PC Building Issues, Tips, and Tricks

FYI, this is a long post

Whether you're an experienced system builder, or someone who hasn't built a PC in a while/has never built one...building a custom PC can be aggravating sometimes. Sure, it may seem simple...plug in a few components, connect a few cables, and push a button. But in reality, there's far more to it than that. Between cramped cases, finicky cables, sharp edges, components that don't seem to work, and the ever-present cursing..it can be a daunting task. I'll help to alleviate some of that stress here.

You want to start with the end in mind...ignore the cliche please. Devote some time to studying your case, see any cable management solutions already in place, and understand how you might want to route new cables (this is probably the single-most mind-numbingly aggravating thing). If you want to move some existing fans around, now is the time to do it. 

Check the case to see if there are pre-installed motherboard standoffs. If so, install the motherboard (using the standoffs that match up). If not, install the standoffs that work for your type of motherboard. Install the motherboard. Be sure to attach the I/O shield before, and do take care to not slice your fingers. The shield will make a nice contact with the case body when correctly installed, and the motherboard ports on the back will be easily seen. 

Installing the CPU can be nerve-wracking, as it is the smallest component you have...and quite possibly be your most expensive part. Following the Intel/AMD guide carefully will generally result in success. Remember, line up the slots, and drop it in. Don't press. Then, simply lock the CPU down as the guide says. 

RAM and GPUs are relatively easy, though RAM takes more effort than you may think is necessary. Don't worry, as a correctly installed motherboard will have no issues taking the pressure during RAM install. Storage (SSDs and HDDs) are relatively easy. Remember to align the cable ports with the backside of the case, and use the tool-less clips...if your case has them.

The CPU Cooler might be one of the longest installs, depending on your skill level. Air Coolers tend to require a fair amount of force to get the initial "grab" on the screw-posts. Once you install the backplate, it will take a bit of force to get a "lock". Once you have lock, just go in an X pattern on the tightening bolts. Go about a quarter-turn at a time, and once the screw won't easily turn, give it a bit more, and stop. DO NOT USE A SCREWDRIVER.

Self-contained Water Coolers like a Corsair H100i are much of the same process for the head unit...the radiator is a matter of locating the best spot for the radiator itself (I find that you'll have the best cooling from a front-mount). Regarding thermal paste, use an amount the size of a pea. No really, less is more. The amount of pressure the Cooler plate will exert on the CPU will be enough to ensure a solid connection (and since the thermal paste only ensures a good thermal connection between CPU plate and Cooler plate, you don't want to overdo it).

Back to cables...make sure you connect any fan/CPU power cables BEFORE you install the CPU Cooler. It is super annoying to install a bulky Hyper 212 EVO Air Cooler, only to realize that you need to generate elf-hands to plug in a 4pin ATX power cable for the CPU. And YES, you need that cable, it is 100% necessary. Motherboard ATX power cables can be installed at really any time, though if your RAM is already installed, you might have a tough time. Don't be afraid to push, just make sure the male-female connection is aligned (there should be a few pins to guide you). SSD and HDD cables are fairly easy, simply route them from the SATA section on the board, to the back of the case, and plug them in. Your BOOT SSD should go in slot 0. 

I have the most infernal hate for power supplies. Please remember to NOT screw in your PSU till all the cables are plugged in, and how you want them. Cables that are twisted, will be very tough to pull on, and can torque other connections. 

If you don't like how the install went, just take it apart and do it again! That's most of the fun of custom PCs anyway. I could go into more detail on PC Building...but then you'd probably never read another TFC blog post again. 

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to email me at chris@topflightpc.com, or call me at (919) 694-3818