How Not To Build A PC (Part 3)

5/18/2012 5:59:39 PM

Mixing memory types

All modern PC architectures use multiple memory channels to improve performance. Socket 1155 and AMD-based systems use dual-channel memory controllers, whereas Socket 1366 CPUs increase this to three memory channels. The latest flagship Socket 2011 boards have a quad-channel memory controller for amazing performance. When populating memory across the same channel, it’s critically important that all the modules are exactly the same. The easiest way to ensure this is to buy a multi-channel kit from Corsair or another high-end memory manufacturer. That way you know all the modules will be from the same batch with exactly the same SPD settings and specification.

Description: Memory types

Memory types

You should avoid buying the bare minimum amount of memory to get your system up and running with a view to buying more later, as there is a very good chance that even if you buy the same brand and the same model they will use totally different PCBs (the boards onto which memory chips are attached), and totally different chips. Memory manufacturers are at the mercy of the few companies that actually produce the integrated circuits that make up the modules, the specifications of which are continually tweaked to improve performance or yield.

Motherboards are designed to be a lot more accommodating when you add a second set of memory that uses a different channel to the first. For instance, if you have two memory modules installed in a board with four slots and want to add another two 12 months down the line, you should be alright as long as you choose modules with the same operating voltage, the same clock speed and the same latency. Never mix and match specifications or you’re bound to run into instability while the board tries to find a compromise between two inherently incompatible specifications of memory. Nevertheless, you should aim to buy a memory kit that is as close to being a perfect match for what you already have as possible, even if that means scouring the second-hand market on auction sites or our own classifieds section.

Don’t force it!

Description: A Modern PSUs

A Modern PSUs

When you’re installing add-in cards, PSU cables and processors into a motherboard, always use care and don’t force things into slots unless they fit perfectly. If something doesn’t seem to be fitting as it should, don’t use brute force to push it in regardless. For example, if you can’t get your CPU to fit in the socket, make sure you have it at the right orientation. All chips have notches built into the edges of the chip or banks of missing pins to ensure they can’t easily be installed in the wrong orientation.

The same rule goes for graphics cards. If it doesn’t slide in smoothly first go, don’t use the full force of your arm to push it in. Normally, all that will accomplish is a broken PCI-Express connector. Instead, check that the back plate (where you plug in the monitor cable) is sliding smoothly into the chassis aperture cut specifically for it, and if it isn’t, gently bend it until it does. Push the card in until you can no longer see the straight gold connectors and it feels ‘fully in’.

Modern PSUs have additional new types of connection compared to older models, so if you haven’t built a system for a while, you may see a few that are unfamiliar. Eight-pin PCI-Express power leads look alarmingly similar to the 12V auxiliary CPU connections in the motherboard, but have a different pin layout. They don’t fit together properly, but can be forced in if you push hard enough. Turn a PC on with the cables jammed in like this and all you will achieve is a ruined motherboard.

Static electricity

Description:  Discharging Static Electricity for Safe Computer

 Discharging Static Electricity for Safe Computer

If you rub your shoes on a nylon carpet and touch a radiator, you will get an electric shock large enough to sting. Unsurprisingly, if you were to rub your feet on nylon carpet and then touch a sensitive piece of electronic equipment, it won’t work even again. It’s very important to take at least some precautions when building PCs; after all, the parts come shipped in antistatic bags for good reason. Many professional builders use antistatic wrist straps, which provide a constant grounding source and effectively annual any risk from static shocks. However, these are no always convenient to use. You can effectively ground yourself before handing components by touching any earthed metal object, e.g. a radiator or the PC chassis you’re installing the components into.

Even after you’ve grounded yourself either via a strap or whatever else works for you, you should still handle components with care. Hold memory modules and add-in cards as you would a photograph: by the edges.

Have a plan of action

Building a new PC is exciting, so the temptation is always to get stuck straight in without any plan of action. This will often mean you install items in a sub-optimal order. Install your video card before you’ve plugged in the front-panel switches and connections, for example, and you’ll have a lot less space to play with, resulting in frustration and wasted time. Install your optical drive before you’ve fitted your motherboard and it might overhang the top-right mounting screw. You get the idea: take a few moments to examine the nuances of your particular case and plan your build accordingly. Spending an extra minute at the start of your build can easily save half an hour of frustrating fiddling later!

  •  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!
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  •  Fuji Xerox DocuPrint M205FW - It's All Black And White
  •  ASUS Radeon HD7870 DirectCUII Top - Power For Price
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  •  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
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