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How to Build a Computer


Troubleshooting

What if you put it all together and it doesn't work? This is the one possible downside of building your own machine. It is hard to describe the feeling you get when you try turning on the machine and nothing happens. You've put in several hours of work and a significant amount of cash, so it's discouraging to get no response.

All is not lost, however. Here are several items to check:

  • Is the power supply firmly plugged in and turned on (many power supplies have a small switch on the back)? Try a different outlet.
  • Did you plug the power supply into the motherboard? Look at the manual for details.
  • Is the case's power switch properly connected to the motherboard? If you've plugged the switch into the wrong pins on the motherboard, it won't work. Check the motherboard manual.
  • Are the drives connected to the motherboard properly? Do they have power?
  • Unseat and reseat the video card. If the motherboard has onboard video, try to remove the video card completely and boot using the onboard version.

If you've checked all of that and nothing continues to happen, it could mean:

  • The power supply is bad.
  • The switch on the case doesn't work. We actually had this happen once on a machine we built at HowStuffWorks.com.
  • Something is wrong with the motherboard or the CPU.

The easiest way to determine where the problem lies is to swap parts. Try a different power supply. Swap a different motherboard into the case. Play around with different combinations.

If it's still not working, then you have a few options. You can go back to the shop that sold you the parts. If you bought them from a small local shop, they can help you debug the problem (although it may cost you). If they sold you a bad motherboard (rare, but possible) they'll usually help you out. You can also try to find a more experienced builder who would be willing to help you. There's a rational cause for the problem you're experiencing -- either a bad part or a bad connection somewhere -- and you'll find it.

Now that you've seen how simple it is to build your own computer, we hope that you'll give it a shot. You'll have a computer that you understand completely and will be able to easily to upgrade. You can save money, and it's a lot of fun, too. So the next time you need a new computer, consider building it yourself!


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