How to Build a Custom PC Part 2: Assemble and Test

12 Jun 2019

In the first part of our assembly guide, we chose components for building a custom PC. In part two of the custom PC-building series, we go over how to assemble each component and get your PC up and running. Find a safe working space, and let’s begin!

1: Tools

The only tool you should need is a Phillips-head (crosshead) screwdriver, sometimes in varying sizes. Any non philips-head fasteners/screws should include a tool to fasten them with.

We recommend an anti-static mat or wristband while you’re at it or ground yourself by discharging built-up static by touching any part of the case that is made of metal.

For advanced builders, we also recommend zip ties and a pair of wire cutters to cable manage your build

2: Open the case

Remove as many panels from the case as you can - screws can typically be found on either side of the back of the case. If you have a glass side panel, the screws are likely threaded through holes in the glass. Once the panels are removed, keep them safe in the case box to prevent any unwanted scratches.

3: Prep the motherboard

Remove the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and storage from their respective boxes, and antistatic bags/clamshells. Gently place the motherboard on top of its box, avoid excessive physical contact with the board.

4: Install the CPU

Locate your CPU socket, typically square in shape and in the center of the board. For Intel systems, it should have a retention lever on the right-hand side. Gently push the lever down and to the right to release it from its clip. This should free the latch which can be opened upwards to reveal the CPU socket. 

Take your CPU and and handle it gently. The CPU can only be installed in one position, you will need to line it up with the CPU socket using the notches and arrows located on and around the CPU.

Lower the CPU into the socket carefully; make sure to keep the CPU level as it is being lowered into the socket as the pins in CPU sockets are extremely fragile and will be permanently damaged if the CPU is installed incorrectly. Once the processor is sitting securely in the motherboard, gently pull the latch closed - make sure the latch slides under the screw to hold it in place. Secure the lever underneath the clip, which may require a little bit of force.

AMD-based systems have very similar installation processes, however AMD sockets don’t have a latch covering the CPU socket. AMD sockets are also the inverse of Intel sockets, and the pins are located on the processor itself!

Note: Do not touch the gold pins in the CPU socket (or on the CPU) as they are extremely fragile. Doing so may permanently damage the motherboard.

5: Install the RAM

RAM slots are typically located directly to the right of the CPU socket. To install RAM in the motherboard you will need to lift the clip on both the top and bottom of the RAM slot (some motherboards do not have clips on the bottom of the slot – if this is the case with your motherboard, just undoing the clip at the top of the slot will suffice).

Refer to your motherboard manual to determine which slots the manufacturer recommends that you install the RAM in. In most cases, the manufacturer will recommend that you install your RAM in slots 1 and 3 if you have a kit of RAM with two modules. 

When pushing the RAM module into the socket, you should hear a soft click, which will indicate that the clip/s that you lifted previously have clicked back into place, securing the RAM modules into the slot. Always double check that your RAM is sitting flat and that the clips are now closed.

6: Install storage devices

This process will vary depending on the type of storage device that you have purchased as well as the case, however it is generally very straightforward.

M.2 SSDs interface directly with the motherboard and are secured with a very small screw which is supplied with the motherboard (check the motherboard box, it's a very small screw). The M.2 slots on your motherboard are typically located parallel to your PCIe slots, and sometimes on the rear of the motherboard. Sometimes they can be obscured by a motherboard heatsink, which will need to be removed for access to the M.2 slot. See your motherboard manual for assistance.

SATA-interface SSDs and mechanical hard drives will need to be installed using a SATA cable and SATA-power cable. Most tower cases will have some form of storage trays or SSD mounting points. Your drives need to be secured to the trays using screws or clips depending on the tray design (see your case manual). Once your drives are securely mounted inside the case, prepare a SATA cable for each drive to be connected later. 

7: Attach the I/O shield

Inside the motherboard box you should find a small rectangular metal shield designed to provide the motherboard with electrical ground to the case.

There should be an opening on the back of the case where this I/O shield is designed to be installed. Once you have located this opening, install the I/O shield from the inside of the case, press the edges of the shield firmly to secure it in place.

8: Install the motherboard

Check the location of the mounting holes on the motherboard and make sure that the case has standoffs installed in the correct locations on the motherboard tray.

Lie the case down so that the front of the case is pointing to your right. Pick up the motherboard and gently lower it into the case, once the motherboard is resting on the standoffs, gently push the motherboard to the left, up against the I/O shield which you should have installed in the previous step, and secure the motherboard by screwing it in place through the mounting holes.

Note: While most modern cases have standoffs pre-installed, make sure that the motherboard standoffs are in the correct locations on the motherboard tray. Installing a motherboard without standoffs or with standoffs installed in the wrong positions may result in the motherboard electrically shorting itself which will cause permanent damage.

9: Install the CPU cooler

This process may vary depending on which CPU heatsink you have purchased. Installation of a stock cooling solution is very straightforward; however, aftermarket heatsinks, or liquid-cooling units may require you to consult the user manual for the cooling solution.

10: Install the graphics card

Start by identifying the first PCI-e slot on your motherboard, directly below the CPU socket. Once you have located the first PCI-e slot, inspect your graphics card, and identify how many ‘slots’ it occupies. This can be determined by inspecting the metal tabs at the back of the graphics card where display cables are connected. Most graphics cards occupy two slots.

Remove the appropriate PCI-e slot covers from the case by unscrewing the thumbscrews used to secure them. Carefully lower your graphics card into the case and press the card into the PCI-e slot firmly until you hear the locking clip at the end of the PCI-e slot click into place. Use the thumbscrews that you removed previously to secure the graphics card to the case.

The final step is to plug in the cables that supply power from the power supply, these cables generally come in the form of 6-pin or 8-pin cables.

Note: Make sure that when lowering the card into the case, that you are lining it up with the PCI-e slot. If the card is positioned too far forward the tabs on the bottom of the card’s I/O may damage the fine electrical traces on the motherboard, which will cause permanent damage.

11: Install the power supply

You will likely need to access the back of the case to install the power supply - flip your PC upright and make sure all case panels are off.

Locate the rectangular opening on the rear of the case, usually at the bottom - this is your power supply mounting point.

Position the power supply in place and press it again the rectangular opening, making sure that the power switch pokes out through the rear. Some cases have ventilation for the power supply, if so, make sure your power supply fan is positioned toward the ventilation.

Plug the 24-pin motherboard power cable, the 8-pin EPS cable, GPU and SATA cables as required and leave them accessible. Secure the power supply in place using the screws provided with your case.

12: Wire up the front panel cables, and power supply cables

Referencing the motherboard manual, connect the cables that are fixed to the case’s front I/O; power switch, reset switch, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 etc. to their respective ports on the motherboard. This step can be quite tedious, but if you take your time and follow the diagrams in the motherboard manual carefully, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Once your front panel cables are connected to the motherboard you can start routing the 24-pin cable which supplies power to the motherboard, the 8-pin EPS cable that plugs into the motherboard and supplies power the CPU, case fan cables, etc.

Most modern cases provide an accessible opening right next to your motherboard to cleanly run your cables.

The 24-pin cable connector is usually on the right-hand side of the motherboard.
The 8-pin EPS cable connector is usually at the upper left of the motherboard.
The 8-pin/6-pin PCI-e cable connectors are located on the graphics card.

If you get stuck at any point, we recommend that you refer to the motherboard manual as it often illustrates where each of the ports are located on the motherboard.

13: Start your computer 

Press the power button to start the PC. If everything was connected properly, the computer will power on!

With a keyboard connected press the DEL key repeatedly while the computer is in its initial stages of powering on to access the computer’s BIOS. Familiarise yourself with your motherboard’s BIOS as this will be your command centre when configuring your PC.

You’ll need to install your Operating System, e.g. Windows, and once that is complete, voila – you’ve built your custom PC!

Computer Lounge: Trusted custom PC solution provider

Wanting a custom PC but not sure where to start? Here at Computer Lounge, we provide a pc builder service that lets you choose pc components yourself, while we build your pc for you! If you require assistance getting a new pc or computer parts, contact our expert technicians for advice today!

Check out How to Build a Custom PC Part 1: Buying Components


Computer Lounge

Reader Comments