Building a PC: Cables, case modding, device drivers, BIOS/UEFI
The confusing myriad of cables that computers use
The myriad of cables that are in use are often very confusing to the home computer user. The following link provides a slide show of the cables and information on what each cable is used for that should dispel most of the confusion. Since these articles were created only USB 3.0/3.1/TypeC (SuperSpeed USB) has been added. Use the Search box at the top of each page to find the information about these cables on this website and, if applicable, the standards they support.
A World of Cables, Unknotted [Slideshow of all the cables used with a computer] –
Case modding is term used to describe adding all kinds of fancy add-ons and gizmos to a computer case. You can add fancy coolers, fans, fan controllers, neon lights, etc., and you can buy fancy cases that have exotic features such as see-through areas so that you can see inside the case, etc.
Websites that specialise in case modding can be found by using a web search query, such as case modding uk or case modding forums.
It is especially easy to build a computer with a new motherboard and installing Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 8.1 (Standard or Pro versions) or Windows 10 (Home or Pro), because, apart from installing the hardware in the case and connecting the monitor, Windows configures the hardware automatically most of the time. Why? – Because all versions of Windows since Windows 95 are Plug and Play (PnP) operating systems that detect PnP devices and load their software drivers automatically – most of the time – either from within Windows itself, or from a CD/DVD, flash drive, or floppy disks.
With each new version of Windows, 32-bit and also 64-bit versions, the installation of new hardware has improved. However, note that it is not advisable to allow Windows Update to install device drivers, or any third-party driver website, for that matter, because they tend to use generic drivers not the specific drivers created by the device manufacturers for a particular device. Always obtain drivers from the device’s website and don’t install updates if the current drivers are working properly.
I installed the components for a computer by just fitting and cabling them correctly, placed the Windows 7 Home Premium DVD in the CD/DVD drive (most home users don’t need a higher version, such as the Professional and Ultimate versions. Note that for the home user Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 only have a standard and a Pro version in 32-bit or 64-bit versions), and the system was up and running in less than half an hour.
There were a few devices categorised as Other devices in the Device Manager that had yellow exclamation marks beside them, which signalled that the devices hadn’t been installed properly, but these were sorted out automatically by removing them and then installing the drivers that came on a CD supplied with the motherboard. After doing that, I downloaded and installed the latest device drivers for the motherboard, video/graphics card, sound card, which were obtained from the websites of the manufacturers of the devices.
All new motherboards and the processors they use are now mostly configured via the BIOS. A jumper on the motherboard is still used to reset the BIOS, usually to remove a forgotten security password or incompatible setting that has rendered the computer unbootable, but it has been many years since I saw a motherboard that used DIP switches for configuration.
The standard and UEFI BIOS
There are two types of BIOS setup program currently in use – the standard keyboard-driven BIOS that has been in use for decades and the new mouse-driven UEFI BIOS that was introduced with Windows Vista in 2005 but only came into full use with Windows 8.0/8.1, first released in 2012, which can be bound to the UEFI by the feature called Secure Boot that prevents unrecognised operating systems or boot discs from booting the system. New Windows 10 brand name PCs also use the UEFI BIOS. The UEFI is built into a PC’s motherboard, therefore all motherboards that are built to support Win10 provide a UEFI BIOS.
Both kinds of BIOS are dealt with on the following page of this website:
The BIOS is given its own section in most motherboard user manuals where the boot-up configuration settings are explained briefly. Information on how to reset the BIOS settings, password, replace the BIOS battery, etc., is also provided.
If you didn’t buy a new motherboard to build a PC or you bought one second-hand, if you can identify the make/model of the motherboard all you have to do is visit the manufacturer’s website, search for the specific board and download a manual, usually made available in the PDF format.
The internal components of a desktop PC
This section of this website takes you through the process of building a standard multimedia PC, step by step, using new components. But it would be almost as easy to build one using second-hand components bought from auction sites such as eBay or the Amazon Marketplace.
The components are: a flat-panel monitor, a case with a power supply unit – a motherboard – a processor with its heatsink and fan or water-cooling system – RAM module(s) – a video/graphics card – a sound card with speakers – a hard disk or SSD drive – a CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive – a wired or wireless keyboard and mouse – an inkjet or laser printer/scanner/copier. To provide an Internet connection, dial-up modems have given way to broadband routers, around which a home network can be built that can be connected to by using Ethernet cables or Wi-Fi. The network coverage can be extended by using a Powerline system that uses the mains cabling in a house. Powerline adapters are available that provide both wired and wireless connections.
How to make sure that you get your PC returned in the same state it was in after you send it back to the manufacturer or to a repair/upgrade shop
If you have purchased a brand-name PC or built your own, you might have to send it back to the manufacturer or to a repair shop to diagnose and fix a problem. During its stay away from home, its components could be removed and replaced with old or cheaper ones. To be able to prove that your PC is returned in the state it was in before it was sent off, you should name a note of the makes/models of the hardware components.
If you don’t know the makes and models of the hardware components installed in your computer, a good free utility called the Belarc Advisor creates an analysis of the hardware and software on a personal computer that you can print out. Look for it under FREE DOWNLOAD on belarc.com. You would the just have to run the utility again when the PC is returned and match the two printouts to find out what has been changed. Something else you can do is open the Windows Device Manager, open up the categories of devices and then perform a Print Screen, which can be printed. It is also a good idea to open the case and take one or more photos of the interior.
Next page: The PC case and power supply unit (PSU)