Having recently heard about the woes of some families getting along with a tiny netbook and some obscure Linux, I decided to build a real computer for them for Christmas using components I left behind after various updates. I thought it would be an interesting article to document the build process with photos, so here it is.

This is not a how-to article — I couldn’t write about how to build a computer from scratch in one article. Instead, I will give advice and describe the process in a whirlwind manner, but you should perhaps think of this more as a motivation for you to try the same. The whole process took about 2 hours.

If you haven’t seen them yet, we have some fantastic free guides on the subject:

  • Your PC Inside and Out Part 1 — Chassis, Power Supply, and Motherboard
  • Your PC inside and out. Part 2. Processor, RAM and video cards
  • An Idiot’s Guide to Building Your Own PC

Here’s what I put together to work:

    • Asus p5B motherboard, Intel dual core processor and 2 GB RAM. It’s left over from my last update, so it’s already built.

build a computer

    • A standard ATX case that I’ve been sitting boxed for about 10 years.

how to build a computer

  • 380W PSU with various Molex and SATA connectors recently purchased for less than $50.
  • A nice 17″ Dell monitor I salvaged from a trash can at Kyoto University last year, plus a USB mouse and keyboard.
  • Choice of 160GB SATA hard drives (I’ll use 3 for this one).
  • Multi-DVD RW drive (IDE).

So let’s go. The first step is to open the case and add spacers to the motherboard.

how to build a computer

These screw into holes in the case and raise the motherboard, and must match the form factor of the motherboard being used.

Connecting Chassis Switches

This is probably the hardest step of all. Before attaching the motherboard to the case, I made sure to write down a quick jumper pin diagram for the switches and case LEDs as they are hard to see when the motherboard is installed. They can be found in the lower left corner if you are looking down at the car and they look like this:

how to build a computer

Here you need to connect 5 things:

  • Switch
  • Speaker
  • Reset switch
  • Power indicator
  • Hard Drive LED (sometimes IDE LED)

+ LED wires have color or Red color a black or white . They match up to the corresponding pins on the board. It could be very risky.

build desktop pc


In some cases, the USB ports are on the front, which must be connected to the motherboard in order for the pins to work next to the switch pins we just connected. If you are unlucky, you will have a set of 8 cables that must be connected one by one to the appropriate jumper.

build desktop pc

Quick search on google my «usb asus p5b pinouts» led me to this helpful diagram:

PC assembly for Christmas: a visual diary of the usb assembly process

Each USB port requires 4 cables, so a set of 8 can be divided into two sets of 4 cables. One USB port uses the top set of pins, one uses the bottom set. Cables must be marked one or 2 as well as something similar to the following:

  • V on motherboard = VCC or +5 cable
  • on motherboard = D- on cable
  • + = D+
  • G = EARTH

Source of power

You may find that your PSU is not suitable if your case is particularly old and you are trying to use it with a new motherboard. Older power supplies have only 20 pins, while newer ones have 24. You can see the difference in this photo.

Building a PC for Christmas: a visual diary of the assembly process of 8 psu motherboard sockets

There is another 4-pin power cable next to the processor that needs to be connected.

build desktop pc

Before screwing in the power supply, make sure everything works. Plug in the power supply and try turning it on. While the video card is not installed, the initial error beep is normal, it’s just to check the switch wiring and the motherboard fan is spinning.

video card

Next comes the video card. They are of three types:

  • PCI — long white slots in the photo below. These graphics cards are the oldest you will find.
  • AGP — brown or blue slots (not shown) .
  • PCI-Enhanced — black slot in the picture below.

Building a PC for Christmas: a visual diary of the build process 10 pci vs pci e

Motherboards from the last 4 years or so will most likely have either AGP or PCI-E (but not both). The two are not interchangeable.

Hard drives

I won’t go into details here, as I detailed earlier how to add a second SATA hard drive. (and an IDE guide for older computers. ) In this case I have 1 IDE channel and 4 SATA ports.

Building a PC for Christmas: A Visual Diary of the 13 SATA and IDE Build Process

I have multiple drives, so I dug out 7,200 rpm as my main boot system drive, and some of them were slower to act as data drives.

Building a PC for Christmas: A visual diary of the process of building 15 hard drives

DVD drive

Most DVD drives need to be front-mounted, which means carefully removing the bezel and avoiding running through the wires for the power switch. It’s also best to connect any cables now before they’re inserted, as things can get pretty stressful.

Building a PC for Christmas: A Visual Diary of the Build Process

Power for everything

Power for system components will come from a regular 4-pin Molex connector, or from a SATA connector for SATA devices. Chassis fans often come with daisy chain connectors for regular molex plugs like this.

Building a PC for Christmas: A Visual Diary of the 14 Power Chains Build Process

BIOS check

After connecting the keyboard, the first thing to do is access the BIOS setup screen. I first look to make sure the three hard drives and DVD drive I inserted are correctly recognized:

Building a PC for Christmas: Visual Diary of the Build Process 17bos HD check

Everything is fine. Then I check the hardware monitor to see if the system or cpu temperature is abnormal. I leave this on for a while, just to make sure they don’t rise, which could indicate a fan failure somewhere.

build a computer

Then, after installing Windows, I’m sure we can all agree that the most important last step is to install Google Chrome!

It’s all from me. I hope you enjoyed this little visual build log. If you want to try the same yourself, follow FreeCycle or head to the city junkyard and find old old PCs to play with. Just tearing them apart, mixing a few ingredients together and trying to make them work again is a fantastic learning experience. Comments are welcome, but I won’t be able to answer any specific hardware related questions for your particular build.

Похожие записи