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  • PC Building Tips and Tricks!

    Since many of us here build our own PC's I thought it would be a good idea for us to compile our tips and tricks for PC building. I just finished my first build and benefitted greatly from the knowledge of my fellow TG'ers. I also learned some things along the way that I'd wished I'd known about ahead of time. So, for those of you who builld your own, share your PC building tips!

    Here are a couple of things I picked up during my first build:

    Hardware Selection

    -Choose a case that allows you to run cables behind the motherboard tray for better cable management and airflow. If you can route most if not all of your cables out of the way you will make the most of your fans and make changing upgrades and changes easier. Case that offers slots around the motherboard tray to run cables behind it is the easiest way to manage your cables. I do not have a case like this using sleeves, wire ties, and tie downs, I have run most of my cables along side the motherboard and behind the drivebays where possible.

    -Choose a modular power supply that lets you connect only the power cables you need for better cable management. The largest and most number of cables in your PC will come from the power supply. Depending on the hardware you choose you may use alot or very few of these. Modular PSU's allow you only plug in the ones you need to save on space. I do not have one and can tell you the hardest part of managing my cables is dealing with the ones that are not connected to anything

    -Even if you don't choose a top of the line processor, make sure you buy a motherboard that is compatible with current and if possible next generation technology. Even if you cannot afford top of the line or next gen now, you may want to upgrade later. So, make sure your board has a socket that will be compatible for awhile, has the capability for higher front side bus speeds and than your current processor uses, and supports next gen RAM and other technologies whenever possible. Upgrading your CPU and graphics card is a lot easier if you don't have to replace your mobo too!

    -Don't skimp on your power supply unit (PSU). Always purchase a PSU with more watts than you need right now in case you add components with higher requirements later. Graphics card and other discrete hardware are requiring more and more power. Always buy a PSU with some extra wattage for future upgrades.


    Preparation

    -Read your owner's manuals at least twice before building/installing. Most manuals can be downloaded in advance. The manual for your case and motherboard are the most important documents you will need for your build. I felt absolutely clueless about what I was supposed to do until I read these manuals. It answered 90% of all my questions on how to build the PC.

    -Make a checklist for every step of your build and follow it as you proceed.
    Example:
    ...
    10. Install CPU.
    11. Install CPU Heatsink Fan (HSF).
    12. Connect CPU HSF to motherboard CPU fan connector...


    Building Process

    -Despite what your motherboard and CPU manuals say, install the CPU, HSF, and RAM BEFORE you install the motherboard into your case. I am usually a by-the-book kind of guy. All my manuals said to instal the mobo in the case before installing the CPU/HSF/RAM. This is the only time I recommend a departure from the manuals. It is MUCH easier to make sure your HSF and RAM are seated correctly if you install them while the mobo is outside the case. You can better support the board while you install them to make sure the board does not overbend and risk damaging solder points or components and you can see if the legs of the HSF are properly inserted and seated in the slots. This may make installing the board into the case a little more awkward but it is more than worth it.

    -Make sure all the metal tabs on your I/O Shield are bent completely out of the way before installing your motherboard. Those pesky pieces of metal prevented me of properly matching my I/O ports and forced me to take the mobo in and out of the case six times before I got it right. To make sure they are completely out of the way try to fiT the I/O shield over the ports before installing and then re-insert the shield before you position the mobo inside.

    I am far from an exert but I think the above are musts for any build. let's see yours!
    Last edited by loyalguard; 05-22-2007, 12:16 PM.
    LoyalGuard

  • #2
    Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

    The most important thing you can possibly do if you are building your own PC ()or buying for for that matter) is to read, read and read some more.

    Investigate every part you want to put into your system - google is your friend here. Chances are that if there is a problem, someone else somewhere has come across it and posted about it somewhere.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

      My monitor and mouse arrived last night, my MOBO, 4GB RAM, 8800 other assorted goodies arrived this morning, was going to enjoy building her today....Only i forgot to get thermal paste!Silly Jeepo! Ordered some, not here until Friday, so its of to the weekend after work! The joy!:(

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

        Your point about the PSU is very true but I would also point out that the quality of the PSU is very important as well. I have been building machines for 10 years now and I can't tell you the number of times a failure has been due to a bad PSU. If you are going to spend top money for a piece of equipment make it the PSU. If a machine wont boot or POST (power on self test) the PSU is the first thing I check. Ideally I have a spare that I swap with.

        Another tip, if you are debating whether to go with a single stick of RAM or two I'd vote for two for a couple of reason. The obvious reason being mobo's can take advantage of dual channel memory which translates into faster reading and writing to main memory. The second less obvious reason of particular interest when building your own rig is in case you have a bad stick or a bad slot on the mobo. I've had both happen to me and with only one stick of memory it would be impossible to tell if the mobo was bad or the memory (assuming you don't have extras of either).

        Oh and be sure you are grounded when messing with electronics. Static is an evil thing especially when you have a lot of hair :madsmile:
        flux
        [tg-c1]

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

          [QUOTE=flux;712112]

          Another tip, if you are debating whether to go with a single stick of RAM or two I'd vote for two for a couple of reason. The obvious reason being mobo's can take advantage of dual channel memory which translates into faster reading and writing to main memory. The second less obvious reason of particular interest when building your own rig is in case you have a bad stick or a bad slot on the mobo. I've had both happen to me and with only one stick of memory it would be impossible to tell if the mobo was bad or the memory (assuming you don't have extras of either).

          QUOTE]


          Good advice...took a awhile to save up for but I'm now running two 1GB sticks now and am quite pleased.
          sigpic
          |TG-1st|Grunt
          ARMA Admin (retired)
          Pathfinder-Spartan 5

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          • #6
            Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

            Keep the tips coming guys this is great.

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            • #7
              Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

              i would also make sure to stress:
              1. the importance of making sure you have adequate cooling
              2. 2 gbs of ram should be minimum for any pc built nowadays
              3. should use sticks in pairs of 1gb with dual channel
              4. not to worry too much about using raid setups as with windows workstation operating systems (xp, vista) the file system isn't optimized to use them so unless you need a raid for backing up data don't worry bout stripe raid sets for performance bonuses
              5. if you can make sure you get parts that are able to be overclocked as you can get good bargains and when your equipment is nearing the end of it's lifecycle you can get a few more months etc out of it with overclocking provided you have adequate cooling to overclock

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              • #8
                Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

                On memory: avoid disappointment. Make sure you double check the motherboard's QVL (qualified vendor list) for memory configurations/densities that have been tested with the motherboard you select.

                DB

                «That looks like a really nice house except for that horrible bathroom.» Donrhos

                | |





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                • #9
                  Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

                  I'm just going to start adding question to this thread as I'm a newbie building his first comp.

                  What do I look for in a case?

                  What do I look for in a PSU?

                  What "features" make motherboards different from each other? (side question, if it has 2x pci-e 16x slots is it sli compatible? what else would use a pci-e 16x slot?)

                  EDIT: One more: Is there any reason for me not to get Vista over XP at this point?
                  Last edited by ChopStick; 05-23-2007, 07:50 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

                    What do I look for in a case?

                    Case selection should include aesthetics (not exclusively, but it is important). It should look good to you. There should be room to work inside. Drive bayss should be easily accessible and east to mount/remove drives. Cooling, the more fans the better. Cable management options (see my OP above). Also make sure the front audio panel supports HD audio as well as AC97. Also make sure the front panel USB, firewire, HDD, power button cables are long enough to reach any other point in the case.

                    What do I look for in a PSU?
                    Make sure it is SLI-certified and at least 650w for future growth. I recommend modular (see above). Also go with a trusted name.

                    What "features" make motherboards different from each other? (side question, if it has 2x pci-e 16x slots is it sli compatible? what else would use a pci-e 16x slot?

                    Well socket is a big one. Chipset is next (Intel, NVidia, etc.) Cooling options for the north and south bridge, number of SATA, USB, and other connectors. Front Side Bus speed support, SLI ready as well. Mobo selection is going to get real interesting right now with the release of Intel's P35 chipset (Bearlake) DDR3, and PCIE 2.0 coming down the pike.

                    And as jaymind said....read, read, read. Check out the customer reviews on Newegg. Search the reviews at HardOCP and Bjorn3D (I really like their reviews), Anandtech, Tom's Hardware. Know your hardware in an out before you select it. Check out Maxium PC magazine as well

                    Edit: I chose to forgo Vista for the time being and am very happy. I will have to spend more later but I think I am avoiding headaches now.
                    LoyalGuard

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                    • #11
                      Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

                      Originally posted by ChopStick View Post
                      What do I look for in a case?
                      i'd say 3 things:
                      1. make sure it will fit the form factor for your motherboard. form factor is the shape of the motherboard as well as what type of power connector it uses
                      2. make sure it has plenty of room (card expansion slots, drive bays, space for cables)
                      3. make sure it will have adequate cooling for what you want to run

                      Originally posted by ChopStick View Post
                      What do I look for in a PSU?
                      1. that it has enough wattage (sustained wattage not max wattage) to run the hardware you have
                      2. that it has enough wattage on the different rails (+12v, etc)
                      3. whether you want modular cables or not

                      Originally posted by ChopStick View Post
                      What "features" make motherboards different from each other? (side question, if it has 2x pci-e 16x slots is it sli compatible? what else would use a pci-e 16x slot?)
                      1. number of usb slots (usually 4-6)
                      2. number of ram slots (usually 4)
                      3. number of sata ports (if any but most new mobos have sata)
                      4. number of pci, pci-x, agp slots
                      5. number of pata ports
                      5. any onboard raid controller
                      6. fsb
                      7. northbridge and southbridge chipsets
                      8. processor types supported
                      9. sli or crossfire support
                      10. type of ram (ddr, ddr2, etc) and speed

                      Originally posted by ChopStick View Post
                      One more: Is there any reason for me not to get Vista over XP at this point?
                      vista isn't bad but like all microsoft operating systems it is buggy upon first release ... no need for it for dx10 for gaming yet since no games support it afaik but it does have some nifty features and is definitely pleasing to the eye so if you can afford it and want it it isn't bad but i'd say wait till dx10 games like crysis come out and also microsoft releases the first service pack to get

                      keep in mind, dx9 games run 5% slower on vista (might not be a big deal to some but big to others) i think it is due to the face that dx9 games run in a separate api that then interfaces into dx10

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                      • #12
                        Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

                        for a PSU, i would most definitely recomend PC Power and Cooling, they have by far THE best PSU's on the market, i've yet to see bad reviews on any of their PSU models, hence i own one and it runs stable under load with an 8800GTX C2d overclocked to 3.2GHz 2 gigz of ram etc.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

                          This is the method I use when designing a machine:
                          1) Decide on a processor. Do a LOT of research and make sure that it will be around for a while.
                          2) Go to the processor manufacturers web page and read all of the design guides for that processor. It will have lists of certified manufacturers of PSU's and RAM.
                          3) Pick a chipset for the motherboard and pick a motherboard. Once again do lots of reading here. Different chipsets perform differently and can affect the end result.
                          4) Pick RAM from a reputable manufacturer. Don't buy cheap RAM. Spend the few extra dollars on good stuff and you won't regret it.
                          5) Select a video card. Once again read lots of reviews and make sure that it is compatible with the motherboard.
                          6) Select your hard drive. Make sure to check the MTBF (mean time between failures) on the drive. This device will hold all of your important data so make sure that it is reliable.
                          7) Pick a case. I like the large cases because they give extra room for airflow and keeping cables neat.
                          8) Consider adding a sound card if you want EAX and great sounds. Onboard sound is good for basic stuff but an add on card will make the sound come alive.
                          8) Pick the power supply based on the power consumption of all the other parts. Make sure to leave plenty of headroom for expansion. Remember that power supply that came with your case? Throw it away unless it is a name brand unit that meets your design goals. A cheap PSU can easily destroy your entire machine.

                          Here is some final advice:
                          Make the cabling neat. Take the time while you are building it to tie all of the cables neatly and only use the ones you need. I guarantee that it will help eliminate future problems. Neatly routed cables really help with airflow and it will be a machine that you can be proud of.

                          And finally never base a buying decision on a single review. Many reviewers are swayed by a manufacturer to give favorable reviews.
                          Retired 6th DB

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                          • #14
                            Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

                            Originally posted by loyalguard View Post
                            What do I look for in a case?

                            Case selection should include aesthetics (not exclusively, but it is important). It should look good to you. There should be room to work inside. Drive bayss should be easily accessible and east to mount/remove drives. Cooling, the more fans the better.
                            The most important thing is to research the effectiveness of the case design as related to cooling. More fans doesn't always mean better. The best way to do that? Reviews, reviews, reviews!

                            Case in point, I used to have an X-Dreamer II case and ran 2 front 80mm fans, a side 80mm fan, a top 80mm fan and a 120mm back fan. Moved to an Antec Solo case and run a 92mm front fan and a 120mm back fan and not only is it a ton quieter, but it the CPU also runs ~20-25 degrees cooler under load.

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                            • #15
                              Re: PC Building Tips and Tricks!

                              Originally posted by ChopStick View Post
                              What do I look for in a case?
                              I would highly recommend the kind of case which allows you to screw down the motherboard before you put it inside. It make life so much easier.

                              This info is really good, but I have the feeling it would look even better as a Wiki page. (man I hate the word Wiki, but I guess we're stuck with it now)
                              Peace through fear... since 1947!

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