Broadcasting Computer News / Reviews - Since 1991 - Now Hear it on the Web
|Prev Part||Part 1||Part 2||Part 3||Part 4||Next Part|
|Part 5||Part 6||Part 7||Part 8|
For the past 7 months, we've been going through the process of designing our own multimedia PC. In this final segment of the series, we'll actually put the system together.
Before we do so, however, there are a few minor, but still important, components, that we will need to have on hand. First of all, you will need to go to an electronics store or computer dealer and purchase a package of what are commonly called "standoffs". As the name implies, these specially formed pieces of plastic enable the motherboard to "stand off" -- that is, to avoid actual physical contact with -- the inside of the case. This is important due to the fact that the motherboard is in fact a large printed circuit board, with numerous soldered connections on both sides. Allowing the motherboard to come into contact with the inside of the computer case would cause any number of short circuits that would damage or even destroy the motherboard in a matter of seconds! Thankfully, preventing such a disaster is both easy and cheap, since a package of 6 standoffs -- which is usually enough for any motherboard -- should cost no more than a dollar or so. The other components I referred to are the operating system and other major software which you will be installing on the hard drive once the PC is up and running. In this case, I refer specifically to MS-DOS (the current version is 6.22) and Microsoft Windows (version 3.11 at this writing). (Some readers may choose to install Microsoft Windows 95 instead; that is purely a matter of personal choice.)
One word of warning, however: Since you are putting together a PC from scratch, you should buy and use ONLY the "full" editions of MS-DOS 6.22 and Microsoft Windows 3.11. That way, you have the flexibility to handle any degree of customization your situation may require. While you may have to do a little shopping around, you should be able to obtain both packages for a total price of under $100.
You may also want to obtain a copy of a hard drive installation program. In fact, such a program may be included with your hard drive. If so, do not hesitate to make use of it, as it will make the task of setting up your hard drive significantly easier. If you wish to purchase such a program, be prepared to pay $100 or more, since this is VERY specialized software!
In most cases, however, a separate hard disk setup program is really unnecessary, as the facilities provided by MS-DOS can do the job quite nicely with just a little care and study on your part.
OK -- so you've got all the components together and you're ready to proceed. First of all, you should plan on spending several hours to actually get everything connected, plugged in, set up and configured. You should also set aside a specific area for this task. A large table top or an area of the floor will usually do quite nicely. Either way, however, you should insure that you're within easy reach of a grounded, 3-pronged AC outlet (The UPS will require it.), and cover the area with newspaper. The latter is basically a precaution to help in locating screws, nuts, and other small parts which might otherwise get lost all too easily.
Now that you've got your work area set up, you can begin unpacking the various components (if you haven't already done so). Be sure, however, to keep EVERYTHING that comes with a given component together with that component until you have actually installed it. This includes packaging materials, documentation, etc. The one and ONLY exception I would make is in the case of the warranty and/or registration cards. These should be kept together in a folder or large envelope. Once the system is fully up and running, you can then fill them all out and put them all in the mail at one time. Do NOT, however, fill these cards out and mail them until you are satisfied that the PC is operating properly. The reason is that, in the event that you need to return a given component to a vendor for replacement or refund, the component manufacturer will almost certainly require you to return ALL the parts and other materials that came with it -- including the warranty card!
With the unpacking completed, you should next plug the UPS into the wall socket. All other components requiring AC should be plugged into the UPS outlets, NOT THE WALL SOCKET! This will help protect against shorts or power surges which, as I explained in an earlier installment, can easily damage or destroy the computer's components.
Next, open up the computer case and plug the power supply (which should have already been installed) into the UPS. The power supply, however, should remain OFF until the various components have actually been installed. Also, whenever you unpack a circuit board, you should touch the computer case with one hand for a few seconds to ground yourself and drain off any possible static charges. (Some component makers may actually include a "grounding strap" to be fastened around your wrist, with a small wire to be clamped to the case, for this very reason. If so, USE IT!! Otherwise, your warranty may not be honored if something does go wrong.)
Now you should CAREFULLY remove the motherboard from its wrapper, and examine the documentation (if any) that goes with it. Then, insert the standoffs into the holes provided for them in the motherboard (NOT into the slots in the case!), and push them in until they lock into place. Be careful, however, not to push TOO hard, or you may actually crack or even break the motherboard!
With the standoffs now inserted, you should insert the motherboard into the case. Line up the standoffs with the slots in the case frame, then slide them and the motherboard into place. You should feel the board locking into position. Again, however, be careful not to damage the standoffs (and possibly the motherboard) by pushing TOO hard. A gentle but firm push should be enough to get the job done.
Now that the motherboard is in position, you can begin the process of connecting the various wires to it. These include connectors for the power-on light, the internal speaker (this should actually be connected to your sound card -- check the manual for instructions), the hard disk access light, etc. The cables that connect the motherboard to the power supply, however, should be the LAST ones you plug in. This gives you the chance to double check to be sure all the other wires are plugged in correctly.
With the motherboard now installed and properly connected, you should next turn your attention to those components that require the use of the VLB or PCI slots. These will normally include your multi-I/O card, your hard disk controller card (in the event you don't use the multi-I/O card's IDE hard drive connectors), and your video graphics card. Read the owner's manual or installation instructions for each unit, then remove the metal tabs covering each outer slot opening in the case, line the card up with the slot opening, and carefully but firmly push the card into place. Again, you will literally be able to "feel" the card go into the slot. After making sure you have pushed the card down far enough, use the screw provided with the slot cover you just removed to fasten the card's outer metal tab to thecase frame.
As you install each card, CAREFULLY plug in the necessary cables as indicated by the instructions. Don't hesitate to call the dealer or manufacturer for help if a problem develops. Only the cable from the monitor to the graphics card's outer plug, as well as the phone line that will plug into the modem, should remain un-connected at this point.
At some point in the assembly procedure, you will need to plug in the memory chip units (usually called SIMMS, or "Single In-Line Memory Modules") into the slots provided on the motherboard. This is actually a fairly simple procedure. Simply line up the SIMM as indicated in the motherboard instructions, insert them at the correct angle, then gently pull them toward you until they lock into place.
With everything else connected, you should now connect the cable from the back of the monitor into the terminal provided on the graphics card. Then make sure that the monitor's AC power cable is properly plugged into the UPS. (In some cases, an AC cord is provided to connect the monitor to an AC plug on the computer's own power supply. I DO NOT recommend this! Instead, plug the monitor into the UPS to give it the same protection as the rest of your computer system.) The phone line can also be plugged into the back of the modem at this time if you wish; however, many users prefer to wait until the modem software has been installed first.
OK, now screw the outer cover back into place, then just one more step. One of the disks that come either with the motherboard, the hard drive, or with your operating system, should have the program called, "COMMAND.COM" on it. This is what is known as a "system disk," or "startup disk," and may be labelled as such,because it contains the parts of the operating system needed to start the computer when the power is turned on. Since your hard drive is not yet formatted, the system will automatically look for this program on the floppy disk drive. (If you don't have such a disk, get a friend or your dealer to prepare one for you, making sure that they use the same version of DOS that you will be using.) Insert this diskette into the correct floppy disk drive. (With a 3-1/2 inch floppy drive, the diskette will literally lock into place when the diskette is inserted correctly.) Make sure that all of the AC cords are plugged into the UPS, then -- and ONLY then -- turn on the UPS itself, the CPU power supply, then the monitor, IN THAT ORDER. If you have powered speakers, they should be turned on after you turn on the monitor.
If all goes well, you should hear the components powering up, and after a few moments, some sort of "setup" screen should appear on your monitor. >From there, it's basically a matter of following the setup instructions provided with your motherboard and software. (Some components, especially the graphics card and modem, will normally provide their own software to aid you in the configuration process.) Don't rush this procedure; simply take your time, read and follow the directions carefully, and you should experience little or no difficulty.
And there you have it, folks! We've gone through the entire process of designing and building your own multimedia PC. As you can see, it really isn't all that hard -- just a matter of proper research and planning, and then following directions. From here on out, what use your new system is put to is limited ONLY by your imagination! I hope you've enjoyed this series as much as I've enjoyed putting it together for you.
|Prev Part||Part 1||Part 2||Part 3||Part 4||Next Part|
|Part 5||Part 6||Part 7||Part 8|