor that didn't come with its supporting documentation.You can download the manuals for the latest MSI motherboards free of charge from msi.com. The manuals provide illustrated instructions on how to install the processor in its socket. Each type of processor will have its own method of being correctly aligned in its socket. Instructions are also provided in the manual on how to install a heatsink and fan unit over the processor. All of the major motherboard manufacturers provide user manuals for their boards, and copies in the PDF format are also provided from the motherboard manufacturer's website. Those instructions are also provided when you buy a retail, boxed processor.
The image below shows a heatsink and fan unit with the lever that is used to fit it to the processor socket.
There are various kinds of lever implementations used to make fitting the cooling unit easy. However, if you have never installed the type of processor and cooling unit, you should always visit the processor's manufacturer's site for illustrated instructions on how to install them, because doing so might require specific knowledge that is more than just common sense.
Cooling units are available for Socket LGA775 and subsequent Intel processors that are fixed over the processor's socket by pressing push pins into their sockets on the motherboard. The push pins have a flat top that makes doing this very easy. The coolers have four feet that clip into holes in the motherboard. On each foot of the cooler there is a slot and an arrow. You insert a flat-head screwdriver into the slot to engage and disengage the lock in order to install or remove the cooling unit. For example, to remove the cooler, insert the screwdriver into the slot and turn it 90° clockwise towards the arrow. Then, one at a time, grip each foot and pull it up. It should click up and come free. When all of the feet are free, lift the cooling unit straight up from the processor. Reverse this process to install the processor.
AMD's Athlon 64 and Phenom ranges of 64-bit processors (the retail boxed product) come with a heatsink and fan unit and illustrated instructions on how to fit it. The process is similar to the method used to fit the cooling unit in the image above, except that there is no lever to push the hook over the protrusions on the socket. You hook one side of the unit over a single protrusion, and then pull a springed handle on the other side of the processor's socket over until it locks into position with the top of its handle in a horizontal position.
The following page provides access to PDF files on how to apply Arctic Silver 5 thermal compound to Intel and AMD processors:
How to apply Arctic Silver 5 to Intel and AMD desktop and laptop PCs -: Intel CPU Install - Shows the installation of the processor, heatsink, and removal of the heatsink. -
Newegg Tutorial: How To Install an AMD CPU -
This video shows that you can use lighter fluid or something similar to remove old thermal paste left on the cooling unit and the processor before applying a new thin layer of paste, which must be done before installing an upgrade processor or when reusing the cooler.
To increase the thermal conduction efficiency between the processor's die, and the surface of the heatsink, thermal paste (thermal compound) or thermal pads are used.
For Intel Pentium 4, Celeron, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3 and AMD Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2, and Phenom X2/X3/X4 processors, which have a covered upper surface, spread the paste thinly over the entire surface by squeezing a bit out and then spreading it evenly across the surface with an old credit/store card or similar implement.
When using thermal paste, care should be taken not to apply it too thickly. The paste should only expel the air from the interface between the cooler and the die. Using more paste than say an amount equivalent to two or three grains of rice usually reduces thermal conductivity instead of increasing it. Practical tests of the various pastes have shown that the temperature of the processor's die can be reduced by up to three or four degrees Celsius ( 3 to 4 °C) by using a high-quality thermal paste.
The application of the pre-assembled thermal pads is quite simple - you remove the protective film from the pad, place the pad between the processor and cooling unit, finish fitting the cooler, and then turn the computer on.
A thermal pad can only be used once. It leaves sticky residues that are not easy to remove from the contact surfaces. Thermal paste is easier to remove, therefore, those of you who regularly change the processor are advised to use it instead of a pad.
You can conduct a web s earch to find websites that provide information on how to apply and remove thermal paste and the sticky residue left by thermal pads.
The search Query clean "thermal compound" processor (as is) lead me to these links:
How to Apply Thermal Compound to a CPU [Video] -
Arctic Silver Instructions [Including how to apply Artic Silver 5 thermal compound to Intel and AMD desktop and laptop PC processors and how to use other products made by the company. The instructions are in PDF documents that require a PDF reader, such as the free Foxit Reader.] - http://www.arcticsilver.com/instructions.htm
Arctic Silver is a leading manufacturer of thermal pastes.
2. - The Motherboard, Processor & RAM
3. - The Disk Drives
5. - The Dial-Up Modem