How To Build Your Own PC From Scratch (Part 2)

5/19/2012 9:08:36 AM

Step 4: Apply thermal paste

The underside of you cooler and the heat spreader of your processor may look perfectly flat, but if you were to analyse them under a microscope you would see thousands of tiny imperfections. These troughs and valleys greatly reduce the contact surface area between the two surfaces, necessitating an interface medium. This is where the thermal paste comes in. Thermal paste is head conductive and fills the troughs and valleys, helping the chip to transfer its heat into the cooler. Because only enough paste is required to fill these tiny gaps, you do not need a lot of it. Even on a large chip like a Sandy Bridge E or AMD Phenom the amount shown here is more than sufficient. Don’t worry about spreading the paste; the pressure from the cooler will take care of this for you. For smaller chips like a Core i3 or i5, less paste is required.

Step 5: install the cooler

Description: Install the cooler on top of the CPU

Install the cooler on top of the CPU

At this stage we fit the main CPU heatsink, which for our test PC is the exceptional Thermolab Trinity. This cooler supports all current CPUs be they AMD or Intel, Socket 2011 included. Socket 2011 has a unique cooler mounting system where four standoffs are screwed directly into the corners of the socket assembly. Socket 1155 has four holes instead, necessitating an additional backing plate for most large third-party coolers. AMD coolers use a special plastic mounting frame pre-fitted to all motherboards. With the standoffs in place, we then fitted four mounting arms to the underside of the cooler and used the provided thumb nuts to secure them onto the motherboard. Always make sure the cooler is mounted extremely firmly. If it feels wobbly, something is invariably wrong and you’ll have to start again. Never start your PC without the cooler: the CPU will overheat in seconds!

Step 6: install the memory

Description: the memory

In Socket 2011 builds the memory should be installed in sets of four to take advantage of the platform’s quad-channel memory interface. If you’re using and AMD Phenom or a Socket 1155 system, the memory will be installed in pairs instead. On most motherboards the slots are colour coded to ease installation. It you’re no using all your board’s slots, populate all slots of the same colour first! We chose Corsair Vengeance modules for our build, which come with heat spreaders as standard. To install the memory, simply move to plastic clips away from the centreof the slot and line up the notch in the module with the corresponding protrusion in the slot. Push the sticks firmly down, applying equal pressure at either end of the module until the clip snaps back into place.

Step 7: prepare the motherboard tray

All cases have several sets of screw holes to accommodate boards of different sizes on their motherboard trays. On some expensive cases the whole motherboard tray slides out to facilitate this process, but our Fractal Design Define R3 has a fixed variant. Rather than screwing the board directly into these holes, we install hexagonal stand-offs that raise the height just enough to allow the board to sit on the tray without its underside touching the case. It is critically important that you only ever install standoffs that correspond to the mounting holes in your motherboard. Most full-size ATX boards like our P9X79 Pro have nine mounting holes. If you install extra unneeded standoffs, they will cause a short circuit on the delicate traces under your board and could damage it. Use pliers or a small socket set to tighten the stand offs if your fingers aren’t quite strong enough for the job.

Step 8: install I/O Shield and case fans

Description: The I/O shield is located right next to the back fans.

The I/O shield is located right next to the back fans.

Before screwing your motherboard in place you need to fit the I/O shield. This protects the ports on the back of the board from accidental damage and also protects the inside of your case from dust. You should also install any extra case fans in your chassis at this stage, as it will be much more difficult if you have to manhandle them in once the board has been fitted. Case fans come in several different sizes, so ensure you buy the right fans for your case. Fans are secured at each corner via four coarse-threaded self-tapping screws. Transparent plastic fan frames are usually made of harder plastic than their black counterparts and may therefore require an electric screwdriver to aid installation. To install the I/O shield you simply line it up from the inside of the case and press it into the hole. Make sure you don’t install it upside down!

  •  How Not To Build A PC (Part 3)
  •  How Not To Build A PC (Part 2)
  •  How Not To Build A PC (Part 1) - Underspecified PSU & Wrongly mounted cooler
  •  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
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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
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