How Not To Build A PC (Part 2)

5/18/2012 5:57:43 PM

Too much or too little thermal paste

If you magnify any machined flat surface enough, it gets less and less smooth. At 1000x magnification, you would be forgiven for mistaking the smooth surface of your cooler or processor heat spreader for the Swiss Alps. Therefore, if you mount a cooler onto a chip ‘dry’, only a tiny proportion is in actual physical contact. Thermal paste is designed to fill these miniscule gaps, thereby improving heat conduction. Because of this, you don’t need a lot of paste – only enough to fill the gaps between the surfaces.

Too much or too little thermal paste

On smaller chips, like Intel Socket 1155 models, you don’t need a lot of paste; a tiny smudge no larger than a grain of cooked  bastami rice is enough. You also don’t need to spread the paste across the surface of the processor. Just apply it to the centre of the processor and allow the pressure of the cooler once mounted to spread the paste for you. If installing a larger processor like a Socket 2011 Intel Core i7, or an AMD Phenom II, use a little more paste, around the size of a small pea. Never apply extra thermal paste to processor if your cooler already has it pre-applied!

Working with the power on

Description: PC Power

So you’re in the middle of a download that has taken hours so far, but you just have to install your spanking new case fan or hard drive. Don’t do it! You may well get away with mounting a case fan ‘hot’ nine times out of ten, but eventually your luck will run out and you’ll miss a pin, shorting out your motherboard – something that has a good chance of permanently killing it.

The same holds true for drives, particularly if they use Molex plugs rather than the newer SATA plugs. While the two minutes of rebooting might seem like an inconvenience, a couple of weeks of downtime until you’ve saved up for a replacement board is a lot worse. Patience is truly a virtue when fiddling with PCs!

The same holds true for fitting new hardware. If a system is turned off, you should also take the extra time to unplug it from the mains, or at least turn the plug off at the wall. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of accidentally having the system powering up while you’re fitting a new addition to your system. This shouldn’t happen, but it does on occasion and can be completely avoided by unplugging your system at the wall before working on its interior!

Flashing the BIOS unnecessarily

Description: BIOS setup utility

BIOS setup utility

Your motherboard’s BIOS or UEFI setup utility is not a system driver; it does not require regular updating and you should avoid the temptation to fiddle with it unless a new release fixes a known issue you’re experiencing. Updating the BIOS is an inherently risky process, because if anything happens to your system during the update process, be it a loss of power or inherent instability, the flash could fail and you could be left with a complete unresponsive board. Flashing your BIOS therefore shouldn’t be attempted unless it brings about a real gain – for example, if it fixes niggling issues or has a considerable increase in performance. Simply upgrading to the latest BIOS because it’s available really isn’t worth the risk.

If you’re in the middle of overclocking your system and want to try a new BIOS to improve stability, always to remember to reset your system to settings you know to be fully stable before performing the update. Flashing the BIOS at aggressively overclocked settings that are not 100% stable greatly increases the chances of a failure, once again rendering your system unusable. Gone are the days when motherboard BIOS chips were removable using a special tool – they are now stored on a ROM chip soldered directly to the board, meaning if you experience a failed flash that you can’t recover from, you’ll be at the mercy of your motherboard manufacturer’s warranty terms and conditions.

  •  Choosing The Right Parts For Your Build (Part 6) - Picking the right RAM, Picking the right cooling, SLI and CrossFire
  •  Choosing The Right Parts For Your Build (Part 5) - Choosing your case & Picking the right storage
  •  Choosing The Right Parts For Your Build (Part 4) - Picking the right PSU
  •  Choosing The Right Parts For Your Build (Part 3) - Picking the right video card
  •  Choosing The Right Parts For Your Build (Part 2) - Choosing the right motherboard
  •  Choosing The Right Parts For Your Build (Part 1) - Picking the perfect processor
  •  Case Modding: simple case modding techniques
  •  Bundle Up To Save Some Cash!
  •  Samsung Series 5 13.3-inch Ultrabook - The Meatier Choice
  •  SteelSeries Kinzu V2 - Reacquainting With The Kinzu
  •  Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 91z - Centre Of Thought
  •  Fuji Xerox DocuPrint M205FW - It's All Black And White
  •  ASUS Radeon HD7870 DirectCUII Top - Power For Price
  •  ASUS Essentio CM6850 Desktop PC - Essentio-ly Essential
  •  New products - First looks, May 2012 (Part 3) - MSI Z77-GD55 Motherboard, Motorola Atrix 2, NVIDIA GTX 680
  •  New products - First looks, May 2012 (Part 2) - Sony Xperia Sola, ASUS ROG Tytan CG8565, WD Thunderbolt My Duo dual-drive storage system
  •  New products - First looks, May 2012 (Part 1) - Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47, Hewlett-Packard Z1
  •  MSI Wind U180 - The Cedar Wind
  •  ASUS U32U - For The Budget Conscious
  •  Western Digital My Book Live Duo - Full, Double Lives
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