How To Build A PC: From Component Selection To Installation

Step 9: Preparing 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. But plugging 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 (that is, going back to figure out what went wrong if things don't work the way they're supposed to) could slow things down significantly. Phobias 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 a sinking feeling faster than damaging a critical component before you're even finished putting everything together. Major concerns include electrostatic discharge, dropped parts, and breakage caused by force fitment or scratched circuits.

Accidental electrostatic discharge (ESD) can destroy PC hardware, a fact that causes many building guides to exaggerate this danger. In truth, few experienced custom PC builders take more than the most basic precautions against ESD; even when it does occur, it's 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 come from the use of carpeted workspaces and extremely dry environments, so another level of protection may come from the use of an antistatic mat under the chair and 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 droppage 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. There’s no hard-and-fast rule to prevent you from damaging the motherboard as you guide your processor into place. Just be extra careful during those critical few moments.

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.