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Can We Build It?

01 We Can
The Complete Guide To Building A PC By: Alexander May

Table of Contents
1. Introduction .............................................................................................................................................. 4 2. Basic Questions ......................................................................................................................................... 5 3. Planning/Research .................................................................................................................................... 7 4. Choosing Parts .......................................................................................................................................... 8 4.1. Processor [CPU].................................................................................................................................. 9 4.2. Memory [RAM] ................................................................................................................................ 12 4.3. Disk Drive Storage [HDD/SSD].......................................................................................................... 16 4.3.1. Hard Disk Drives (HDD) ............................................................................................................. 16 4.3.2. Solid State Drives (SSD) ............................................................................................................. 18 4.4. Blu-ray/CD/DVD Drive ...................................................................................................................... 19 4.5. Graphics or Sound Cards .................................................................................................................. 21 4.5.1. Graphics Cards .......................................................................................................................... 21 4.5.2. Sound Cards .............................................................................................................................. 26 4.6. Motherboard.................................................................................................................................... 28 4.7. Power Supply ................................................................................................................................... 31 4.8. Cases and Fans ................................................................................................................................. 35 4.8.1. Cases ......................................................................................................................................... 35 4.8.2. Fans ........................................................................................................................................... 39 4.9. Enthusiast......................................................................................................................................... 41 4.9.1. Liquid Cooling ............................................................................................................................ 41 4.9.1.1. Components ....................................................................................................................... 42 4.9.1.2. Designing A Loop................................................................................................................ 48 4.9.1.3. Installation ......................................................................................................................... 49 4.9.1.4. Maintenance ...................................................................................................................... 53 4.9.2. Lighting ...................................................................................................................................... 54 4.9.3. Custom PC Modifications .......................................................................................................... 55 4.9.4. Overclocking.............................................................................................................................. 56 4.9.5. RAID........................................................................................................................................... 57 4.9.5.1. RAID Controllers And Software .......................................................................................... 57 4.9.5.2. RAID 0................................................................................................................................. 58 4.9.5.3. RAID 1................................................................................................................................. 59 4.9.5.4. RAID 5................................................................................................................................. 60 4.9.5.5. RAID 10............................................................................................................................... 61

4.10. CPU Coolers.................................................................................................................................... 62 4.11. Other Parts ..................................................................................................................................... 64 5. Choosing Peripherals .............................................................................................................................. 67 5.1. Monitor ............................................................................................................................................ 67 5.2. Keyboard .......................................................................................................................................... 71 5.3. Mouse .............................................................................................................................................. 78 5.4. Audio Devices ................................................................................................................................... 81 5.4.1. Speakers .................................................................................................................................... 81 5.4.2. Headphones .............................................................................................................................. 83 5.4.3. Headsets.................................................................................................................................... 84 5.4.4. Earphones ................................................................................................................................. 85 5.5. Other Peripherals ............................................................................................................................. 86 6. Ordering Parts ......................................................................................................................................... 87 7. Putting It Together .................................................................................................................................. 88 7.1. Installing Components ..................................................................................................................... 88 7.2. Internal Cable Management ............................................................................................................ 91 7.3. Airflow .............................................................................................................................................. 92 8. Operating System, Drivers and Software ................................................................................................ 94 8.1. Operating System ............................................................................................................................. 94 8.2. Drivers & BIOS .................................................................................................................................. 96 8.2.1. BIOS ........................................................................................................................................... 96 8.2.2. Drivers ....................................................................................................................................... 97 8.3. Software ........................................................................................................................................... 98 8.3.1. Compatibility ............................................................................................................................. 98 8.3.2. Performance Monitoring and Testing ....................................................................................... 99 9. Cleaning and Maintenance ................................................................................................................... 100 9.1. Mice & Keyboards .......................................................................................................................... 100 9.2. Case ................................................................................................................................................ 103 9.3. Monitor .......................................................................................................................................... 104 9.4. Desk Area ....................................................................................................................................... 105 9.5. System Maintenance ..................................................................................................................... 106 9.5.1. Windows ................................................................................................................................. 106 9.5.2. Mac OS X ................................................................................................................................. 108 10. Sources and Other Useful Links .......................................................................................................... 109

1. Introduction
The purpose of this guide is to assist you with building your first computer or to help you learn about more advanced upgrades to computers. I plan to introduce the basics on how to build your computer, covering topics such as where to begin, what parts are required for your computer, what parts to choose based on your budget and needs. This is not a guide to making the best gaming pc, but it is a guide on how to pick the best parts for your computer and how to assemble them all to achieve the best computer for your needs. I will talk about gaming pcs as well as media center pcs and other specialty computers as well as a general purpose computer for day to day general use. This should be a comprehensive guide with as much information consolidated and presented to you for you to learn from the knowledge of me and all those who have helped me to write this guide. I hope you find the information in this useful and it helps you to understand your computer a little bit better. One thing to mention is that the term PC, used throughout this guide, is a reference to any Personal Computer. This is not a reference to which Operating System you use. The company Apple ran an advertisement campaign that attempted to dissociate their Mac computers from the term PC. They are however, by definition, personal computers which makes them PCs. By definition any computer used for personal purposes fits into the PC category. We will generalize this term throughout this guide to be any computer that you are building whether it fit into the PC definition or otherwise. Despite Apples attempts to convince people that with the use of their Operating System their computer will transcend above the term PC, we still recognize that it is a personal computer nonetheless and that means that they are still included within the term PC. This had to be made clear as some users may misunderstand the use of the term throughout this guide.

2. Basic Questions
When you decide to start a build or to upgrade a current system there are a few basic questions you need to ask yourself before you start. These questions may seem obvious to you if you have done builds in the past, but a first time builder might not think to ask themselves these questions and may get stuck with an unfinished build or not be happy with the finished product. These questions are as important, if not more important, as the parts themselves. These questions are very important to think about before and during your build as well as after if you plan on upgrading someday. Why should I build my own computer? This is the perfect question that everyone who wants to buy a computer should ask. With all of the companies out there that are pushing their pre-built computers at seemingly decent prices, why would anyone choose to build their own computer? The answer to this question is that building your own computer is going to be much cheaper and will give you much better components at the same time. Companies that mass produce computers tend to cut a lot of corners with their components by mass producing as many of the components themselves as possible. While there are companies out there that will build computers using higher quality components, they tend to charge significantly more. Pre-built computer companies tend to manufacture components like power supplies, memory, motherboards, cases and peripherals such as keyboards, mice and monitors and use these components and peripherals in the computers they sell you. They spend less on research and development on making the better components than companies that specialize in those specific components would so they do not perform as well. Yet these companies will charge you the full price of the higher quality components in the hopes that you do not do your research. By reading this guide, you are already a step ahead of these companies and should be able to answer the question of why to build your own computer all on your own. Building your own computer can also be fun and give a strong feeling of accomplishment that will only grow when you show off your computer to friends and family. Computer building is a growing hobby as the prices of pre-built computers continue to rise and people realize how easy it is. What is my budget? If you ask someone with experience building a computer to help you, the first question they will ask is how much are you going to pay me and the second question is whats your budget. This question is a no-brainer for many, but if you dont ask yourself this question, you can very easily go broke with this computer. You may not have a budget on your computer; some enthusiasts will save up tons of money for a new build and will have hundreds or thousands of dollars in wiggle room. Even if you dont have a strict

budget on your computer you really should think about how much you would be willing to spend on getting one part over another. One example of this is with graphics cards and processors. As you get into the higher priced parts, you could easily spend $300-$400 more to get a 5% or 6% increase in performance. This then transitions into our next question: What am I going to use my computer for? This is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself before starting a new build. Not only should you ask yourself what you are using a computer for now and what you will be using it for when you are done, but you should also try to anticipate what you may want to do with it in the future. By anticipating possible upgrades, you can make it much easier on yourself in the future when you decide your computer just isnt good enough anymore. There will always be new upgrades and by anticipating some of the things you will want to upgrade, you can choose the best parts that will be compatible with future technology. You should consider whether you are going to be playing graphics intensive video games, video or picture editing, just browsing the web, etc. For example, someone who does a lot of graphic designing would want a good video card with a monitor that shows colors more accurately than someone who is just listening to Pandora or watching Netflix. Not that those things would be bad for those people, just unnecessary. By deciding what you are going to be using your computer for, you can also navigate this guide better by skipping sections that dont apply to you. Someone making a media computer to use as their DVR could very easily skip over the enthusiast sections. How much time and effort do I want to put into building my computer? This question may not be as important as the previous two questions, but it is still something you should think about. An enthusiast build could take as much as 2 days to finish their build with cable management, liquid cooling circuits, etc. Then installing everything on the computer could take some time. If you do not have that much time to build a computer, dont worry. A normal computer could be put together and ready to run in just a couple of hours. However this is something you should consider before looking into things such as liquid cooling which could take many hours of testing and preparation. Also many newer cases make cable management a cinch and very easy to do in a short amount of time.

3. Planning/Research
The planning and research phase is the phase you should be at right now. Hopefully you have thought about all of the questions in section 1 and now have an idea of what you are willing to pay for your computer, what it is going to be able to do and how much effort you are going to be putting into building your new computer. You should be really excited right now about your new toy. Its almost here, but first you need to get the boring stuff out of the way. You should research all of the things you are going to do with your computer. I have tried to put as much into this guide as possible to help you out and have provided links to other helpful places in section 3, Choosing Parts, but since I am not perfect you may have to do some of your own research. You should also research the new technology that is coming out. I have included as much up to date technology in this guide for your benefit but new technologies are coming out all the time and it is impossible to keep updating this guide every time something new comes out. If you plan on trying out the exciting world of enthusiast builds, you should read at least 3 guides and read multiple articles on each thing you plan on trying. I have read through numerous guides and tried to consolidate it all as best as I could but, as I mentioned already, new technologies are coming out all the time. Your research phase should not end when you are done building your computer. It is always a good idea to keep learning about new things and better ways to utilize your computer to get the most out of your hardware.

4. Choosing Parts
It is important to plan out your build before you start purchasing parts. It is smart to keep a spreadsheet of all of the parts you want to buy along with prices and where you are going to buy them. This will help to know how much you should be paying for parts to make sure that you are getting the best deal on your computer. Planning out your build will also help a lot with compatibility. You can write down any compatibility notes on your spreadsheet such as form factors, connection types etc. This will help you to know what you have and know that everything will work together when you buy it to alleviate any headaches from having to return something and for something else. Some websites will help you to plan out everything by allowing you to find the right parts that you want through advanced search options and will automatically notify you of any compatibility issues. But it is not enough to trust these sites at face value. Do some quick research on your parts to ensure that they are in fact compatible and double check everything before purchasing. Planning out which parts to choose becomes less of an issue if you are just upgrading one or two things. For a full build or one that you are changing the motherboard, case, power supply or CPU, it is important that you plan everything out and double check compatibility with all of your components.

4.1. Processor [CPU] A processor, often called the CPU, is the central hub of your computer. It is one of the most important components of your computer and is probably the first thing you should decide on. There are two major companies that you will be looking at: Intel AMD

There is a lot of opinion out there when it comes to CPUs and which brand to choose. AMD tends to be cheaper than Intel but many believe Intel to be better quality. I will try to give you as many of the facts as possible with as little opinion as possible so that you can make an informed decision knowing you made the right choice. Up until 2005, processors were made with only one core. The first multi-core processor was the AMD 64 X2 processor with two cores. This basically means that it has more computing power than the previous AMD 64 processor. It is not exactly twice as much computing power as you might expect, but it is often a very significant increase (i.e. 50% or greater increase). A CPU (central processing unit) is called a core while the processor is all of the CPUs in one part called the processor. Generally people will call a processor a CPU and just use the term core when talking about multi-core processors. The CPU is piece of hardware the reads and executes instructions from a computer. So having more cores in a processor means more data can be processed in the same amount of time. These days, single core processors are rarely ever used. Today there are dual-core (2), triple-core (3), quad-core (4), hexa-core (6) and octa-core (8) processors. In addition to the number of cores a processor has, the socket type is also very important. Intel and AMD both have their own lines of sockets. Intel uses mainly LGA series sockets, most commonly the LGA 1155 and the LGA 2011 for their desktop processors. In addition to those two main sockets, they also use the LGA 1356, the LGA 1366 and the LGA 1567 sockets for their server processors. The LGA 1150 socket is set to be released in 2013 for some new processors by Intel. AMD uses four main socket types for their desktop processors - AM3, AM3+, FM1 and FM2. AMD mainly uses three different socket types for their server processors - Socket 940, Socket C32, Socket F and Socket G34. Both companies also have sockets for their laptop processors but since it is very uncommon to build your own laptop, those socket types have been left out of this guide. You can still find more information about these sockets through the links provided at the end of this guide NOTE: When picking your motherboard (see Section 4.6) you should be sure that the processor socket on the motherboard matches the socket type on your processor. Another term you will come across while researching processors is unlocked and has to do with overclocking. Overclocking is the process of forcing a computer part, most often the processor, to run faster than the company had intended the part to be run at (see Section 4.9.4). Both Intel and AMD sell

locked and unlocked processors. Intel generally denotes their unlocked processors with the letter K or with the phrase Extreme Edition while AMD generally uses the phrase Black Edition to denote an unlocked processor. Choosing an unlocked processor is not necessary if you do not plan on overclocking your processor but if you plan to overclock, an unlocked processor will help. If you have been around computers or people who love computers much, you have probably heard the terms 32-bit and 64-bit thrown around when talking about processors or about programs (not to be confused with 32-bit and 64-bit color). And if you are anything like many people you probably have little to no understanding of what this means. Well computers work on binary (base 2) which may be foreign to many of you. I wont try to teach you binary, however it is a pretty interesting thing to learn if you have the time. These days, 64-bit processors are becoming used more and more often. This means that companies are releasing programs and drivers (see Section 8) for both 64-bit and 32-bit systems. This number represents an amount of data size that the processor can run. If you plan on doing anything more than just simply surfing the web and writing a few letters in Microsoft word, it may be a good idea to get a 64-bit system. Most processors these days support both 32 and 64-bit. One main problem that you would run into with a 32-bit system are memory limits. A 32-bit system cannot ever use more than 3.7Gb of RAM (see Section 4.2) NOTE: If you are going to be using a 64-bit Operating System, you must make sure that your processor is compatible to run at 64-bit (see Section 8). The operating frequency of a processor is a very key specification to look at. Often represented in gigahertz (GHz) or megahertz (MHz), the operating frequency is essentially the speed of the processor. Simply put, the higher the operating frequency, the faster your processor runs. Frequency is a measure of how many things are done in a period of time; For processors this is represented in number of commands per fraction of a second; gigahertz measure in one billionth of a second while megahertz measure in one millionth of a second. Another aspect of your processor that you might have a question about is the architecture. Intel uses two major processor architectures with their desktop processors. Intel plans to release a new architecture in mid-2013 and another one each year through 2021. Intel generally releases their architectures in groups of two. The first being a major change in the architecture of the chip, usually bringing a new socket type, and the second being a die-shrunk version of the first. If you would like more about this, look up Intels Tick-Tock model. AMD has more major processor architectures with their desktop processors. AMD has three major series of processors, those being the FX, the Fusion and the Phenom. With each release of a new processor architecture by a company, the processors tend to run faster and process more data, but you should always make sure to look at the specifications of a processor and compare it to other processor models as well as a similar processor with an older architecture. Processor cache (pronounced cash) is also a term that you may see while looking at the specs of your processor. When a processor performs an operation, it has to use bits of memory. Random-Access

Memory (RAM) is one form of memory that it can use; however RAM is not the only thing the processor uses. Cache is also a form of memory that the processor uses. Using cache instead of RAM is a much faster option for processors however there is usually only a relatively small amount of cache in your processor. Cache is usually measured in KB or MB as opposed to GB as RAM is typically measured. RAM is larger by factors of 10-100 times the size of cache usually. More cache is better because the processor will have access to faster memory to read and write information to. Be sure to note the thermal design power requirements of your processor for use later when calculating the power requirements of your system. This will be used later in Section 4.7 for selecting your power supply. Generally lower is better because processors run faster at lower temperatures and having less thermal energy to dissipate will make it easier on your cooling system to keep the temperature of your processor low (see Section 4.8 and Section 7.3) Your processor will need a cooling device (see Section 4.10), many processors will come with a stock fan but most builders do not trust these fans and almost always suggest that you purchase one. Other options include liquid cooling (see Section 4.9.1) which is a technique used by enthusiasts to take heat away from the processor using water as a medium instead of air. This technique is effective because, due to its thermal properties, water is able to transfer heat more efficiently than air. This is why when you go swimming, the pool feels very cold when you get in and when you get out as well. To connect this cooling device to your processor, you should use a thermal paste (see Section 4.11). Some computer builders may warn you against using the thermal paste that comes on a processor. This is not always true anymore as the thermal paste that comes on most components is of a very high quality. It is a good idea to buy your own tube though in case components need to be moved around or taken apart. Having good thermal paste is a cheap way to make sure you have the ability to get the most out of your components. If the processor you get comes with thermal paste, you should use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to clean it all off. Ensure that all of the original thermal paste is removed and the CPU is dry before applying the new thermal paste onto the processor.

4.2. Memory [RAM] There are many brands and types of RAM. Luckily there are fewer compatibility issues to account for with RAM than with your processor. Here are a few terms you will need to know about RAM before we continue: DDR:Double Data Rate SDRAM: Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory SO-DIMM: Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module

There are universal rules for RAM that make it much simpler as well. There are only three different sockets for desktop and server RAM, those being DDR, DDR2 and DDR3. Like desktop RAM, there are also three different sockets for laptop RAM being SO-DIMM DDR, SO-DIMM DDR2 and SO-DIMM DDR3. Both the DDR2 and DDR3 have 240 pins while the DDR RAM has only 184 pins. To prevent putting DDR2 RAM in a DDR3 slot or vice-versa, there is a notch at the bottom of the stick of RAM that prevents the wrong stick from being used. There is a very similar system with laptop RAM. The placement of this notch is shown in the images below.

There is a standard set for RAM to make it easy to know compatibility. Youre RAM will need to be compatible with your motherboard for it to work. It may be easier to choose your motherboard first before deciding which RAM to buy. However it is a good idea to understand which types of RAM are best to use that information to choose your motherboard. Motherboards often only support certain speeds or sizes of RAM.

With RAM there are different speeds, called the transfer rate, which is usually measured in MB/s. There is a standard for naming RAM of certain speeds, though it is not followed 100% of the time. It should still be easy for you to know which RAM is better than another. If you are looking at DDR2 SDRAM, you will see RAM modules named PC2-3200, PC2-4200, PC2-5300, PC2-6400 and PC2-8500. You may see RAM named PC2-4300, PC2-5400 or PC2-8600 but should group those ones with one of the other names that is closest to when looking at compatibility. The higher the number, the higher the maximum transfer rate. For example, DDR 400 PC2-3200 SDRAM has a maximum transfer rate of 3200 MB/s and DDR2 533 PC2-4200 SDRAM has a maximum transfer rate of 4266.66 MB/s. The transfer rate will not be exactly the same for every stick of a certain type of RAM, but the speed given is a good estimate. You will also most likely not be able to achieve the maximum transfer rate of your RAM unless you understand the timing and memory clock specifications of your RAM as explained later in this section. Beyond those speeds, RAM is divided up even more by maximum clock speed. The clock speed is measured in megahertz (MHz) representing the number of clock times per fraction of a second. Your memory works just like most electronics do, in on-off cycles. A clock is a measurement of that cycle. For example, the DDR 400 PC2-3200 SDRAM mentioned above would have a maximum clock speed of 400 MHz and the DDR2 533 PC2-4200 SDRAM would have a maximum clock speed of 533 MHz. The higher the maximum clock speed, the faster your RAM will be. NOTE: You will need to make sure your motherboard supports RAM of the same type and speed of the RAM that you choose (see Section 4.6). CAS Latency is also a specification that you will need to look at when selecting RAM. Latency is measured in nanoseconds (billionth of a second). CAS Latency is an amount of time that it takes for a stick of RAM to receive information from the RAM. The lower the CAS Latency, the faster your RAM. Timing and memory clocks are more advanced specifications but can be very important when it comes to understanding your RAM and getting the most out of your computer. They are also very important to people wishing to overclock their computer (see Section 4.9.4). If you do not wish to learn about timing and memory clocks of your RAM, you may skip to Section 4.3 now As mentioned before, you will not be able to achieve your maximum transfer rate from your RAM just by putting it into your system. There is more to it than that. To calculate the theoretical maximum transfer rate of your RAM for your system, you will need to know how many bits your system is running at. This was explained in the previous section about processors (see Section 4.1). The calculation for the theoretical maximum transfer rate is an eighth of the memory clock times the number of bits. The memory clock can be found by looking at the specifications of your RAM. If your memory is dualchannel, then you will multiply the transfer rate you calculated by two. Remember, this is just a theoretical value, not the actual transfer rate of your RAM. To understand memory timings, there are a few more key terms you will need to know:

CAS: Column Address Strobe CL: CAS Latency TRAS: Row Active Time TRCD: Row Address To Column Address Delay TRP: Row Precharge Time

The timings of a memory module are the delays built into the RAM that dictate how long to wait to deliver data. Timings are usually presented as four numbers such as 7-7-7-21 in the format of CL-TRCDTRP-TRAS. Occasionally TRAS and sometimes CAS is added on to the end You will need to make sure that you understand what is being represented for the timings listed for your RAM. The numbers represent the number of clock cycles to wait for each operation being represented. A clock cycle is a certain amount of time, usually in nanoseconds, which you should be able to find in the specifications for your RAM. This means that the smaller the number, the faster your RAM will be. Many motherboards will allow you to manually change the timings on your RAM so that you may get higher performance. When overclocking you may have to do the opposite of this, increase the timings on your RAM just to get it to run smoothly (see Section 4.9.4). RAM organizes its data much like a spreadsheet, in rows and columns. It cant just magically pull the right piece of data out when you need it. Your computer sends a signal to the RAM asking for the data at a specific row and column. It takes time for your RAM to process the signal, find the data and then output the data requested. The CAS Latency, or CL, is the amount of clock cycles, as written in the timing, that it takes the RAM to read the first bit of information once the correct row has been opened by the RAM. The Row Address to Column Address, TRCD, is a delay between actually being able to access the data in the columns after the correct row has been activated by your RAM. So the time between when the row has been activated and when the data is actually sent back from the RAM is equal to CL + TRCD. The Row Precharge Time, TRP, is the amount of time it takes from issuing the precharge to choose the next row of data and when the next row of data is actually activated. So the amount of time it takes for your RAM to send the data from the time the precharge command has been sent is CL + TRCD + TRP. The Row Active Time, TRAS, is the amount of time that it will take between a bank active command and issuing the precharge command. This basically means it is the amount of time it takes to refresh the row and it is just equal to CL + TRCD for your standard SDRAM module. The way a clock works with memory is by producing a sine wave; the wave outputs a 1 at the top and a 0 at the bottom at a constant rate called a clock. Memory used to only produce operations at one side of the sine wave. With the idea of Double Data Rate (DDR) RAM, memory can now operate at both sides of

the sine wave, essentially doubling the frequency of operations over the same frequency sine wave. Some memory performance monitoring software will only display the frequency of the clock which is half of the frequency that the memory produces operations. This could trick those that do not know better into thinking that their memory is only operating at half the frequency that it should. Remember that, because of the double data rate, the frequency given by a memory performance monitoring software may be half of the actual operating frequency of the RAM.

4.3. Disk Drive Storage [HDD/SSD] Hard disk drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD) are both forms of data storage used by mainstream computers. While both have become effective means of data storage, the method in which they store this data is vastly different for each drive. Both types of drives come with their own pros and cons, each having different performance advantages over the other. 4.3.1. Hard Disk Drives (HDD) The term hard disk drive (HDD) generally refers to a hard drive with one or more magnetic spinning platters. The platters are the magnetic disks which actually store the data. A mechanical arm is used to read data from the platter similar to the way a record player plays music from vinyl records. Most HDDs generally revolve at 2 standard speeds; 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM. While this is generally considered to be an indication to how fast read/write operations can be performed on the drive, the difference between the two is arbitrary in terms of general user performance. Companies such as Western digital have begun producing HDDs that spin at 10000 RPM which is considered to perform much faster than the other two standard speeds when used in enthusiast (see Section 4.9) or high performance builds built with the need to write large amounts of data at faster than normal speeds. Hard disk drives also have a built in memory cache which is implemented mainly to improve system performance much like with processors (see Section 4.1). Cache sizes generally range from 8-64MB and are essentially a small portion of RAM where the last accessed data or frequently accessed data is stored. This means that changes arent saved directly to the hard drive but are instead stored to cache and then written to the drive at the next available cycle. In a system, cache memory is always quicker than reading straight from a hard drive or other component, as demonstrated by cache memory in a processor. Due to the small size only a small amount of data can be saved to the cache but it is generally quicker and more effective than doing a disk write every time a file is changed. Due to the high speeds of the hard drive, cache size does not normally need to exceed 64MB because most systems dont need to transmit large amounts of data so quickly very often. Due to the action of the arm having to seek around the disk to find data the performance is generally fast but not as fast as SSDs (see Section 4.3.2). Hard drive read/write speeds range between manufacturers but can sometimes reach up to 130 MBps for higher end drives. It is worth noting that hard drives perform differently for each type of file, for example a larger file will have a lower transfer rate than multiple smaller files, but this is negligible in general usage applications such as internet browsing and including most gaming applications. There are a couple types of internal hard drives connectors that you will need to be careful of. Nearly all HDDs use the Serial ATA connector (SATA) which is also used with other types of disk drives (see Section 4.4) for connection to the motherboard. Older drives used the Enhanced IDE (EIDE) connector which was

also used for other types of disk drives at the time. Other types of connectors include the ATAPI, SAS, PATA and IDE connectors which are rarely found in modern computers. You will need to make sure that the hard drive you choose conforms to your motherboard (see Section 4.6). Hard drives can also come in external form with its own case and different connectors to connect to your computer from the outside. These external hard drives can utilize USB 2.0, USB 3.0, firewire or eSATA ports. You will need to know if your motherboard or case have these options to use an external hard drive. It is very highly recommended that external drives be used solely for storage of data and not to be used for an operating system (see Section 8.1). The operating system and other system files should be located on an internal hard drive or solid state drive. NOTE: Your internal hard drive and motherboard must connect using the same connector. Another factor to consider when selecting a HDD is the read/write speed given in the specifications of your hard drive. This should be given in GB/s and is most often 3 GB/s or 6 GB/s for SATA hard drives. In order to take advantage of the 6 GB/s hard drives, you must connect them to a port on your motherboard that supports this higher speed. If you plug a 3 GB/s drive into a 6 GB/s slot on your motherboard or vice versa, the drive will be able to function properly; however, you will not be able to use the higher speed of 6 GB/s and your drive will only be able to function at 3 GB/s. Hot swapping hard drives is becoming ever more popular with newer computers these days. Hot swapping is the act of removing a hard drive from your computer while it is running. This is very similar to using a hard drive as you would a flash drive or memory card. Hot swapping is done with the help of hot swappable bays located on your case (see Section 4.8.1). It is not a good idea to put your Operating System on a hard drive that you will be hot swapping. Just because it is not advised, does not mean that there is never a good reason to do it. If you are going to be booting your computer different operating systems, you may decide to have different hard drives dedicated to different systems. It is not recommended to do it this way but it may be possible. Not all motherboards support hot swappable devices. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your motherboard supports hot swappable devices if you plan to use this technique (see Section 4.6). Hard drives are a much cheaper option than SSDs in terms of price per gigabyte and currently come in storage capacities ranging upwards of 3TB. Boot speed for a hard drive is typically in the 35-55 second range, but can be more or less depending on operating system and other system components. It is also important to note that some older motherboards that do not support GPT (GUID Partition Table) will not be able to handle a hard drive larger than 2.2TB. Modern motherboards all have the capability to use these larger hard drives but not all older motherboards have this capability.

4.3.2. Solid State Drives (SSD) Solid State Drives (SSD) use a different method of storing data than hard disk drives (see Section 4.3.1). There are no moving parts in an SSD as opposed to an HDD with a spinning disk and rotating arm. This is done by storing data in flash memory much like with the memory in your CPU (see Section 4.1). This allows for much faster read and write times than even the fastest HDDs. Even though the drive may have the same speed written on the drive, it will actually perform much faster. Due to SSDs costing significantly more than HDDs for the same size, many builders choose to put their operating system and a few choice programs on the SSD and using a large HDD to store other data and some lesser used programs. As a tradeoff for such high speeds, SSDs have more limited lifespan than HDDs. There are a few things that you can do though to make your SSD last longer. The lifespan of your SSD is determined by the frequency of use, so it is not a good idea to use it as your primary drive that you will be installing and uninstalling from regularly. Newer SSDs are having much a much longer lifespan than before, some not even reaching maximum write cycles for over 15 years of normal use. To make your SSD last longer you can also enable something called TRIM. TRIM is a command that an operating system can use to tell the SSD which blocks of data are no longer needed so that they can be cleared by the drive. Using this will help increase the length of time before your drive fails. One thing that you should not do as you will probably be told to do by many people is to defragment your drive (see Section 9.5.1). While this is a good idea for regular HDDs, this is very bad for SSDs. Defragmenting your SSD will add no performance increase and will only be unneeded wear and tear on your drive and will shorten its lifespan considerably. If you want to upgrade your system to an SSD from an HDD, you have a couple of options. You can either copy the information from the HDD straight to the SSD or you can start fresh and install your operating system directly onto the SSD. The best option is to start fresh with a new copy of your OS and then go from there. It will have fewer problems than the former option to copy the data from your HDD. This will help to get rid of any unwanted programs and force you to choose only what is necessary to put on the new drive. The faster option would just be to copy the data straight from the HDD onto the SSD. This option will be ready to go as soon as the copying is finished and doesnt require you to go out and reinstall every program that you want to use.

4.4. Blu-ray/CD/DVD Drive 0Blu-ray/CD/DVD drives are very common on most computers. Blu-ray is a fairly recent development and is not as common; however CD/DVD drives are on nearly all modern computers. Before 1982, floppy disks were replaced by compact discs called CDs. Aside from general data storage, CDs are generally used for storing audio such as music. There are now three main types of optical data discs. The Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) came after the CD and was used primarily for storing videos as well as general data. DVDs came in much higher data capacities than CDs but had some limitations. Blu-ray is the successor to the DVD. After DVD, there were two new types of optical discs that came out to store high definition video, the High Definition DVD and the Blu-ray. The Blu-ray won out and the HD DVD was no more. Bluray discs generally offer even more data storage than the DVD but Blu-ray disc readers and writers are currently more expensive than DVD writers so DVDs are still quite common and are still being manufactured and used widely. Even with the far superior quality of video being put on Blu-ray discs as opposed to DVDs, the price to use them has hindered the Blu-ray from phasing out DVDs all together. These optical disc drives can be used internally by installing them into a 5.25 external drive bay in your case (see Section 4.8.1) or externally most commonly through a USB port through your motherboard or the I/O panel on the front of your case. The drive speed will be limited more if used through a used through a USB as opposed to plugging it into one of the SATA ports by installing an internal drive into one of the external drive bays in your case. Older drives used to use IDE ports instead of SATA. Most motherboards use SATA ports but you should check the specifications of your motherboard. NOTE: You will need to make sure your motherboard supports the connection type of your disc drive whether that be through SATA, IDE or USB. You will need to have an open port for your drive to connect to. Optical disc drives list their speed at a multiplier. The higher this multiplier, the faster your Bluray/CD/DVD drive will perform. The speed on an optical disc drive usually ranges anywhere from 5x to 48x. The faster drives dont usually cost significantly more but are not really necessary for those who do not burn large amounts of discs often. Usually no more than 24x is not necessary for general purpose; 12x will usually be a sufficient speed for most uses of an optical disc drive. The range of speeds is not the same for all types of optical discs, even within the three main types of discs. Within both CD and DVD discs, there are subcategories of each. For CDs, these subcategories include CD-ROM (cannot be written to), CD-R, CD+R, CD-RW and CD+RW. CD-ROMs are generally used by companies who are selling their software or data on a disc that they do not want you to accidentally overwrite. ROM stands for read only memory which means that you cannot write data to these types of discs. CD-ROMs have their data written onto them during their manufacture. CD-R and CD+R are discs that can be written to but once data has been burned to that disc, that data cannot be removed from that disc, only copied.

CD-RW and CD+RW are rewritable discs that can have data added and removed in a similar manner as with a flash drive or memory card. While CD-R and CD+R discs are generally able to be played on most CD players, CD-RW and CD+RW arent able to be played by all CD players; only CD players that specify the ability to use rewritable discs. Because of this compatibility issue, rewritable discs are not very common and were replaced by the flash drive. The subcategories and limitations of those subcategories within CDs is the same with DVDs. There are DVD-ROMs, DVDRs and DVDRWs. Blu-ray discs also have similar subcategories. Blu-rays that are sold with software or data on them are usually unwritable like the CD/DVD-ROMs and Blu-ray discs sold blank to burn something to yourself are similar to the CD/DVDRs. The rewritable Blu-ray discs are called BD-RE which stands for Blu-ray Disc Recordable Erasable. Discs also come in single and dual-layer types. The dual-layer discs have the capability to hold more data than the single-layer versions. In order to use these, you will need a burner that is capable of writing to dual layer discs. Another option for optical disc drives would be a technology called LightScribe which allows someone to put a physical image into the top of the disc. Current technology only allows for a gradient image, no color, and you usually need to take the disc out after burning the data onto the disc and put it in upside down for the drive to put the image on the disc. To use this technology, you simply just need a disc burner with LightScribe which will be listed on the physical drive itself. One thing to be careful about when purchasing a disc drive is whether it is a reader or a burner. Disc drives that are capable of burning data to a disc are also able to read that data as well. There are however, some disc drives that are only capable of reading data from a disc and are unable to write data to a blank disc. There is not much difference in price between a disc burner and disc reader other than in the case of Blu-rays. For CDs and DVDs, if you are unsure whether or not you will want to burn a disc, it would be a good idea to make sure you get a burner. It is not usually advised to just get a disc reader unless you know you will never be burning data to a disc. Disc readers are not very common so you many not run into any at your local computer store, but it is a good idea to make sure that you are getting the right drive for your computer. Another thing out there are duplicators. These come in their own enclosure and cost significantly more than other drives. They come with multiple disc drives and are used for semi-mass production. Duplicators allow you to put one disc in and make multiple copies of it at one time, usually fairly quickly, assuming the data is not protected.

4.5. Graphics or Sound Cards Like with processors, there are a lot of opinions thrown around with graphics cards. The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), or video card, can be put into your computer to take the load off of the processor by dedicating itself for rendering graphics. A sound card is similar to a GPU, but instead of rendering graphics, it processes sounds. If you wish to use your computer along with a surround sound system, you will almost always need the assistance of a sound card (see Section 5.4). For modern computer parts, motherboards and processors can have some basic video and sound capabilities built into them. Because these are often built into the motherboard or processor, both of these cards are usually optional as external cards and are not usually required for basic functionality. However, when using components that do not have integrated audio or video capabilities, a dedicated card is required to use these functions. 4.5.1. Graphics Cards From a computing standpoint, processors generally handle programs in a serial fashion. This means that the processor will execute each operation one at a time until it is finished. A GPU differs from this by instead executing multiple operations that are independent of each other in parallel. This ability to perform relatively smaller and repetitive tasks are often best on a GPU. For rendering the same 3D model in a game repeatedly, the GPU will perform far greater than a CPU at this task because of the difference in how they execute operations. Using a dedicated GPU will relieve some of the load from your CPU and allow it to perform the tasks is it better suited to. Types of graphics cards. Graphic cards come in two major types: discrete and integrated graphics cards. Discrete graphics are the ones youll find in enthusiast builds or even some lower end pre-built computers. These are the graphic cards that are visibly attached to the motherboard. They are also referred to as dedicated graphic cards. These dedicated GPUs typically have their own memory to work with. Having a discrete set of memory ensures that the graphic card has resources to do the work. These types of graphic cards are easily removed and replaced or upgraded if needed. The second major type is an integrated graphics card. These GPUs are soldered to the motherboard generally and share the same memory as the CPU. So in comparison to integrated GPUs spend time fighting with the CPU to get memory from the RAM and they dont guarantee they have the memory they need to perform the work they need. In the case of large programs that use the CPU and GPU the available RAM of the system can easily be filled up and bring the system to a crawl. The upside to these integrated systems is 1) they lower the cost by not needing an expensive powerful GPU and 2) they run cooler comparatively so the system can be slimmer which is good for laptops. What has come up in recent years are GPUs that are housed within the CPUs chipset. Before 2006 all GPUs were soldered

onto the motherboard and separated from the CPU, but the idea to move the GPU into the same location as the CPU removed some bandwidth latency to help increase performances, lower power usage, and in general make the rest of the system cooler. Unfortunately for integrated graphics not having a separated memory bank to pull from greatly reduces the performance of the GPU for anything intensive. Integrated graphics are generally not to be used for high end gaming because of their low performance, but are ideal for smaller computers or lower performing computers used for surfing the internet, checking email, watching videos (internet or home streamed). Integrated graphics cards are by no means slow, but they are easily overshadowed by their much more expensive and faster counterparts. For gaming, video processing, and parallel computing rigs a dedicated graphic card is almost always required. Many graphics intensive games will not run on integrated graphics; a discrete graphics card will perform greater depending on the available resources for these games. Graphics card video outputs All consumer level graphics cards have outputs that are hooked up to a monitor or can be used for an audio passthrough. There are currently a number of ports being used and you may see a combination of them on one graphics card. These ports include DVI, HDMI, VGA, displayport and S-video. The three major ones youll see and use are the DVI, HDMI, and VGA. These are going to be the same ports as those that attach to your monitor (see Section 5.1). If you do not have a monitor that matches the port on your graphic card, many converters are available. There are some key differences in their capabilities though. VGA is an analog signal so the graphic card has to convert a digital signal to an analog which then if your monitor is a digital based monitor it will then have to upconvert to a Digital signal. This constant conversion reduces quality in the picture instead of simply taking the digital signal across. Another difference to note is HDMIs capabilities. HDMI is able to carry both video (digital) and audio signals. So it is possible to output from a GPU to a sound system using HDMI to carry the signal, but converting an HDMI port to a DVI port (or vice versa) would cause a loss in the audio signal though the video would be untouched because both HDMI and DVI run digital signals. Naming Conventions There are currently only three major GPU makers. AMD, owner of the formerly known ATI brand, Nvidia and Intel are the three main manufacturers of GPUs. AMD and Nvidia being the largest of the two with Intel only making . Graphics cards are among the fastest changing component out there. Every 2-3 years, the two biggest GPU manufacturers produce better GPUs than before to have the upper hand over their competitor. It is helpful to follow trends regarding the release of new parts as it can take a while for a company to react to the release of a new product by their competitor. Nvidia currently is running through a GTX X00 series brand naming system for each generation of their graphics cards. What this means is that each generation of GPU is named as a multiple of 100 with the prefix of GTX. An example of this would be the GTX 400 series, GTX 500 series and GTX 600 series

graphics cards. Each version of GPU within a series contains names for each member such as the GTX 650, 660, 670, 680, and 690. It is then easy to predict the performance differences of cards within the next generation by comparing the performance differences of similarly named cards in previous generation. Each of these members is typically targeted at a specific audience with the X80 and X70 marked as high end, X60 as midrange, and X50 and below as mid to budget range cards. Many of Nvidias graphic cards will also come with a 5 instead of a 0 at the end resulting in cards such as a GTX 685. The 5 has been a confusing number which can denote new revisions to the GPU or be used for mobile components. You should read into the purpose of the 5 is if considering a card using this naming convention as the reason can vary greatly from card to card. When comparing cards such as the GTX 570 and GTX 575 it is easy to assume that the GTX 575 is the upgraded version of the GTX 570. AMD has a different naming convention from that used by Nvidia for their Radeon series graphics cards. AMD currently names their cards in a X000 or HD X000 naming convention meaning multiples of 1000 such as the Radeon 5000, 6000, and 7000 series cards with the HD suffix designating a higher end graphics card with the ability to use high definition video formats. Their high end graphic cards are denoted with the X900 families which include the X950, X970 and the X990 cards. The midrange consists of the X700 and X800 series cards with the budget end containing the X500 series cards. GPU cooling solutions Similar to the CPU is that the GPU needs to be cooled. Every GPU has a heatsink attached to the GPU to cool the processor and many newer graphic cards will even include fans or entire cooling systems that take up two expansion slots on the motherboard and case. These fans are removable and can have an aftermarket heatsink attached but to replace the heatsink requires a bit more experience to swap the part out. Inexperienced or new builders are highly recommended to not change the heatsink on the graphic card. Multi-gpu setups Another feature CPUs and GPUs share are having are using multiple processors on a single component. It is possible to connect two graphic cards for double the available video ram, double the processors, and also take up double the space. Each company has their own technology for multiple GPUs. Nvidia uses Scalable Link Interface aka SLI and AMD uses CrossFireX. Each has varying technical aspects, but one of the key differences is that SLI typically requires graphic cards to be identical or the same processor. Whereas CrossFireX allows multiple graphic cards of the same generations and not just the same GPU. This feature has been growing very quickly so you may want to do some additional research on the topic. Multi GPU setups come in two forms. Single card and Multi card. In the case of two GPUs you can find graphic cards that contain two GPUs. Rolling back to the naming conventions of the different, these types of GPUs are found in the X90 or XX90 such as the GTX 690 or Radeon HD 7990. These graphic cards are typically the biggest single graphic cards on the market and often push towards the $1000

mark. Having two GPUs on one card can get very hot and also having two GPUs on one card limits the ability to do a tri-setup (three GPUs) for Nvidia. Slots Graphics cards have three possible slots they can fit into: Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP), Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slot, and PCI-Express (PCIe). The market has since shifted away from AGP and PCI slots and both are considered Legacy components with PCIe being the slot that nearly all modern graphics cards are developed with. This is simply because of the amount of data that can be passed between the graphics card and the rest of the computer is more limited on the other slots. PCIe has become the standard for maximum bandwidth and thus motherboard makers follow this trend. Not all motherboards have all of the slots most commonly used for graphics cards so you will need to make sure that your motherboard and GPU are compatible. NOTE: You must ensure that there is an open slot of the correct type in your motherboard for each GPU you wish to put into your system. Technical Graphics cards have two major components to them, the processor and the video memory. The processor is also known as the GPU and the video memory which is in the form of GDDRX (where X is a number to denote version of GDDR ie: GDDR3,GDDR4, etc) memory. Its very easy to visualize the CPU using RAM and the GPU using its own dedicated video memory. Both of these components run programs but in the two different fashions as described earlier. Video RAM is the amount memory available exclusively to the graphic card to perform the tasks designated to it. In general, having more video memory is better because this allows for more models rendered at one time, and allowing the card to store more data for fast and easy access. In a video game, every blade of grass, every texture map on each model, and each model themselves takes up memory in the video ram. Taking memory into account when deciding which card to purchase is extremely important. As mentioned before there have been a number of different slot types over the years, but the difference between all of them is the speed. At little over 2 GB/s, the AGP bandwidth is tiny compared to PCIe 3.0 x16 bandwidth at almost 16 GB/s. Typical motherboards generally only have one or two PCIe ports which may be denoted with either an x8 or x16. The number refers to the number of lanes are available for data to flow. Depending on the version of PCIe (1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 as of 2013) there are different speeds that each lane is capable up to. PCIe 3.0 for example is capable up to a little under 1 GB/s for each lane available. Multiply that by 16 lanes and you get around 15.7 GB/s of bandwidth that can travel between the rest of the computer and your graphics card. That is where the 16 GB/s that was mentioned before came from. The slot information is important to understand but in real world benchmarks, the bandwidth barely helps current generation hardware perform better for many builds. A triple monitor setup running the

highest supported resolution and computing something massive in parallel would reach that limit to the bandwidth, but in a single or even dual monitor setup having more bandwidth over the slot above PCIe 3.0 x16 is excessive and does not improve performance At a technical standpoint, because the two major graphics cards manufacturers use very different base architectures for their cards. This makes it extremely difficult to determine whether one is better than the other purely based on what speed the memory runs at, the clock speed of the GPU or even the number of stream/core processors along with everything else about the graphics card. This has caused for a vast rise in benchmarking communities to help alleviate the confusion as to which is better when comparing cards between companies by taking real world benchmarks and comparing the performance of each card on that benchmark.

4.5.2. Sound Cards Sound cards are becoming less common over time as many of the functions that they perform are being integrated into the motherboard (see Section 4.6). Some modern motherboards can even support 5.1 surround sound or greater. This means that there are 5 main speakers and one subwoofer (see Section 5.4). With this integration, most computers will not need an additional sound card to provide great sound to the user. Where sound cards become greatly beneficial is with recording. If you plan to record audio then a sound card may be a worthwhile investment for your computer. For audio professionals using high end speakers and headphones, sound cards are able to provide a better sound. Sound cards are able to achieve this higher quality due to their sampling rates. Sound cards usually fit into a PCI or PCIe slot on your motherboard, but some will plug into a USB port on your motherboard or on your case. You connect your other hardware such as speakers, microphones or other audio equipment to the sound card through a few different I/O ports on the sound card. These could include 3.5mm mini jack, optical audio or RCA. NOTE: You will need to make sure there is an open slot in your motherboard for your sound card if you plan to use one that uses an internal sound card as opposed to USB. You will also need to make sure that the equipment you have will be able to communicate with the sound card through the ports on the sound card. Some A/V stores may have adapters to help. A few key terms that you will need to know to choose the best sound card for your applications include noise, signal-to-noise ratio, sample rate, dynamic range, and frequency response. Many of these terms will also be covered in the speakers and headphones section of this guide (see Section 5.4). But for your convenience, I have described them here as well. Noise is simply an undesired signal. Noise can come in both analog and digital forms. Some examples of analog noise for audio would be like the noise from tapping your pencil or the neighbor mowing his lawn such that the microphone picks up that sound. This type of noise is much harder to actively filter out and is usually filtered out with the use of sound editing software. Noise is also created digitally from the circuits inside of the sound card and even the small magnetic fields created by the many parts of your computer. A major way to measure the quality of a sound card is by its ability to filter out this noise. From now on, we will only talk about digital noise. The signal-to-noise ratio is very simply put, the relationship between the strength of the signal to the strength of the noise. We already know that noise is bad so we want this ratio to be as high as possible to eliminate as much noise as possible. The signal-to-noise ratio is measured in decibels (dBs). Decibels may be a difficult unit for some people to grasp, but simply put, the more decibels, the higher the ratio. It is a good idea to have a signal-to-noise ratio greater than 100dB. The typical range for a sound card should be from 110dB to 125dB.

Sample rate is a measure of how fast data is calculated. Sample rate with a sound card is similar to the sample rate on a monitor (see Section 5.1). Digital signals are sent in specific time intervals. Digital sound is no different. If you have ever seen a monitor with a low sample rate, you would see a line go down the screen as it is being refreshed. Sometimes you can observe this when a computer is being slowed down by a large program. Lets say you have two sound cards, one of them records audio at a sample rate of 1 Hz, or one data point per second, and another at 1 KHz, or one thousand data points per second. The sound card with a sample rate of 1 Hz will change the sound that plays at best every second and that sound will be a single frequency that represents all the sound that actually happened during that one second. The sound card working at 1 KHz will change frequencies at best every thousandth of a second assuming that the sound that actually existed during that fraction of a second changed. A higher sample rate will result in a closer representation of the actual sound as if it were analog which is not limited by specific time intervals like data is. Variable Bit Rate (VBR) is an exception to this, learn more about this in the speakers and headphones section (see Section 5.4). Another way to describe this is like pixelation of audio. In a digital image, an area is divided up into many sections of space called pixels usually represented by tiny rectangles. Each pixel can only be a single color so the camera decides the best color that represents all the colors seen by the sensor in the range that specific pixel represents. Sampling is the same thing except instead of dividing up an image by space, it divides up sound into time intervals and chooses a frequency to represent all the frequencies that occur during that time period. Dynamic range is a specification that represents how much of a change the sound card can produce to represent different instruments or sounds. When recording music, there are many different sounds happening all at one time and a good sound card will need to be able to record all of these different sounds. The dynamic range, in dBs, is essentially the ratio of the highest frequency sound possible to the average sound to represent the greatest amount of frequency change that the card is able to discern. Having a higher dynamic range will result in better representing the true, analog audio that contains many different sounds all at the same time. The dynamic range of human hearing is only about 140 dB but we rarely ever use that much. High end sound cards may have a dynamic range of 100 dB to 110 dB. Frequency response is a little simpler than sample rate. This is the range of frequencies measured in Hz or KHz that the card can produce. The range of human hearing is usually from 20 Hz to 20 KHz typically. So a sound card that exceeds these ranges by much wouldnt be necessary. A good sound card should however be able to represent this entire range such that it can best represent all the sounds that can be heard by the human ear.

4.6. Motherboard Without a motherboard, all of your computer components are a bunch of expensive pieces of metal and plastic. The motherboard is what connects all of the other components together and allows them to work together to do all of the great things a computer can do. Modern motherboards have many options. This guide will try to explain most of these options but cannot cover everything that modern motherboards do today. The first thing to note is that, like cases and power supplies, motherboards have a form factor. For a list of all of the different form factor possibilities, reference the cases section of this guide (see Section 4.8.1). This form factor will need to match one of the supported form factors on your case to ensure that it fits properly and the screw holes are in the correct location. NOTE: The form factor of your motherboard must match a supported form factor listed in the specifications of your case. The next big thing for choosing the right motherboard is to make sure that it supports the processor (see Section 4.1) that you have chosen. As mentioned before in the CPU section, there are many different CPU slots that processors will fit into. The two processor companies tend to make their processors physically differently too. AMD puts the pins on the processor and those pins go into slots on the motherboard while Intel puts the pins on the socket on the motherboard and places the processor on top of them. For more on how to install a CPU, reference the installation section (see Section 7.1). Older motherboards connected to devices such as optical drives and HDDs with an IDE cable which was a long, thin, bulky cable. Modern motherboards use the SATA connection instead as this is a much smaller cable and is used by nearly all newer components that would have otherwise used the IDE cable instead. SATA connections most commonly come in two main speeds, 3.0 Gb/s and 6.0 Gb/s. It is common to put HDDs that support 6.0 Gb/s speeds in the SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports first and then put other devices in the rest of the ports. SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports will work with a 3.0 Gb/s device but will only work at 3.0 Gb/s. Motherboards have something called a chipset. The chipset is the combination of North and/or South bridges in the board. These bridges are what control all of the different functions that the motherboard uses to allow communication between your processor and everything else that is attached to the motherboard. The north bridge is the front most of the two. The north bridge controls the PCIe and memory slots. This bridge also is what is used to communicate with the south bridge. So for all the things connected to the south bridge they must first go through the south bridge, then through the north bridge before finally reaching the processor. The south bridge is responsible for your IDE or SATA connections such as any optical drives you may have as well as storage devices such as HDDs and SSDs. It is also responsible for

your PCI lanes, USB ports, clock, BIOS, onboard audio and LAN. The south bridge controls most of the secondary systems and the systems that do not need to be at the forefront. Only the most important connections are in the north bridge. Most motherboards have two to four memory slots (see Section 4.2). Server motherboards can have many more than this; they can even have upwards of 20 memory slots. It is not required that you fill every slot. It used to be that you needed to have two sticks of the same type of RAM module in certain slots. But with modern RAM, this is not necessary. It is best though to have all of the same RAM. This will ensure that all of your memory modules are able to work at their full potential. This memory size wont be lowered from different memory chips, but the speed could be lowered by your motherboard for compatibility. This can be changed by overclocking (see Section 4.9.4) your memory but it is still in your best interest to get memory of the same speed. Motherboards also only support certain speeds of memory and you will need to make sure that your memory module is compatible. NOTE: You will need to ensure that your motherboard and memory modules are compatible. There are different types of Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots that your motherboard can have as well. Among these types, the most common are PCIe x1, PCIe x4, PCIe x16 and PCI. PCIe x1, shown at the top in the image to the left, is the smallest of all of the PCIe slots and used commonly by wireless networking cards and some other expansion cards. PCIe x4, shown as the second from the top in the image to the left, is the second smallest of the PCIe slots. This slot is used by lower end GPUs, some networking cards and other miscellaneous expansion cards. PCIe x16, shown as the third from the top in the image to the left, is the largest of all of the PCIe slots. These are used by PCIe x16 and some PCIe x8 cards such as higher end GPUs and other higher end components. This is a very common slot in nearly all modern motherboards. PCI, shown at the bottom in the above image is used for a lot of older expansion cards. It is becoming less and less common over time. It is used by some controller cards and networking cards. One technology used by some modern GPUs to connect two or more together to increase their performance is called SLI or Crossfire (see Section 4.5.1). This technology is not supported by all motherboards. If you plan on using this, you should check the specifications of your motherboard before purchasing it to ensure that it is SLI and/or Crossfire capable otherwise trying to run your GPUs in an SLI/Crossfire configuration will not work. Some motherboards will only support up to a certain number of GPUs in this configuration so make sure that if you are going to use more than two GPUs this way that it is supported by your motherboard.

NOTE: If you wish to run multiple GPUs in SLI or Crossfire, your motherboard must support that configuration with as many GPUs as you wish to put into this configuration. Modern motherboards have USB ports on the back as well as extra slots for USBs located around the board at various places. These slots are not directly USB ports; you must first plug a USB hub into them. Many cases (see Section 4.8.1) have front panels that have USB ports on them. To use these ports, they must first be plugged into your motherboard at one of these extra USB slots. They will usually be labeled as USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, but if you are unsure, refer to the manual for your motherboard. USB 2.0 is different from USB 3.0 in the way that USB 3.0 is faster. A USB 3.0 device will function if it is plugged into a USB 2.0 port but will only run at the USB 2.0 speeds. The same is true in the opposite case; a USB 2.0 device plugged into a USB 3.0 port will function at the USB 2.0 speeds. To take full advantage of the faster USB 3.0 speeds, you will need a USB 3.0 device plugged into a USB 3.0 port. Motherboards have two different places where power is plugged in. There are plugs for CPU power and general motherboard power. These come straight from your power supply (see Section 4.7). There are two main motherboard power connectors, the 20 pin and 24 pin connectors. Most modern power supplies support both of these connections but you will need to make sure before purchasing everything. There are also two main CPU power connectors, the 4 pin and 8 pin connectors. You will need to make sure that your power supply and motherboard are compatible in this area as well. NOTE: You will need to ensure compatibility between your PSU and motherboard for the main power connection as well as the CPU power connection. Many motherboards will have onboard audio and video hardware so that it is not necessary to purchase these parts for your computer to function. This allows for computer builds to be cheaper when a budget is a deciding factor. Having to purchase a GPU and sound card for every computer that you build could end up getting pricey. Instead, motherboard manufacturers will include basic versions of these components built into the board itself. If you find a motherboard that does not have any onboard audio or video, it will be necessary for you to purchase them as additional components and attach them through the PCI or PCIe slots on your motherboard for it to function properly. Hot-swappable HDD bays are a relatively newer technology that many case manufacturers are beginning to offer with their cases. This technology allows the user to plug HDDs into the system or pull them out while the computer is turned on. Not all motherboards support this technology. If this is something that you may want to experiment with then it is important to choose a motherboard that will support it.

4.7. Power Supply Power supplies, often called PSUs, are generally very easy to understand. The most important specification is maximum power output, often called wattage, The wattage is going to be a major factor in determining which power supply to get. Calculating the power requirements of your computer will be explained more in depth at the end of this section. Just like with the other components, power supplies come in many different sizes and colors with many different options such as SLI/Crossfire capabilities (see Section 4.5.1) or modular cables. Unless you are going to be doing some serious overclocking (see Section 4.9.4) that has some very specific power requirements, most of the specifications that are listed for power supplies can be ignored. This is very good for you since it will be much easier to find lots of power supplies that will work for your system and allow you to choose the one with all the options that you want. Just like with motherboards, power supplies have form factors that allow them to fit into certain cases. These form factors will limit the physical size of the power supply to ensure that it all fits in to the case as well as the placement of the screw holes that are used to attach it to your case. A list of most of the form factors is listed in the Cases section of this guide (see Section 4.8.1). NOTE: You will need to choose a power supply with a form factor supported by your case. Another very important aspect of power supplies, about as important as wattage, is the number and type of cables that the power supply has at your disposal. Every power supply will have a main connector. Older motherboards use a 20 pin connector while newer motherboards use a 24 pin connector. Because of this many power supply manufacturers have made their main connectors a 20 pin with a detachable 4 pin connector, called the 20 + 4 pin connector, so that the power supply will still work with both types of main connectors. Chances are that if you are buying anything new at the store it will have the 24 pin connection. The 20 pin connection is not very common anymore because of the 24 pin standard. If for some reason you end up with a 24 pin connector that doesnt have a removable 4 pin, there are cables that allow for this conversion available online and at some computer stores. All power supplies will also have a CPU power cable. There are two different types of cables that can be used to power your CPU. The most common by far is the 4 pin CPU connector, but there is also an 8 pin connector that is used for some of the high end motherboards. The 8 pin connector is much less common than the 4 pin connector. The 4 pin connector is usually going to be compatible with a motherboard that requires an 8 pin CPU connector with the use of a converter cable available online or at your local computer store.

NOTE: You will need to make sure that your power supply has the correct main connector and CPU connector to be compatible with your motherboard. There are other connectors that you will need to know about to make sure that you have enough to support all of the components that you have chosen. There are SATA, 4 pin Molex and PCIe connectors. SATA power cables will go mainly to your SATA HDDs (see Section 4.3.1) and your other SATA devices such as BD/CD/DVD Drive (see Section 4.4). The 4 pin Molex connectors are general use connectors and are used by various devices for power. Most PC lighting uses the 4 pin Molex connector to draw power and some case fans allow for the use of this connector instead of drawing power from the motherboard. The 4 pin molex connector is one of the most versatile connectors as it supports the power requirements of many different components. PCIe connectors are used for devices that are plugged into your PCIe slot that require more power than what is typically given through this port through the motherboard. Some high end GPUs (see Section 4.5.1) require more than one PCIe connector to get the power that is required for them to perform to their highest potential. You should keep this in mind when choosing your power supply to make sure that it has enough of the correct type of connectors for all of your components. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your power supply has enough of the correct power connectors for all of your components. Having too many cables in your computer can get really messy; especially if there are lots of cables that you arent using. Loose cables can really make a build look unattractive and unprofessional and sometimes it is just impossible to hide them all. To get around this, manufacturers started selling modular power supplies. This means that you have empty slots in the power supply that allow you to plug in only the cables that you are using. Modular power supplies are used very regularly by many PC builders; however, they tend to cost more than non-modular PSUs. This increase in price is usually justified to most by having better cable management and a cleaner looking system. Most modular power supplies are only partially modular. They leave the main connector, CPU connector and sometimes a few other connectors as non-modular. Luckily these connectors are usually used up pretty easily by a basic system and rarely account for loose cables. Fully modular power supplies are available if you need, but are harder to find and are even more expensive than other modular PSUs in most cases. Because the power supply is the source of all of the electricity used by your computer, it has the potential to be really hot. Because of this, just about every PSU is equipped with a fan. You probably wont find one that doesnt have at least one fan. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you are doing with your computer. It could be good because cooling your PSU becomes one less thing you have to worry about, or it could be a bad thing because PSU fans can be quite loud for many PSUs. If your system requires low noise, it would be a good idea to find a PSU that runs quietly. Unfortunately, the noise level of a power supply is not usually listed in the specifications so you may need to refer to reviews. Different types of fans generally have different noise levels so choosing a PSU

with a quieter fan (see Section 4.8.2) will help you to find the right PSU for your needs if noise is a concern of yours. One advanced technique used by gamers is to use multiple GPUs in conjunction to improve their performance (see Section 4.5.1). This is called SLI or Crossfire depending on the GPU being used. This technique requires significantly more power than running a single GPU and is not supported by all power supplies. If this is something that you plan to do, you should not only make sure that you have enough connectors for both cards, but also that your power supply supports this. It will be listed in the specifications of the PSU if it supports SLI or Crossfire. There is one other specification left other than max power output that may be important to your build. The number of +12V rails can be something that is important. The +12V rails are the rails in which your motherboard, CPU and PCIe cards draw their power. These are the most important rails in your PSU because they power what many consider to be the most important components in a computer. Having multiple rails will help to prevent failure and will help to allow using more components. You will also need to make sure that the rail contains enough amperage to power all of your components. For systems running SLI or Crossfire with their GPUs, you should have a minimum of 34 amps total on your +12V rails. The last and most important specification of a power supply is the maximum power output, also called wattage. For this, you will need to calculate the combined power required by all of the components on your system drawing power from the PSU and then use a multiplier to account for other things such as expansion, components not using the +12V rails equally, compensation for power surges and that most power supplies run more efficiently when loaded to around 30% to 70% of their maximum output. It is usually a good idea to use a multiplier of 1.5 to account for all of these when calculating the minimum wattage PSU that will be required for your system. The first component you should look at is the motherboard. Motherboards dont usually take up much power but since they range so greatly in power requirements, you should definitely take it into consideration. Motherboards can range from 30 watts to as high as 150 watts in some cases. Most of them are at the lower end of that spectrum though. If the power requirements of your motherboard are not listed, try searching the internet for a reference or a comparable motherboard of the same brand if necessary. Processors also have a large range of power requirements. You should be able to find the power requirements of your processor without having too much trouble. A simple internet search will give you what you need since there arent as many processors out there as there are motherboards. Processors can range anywhere from 65 watts to 140 watts. The next component with a large range of power requirements is the GPU. For a CPU running out of a PCI slot, you should account for 30 watts to 70 watts depending on the card. For a PCIe GPU that requires just one PCIe power connector, you will need to account for 30 watts to 150 watts. That goes

way up for a PCIe GPU needing two PCIe power connectors. These GPUs range from 150 watts all the way up to 300 watts. For systems running to GPUs in SLI or Crossfire, you should double this power requirement for reference if you are unable to find the specific power requirements for your GPU running in SLI or Crossfire. The rest of your components are pretty easy to estimate without knowing the actual power required from the specifications of the component. HDDs generally take 15 watts to 30 watts each. BD/CD/DVD optical drives generally take 20 watts to 30 watts each. Memory generally takes up 15 watts per gigabyte, but dont usually go lower than 15 watts on memory of less than one gigabyte. USB devices take around five watts each. Firewire devices usually take up 8 watts each. And case fans use around two or three watts each typically. If you are unable to find the actual power requirements for any of these components, it should be fine to use these estimates instead. After you sum up the combined power requirements of all your components, you should multiply this value by 1.5 as mentioned before to account for other things. This value is the minimum of the wattage that the power supply you choose should provide. Getting a higher wattage power supply will not damage your system, but not having enough power can put your computer at more risk in certain situations.

4.8. Cases and Fans The case is going to be the main thing that people see with your computer. If you are interested in showing off your new toy to friends, family or even complete strangers, you will want to choose a case with curb-appeal. The main performance issue with computer cases is that you have a bunch of parts that are producing heat and they are all being put into a box, so you need to have fans to dissipate this heat into the surrounding area. Other options include liquid cooling (see Section 4.9.1) and building your own custom case in a way that eliminates this problem (see Section 4.9.3). People also like to give their cases lighting (see Section 4.9.2). Cases and fans come in many different colors, shapes and sizes. You should choose the ones that best fit your requirements and desires. 4.8.1. Cases Computer cases are almost always a requirement to purchase when trying to build a computer. The exception to this rule would be when unconventional methods of computer storing are used such as when a builder creates a custom holder for their internal components (see Section 4.9.3). Even in that case, understanding the basics of what is required for a computer case is a must. Conventional computer cases come in many different sizes, called form factors, and fit a variety of different sized motherboards (see Section 4.6). Motherboards will also have a form factor with the type of case that it fits into. Computer cases may have multiple form factors listed, especially larger cases, so that they are able to fit multiple types of motherboards. The most common form factors, in order of size, are: Extended ATX (EATX), ATX, microATX (mATX), and mini ITX. Other form factors do exist but are less common. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your case and motherboard will be compatible for their form factor. Computers also fit into three main categories for size: full tower, mid tower and mini tower. Rack towers are used by those who build computers often to test out a system without going through all the trouble of putting it into a case. Other size cases do exist but are rarely used for general purpose computers and are usually for specialty purposes such as in the case of building a server. A rack tower is an unenclosed rack that allows you to mount the motherboard, power supply, a couple hard disks and a 5.25 external bay or two for a CD/DVD tray which will be mentioned later in this section. Some builders that experiment with different parts often use a rack tower to set up a system and test out its functionality without all of the hassle of putting it into a conventional case. Rack towers can also be used for servers as well if they do not use a case designed for servers. Full towers are the largest conventional type of case. A full tower is generally used by experienced builders or those with higher budgets. A full tower is a great choice if you like to experiment with new parts occasionally because of their large size. Full towers generally will fit multiple form factors and have

enough room to fit more than enough hard drives and other components. These cases are the easiest to fit all of your components into and the easiest to manage your cables (see Section 7.2). These cases can be as large as 30 inches (75 cm) tall and deep and can be larger than 10 inches (25 cm) wide. Full towers are the most common size to have hot swappable hard drive bays which will be explained later on in this section. Mid towers are the most common size of a conventional case. They are usually much cheaper than full towers and are much easier to use than mini towers. A mid tower will usually be compatible with only one or two form factors of motherboards. Mid towers tend to be less than 2 feet (60 cm) tall and deep and are usually less than 9 inches (23 cm) wide. These cases generally only have room for a few hard disks and anywhere from one to four external bays and can occasionally have a slot for a hot swappable hard drive. Mid towers are good if you are not extremely limited on space but dont desire a case that is big enough to smuggle a troupe of clowns inside. This size case isnt so big that it takes up space but isnt so small that you are struggling to find room to fit everything in. Mini towers are the smallest size case. Some people will also say talk about a small form factor size case which we will generalize to be a mini tower. These cases are the hardest of the three sizes to use in terms of cable management and simply fitting everything in. It is not recommended to use large components such as the longer GPUs (see Section 4.5.1) or large power supplies (see Section 4.7). The smallest end of cases classified as mini towers will rarely have more than one external 5.25 bay for components like a CD/DVD tray while the larger ones can have as many as a mid-tower. This can cause problems with setting up a computer in one of these smaller mini towers because you will need to jerry-rig a cd tray to install the Operating System and other programs if you do not have an external CD/DVD drive. Another option around this problem is to install these things with the use of a flash drive. Mini towers also rarely have more than a couple slots for hard drives on the small end but can have as many as six in some cases with the larger end. Occasionally mini towers will have hot swappable bay but it is less common in this size of case. As mentioned multiple times already in this section, cases can have a variety of internal and external slots as well as what is called an expansion slot. Expansion slots are what the slots in the back of the computer are called. These slots are where you will have access to the components plugged into the PCI slots on your motherboard. Different form factors generally have the same amount of expansion slots to remain universal across different brands; however, sometimes there may be a fewer or greater number of slots than what is considered typical for a specific form factor. Also some motherboards will account for larger components such as GPUs that take up as many as two expansion slots. The position of these expansion slots is always universal and will always line up with your case as long as the case you have chosen is compatible with the form factor of the motherboard that you have chosen. The number of expansion slots that your motherboard will need may be listed in the specifications of your motherboard but you may have to account for the fact that some of those may cover two expansion slots. NOTE: You will need to ensure that your motherboard does not have an abnormal amount of expansion slots. This will rarely become an issue but it is a good idea to double check.

Another type of slot is the 5.25 external bay. Usually used for a Blu-ray/CD/DVD drive (see Section 4.4), this external bay is located in the front of your computer case. External 3.5 drive bays are also located in the front of the case. The external 3.5 bay is the size needed for a floppy drive and some card readers but is rarely ever used anymore as external 3.5 bays are not common for anything other than a floppy drive and most motherboards no longer support internal floppy drives (see Section 4.11). The external 3.5 drive bay is often used along with a 5.25 external bay to give builders the option to choose whichever size they need since most builders rarely ever need to use an external 3.5 drive bay anymore. The 5.25 external bay can be used with more than just Blu-ray/CD/DVD drives, other options include lighting and fan controllers, temperature displays, LCD displays, memory card readers, liquid cooling reservoirs, etc. Since the 5.25 external drive bay is located in the front and is going to be the most accessible place on most cases, there are many different components that are designed to use these external bays. The final type of slot is the internal or external 3.5 hard drive bay. When used externally, it is almost always as a hot swappable bay. A hot swappable bay is a slot in your case that can be accessed without opening up the case that houses your hard drives. It is not recommended to use these hot swappable bays with the hard drive that you put your main Operating System on. If you are going to be using multiple operating systems, this may be acceptable, but it is not recommended and should only be attempted with extreme caution. Hot swapping is the act of pulling out a hard drive while the computer is turned on and running and plugging in a new hard drive much like you would with a flash drive or memory card (see Section 4.3.1). Many cases will have additional plugs located on the front or top of the case for easy access and convenience. These are most commonly USB, mSATA, headphone and microphone jacks, etc. It is a good idea to find a case that already has these ports located for easy access. If the case that you chose does not have these plugs, you may be able to purchase a component that goes into a 5.25 external bay that will have what you may need. If the case has these plugs they will probably be located near the on/off and reset buttons. There are three main materials that conventional cases are made out of: steel, aluminum and plastic. A case could be made out of one or more of these materials. Aluminum and plastic are more lightweight than steel while steel and aluminum are much stronger than plastic. Most mid range cases are made with a steel frame and a plastic bezel. Cases made using aluminum instead of plastic will cost more in most cases than the lightweight plastic counterpart. Plastic is also much easier to mold than aluminum so many of the cases that are more aesthetically pleasing to some builders will require them to use plastic instead of aluminum. Plastic is also easier to make in different colors so cases that use plastic can be more colorful without having to modify the case yourself. It is not very common to find a case that uses a frame that is made out of a material other than steel because of how sturdy it is. The steel frame is added protection to your components inside from possible movement of the material which could put unneeded strain on the components that are secured into the case. It is good to find a case that is both

aesthetically pleasing to you while also being functional and strong that fits inside your budget (if you have one). Using molded plastic is not the only way that companies make their cases pleasing aesthetically. Adding windows and lighting is also common practice to make a case look good. Many PC builders love to have windows on their cases, and many will intentionally buy a case without windows so that they may modify the case and put their own window with a custom shape and size on the case (see Section 4.9.3). Cases with pre-installed lighting may be good for a beginner that wants their case to have that added effect without actually having to install lights themselves. With experienced builders, these pre-installed lights can become more of a nuisance than anything. Often times being a color that they dont want or in a place they dont like, some builders stay away from these cases so they can do their own custom lighting job (see Section 4.9.2). Airflow is also something that you will need to consider with a case. A case that has lots of places for air to enter into the case and escape out of the case will help your fans (see Section 4.8.2) cool your system. More about airflow is explained later in this guide (see Section 7.3). Having lots of mesh and places to put fans is going to be beneficial to the airflow of your case. For those who are interested in liquid cooling (see Section 4.9.1), some cases come ready for liquid cooling by adding a couple holes in the back for tubing to go through and usually having a good place to put the radiator inside the case. The radiator may also be mounted outside the case with the help of the two holes in the case used for transferring liquid through tubes between the inside and outside of your case.

4.8.2. Fans In a computer, just about every component produces heat. In addition to that, all or most of those components perform slower or less efficiently under higher temperatures. Most computers are placed in cases (see Section 4.8.1) which cause this heat to be constricted to one area. There are a few ways to remove this heat; the most common way is with fans. By blowing the hot air out of the case, and cooler air into the case, you can keep your parts from overheating and keep them performing efficiently. Other options such as custom designed cases that eliminate this heat pooling around your components or liquid cooling are alternatives that can have great rewards if done properly. These techniques are not recommended for beginners (see Section 4.9). Fans these days have lots of options with them; they come in many different shapes, sizes, colors, etc. There are also different types of fans that are used for specific components such as the CPU or RAM. Most high end GPUs will come equipped with a fan to serve this same purpose. Most stores that cater to PC builders will have a fairly large cooling section with a large selection to choose from. If you dont know much about fans you may become overwhelmed by the many options and probably wont know what to look for. It seems these days that companies will advertise their fans as being silent as long as they are quieter than a base drum. The first thing you should look at is the size of the fan. Most cases have spots for them that fit only a specific size fan. Sizes are measured in mm and the most common fans are 60mm, 80mm, 120mm, 140mm and 200mm. They also come in other sizes as well so make sure you find the proper size to fit with your case. Many pc builders will mod their case by drilling new holes in their case to fit different size fans. However, not everyone is comfortable with doing this. Many cases will have different size slots in different places or some fan slots that are pre-drilled for two or more different fan sizes. Larger fans will move more air and therefore, are more efficient and keeping your computer cool. The measurement given is the length of each side of the fan since they are both the same. The most common fans are 80mm, 120mm and 140mm but these days cases support many different fan sizes. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your fans are the correct size for your case. Another important thing to look at is the rotating speed of the fan. Most modern motherboards have the ability to change the speed of the fan as needed if the fan has that ability. Fans with Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) have the ability to vary their speed when used along with a fan controller or a motherboard that will actively change the speed of the fan as needed. Fans with PWM will give their speed as a range (e.g. 600 RPM to 2000 RPM). Other fans without PWM will list a single speed in revolutions per minute (RPM). Most fans operate above 1000 RPM but can go as high as 8000 RPM in some cases. The smaller the fan, the faster it needs to spin to move more air. The higher speed fans tend to be louder which can be an important aspect of fans to some PC builders.

Sound, or noise level as it is often listed as, is often a tradeoff for faster moving fans. You often need to find a good balance between fan performance and fan noise. The noise level will be listed in decibels (dB) in the specifications of a fan. You should not trust the word silent if it is written on the case of the fan. The noise level is usually anywhere from a very quiet 5 dB to a loud 70 dB. To give you an idea of this, a typical conversation at 3 feet or 1 meter apart is approximately 65 dB while a quiet whisper at 6 feet or 2 meters apart is around 30 dB. Most computer fans will be in the 20 dB to 30 dB range while quieter fans will be around the 10 dB to 20 dB range. For high performance machines such as gaming PCs, a fan at 30 dB to 40 dB is not uncommon. Media center systems will typically want fans below 15 dB. Think about your noise considerations before selecting a fan. It is good to consider the environment that the computer will be in, the times that it may be operating and who will be around that the noise could bother. Also having two fans at 10 dB will not be equal to one fan at 20 dB. This is a common misconception among some people. Since the decibel scale is a logarithmic scale, 10 dB has a power ratio of 10 and 20 dB has a power ratio of 100. It could take as many as ten 10 dB fans to equal the same power ratio of a 20 dB fan. Every increment of 10 dB, the power ratio multiplies by 10 starting with 0 dB being at a power ratio of 1. Air flow rate is also a specification that may be given about a fan, usually in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The air flow rate can be anywhere from 2 CFM to as high as 250+ CFM and is usually a trade off with noise, but is usually directly related to the size and speed of the fan. The air flow rate is simply a measurement of how much volume of air is moved by the fan in a certain span of time. The higher to air flow rate, the greater the performance of your fan. For builds that are going to have a high volume of air flowing through the case to cool components quickly, the maximum air pressure is an important aspect of a fan to consider. Since having high pressure generally increases the temperature inside the case, it is generally not a great idea to have a very high pressure in the case. You should plan your airflow in your case and select which fans are going to push/pull before choosing fans if you are going to use fans with large air flow rates. It is also important to note that higher pressure fans will be more important when pushing air through radiators such as those used in liquid cooling (see Section 4.9.1) while the higher volume fans are more beneficial for case fans that need to move large amounts of air without the resistance that would be caused by a radiator. Using higher pressure fans to create higher pressure air in the case is useful for minimizing the dust buildup on parts (see Section 7.3). There are many different fan bearing types with many modern fans. Ball bearings and sleeve bearings are the most common bearing types but some fans use fluids or hydraulics to lower friction around the pin when the fan is spinning. The more effective bearings are more costly but will generally improve both noise and performance by being able to spin faster and be quieter from having lower friction.

4.9. Enthusiast This section is for dedicated and experienced builders. It is not recommended that you immediately try any of these without the help of an experienced builder. You are welcome to try anything here but some of these different things could have negative effects on your system if you do something wrong. Proceed with caution but dont be afraid to experiment carefully if you want. The reward for successfully using any of the following techniques while building your computer will almost always result in an amazing one of a kind computer that is not only fun to use, but fun to look at as well. An easy and safe place to start would be with lighting (see Section 4.9.2) as that has very minimal risk to damaging any components in your system. Many of these techniques, when used properly, will increase the efficiency of your computer to perform much higher than any of the components were intended to perform at. With this great risk come great rewards. 4.9.1. Liquid Cooling

WARNING: Custom liquid cooling loops are very dangerous. Do not attempt this unless you are willing to take the risk of damaging some or all of your components. This is only to be attempted by those who are already comfortable with building computers and should not be taken lightly. This section will be all about building a custom liquid cooling loop. A closed circuit loop (ccl) or pre-built liquid cooling loop is available at a lower risk (see Section 4.10). A custom loop is very expensive since it is comprised of numerous components.

4.9.1.1. Components The following components are required in every liquid cooling loop: Pump Radiator Reservoir Waterblock Tubing Fittings Coolant

The following components can be used in/with a liquid cooling loop but are not always necessary: Dye Additives and Biocide Flow meter Nozzle Filter Leak detector

Some of the components can be combined in one unit. Most commonly the reservoir is combined with the pump or the radiator. Occasionally all three will be combined in a single unit. Some people prefer these combo units while others prefer to have all separate components to allow them to choose each component specifically. It is a good idea to keep an open mind and make a decision on what the best choice for you will be. Pumps The pump is a very important part of every liquid cooling loop. A pump can come in many different sizes and usually will come with a housing that allows it to be connected into the rest of the loop. Pumps are rated for flow rate, pressure, power consumption, maximum temperature and noise. The maximum flow rate of a pump is directly related to the cooling potential of the pump. The flow rate is generally measured in liters or gallons per minute. The maximum flow rate is just a specification and is not a guarantee that you will get that flow rate out of your pump. Higher pressure loops, will result in lower flow rates than the maximum flow rate as noted for a pump.

The maximum head pressure of a pump is different from maximum operating pressure. The maximum operating pressure is the maximum pressure of the system that the pump can operate at before it is in danger of breaking. This operating pressure is measured in psi or kPa. Maximum head pressure is different in that it is measured in either feet or meters. Essentially the maximum head pressure of the pump the maximum height displacement of water. This can be approximately converted from feet to psi by multiplying by 0.433 or from meters to kPa by multiplying by 9.705. Waterblocks have a change in pressure that varies with the flow rate. You can find a comparison graph for most pumps if you are concerned with your pump not being strong enough for your loop. Some pumps have Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) which allows for the control of power to the pump, thus allowing the speed of the pump to vary. This can be good when a quiet system is needed because when the pump is working less, it will make less noise. The maximum temperature and noise are pretty self-explanatory specifications. For most pumps, the maximum temperature is far above the maximum temperature of the CPU. Noise is measured in decibels as explained in the fans section of this guide (see Section 4.8.2). Radiator The radiator is the part of the loop that is used to expel heat out of the system. Radiators come in different sizes. Larger area on a radiator will provide more cooling potential. This is because heat is spread out across the radiator and there is more area to push air through the radiator to expel that heat. Radiators are usually measured by how many of a certain size fan will fit along one side of the radiator. So a quad 120mm radiator will fit four 120mm fans along one side. The radiator can usually have fans put on either side to push and pull air through the radiator and out to the ambient air. Another specification for radiators is a measure of fins per inch (fpi). Radiators have heat dissipating fins, basically bent metal in a wave pattern, and having more of these fins equates to more area for the heat to dissipate across which is better for cooling potential. Reservoir The reservoir is the part of the loop that holds excess coolant. Reservoirs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Reservoirs can be attached to a pump or separate. They can be attached to the case in multiple ways, either by mounting it to any available space by bolting it to the case or by putting it into one or two open 5.25 external drive bays. Reservoirs come in many different sizes and hold many varying amounts of coolant. They can also have designs inside to give them a distinct appeal. Reservoirs are not always completely necessary in every loop but are definitely worth having in every loop as they make everything from installation to

maintenance much easier. The rest of the Liquid Cooling section of this guide will assume that a reservoir is present in any custom liquid cooling loop. Waterblock The waterblock is the part of the loop that connects the liquid cooling loop to the components that are to be cooled by the system. Waterblocks can mount on any component that you want to include in the liquid cooling system. You can get waterblocks for many components such as the following: Processor Graphics Cards Bridges Hard Drives Memory Waterblocks come in many different shapes and designs. Do some research on the specific waterblocks that you are considering. Waterblocks are an impedance on the flow which causes a pressure drop which will cause the flow rate to be lower. Most waterblocks have very minimal effect on the pressure but others are not as efficient. Tubing The tubing is the part of the loop that is used to transfer the coolant between each component of the liquid cooling loop. There are many options when it comes to liquid cooling tubing. Tubing comes in different sizes, thicknesses, colors and materials. Most commonly, tubing comes with an inner diameter of , , or . Outer diameters are similar and go up to . The inner diameter is important because that is the size of the tube that will affect the flow. The outer diameter is important for compression fittings since they go over the outer diameter of the tube. Tubing also comes in different colors and will sometimes come with an anti-kink coil around it. Kinking is a problem with tubing because it constricts the flow and adds additional pressure loss to the system. Using an anti-kink coil around the tubing will help prevent the unwanted kinks. Tubing is made out of plastic which is has chemicals called plasticizer in it. Newer tubing designed for liquid cooling loops has taken steps to prevent this plasticizer leakage but have not been able to completely eliminate the problem. Plasticizer will cloud your coolant and will cause it to stop cooling as efficiently. Plasticizer will also stain acrylic reservoirs leaving them with a permanent cloud. When the

coolant becomes cloudy, it should be cycled out and replaced with new coolant. See the maintenance part of this section below for more information about that. Tubing should also be replaced regularly. Every year or two is recommended because of microcracks in the tubing can form. When using clamps or compression fittings, the tubing will become damaged at the connection point. If a fitting is removed, that damaged part should be cut off. Fittings The fittings are the parts of the loop that are used to securely connect each component of the liquid cooling loop to the tubing. There are many types of fittings from angled fittings, quick-disconnect (QDC), adjustable fittings and even splitters. Fittings are used throughout the loop for various reasons but their general purpose is to serve as the connector between a major component of the loop such as the pump, reservoir, radiator or waterblock and the tubing. The most common fitting is one that directly connects to the tubing. There are two major ways that the fitting will attach to the tubing. The first is with a clamp. The fitting slips into the tubing and then a clamp goes around the outer diameter (OD) of the tube and tightens it down to prevent any potential leaking. The second way is a compression fitting. Similar to the way a clamp fitting is attached, the fitting slips into the tubing but instead of a clamp, a sleeve fits over the top of the tube to compress it equally to prevent leaks. These fittings need to be compatible in size to both the ID and OD of the tubing to ensure no leaking. Compression fittings are used for a cleaner look. Fittings connect to the different components of a liquid cooling loop with the use of a threaded end. Some components do not attach this way and require a clamp to attach the tubing directly unless otherwise modified. There are a few common thread sizes that are used so it is important that the correct size thread is used to prevent damage or leaking at the connection point. Angled fittings can either attach directly to the tubing by one of the methods explained above or they can attach to one of the other components. Angled fittings are used to redirect the flow of liquid through the loop at a certain angle. Some angled fittings are adjustable and allow the angle or direction to be changed after being attached. Quick-disconnect (QDC) fittings connect differently than other fittings. They require two parts, a male and female fitting, to function. One side of the QDC screws into the component while the other attaches to the tubing. The two come together by either pushing them until they lock together or by pushing and twisting into a locked position. QDCs are very helpful if the loop is going to be changed often due to upgrades or additions. These are a very convenient type of fitting and most have a very minimal impact on the flow but cost significantly more since two are needed at each connection.

Adjustable fittings are used commonly when putting multiple parts that are located near each other, such as memory or PCIe cards such as GPUs, in series into the loop. These fittings are used when the distance between components is so short that using a tube is impractical. When components are going to be added into the loop in parallel, a splitter fitting is used to separate the flow evenly. The splitter redirects the flow toward the components and then another splitter is used at the end of the parallel circuit to combine the flows into one. The parallel circuits can be recombined without a splitter fitting by emptying them directly into a reservoir. Coolant The coolant is the liquid that flows through the liquid cooling loop. While there are many specialty coolants out there of different colors, the most common coolant is simply water. If water is going to be used as a coolant, distilled water should be used instead of tap water. This is because tap water contains unwanted chemicals and living organisms that cause problems in a liquid cooling loop. Some specialty coolants for liquid cooling loops perform better than distilled water; however, most of these specialty coolants are less effective. As always, it is best to do some research on the coolants you are considering for your loop. Coolant must be changed regularly so it never hurts to have some extra around so you wont need to go to the store every time you change your coolant. The frequency that coolant is replaced is described later in the maintenance part of this section. Dye Dye is used to color the coolant. Dyes can come in many different colors and can even be UV reactive to glow when exposed to UV lights. Since distilled water is much cheaper than specialty coolants and is colorless, using a dye is the only way to change it to the color you want. Adding a little amount of dye wont noticeably alter the effectiveness of the coolant it is put into. Additives and Biocide Additives and biocide are used to clean the coolant and kill any unwanted algae. When using distilled water as the coolant, it is necessary to use an additive along with it because of a higher risk of algae and unwanted chemicals in the water. It is also a good idea to use additives and biocide in specialty coolants as well. The most common biocide is pure silver and can be put into the system as a strip of silver or as a silver plug that can be put into the circuit through a special fitting or can be attached to the reservoir. Flow Meter

The flow meter is the part of the loop that measures how much liquid is flowing through the loop in a certain amount of time. These are used by some enthusiasts to monitor the performance of their loop to make sure there are no blockages in the loop and that the pump is still functioning properly. A flow meter is not necessary to have in a loop but can provide useful feedback on performance. Nozzle The nozzle is the part of the loop that is used to limit the flow and is most commonly used for maintenance of the loop. Nozzles arent generally used except for aiding in emptying the loop and refilling it with new coolant. It is generally not helpful to constrict the flow with a nozzle unless it is to close off an entire section of the loop such as a section used only for maintenance of the loop. Filter The filter is the part of the loop that cleans the coolant during normal use. While a filter is not necessary, it is a very beneficial component to have. A filter will extend the time between required maintenance by passively cleaning the coolant during normal use. A filter does not last indefinitely and will need to be replaced periodically. Leak Detector The leak detector is the part of the loop that detects moisture and alerts you to a possible leak. Leak detectors are not necessary components and are not used in every loop. They are a convenience though, and may save your components from a serious leak and possible damage.

4.9.1.2. Designing A Loop Before purchasing any components, you must first design your loop. The process of building a custom liquid cooling loop is the same as the process of building a new computer. The first step is to decide which of the components in the computer are going to be included in the liquid cooling loop. After that has been decided, you should decide which waterblocks will be used for those components. After the components that are going to be cooled are selected, you should decide the order in which the components will be cooled. The components that the flow reaches first after leaving the radiator will have the greatest cooling potential. The next step is to decide on which pump you want to use. You should also decide if you want a pump that attaches to a reservoir. This is also the time when you will need to look at space requirements in your case. Some cases are too small to mount the pump and reservoir anywhere other than in a 5.25 external drive bay. Larger cases such as full tower cases will offer more choices in placement of the components in a custom liquid cooling loop. If a pump was chosen without a reservoir, the next thing to do when designing your loop is to choose a reservoir. You should also keep in mind case size constraints and mounting locations for the reservoir. Reservoirs are not always necessary but are a huge help with maintenance and are sometimes considered a necessary component for a liquid cooling loop because of this. After the pump and reservoir have been selected, you may have a choice in the size tubing or you may not. If you have the ability to decide, larger tubing will yield greater cooling potential but may be harder to work with and will take up much more space inside your case. The size of tubing that is used will also determine the size of the fittings that are required. The last necessary decision is to decide on number and size of radiators that are going to be used. Some larger full tower cases will have convenient mounting locations built into the case for liquid cooling. For other cases, mounting brackets are available for mounting radiators outside of the case. The final decisions are to decide which coolant is going to be used, the additives, biocide, and other extra parts of the loop that were mentioned in the components part of this section.

4.9.1.3. Installation Installation of a custom liquid cooling loop will take a lot of time, especially if it is your first time. It will take a few hours to set up initially and will require that you check on it periodically throughout the day and usually the next day. Many people have an idea of how long it takes to periodically test the loop until you can be confident that it will not leak. If there is any doubt, it is best to continue to test for a longer period of time. Before you begin putting anything together you should clean out everything thoroughly. To do this, scrub and then rinse every part with clean tap water. It works best to use a water filter to clean it. As you do this you should lightly scrub the parts as best as you can. You can use soap and hot water when scrubbing the parts. This will make sure that all the dust is off of the part. After you are done scrubbing, rinse everything with clean tap water to make sure all of the soap has been washed out. Finally rinse everything using distilled water. Distilled water can be found at just about any grocery store and is available in gallon sizes. Just a quick rinse of each part without scrubbing will suffice. Make sure to place each part in a clean area after they have been cleaned. It might be a good idea to let them dry before working with them. If you dont have the time to let them dry, you can use compressed air to blow out most of the leftover water in each component. Cleaning the radiator is done differently and is one of the most important parts to clean. To clean, or flush, the radiator, connect it to a running source of water such as a shower or a kitchen sink. Run the tap water continuously for around 10 minutes or so. Then switch to the other side of the radiator and flush for another 10 minutes or so. After the radiator has been flushed for 10 minutes through both sides, leave it partially filled and give it a few good shakes. Finally fill the radiator with a diluted acidic liquid such as diluted vinegar and let it sit for around an hour or so. Just to be sure, it is recommended that you go through this process twice for a new radiator. After the diluted vinegar soak and before putting it in the loop, rinse the radiator out thoroughly with distilled water. If you dont have distilled water and are using a different coolant than distilled water, using this coolant for the final rinse will suffice. The next step is to attach your fittings to the waterblocks and other components as necessary. You should have already determined where each fitting will go during the design phase. Do not over-tighten the fittings as this may cause cracks or fissures which can, over time, cause dangerous leaks. Most fittings will use a seal called an O-ring, named because it is the shape of a circle or the letter O. These O-rings are made of a rubber or plastic that creates a watertight seal between the fitting and the component it goes into. Simply tightening the fittings into the component by hand will create a secure connection with a watertight seal. Once all of the fittings are in place, it is time to attach all of the waterblocks to their proper components. Since there are many different types of waterblocks that can mount in different ways, refer to the instructions that came with the block for the proper way to attach it. Once all the waterblocks have

been attached and the parts, including pump, reservoir and radiator, are in their proper locations within the case, it is time to add in the tubing. To make sure you cut the correct tubing lengths, put the tubing in the case and visually find the correct length. Its good to give yourself a few extra inches when cutting the tubing to make sure that it is long enough. It will be possible to cut off some extra tubing after the fact if you made it too long but it wont be possible to make it longer. Make sure when you lay out the tubing that all bends are gradual and dont cause any kinks. If you absolutely must, a sharper turn can be done without kinking the tubing by bending the tube and dipping it in hot water for a few seconds and then repeatedly dipping into cold water directly afterwards. After the tubing has been cut and placed into the loop. This would be the best time to double check every connection for tightness. This is the last chance before putting water in the loop. Before filling the loop it is important to make sure that if a leak does occur that it will not damage the components. This is done by taking the PC to a safe, well lit area and laying lots of towels around everything. Put towels around every connection and just stuff the thing full of towels, neatly of course. Make sure to put towels over the power supply, covering the motherboard, and covering all other components. It seems to work best if you start from the bottom of the case and work up when placing the towels. The next step is to make sure that none of your components will power on during the cycle except for the pump. First, make sure the power supply is both switched off and unplugged from the wall. It would be a good idea to remove any components from the computer that are unnecessary to the test and unplug everything except for the pump from the power supply. The 20-pin or 24-pin connector that would be in the motherboard is going to be modified to allow this test to happen without powering on any other systems. To modify the main power connector, you will need to bridge two of the connectors. This can be done with a specialized bridging clip or a simple paper clip. The PS_ON# (usually green) connection will have to be connected to one of the COM (black) connections as shown in the diagram below. Note the orientation of the plug with the clip on the right with the end of the plug that would go into the motherboard facing towards you. WARNING: Do not bridge the PS_ON# connection with any other connection other than a COM connection. This will permanently damage the power supply and could result in physical injury or death from electrocution or fire. Even with the PSU unplugged and turned off, it still has enough power to cause serious physical harm.

After the connection has been bridged, the power supply is ready to power the liquid cooling loop for testing. Dont turn anything on yet as there is no water in the loop and running most pumps dry will damage them. To fill the loop, start by filling the reservoir with the coolant. Fill it up to a safe level that it isnt overflowing but is still full and cap off the reservoir if necessary. Plug in the power supply and flip the switch to the on position. If everything has been done correctly, the pump should start to run and will start pulling coolant from the reservoir and will start to push it through the loop. Make sure to turn off the pump before the coolant runs out in the reservoir. Dont turn it off too late where the reservoir is completely empty and the pump is running dry. After the pump is off, refill the reservoir with more liquid and repeat the process until the loop is full of water. If any large leaks are noticed, immediately turn off the pump, take apart the system and let everything dry completely. Use compressed air in areas of the motherboard that may not dry as quickly such as PCI slots or SATA ports. Lay everything out in a way that all water and condensation will dry completely. Try again another time. If any fittings or components are found to be faulty after the second try, make sure to get them replaced and double check all connections before trying again. Once the loop is full, take note of any air bubbles that are stuck in the system. Turning the pump on and off to attempt to dislodge these bubbles should work for any air bubbles in the system. As these bubbles go through the loop, they will end up in the reservoir. Make sure that the reservoir does not run dry to prevent any damage to the pump. This is also the time to check for small leaks. Slowly remove all towels from the top down and check for any moisture either on the towel or by the connection points and the

fittings. If no moisture is felt, wrap a paper towel around the connection. Test each connection one at a time for about 15-30 minutes each and then move onto the next connection. Do not remove paper towels when switching to another connection. Leaks may not show for a couple hours but can still be present in the loop and will need to be recognized as early as possible. Once all connections have paper towels around them, you should let the loop run for at least 6 hours. The longer you let it run the better because you can be more confident that there are no leaks in your loop. If any leaks are found, turn off the pump and double check the connection by hand. After ensuring that the connection is secure, dry the area of the leak and use compressed air to blow away any moisture at the connection. Place a new paper towel over the connection and start to run the pump again. If the leak persists, you may need to empty the loop and repair the connection. The cheapest fix may be to replace the O-ring in the fitting and trying again. The worst case scenario is a faulty component that will need to be replaced entirely. Once the leak test has been completed, it will be safe to remove all paper towels, and reconnect everything back into the computer. Be careful not to put too much stress or strain onto the tubing in the liquid cooling loop that might cause damage to the tubing and cause future leaks. Make sure to turn off the power supply and unplug it before removing the connection bridge that was put in to test the loop.

4.9.1.4. Maintenance The maintenance of a liquid cooling loop is much more time consuming and difficult than the maintenance of any other part of your computer. This maintenance will need to be done more often in the beginning but periods between regular maintenance can be increased over the life of the loop. Flushing the system and replacing the coolant is recommended after 3-6 months. If you notice any clouding or debris in the coolant, clean the system right away. With every flush and replacement of coolant after this initial one at 3-6 months, it is a good idea to take apart the waterblocks and clean them with a brush and then let them soak in an acidic solution such as vinegar. Clean the radiator as was done when it was initially purchased. Remember that every time you take apart your system, you will need to do another leak test so make sure to give yourself enough time to complete that as well. Maintenance should normally be performed after every 9 months to a year or as necessary if the coolant is observed to be cloudy or contain debris.

4.9.2. Lighting Lighting effect with computers are the easiest technique that you can do to your computer to make it look flashier. It is so easy because all you have to do most of the time is plug the lights in and watch them light up. Some people put lights on their workstation, some put them on the back of their monitor, but most will put them inside their case. Lights put on the back of a monitor on a workstation are usually for backlighting effects and are generally less flashy. Backlighting is meant to direct your focus someplace other than directly at the light. The light is usually projected onto a wall or other surface in a way that it surrounds the item that it is directing your focus towards. This is a very easy, and usually cheap, way to add allure and awe to your computer. Backlighting is generally a soft color such as a soft white, blue or soft red. Not too bright that it is distracting, but not so soft that it is not noticeable. Lights put inside a computer case are not only used for backlighting effects. They can also be used as a direct focal point of the computer in some cases. The easiest way to do this is with case fans that come pre-lit with LEDs (see Section 4.8.2). You simply install the fan into the case and plug it into the motherboard as you normally would and watch it light up. Other options are single point LEDs, or Cold Cathode kits. Single point LEDs are exactly as they sound. A single point LED bulb, which can come in different colors, can be used to produce a small single point or light. Cold Cathodes are generally in rods and are generally used not as a focal point, but to illuminate the entire case as a whole. Sometimes UV lights are used as well when there are UV reactive components in the case. Some liquid cooling fluids (see section 4.9.1) are reactive to UV lights and will glow a certain color when exposed to this certain type of light. EL wire is also a form of lighting that can be used either inside or outside the case. It is simply a wire or string that illuminates as one light source. Case lighting is generally used to show off the internal components inside the case or to just make the case look more customized. This is a technique that is not often done correctly the first time and is more of an art. It is a good idea to browse the internet and look at picture of computers and workstations with lighting effects and decide which effects you like and which ones you dont. This will help you to plan out what colors you want to use and where you want to place the lights. Dont be afraid to experiment with different colors and try out different types of lighting to get the lighting effect that you desire. Some lights have the ability to change colors; some even react to sounds that they pick up through a microphone. This can give them a fun and unique feel by changing colors to match the mood of what is happening on your computer.

4.9.3. Custom PC Modifications One important aspect of high-end enthusiast PCs is the aesthetics - how the PC looks. You can choose to purchase certain components for their looks as most people do or you can change the parts to look how you want them to. There is an entire community of PC builders that choose to customize their parts to make one of a kind computers. There are many different modifications that can be done to every part of the computer. From laser etching a logo or design onto a component to cutting out entire sections of a case to put in a window, PC modification is more of an art than a science. It is important to note that nearly all modifications done to your components will void any warranty they may have. There is also a great risk of damaging components. Do not try any of these modifications without accepting those risks. Before attempting to modify any of your components, do some research on different techniques used by others and find out some potential problems that may arise so that you can avoid them. One technique that is done to customize parts is to remove logos and designs that come with them by carefully using a grinding tool and then putting a different logo or design onto the part. This new logo can be painted or laser etched, most commonly, onto the part. By putting your own logo or design onto all of the components in your computer, you can create a sense of unity for the entire system. It creates a common visual making all of the parts appear to belong together. Customizing your parts with a common logo or design will also personalize the computer making it one of a kind. PC modders also like to modify their cases with windows of different shapes, sizes and colors. They also like to add additional parts onto the case such as handles or other props. Using metal cutting tools, you can carefully cut out shapes from your case. You can get clear plexiglass or even actual glass from the hardware store and cut it into the shapes that you need to put inside your case where the holes were cut out to give a more finished look. Be careful with this as a poorly cut out window may look much worse than having no window at all. Make sure to use the proper tools when modding your case and take your time. Adding props to a build can help when creating a themed build. If you are making a computer and designing it from a TV show or movie, adding props related to that movie or show can really add some fun effects and add a lot to the theme of the build. A theme doesnt have to be from a movie or a show, a computer can be themed from an idea or themed to look like something else. you can build a custom case out of many things. Creativity is the key when doing any custom modifications.

4.9.4. Overclocking Overclocking is one of the most dangerous techniques used by computer enthusiasts to improve their computer. The act of overclocking is to manually change the voltages and clocking speeds of a piece of hardware to get it to perform better and faster at the risk of creating an unstable system. Overclockers are fighting overheating issues as well as potential hardware defects to get the absolute most out of their hardware. Before attempting to overclock any hardware, understand that you may be taking the risk that one or more of the parts in your computer may become defective and need to be replaced. When component manufacturers create a new component such as a cpu, gpu or RAM module, they test it to find the clocking speeds and voltages at which balance stability and performance. The manufacturer then sets those clocking speeds and voltages as the default for those components and usually guarantee them against failure when used at those settings for a certain period of time. If a component is overclocked, the warranty is usually voided because the manufacturer does not guarantee the component to function properly at any setting other than those they have specified. The way an overclocker changes the clocking speed and voltages of a component is through the BIOS which is built into the motherboard. Every BIOS is different and not all of them will have simple ways to alter the clocking speeds and voltages of certain components. Do some research on your motherboard, chipset and BIOS before attempting to overclock so that you can understand how to do it if overclocking is possible with your system. It is also important to read tutorials online that have been created to show people how to overclock certain components. This will give you a better understanding of the process of overclocking as well as the performance boost that you can expect to receive from overclocking.

4.9.5. RAID A Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, or RAID, is a technique that is used to create redundancy in hard drives or to increase the performance of drives by changing the way data is sent, stored and read in a hard drive. There are 9 levels of RAID that exist. Level 0 Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 10 Level 01

For the purposes of this guide, only the most common levels of RAID will be explained. The most common levels of RAID are 0, 1, 5 and 10. The 9 levels of RAID that are listed above may not be the entire list. As the technology behind RAID advances, new types of arrays will arise. It is important to note that it is generally not an acceptable practice to use RAID to create a backup disk because the data redundancy created in some RAID setups creates an exact copy of the disk in real time. 4.9.5.1. RAID Controllers And Software In order to set up a RAID configuration in a computer, there more things that are needed other than the hard drives required. All RAID setups require a RAID controller and software to be able to manage the RAID configuration properly. Some modern motherboards will come with an on-board RAID controller and include their own software along with the board. Many times, this will suffice for managing a RAID configuration but not all motherboards have these capabilities. RAID controllers can be purchased as add-on cards for a computer and will usually plug right into a PCI slot on the motherboard. This RAID controller card should come with its own software and drivers for managing certain RAID configurations. Know that not all controllers and software support all the many different types of RAID configurations. To use a RAID controller, it needs to be plugged into the motherboard and the hard drives must be plugged into the controller.

4.9.5.2. RAID 0 RAID 0 requires only 2 identical hard drives. In this level of raid, data is split between the two hard drives equally. When data is written to the drives, the first block of data is written to the first hard drive and the second is written to the second drive. This repeats until the write operation has been completed. This level of RAID will speed up read/write times with your hard drive but will not create any redundancy of data. Without data redundancy, if one of the two drives in a RAID 0 setup fail, all data on both drives will be lost. RAID 0 also has no loss of storage space as the total allowable storage space will be equal to twice the size of a single disk in the RAID setup. If more than 2 drives are in RAID 0 configuration, the chance of total failure increases because the chance of at least one of the drives failing increases.

4.9.5.3. RAID 1 RAID 1 also requires only 2 identical hard drives. In this level of RAID, data is copied across both drives equally. When data is written to the drives, the first block of data is written to both drives and the second is also written to both drives. RAID 1 has minimum effect on performance in terms of write times but creates redundancy in case one of the drives fails due to hardware malfunction. There will be faster read times for drives in RAID 1 because the controller has to select the fastest drive to read from and can read from . RAID 1 has a loss of storage space because data takes up twice as much space in the RAID setup. The total allowable storage space will be equal to the size of one of the drives in the RAID setup.

4.9.5.4. RAID 5 RAID 5 requires 3 identical hard drives. In this level of RAID, data is striped like with RAID 0 but includes a parity block which allows the computer to recreate data if it is lost due to drive failure in one of the hard drives. The parity case in a RAID 5 setup is created by using 1s and 0s to indicate a bit by bit comparison between the two bits of data. For instance, if you have two bit of data, 11001 and 10011, then the parity bit would be 01010. This parity bit is to indicate that the first, third and fifth digits in each bit of data are the same digit and the second and fourth digits are opposite. If given the parity bit and either of the other two pieces of data, a computer can recreate the lost piece of data. The data in a RAID 5 setup is written much like it is in RAID 0 where data the first piece of data is written to the first drive, the second to the second drive and so on. The position of the parity bit changes for each grouping of three bits. If the parity bit is written to the third disk, the next parity bit will be written on the second disk the next time the second disk is being written to and so on. RAID 5 does not create any redundancy in data but still allows for data to be recovered in the case of a disk failure unlike RAID 0. The read performance of a RAID 5 setup is increased but the write speed is decreased since it must create and write one third more data than what would otherwise need to be written in a RAID setup without parity bits. RAID 5 has a loss of storage space equal to that of one of the hard drives in the setup. The total allowable storage space in a RAID 5 setup is equal to twice the size of a single disk in the RAID setup. Some RAID controllers are able to set up a RAID 5 configuration with non-identical drives but the drive sizes must be multiples of the smallest drive to utilize all of the available space on every drive.

4.9.5.5. RAID 10 RAID 10 (pronounced as one-zero) is a combination of RAID 1 and RAID 2 and requires 4 identical hard drives. In this level of RAID, drives 1 and 2 are grouped in a RAID 0 configuration as well as drives 3 and 4. Then the two groups of drives are written to as if they were in a RAID 1 configuration. So the first bit of data goes to both drives 1 and 2, the second bit of data goes to both drives 3 and 4, the third bit of data goes to both drives 1 and 2 and so on. RAID 10 has the benefits of both RAID 1 and RAID 0 so the read/write times are sped up to that of a RAID 0 setup and redundancy is also achieved in the case of drive failure.

4.10. CPU Coolers There are many ways to cool a CPU with the help of a heat sink, fan or liquid cooling loop. Pre-built liquid cooling loops are very easy and require no more maintenance than any other method of CPU cooling. Custom built liquid cooling loops (see Section 4.9.1) are much more expensive, difficult to install and require a great deal more maintenance on your part. However, these custom loops are almost always guaranteed to perform better and are usually more interesting to look at. This however is an enthusiast technique and should not be attempted without extreme caution. The most common way to cool modern CPUs is with a combination heat sink and fan setup. Many CPUs will come with a stock cooling fan but many PC builders advise against using these stock fans. CPU coolers will often time come with thermal paste (see Section 4.11) already on them. This thermal paste is usually of a below average quality and it is recommended to strip it off and then clean the cooler with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to remove any residue left by the thermal paste. A tube of high quality thermal paste is very cheap and will usually last a very long time. Most builders wont need more than one or two tubes for all of their builds put together. Purchasing just one small tube of higher quality thermal paste is a quick and easy way to increase lifetime of the CPU and give a little performance boost while you are at it. Just as there are different socket types with processors (see Section 4.1), there are different hole positions to attach the CPU cooler. Luckily they are consistent across each individual socket such that they can be named the same as the socket type to make things easier. Some different socket types also have the same CPU cooler attachment hole pattern. For instance, with AMD sockets, the AM3 and AM3+ are different sockets but have the same hole pattern for their CPU coolers so any cooler that will work for one will work for the other. Some CPU coolers will be designed such that they can be attached to multiple sockets that wouldnt otherwise be compatible. This is done either by using multiple screw hole patterns or with the use of an adapter piece.

There are many different shapes and sizes of CPU coolers. They vary in the size dimensions and the direction that hot air is blown. Most stock CPU coolers use a heat sink attached to the CPU and then have a fan on top that sucks the hot air away from the CPU and blows it upward toward the side of the case. Other CPU coolers have a different idea. They blow the air at various angles and directions usually so that it is directed toward an air exhaust section of the case. These tend to be larger coolers and

sometimes may be too large to fit in some cases. If you choose a larger CPU cooler to cool your case, you need to ensure that the case is large enough to fit. Liquid cooling units have different size requirements. This is because they cool the CPU in a very different fashion. The technology behind a liquid cooling unit is to use water to move the heat away from the CPU and transport it to a radiator which expels the heat from the case. The radiator works best when it is attached to fans on either side in a push/pull configuration (see Section 4.8.2). The requirement for putting a prebuilt liquid cooling loop into a case is to have an open area to put a fan. The part that attaches to the CPU, called the CPU block, is usually very low profile and should fit into any size case. The radiator is the part that requires the most space. Larger custom build loops require much more space than a pre-built unit.

4.11. Other Parts There are many parts other than those listed so far in this guide. These parts are still important but are usually not as important to all builders. These parts can do all sorts of different functions from controlling a RAID (see Section 4.9.5) array to case lighting, fans, etc. There are even TV tuner cards that can turn your computer into a media center or digital video recorder (DVR) by connecting to your cable tv. There are also components that can receive radio signals, Bluetooth and more. This section will quickly touch on some of these components. Controller Panels/Cards Controller panels and controller cards can go into either 5.25 external drive bays in your case (see Section 4.8.1) or into PCI slots in your motherboard (see Section 4.6). Controller panels and cards can control all sorts of things. There are controllers that control RAID Arrays, case lighting, fan speeds etc. Controllers that are used to control a RAID setup generally go into a PCI slot in your motherboard and can control multiple types of RAID setups. These are used to take the load off your other components for controlling a RAID array or in the case that the motherboard being used does not support RAID. There are three major functions of lighting controllers. Some are sensitive to sound and can be set to react to sounds received through a microphone in the controller to dim or turn all the way on or off in reaction to the audio. Another function of a lighting controller is simply manual control of the brightness of the lights or to act in a pattern. The last possible function of a light controller is to change the color. Some light strips have the ability to change color and some lighting controllers allow you to manually adjust this either with the use of three knobs that adjust the red, green and blue strengths or with the use of a remote controller that has built in colors. There are three types of fan controllers. The first type turns fans on or off only with the flip of a switch. The second type allows for you to adjust the speed of the fan with the use of a knob or slider. And the final type combines fan controlling with a temperature monitor and is usually located in one of the 5.25 external drive bays for easy access. These controllers are sometimes reactive to changing temperature and can react quickly without needing to be changed by the user. Signal Receivers There are many different signal receivers that can go into computers. There are cards that allows the computer to interact with a wireless network (WAN or WIFI) signal. There are also receivers that allow the computer to receive Bluetooth signals for Bluetooth devices like some mice and keyboards. There are receivers that allow the computer to receive cable tv or radio signals as well. There are many different types of signal receivers for any type of signal that may be required.

There are different types of WIFI signals that are beyond the scope of this guide. These cards usually go into a PCI or PCIe slot in the motherboard. Wireless access adapters can also be attached to the computer through one of its USB ports for some devices. These cards are typically rated for the speed and strength of signal to allow for access at even farther distance and better signals through objects such as walls. Bluetooth receivers are most commonly built into the motherboard or are attached to the system as a small USB device. If no Bluetooth devices are going to be used with the computer, Bluetooth capability should be ignored and getting a Bluetooth receiver will only use up power and take up an otherwise free USB port. Check that you will be using a Bluetooth device before considering getting a Bluetooth receiver if it is not built into the motherboard already. TV tuner cards are used in most Home Theater PCs (HTPCs) because they allow the computer to receive cable tv signals and allow the system to be used as a DVR. Some people prefer to build their own DVR to get past the storage limits from small hard drives and allow for many other uses. For some TV tuner cards, an AM/FM radio signal receiver is also built in. This is the most common way for a computer to receive radio signals. These cards almost always connect to the computer through a PCI or PCIe slot in the motherboard but a few will also connect to the computer through a USB port. Data Readers and Writers There are multiple external components that can be used to read and write data to a storage device other than the internal Blu-Ray/CD/DVD drives as discussed earlier in this guide (see Section 4.4). There are external Blu-Ray/CD/DVD drives, external floppy drives and internal and external card readers. Internal floppy drives are rarely supported with modern systems so they have been left out. External Blu-Ray/CD/DVD drives are much the same as their internal counterparts but are generally limited by the speeds of the USB port that they interact with the system through. Newer drives that connect to the system by USB 3.0 ports are much faster than those that use USB 2.0 ports. The speeds of these newer devices are comparable to the speeds that an internal drive will achieve for data transfer but these drives cost significantly more. External floppy drives are simply floppy drives that have been created to interact with the system through a USB port. Since there was very little desire for an internal floppy drive with modern systems, these are usually the only way to use a floppy disk with modern systems. Memory card readers can be either internal or external. Since there are so many different types of memory cards used by many different devices, these readers will generally support multiple memory card types. These devices can either be attached through an external USB port in the case of an external device or into an internal USB port on the motherboard in the case of an internal device. Thermal Paste

Thermal paste is very important for all components that create lots of heat and will be using some sort of cooling device to transfer that heat away from the component. Most coolers that do not come preattached will have a thermal past already applied. Some builders feel that it is best to purchase thermal paste separately and use that instead of the thermal paste that comes on the component. This is generally not the best option anymore as it may have been in the past because manufacturers have started putting much higher quality thermal paste on their components. The thermal paste that comes on most modern components is often times better quality than many of the thermal pastes that can be bought at a store. There are many types of thermal paste and many ways to apply it. Many thermal pastes require the system to be run for a period of time to allow the paste work at its full potential. This has to do with the chemical properties of the thermal paste. Be sure to read the directions before application as these requirements vary for each type of paste.

5. Choosing Peripherals
The internal components of your computer are only one part of a PC building experience. In order to take full advantage of any computer, you must have the proper peripherals. These are some of the things that many people overlook or do not think about. You must have a decent monitor to interact with your computer. A good mouse and keyboard is also paramount to enjoying all that your computer has to offer. The speakers and headphones are also key components in a build. Some specific builds can get away without needing some of these (e.g. a media center PC uses a TV instead of a monitor) but in most general cases, these are very important parts to your computer as they are the physical devices in which you communicate with your computer. 5.1. Monitor Monitors are a very difficult peripheral to judge. Most of the specifications that are provided by manufacturers are deceptive at best. Only a few of the specifications can usually be trusted. The Grey-to-Grey (G2G) response time and dynamic contrast ratio specifications should be taken with a grain of salt for what they represent. I will go more in depth as to what these two specifications represent and why they are so deceiving to the average consumer. It is also important to understand which connections can transmit high definition (HD) signals and which support standard definition (SD) signals only. By now you should already know what a monitor is and what it does. But you may not know how to connect your monitor to your computer. If you have a separate GPU (see Section 4.5.1) from the one built into your motherboard or processor, then your monitor will need to be plugged into this. If you are not using a separate GPU, then you will need to plug your monitor into a port on your motherboard. There are a number of different connectors that are used for connecting a monitor.

VGA - Standard definition connector. Most common connection type among non HD monitors. Carries only video as an analog signal.

HDMI - High definition connector. One of the two most common connection types among HD monitors. Carries both audio and video as digital signals. HDMI can carry HD formats greater than 1080p.

DVI / DVI-D - High definition connector. The other most common connection type among HD monitors. Carries only video as a digital signal. DVI-D can carry HD formats greater than 1080p.

RCA component - Standard definition connectors. Not very common for monitors. Carries analog video signal through one cable and audio left and right through separate cables. [Mini] Displayport - High definition video. Used primarily for Mac computers but also used for some tablets. Not as common as other connector types. Transmits both audio and video as digital signals.

Choosing the correct cable for your connection is important. If you want to use high definition format video, then an HDMI, DVI or DVI-D connector will be necessary. For standard definition video, a VGA connector is most common for monitors. Monitors generally dont use displayport or mini displayport connectors and require an adapter to one of the other connection types listed to be able to use The main specification that most people look at when they are purchasing a monitor is size. Monitors come in three common aspect ratios. Originally monitors came in 4:3 standard aspect ratio. This meant that for every three units of measurement in the vertical direction, there were four in the horizontal. This ratio is sometimes called a square because it looks most like a square in comparison to the other screen ratios. There are two aspect ratios that are common for widescreen format monitors, 16:10 and 16:9. Just like with the 4:3 monitors, for every 9 or 10 units of measurement in the vertical direction, there are 16 in the horizontal depending on which size ratio it is. Widescreen monitors are shifting away from the 16:10 ratio and are moving toward the 16:9 aspect ratio. Along with the aspect ratio, there is another size listed for monitors. Manufacturers like to make this size specification the biggest thing on the box and want you to notice it first. This specification is a measurement, usually measured in inches, that represents the length of the screen from one corner to the direct opposite corner. There are many different size screens, too many to list. Remember though, a monitor that is really big may look and sound great from a distance but when you are sitting directly in front of it for an extended amount of time, a very large monitor may not be the best choice. It is a good idea to go to a computer store and look at the different sizes and see which size is best for you at the distance you will be sitting from your monitor. There are two main types of monitors that you will see. The Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors that were huge could only support standard definition video and are rarely seen anymore. Now we have LCD flat panel displays. The main benefits of an LCD monitor over a CRT monitor are that LCD monitors are much smaller in thickness and use much less power when compared to a CRT monitor. Other types of monitors such as plasma and OLED are less common and use some newer or different technology than the CRT and LCD monitors that are most common. Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors uses the properties of liquid crystals to create the different colors needed to display the video from your computer. LCD monitors use cold cathode fluorescent lights (CCFLs) just like with CRT monitors but send that light through a film of liquid crystals instead of a series of tubes. The term Light Emitting Diode (LED), when used with monitors, is used to tell the type of backlighting that is used by the monitor. The difference between LED LCD and traditional LCD monitors is the light source that is used to shine

through the crystals. There are two subsets of LCD monitor technology that both have different advantages and disadvantages over each other. These two types of LCD monitor technology are twisted nematic (TN) and In-Plane Switching (IPS) displays. The most common LCD monitors are TN monitors since these have been around longer and are very easy to produce. They have sufficient response times to reduce the effect of ghosting and shadowing with the monitors. The major problem with TN monitors is that they have very limited viewing angles, specifically vertically. Viewing angles are explained later in this section. TN monitors also have decent brightness and sufficient color representation for general everyday purposes. In-Plane Switching (IPS) is a technology also used with LCD monitors that improve the viewing angles and color reproduction or trueness of the colors being represented on the monitor. This is done by specifically arranging the liquid crystal molecules. The science behind it is very advanced and for the purposes of this guide, it is only important that IPS monitors are higher quality in terms of response time, viewing angles as well as color reproduction as opposed to their twisted nematic counterparts. Resolution of a monitor is very important. A monitor with too low of a resolution will look blocky, usually called pixelated. Max resolution is represented in pixels per inch (ppi) and is a measurement of the maximum number of dots, or pixels, can be represented by the monitor in one inch. The way that a monitor displays images is by millions of tiny dots of color in an array. The more dots there are in a small area, the better the quality of the image. The more dots there are, the easier it is for your brain to interpret it as a fluid image instead of a bunch of colored blocks next to each other. Viewing angles are generally ignored by most users but are very important specifications for monitors; especially if you plan to use multiple monitors. The maximum viewing angle specification that is listed represents the maximum angle to the screen that gives an acceptable visual presentation of the image on the screen. The refresh rate of a monitor is an important part of the monitor but is usually sufficient enough in modern monitors such that it wont become a problem. The refresh rate represents how fast the monitor can refresh the screen. Measured in hertz (Hz), the refresh rate is how many times the screen refreshes in one second. A common refresh rate would be anywhere from 50 Hz to 60 Hz. Grey to grey (GTG) response time and dynamic contrast ratio are the two most deceptive specifications listed with monitors. The GTG response time represents how much time it takes for the monitor to change states. A better representation of response time would be a black to white response time because instead of a simple change of state from grey to another shade of grey, it has to go from full black to white, a complete change of state. Manufacturers list the GTG response time because it is smaller and looks a lot better to the average consumer that doesnt know any different. Dynamic contrast ratio is a measure of the change in brightness across the screen so that the lights can dim when a darker color is needed or brighten when a lighter color is needed. This number is usually

incredibly large and looks great on paper but is not representative of the static contrast ratio. The less deceptive specification would be to list the static contrast ratio. This is because images that have small areas of very bright light surrounded by a really dark area will have light bleed over into the dark area and cause problems. The static contrast ratio takes this into account and shows how well the monitor can deal with a problem such as this.

5.2. Keyboard Keyboards are one of the two standard peripherals directly used for input to your computer. The other being the mouse (see Section 5.3). Keyboards are categorized in many different ways and can have many different options such as media keys, extra USB ports, backlighting, etc. One major divider of keyboards is the switch type. Keyboards that use rubber domes to activate the switch on the circuit board for your keyboard are generally the most common. All the other types are generally grouped as mechanical keyboards. Standard rubber dome keyboards are usually the cheapest as they are the easiest to manufacture. If you arent going to be using your keyboard much - like in the case of a media center computer - a standard keyboard may be good enough for you. Most typists and gamers, who both use their keyboards extensively, prefer to use a mechanical keyboard; though these types of keyboards are not typically present in budget builds or for general use computers. If you are interested in getting a mechanical keyboard or just learning more about them, read this entire section. The different types of switches will be elaborated on later in this section. One major thing you will need to look out for when buying your keyboard is how it hooks up to your computer. There are two major types of connections that keyboards will use. USB is currently the most common, but PS/2 cords are still popular due to not having a problem with key rollover. PS/2 is much older than USB but has not died out because of some of the benefits over the newer USB. NOTE: You will need to make sure that your motherboard has the type of connection required to connect your keyboard to your computer. Most motherboards and keyboards use the USB connection. If you plan to use PS/2, make sure it is supported by your motherboard. A specification for keyboards that you will want to look at is called key rollover. Key rollover is a measure of how well your keyboard can handle multiple keystrokes at one time. Or how many keys you can press simultaneously before the keyboard stops recognizing them. 2-key rollover is the minimum that you will find on a keyboard in most cases. This means that you could press 2 keys at the same time and it would still recognize each keystroke. This could be something like pressing Ctrl + c or using the shift key along with another letter to capitalize it. N-key rollover is used for higher end keyboards as it allows you to press any number of keys at one time and still be recognized by the keyboard. This is useful for many reasons. Some typists tend to hold onto keys as they transfer from one key to another requiring a higher N-key rollover. Those typing in braille will often use multiple keys at one time for a single character. Also, gamers tend to press multiple keys at one time with, so having n-key rollover can be very beneficial to them. As well as having different types of switches and connections, the way that the letters, numbers and symbols are printed onto each individual keycap differs as well. A keycap is the physical thing that you press on your keyboard that covers the switch which is connected to the circuit board located inside your keyboard.

The most common way to put these characters onto your keyboard is by printing them on with ink. This is called pad printing and is the cheapest and is a lot like putting a sticker on each keycap This method, while being efficient and cheap, is also not very effective in the long run. Characters will easily fade over or be worn from use. Because of this problem, different methods of printing characters onto keycaps are used by some manufacturers. Laser etching, dye sublimation and double shot injection molding are other methods used by keyboard manufacturers to print characters onto keycaps. Laser etching is the next most common method of printing characters onto keycaps. It is simply using a laser to etch the character into the keycap. This method doesnt wear down very easily but this method has other problems associated with it. The major one by many is that the characters tend to be blurry as opposed to the crisper lettering that comes from pad printing and the other methods of character printing. The other concern by some is that you can feel the character. This can become less of a problem as the keyboard begins to experience wear. This is the next cheapest and easiest method of printing characters onto the keycaps after pad printing. The other two methods are significantly more difficult and expensive. Dye sublimation is a more expensive way of printing characters than laser etching and pad printing. A die is set into the plastic of the keycap as more than just a layer like with pad printing. This means that the die is deeper into the key so when the key starts to wear down from use, the letter will remain as crisp as before. This method is not very common but some manufacturers still use this for their keyboards or for replacement keycaps. With this method, the letters can be different colors and are much clearer than with laser etching. One slight disadvantage with this method is that you cant print light color characters onto a dark color keycap. You are probably used to seeing black keycaps with white or off-white lettering. Well this is not possible with this method. The most expensive and most difficult method of printing a character onto a keycap is not actually printing it at all. Double shot injection molding uses two parts for the keycap, a base and a cover. The latter being rather thin with the outline of the letter cut out. The base of the keycap actually is of the desired color of the character and has the character physically raised up on the key so that it fits inside the cutout part of the cover perfectly. The keycap is then filled with ink where the character is such that the physical height of the character matches up with the height of the cover. This makes the best keys of all. The character is physically unable to be worn out from the method of how the letter is made. This method of making keycaps with the letters already in them is the most difficult and most expensive way to manufacture. Keyboards very rarely are sold with keycaps made by double shot injection molding. It is easier to purchase new keycaps and use them to replace the keycaps in your keyboard. A term that is used a lot with higher end keyboards is ghosting or anti-ghosting. When certain combinations of keys are pressed at once, your keyboard may register additional keys as being pressed. This is called ghosting, much like if a ghost had pressed one of the keys on your keyboard. Many newer or high end keyboards will have an anti-ghosting technology. Sometimes this means that the last key that is pressed that caused the ghosting is ignored by the keyboard. This is called key blocking and is one technique used to prevent ghosting by your keyboard. The most common way for manufacturers to

prevent ghosting is to arrange the wiring in the keyboard such that the key press combinations that would produce ghosting are less common combinations. This does not solve the problem completely but will, in most cases, cause the problem to almost never happen. If you are not interested in learning more about mechanical keyboard you may skip to the next section of this guide. For the rest of this section I am going to talk about the different types of switches in mechanical keyboards for selecting the right mechanical keyboard for your use. The most common type of switch in mechanical keyboards is the Cherry MX series switches. Another common switch type is the Alps switches. There are six different Cherry MX switches: black, blue, brown, clear, green and red. The two versions of Alps switches are black and white. Topre switches are also something that you might come across and those will be explained as well. Cherry MX switches use a spring underneath the key and the mechanism that completes the circuit to tell the keyboard that the key has been pressed is located off to the side. Each Cherry MX switch has a sort of angled piece that will push the circuit open when it is in the up position and allows the circuit to be tripped when it is in the down position. Cherry MX Black switches can be used easily for rapidly pressing the same button. They provide a smooth feel for actuation and dont give any feedback to your finger to say that it has been fully pressed until it hits the bottom. They are linear switches and are not tactile. This means that the force to press the key changes linearly as shown in force diagram below. Blacks have a rather stiff feel to them and require more force than the others. To read the force diagram, follow the top line from left to right. The corresponding force as you move from left to right on the top line shows the force that the key pushes back on your finger when you are pushing the key down. The bottom line is read from right to left and shows the reaction as you let go of the key.

The next switch in the Cherry MX series is the Cherry MX Red. These are the most common switches and are simply a lighter version of the Cherry MX Blacks. There is no tactile bump, but the ramp on the switch is at less of an angle than with the Cherry MX Black. This means that it takes less force to press a

Cherry MX Red than a Black. The choice between these is personal preference. Here is the force diagram for the Cherry MX Red switch.

Cherry MX Blue switches are not linear like the Reds and Blacks. They are also the switch that differs the most from the other Cherry MX switches in that its mechanism gives a distinct click when it is fully pressed. Cherry MX Blue switches have a bump in the ramp that controls the switch in the circuit as described above. This bump is what is called a tactile switch. This tactile switch gives your finger some feedback in the form of a small click to tell you that the key is about to be fully pressed down. For this type of switch, there is a separate sleeve that has the ramp attached to it. This sleeve drops down after the key has been fully pressed down. This prevents you from repeatedly pressing the key very quickly because the key will have to come all the way back up before it can be pressed again. Cherry MX Blue switches are not generally used by gamers or people who need to rapidly press the same key multiple times in a row. Here is the force diagram for a Cherry MX Blue switch.

Cherry MX Green switches are just like Cherry MX Blues but they are stronger/stiffer. This means that it takes more force to push them down. As of now, there arent any force diagrams available for this type of switch however you can infer what it would look like from the Cherry MX Blue force diagram. The choice between the Cherry MX Green and Cherry MX Blue comes down to personal preference of the

force that it takes to actuate the key. If you prefer the keys to be able to be pressed almost by just the weight of your finger, the lighter Cherry MX Blue switches will be the better choice for you. If you prefer to have a little more resistance to the keys, then the Cherry MX Green switches will probably be your choice. Cherry MX Brown switches are also tactile switches but less so than Cherry MX Blues and Greens. These switches, however, do not have the separate sleeve that drops down after the key is pressed. Because of this, the Cherry MX Brown switch is considered to be the most versatile of the Cherry MX switches. This makes them great for gamers and typists who want to be able to press buttons very quickly. Because of it being tactile, you receive feedback that the button is about to be pressed so that you do not have to press the button completely to know that your keyboard has reacted to the key press. Gamers and typists like this because it can help you to not press the buttons down farther than needed, thus allowing you to type faster. Here is the force diagram for a Cherry MX Brown.

The last of the Cherry MX switches are the Cherry MX Clear switches. These switches are essentially a more tactile version of the Cherry MX Brown switch. The tactile bump on the ramp is larger for the Cherry MX Clear than with the Brown. Because of this, it will take more force to press the key down with the Cherry MX Clear. When making the choice between the Clear and Brown switches, it comes down to personal preference, much like when choosing between a tactile switch and a non-tactile switch. Here is the force diagram for the Cherry MX Clear switch.

All of those switches were from the Cherry MX series of switches. But there are more than just those. There are two common versions of Alps switches that you may find - Black Alps and White Alps. There are other less common versions of Alps switches that you will see on the following force diagram but I wont go into them. Here is a combined Alps switch force diagram.

The Black and White Alps switches are both tactile in nature as you may be able to tell from the force diagram. The main difference between them is what happens after the key is pressed. The Black Alps are most like Cherry MX Clears or Browns while the White Alps are very similar to the Cherry MX Whites which have the distinct click after they are pressed. The last switch that this guide is going to talk about is the Topre switches. These switches are a hybrid between the rubber dome and mechanical switch. They have the distinct click from a mechanical switch as well as the resistance that comes with using a spring, but they also use a rubber dome to surround the spring. When the key is pressed, a change in capacitance occurs that the keyboard can recognize as a key press. These are very nice switches to use but arent as common to find. They come in different actuation forces as shown in the following force diagram.

Those are the basics to mechanical keyboard switches. If there are any that you run across that are not on this list, I urge you to do some research on how the switch works and take a look at the force

diagram. Whenever possible it is a good idea to try out a keyboard before you buy it to know how it feels because mechanical keyboards usually cost upwards of $100. Some may cost less, but it is still a good idea to try it out before buying it. Along with the different switches there are also different stabilizers for the larger buttons like the space bar. Because of the large size of some of the buttons, a stabilizer must be used to assist with pressing the button. This helps to ensure that the keystroke is as smooth as possible to allow for easier and faster typing. The two most common stabilizers you may run across are Costar and Cherry stabilizers. Cherry stabilizers work very much in the same fashion as the keys themselves. These stabilizers use a single metal wire to stabilize the key in one direction. This is effective enough for many users, but comes with its own pros and cons as opposed to the Costar counterparts. The Cherry stabilizers have often been considered easier to repair, but some believe they have a mushy feel to them, much like rubber dome keyboards as opposed to the mechanical feel that comes with the different mechanical switches. Costar stabilizers use a metal retention plate that uniformly moves with the large keys causing the entire key to go up or down as one piece. This gives them a more consistent feel with the other, smaller, keys on the keyboard. Costar stabilizers tend to be harder to repair in comparison to their Cherry counterparts.

5.3. Mouse Along with the keyboard (see Section 5.2), your mouse is a major component that is used for input to your computer. While it is possible to use a computer without a mouse, it is an absolutely terrible idea. What many general computer users dont know is that there are a lot of important things that you should consider when buying the right mouse for the job. While the cheap bargain bin mouse may be good enough for some people, those that use computers often understand that choosing the right mouse is very important to properly enjoying the use of your computer. Like with your keyboard, it is a good idea to try out a mouse before you buy it. If you go to a computer store, ask them to take it out and let you take it for a quick test spin before purchasing it. They will usually let you because some high end mice can cost as much as high end keyboards. First and foremost, there are three main ways that a mouse will connect with your computer. The original and best way to connect a mouse is with a wire through either a PS/2 or USB connection just like with your keyboard. The second way is through a wireless transceiver that will connect to your computer through a USB port and act as a wireless hub. These can either be in the form of a tiny microUSB or a larger hub which was more common when wireless mice first started coming out. The third and final way is through Bluetooth. To connect via Bluetooth, your computer must have a Bluetooth receiver built in. NOTE: You will need to ensure that your motherboard has an open PS/2 or USB slot for your mouse or that your computer has a Bluetooth receiver if you plan to use a Bluetooth mouse. There are different methods that mice use to track movement. The most common methods are laser, optical, trackball and ball/roller mice. Each of these methods have their pros and cons that make them better or worse than the others. The ball method is the oldest of the four methods and is usually the cheapest. This method uses a small ball located on the bottom of the mouse. When this ball moves, three rollers begin to roll. The speed of these three rollers is interpreted by the mouse and outputted to the computer. This method sounds like it may be a very accurate approach; however, because of the ball rolling on the desk, these mice collect dust and dirt very quickly and lose their accuracy from the rollers slipping. Regular ball mice are much less common these days. They have been replaced with the other three types of mice. Optical mice are the most common. These mice use an LED located on the bottom of the mouse to emit light and a light detector is located inside the mouse that allows the mouse to detect the speed that the mouse is moving and the direction of the movement. Because these use LEDs as the light source, optical mice are not very efficient on some surfaces like black surfaces or shiny surfaces. They also do not work very well on transparent surfaces such as glass. Optical mice are cheaper than trackball or laser mice but generally have a lower resolution.

Some mice use a small laser located in the bottom of the mouse to register distance travelled by the mouse by collecting the light emitted by the laser through a light detector much like with optical mice. The only difference in technology between laser and optical mice is the form of light that is emitted. Laser mice are able to work on more surfaces than optical mice because of the type of light used. Laser mice also tend to have higher resolutions than optical mice as well. Those who use trackball mice generally swear that they are the best. These are very hard to get used to because instead of moving the mouse around on the desk, you are rolling a ball that is staying in the same place. Some mice will combine a trackball with an optical or laser mouse to give you the option to use whichever you prefer. Trackballs are generally a more ergonomic (see Section 5.5) option for mice as they allow your hand to rest at a comfortable position without straining the muscles in your wrist or hand much. Professional gamers usually use a trackball mouse or a high resolution laser mouse based entirely on personal preference. Mouse pads are a great way to avoid the problems of optical mice not being able to function to the best of their ability on some surfaces. These are also a great way to ensure that the surface you use your mouse on is clean. Some mouse pads will have a gel wrist rest for comfort. Mouse pads are made in many different shapes, sizes, colors and even the materials they are made out of vary. Some are smooth, while others are rougher. It is all personal preference to use a mouse pad as well as all of the different options. Some companies will even allow you to print your own image onto a mouse pad for a more custom look. When shopping for the right mouse for you, something important is to look at the resolution of the mouse. This is going to be measured in dots per inch (DPI) and is much like the pixels on your computer monitor (see Section 5.1). The DPI of your mouse is a measure of how many pixels the mouse will recognize for every inch of physical movement. The resolution listed in the specifications of a mouse is the maximum DPI for that mouse. Some high DPI mice can have a button on the mouse that allows you to toggle between different DPI settings. Sensitivity can range from 400 DPI to over 6000 DPI for different mice. Resolution is different from sensitivity though. The sensitivity is a setting that can be changed in your system that affects the speed of the mouse as it moves across the screen. Professional gamers tend to use high resolution mice with a high sensitivity to allow for fast and accurate movement. Those that use computers for art or some other uses prefer a lower sensitivity for more control with the position of the mouse. Every mouse has at least one button. Single button mice are not very common; instead most mice will have two main buttons - left and right. Then most modern mice have what is called a scroll wheel which is usually located between the two buttons. Sometimes the scroll wheel will have a button as well that you can use by pressing the wheel all the way down instead of rolling it. This is the most common configuration of buttons but some mice go even further. As mentioned before, some mice can have a button to adjust the resolution on the fly without having to go into your system settings. Many gaming mice will have even more buttons than that. There really is no range for the number of buttons that can be put onto a mouse as that keeps changing all the time as new mice are created. These other buttons

are usually configurable through software provided along with the component and can be set as a specific key or in some cases a combination of keys in the form of a macro. The size of your mouse can differ greatly. More ergonomical designs are larger and are sculpted to the shape of your hand better while some more compact designs are smaller and not hand forming. The more compact mice are generally used for laptops and with people who travel and need to carry a mouse with them that doesnt take up much space. The larger, more ergonomic, designs are generally not used by those who travel a lot and are generally at stationary computers much like the one you are probably trying to build. It is a good idea to find a mouse that fits to the shape of your hand well and is not awkward to use. Some higher end mice have even started allowing for size customization by allowing you to change the length and width of the mouse to fit your hand best. Weight and weight distribution is more of a personal preference and is not often looked at by the general consumer. Some high end mice have ways to adjust the weight and distribution of that weight within the mouse for the best possible experience with that mouse. As I mentioned, this is all personal preference and if you are looking for the perfect mouse without looking at a budget, it would be a good idea to try out differently weighted mice and decide which you prefer.

5.4. Audio Devices There are many different types of devices used with computers to play and record audio. Each device comes with its own set of pros and cons as described in this section. Most computer owners use a set of speakers for playing the sound from their computer but this is far from the only option. Personal audio devices such as headphones are also very popular among many people. Headphones come in many different styles. There is a lot to know so you can choose the proper audio device. To understand the many different audio devices, there is some important basic information about audio that needs to be understood first. There are three main sections of sound that is reproduced by a sound system. These three sections are treble, midrange and bass. Some people will divide this even further with high bass or mid-bass being the area between the midrange and bass and the high midrange or low treble as being the area between the midrange and bass. The treble sounds are the higher frequency sounds that make high pitched sounds such as a flute or other high sounding instrument. The bass sounds are the low frequency sounds such as a drum. The sounds between the treble and bass are called midrange. 5.4.1. Speakers Speakers are a very wide subject. They can vary a great deal across the board in terms of functionality, quality and volume. Some speakers are specialized to be better at only certain ranges of sound. There are three main types of speakers as well which can sometimes be integrated into a single unit with multiple speakers inside. These three main types are tweeters, midrange and subwoofers. The tweeters are designed to handle the high treble sounds and are generally very small. Midrange speakers are generally larger than tweeters and are designed to handle the midrange sounds better. The last type, subwoofers, is the largest of the three because they are designed for the low bass sounds. It is not uncommon for two or three of these to be combined. For computer speakers, it is common to have all three combined or to have the tweeter and midrange speakers combined with a separate subwoofer unit. Speaker systems are labeled by the number of midrange (or midrange and tweeter combo) speakers and dedicated subwoofers present. Tweeters that are separate from a midrange speaker are not common for computer speakers or even for home theater systems. Therefore, tweeters are not counted in the labeling of a speaker system normally. For computers, the most common are 2.0 or 2.1 sound systems. This denotes that there are two midrange or general speakers and either one or zero subwoofers. Having more than one subwoofer is very uncommon especially for computer systems. Speaker systems designed for use with computers can also come in 4.1, 5.1 or even 7.1 occasionally. These three are much less common and are generally much more expensive.

Speakers can also come integrated into many monitors. These integrated speakers are usually of a lower quality but can be more convenient than a separate speaker system. There are also sound bars which combine the front left and right speakers into one unit. In terms of functionality, there are some extra options that some speaker systems have that make them stand apart from the rest. Some computer speaker systems will have a volume control with can either be as a separate unit or can be on one of the speakers or the subwoofer unit. Some speaker systems even have a built in equalizer to allow you to raise or lower the treble or bass for better quality sound.

5.4.2. Headphones Headphones can have better quality than most general computer speaker sets. This is because they control the environment of sound much better. If done properly, a set of computer speakers can have the best sound of all, but headphones dont have that problem because they control the environment for optimal sound. There are two general types of headphones; these being on-ear and over-ear headphones. These two subsections of headphones are fairly self-explanatory. On-ear headphones sit lightly on the outside of the ear. People using these on-ear headphones often notice pain on the ear after prolonged use because of the stress being put on the ear to prevent the headphones from falling off. Over-ear headphones are designed to lower the amount of stress on the ear during use by holding on around the ear. These over-ear headphones dont always remove all of the strain as sometimes they can still push the ear in but they will lower the strain and allow for more comfort during longer uses. These over-ear headphones are more expensive because they are more difficult to produce and require more material but are worth it when long uses may be necessary.

5.4.3. Headsets Headsets are simply just headphones with microphones attached and are most commonly used by online gamers. This is because of the convenience of a microphone for talking with other players and for the quality of the sound. Having a microphone and headphones in a single unit also cuts down on the amount of cords and plugs that need to be attached to the computer. It is also a good idea to use a microphone with a personal audio device such as headphones because it reduces feedback caused by the microphone picking up audio from speakers and amplifying it in a loop until it becomes a loud high pitched noise. Since personal audio devices lower the amount of sound that goes into the environment where the microphone could pick it up, feedback is basically eliminated. Headsets are nearly always over-ear but there are some headsets that use on-ear headphones instead. These are generally cheaper and lower quality but are not always a bad decision if a headphone/microphone unit is needed but the over-ear style is not affordable.

5.4.4. Earphones There is a very large range in audio quality among earphones or in ear monitors. Some earphones have very high quality audio but will be very costly while there are many cheap options for earphones that provide low to mid quality audio at a very low price. Earphones are inserted into the ear and come in many different shapes and sizes for comfort and fit. The low end of earphones are designed for portability and convenience while the higher end of earphones have very good sound quality and are designed for more comfort during extended use. Because earphones are inserted into the ear, the sound that reaches our ear will be less distorted than that by speakers or headphones. Higher end earphones are designed for more comfort during extended use but are not always for everyone. Depending on the shape and size of your ear, earphones may not be as comfortable as over-ear headphones or headsets may be for extended use.

5.5. Other Peripherals When most people think of computer peripherals, they generally think of mice, keyboards and monitors. Some people may even consider the desk and chair to be peripherals. They are also very important aspects of the computer that are not a direct part of the tower itself. For those that use computers often, having good ergonomics with your peripherals is important and this includes having a good desk and chair. There are also ergonomic mice and keyboards that can also be useful for those that spend their day at the computer. If you do not know what ergonomics are, the Merriam-Webster dictionary does a good job of describing it. Ergonomics (n): an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. Having an ergonomically sound setup will help you to be able to work longer on the computer without experiencing discomfort. Getting a desk at a comfortable height and a comfortable chair that can adjust will help a great amount with having an ergonomically sound setup. Even with the most ergonomic of setups, you should still take periodic breaks. Get up and walk around for a bit every hour or two. Taking a break to get a drink or grab a snack in the middle of playing games will give your eyes and your brain a break to allow you to come back to the computer at your best. Staring at a computer monitor for too long has negative effects on vision and can cause headaches or even migraines. There is a new product on the market that should lower the strain on your eyes from staring at a computer monitor for long periods of time and claim to enhance the experience. Computer glasses have recently hit the market. There arent many reviews on these products yet as they are very new to the market at the moment.

6. Ordering Parts
Once you have selected all of the components and peripherals that you want, the next step is to purchase them. Luckily you will have many options online. There are a few computer stores that have many of the components that you will want but the best place to find all of the parts you have chosen is to search the internet for them. It is a good idea to monitor prices and sales. If a budget is an issue, giving you more time to order the parts to get the best deals will be beneficial. Rebates and combo deals are very common for computer part stores as well as other types of deals. Many stores will give you deals with ordering a cpu and motherboard together or purchasing a graphics card with a motherboard. Some cases will come with power supplies or may have deals when purchased with a certain power supply. There are two types of rebates that are common with ordering computer parts; instant and mail-in rebates. Instant rebates are usually issued by the seller and are the best because they will be applied at the point of purchase. Mail-in rebates are usually issued by the manufacturer and require that the proof of purchase, receipt and another form be mailed to a rebate processing center that will then mail a prepaid card or check back to the amount of of the rebate. The problem with mail-in rebates is that they can generally take a long time to process and require them to be mailed in within a certain amount of time after purchasing the part. Some companies will also guarantee a lowest price by price matching another companys advertised price and will occasionally take a percentage off of that lower price to give the best deal. Keep this in mind as you research the lowest price on your components and dont be afraid to change your build around to accommodate a fluctuating market. You might be able to get better components for cheaper than you had anticipated.

7. Putting It Together
Now that youve purchased all of your parts, it is time to put them all together. This should walk you step by step on how to put your computer together. Since not all cases are the same, it is a good idea to check the reviews for your case online for tips when you put your parts inside and it is also a good idea to reference the product manual for your case if there is any specific order that it recommends that you install your parts that is different from what is recommended in this guide. For most cases this should not be a problem but with mini tower cases, this could be an issue you might face (see Section 4.8.1). 7.1. Installing Components There are a few tools that you should get ahold of before attempting to assemble your computer. The most important tool is an electronics screwdriver. This is usually a small non-magnetized screwdriver; you should get both phillips head and flat head screwdrivers. Any other specialized tools to install components should be included with the component itself. Zip ties are also a great idea for cable management (see Section 7.2). Try to avoid large, heavy and bulky tools; you dont want to damage your components while putting them into the case. Treat every component with care as if it is very fragile. So the first step to installing your new components is to open your case up and make sure there is no dirt or dust. If it is dirty, then give it a good cleaning. If there is just dust then you can blow it out with compressed air or shake the case to get it all out. Most cases will have two removable side panels, on on each side. If your case has removable side panels on both sides then remove these. Since there is only one place for a power supply to go in most cases, you should install that into the case first. Install the power supply without any modular cables attached to it and plug those in directly after installing the PSU. First take the PSU out of the case and place it into the case in the power supply spot. Use the screws that were included with your PSU to screw it into place. If you have not already, now would be a good time to read over the next two sections in this guide about cable management (see Section 7.2) and airflow (see Section 7.3) before adding anything else into the case. These sections will teach you how to place components to get the best airflow and how to organize your cables for a cleaner looking computer and so that cables dont get caught in any fans. After installing the PSU without any modular cables attached, you should install your storage devices such as HDDs and SSDs without attaching any cables to them yet. If you have more than one of these devices, you should place them at least one slot away from each other if possible. This will allow for them to have more air flowing around them for cooling reasons. If this is not possible, SSDs take up less space so using one between HDDS will also help with airflow around the drives. Some cases will have quick release or screwless mounting brackets that make installing these drives easier. Others will require you to screw the drive in on both sides. You may have to remove a mounting bracket and screw the drive into that and then replace the mounting bracket. The screwless method is the easiest and makes it very easy to upgrade your system with new drives without too much trouble messing with screws.

Optical disk drives and anything going in any of the 5.25 external drive bays in your case should go in next. This is because sometimes you will need to remove the front bezel on your case to do this. After you put the drive in place, you should screw it into the case in at least three points, usually four, to secure it in the exact position that you want it. Many cases will allow for the drive to slide forward and backward a decent amount until it is secured by screws. You should make sure that it is in the correct position before tightening the screws. Dont attach any cables yet unless they will be too difficult to reach later. Having to work around excess cables can make assembly very frustrating. Now is the time to install the motherboard after all of the other hardware has been installed into your case. You should now take your motherboard out of the anti-static sleeve that it came in and look at the position of the holes that will be needed to screw the board in. You can set it into the case to make note of which holes will be used but be sure to set it back down on the anti-static sleeve when you are done. Your case or your motherboard should have come with some little silver or gold screws that are called standoffs. They will be different from regular screws. One end will be threaded to screw into the case and the other will be threaded so that you can put another screw inside of it. Put the standoffs into the case at all of the screw holes that your motherboard will need to use by screwing them in by hand. This is very important. If you skip this step then the solder points on the bottom of your motherboard will short circuit with the metal on your case and could cause damage to your motherboard and possibly make it unusable. After the standoffs have been put into place, you should put the I/O panel cover into your case. This cover should be in the box for your motherboard. This cover cannot be put in after you motherboard has been put into place so make sure to do that now. And finally you can put the motherboard in your case. Use the screws that were included with your motherboard and screw it in at all points that should be connected to the case. NOTE: Do not attach any power connectors to the motherboard while it is sitting on the anti-static sleeve as this will short out the motherboard and damage the board. After the motherboard has been placed, you should start to run your cables. Start with the front panel cables on your case. You may need to refer to the manuals included with your motherboard and case to ensure that the cables are being plugged into the proper place on your motherboard. If there are any USB devices on the front panel, plug these into the proper USB ports on your motherboard. These will either be USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 and should be labeled on the plug intended for your motherboard which it is. If there are any front panel audio cables that need to be plugged in, there should be a place on your motherboard that is meant for this so plug that in too. Now, if you havent already, install all of the components that go into PCI or PCIe slots and all of your RAM into the proper slots on your motherboard. These should be rather simple to install. Now you can start to plug in PSU cables. If there is a side panel to hide these cables, use it. This will make your computer look cleaner and will prevent cables from interfering with the airflow in your case

or getting caught up in any fans. Run all power cables from your power supply to all components in your case. If the CPU power connection cannot be reached by passing the cable behind the motherboard in the side panel then you will need to install all of your PCI and PCIe components before running this cable up to the CPU power from your PSU. Be sure to run power to both places on your motherboard, each of the components that are in the 5.25 external drive bays and to each of your internal storage devices. Also be sure to plug in any PCIe power connectors that you may need. Use zip ties wherever necessary to keep cables together and organized. Once all of these power cables have been attached, you can install your CPU. Make sure to open up the CPU slot, usually by lifting up a lever, and putting the CPU into the slot in the correct orientation. If you are unsure of the proper orientation, refer to the documentation that came with your CPU and motherboard. After the CPU has been placed into the motherboard, put down the lever to lock it. After the CPU has been seated in the CPU slot on your motherboard you should install the CPU cooler. Follow the instructions that came with your CPU cooler to install it since there are many different ways that CPU coolers will need to be attached. Most CPU coolers will need to be plugged into the CPU fan header which is usually located near the CPU for easy access. Plug the CPU fan header into the motherboard. You should now attach all of the SATA or IDE cables to your SATA or IDE devices. Most likely you will be using SATA but you may still have a board that supports IDE. Dont forget to keep these cables organized as well. While SATA and IDE cables are not very likely to get caught up in a fan, they may still get in the way of your airflow or take away from the clean look that you have been trying so hard to achieve with your other cables. The last thing that I suggest putting into your case are the fans. Some fans may need to be attached sooner in the build but in most cases, fans can be easily installed at the end of your build. The cables from fans are the most likely to get caught up in fans which could damage the cables or, at the very least, add lots of annoying noise to your case. It is very important to keep these cables under control in any way possible. After screwing in the fans, attach them to the motherboard fan headers. Now you should be ready to plug your computer in and turn it on. Go ahead and give it a try. It should boot up into the BIOS. Now you should install your operating system (see Section 8.1) and get started with installing drivers (see Section 8.2) from the included discs with your components and installing other software you might want (see Section 8.3).

7.2. Internal Cable Management When assembling all of the components of your computer together inside your case, it is important to keep all of your cables under control. This is usually called cable management and is a very important part of building any computer. A computer with poor cable management can have many problems. Cables can get caught in fans which could damage the cable and the fan, or at the very least, disrupt your airflow and add lots of unwanted noise. Loose cables also look messy in a case and take a lot away from the aesthetics of any build. In any computer, there are a number of cables to organize which can get very difficult. Do not expect to have perfect cable maintenance on your first try. Many experienced builders have spent a lot of time practicing cable maintenance by building multiple computers. The cables that you should really pay attention to are the ones connected to your PSU (see Section 4.7) and the ones leading from your fans (see Section 4.8.2). It is common practice to use cable sleeves around the power supply cables. This will keep them together and make organization simpler in most cases. Zip ties and clamps are also used commonly to tie the cables to the case to restrict movement of the cable within the case. Many cases (see Section 4.8.1) will come with holes that lead to an area behind the motherboard that is most commonly used for cable maintenance. Sometimes these holes will have rubber grommets for looks. These rubber grommets will allow cables to pass through them but will help to hide the area of the case behind the motherboard where you run your cables through. Not all cases have an area like this to help with cable maintenance. These cases are much more difficult to work with a little creativity; an experienced builder can still make the cables look organized and out of the way. Fan cables are a little more difficult to organize. These cables are small and are generally much longer than they need to be. They also arent very easily used with the back section of the case that is usually used for cable maintenance. For this, using zip ties and occasionally sleeves will make this much easier. You might have to get creative with the placement of your fan cables, but be sure to keep them away from the fan blades. The cables that get caught in fans are most commonly the cables that come from the fans. This is because they are small and are already located near the fan.

7.3. Airflow Every computer builder should be concerned with the flow of air through their computer case. Just putting fans (see Section 4.8.2) into a computer case to blow over components is not enough to prevent damage and loss of performance from too much heat. To properly cool a computer, you must plan for proper airflow. Even when choosing a liquid cooling system, airflow is very important. Many components in a computer perform better when they are cooler, but the more they are working, the more heat they produce. Too much heat around a certain component can cause irreversible damage to that component. The first thing to note about proper airflow is that heat rises. This means that its not really a good idea to try to pump heat out of the bottom of your case. Instead, it is usually a better idea to pump cool air in from the bottom and sides of the case and exhaust the hot air from the top of the case. Generally intake points for a case include the lower part of the front or bottom of the case. Common exhaust points are the upper part of the rear or the top of the case. The sides of the case can be used for either depending on what is needed at that point. A good case (see Section 4.8.1) in terms of airflow will have lots of mesh and fan slots to allow for lots of air to pass through the case to move more hot air out of the case. Dont feel like you need to fill up every fan slot in your case if that is a concern with your budget or other requirements. The only disadvantage to leaving a fan slot open is the possibility of dust being able to enter your system more easily. As long as you clean out your system often (see Section 9.2), the dust shouldnt become much of a problem in your computer. All fans have the ability to either push air into your case or pull air out of it. In the area of liquid cooling (see Section 4.9.1), using fans on both sides of a radiator is called push/pull configuration. This is because the air is being pushed through the radiator by one fan and then pulled out by the other fan. Generally a fan that moves air from an area with a lower pressure to an area with a higher pressure (i.e. intake fans) is called a push fan. In the inverse case, a fan that moves air from an area with a higher pressure to an area with a lower pressure (i.e. exhaust fans) is called a pull fan. Air should be moving smoothly through the entire case to prevent hot air from pooling in one area of the case. Dust is the biggest threat to a computer, damage due to dust can be prevented by having a higher pressure in the case than in the atmosphere surrounding the case. Having a higher pressure in the case will help to prevent dust from settling and causing damage to the components. High pressure is created by setting up fans such that there is more air intake than exhaust. While having high pressure is important, it is not a good idea to set up all fans as intake fans to create a very high pressure. Having only intake fans will cause the hot air to pool in the case and will make the components overheat more quickly and will cause them to perform less efficiently and could cause damage. Plan to have both intake and exhaust fans while still creating a high pressure in the case for the best results.

When putting components in expansion slots such as the PCI or PCIe slots, it is good to leave room between the components whenever possible. This allows for more air to flow around the component, keeping it from overheating and potentially damaging your components. This is a bigger problem with GPUs (see Section 4.5.1) than most other components that go in this area. This is because GPUs tend to get hotter than typical components that go such as wireless adapters and sound cards which generate less heat than a GPU does. Many GPUs will come with a fan built in, which is great as long as you leave room in your case for that fan to be effective. Many PC builders will plan out the airflow of their case before even getting it. This is done by taking a picture of the case and drawing arrows into and out of the case to show intake and exhaust. They will also sketch in their components sometimes and mark out areas of concern for hot air to sit. By doing this they can take precautions to make sure that enough air flows around all of the components and areas of concern. It can also help to choose which fans will be needed. For example, if a case has 2 intake fan slots but 7 exhaust slots, instead of turning some exhaust slots into intake slots, which could throw off the linear flow of air, a builder could choose to use some higher volume flow fans for intake and fans that dont move as much air for exhaust fans. This was an exaggeration, you probably wont ever find a case with only a couple intake slots and that many exhaust slots. If you leave one slot open without a fan for exhaust, it will help prevent problems with too much pressure because exhaust fans can sometimes bottleneck the air in the case if they arent able to move enough air fast enough out of the case. By leaving a slot open, the air can leave the case as fast as it needs to without potentially being slowed down by a fan.

8. Operating System, Drivers and Software


So far we have covered the hardware side of building a computer, but choosing the right operating system and software for your computer is also important. Your operating system is going to be the main link between you and your new computer. The software you choose will help you make the most out of your system. Drivers are important for any hardware you use such as graphics cards and sound cards (see Section 4.5) and even your mouse and keyboard. 8.1. Operating System There are generally only three main operating systems used with desktop computers. There are many more than three that exist, but there are three that are used much more commonly than the rest. These three are Microsofts Windows, Apples Macintosh (Mac) OSX, and Linux. Both Windows and Mac OS are closed source which means that you do not have access to their source code while Linux is completely open source. The most common operating system is Windows with Mac OSX in second. Linux is used most commonly by those who know more about technology and usually have a basic understanding of programming. Over the past decade or so, Apples Mac OSX has grown significantly among certain groups of people. It is more common in the artistic crowd such as video and audio editing as well as animation. Mac OSX was designed to run on computers built by Apple, so installing them on a computer requires part compatibility with the OS as well as with each other. The term hackintosh is used with a custom built computer running a Mac OSX operating system. As the result of an advertising campaign by Apple, some people associate the term PC with a computer running Windows. The term PC stands for personal computer and any computer used for personal reasons, no matter what operating system it uses, falls under the category of PC. Each operating system has a different way of organizing files. The way an operating system organizes files is called the file system. A storage device must be set up on a certain file system to run the operating system which uses that file system. Setting up the storage device to run a certain file system is called partitioning the drive. Most operating system installers are able to run you through partitioning your storage device. It should be rather simple if you are using any of the three major operating systems. If you are using any operating system other than the main three or are using an older version of the operating system, then it may not be as simple to partition a drive for that operating system. There are two main methods to installing an operating system on a system. The first and easiest way is by using a CD or DVD containing the required installation files for the operating system. Operating systems are sold in this fashion and are intended for installation this way. Some computer builders prefer not to have an optical disk drive as a part of their system. To get around this, an optical drive can be temporarily rigged into the system just to install the operating system. Another option would be to use an external optical disk drive that plugs into the system by way of a USB port. A third option, without the use of an optical drive at all would be to use a USB storage device, sometimes referred to as a flash drive or thumb drive. This can be done by using another computer to unpack the operating

system files onto a flash drive and making it a bootable device. There are certain programs out there that can help with this. Installing through a USB port, whether by flash drive or by external optical disk drive, is the slowest method and can take a great deal of time to complete. Some operating system disks will be upgrade disks that will require a previous version of the operating system to install properly. This is most common on the Windows and Mac OSX operating systems. If you do not have a previous version of the operating system, you will need a full install disk to install that operating system onto your computer. Each operating system has its pros and cons. For Linux, it is completely free and has a very knowledgeable user base. However it is the hardest to maintain without a decent technical background. Linux also has far fewer programs. Windows has the largest number of programs written for it and is the most common operating system. It is very easy to troubleshoot problems with Windows because of the large user base. Computers running Windows are also the most susceptible to getting infected by viruses, malware, etc. Windows can also be pretty expensive for a license to install on your computer. Mac OSX can also be expensive just like Windows. Mac OSX has a smaller number of professional programs written for it than Windows and smaller user base making it harder to troubleshoot when you have a problem. It becomes even harder if it is a problem with a hackintosh since that user base is fairly small. Mac OSX is not very susceptible to viruses and malware unlike Windows partially because there arent many that have been written to infect computers running Mac OSX yet. It is possible to install multiple operating systems on one machine however, only one may be running at any given time. Having two operating systems on one machine is often referred to as dual-booting. Dualbooting Windows and Linux is the most common among computers running multiple operating systems. To do this, you will need to have multiple partitions on your system for the different operating systems. You will also need to set something up to prompt which operating system to boot from.

8.2. Drivers & BIOS The way a computer knows how to load an operating system is through a Basic Input/Output System, also called a BIOS. The way an operating system knows how to communicate with your hardware is through something called a driver. Both of these things are required for the normal functions of any computer. It is a good idea to update your drivers often and know how to update your BIOS in case of problems. 8.2.1. BIOS The BIOS is a very powerful part of the system. Without the BIOS, a computer will be completely unable to run. The BIOS should have the basic drivers for a keyboard, and sometimes a mouse as well, installed in every version of the BIOS. The BIOS is the main user interface behind an operating system that allows for control of the voltages to things such as RAM and CPU. This is very important with overclocking (see Section 4.9.4) since it involves changing the voltages to these components to get better performance out of them. Updating the BIOS is often referred to as flashing the BIOS. Many times the base BIOS version on a motherboard will have updates available that will fix problems. It is a good idea to update the BIOS when first building the computer and keep an eye out for new updates. Updating the BIOS can be dangerous sometimes but can also speed up the system and make it run safer and smoother with a successful upgrade. Upgrading the BIOS to the most recent version is generally a good idea when first putting the computer together. Some motherboards have implemented a way of allowing the system to connect to the internet and update the BIOS to the latest version by pressing a button or by choosing to do so in the BIOS settings. Others will allow for updating directly from a flash drive by placing the newer version of the BIOS onto a flash drive and updating either by pressing a button or by choosing to do so in the BIOS settings. These two technologies are not always available so you will need to reference the manual for your motherboard to find out how to flash or update the BIOS.

8.2.2. Drivers Basic drivers for components such as keyboards, mice, networking, monitors and more will usually be packaged with the operating system to allow for basic use. When first putting a computer together, many components will come with CDs that contain proper drivers and often times their own third party software. It is important to install all of these drivers when a computer is first being built to ensure that the components will run properly with the system. It is also important to update to the most recent drivers by going to the motherboard manufacturers website and downloading them. To update drivers, an operating system will need to be installed. For Microsoft driver updates, the update file will usually have a .exe file extension but there are other extensions that may be used. Download the driver update file and run it. Sometimes updating a driver will require a system reboot to finish which will be indicated after the driver has been updated with a prompt asking to reboot the system. Rebooting the system either after each update that requires it or after all updates have been implemented should not matter as long as the system gets rebooted. Since there are so many drivers out there, it is hard to keep track of new updates as they can be released at any time. There are driver update management programs that will make sure you keep up to date but these are not always available for everything. The most important drivers to keep on top of are those for graphics cards, sound cards and other similar components. These will usually be located on the manufacturers website and should be checked for newer updates regularly. Checking for new updates every few months is a good idea.

8.3. Software After a computer has been built, the operating system has been installed, and all drivers have been installed and updated. The next thing everyone wants to do is install all their favorite software. This section will cover basic software compatibility as well as what types of software are out there relating to PC performance. 8.3.1. Compatibility Not all software is compatible for different versions of the same operating system; however there are still many options out there. Programs that may have once run on old operating systems such as Windows 98 will most likely not run on a newer operating system such as Windows 8. Most programs will still be compatible for one or two operating systems to each side (newer and older) of the operating system that it was designed to run on. As operating system developers create newer operating systems, there can be many changes affecting software compatibility. To combat this, software developers will make updates to their software for a while to support the changes between operating systems. Software developers are also working on updating their software as well adding newer features and making changes. Eventually an older version of the software becomes outdated and stops being supported which causes problems with compatibility for use with future operating systems. Windows has a compatibility mode feature built into the programming to assist users who insist on running software designed for an older version of the Windows OS. Using this feature is usually quite simple within Windows. Simply go into the properties of the program (usually right click on the icon and click on properties) and then go to the compatibility tab. One of the options in this tab is to run the program in compatibility mode. Enabling this option allows for a previous version of the Windows OS to be selected. Choosing the OS that the software was designed for in the compatibility mode for that program will usually solve most or all of the bugs that the software would experience with a newer, unsupported, version of the Windows operating system. Be aware that not all older software will run as well as it had on older operating systems. There may still be bugs. Creating a virtual machine can sometimes solve these compatibility issues but that topic will not be covered in this guide. There will always be a never ending battle between software developers, operating system developers and PC users over the compatibility of software on different systems.

8.3.2. Performance Monitoring and Testing There are many methods of performance monitoring and testing for computers these days. Both hardware and software methods can be used, and some systems will use a combination of both by using hardware to relay certain data to software on the system to be displayed on the computer for monitoring or adjustment. There are different types of software for monitoring or adjusting things such as fan speeds, lighting colors and effects, temperatures and even power distribution. Performance monitoring software can display information in many ways. Many of these pieces of software allow for the user to customize the display of their information, occasionally by displaying it on the users desktop in gadget-like form. Other performance monitoring software will display the information in a window and can even provide the user with ways to adjust things such as fan speeds on the fly to change the way their system performs. There are also different types of software that are used to testing the limits of a system. These are called benchmarking software. Often controversial in the PC building community, benchmarking programs are used to place simplified numerical values on the overall performance of a system. Many computer enthusiasts take these benchmarking scores with little confidence since they often weigh aspects of performance differently than what enthusiasts might weigh them. A benchmarking score is computed with an algorithm combining the settings, the minimum frames per second (fps), the average fps and the maximum fps while running a simulation defined by the benchmarking software developer that is supposed to test out all aspects of performance of your hardware. Some people use these scores to compare their system to the systems of other people. Benchmarking programs are also good for breaking in certain aspects of a system. Since a benchmarking program is designed to push the limits of the different aspects of your system, it can be used as a load bearing program for breaking in a GPU or for when new thermal paste needs heat to set properly.

9. Cleaning and Maintenance


Every computer requires maintenance over time. There is no way to protect your computer from everything. Monitors need cleaning, keyboards need cleaning and dusting, your case will need to be cleaned out on a regular basis as well. This is all a part of owning a computer. 9.1. Mice & Keyboards You should clean your mouse and keyboard out a few times a year or as needed. As much as you try to keep it clean, even dust particles will begin to collect inside your keyboard and dirt will begin to collect on your mouse. It is a good practice to clean them regularly as well as when they get dirty. Cleaning a mouse is very simple, for most mice you can just wipe the dirt from the pads on the bottom with a rag. You can get special electronics cleaning spray which will clean off your electronics as well as the areas around them without causing damage to the circuits inside if the spray happens to come in contact with them. If the dirt is still suck on the bottom of the mouse, it may take require a little scraping. Dont use anything too sharp and cut up the bottom of your mouse. You should take your rag and place it over the area you are trying to clean and scrape over the rag with your fingernail. This will prevent damage to your mouse and will not take the pads off of the bottom of your mouse with the dirt. For mice that use a rolling ball on the bottom for movement (see Section 5.3), you will need to take the ball out and clean the dirt and dust from the three rollers inside the mouse. You should also blow out any remaining dust from inside. If you do not want to blow inside with your mouth, a can of compressed air will work quite nicely. Also blow the dust from the ball and wipe it off with a rag before putting it back in the mouse. If you have an optical or laser mouse, you can clean off the window to the sensor you can dampen a cloth with a little bit of window cleaner or screen cleaner and wipe over the sensor. If there is no window protecting the sensor in your mouse, do not clean the exposed sensor. Instead blow on it with compressed air. To clean the top of your mouse, wipe it off with a damp clean cloth and make sure the dirt is all gone. Some mice may have other cleaning requirements. If you have a non-standard mouse, it is a good idea to check the reference materials that came with your mouse. Cleaning off a keyboard can be a little more difficult than cleaning off a mouse. Mechanical keyboards will have a slightly different procedure for a deep clean than the standard rubber dome keyboards. You should know if your keyboard is mechanical or not when you buy it (see Section 5.2). A quick cleaning of your keyboard will be the same. A complete clean is not necessary but once or twice a year or as needed. Quick cleaning is more common and should be done at least 4 times a year when you clean your case (see Section 9.2). For a deep clean of your standard keyboard you will need a small flat head screwdriver, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, a clean lint-free rag and compressed air. You will first need to make sure to note the position of all of your keys, if you forget the position of each letter, just remember the style of keyboard (usually QWERTY) and look up a pattern online. Just remember that your keyboard will be disconnected

and not working so you may need to look it up before cleaning. You will start by unplugging your keyboard from your computer. You will be using the flat head screwdriver to remove all of the keys (also called key caps) in your keyboard. There are other tools that you can purchase that are specifically for removing keys but a screwdriver is usually sufficient for this task. But first you should turn it upside down and try to shake out any debris inside the keyboard. All keys have the ability to be removed for a standard keyboard but some of them are more difficult to replace than others. You may want to consider leaving the larger keys such as the spacebar or enter/return key in place while you clean your keyboard. To remove a key, place the flat head screwdriver underneath the key that you want to remove and gently pry upwards to remove the key. As you remove keys from your keyboard you should use the cloth or cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol to clean each individual key. After all of the keys have been removed, use the compressed air to blow out dust as you hold the keyboard upside down to remove any loose debris. After you have gotten as much out of the keyboard as you can with the compressed air, you should place the keyboard flat on the desk again. Using the rubbing alcohol with the cotton swabs, clean out the area that would be below the keys to remove any dirt that still remains. When you are done, wipe over it with the cloth. To replace the keys to your keyboard after removing them, put them in the proper position and carefully push them until they click into place. Do this will all of your keys and then wipe down your keyboard quickly with a cloth and plug it back into your computer. Make sure that all of the keys function properly after plugging it in and that all keys are completely seated. Mechanical Keyboards are a little more difficult to take apart. While each keyboard has its own way of opening up, they are all fairly similar. Check the reference material that came with your keyboard for any additional instructions on disassembly, reassembly or cleaning. You should also check to make sure that rubbing alcohol will not damage the keys. Some brands, including Filco, use a coating on them that can be damaged by rubbing alcohol. If this is the case, use water instead but be cautious not to use too much and damage your keyboard. For mechanical keyboards, you will not only need to clean the keys and the area underneath them, but you should also clean the circuitry with rubbing alcohol as well. First you will need to remove the keys as described above by using a flat head screwdriver. Then you will need to open up the keyboard and remove the casing. There will usually be screws on the bottom holding it together. Be sure to remove all screws and be aware of any tabs that could be holding the two parts of the casing together. Take these apart and take the circuitry out. You can clean your keys and casing using water and soap or by simply throwing them in the dishwasher. Dont worry, this is safe. Now is the real tricky part. Different mechanical keyboards use different types of switches (see Section 5.2) and different types of switches have different requirements for how to clean them. The simplest board to clean is one that uses Topre switches. This board just needs to be rinsed with distilled water. Be sure to use distilled water and not tap water because the minerals in the tap water can leave residues that can quickly damage the board. Make sure the water is not hot or cold, that it is room temperature. Quick changes in temperature can also damage your keyboard so avoid these by

using room temperature distilled water. If you notice any dirt, dust, food or other substance that should not be inside your keyboard, scrub it with just your finger to prevent any damage. Do not use a brush to scrub the board as it could wear down the PCB and make your keyboard more vulnerable to damage. It is not a good idea to dry the circuit board with a blow dryer or other heat source unless you are very careful. If you are in a hurry for it to dry, compressed air will work quite nicely, but nothing is as effective as setting it out to air dry. Boards that use either Cherry MX switches or Alps switches can be cleaned in much the same way as each other. To clean these boards, completely submerge them in distilled water; do not use tap water unless you put it through a water purifier. Using a large container for the water such as a sink is a good idea but a simple tupperware box will do just fine to save water. After the board has been submerged and is fully soaked. Shake the board very quickly in the distilled water to make sure that the water gets into the switches and cleans all of the hard to reach places. It is not recommended to use a blow dryer for these boards as well unless you are extremely careful not to leave it in one place for very long. The best way to dry the board is to let it air dry by setting it upside down and then sideways like with the Topre switches. Compressed air can also be used but it is important to make sure all water is gone from the board and that it is completely dry before returning it to its case. For any keyboard that you deep clean, you should make sure to leave all parts out for at least four to five hours to dry. Leaving it out overnight is the best. But having any water or wetness on the board during use could permanently damage your board and will probably have voided any warranties you may have gotten on the keyboard. All parts must be completely dry to avoid this damage.

9.2. Case You should clean out your case at least every three months to get dust particles that have collected in your case out to prevent damage to any of your components. If you have a liquid cooled system (see Section 4.9.1), then you will have to do more maintenance on your system than what is described in this section. For that maintenance, refer to the liquid cooling section of this guide. It is recommended that you clean out your case every three months, or four times per year. If you are in a dusty environment you may want to clean it out as often as every month. For this, you should get a can of compressed air or another compressed air system to blow out all of the dust inside your case. You should make sure to dust out all of the corners of your case and pay special attention to your fans. Your fans will collect the most dust in your system as that is generally how the dust gets into your computer. You should make sure to blow off dust from both sides of all of your fans. Also clean off your CPU fan (see Section 4.10) really well if it uses a fan. It is not usually a good idea to take out your components to clean them after they have been installed. For some components such as the GPU or RAM, this may be safe; however, for other components such as the CPU, this can be very dangerous and potentially cause damage to your system. If you used thermal paste with a component, you should not remove that component (see Section 4.11).

9.3. Monitor You should clean your monitor off as needed. There really is no need to clean it off if it isnt dirty. If you are using a CRT monitor with a glass screen, it might be fine to just dampen a cloth with window cleaner and wipe off the screen that way. If your monitor does not have a glass screen, do not clean it this way. For these screens, you will need to purchase LCD screen cleaner. Using a microfiber cloth and the screen cleaner, gently rub in around your screen to get off any fingerprints, dust or dirt that has accumulated on your screen. Be careful not to push too hard on the screen so as to not damage the monitor. You should also wipe off the top of the monitor with a dry or damp cloth to remove dust. If your monitor has slots in the back, blow out dust in these slots with a can of compressed air or other compressed air device. For aesthetics, it is a good idea to wipe off your monitors base with a dry or damp cloth though this is not really necessary.

9.4. Desk Area Cleaning the area around your computer is important as well. You should make sure there isnt anything blocking the places around your computer for intake and exhaust. You should also make sure to clean your desk that you put your keyboard and mouse on. This will help keep your other peripherals and your computer much cleaner and will make your regular cleaning much quicker. By taking care of the area that you work as well as your computer, your computer will be able to last longer and you will have far fewer problems with all of your parts as they gain more and more use over the years.

9.5. System Maintenance There are a few things in terms of maintenance that you should do on a regular basis with your computer. These things may be different for different operating systems that may have different file system types. For example, defragmenting your hard drive (as explained later) is very beneficial to do often on a PC running the Windows OS but is not really necessary on the MAC OS X. This is because of the way that the two operating systems manage files. This will be explained more in depth later on. Different operating systems also come with different system maintenance tools that you should become familiar with and be comfortable that you are using them properly. For the purposes of this guide we will try to describe the most general way to perform system maintenance using the built in tools in your OS but since there are many versions of each OS we will only be talking about Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 for the Microsoft operating systems and the general MAC OS X maintenance. If your OS is not listed, you may still be able to use most of these instructions to perform your system maintenance. For any system, backing up all data periodically onto a separate backup drive is recommended. You can set up a backup drive as an internal or external hard drive. It is best to use a hard drive instead of a solid state drive because it will be writing large amounts of data often so using a high capacity hard drive will be the best for this application. 9.5.1. Windows Windows is currently the most widely used operating system in the world. It is used by numerous companies and a large amount of users have the Windows OS on their own personal system. Knowing how to run standard system maintenance on a machine running the Windows OS will be very beneficial to keeping a system with this OS running smoothly for many years. The first thing to do with a windows system is to set up a disk defragmentation schedule. If install and uninstall often or do a lot with your computer, then you should set it up to defragment weekly. Otherwise it would probably be fine to defragment every 4 weeks or so. Choose a date and time that wont interfere with your schedule. You should defrag all of your HDDs, do not defrag an SSD though. Defragging an SSD will not help the system run faster and will lower the life of the SSD with unneeded data read/write. To set up the schedule, go into the disk defragmentation application in windows. For Windows Vista and 7, this can be found through the start menu (Start -> All Programs -> Applications -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter). For Windows 8 users, the disk defragmentation application can be found by going into the control panel (move the mouse along the right side of the screen and click settings -> Control Panel -> Defragment and Optimize Drives). After you have entered the defragmentation application in windows, click on change settings and set up a schedule for the computer to automatically defrag.

The next thing you should do for a computer that will be accessing the internet at any point is to get antivirus software. There are many free options for this. Do some research to find the best software for your needs. Set up the antivirus software to scan the system on a frequent and regular basis. Another important technique for system maintenance on a PC running is to clear out any unneeded files. Many of these files you may not even know were put onto your computer. Files are kept after Windows updates and other normal functions of Windows. These temporary files are not needed and should be cleaned out regularly. This disk cleanup utility can be found in windows in the same location as the defragmentation application but is instead called disk cleanup. You should run this application often. It should be run on average once a month or more often for more frequent users. These temporary files can accumulate over time and take up a significant amount of space on the hard drive

9.5.2. Mac OS X Apples Mac OS X is one of the fastest growing operating systems currently. The Mac OS X is based off the UNIX file system. PCs running Mac OS X requires much less maintenance than PCs running a Windows OS. Defragmenting the drive is rarely necessary and should only be done occasionally. There is really only one thing to do with respect to maintenance. This can be done much easier with the use of a third party application. Search around the internet for the one that is best for your version of Mac OS X. You should run the UNIX maintenance scripts either through the third party application or by typing in the following code directly into the terminal application: sudo periodic daily weekly monthly Type in that command exactly as it is written and all the maintenance will be run.

10. Sources and Other Useful Links


Processors http://www.techpowerup.com/cpudb/ Memory http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Understanding-RAM-Timings/26 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDR2_SDRAM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDR3_SDRAM http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Memory-Overclocking/152 RAID http://www.thegeekstuff.com/2010/08/raid-levels-tutorial/ http://www.datarecovery.net/articles/raid-levels-0-1-2-3.html http://www.overclock.net/t/33504/info-what-are-the-different-types-of-raid Power Supply http://www.extreme.outervision.com/index.jsp http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp http://www.pcpower.com/technology/power_usage/ Monitors http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/comments/1087uc/computer_monitor_guide/ http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/comments/1087uc/computer_monitor_guide/c6b8n0h http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/speccontent.htm#lcd http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/articles/calibrating.htm Operating System http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/comments/xd44g System Maintenance http://www.thexlab.com/faqs/maintainingmacosx.html Keyboards http://www.overclock.net/t/491752/mechanical-keyboard-guide#post_6025354 Tools http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/page/download_bench http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/page/download_id Lighting

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/case-modding,1910.html Game Settings http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/wiki/gamesettingsguide Liquid Cooling http://www.techspot.com/community/topics/the-watercooling-guide-from-a-to-z.180876/ http://forums.extremeoverclocking.com/t355358.html http://forums.extremeoverclocking.com/showthread.php?t=354844 Basics http://buildapc.wikia.com/wiki/Beginner%27s_Guide_to_Building_a_PC http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/How_To_Build_A_Computer http://issuu.com/techinstyle/docs/build_a_pc_2012-with-rog#download http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/wiki/partsguide CPU Cooling http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_cooling Overclocking http://www.overclock.net/t/1198504/complete-overclocking-guide-sandy-bridge-ivy-bridge-asrockedition http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc/comments/k33vz

Dedication and Thanks

I want to extend my greatest thanks to the communities at reddit that encouraged the making of this guide especially those at /r/buildapc for being the most supportive and helpful. I would like to thank my friends Tim and Dillian for all of their hard work in helping me to put this guide together. I couldnt have put something like this together without the help and support of everyone. Thank you to everyone who has read this guide and to everyone who has contributed in one way or another to the completion of this guide. I hope that the information that I have provided is useful and that I have presented it in a way that makes PC building less intimidating to first time builders. As always, do your research and have fun making a computer.