[ The PC Guide | Procedure
New PC Assembly Procedure
This procedure describes how to build a modern, Pentium-class Windows 95 personal
computer. Starting from components, the instructions here will tell you how to physically
assemble the unit, get it running, test it, and even set up and optimize the operating
system. My goal in creating this procedure was to make it simple and clear enough that
virtually anyone could use it to make their own PC. To meet this goal I have provided a
great deal of detail, far more than you will find in other similar descriptions. I have
also distilled into these pages my experiences in building and rebuilding dozens of
machines, so the common pitfalls are foreseen and you can better avoid the many mistakes
that I made while building my first PCs without the benefit of a procedure such as this
This assembly procedure is comprised entirely of subprocedures, to keep it to a
reasonable length and to allow you to skip the details of any parts of the overall
procedure that you already understand. The steps for the procedure are in the Index frame;
each loads a subprocedure here, into the Contents frame. You can also use the links at the
bottom of this page if you desire.
This procedure concentrates on the assembly and setup of the PC itself. It does not
deal with any of the important pre-assembly work, such as planning a system, specifying
and purchasing components, etc. These will be covered in future sections of The PC Guide,
with links placed here as appropriate. It does, however, include the important steps after
assembly is completed, which most other assembly procedures gloss over: testing the
system, getting the CD-ROM drive running, and installing the operating system. I assume
the installation of Windows 95 here, just because it is the most popular operating system
Note: The procedure overview
below applies to the whole build procedure. Each of the individual subprocedures also has
its own overview, which you will see when you select one from the Index Frame.
- Difficulty Level: 4 (High).
- Risk Factor: 4 (High). There is a slight chance of hardware damage with
this procedure. There is no risk of data loss if a new, clean hard disk is being used,
otherwise there is a remote chance of data loss as well.
- Hardware Required: See procedure step 1.
- Software Required: See procedure step 1.
- Time to Perform: Typically two to three hours for someone doing this
the first time. This depends a great deal on: the exact system being built, the builder's
experience level, how many problems are encountered during assembly, and many other
- Preparation / Warnings:
- Please be sure you have read these safety precautions
before beginning a full system build.
- If you have not already done so, please read this section on
general installation and assembly tips.
- Do not run the system with the power supply plugged in so you can use it to ground
yourself to avoid static. Static is bad, electrocution is much worse.
- I would recommend familiarizing yourself with at least the basics of how the PC works
before starting. Try reading various sections of the Reference
Guide for starters. It is especially beneficial to have a decent understanding of the
PC's boot process when building a new
- This procedure is geared towards those creating a new, modern PC from scratch. Some of
what it contains is not relevant for those building an older PC, performing upgrades, etc.
I also do not cover the specifics of installing peripherals, esoteric things like RAID
controllers, multiple-disk setups, and the like. You can easily extrapolate these from
what is here, however.
- I assume the use of IDE/ATA/ATAPI hard disk
drives and CD-ROM drives, not SCSI. I may
add steps for SCSI at a later date.
- If the hard disk drive being used in the system was purchased new from a discounter or
other company you don't have a lot of experience with, you should take whatever
precautions you can to verify that it is legitimate and has not been resold to you after
being stolen. Hard disk drive theft is becoming an epidemic, and some vendors are
starting to crack down on it. For example, Western
Digital Corporation is now refusing to provide warranty service on drives that
have been reported as stolen. Unfortunately, most of these are resold to unknowing third
parties who do not find out about it until they try to return the drive after they have a
problem. Western Digital has a page on their web site
that will let you enter the serial number from your drive to see if it has been reported
stolen. If it has been, return it at once and take any other appropriate steps that you
deem necessary. Make sure you always buy from a reputable vendor, and beware of any deal
that's "too good to be true", because there is usually a reason. This sort of a
problem is rare when you buy from an established dealer.
- Some of the steps can be done in a different order with no ill effects. I have them in
the order that I prefer them. Most of these are based on experience; for example some may
find it odd to set the jumpers on the motherboard before installing it, but it's much
easier to reach the jumpers that way. I also find putting the drives in before the
motherboard makes it easier to reach the drives for mounting, especially on smaller cases.
Finally, I have found it easier to put the heat sink on the processor after installing the
processor in its socket.
- There are millions of combinations of components out there. Please use discretion in
following the instructions. I am not omniscient.
- If you have problems getting the new system to work, try looking in the Troubleshooting Guide. I have references to more specific
areas of the Troubleshooting Expert within the subprocedures themselves.
- Some of the steps apply only to systems using the AT form factor, and not the ATX form
factor. I personally have far more experience with AT and therefore the chances of errors
in the procedure are higher in the areas that are specific to ATX. See here for more on these form factors.
Procedure Steps: Please use the Index Frame; the steps are repeated
below for the benefit of those accessing the site without frames:
Note: The "Next"
links at the bottom of each of the pages below follow the index structure of the overall
site (as seen in the Topic Index.) They do not follow the
sequence required to complete the New PC Assembly Procedure. Please use the links below
instead of the "Next" links if you are using these procedures to build a new PC.
- Gather and Inspect Components and Tools.
- Remove Cover From System Case.
- Prepare System Case for Assembly.
- Plan System Layout.
- Install Floppy Disk Drive.
- Configure Hard Disk Drive and CD-ROM Drive.
- Install Hard Disk Drive.
- Install CD-ROM Drive.
- Configure Motherboard.
- Install Processor.
- Install Heat Sink (for processors without
- Install Cache Module (for systems using cache
- Install Memory Modules.
- Install Motherboard.
- Install I/O Port Connectors (AT form factor only).
- Install PS/2 Mouse Port Connector (optional, AT
form factor only).
- Connect Motherboard and Case.
- Connect Floppy Disk Drive to Motherboard.
- Connect Hard Disk Drive to Motherboard.
- Connect CD-ROM Drive to Motherboard.
- Install Video Card.
- Perform Post-Assembly Inspection.
- Connect External Peripherals.
- Perform Initial Boot.
- Perform Initial BIOS Setup.
- Perform Initial System Tests.
- Install Additional Peripherals.
- Partition and Format Hard Disk.
- Install CD-ROM Driver.
- Install Windows 95 (or other operating system).
- Complete Assembly.
- Document System.
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