How To Build Your Own PC From Scratch (Part 5)

5/19/2012 9:13:20 AM

Step 19: Fit the video card


Description: the video card

With the release of AMD’s 7970, the GTX 580 may no longer be the fastest single GPU card on the market, but it’s still a mighty piece of kit. The first step you’ll need to take when installing a video card is to unscrew the blank PCI backing plates from the case. Next, you need to line up the video card with the top PCI-Express slot while also ensuring that the tips of the video card’s backing plate are also lined up correctly with the gaps in the motherboard tray. It’s not uncommon to have to bend the backing plate slightly to get it in, particularly in cheaper cases. With everything lined up, push the card into the slot, making sure you cannot see any gold contacts along the edge. Once the card in place, secure it to the case using coarse-threaded screws.

Step 20: Install PCI-Express power leads

Description: PCI-Express power

If you’ve purchased a gaming grade video card, it will need extra juice from the PSU in order to function correctly. As the GTX 580 is a top-spec card, it actually needs two extra cables: one eight-pin and one six-pin. On our Corsair TX750 PSU the eight-pin plug is formed by merging a six-pin PCI-Express power cable with the extra two-pin ‘tail’ next to it. If your card has two six-pin connectors, it does not matter which of your PSU’s PCI-Express leads you use; any will power the card correctly. If your PSU does not have enough PCI-Express power plugs, you can buy cables that convert two Molex leads into a single six-pin connection. This should serve as a warning, however, as a PSU that’s up to the job of powering a good video card should have the necessary leads as standard!

Step 21: Plug in your motherboard power plugs

The vast majority of motherboards now have a 24-pin main power connector along with a secondary 12V auxiliary plug to provide extra power to the CPU. Cheaper boards tend to use a four-pin auxiliary connector whereas more powerful products have an eight-pin aux plug. If your PSU only has a four-pin 12V connector, don’t worry too much; most boards will still work with only four of their eight-pins powered. Just bear in mind it may limit your overclocking ability and consider upgrading your PSU when funds allow. The main plug is normally on the right-hand edge of the board, with the auxiliary plug residing along the top. Both sets of motherboard power plugs are keyed in such a way as to only allow installation in a single orientation. You simply line them up and push them into the motherboard slit until the clip clicks them into place.

Step 22: attach your fans

The Fractal Design Define R3 case we’re using comes with a rheostat fan controller that can control up to three fans simultaneously. This allows you to manually balance your cooling solution for the best compromise between noise level and performance. Despite the relatively hot and power hungry hardware in our build, we found the two included fans kept the system sufficiently cool, even with the fan controller at its quietest setting – a testament to the chassis’ excellent internal layout. Another option is to use the three-pin headers on your motherboard. This has the benefit of allowing the board to control the fan’s rotational speed on demand, though you will probably end up with a slightly louder computer. Some of the latest case fans come with a PWM connector, which has four pins rather than the usual three. These allow for even finer control over fan speed depending on CPU load.

Step 23: Tidy your cables

Description: Tidy your cables

This step is all the more important if your case lacks the facility to route your leads behind the motherboard tray. Bundle any unused leads into a spare drive bay or similarly unobtrusive area of the case and make sure cables are tied to a sturdy upright to prevent them from moving around. Loose cables can easily stall fans or may short motherboard surface components so don’t be tempted to skip over this step just because you think it’s purely aesthetic. Carefully routed cables will also help to improve airflow, because there’ll be fewer internal obstructions. Think carefully if any of the leads you are tethering away will be needed in the future, and make sure you don’t have to completely rewire your case just to free up a single SATA connection! Once you’ve finished installing your cable ties, trim off the tails and rotate any sharp edges away from regularly accessed areas.

Step 24: All finished!

Description: computer

With all your hard graft done, you should perform a few final checks. Make sure any add-in cards are pushed in as firmly as they can be, and that the memory modules are all seated correctly. Make sure your fans can all spin without impediment and double-check your motherboard’s power leads are fully pushed home. You can now reinstall the two side panels and fire up the system for the first time. Before you install the operating system, press Delete or the relevant F key to enter the BIOS and check that the CPU temperature is at an acceptable level. Anything under 45oC should be fine for a chip idling in the BIOS. Set your primary boot device to the optical drive if using a DVD-based OS installation and you’re finally ready to start using your new system!

  •  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
  •  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
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