Tag Archive for Hardware

Assembling the $450 computer system

Okay, we’ve got all our parts for the $450 system I’ve been discussing lately (Part1, Part 2, Part 3), and now it’s time to put it all together. It’s not all that difficult to do. I was hesitant the first time, all those years ago, but there’ s no fear anymore. Just be mindful of static electricity.

Note: When assembling the system parts, make sure you’re not in a place that will create static electricity, like on a carpet. The static charge could potential damage the sensitive electronic parts. I have a work desk on a wooden floor. Anything but carpet.

Install motherboard
(different motherboard shown)

Mount processor on motherboard

The processor fan. Pegs on fan attach to motherboard. Snap! Snap! Easy!

Install RAM on motherboard.
Snap! Snap! Easy!

Install SATA cable on hard drive


  1. Install the motherboard into the case with the screws provided. Follow the instructional manual.
  2. Connect the power supply lines for the CPU, motherboard, and any other locations as per the mainboard’s instruction manual.
  3. Connect case wires to the motherboard. Again, consult the mainboard’s manual. Typical connections are:
    • the power switch and reset switch which typically are on the same wire.
    • any front or side panel USB connections
    • any front panel audio connectors for headphone or microphones.
    • any cooling fans attached to the inside of the case
  4. Mount the processor and its cooling fan on the motherboard as shown in the motherboard’s manual and the processors manual. Connect the fan line to the motherboard, too.
  5. Install the RAM (memory) on the motherboard. Real easy. Snap! Snap!
  6. Install the DVD and hard drive.
    • Attach a power supply cable to each.
    • Connect each drive’s SATA cable to the motherboard.
  7. You might consider closing the case after you’ve installed your operating system. Just in case have to check your connections from the previous steps. If you have any pets who might find the insides curious, I’d seal it now.
  8. Connect your old keyboard, mouse, and monitor. If you need a new mouse and keyboard, you can get them for less than $20 each at many computer and office supply stores.
  9. Plug in the power cables for the monitor and case to a wall outlet or power strip.
  10. If you have high speed Internet service such as cable or DSL, you connect it to the back of the case.
  11. Power on the monitor and the CPU case.
  12. Check the motherboard’s manual about the BIOS settings that will pop up the first time you start the computer. Usually the “default” settings will be fine. (Don’t be alarmed here. It’s not big deal.)
  13. Insert the Windows 7 DVD into the DVD burner drawer. Restart the computer if necessary. Windows 7 will now install.

Windows 7 will take about a half hour to install. Give it time. Just follow the steps onscreen and you’ll have no problem at all. I’ve installed many versions of Windows, and I have found Windows 7 to be the easiest one ever.

After Windows is installed you can install any other software you might have.

Got an old PC you want to move files from? Just use the Windows Easy Transfer tool under Accessories and System Tools on the Programs menu. (I’ll discuss this one another time. Promise.) It’s easiest if you have a router and can wire your PCs to the router.

I’ll suggest some other software you can find online tomorrow. Stay tuned!

$450 System Hardware Wrap-up

In two earlier posts I spoke about a PC I built for a client last month. The whole system costs about $400—$450 in parts. The goal was to spend about $60 per part or less. The basic parts needed to build a complete system were:

  1. a motherboard (also called a mainboard)
  2. a processor. For $60 I could get a good basic dual core processor. The best thing is in the next year or two the client can upgrade to a faster, more modern processor for about the same price. Currently a quad core processor will set you back about $130.
  3. RAM (memory). For around $60 I used 2 GB of RAM, but the mainboard and 64 bit operating system will allow this system to be upgraded to 4 or even 8 GB if the client chooses to do so later.
  4. a hard drive for storage or programs and other files
  5. a case (to put all the parts above into) with a power supply. This part was only $35 in my budget.
  6. an operating system. For this system I used the new Windows 7 Professional 64 bit edition.
  7. an optical drive, or in this case a combination CD and DVD burner. I didn’t have to buy this part; I just reused the one that was installed in the client’s previous computer.

Apex Mid Tower CaseSeagate SATA hard driveIn my second post on this system I recommended some parts available from Tigerdirect.com to cover the first 3 items on the list above. Please note the client will be reusing the monitor from their previous computer system. You can probably do the same.

Here are my recommendations to cover the final 4 items on the list, and I’ll add on a DVD drive just in case you don’t have one, but you’d like to build a similar system.

  • Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 500 GB SATA driveicon ($50)
  • Case and power supply: Apex PC-375 Black Mid-Tower Case with a 300 watt power supplyicon ($35)
  • Operating System: Between all the hardware I’ve only spent $283 before taxes and shipping. So I’ve got about $167 left for the Windows 7 operating system. I have two flavors to choose from in my budget: (1) Windows 7 Home Premium edition (32 bit)icon for $110 or (2) Windows 7 Professional (64 bit)icon for $150. The 32 bit system will limit my future RAM potential to 4 GB, while the 64 bit system can upgrade to 8GB. 4 GB is fine for most systems. I went with the Pro version.
  • DVD Burner: Samsung SH-S223C DVD-RW Driveicon ($25) This one burns CD-R discs, too. The client had a Sony DVD burner from their previous system. A similar Sony model would cost about $50 to $60. If you already have a DVD drive from your previosu system, you can reuse. Windows 7 comes on a DVD, so that’s why your need a DVD drive. A CD drive will not do.

So that’s all the parts. Now comes the assembly once you’ve got them all. Tomorrow I’ll tell the steps in brief for putting it all together.