BOOT CAMP 324 (04/05/04)




We are now ready to begin the final assembly and testing of our home build PC. Start by checking that the hard disc and CD/DVD drives are set to ‘Master’ and fit them, along with the floppy drive into their respective ‘bays’ at the front of the case. Carefully align the front of the floppy and DVD drives so that they are flush with the case and tighten the screws – two per side.


Next the motherboard, remove it from its box and place it on its anti-static bag. Open the retaining latches on memory slot 1 or (A1), hold the memory module by the chips (don’t touch the contacts), line up the notches on the contact strip with the lugs in the slot and insert it into the slot, when you are happy with the alignment press down firmly at both ends and the latches will click into place. Remember never force anything!


Next the CPU chip and fan; lift the locking lever on the side of the Zif (zero insertion force) socket. Holding the chip gently by the sides and taking great care not to touch the pins. Orientate the CPU so that the triangular mark on one corner aligns with the mark on the socket and the ‘missing’ socket pin hole. The chip should drop smoothly into the socket under its own weight, flip the lever down and the chip is safely locked into position. If the CPU doesn’t fit re-check the alignment.


Now you can install the CPU cooling fan. Avoid touching the underside, this has a coating of gooey heat transfer compound and it can be very messy. Undo the latches on the top of the fan, line up the ‘claws’ with the retaining clips on the side of the CPU socket and press down firmly. This is the only part that might require a little extra pressure to secure. Once the fan is seated move the latches to the locking position and pop the fan plug into its socket on the motherboard.


Time to fit the motherboard into the case. It sits on raised ‘pillars’ stamped into the case metalwork; take extra care when lining up the rear sockets with the holes in the back of the case. Thin metal strips around the holes are meant to touch the sides of the sockets to ensure good electrical contact; they’re easily bent and can foul the front of the sockets. Screw the motherboard directly to the threaded mounting pillars – not too tight though! This is where the long shafted, magnetised screwdriver earns its keep, helping to hold the screws, and retrieve the ones you drop…


Now comes the tricky part, connecting the front panel lights, On and Reset switches, internal speaker and front panel USB sockets. As I indicated last week this is a fiddly job, so take your time, make sure you have plenty of light to see what you are doing and keep the motherboard layout diagram close at hand. Check and double-check the connectors against the diagram as a wrongly connected ‘On’ switch is the most common cause of a non-functioning PC.


We’re on the home straight now. Connect one of the two larger flat ribbon cables between the IDE 1 socket on the motherboard and the hard drive. There are three identical plugs on the cable; two are close together at one end, and one on its own at the other end. This one goes to the motherboard; one of the other two (it doesn’t matter which) goes into the back of the hard drive. The spare plug is for a second hard drive. (If you only have a single IDE cable both drives can share the cable but the CD/DVD drive has to be set to ‘slave’). The sockets are ‘notched’ so there’s no chance of fitting the plugs back to front but be careful not to bend the pins! The IDE 2 socket connects to the CD/DVD drive in the same way. The floppy drive uses a smaller ribbon cable, it’s important to use the end plugs, ignore the one in the middle (for obsolete 5.25-inch ‘diskette’ drives).


Fit the audio cable between the CD/DVD drive and motherboard and the last job is to connect the two cables from the power supply unit (PSU) to the motherboard and the power leads to the disc drives, there are several identical ones for hard disc and CD/DVD drives and one small one for the floppy drive.


Basically that’s it! The only thing left to do now is triple check everything is in its rightful place and all of the cables are secure, you can tidy loose ones with plastic cable ties. When you’re happy with it refit the case sides, connect the monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers, plug in the power cable and switch on.


If all’s well the PC will boot up, bleep, the BIOS logo will appear on the screen and after a few moments it will report that it cannot find an operating system. You are now ready to install Windows. The Asus motherboard is factory set to search for boot up information on the CD/DVD drive, so load your Windows installation CD, reboot and follow the prompts; if the PC doesn’t work or won’t boot from the CD drive see the troubleshooting guide in Tip of the Week. When Windows has finished loading insert the motherboard utilities disc to install the sound, video and LAN drivers – if needed -- and your new PC is ready to use.


Next week – Under attack!





Basic Input Output System: diagnostic and configuration program that checks the PC hardware before the operating system is loaded



Chemical paste to ensure thermally efficient contact between a CPU chip and cooling fan 



Local Area Network -- a computer network




A totally dead PC is very rare so if nothing happens when you power up for the first time check the obvious – the rear panel on/off switch, the ‘On’ switch connections on the motherboard and the two power cables from the PSU to the motherboard. If the fan is running then the mains supply is okay, if not it could be the cable or mains fuse. If the PC bleeps more than twice there may be a problem with the memory module, make sure it is properly seated. If the PC bleeps but the screen remains blank check the monitor is on and the cable is securely connected. If the PC won’t boot from the Windows CD-ROM check the drive’s power and data cables, also enter the BIOS program (press the Del key at boot up) and verify the CD/DVD-ROM drive is listed as a ‘Boot Device’. If you are using an alternative operating system or an older version of Windows you can use a Windows 98 emergency recovery disc to partition and format the drive.

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