[ The PC Guide | Procedure
General Installation and Assembly Tips
This section contains a number of the tips and techniques that I have learned after
building and repairing over 100 PCs. Many of these are from the "school of hard
knocks", and others I picked up from books or from reading the experiences of others.
This section is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every warning or tip I could
think of related to hardware installation or assembly. Here you will find general
tips that apply to a variety of different procedures. Tips relevant to a specific
procedure are of course contained within that procedure.
Here are some general tips, hints and warnings that I think you should be aware of
before performing the hardware procedures on this site:
- Please do not perform any procedures on your PC before reading the site warnings. The PC Guide is not
responsible for any damage that may result to your system as a result of using these
procedures, for any reason. If you feel uncomfortable with this, please do not use the
- Static is not your friend, so avoid it. Do not touch chips with your fingers, even ones
on circuit boards. Processors and static (cache) memory are particularly sensitive to
static discharge. Keep components in their original packaging until you are ready to use
- Before beginning the installation of any hardware device, it is best to make sure you
read up on it to ensure that you understand it. In particular, read the installation
instructions of any device you've never installed before. Also see the relevant Reference Guide section for general background information.
- Read the manual, but always verify that what it says makes sense. Sometimes manuals are
not always updated when products are, so you should always check the hardware as well as
the documentation. This is particularly true for motherboards; sometimes the manual is the
same for several slightly different versions of the board. Always verify any feature the
manual claims by examining the board itself.
- Do not force anything when working inside the PC. Pressure may be required in some
cases, but if you have to really force an object, you are most likely doing something
wrong and there is a significant chance that you will cause damage.
- When connecting cables, always remember to line up pin 1 of each device's connector. Pin
1 is usually marked on a device by a small number "1" near the pin, but may also
be indicated with a dot, triangle, arrow, or a square solder pad where the pin attaches to
the printed circuit board. Most cables have a red marking on one edge that is used to
indicate the side that goes to pin 1 on each device; so you just line up the cable so the
red wire goes towards pin 1 on every device. Many PC cables are not keyed to prevent
incorrect insertion, so it's important to be careful.
- Watch out for "off by one" errors when attaching cable connectors to pin
headers. It's easy to miss by one row or column of pins and then the drive will not work,
and it can be very hard to diagnose this.
- Ground yourself before working inside the PC or handling components. An easy way to do
this is to touch the metal case of the power supply when it is plugged in. However, don't
leave the PC plugged in while you are working on it. I sometimes open the PC case, ground
to the power supply and then pull the plug. As long as you don't rub your feet on the
carpet, you should remain grounded for some time.
- Four screws are sufficient for most drives. You can get away with three but I don't
recommend going to fewer than that.
- When installing a drive, first insert the screws one by one and only "hand
tighten". Once all the screws are in, check alignment, and then tighten the screws.
This will ensure that the drive is lined up correctly.
- Do not overtighten screws when installing hardware. For starters, you'll regret it
if/when you decide to remove the drive. I've seen over-tightened screws get stripped and
then be almost impossible to loosen. In the case of hard disk drives, you can damage the
- Do not use screws that are too long, or again, you may damage the device. 1/8" is
- Use a magnetic screwdriver to help prevent dropped screws and components, or to pick
them up. The tiny magnet will not threaten magnetic media.
- There are several different types of screws used inside PCs. Many times you will see
screws with the same head but different thread patterns. If you find yourself having to
force a screw into a screwhole, you're probably using the wrong type.
- Watch out for interference at all times. Think not only about whether two components
conflict with each other now, but whether they might in the future if the box is jostled
slightly, or if something comes a bit loose over time.
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