How to Build a Computer – Installing the Mainboard and Wiring things up

Having the memory, CPU, cooler and fan already installed into the mainboard makes things really easy when compared to installing the mainboard first and then having to do everything in a tight, poorly accessible space. It also means that the most valuable components are already installed and out of the way and for the most part protected.

Having gotten the main components installed on to the mainboard, the next step is to install the mainboard itself. This step can be quite tricky, as it involves first installing the brass stand-off screws so that the board won’t short against the case, and then getting the case into place tightly against the I/O shield.

So let’s begin:

As we mentioned, it’s best to do a ‘placement’ test first so that you can find out exactly where the brass stand-off screws need to be inserted. To do this, lift the mainboard carefully using the edges and the heat sink / fan only.

Let it rest against the case in the position that it should, and make a note of where you need to install the brass stand-offs, you can then put the mainboard back in a safe location whilst you install the stand-offs.

Please note that it’s critically important to install all of them in the correct positions, because otherwise, the board could warp when installing expansion cards, or it might even short if it hits the back of the case.

After you’ve installed the stand-offs, make sure that you also installed the tin I/O shield that came with the mainboard. Once the stand-offs are in and the I/O shield is in place, you can manoeuver the board into the correct position. The hardest part is getting the I/O ports through the shield!

Don’t force things too much, but be aware you might need to wiggle about to get the board ‘home’. Once it’s done, please be sure to use the proper screws to secure the board to the mainboard. The proper ones to use are the screws with the tightest thread.

Wiring things up – The Front Panel

Before we get any expansion cards or drives in there, it’s best to start by wiring up the front panel. If you remember the mess of thin wires that you saw when you opened the case, these are what we now need to configure.

Sadly, there’s no hard and fast rule, other than follow the mainboard manual and to do it in a well-lit environment, and also that you can plug something in the wrong way! If your case has front panel sound and USB, there will also be separate connectors on the mainboard for these.
Generally, front panel connectors should be at the bottom of the mainboard near the front, and the wires that come from the case are all labeled.  Sadly, the connections aren’t always labeled clearly on the mainboard, so it’s necessary for you to use the guidelines found in the mainboard manual. The mainboard manual should have a schematic map, showing you where everything is.

The secret here is to take your time and do it right. Make sure that you push every connection in firmly, and do it column by column not row by row.  Of all the tasks involved in building a computer – this is without a doubt the most annoying!

Once you’ve finished, it’s time to install the power connectors from the power supply to the mainboard. When you look at the power supply there should be a whole load of connectors, you’re looking for the 24 pin one and a four or six pin that’s similar to the 24 pin one.

Then it’s just a simple case of plugging them into the appropriate points on the mainboard. They should lock in to place, and after installing them make sure that they are fully ‘home’. The 24 pin usually goes at the front and the four or six pin usually goes nearest the CPU.

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