In my last blog post, all the components for my new PC (aka The RoBeast) finally arrived. This time around, I’ll discuss the actual build process. I consider myself pretty comfortable with installing components (RAM, drives, video cards, etc.). And while I have built my share of electronics as an electrical engineering major some 20 years ago, I’ve never actually built a PC from scratch before.
So, with the parts here, let’s dive in. Here are the main components: the CPU (brains), the RAM (memory), and the motherboard (where everything goes on). (I discussed the parts list in my previous blog post.)
Before I began any assembly, I jumped on Youtube to research the install process. While I’m comfortable installing components, I wanted to make doubly sure that I wasn’t setting myself up for a potential “gotcha” down the road. There are a wealth of informative videos on putting together a PC, and I would suggest watching a few of them before you begin the build.
Armed with the extra knowledge, I placed the motherboard on top of the electrostatic bag it came in. First up: install the Central Processing Unit (CPU).
Inside the Intel i5 box are the CPU, a cooling fan, and a small picture-based installation guide.
Installing the CPU required first removing the plastic socket protector on the motherboard. Next, taking the CPU in hand, I lined up the notches of the CPU with the socket on the motherboard. If you’ve done this correctly, the CPU should seat perfectly flush inside its socket. When handling the CPU, hold it by its edges to avoid potentially bending / damaging the delicate pins on its underside.
After inserting the CPU in, it needs to be secured onto the motherboard, via a small clasp on the side of the socket. This process requires a little force, which can be a bit unnerving when you’re attempting this sort of install for the first time.
Next, the CPU fan was placed on top of the CPU. There are four levers on the CPU fan, which need to line up with the corresponding holes on the motherboard. Pressing them in will lock the fan in place. The CPU fan already includes thermal paste (which keeps the CPU temperature from cooking the chip).
After affixing the CPU in place, I added the two 8GB sticks of Crucial Ballistix RAM. There are four slots on this motherboard. Per the Gigabyte Z97 motherboard docs, I opted to place the memory in alternating slots to take advantage of the Dual Channel capabilities. (Dual channel works twice as fast as single channel since it divides read/write operations evenly between memory modules.)
After snapping the RAM in place, it was time to place the motherboard inside the case. Lining up the motherboard was straightforward, but I really wish Thermaltake had larger diagrams. To be fair, the documentation does indicate the specific screws for mounting the motherboard onto the case, but I had to really strain my eyes to see them.
The Gigabyte Z97 motherboard comes with the required backplate, which lines up with the opening on the rear of the case. The backplate itself feels a little flimsy (you can bend this quite easily if you’re not careful).
After the motherboard was mounted, I used the Gigabyte manual to make the necessary connections for power, audio, SATA, and USB3. This part of the process reminded me of the numerous breadboard-based projects we had to build as EE students. I made the necessary connections from the power supply to the motherboard. I also connected the cables coming from the case to the motherboard. The only anomaly I encountered was in connecting the Thermaltake front fan to the motherboard. The fan’s cable is three pin, while the motherboard only has 4-pin fan connectors. I looked at the pin descriptions in the Gigabyte motherboard and made an educated guess.
The Corsair power supply comes with many different types of power connectors; not all of them were used on this build. With some velcro, I was able to do some cable management to neatly tie down the cables I wouldn’t be using on the build. (At some point, I will be adding a new video card and maybe even a 3.5″ standard hard drive to take advantage of some of the connectors that aren’t currently being used.)
With all the connections in, the moment of truth had arrived. I was fairly confident with my build, but there is always that possibility of overlooking something obvious. I double-checked my connections and fired up the PC. I saw the CPU fan start to move, but then stop. I immediately powered it down. I checked the connections, and tried again – with the same results. Panic seized in. Did I make a mistake? Did I fry the CPU?
Nope. As it turns out, I didn’t give the PC enough time to power up. Within 5 seconds the CPU fan was spinning nicely and the PC was up. Or at least, I could see a familiar prompt on my display.
I placed the case panels back on the unit, having completed the task of my first PC build. It was a gratifying (and immensely fun!) experience.
In my next article, I’ll explore the motherboard’s BIOS and getting the RoBeast operational with Ubuntu.