Build own PC -Completing The System

Booting Up for the First Time

1. Check that your monitor, your keyboard and mouse are all plugged in correctly.
2. Turn your monitor on, and let it heat up a few seconds before proceeding.
3. Keep in mind what to expect - you may need to act quickly!
4. Turn on your PC.

The power LED should turn on, the cooling fans should start spinning, and the hard drive should power up.  You will see the Video BIOS screen first, then you will see the BIOS screen and it will proceed to count the available memory.  You may hear one beep from the PC speaker - you may also get a "CMOS checksum error" or another error saying the CMOS or the date/time isn't set.  Know what key or key combination to press to enter setup - this will be shown on the bottom of the screen.

If you hear any unusual sounds such as grinding, scraping, or loud whining you should be prepared to turn the system off immediately and recheck all of your connections.

Configuring the BIOS
After you turn on your PC, you should see a message that says something like "Hold down DEL to enter Setup" displayed at the bottom of the screen; your message may be different so pay attention to what key or combination of keys it requires.  Hold down this key until you reach the BIOS setup screen.

The following procedure will walk you through this initial setup.  Please bear in mind that this serves only as a guideline - your actual settings and names may vary for different BIOS versions. Always consult the manual that came with your motherboard for a detailed explanation of these settings.  In most cases, you should not really have to change anything.  If you are using a Soft Menu (jumper-less motherboard) you can leave all settings on Auto.  The only things you have to do in this case are auto-detect your hard drive, set the time & date, and disable the virus protection.

1. Auto-detect your Hard Drive - just about all BIOS versions are capable of auto-detecting the hard drive. You should see a menu option for this so do it now.  If it does not successfully detect the drive, then make sure the drive is properly connected.  The BIOS will auto-detect your drive and offer you three options to choose from - usually, just choose the first option at the top of the list.  It will then try to auto-detect your other drives, whether they are there are not.  Pressing ESC will skip the detection of drives that are not there.

2. Standard Settings Option - configure the following items: The date and time - the date is in MM/DD/YY format, and the time is in 24-hour format.  Floppy Drive(s): Just set the correct type.  On our system we only have one floppy drive so drive A: would be set to "1.44MB".  Video Display: If you have this option, set it to VGA Halt On: "All errors", to be sure you see all errors.

3. Advanced Features  - set Virus Protection/Warning: Disable (Make sure to enable this again after you have installed your operating system.)

4. Chipset Advanced Features - leave all defaults as they are.

5. Power Management - disable these features for now; you can go back and enable these after you have your computer up and running.

6. PCI/PnP Configuration Settings - if you will be using Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, set the PnP Aware OS to enabled - all other options should be set to Auto.

7. Integrated Peripherals - configure these items: Integrated Floppy Controller: Enable.  Integrated IDE/ HDD Controller: Enable those you are using.  Integrated Serial Port. Both COM 1 and COM 2 are usually enabled.  Integrated Parallel Port: Enable on most systems.  Parallel Port Mode: Set to either "EPP" or "SPP".  PS/2 Mouse: Set to "Auto" if available, otherwise, enable if using a PS/2 mouse.  USB: Enable on most systems.

8. If you are using a "jumper-less" motherboard equipped with "Soft Menu", enter this option. Here you will have the opportunity to select "Auto" detection of your CPU.  If the BIOS detects your CPU incorrectly, consult your motherboard’s instruction manual for possible solutions or web sites where you can download BIOS updates.

9. Save and Exit - this will exit the BIOS, saving your settings and reboot the machine.  Make sure your system disk is still in Drive A:

Partitioning & Formatting
Before you can use your hard drive to install an operating system, you will have to partition and format it.  Partitioning and formatting is not for the faint of heart and requires some skill.  A mistake during this process can be disastrous to the data on your other drives.  If you are at all unfamiliar with partitioning and formatting your new drive, we urge you to take advantage of one of the many third-party partitioning utilities on the market.  Two excellent products that are very reasonably priced are Partition Magic and Drive Copy.  Both titles are published by Power Quest and are widely available.  If you are upgrading/replacing a drive already on your PC and want to copy your data over to your new drive, use Drive Copy.  If you are adding a second, third or fourth hard drive you can use Partition Magic.  These products are inexpensive (under $30), safe and will save you lots of time.

Windows 95
With the original version of window’s 95 you’re really locked into a FAT16 file system.  This means that your hard drive must by partitioned into partitions no larger than 2 GB each.  For this reason, if you have purchased a large hard drive, now is also a good time to upgrade your Window’s version.

Windows 95SE/98/98SE/ME
All of these versions of Windows use the FAT32 file system.  You can partition your new hard drive into one large drive or multiple drives - whatever schema works best for your particular needs. 

Windows 2000/XP
If you have purchased Windows 2000 or Windows XP, you’ll have a choice of using the NTFS (New Technology File System) a superior replacement for the old FAT32 schemas.  NTFS offers far more security and reliability than FAT32, especially if you are networking computers.  If you decide to use FAT32 you can always convert your volumes to NTFS - but be aware that the conversion is a one-way process.

Take a little time to plan your partitions.  Do you want one large partition for the entire drive? Or do you want to separate it into different drive volumes? If you have FAT32, it is very popular to create one partition for the entire drive.  Using NTFS, it’s often better to create multiple drives or volumes, especially if you will be connected to a home or office network.  By creating multiple volumes you can more readily control access to shared files and hardware on your own computer.  In addition, NTFS allows you to selectively compress volumes to gain more storage space.  This allows you to compress a directory of graphics files for example, which you may rarely access.

A good rule of thumb to follow is if your hard drive is smaller than 32 GB, you should only use FAT32.  This is because of the overhead space NTFS needs to work effectively.  On smaller drives, NTFS tends to lose its “robustness” and besides, FAT32 is more than adequate for smaller drives.

As an added note, when you purchase a hard drive in a full retail box, many of the large manufactures include a small installation floppy disk; this disk usually has some sort of partitioning software and instructions on it to help you along.  It is also a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website for online installation and partitioning guides.

Installing an Operating System
Now you are ready to install an operating system. 

The entire installation procedure for installing your operating system will be outlined with your OS manual.  For most people, Windows XP is the operating system of choice, although we used Windows 98. It is by far the most popular operating system today and runs the most software.  When you purchase your copy of Windows XP, make sure you do not purchase an "upgrade" version.  This version will not come with a bootable floppy disk, which you will need to get started.  Make sure you purchase the “Full Install Version” of Windows XP that will come with a bootable floppy disk. Many of the newer Windows XP CD’s are bootable themselves and allow you partition/format your drive right then and there before installation.

Windows will most likely find and install the drivers for all of your components.  However, if you have purchased anything non-standard or “no-name” type components, Windows will prompt you for the driver disk - have these ready during the installation to save time.

Final Notes
Congratulations on finishing the course.  We hope you now have the confidence to build your own PC. Keep in mind, that it is not "rocket science" but rather a relatively simple process.  In our effort to teach you how to build a PC, we have tried to answer all of your potential questions along the way.  However, as with all learning, some things are not clear to everyone.  We encourage you to find a knowledgeable friend or salesperson to help you with any further questions you may have.  As a tip: if you select near-identical parts to the ones we have chosen, you should need little or no outside assistance and be on your way to enjoying your fast new computer!

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