How To Build A PC

Step 10: Prepare For Assembly

Final assembly is usually the quickest part of a build. Component selection may require days of consideration, and finding the best source for your gear can take up the better part of a day. However, plugging in connectors and inserting screws shouldn't take more than a few hours, even for the most inexperienced builder.

If you're familiar with a few simple hand tools, you could assemble a complete PC in less time than it takes to read this guide, but troubleshooting could slow things down significantly. Fears aside, you're unlikely to damage your hardware or yourself if you follow a few very easy precautions, and we hope this final segment will eliminate hours of post-build trial and error.

First Precautions

Nothing creates that lovely sinking feeling faster than damaging a critical component before you're even finished putting everything together. Major concerns include electrostatic discharge, dropped parts, and damage caused by forcibly fit together parts or scratched circuits.

Accidental electrostatic discharge (ESD) can destroy PC hardware, a fact that causes many building guides to exaggerate this danger. In practice however, very few experienced custom PC builders take more than the most basic precautions against ESD, and even when it does occur it's more likely to follow the component's ground plane rather than zap its most sensitive parts.

The most basic precaution is to occasionally touch a ground, such as a large metal office desk or the metal case of a plugged-in system, to discharge your body. Additional ESD risks stem from the use of carpeted workspaces and extremely dry environments, so another level of protection may come from the use of an anti-static mat under the chair or a humidifier for extremely dry rooms. Grounded wrist straps are an over-the-top method of protection rarely used outside of production environments, yet the extra-cautious will attain peace of mind when wearing one.

Fallen components seem easy to prevent in theory, but damage from being dropped is a far more likely cause of broken components than ESD. Hard disk drives are often mishandled during installation and other parts can be easily knocked from a desk. Reducing fall distance is as easy as moving work away from the edge of a desk, and reducing damage from parts getting knocked to the floor is as simple as leaving them in the box until they're ready to be installed.

But one physical issue that even the most cautious of us can't prevent 100% of the time comes from dropping processors into their interfaces at a slight angle. This problem is specific to Intel’s latest LGA interfaces, because the contact pins have gotten thinner as the company has added more of them. Intel’s pins act like springs, so that even the slightest damage can cause insufficient contact pressure.

Beyond having a CPU slip out of your fingers, assembly damage can include situations where parts are misaligned and forced into place. Most components require only a small amount of pressure to seat the connector, but a few do need more aggressive tactics. We’ll cover those specifics as we install each part.

Thoughts On Tools

Since most of the screws in modern computer cases have been standardized over the years, a #2 Phillips screwdriver should suffice for most builders. However, if you want to be extra prepared, a #1 Phillips screwdriver, coupled with a few small flathead screwdrivers should cover almost everything else. Finally, most cases with any other types of screws will often come with the tools necessary to work with them.

Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
1 comment
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • James_39
    Selecting the case is a bizarre thing to have in Step 1.Surely that would be best placed once all other components, including accessories, have been factored in? Otherwise you end up selecting components purely on the basis they fit in your case, not forgetting that some (most) cases don't support water cooling kits/pipes etc mentioned in Step 8.