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How to build a computer

Thinking about building your own computer? Have you already got the parts and just don't know where to start? If so, I am going to show you how to build a computer.

How to build a computer

In a recent article I discussed things to keep in mind when you're going to build a custom computer. There are plenty of websites like PC Part Picker that will generate a parts list. But once you have purchased all of the parts, you'll have to put them all together.

In his article, I am going to show you how to assemble all of the parts into a working computer. If you don't have all of the tools or are kind of scared of possibly make a mistake, please contact a local computer shop and have them assemble it for you. If you live in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, feel free to give us a call.

Tools required to build a computer

Tools required to build a computer

  • Anti-static wrist strap
  • Wire ties
  • Snipers (for trimming wire ties)
  • Needle nose pliers (optional)
  • 3/16" nut driver (for stand-offs)
  • #1 Phillips screw driver
  • Thermal compound (may or may not be required)

Building a computer step by step

Cable management is one thing you will need to keep in mind as you are building your computer. Take the time to secure all wires, even if it is temporary.

Don't be surprised if during your assembly that you have you cut and replaced some wire ties. This is normal when you perform wire management.

And remember to put on the anti-static wrist strap and attach the clip of it to a metal portion of the computer case before you start building your computer.

  1. Unpack the computer case.
    Unpack the computer case
    Make sure to do an inventory of all the parts (screws, drive caddies, etc.) that come with it.
  2. Install the I/O panel in the rear of case.
    Install I/O panel in rear of case
    Be careful installing the I/O panel as the metal edges can easily cut your hand.
  3. Install the stand-offs for motherboard.
    Install the stand-offs for motherboard
    Some cases have stand-offs built-in, others do not. If your case does not have them built in, check the hole pattern on the motherboard or the motherboard manual to ensure you have the stand-offs in the correct locations. Hand tighten them using a 3/16" nut driver.
  4. Install the motherboard.
    Install the motherboard
    You may have to work it a little bit to get it under any tabs on the I/O panel. Then attach it to the stand-offs using the supplied screws.
  5. Install the CPU.
    Install the CPU
    Make sure you have the notches in the CPU aligned correctly to the socket on the motherboard. Refer to the motherboard manual for the correct way to secure the CPU in the socket.
  6. Install the CPU cooler.
    Install the CPU cooler
    If you are using a new cooler, it will have thermal compound already applied. If you are rebuilding an existing computer, you will need to clean any existing thermal compound from the CPU and cooler. Then you will need to apply a new layer of thermal compound. Just spread a thin coat of thermal compound across the complete surface of the CPU. A business card works great.
  7. Install the memory modules.
    Install the memory modules
    The modules will have a notch in them, so they will only go into the slot one way. Check the memory modules against the memory slots on the motherboard for the correct orientation. Also refer to the motherboard manual for the correct installation order.
  8. Install the case fan(s).
    Install the case fan(s)
    Some cases come with fans already installed, some don't. If you have to install the can fans, just make sure you have the air flow correct. The air flow should go from the front of the case to the rear of the case. The fans have directional arrows printed on one side of them. Once installed, connect them to the appropriate fan header(s) on the motherboard. Refer to the motherboard manual for the locations.
  9. Connect the front panel connectors to the motherboard.
    Connect the front panel connectors to the motherboard
    Refer to the motherboard manual for the locations of all the pins (power button, power LED, hard drive LED, audio jacks and USB jacks) for the connectors.
  10. Install the drive(s).
    Install the drive(s)
    Depending on your case, you may have separate carriages or combination carriages for Solid State Drives (SSD) and Hard Disk Drives (HDD). If you are installing an M2 SSD, refer to the motherboard manual for the correct location for it. If you are also installing CD / DVD drive(s) you may have to remove knock-out metal panel(s) from a 5 1/2" bay in the front of the case. Be careful twisting it back and forth to break it free, as the metal can be sharp and cut your hand.
  11. Install the cables for the drive(s).
    Install the cables for the drive(s)
    Refer to the motherboard manual for the correct port to attach the drives to. You will want the primary (boot) drive to be attached to port 1.
  12. Install any expansion cards (graphics, Wi-Fi, etc.).
    Install any expansion cards
    Refer to the motherboard manual for the locations of the PCI-e slots. Here is an article we wrote on installing expansion cards.
  13. Install the power supply.
    Install the power supply
    Depending on the power supply, it may or may not have the power cables already attached. Route the cables thought the case making sure not to cut them on any sharp metal edges.

Now just make sure all of the wire ties are trimmed back and all of the protective film that protects the case is removed. Attach the keyboard, mouse and monitor and go into the BIOS (Basic Input / Output System) to verify and / or change any of the settings. Refer to the motherboard manual on how to do this. Once you are done in the BIOS, you should be ready to install the operating system.

How to speed up Windows 10 using ReadyBoost

Looking an inexpensive way to give your Windows 10 computer a boost in performance? Do you have a USB flash drive and a spare USB port on your computer? Then ReadyBoost in Windows 10 might be a perfect solution.

How to speed up Windows 10 using ReadyBoost

If you have never heard of ReadyBoost, it is a program that caches files that are frequently used by Windows 10. It stores the cached files on USB flash drive(s) or SD memory card.

ReadyBoost utilizes a service called SuperFetch. SuperFetch uses an algorithm that determines which files should be stored in the cache. The cache can include system files, application files and user documents.

Now when those files are needed, instead of reading the files from the disk drive, they get read from the ReadyBoost cache instead. If a file gets changed on the disk drive, it also gets changed in the cache and visa versa.

Now it is recommended that you use only USB flash drives for ReadyBoost for desktop computers. It can be connected to either a USB 2 or USB 3 port, but a USB 3 port is recommended. But you can use an SD memory card for a laptop computer, as long as it has a fast-enough transfer rate.

And you can use more than one (1) USB flash drive for ReadyBoost. In fact, the recommended ratio between the ReadyBoost cache and system memory is 1:1 to 2.5:1.

So, if your computer has 8GB of memory, you could create a ReadyBoost cache that is between 8GB and 20GB. But you could just use a 32GB flash drive and allocate all of it to ReadyBoost.

The one thing you need to know is ReadyBoost is mainly meant to be used with systems that only have Hard Disk Drives (HDD), since they are known to have slower read access times than Solid State Drives (SSD).

ReadyBoost requirements for Windows 10

  • Minimum free space per flash drive / memory card: 1 GB
  • Maximum free spade per flash drive / memory card: 32 GB
  • Minimum transfer rate: 3.5 Mbit/s.
  • The flash drive / memory card format: NTFS

Now to make sure that your computer is ready to use ReadyBoost, you will need to make sure the SuperFetch service is running. To check the status of the SuperFetch service just follow these steps:

  1. Open a Run dialog box by pressing the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R.
  2. In the Open field type services.msc and then click on OK.
  3. Scroll down the list of services until you find SuperFetch.
    The status of the SuperFetch inside of Services console
  4. Make sure it is running and set to start Automatically.

You are now ready to set up a USB flash drive or SD memory card for use with ReadyBoost. Just insert the drive into a spare USB port or SD card slot and follow the instructions below.

How to turn ReadyBoost on or off inside of Windows 10

  1. Insert the USB flash drive or SD memory card you want to use with ReadyBoost.
  2. Open File Explorer by using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the manila folder icon to the Taskbar.
    • or
    • Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + E at the same time.
  3. Navigate to the USB flash drive or SD memory card you want to use with ReadyBoost.
  4. Right-click on the drive you want to use for ReadyBoost..
    The context menu for a USB flash drive with Properties highlighted
  5. From the context menu that appears, left-click on Properties.
  6. On the Properties dialog box, left-click on the ReadyBoost tab.
    The ReadyBoost tab inside of USB flash drive Properties dialog box
  7. Once the system has analyzed the drive, select the options you want to use.

Check your e-mail and more with Mozilla Thunderbird

Looking for an e-mail program that has a ton of features? One that has a calendar, task scheduler and can handle multiple e-mail addresses? Then look no further than Mozilla Thunderbird.

Check your e-mail and more with Mozilla Thunderbird

You probably have heard of Mozilla's popular web browser Firefox, but did you know they also have a really great e-mail program, Mozilla Thunderbird? And it has some fantastic features too.

When it comes to free e-mail programs, normally they lack the features that you would find in the corporate standard Microsoft Outlook. Even the e-mail program that comes with Windows 10, Mail, has a limited feature set.

But with Mozilla Thunderbird you get all sorts of features right out of the box. It includes a calendar, address book and a task scheduler.

Account settings inside of Mozilla Thunderbird
Account settings inside of Mozilla Thunderbird

When it comes to e-mail, Mozilla Thunderbird can handle multiple e-mail addresses (POP or IMAP) and can send mail in either plain text or HTML format. You can also add signatures (HTML or plain text) for each individual e-mail account.

Mozilla Thunderbird also includes an adaptive junk mail filter for each account, you just have to train it using the Junk toolbar. You can also request return receipts, just like in Outlook.

There are also message filters similar to rules in Outlook, so that you can automatically process mail as it comes in. You can also create folder and sub-folders for local storage too.

Now when I compared Mozilla Thunderbird to Microsoft Outlook, I found they both had almost the same features. In fact, Mozilla Thunderbird has a couple features that Microsoft Outlook does not.

One of those features, just like Mozilla Firefox, is the ability to add more functionally with Add-ons. With Add-ons, you can extend what you can do with Mozilla Thunderbird.

There are Add-ons that allow you to connect to a Gmail calendar, sync the address book with Gmail contacts and create custom menus. And if you want to change the way Thunderbird looks, there are numerous themes too.

The only feature that is missing from the current version of Mozilla Thunderbird is the ability to import data from Microsoft Outlook. If you want to import Outlook data, you have to first install Thunderbird version 31.8, import your Outlook data and then upgrade Thunderbird to the current version.

There are versions of Mozilla Thunderbird that run on Windows 7 thru Windows 10, Mac OS X 10.9 thru Mac OS 10.12 and GNU/Linux. For a complete list of system requirements, see the link below.

As with Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird is also open source and free for personal / commercial use. In fact, Mozilla is a non-profit organization that relies on donations.

So, if you find Mozilla Thunderbird useful, make a donation to help support the ongoing development of it. Click here to go to their donation page.

For more information on Mozilla Thunderbird, just follow the links below.

Mozilla Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird - system requirements

How to make your computer look and run like brand-new

For most people, there is nothing better than a brand-new computer. But of course, you cannot get a new computer every few months. But you can get that same feeling. Here is how to make your computer look and run like brand-new.

How to make your computer look and run like brand new

For most of us, getting a brand-new computer every year is not financially possible. It would be nice, but realistically it is out of the question. But with a little work, you can get that brand-new feeling from your existing computer.

Looking brand-new

Perception is everything. If it looks new to you, it will feel new to you. And with a little cleaning and maybe a couple hardware changes, it can look brand-new.

First place to start is with the keyboard. Most keyboards are black and will show dirt and grim like no tomorrow. You will be amazed at how a good cleaning will make it appear brand-new.

A really dirty keyboard before cleaning
A really dirty keyboard before cleaning

Now when cleaning your keyboard, you will need to turn off your computer. That way you do not accidentally press the wrong keys. I have seen it happen, especially with laptops with FN keys.

Since most of us actually eat while we work, compressed air can help dislodged anything that may have gotten in between or under the keys. A good spray of compressed air should get rid of the large debris.

When it comes to psychically cleaning the keyboard, remember that liquid and electronics do not mix. Never spray a cleaning solution directly on your keyboard. Always apply it to the cleaning material (cotton swab, paper towel, etc.) first.

Lightly dampen a cotton swab or paper towel with cleaning solution and ring out any excess liquid before you start cleaning. It may take some time to clean all of the keys, but remember how long it took to get them dirty (months? years?).

That same dirty keyboard after being cleaned
That same dirty keyboard after being cleaned

Now if the printing has faded or worn off, maybe it is time to go ahead and just replace the keyboard. Desktop keyboards are easy to replace, laptop keyboards can be a little tougher. For new laptop keyboards, I recommend LaptopKeyboard.com.

When comes to your mouse, the body will get dirty and the buttons get looking worn. The same cleaning technique used for your keyboard applies to your mouse.

If it is a wired mouse, turn off the computer. If it is wireless, turn it off. Clean both the top and bottom with a lightly dampened paper towel. Use a lightly damped cotton swab to clean the optical lens on the bottom.

Next thing you might want to clean is the monitor. As with the keyboard and mouse, you will want to turn it off, unplug it and let it cool down. Once it is cooled down you can start to clean it.

Just like with your keyboard, you want to start cleaning your monitor with some compressed air. If your monitor is really dusty, you may want to take it outside before clean it with compressed air.

Use the compressed air to clean out all of the ventilation holes in the case. Make sure you get as much of the dust out as you can, as dust does conduct electricity.

Now lightly dampen a paper towel with cleaning solution and wipe the outside of the case. When you get done with that, it is time to clean the screen.

To clean the screen, I recommend using a soap based, not ammonia based, glass cleaner and micro-fiber towels to protect the finish. Never directly apply the glass cleaner to the screen to prevent damage to it.

Just lightly dampen a micro-fiber towel with glass cleaner and thoroughly wipe the screen. Now before it has a chance to dry, wipe the screen off with a dry micro-fiber towel to get rid of any streaks that may have appeared.

Last thing to clean is the outside of computer case itself. Make sure you turn it off and unplug the power cord (desktop computer) or ac adapter (laptop computer) before you start to clean it.

Lightly dampen a paper towel with cleaning solution and wipe down the outside (front, sides, top, bottom and back). If you have any old and faded stickers, this would be a great time to remove them.

To remove stickers, I recommend using an adhesive remover like Goof Off. Just make sure the area with the label is laying completely horizontal, so you can let the adhesive remover sit on it for a little while.

Once you have let the adhesive remover soak in, use a plastic razor blade or plastic putty knife to scrape the label off. If it has been on the case for a long time, you may have to a couple of passes at it before it comes off completely.

When all of the labels are gone, go ahead and clean that area with a paper towel with cleaning solution. You want to get any residue from the adhesive remover off.

Next thing we want to do is clean the inside of the computer with some compressed air. For this step we will need to disconnect all cables that are attached to the computer and take it outside.

Now the procedure is about the same for desktop and laptop computers. For desktop computers, here is a detailed article we did a little while back on how to clean the dust out of your computer.

The same procedures in the article above apply to laptops as well. For a laptop computer, all you have to do is locate the air intake for the cooling fan(s). But instead of a using nonmetallic rod to hold the cooling fan(s), use a straightened-out paper clip.

Running like brand-new

Now that you have the outside and inside clean, maybe it is time to get the operating system and programs cleaned up. Using Windows built-in Disk Cleanup tool is a good place to start.

Windows 7 Disk Cleanup

Windows 8.1 Disk Cleanup

Windows 10 Disk Cleanup

Once you have used the Disk Cleanup program, you can now look at getting rid of some of the programs you no longer use. You will need to get to the Control Panel to do this. The quickest way to get to the Control Panel is by using the Run dialog box.

How to get to and use the Run dialog box in Windows

My favorite (and the fastest way) to bring up the Run dialog box is to press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + R keys at the same time. When it appears, just type control and then select OK.

When the Control Panel appears, select either Uninstall a program (category view) or Programs and Features (icon view). You can then start to uninstall the programs you no longer use.

Now if you want your computer to have that brand-new feeling, you can reset Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. The procedure is similar for both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

How to reset Windows 10

But if you really want that brand-new feeling, a clean installation of Windows is the way to go. Follow the instructions in the following article to perform a clean Windows 10 installation.

How to perform a clean Windows 10 installation

You can use the same procedures listed in the article above for Windows 8.1, but you will have to download the Windows 8.1 Media Creation Tool.

Windows 8.1 Media Creation Tool

You can also do the same for Windows 7, but you need to have a valid product key to download the Windows 7 ISO Image.

Download Windows 7 Disc Image

What you can do with an ISO file

What you can do with an ISO file

Have you ever downloaded an ISO file and did not know what to do with it? More and more software companies are now distributing their software using ISO files. Here is what you can do with an ISO file.

What you can do with an ISO file

Nowadays, it seems like everyone is starting to use ISO files for distributing software. In fact, ISO files are just an image of a CD or DVD disk. You commonly see them used to deliver software that is bootable.

Now really quick, ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. They have a set standard (ISO 9660) for the file system used for optical disks (CD, DVD, BD, etc.).

Even Microsoft is now using ISO files for distributing Windows. If you download Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 from Microsoft, you will get the option of downloading an ISO file.

But once you download the ISO file, what can you do with it? If you are running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 you have basically three (3) options; mount it as a virtual optical drive, burn it to a disk or create a bootable USB drive.

You can also create your own ISO image files. For more information, check out How to create ISO files from your software disks.

How to mount and access files in an ISO file

By default, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 have the ability to mount an ISO file as a virtual optical drive built-in. Windows 7 requires a third-party program to mount an ISO file.

Once you mount an ISO file as a virtual optical drive, you can then access the files and folders inside of it. Most of the time you will use this feature to run a software installation.

For Windows 7, we are going to use the open source optical drive emulator WinCDEmu. Just download and install it using the default settings. Once it is installed, the process for mounting a ISO image is almost the same as Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

Windows 7

  1. Open Windows Explorer by using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the manila folder icon to the Taskbar.
    • or
    • Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + E at the same time.
  2. Navigate to the ISO image you want to open.
  3. Right-click on it and select Select drive letter and mount on the context menu that appears.
    The Mount option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 7
  4. On the WinCDEmu screen that appears, select the drive letter you want to use for the virtual optical drive and left-click on OK.
    The main screen for WinCDEmu
  5. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to the virtual drive you just mounted. You can now use it as you would with any other physically attached optical drive.
  6. When you are done, you can remove the virtual optical drive by right-clicking on it and selecting Eject on the context menu that appears.
    The Eject option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 7

Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer (name changed in Windows 8.1) by using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the manila folder icon to the Taskbar.
    • or
    • Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + E at the same time.
  2. Navigate to the ISO image you want to open.
  3. Right-click on it and select Mount on the context menu that appears. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 automatically assign the next available drive letter.
    The Mount option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10
  4. Using File Explorer, navigate to the virtual drive you just mounted. You can now use it as you would with any other physically attached optical drive.
  5. When you are done, you can remove the virtual optical drive by right-clicking on it and selecting Eject on the context menu that appears.
    The Eject option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10

How to burn an ISO image file to a disk

The process for burning an ISO image to disk is exactly the same for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Just make sure you have the correct blank media for the disk you want to burn.

For example, if your ISO file is under 700 MB's (Megabyte), it will fit on a CD. If it is between 700 MB's (Megabyte) and 4.7 GB's (Gigabyte), then it will fit on a DVD. If it is between 4.7 and 8.5 GB's (Gigabyte), it will fit on a Double Layer DVD. Anything over 8.5 GB's (Gigabyte) and it is going to go on a BD.

For more information on Megabytes and Gigabytes, check out What is a Bit? What is a Byte?.

Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open Windows Explorer (Windows 7) or File Explorer (Windows 8.1, Windows 10) by using one of the following:
    • Left-click on the manila folder icon to the Taskbar.
    • or
    • Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + E at the same time.
  2. Navigate to the ISO image you want to burn to disk.
  3. Right-click on it and select Burn disk image on the context menu that appears.
    The Burn disk image option highlighted on the ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10
  4. From the pull-down menu on the Windows Disc Image Burner screen, select the optical drive you want to use for burning the disk. You also have the option to verify the disk after it is created. When you are ready, left-click on the Burn button.
    The main Windows Disc Image Burner screen inside of Windows 10
  5. When the optical drive is finished burning the disk, just left-click on the Close button.
    The Windows Disc Image Burner screen verifying the disc has been burned inside of Windows 10

How to create a bootable USB drive from an ISO file

When you want to create a bootable USB drive, you will need one that is empty or one that you do not mind if it gets erased. If the USB drive you want to use has been used before, double check it to make sure there is nothing on it you want to keep.

Remember to use a USB drive that is larger than the ISO file you want to put on it. A good rule of thumb is to use one that the capacity is more than 4GB. I prefer using 8GB or larger.

To create a bootable USB drive will require downloading and installing a separate program. There are several out on the Internet, but here are the two (2) most popular programs.

Windows USB/DVD Download Tool from Microsoft

This free tool is mainly meant for creating bootable Window 7 USB drives from downloaded installation media. It is recommended to only install it on Windows 7, as the system requirements do not list support for Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

Rufus - Create bootable USB drives the easy way

The thing about Rufus is it requires no installation, just download it and it is ready to go. And there are a lot more options including partition scheme, file system and cluster size. You also have more boot options including MS-DOS and FreeDOS.

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. From computer repair, virus removal and data recovery, we aim to give the highest quality of service.

Bring your computer to us and save

Our in-shop computer repair service  is based on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes your computer to work!

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4722 East Monte Vista Road
Phoenix, Arizona 85008
(602) 795-1111

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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