Article 80: Desktops Revisited

Hi there everyone, welcome back to the Modern Nerd blog. I hope everyone had an enjoyable new year and got plenty of tech goodies to enhance their lives. The Modern Nerd is shifting to a bi-weekly format, but was off for the holiday so it you missed us, we can assure you that it was mutual.

I was recently asked to help build a desktop computer for an engineer friend of mine, so while everything is fresh this is the best time to review the essential list to keep in mind while building your own rig, with a few tips and tricks to make sure everything goes seamlessly.

I’m going to make some assumptions to start off with. I am going to assume that you have chosen the parts and pieces for your rig, have everything in front of you, and are ready to start the build. There is a lot that goes into the selection, but earlier articles will give you a solid base to start with.

Step 1: Workspace

Get a workspace. Flat and well-lit is ideal. Not on a static-y carpet is even better.

There will be tiny screws that you will drop. It happens to the best of us. If your bench is a wreck, then you better hope that the case came with a spare.

Step 2: Seat the CPU

Seating the CPU is a breeze, just follow these simple instructions.

·         Never touch the metal part of the processor. Always handle it by the sides.
The oil from your hands will create hot spots on the heat sink and fry your processor. Not good.

·         Line up the chip.
CPU’s can only be installed correctly one way. Pay close attention to the form of the plastic sides compared with the exposed silicon that you are holding the chip by.

·         Never touch the metal part of the processor. Oh I covered that? Well it’s the most important so please trust me on this one.

·         Never apply downward pressure to the chip.
Let the motherboard clamp do all the work. They are specially designed to apply steady, even pressure to the chip to ensure it contacts properly. After gently dropping it into the slot, clamp in.

·         Attach the heat sink just like a spare tire.
Opposite corners first, whether your heatsink has plastic clips or metal screws. Don’t overtorque screws, they should be snug but not ultra-tight.

Step 3: External Build

Putting the CPU, RAM, Power Supply and GPU (Graphics Card) on the motherboard outside the case (on a non-conductive surface, such as the motherboard’s cardboard box) will let you make sure that everything runs before you take the time to attach it to the case. If your motherboard has a problem, then you should know about it before you go to the trouble to install it. Hardware failures are rare, but they do happen.

Step 4: For systems with multiple hard drives

Only plug in one hard drive to start, the drive you want to make your main operating system. That ensures that no essential boot files are copied to the storage drives, so you can remove them later without affecting your system stability. Once Windows (or your OS of choice) is installed, power it down and connect the rest.

Step 5: Cable Management

Don’t you roll your eyes at me. Sure it’s done, and all the cords are attached, but how is your airflow? Cases are designed for convective cooling, which means that obstructing your air is going to cause the computer to run hot. Which in turn affects your frames per second when in that crucial battle in the game of your choice.

So take the extra 15 minutes and neaten it up. If your case has panels on the front and rear to route cables away from fans, your should take full advantage, and your cleaning gets much easier as well, because there will be fewer nooks for dust to stick in as air flows through the case.


Happy building! Building your own desktop is a really rewarding experience, even in the tablet and smartphone age. The performance is unmatched for games, workstations, and it gives you a great understanding of the workings of your computer to take it all apart and put it back together.

Thanks for reading everyone! The Modern Nerd returns every two weeks with tips and tricks for the technology in your life. You can get notifications by liking our page on Facebook or subbing to our mailing list.

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