How To Assemble A Desktop PC/Archives
This section contains information which was relevant during some point of this wikibook but is no longer available, relevant or used in a PC which you would build today. The information below is kept for historical interest only.
Please do not modify the contents in this page. This is not a update repositery; things which can be made up to date by simply updating the said content or software should not come here.
Choosing the parts
The support for older (PATA) IDE drives is starting to disappear. The new G/Q/P 965 chipset series from Intel completely dropped support for such devices. Nevertheless, many motherboard makers are still including an additional IDE controller on their boards, and it still remains possible to buy an extra PCI IDE controller.
Expansion slot interfaces
Old motherboards may have one or more the following slots:
- AGP - for graphics cards (ranging from AGP 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x)
- PCI - for expansion cards and low-end graphics cards
Older AGP 8x graphics cards are generally being discontinued in favor of PCI-Express 16x, as the speed and efficiency is about 4 times that of the AGP 8x technology. Old PCI cards are either now built into the motherboard (for sound cards, LAN cards, IEEE 1394 firewire and USB 2.0 interfaces) or becoming PCI-Express variants.
- IEEE-1394 Firewire
- Firewire ports are principally used for connecting DV (Digital Video) cameras and external hard drives. This technology got a foothold because it was much faster than USB 1.0 and 1.1. With the near-ubiquity of USB 2.0, however, Firewire 400, the original, and still the most common IEEE-1394 implementation, was actually a little slower. For this reason, and in spite of the existence of a faster but seldom implemented Firewire 800 specification, Firewire is obsolete. Like USB, most motherboards that support Firewire will have one or more external ports on the back panel and the ability to connect one or more additional ports. One or two Firewire ports will suffice for most users.
Labelling of RAM
- DDR2 supports DDR2-400, DDR2-533, DDR2-667, DDR2-800, DDR2-1066
- DDR supports DDR-200, DDR-266, DDR-333, DDR-400 (mainstream) and DDR-533 (rare)
DDR RAM can be labeled in two different ways. It can be labeled by approximate bandwidth; as an example, 400MHz-effective DDR RAM has approximately 3.2 GB/s of bandwidth, so it is commonly labeled as PC3200. It can also be labeled by its effective clock speed; 400 MHz effective DDR RAM is also known as DDR-400. There is also DDR and DDR2 labeled as PC and PC2.
- 256MB DDR-400 = 256MB PC 3200 RAM
- 256MB DDR2-400 = 256MB PC2 3200 RAM
SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic RAM) is labelled by its clock speed in megahertz (MHz). For example, PC133 RAM runs at 133 MHz. SDRAM is obsolete, as all new motherboards have withdrawn support for SDRAM. It is now superseded by the more efficient DDR3/4 RAM.
- 128MB SD-133 = 128MB PC133 RA
Hard drive and SSD
- IEEE1394 This format is most commonly known as "Firewire" (Apple) or "I link" from Sony. The theoretical speed of IEEE1394 is double that of USB 1.0.
Older video cards use the standard PCI slots that are now growing obsolete due to limited speed and memory. These cards are needed for a few rare systems lacking an AGP or PCI-E slot (usually low end desktop systems designed to be cheap.) They are also useful for adding additional video cards to a system.
Though Floppy drives have been made largely obsolete in recent years by devices such as USB "Thumb Drives" and CD writers, they are sometimes installed anyway because they are sometimes required for BIOS updates and exchanging small files with older computers. Floppy drives block air movement with wide cables, and can make computers set to check the drive take longer to start (most have an option in their BIOS to disable this.). One option to overcome the cable problem and to make it easier to install is to buy an external USB floppy drive, these are potentially a little bit faster and can be plugged into a different system (such as a laptop without a floppy drive.) However, not all systems support booting from a USB floppy drive -- most notably older motherboards.
8" Floppy Disk
In the late 1960s IBM invented the 8-inch floppy disk. This was the first floppy disk design used in those days and as a read-only disk it had storage-write restrictions to the people it was distributed to. However and or later on, a read-write format came about.
Today's it is near impossible to to find a computer that uses 8-inch floppy disks or even obtain the necessary hardware and consumables.
5.25" Floppy Disk:
This disk was introduced some time later, and was used extensively in the 1980s. These also have fallen in use, and is less rare than the previous format and is also no longer supported by contemporaneous hardware.
3.5" Floppy Disk:
This storage medium is the most common of those listed in this section, still in occasional use today. Floppy disks hold from 400 KB up to 1.44 MB. The most common types found are 720 KB (low-density) and 1.44 MB (high-density). Floppy disks have largely been superseded as a transfer medium, first by rewritable CD-ROM (CD-RW) drives and now by flash drives, but are still used as backup storage for small amounts of data. A fair proportion also survive as original installation media for older software applications.
Several other floppy types and sizes have been introduced, such as 2", 2.5" and several competing 3" and 3.25" formats as well as the ~120 MB SuperDrive which was compatible with standard 3.5" disks, but none of these were ever very popular and all are quite rare now. Recently, it has become increasingly common for computers to be manufactured without floppy disk drives, and even some motherboards lack standard floppy disk connection headers, so it is expected that the floppy disk will soon fade completely from general use
It should be noted that floppy disks are not suitable for long term storage of data, even in a backup role. Never keep your only copy of an important file on a floppy disk.
CRT (cathode ray tube) displays
The other key type of display is the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) display. While CRT technology is older, it often outperforms LCD technology in terms of color reproduction (color gamut), although LCD displays are quickly catching up. CRTs are becoming increasingly difficult to find and have almost vanished from mass-market retail. High end CRT's are still available, though they are rapidly being discontinued, and now cost a considerable amount.
There are two types of CRT displays, shadow mask and aperture grill. An aperture grill display is brighter and perfectly flat in the vertical direction, but is more fragile and has one or two mostly-unnoticeable thin black lines (support wires) running across the screen. CRTs are generally two to four times as deep as similarly-sized LCDs, and can weigh around 10 times as much. If you purchase a CRT display over the Internet, shipping is much more expensive than an LCD, due to the significantly greater weight.
Sometimes CRTs with a flat screen instead of a curved one are called "flat screens". This is not to be confused with the term "flat panel", used to refer to LCDs. In order to withstand atmospheric pressure, the glass at the front of a flat screen CRT needs to be very thick, and thus they are limited to diagonal sizes of 20 inches, or so. A flat screen CRT will be noticeably heavier than its curved screen counterpart.
For improved contrast and readability, some CRTs were manufactured with an anti-reflection coating. Such tubes make colors appear more vibrant and blacks appear jet black. Also, if the user has a light from behind, such as from a lighting fixture or windows, annoying reflections on the screen will be much less noticeable. The coating typically consists of magnesium fluoride, the same material used to coat binocular optics and some corrective eyeglass lenses. It is relatively soft, and must be cleaned with care, using special lens cleaning cloths or papers to prevent scratching of the coating. Another way to clean them is with a boiled 100% cotton flannel cloth and commercial glass cleaning solution, such as Windex. Oily fingerprints show up very clearly on coated screens, so one should avoid touching them. With reasonable care, however, the screen may only need to be wet-cleaned once a year and in the meantime can be wiped with a soft dust cloth or brushed with a soft, natural-bristle paint brush to remove any dust that may accumulate. If you're shopping for such a display on the used market, you will recognize it by the faint, purplish reflection of room lights and daylight.
Lower-end CRTs use an etched glass tube face. It gives the glass a dull, non-specular appearance that helps cut down on glare, but such tubes do not provide the high contrast and color brilliance of tubes treated with an anti-reflection coating.
Flicker in CRT's can cause headaches in some people when run at lower frequencies, so it may be ideal to pick a screen offering higher vertical refresh rates at whichever resolutions you intend to use. Most people who have problems with low frequencies (60 Hz) find it preferable to have at least 80 Hz at the intended resolution. Many won't be bothered by this at all, however.
CRT displays and early LCD displays were developed at a time when television and computers used screens with 4:3 (width x height) aspect ratios. If your application requires a wide-screen display, even at the expense of reduced performance, a modern 16:9 aspect ratio LCD screen should be chosen instead.
If you have an older AGP video card: Install the video card into the AGP socket. This is always the top expansion slot near the back of the computer. AGP slots are often brown, but can also be strange colours such as fluorescent green. Check the motherboard for levers (or similar devices) that are part of the AGP slot to help hold the card in place. These must be retracted before insertion of the card. Check the motherboard's manual for information on how to use these devices (if your motherboard has one.) Push the card into the socket (AGP slots are often pretty tight, do not be afraid to push it until it is well inserted), then screw it in at the top of the metal bracket. If it has a power connector, connect it to a 4-pin molex connector. If it has a pass through, do not connect it to a hard drive.
Installing drive jumpers
If you are not using an IDE drive there is no need to adjust jumpers; you can skip this section.
Before you install IDE/ATA (PATA) drives, you will need to set the drives jumpers. Each IDE/ATA channel can handle two drives, a master and a slave. Consult your drive's instructions on how to set the jumpers. The jumper configurations are usually either printed on the back, or on the top of the drive. Drives can be configured in 2 ways: Drive Select or Cable Select.
- "Cable select": Use this if you have 80-pin cables. Cable select automatically assigns slave/master based on the plug the IDE cable is plugged into. Put the jumper on CS.
- "Drive select": If you are using a 40 pin cable, you must use "drive select". Master/slave status is determined by the jumper. In this mode, configure the drive on the end connector as the master, and the drive connected to the middle connector as the slave. If the IDE channel has only one drive, check your motherboard documentation for the appropriate setting, which is usually master.
Note that Drive Select will always work, while Cable Select will only work if you have the proper cable.
For older PC's
Assuming that you have selected a quality motherboard, high-quality RAM, thermal solution and power supply; you may wonder why your processor won't exceed a certain speed limit. Lets assume that you have a memory chip that is capable of taking the maximum frequency the motherboard can throw at it and yet, when you exceed a certain speed limit you realize that your system becomes unstable.
A PCI bus generally runs at 33 Mhz. When you exceed 35-36 Mhz, the hard disk and other IDE devices become unstable, because the IDE controller is controlled through the PCI bus. Oftentimes, you may encounter texture corruption, when your AGP bus exceeds a certain speed limit. This was often observed on older motherboards that wouldn't allow you to lock the AGP and the PCI bus at stock speeds.
The good news: regardless of the FSB speed, most motherboards nowadays automatically ensure that the frequency of the PCI, AGP and other buses always remain constant (in other words; their speeds are locked unless you deliberately change them). This implies that the other components connected to the motherboard don't undergo stress when the FSB speed is raised. You have the fastest RAM you could find and the obscenely fast speed ratings on your ensure that you can extract the most performance by bumping up your FSB speed to the limits.
The main culprit that plays the spoilsport is your CPU. Even if you have an exceptionally good thermal solution, your CPU won't exceed a certain limit.
Example: I had experimented with a Pentium III 700E Mhz processor and a Pentium III 800E MHz processor on an Asus CUBX-E motherboard using Kingston PC-133 SD-RAM. The reason I chose these 2 processors for experimentation was because they both used a FSB speed of 100MHz. This motherboard was really flexible, I was able to increment the FSB to 150Mhz. I was able to extract 1050 MHz from the stock 700Mhz. This is because the multiplier is 7, which unfortunately cannot be changed. So I bumped up the FSB from 100Mhz to 150 Mhz; which gave me the resultant speed of:
(Front Side Bus)
Simple arithmetic? Yes. Now, logically speaking, if I can extract 1050Mhz from a 700Mhz processor; I should be able to extract 1200Mhz from an 800 MHz processor. This is not true. I tried doing exactly the same with the 800 MHz processor and the computer crashed. However, it was stable when I set the FSB speed to 133 MHz. When I set the FSB at 133 MHz ; this was the result:
(Front Side Bus)
This simple experiment shows that a CPU gets saturated after a certain clock speed. Typical symptoms of an erratic CPU include instability and at times, you may not be able to boot up at all.
This particular CPU die was manufactured using a 0.18u process. When Intel launched a similar CPU using a 0.13u process; they shipped those CPUs with the stock speed of up to 1.4Ghz. This CPU core was based on the P6 Architecture and it used a 10 stage pipeline. Presently, Intel manufactures the Pentium-M CPU which is based on the P-6 architecture; the difference being that they manufacture it using a 0.09u process and they have increased the depth of the pipeline.
These terms may seem cryptic and this concept may be difficult for some to grasp. It's really very simple: To be a successful overclocker; you need to purchase the best CPU possible; not necessarily the fastest. Always go for a processor that uses the latest manufacturing process. A CPU rated at 3 Ghz which is manufactured by using a 0.13u process won't overclock as well as a CPU that is rated at 2.6 Ghz using a 0.09u process.
Deeper pipelines ensure that the CPU has the capability to scale higher in terms of speed. The disadvantage is that a CPU with a deeper pipeline is slower than a CPU that uses a smaller pipeline assuming that they are running at the same speed. AMD Athlon CPUs are famous for their relatively short pipelines. Thats why they perform better than the Pentium 4 CPUs at the same clock speed. Before purchasing the fastest processor, always keep this in mind. Choosing a processor smartly helps you extract the maximum speed out of your machine. You don't need to know what a pipeline exactly does. Refer to the processor spec sheet, find out these basic details of the CPU core and its architecture and choose accordingly.
To increase the computer's stability, you may also disable the spread spectrum; set the PCI speed to 100MHz; set the voltage to the middle range, not too high; and disable any smart fan settings. and those settings work for all recommended boards.
Older nVidia video cards can also be overclocked through a hidden feature in the driver called coolbits. Coolbits is a feature that can be unlocked by creating a DWORD in regedit for windows operating system. To use the coolbits feature, for Windows just simply open the regedit then open the directory HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE>Software>NVIDIA Corporation>NVTweak and create a new DWORD value in the NVTweak folder named coolbits then right-click it>modify type 3 for single card or 1A for SLI in the value name .It is a good a overclocking tool as it has a fairly conservative "optimal clock" once you have thus increased the core clock (not the memory clock!!) run a gpu intensive task like 3dmark, repeat until you have a sudden drop in the benchmark score. This is the thermal throttling kicking in; do not push it any harder as it will result in permanent damage to your gpu. Back off the clockspeed by about 20-30 MHz.
One important thing to note for older graphics cards: many think that the option which says "AGP voltage" in their BIOS can be used to "voltmod" a video card to get a bit more power out of it. In fact, it's used for something else, and raising the AGP voltage can and probably will cause damage to a video card.