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Getting Help Building Your Computer 332

An anonymous reader submitted an excellent story about getting help when assembling a PC from scratch. I'm sure many readers here know how harrowing the experience can be, and will appreciate this entertaining tale of lilliputians helping in this rite of passage.
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Getting Help Building Your Computer

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  • Not bad (Score:5, Funny)

    by Alcimedes ( 398213 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @07:21PM (#4277629)
    Here the first time i put my machine together i was worried to death about cracking my processor or pushing to hard. this guy has time to make a slide show out of it. Showoff.
    • Re:Not bad (Score:3, Insightful)

      by unicron ( 20286 )
      Heh, no kidding. And everything fits so snug that you convince yourself that you somehow bought the wrong piece.
    • Re:Not bad (Score:3, Funny)

      by BitchAss ( 146906 )
      I set off the fire alarm the first time I put together a computer. It's true!

      You reeeeeeeeally shouldn't plug power cables into jumpers. I wish I took a picture of it - it was all melty!

      Now computers are too easy. You have to try to break things!
    • Re:Not bad (Score:3, Interesting)

      First time I built a machine, I kept my other machine on and logged into chat so I can get realtime advice from the geeks.
    • There is something sinister behind the scenes. For evidence, simply check out the second photo. In the background, near a pile of scrap, is a gruesome severed head! There's even a 1x2 puddle of blood!

      The horror!
  • Not all that bad.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by MxTxL ( 307166 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @07:25PM (#4277655)
    The first time around is kinda tough... but if you've done it once, you can do it again easy enough. Just have to make sure to RTFM for the mobo to set your clockspeed correctly and make sure any jumpers are where they go.

    Well, that's for a home type PC... servers are a different beast, there's a lot more options.
    • Maybe i should RTFA first...

      But still applies when lego men do it... :)
      • I gave my lego men some parts that included a gig of RAM, a 120 gig HD, and a top of the line P4, and they gave my a 286 with 640k RAM, and a 20 meg HD. I tried to take them to small claims court, but it was thrown out since I did everything through word of mouth, and had nothing in writing, so just be careful with these people.

    • Or the first P4 box that you build and you think you know how memory works but the blanks bite you in the ass and you spend hours before you RTFM. Yup that sucks.
    • The good thing for newbies is that for the most part, that isn't even an issue any more these days. So many boards are running practically jumperless. The last 5 PC's I bought / upgraded required NO jumper settings on the motherboard at all. It was pretty much nuts and bolts. Plug it in, turn it on, and go. Very smooth, very easy, you're up and running in no time flat. And the same goes with the last 50 servers I put together. The only RTFM was to connect the front panel switches and LED's correctly as the boards weren't silkscreened very helpfully. Clocks/multipliers/voltage is all pretty much automatic these days.
    • Nah, servers are similar... you just have more manual to read :)
    • by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <m4encxb2sw@snk[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:41PM (#4278190) Journal
      "The first time around is kinda tough... but if you've done it once, you can do it again easy enough. Just have to make sure to RTFM for the mobo to set your clockspeed correctly and make sure any jumpers are where they go."

      A very good point indeed. Always RTFM.

      Here are some more points for would-be computer-builders.

      - You need a thermal interface compound between the heatsink and CPU. Don't just assume you can get by without one. Some heatsinks come with wax on the bottom which is slightly better then nothing. But it you want to step up a notch, get yourself a Thermaltake [] or Thermalright [] as opposed to the silly "Cooler-Master" HS that came with your machine and some Artic Silver 3 [] thermal compound. If you want to go hardcore, get an Alpha 8045 HS [] for Athlons or a Thermalright SLK-600/800 [] for P4's plus AS3.

      [I fully expect 1-2 followup posts from people who cooked their CPUs by not using a thermal interface compound.]

      - Don't put one hard drive right on top of the other in 3.5" mounting slots. They generate too much heat unless you've got a fan right on top of them.

      - Always set the master/slave jumpers of CD/DVD and HDD drives BEFORE you install the drive because it is hard to access/see the jumpers when the drive is mounted in the machine. Make sure you plug in CD-Audio cables before the drive is mounted.

      - Don't immediately install the motherboard into the case. It is often easier to install the CPU + heatsink, plug in the HSF (heatsink fan power cable) plus set any jumpers and check for any cable orientations BEFORE you install the mobo. (The necessary connections may be behind the power supply after the mobo is installed.

      - Remember that in some cases, you have to flip the orientation of the data cable for the a-drive floppy and use the IDE cable that has the twisted wire in it. (You'll know it when you see it.)

      - Bundle up the wires in twist-ties and keep them out of the way so that they don't vibrate in the breeze from fans. It only takes a small touch to disrupt an HDD power cable. Some, but not all, also say that this will improve airflow. It will definitely make your case look tidier and make later work inside it more easy.

      - The first time you turn the box on, be looking at the heat sink fan and make sure it starts spinning, otherwise your CPU may come to a quick death. If it spins, immediately enter the BIOS and check the temperatures and make sure they are not insane.

      - Don't close the case when you're done setting up the system. This is because you probably forgot to do something and it's annoying to have to remove the screws again.

      • Sigh. Ok. You are right. I cooked 2 fans (no CPU tho) on an Athlon 1ghz.

        Compound made do difference at all. The patch on the sink was plenty to bind to the CPU chip.

        It was the thermalpuke that was the problem. See, the fan is mounted on the big block of metal-alloy and blows air up through the spiral heat releasing fins. So the plastic parts and bearings and motor in the fan get REALLY hot during operation.

        I killed two of them with a Thunderbird playing Tanarus, it got hot enough to cook off part of my fingernail. (Hint, no touchee CPU, fan or heatsink if computer crashee due to heat.)

        I bought three fans from CompUSA for the same price as ONE thermalpuke. They have the same basic design, except the fan is mounted on the fins, not the base of the heatsink. That way, most of the heat is dissapated before it gets a chance to melt the bearings, fan, motor, and mountings.

        If one goes bad, no big deal. 10 minutes of messing around and I have the spare installed.

        Thermaltake should change the design of the fan/sing combos. It is a flawed design to have the fan mounted on the bottom rather than the top.

        The burnt out one sits on my desk as a reminder not to buy into the sparklie hype.
        • You probably do not have enough cool air flowing into your case. The fan works well enough, but if all it does is blowing hot air around then there is not much cooling it can do. Get a fan to blow cool air into the case at the bottom, and another fan to blow hot air out of the case somewhere higher up.

          Having a spare fan available is not a bad idea, 'though.

      • Although it has much better heat transfer properties (and it's price reflects this...) It's problem is that it is also electrically conductive! A work collegue used some on his new Athlon. The only problem was he slipped and got some on those little contacts (the ones you need to jumper for over clocking) - the thing didnt boot simply because he had bridged various pins! (luckily with a magnifying glass, some metholated spirits and a careful hand, the gunk was cleaned off and the processor came back to life!)
        • The company, Arctic Silver, sells some stuff called "Arctic Alumina," which is a synthetic "white-stuff" compound. As it's made out of ceramic materials, it doesn't conduct ANY electricity. Although it has about 3x the thermal resistance, you're much less likely to cause problems by getting this stuff on any circuitry.
      • My first time I got stumped. Everything looked fine, but the monitor wouldnt work. Unplugged all the cards and everything.

        Turned out the CMOS clear jumper (usually near the battery), was set to clear. Took me an hour to figure that one out.
      • - Bundle up the wires in twist-ties and keep them out of the way so that they don't vibrate in the breeze from fans. It only takes a small touch to disrupt an HDD power cable. Some, but not all, also say that this will improve airflow. It will definitely make your case look tidier and make later work inside it more easy

        You can also use round cables. You can find these for sale at many sites, but the cheapest place I've found by far is Harbourtown Sales []. Gordon (the owner) is a great guy, he's not a real technical geek, but he knows what sells and sets very reasonable prices. He's my favorite source for obscure computer parts (i.e., replacement mouse balls).

        If you order from him, tell him that "Michael who used to work for Wintergreen" sent you...
    • The first time around is kinda tough... but if you've done it once, you can do it again easy enough.

      Hey, kinda like sex.

      Just have to make sure to RTFM...

    • most newer MBs have clockspeeds set in BIOS... my new Asus A7V333 is one such board - im sure its not unique (my old asus for a P2 was that way).
  • The last time I told someone that a bunch of little green (and other colored people helped me put something together, it took me 3 weeks to get out of observation.
  • by chicagothad ( 227885 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @07:31PM (#4277701)
    I am the editor for the category on DMOZ. s_and_Tutorials/Build_Your_Own_PC/ []

    Any additional submissions would be more than welcome!
  • by plagioclase ( 454483 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @07:32PM (#4277707) Homepage
    ...but how much static electricity did those little feet pick up?

    Kudos to the mirror host, by the way.
  • by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @07:33PM (#4277721) Homepage

    The first time I assembled a computer, I scratched the bottom of the motherboard on the mounting points. I completed the build, but was presented with random crashes. Found out the scratch spread metal filaments across multiple paths, fortunately rubbing the area clean solved the whole thing.

    Well now it's my turn to help teach one of my friends how to build a computer! A learning experience for him indeed.

    I do like his use of Lego men on the site, although the 'Red Shirt' Lego man was very lucky to survive (considering their expendability).

  • by coutch ( 157269 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @07:34PM (#4277736)
    The Oil Change []
  • Don't play with jumpers while the system is running :-) Unplug the system and ground yourself before you start. I once tried changing jumpers on a soundcard while the thing was still running (I don't know what I was thinking, I think I simply forgot it was on). There was a spark, then some more, then a puff of smoke and then the power went out.

    A few minutes and a long sigh later, I turned the computer back on and everything worked. Since then I triple check that everything's unplugged ;-)

  • by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @07:37PM (#4277755)
    Max OS X User: "Build my own PC? Never. This one time, my home built PC was like beep beep beep, and half my paper was gone. And I was like, huuuu? *head tilts*

    Linux User: "Fuck them, let them figure it out themselves and get their hanks cut on a cheap case. My modded nitrogen boxen runs great. Gentoo rocks! vi is best!

    Vax User: "What? All computers come with COLOR? Heaven bless! CGI for everyone! 4 colors should be enough for anyone."

    Lindows ala-Walmart User: "YeHaw! Easier than building my own plow! Ya'll come back now, ya hear?"

    Windoze User: "Dude, I got a Dell. Let's run Windoze Update and watch TechTV."

  • Get a nice case (Score:5, Informative)

    by AlgUSF ( 238240 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @07:43PM (#4277806) Homepage
    Spend the extra 50-60 bucks on a good case, cheap cases suck, and nothing ever lines up right (i.e. Motherboards, Cards, etc). Make sure there is plenty of room inside the case, a removable motherboard tray is nice for when you are installing the heatsink on the processor and when you are installing memory!
    • I kinda like the Antec case he chose. Now the mobo - a SIS chipset?
      • Not just that but 266, atleast he could have used the A7S-333 if he wanted to go with the SIS chipset. He needs an A7V-333 (MMMMMMMMmmmmm VIA KT333).
      • yes, definately a nice case. I've built 3 with the 1040b now, it's amazing how much room everything has, the airflow is great with like 6 fans, the front lid to hide the beige drives works great, and it's fairly quite. I bought my first one about a year ago, and now it seems everyone and their brother are bying the cheap clone knockoff of it. Why oh why didn't I wait a couple of months for other's to make cheap knockoffs.....
      • No, it is an ALi chipset.
    • If it can help someone: Some hints on Tom's Hardware []
    • yes i said the d word, yes i will probabbly be flamed. but honestly though. screw all the removeable motherboard tray crap, and the hard drive tray crap. and the whatever tray crap.

      I actually bought my parents a Dell 4500. the case is nice (not in a neon-modded, fan galore, translucent or liquid cooled fashion), and actually opens up (almost) like a mac. everything is easily removeable (except maybe the MB), and you never need a screwdriver. not once. not for any of the drives.

      if they sold 'em separate i would seriously consider it for a real case for everyday computing. light (relatively), easy access and reasonably quite. hey, why not. it's not like the case came with microsoft (well, the sticker, but that's endurable)...
  • Awesome (Score:2, Funny)

    by supz ( 77173 )
    That is the (at risk of sounding gay) cutest thing I've ever seen. I wonder how he managed to get the suckers to stand up, holding the various parts, without falling. Tape or glue or something?
  • C'mon...R2 would know what CSLK is! He can fix the hyperdrive on the Millenium Falcon with one arm and even hack into the Deathstar computers (heavily firewalled;). He KNOWS what CSLK is!

    Just another,
    Stoopid Monkey

  • Am I the only one who doesnt' know palm LCD's have red backlit screens ? In the dark red wont dialate your eyes, plus it's cool.
    • i don't think its a real palm, i think its a chunk of plastic shaped like a palm with one of those things w/ the plactic sheet on top, u press on the sheet and it sticks to the back and makes a color difference, i'm not sure how to explain better than thet, i remember getting them in gradeschool attached to chunks of cardboard
    • useful links... /default.htm

  • My first computer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:02PM (#4277948) Homepage Journal
    came in a kit, circiut board, and components.
    I had to soldier it together.

    Its really pretty easy these days, espcially compared the the DOS 3 days.

    We do live in a time where I can put together a system, and have linux up and running in about 45 minutes.

  • More Mirrors (Score:5, Informative)

    by LeiraHoward ( 529716 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:09PM (#4277999) Homepage [] [] [] [] [] []

    Just a few more mirrors for when this site goes down...

    Oh.. and if I am not totally mistaken, at one time there was a "letter of protest" from the "lego workers union" or something similar actually posted on Andy's home page. It is not there now, don't bother checking, but if anyone happens to have a copy and wishes to post it, go for it!

  • by Frank of Earth ( 126705 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:10PM (#4278014) Homepage Journal
    .. and hook up the video card.

    I have a 1800 Althon system with the GeForce 4200 card that runs like a top with XP.

    Although Intel would have you believe that the P4 is what makes the net "come alive", it's really your graphics card and internet connection.

    As a previous poster stated, get a good case [] from []

    I recently built my system, spending ~700 bucks and had no problems with any of the parts I purchased from them. As always, check the guides at tom's hardware [], sharkyextreme [], []

    Good luck and remmeber not to run on the carpet before you build it together. Personally, I never had a problem with static electricity except for one time I touched the bottom of HD and fried it. Good thing it was a work computer though :-P
    • I would have to agree and I was waiting for a 2600XP to come out before I build my new machine. However, Intel dropped the price of the 2.4 GHZ P4's and for $196 that is a steal.

      I'm surprised that no one here has mentioned overclocking. I plan to crank up the 2.4 quite a lot, and get an Alpha heatsink.

      What I don't understand, is all this talk of buying a "good" case. I have built 4+ computers all with low end cases. If you're clever, you find a way around thise things. Why spend 50 or 60 dollars, when you can get one for $20 (check rocks!)? I would rather put that extra money into cooling or bumping up the video card a notch.
      • I had a 1.6 P4 overclocked to 2.0 and it was running great for quite awhile until I tried to bzip2 a few very large files. It took me awhile to figure out that overclocking is what caused the problem. As soon as I put it back to 1.6; I had no more problems. I also had problems building gcc 3.something this way as well. So if you overclock, and are having some interesting problems with compiling or doing any CPU intensive work, try turning down our CPU before blaming the software or your memory.
  • Some real guides... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mbogosian ( 537034 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:16PM (#4278054) Homepage
    ...and for those of you who want real HOWTOs, guides, etc., to make your own Lego-man picture essay, check these out:

    here [],
    here [],
    here [],
    here [], and
    here []
  • A+ for this gentlemen's reference to Dr. Strangelove [] .
  • by ealar dlanvuli ( 523604 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:32PM (#4278147) Homepage

    Well everyone else is suggesting stuff so I figure I will too. I'm looking to buy a PC in the UK sometime soon and for the past couple of months I've kept my eye on the prices. Here's my contribution:
    Tried and trusted. I've bought plenty of stuff from these guys in the past with 100% satisfaction. Their site is a little annoying but they have the widest selection of stock by far. Their prices are very good if not the best. Product information (when available) is not terribly informative so you should know what you're looking for before you arrive.
    Only bought a couple of things from these people and had no problems. Less stock than dabs but their prices are good. Specifically, they've got the best prices on Athlon XPs (1800 - 2100). And their CPU coolers & PSUs are cheap too. Product info on this site is poor and the design isn't much better.
    Bought one thing from here and again no problems. Not a great deal of stock but the stuff they do have is top notch (in most cases). Their prices are slightly off-par, however they've currently got the best price on some CDRWs, HDDs and sound cards. Good product info available. These guys know their stuff. Their site design leaves to be desired.
    Not bought anything from here yet. Their prices are reasonable but I've not found anything I wanted cheaper here. A large selection of overclocking stuff available and a pretty poor selection of regular components. Good looking site.
    Bought stuff from here without any problems. Their site is good and prices vary. Mostly reasonable and sometimes better than dabs. They've currently got best prices on sound cards. Product info available is ok.
    Nasty site but they have a selection of stuff you'll have a hard time finding elsewhere. Mainly oriented towards cases and accessories. Bought a couple of things from these guys, again, without any problems.
    OK, this isn't a retail site, but Crucial sell their RAM online at price up to £30 cheaper than elsewhere. If you're looking for ECC Registered 512MB PC2100 DDR chips like me, then you'll appreciate the £119.69 price tag.
    Not bought anything from here yet but I certainly plan to. Simplistic site but very navigable. A good selection of stock and they've got the best prices on some CDRWs, AIW Radeons and the sweet sweet Iiyama Pro 452.
    Not bought anything from here either. Not too keen on their site but they're one of the few who offer Antec PSUs, with a reasonable price too.
    Found this thanks to other posts in this discussion. Have to say I'm very impressed. A tasteful cut-to-the-chase design with decent product information. I was surprised to see just how wide a selection of stock they have. Not as large as dabs but they stock some decent stuff. I was surprised to find the dual Athlon Gigabyte mobo on there. Their selection of hard drives leaves to be desired but the rest is OK. Best prices on Enermax PSUs.

    There are other sites out there too, such as,,,,, and but I've yet to be impressed. In particular, is probably worth avoiding. I've heard some horror stories.

    So to wrap things up I'd have to say that if you can build your own PC it's definately worth doing so. The pre-built systems you can get may be cheaper and may have an amazing "2GHz P4, 60GB HDD DVD, Scanner etc.. etc..", but on the inside the components will be from Happy Shopper or Value Land and you'll get about as much performance out of your system as a frightened donkey.

    However, if you're going to build your own PC you need to know exactly which components you need/want beforehand. These sites will have the stock you want but in most cases won't give you accurate or useful product information. It's a lengthy process but it's worth consulting newsgroups and/or online reviews., for example, has a leaderboard where you can get up to date on the decent and not-so-decent hard drives.

    There are countless hardware review sites out there. It's worth searching for the product comparisons. and are popular sites worth a look.

    Good luck!

  • I thought it was hella lame until I saw my favorite "But they'll see the big board!"

    God that part is great.
  • They better hope they installed that heatsink on the Athlon correctly, or else they might find themselves melting!!
  • I have set up few friends with older hardware bought and scrounged from various places. Then told them to tinker as much as they want, even if they slag the machine, they're not going to do more than $20 of damage.

    This is a lot more ammenable to "having a go" than worrying about toasting a $500 sheet of fibreglass because you pressed on it too hard.

  • I still manage to screw up some small thing every time. Like reversing the LED connectors..or forgetting to hook up the speaker..or not bothering to download a driver. Just last week, a friend of mine (who has built hundreds of computers) built my wife a P4 1500 (while she bathed his cat). When it was done, he turned it on and....nothing. After looking around, we finally took out the DDR RAM (bought on sale from Fry's), and put in a piece of SDRAM. On the unit came...and off I went to Fry's to return the DDR. Came back with the DDR, put it in and turned it POST beep...that's all. Finally, I picked up the book (book? what a concept!) and read: "This mainboard comes set for SDRAM. To use DDR RAM, change jumpers...." Set the jumpers, all fine... DOH!!!!! So now the question is: did the old RAM work or not? With new RAM in, the board at least beeped, with the old it didn't even do that.
  • by telstar ( 236404 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @02:39AM (#4279597)
    Tune in for next week's episode:

    "The Story of Andy's Lego Characters Stealing Dollars Out of Relatives' Wallets to Pay For Bandwidth".

  • by AssFace ( 118098 ) <> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @08:48AM (#4280612) Homepage Journal
    Star Wars figures and Legos?!

    WTF is that about?

    I want to see a computer assembled by topless blondes that take breaks to make out with each other and have whipped cream parties.

    Lego figures my ass.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes