Step 7: Installing the Power Supply

The power supply will typically be mounted in the rear of the case, either at the top or bottom. Note that you should be careful to make sure that the power supply fan is either facing the interior of the case, or if it's facing the exterior that there is a vent in the case. The power supply mounting bracket shouldn't let you install it incorrectly, but just make note of the fan orientation to make sure. There will be four screws that attach the power supply to the rear of the case; there may also be a support tab on which the power supply rests if it's mounted on top (as it would otherwise pivot downwards due to its weight). In the picture below, you can see the power supply has been mounted in the lower rear portion of the case, beneath the motherboard. 

PSU

Pay close attention to the two critical power cables that must be attached to power up your system - the 8-pin (or 4+4-pin) CPU power cable, and the 24-pin motherboard power cable. The motherboard power cable connector is hard to miss due to being the largest connector coming from the power supply, being multi-colored, and having the largest header on the motherboard. The CPU power connector is harder to spot, but will always be somewhere near the CPU, using a 2x2-pin arrangement or a 4x2-pin arrangement. It's location often leads system builders to forget to connect it, and can also cause cable management problems - we've chosen to route the CPU power cable underneath the motherboard rather than across the top of it. This, of course, needed to be done before the motherboard was installed, so you'll need to plan ahead if you want to do the same thing.

A special note here - one of the reasons the build above is not a total mess at this point is that we used a modular power supply. We actually don't have all necessary power connectors attached, but as you'll see later, even when everything is installed, it's still very neat. We strongly recommend purchasing a modular power supply, even if it costs $10-20 more than an equivalent non-modular power supply. It makes building a system, particularly a compact system, so much easier, and makes the finished product look twice as nice!

Step 8: Installing the Hard Drive

HD

We're getting really close to the end now! A word of warning - our Zalman case uses a somewhat unique hard drive mounting system, due to the case's compact dimensions, but the basic principles remain the same. In one form or another, there will be a 3.5" drive rail or mount, and in newer cases, there will also be a 2.5" drive rail or mount for SSDs. In this case, we've installed a 2.5" notebook-class drive, a Seagate SSHD, attached to the lower mount on the drive bracket panel. You can see the bottom of it through the holes in the metal panel.

SATA

The two images to the right show you the SATA power connector (the wide connector) and SATA data connector (the narrow connector). You need one of each for every hard drive or optical drive installed. In this build we have one hard drive and one opitcal drive. Basic motherboards typically come with two SATA data cables, so we're covered there (but just barely!), and the SATA power cables will be attached to or come in the box with your power supply. To avoid forgetting a cable, make sure to connect the SATA power connectors at the same time as the SATA data connectors. A hard drive communicates with the system through the SATA data connector, but will not function without power, which can only be supplied via a power supply's SATA power connector.

SATA

In the closeup photo to the right are the two SATA connectors used for this build - a black SATA 6Gbps cable for the hard drive in the motherboard's SATA_0 6Gbps port and a red SATA 3Gbps cable for the DVD burner, in the SATA_5 3Gbps port. 

Step 9: The Finishing Touches

All right, we're just about ready to turn this baby on. Let's go over the following checklist before we install the side panel onto the case:

(1) 24-pin motherboard power connector (right side of motherboard) is firmly conected
(2) 4-pin or 8-pin CPU power connector (upper-left of motherboard) is attached
(3) SATA power connector to optical drive and hard drive(s) (on drives) are attached
(4) SATA data connector to optical drive and hard drive(s) (lower-right of motherboard) are attached
(5) CPU fan connector (above CPU socket) is inserted
(6) All optional fan connectors (located in various locations) are connected
(7) All front panel connectors, especially the power and reset buttons (lower-right of motherboard) are connected
(8) Any required video card 6-pin or 8-pin PCIe power connectors (none used in this build) are connected
(9) RAM sticks are firmly inserted
(10) CPU heatsink/fan is firmly attached

So everything's in place? Great! Let's slide the side panel into place and secure it with the included thumbscrews:

Finished Build

Step 10: Powering On

The next step of the build is to power it on. First, make note of whether there is a power switch on the back of the power supply. It will need to be in the on position to power up the system, but it doesn't actually turn the system on, it only activates standby. The universal symbols "I" and "0" signify on and off, respectively. Once you've confirmed that is in the "I" position and the 3-pin power plug is connected to a wall socket, or better yet a surge protector socket, you're almost ready to power the system on.

You will of course need to connect a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The monitor may be connected using a variety of connectors, and that will depend on your motherboard or video card (depending on what you're using for video output) and your monitor. The common connections are VGA (analog), DVI (digital), HDMI (up to 1920x1200 digital with sound), and DisplayPort (ultra-high-resolution digital). Your keyboard and mouse will likely connect via USB. We recommend initially setting up your system with a wired rather than a wireless keyboard and mouse. That way you can eliminate one potential source of problems (and in fact, some wireless input devices may not be detectable by the motherboard before an operating system loads).

OK, now that we've covered those steps, it's time for the moment of truth! Will the system turn on? 

If you've installed everything properly and reviewed the checklist in the prior step, you'll probably be fine, but believe it or not, our test system did not turn on with our first attempt. We narrowed it down to a 24-pin motherboard power connector that was not fully inserted, so if you have a similar issue, don't panic, just go through the checklist again!

If the system powers on, you'll see a message or graphic come on from your motherboard's BIOS or UEFI (essentially, a mini operating system), which functions even without an actual operating system installed. You can even interact with it without a hard drive connected. If you see this screen, you know you're in business!

Step 11: Installing the Operating System

The final step of the building process is installing an operating system. Assuming you were able to get through Steps 1-10, this shouldn't be too hard. You will notice that booting up without an operating system will eventually lead to an error message indicating a missing boot disk. That's not a problem (yet). Let's get a "boot disk" in there.

What you'll need to do is insert the operating system DVD into the optical drive. Many motherboards will by default search for an optical drive to install the operating system, but if yours doesn't (and you have the Windows DVD-ROM in the drive), access the BIOS at startup by holding the key indicated on screen, usually F11, F12, or Delete. You'll need to change the "boot order" so that the optical drive is first.

Once the DVD is accessed, Windows will slowly boot off of it. Don't worry - this is not a sign of things to come. Your system will be much faster once the operating system is on the hard drive or SSD. You'll have a few choices here, but assuming this is a brand-new system, you don't need to select a custom installation - just use the default option. Once you've allowed Windows 8 to go through its installation process (selecting a few things along the way like your time zone and user name), you'll be greeted with something like this: 

Win8 Desktop

Ta-da! You have a new computer!

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