Building A PC: For Beginners
by Michael F.Quarles
from Monkey See Monkey Do Books
Booting Up for the First Time
   Now, we are ready to power up our computer for the first time. I can well imagine the feeling of anticipation you must have, bringing a project like this so far. Years ago, when I first tried this, I feared the whole thing would go up in a ghastly fireworks display, blue fire shooting out the back, and smoke curling from the top.
   But you know what happened? It came chugging to life, and has worked superbly ever since. With modifications, it still works well in one of the most demanding tasks I’ve ever asked of a computer, editing video documentaries.
   If you’ve followed the instructions carefully, I feel certain you will have similar results with your computer. So, let’s get on with the business of booting up for the first time.
   With this first boot, we have three main goals. First, will be to see if all the fans work properly. This includes the case exhaust fans, power supply fan, and CPU fan. Second, will be to select our CPU’s speed setting in the BIOS. Once these two goals are met, we will reboot, hoping to meet our third goal, a message saying “disk boot failure, insert system disk and press ENTER”.
   To know whether we’ve met our first goal, we’ll have to leave the side panel off the computer. You have to be able to see the CPU fan spin. Also, most motherboards will have an LED on them that lets you know it’s getting electrical current. This is an easy aid to troubleshooting if something doesn’t work.
   Connect a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, to your computer. All the input will come from the keyboard in this first boot, but you might as well have the mouse ready for later. Plug the power cable in, preferably using a surge protector.
   Here is the big moment. With the case turned so you’ll have a good view of the inside, push the power button on the computer. Things will start happening fast. All the fans will come on, and the screen will come to life.
   While it may be hard to ignore what the screen is saying, our top priority now is to check the fans. Make sure they are all running, and all blowing air in the right direction. While it is highly unlikely that the CPU fan, or the power supply fan will have been installed backwards, it is very easy to get a case fan flipped the wrong way when you put it in. If one of those case fans is pulling air into the computer, rather than drawing it out, turn the computer off now, and reinstall it the proper way.
   Depending on the type of BIOS you have, your CPU’s speed will either be set automatically, or you will be given a choice of speeds to run it at. This selection is our second goal. If it is done automatically, your screen will say something like “Celeron at 2.00GHz”. More information will have scrolled downward, ending with the phrase “disk boot failure insert system disk and press enter” at the bottom of the screen.
   If the selection isn’t automatic, the screen will prompt you to select one of perhaps three or four different speeds. Select the speed recommended by the chip’s manufacturer. If it is a 2 GHz chip, select that speed. Don’t try overclocking yet. Let’s just get your new system up and running safely.
   You have to make your selection using the up and down arrows on your keyboard, and pressing the enter button. This may be a strange experience to people who have become dependent on a mouse. If you were around during the days of the “DOS Shell” these screens will look quite familiar though.
   After making your selection, pick the “save and exit” option, again using the up and down arrows to move the cursor. When you press “enter” the computer will reboot, information will scroll past on the screen, ending with “disk boot failure insert system disk and press enter”.
   This message is our grail. Our third goal, the sign that complete success is at hand. But what if we don't get it? What if something has gone wrong on the way?
Here are possible situations, and the solutions for each.
Problem: You push the start button, but nothing happens.
Answer: Check the power cable. Make sure it is plugged in. Check the wire from the computer’s power switch to the power supply to see if it has been pulled loose. Rarely, a power supply will be sent D.O.A. from the factory.
Problem: One, or all, of the fans doesn’t work.
Answer: Check to see they have been connected to the power supply. It is possible to pull a plug loose while bundling and tying wires. If it is a fan that plugs into the motherboard, check the LED to see if the motherboard is getting current. Check the motherboard’s power plug to see if it is connected properly.
Problem: Nothing comes on the screen.
Answer: Make sure the monitor is turned on, the power cable is securely plugged in, and the monitor is connected to the computer. If you have a video card, check to see if it is properly seated in the slot. This is particularly necessary if it is a PCI card. The AGP slot has a latch that flips into place when the card is seated, but the PCI doesn’t. Make sure the RAM is properly installed. Also, on a few older, bargain priced boards, the slot will accept PC3200 RAM, but the system can only use PC2700.

Booting up
Case exhaust fan
Power supply fan
CPU fan
DOS shell
PCI card and slot
AGP card and slot

Installing the CPU
Parts of the Motherboard
Read the first page
Computer Definitions
Table of Contents
Dream machine, or basic PC
How to build a computer
Computer Power Supply
Install AGP Card
Install RAM
Computer Cooling Problems