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Byte by bit

Bandwidth Hog

Joined: 20 May 2003
Posts: 2369

Posted: 17 Dec 2006 05:40:05 am    Post subject:

As promised for a long time, I am going to provide my computer build tutorial. This short tutorial will go over the various steps and procedures to research, procure, and assemble all of the parts required to make a working Personal Computer (PC). I am going to break this tutorial down into a number of days, to help focus on the various aspects of building a computer.

Requirements for the Project:

Time to do the research, reading, price comparisons, assembly, and troubleshooting if you run into problems.
A little money to buy the required assembly parts.
Tools for assembly include (Phillips #2 Screwdriver, pen for writing and marking, sharp knife or scissors for cutting ties and opening boxes). Additionally, sometimes we need extra tools -- ( Large Flat-Head Screwdriver to apply AMD heat-sinks/coolers, and tweezers for moving jumpers and Thermal Interface Material such as Arctic Silver 5)

Parts List:

Power Supply
Hard Disk Drive
Optical Disk Drive (such as DVD Burner, DVD Combo, CD Burner...)

Supplemental Parts List:
Video Card (PCI-Express x16, or AGP, rarely PCI. Sometimes integrated with motherboard)
Sound Card (Usually integrated with motherboard)
Network Card (Usually integrated with motherboard)
Floppy Drive (Sometimes needed for RAID drivers and legacy software

Human Interface Devices (HID):
Monitor (LCD or CRT)
Keyboard (PS/2 or USB)
Mouse (PS/2 or USB)

Before You Begin:
Figure out what you would like to do with your computer. Will you be using this as a standalone computer, workstation, server, or gaming system? Ask yourself if you have any special circumstances , uses, or purposes. Some examples of special uses are Computer Aided Design (CAD), editing video, and mixing audio. Another special use is the creation of a server or Network Attached Storage (NAS).

If building a server or NAS, you may wish to consider RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) for data redundancy.
If you intend to mix audio, it may be best to add a superb Sound Card.
If working with CAD and editing video, it may be a good idea to add a performance Video Card.
For a Server a high performance Gigabit Ethernet Card may help bandwidth performance.


We recommend that anyone interested in building a computer setup a budget in order to help curve the budget. For many of us, It is easy to spend many hundreds of dollars more than intended without even paying attention. I recommend doing some price comparisons between both On-line Vendors such as Newegg, TigerDirect, and ZipZoomFly, as well as the Brick and Mortar stores such as Fry's Electronics, CompUSA, and BestBuy. Additionally, it may be prudent to check out local computer shops and third-parties and auction sites.

Getting the Materials without going broke

Large Chain Stores:
Stores such as Fry's Electronics are great for buying the things you need to see before purchasing. These items are Cases and Human Interface Devices (HID Devices) such as Monitors, Keyboards, and Mice. No matter what someone tells you, you cannot judge a monitor without first seeing it on display yourself, nor can you tell if you like a keyboard or mouse unless you feel it on display and type on it. For these situations, I recommend you visit your local Computer Parts Warehouse such as Fry's Electronics. Additionally, these chain stores offer fantastic return policies. For example you have 30 days to return most computer parts to Fry's Electronics (Exclusions are software, CPU, and memory/RAM... Read Store Policies for Details) for a full refund. These larger chain stores continue to run specials and other deals, which you can find in the paper as well as posted on websites. Typically, an item on special will be marked at an extremely low price often marked low enough that the store will loose money if you only buy items on special.

Online/Internet Vendors
Stores such as Newegg typically offer a free exchange within the warranty period, but you would have to front the shipping. Additionally, any returns for refund are usually subject to a 15% restocking fee. Disadvantages are that you cannot tangibly see/feel the parts, but the advantage is that you can save great sums of money by not having to pay for the overhead of stores such as Fry's.

Local Shops
Local computer shops are typically staffed with a knowledgeable staff that have a stake in the business and are often held personally responsible for their customer service skills and knowledge. Additionally, most local shops will jump through hoops to answer any questions you may have and may even provide some free diagnostic services for you. The good local shops truly go the extra mile for their customers. Typically, local shops do not run specials nor do they have sale prices. Local shops often have the highest prices in the industry for computer parts largely due to the limited quantities and often retail prices they pay to buy their inventory. Many local shops pay as much as you do for the parts they buy to resale to their customers. In other words, local shops shop On-Line vendors and even places like Fry's Electronics from time to time.

Auctions and Third Parties
Another option for you is to acquire parts from a third party such as the classified ads in the paper or eBay. You can usually find many hard to find parts at a reasonably cheap price going these routes. Unfortunately, just about every part you buy is heavily used and sometimes abused. When you see an item in the paper, you have the opportunity to meet with the seller and/or talk to him/her on the phone. This usually assures that any problems will be resolved in a professional manner, since you know who the seller is and where he/she lives and does business. On the other hand when going though eBay, you never meet in person with whom you are doing business. This means you have little control over the sell. You are putting your faith in the honesty of someone you do not know who has the goal of making money from you. In other words right off the get-go there is at least one intention that is not in your favor. Therefore, you should always check a sellers reputation and feedback. If a seller has good feedback and continues to offer items eBay at regular intervals, chances are good that you will get your items. Problems come into play when you receive an item that does not work or is bad. When this occurs, your only recourse is to attempt to settle the dispute with the seller via email, eBay, or feedback. Warranties are only good provided you believe the seller will honor his/her word even if it costs him/her money out of pocket. Also, remember to ask yourself mental questions like, “Why does this seller have 30 laptops for sale on eBay? What personal individual actually owns 30 laptops? Are they stolen? Why are these items that cheap? Do they work? What guarantee do I have the item I purchase will work?” I refuse to do business with people who have massive quantities of items because I will not buy black-market or rather grey-market computer goods. If it is too good to be true or impossible for the seller to make money if he/she had to pay for the goods he/she is selling, then the chances are good you would be an accessory to crime by purchasing stolen goods. I for example own many Thousands of Dollars in computer equipment, but you will never see any of it on eBay for less than I bought it or less than the market value. In other words, I will not pay $1000 or $2000 for a computer then sell it for $400. If you see my stuff on eBay really cheap, it means someone stole it from me and wants to sell it quickly to liquidate the goods into cash. Given no business expenses, it is possible to sell an item at 20% its market value.

My Recommendation for use of various parts suppliers:
Buy items that are on special from chain stores such as Fry's. Pay less than they do for these items. I.e. get a case/power supply, and a motherboard/processor combo and get out the door for slightly under or over $200 with half the parts you need to build your $1000 computer. Just before leaving, checkout the mice, monitors, and keyboards to figure out which ones you are going to buy from an online vendor for less money later.

Stop by your local computer shop and get acquainted with some of the staff. You may find you have something in common. I have never actually been in my local shops, but I am still going to recommend you do this. If you ever need a part immediately to fix a broken computer and need your computer operational in under 15 minutes to finish a project due in half an hour, you will need to shop here. Just remember that knowledge is not really free. Even free knowledge has value and should be paid for provided it is reasonably cheap to pay for it. In other words, if a local shop spends a great deal of their time (time = $$$) to help you with a problem such as preform a diagnostic, or offers you advice especially that from on line research done on your behalf by the staff, you should buy something from the shop. In other words, if you were to ask questions about your MSI Motherboard and they were to go out on a limb for you to determine the proper supported memory type as defined by MSI for example, it is only fair to buy the memory from the local shop even though it costs you more money. This is of course provided the shop does not have an extreme markup that is greater than the price of the memory + the knowledge. If you do not have any intentions of buying anything from your local shop, you should avoid ever going inside. If you have enough knowledge to not need any help from a local shop, you should also avoid going inside unless you wish to pay higher prices.

Next, with half of your shopping done and all questions answered, get on the Internet and determine the remaining hardware you need and buy it as cheap as possible from trusted vendors such as and ZipZoomFly. If you go in this order, you will have all of the parts you need to build your computer at below retail prices except for those purchased from your local computer shop. Additionally, you will have your questions answered. Another good thing to do is join a forum such as one provided by Tom's Hardware,, or some other hardware forum if you want some serious help and intelligence, but don't want to pay for it. You will probably get 16 answers to your problem by 12 qualified people of which 4 will be slammed with corrections made by the other 12. Just wait a while and post some follow-ups. Review the work done by the people who reply to you, read their signatures, check out their websites, et cetera. The point I am making is that you can get answers to any questions you have free of charge and by multiple people who do it for the good of a community.

Last edited by Guest on 03 Jan 2007 02:16:58 am; edited 1 time in total
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Byte by bit

Bandwidth Hog

Joined: 20 May 2003
Posts: 2369

Posted: 21 Dec 2006 05:45:05 am    Post subject:

The Build

The Build Contents for this tutorial:

The picture above shows:
* AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Vinace PIB(Processor In Box) Socket 939 (Single Core)
* ECS K8T890-A VIA Chipset Motherboard (not quite an Nforce4, but not the worse chipset)
* (2 x 512 MB) 1 GB of DDR400/PC3200 Corsair Value Ram in a Dual Channel Kit . (CAS 2.5)
* Netgear WG311 802.11G PCI Wireless Network Interface Card (NIC/WIFI)
* 100 GB Maxtor PATA ATA/133 8MB Cache **
* 16x Lite-On +/- R/RW DVD Burner PATA ATA/66 **
* Antec Case NSK4400
* Coolmaster Greeb LED 80mm Riffle Bearing Fan for front of case
* EVGA 7300GT 128 MB

** 80 Pin PATA cable is required for correct DMA operation on ATA/66 and higher performing drives such as most hard drives and this DVD burner mentioned above. DO NOT use the 40 pin cable with anything better than ATA/33

Although this stuff is used, current prices from Newegg
$55.99 AMD 3200+ Vinace N82E16819103567
$74.99 Antec Case NSK4400 N82E16811129012
$53.99 ECS K8T890-A N82E16813135212
$2.99 80mm Coolmaster Fan/Green LED N82E16811999065
$96.99 Corsair DDR400 dual chanel Value RAM kit N82E16820145440
$40.99 Netgear WG311 Wireless-G N82E16833122119
$54.99 Drive not found on Newegg, but this is cheap and better N82E16822144415
$29.99 Lite-On 16x DVD Burner (18x version is now cheaper, so here) N82E16827106042
$89.99 EVGA 7300GT 256 MB Card N82E16814130025

Parts Value and Opinion

$500.91 before tax and shipping

Quite honestly, this computer is a good for only $500 worth of parts. It beats any Pentium 4 and several Pentium D computers, has enough memory, runs dual channel, is compatible with Linux, burns DVDS, has network and sound capabilities too. Additionally, the video card isn't too shabby.

Last edited by Guest on 31 Dec 2006 02:28:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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Byte by bit

Bandwidth Hog

Joined: 20 May 2003
Posts: 2369

Posted: 21 Dec 2006 05:54:59 am    Post subject:

Here we have some types of cards.
(Left to Right, AGP, PCI-Express x16, PCI)

Figuring someone will ask at least about the first card, the first card is a very old AGP 2X 3D RAGE PRO (before GeForce 1) 8MB; I think. Second card is Nvidia 7300GT Chipset by EVGA with 128 MB GDDR3 RAM, and last card is Netgear WG311 802.11G Wireless Network Card.


ESD (Electro Static Discharge)

Essentially, rubbing your feet on carpet, walking in air, sitting in a chair, doing the normal things we humans do may cause a buildup of static electricity that can destroy components.

I have witnessed other Technicians who are paranoid use wrist straps and even floor mats. I consider these things a bit geeky and nerdy for the use on a regular computer. Especially one like this with about $500 in parts and only an AMD Athlon 3200+ Vinace-Core processor. (Hum, I guess discussing the processor is nerdy)

I am not telling you to not be cautious, but I am saying that ESD protection for me seems like little more than insurance. I have never actually witnessed any part die for ESD. I am not saying this has not happened, I am just saying that I have worked on hundreds of computers and replaced over 80 motherboards and even laptop boards. With this in mind, please be cautious through the build processes and observe some sense of good judgment.

I would wear a wrist strap when working on someone else's computer but not my own or at work. I would wear it to cover my a and look more professional at the same time. Overall, I believe it is hype for the most part. Touching the case and not scuffing my feet is what I consider enough.

You can almost always touch the case with one hand and work with another negating the most remote possible need for an ESD strap, lean over the case touch it with a knee, or rest your left arm on the case and work with both hands. Regardless, you can definitely build a computer without an ESD strap. If you feel you need an ESD strap, make your own. All you need is a piece of wire and one or two clips and maybe a metal watch. There is no need to spend $20 on this piece of equipment.

Magnetic Screw Driver and Disclaimer

I should also tell you to avoid magnetic tipped screw drivers and that United-TI, me, the UTI-STAFF, members, and other people associated with this website cannot be held liable for damage. You assume all risk when building, repairing, upgrading, or working with your computer, parts, and equipment. Therefore, we generally recommend using good judgment and thinking things through twice.

Most of the time if it does not work it is because of user error or assembly error. To remedy this, ensure each component is compatible, of high quality, and read and understand everything before doing anything. You are much more likely to short out, forget to connect something, force something, scratch your motherboard bus traces with a screw driver, bend a processor pin, or get a bad component than you are to encounter ESD in my own personal opinion.

The Honest Truth

When something does not work, it is often a silly mistake. Even experts and professionals make mistakes. I have made mistakes a few times and later corrected them when it did not work the first time. Persistence will usually prevail. I have worked on hundreds of computers, hence I have made a small handful of mistakes. Most mistakes are, indeed, correctable once you have the knowledge of exactly what you did wrong.

The honest truth is that sometimes things do not work right away and that most of the time if it does not work it is builder error. I have seen people short motherboards out by having one too many metal spacers, I have seen someone attach a heatsink with the plastic cover still on to an older AMD processor that was not capable of powering off or throttling down. It fried. I think AlienCC did something similar to this and had to borrow a processor once. Basically, it is very easy to forget to remove the plastic covering the Thermal Interface Material. ** everyone makes at least one mistake!

To sum it up, any good tech makes mistakes at least once:

*I have killed a computer via floppy disk power cable
*AlienCC fried a processor via leaving the cover on
*A guy I went to college with shorted his motherboard out on the pegs
*A co-worker at work updated a BIOS and the laptop didn't POST (Power ON Self Test)
*Another friend replaced a Smart-Ups Battery for a large APC UPS; he got the polarity wrong and the little UPS motherboard fried.

I would trust any of the above people, myself included, to work on my own personal computers and other expensive equipment. All of the people above are way better techs than most people who do it for a living.

People often force things and break them. I.e. the memory fits in only one way, but there are people who have forced things together the wrong way. There are even people who have gotten RAMBUS to fit in a DDR slot or DDR to fit in a DDR2 slot and Vice Versa. It does take firmness and adequate pressure to seat cards and modules, but if it is not going in with reasonable force, something is definitely wrong.

**The RAMBUS guy actually cut new notches to make the memory fit and I only read about this on the Internet.

I have witnessed the aftermath of a careful Dell tech bend the pins on a Pentium 4 Socket 478 Processor.


Stories about Screw-Ups by Certified-Technicians including me, AlienCC, and a Co-Worker

Fried a Pentium 2 computer about 2 years ago not sure what parts died though. I think this was probably due to a floppy drive power cable being inserted off by one. It was not bright enough for me to see, so I just connected it by feel. I was operating on the theory, "It will not fit together if it is not meant too." Let me say I was wrong and that is the only computer I permanently destroyed. Luckily for me it was not my computer and I was not responsible for it. It was a computer in a junk pile I think. Regardless, it was a Pentium 2, so I really did not feel bad. It was embarrassing though because this incident happened around someone else.

I have replaced a Dell GX270 motherboard and had the power light amber. I turned it off and checked the power connections as Amber Power Light indicates power problem. It turns out the 4 Prong processor power cable was loose. I spotted this immediately due to my experience with Dell. Amber Power Light = Power Problem.

I took apart my ABIT KN8-SLI Socket 939 computer to upgrade the processor from AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (the exact processor used in this tutorial due to it being leftover). I took out the video card, RAM, and removed the ATX and 4 Pin Power cables and made myself some working room to be save and prevent damage via hitting a part with a screwdriver or with my hand. I moved all of the power cables out of the way. I was being careful. I took it apart and put the Athlon 64 X2 4200+ in and re-assembled. The fans came on but it did not POST. I was checking manuals and confirmed my exact processor was compatible. I had never personally witnessed a dead processor, but I was thinking this one was dead. I know the symptoms of a bad processor or an incompatible processor are NO POST. When this happens, the Fans and lights will come on and that is it. I took the 4200+ out and put the 3200+ back in, it still did not POST, Then I was just ticked off because I was very careful, do not make mistakes, and have done this type of stuff hundreds of times. At least I thought I had not made a mistake. I went to go get a Coke and contemplate what to do next. After all I did everything right, or at least that is what I thought. Then it just hit me that I had moved the 4-Prong power cable out of the way and did not remember to re-connect it. Since I had it out of the way and did not see it was not connected, I did not connect it. Without power, a properly installed processor exhibits the same symptoms of a dead on arrival, dead, or fried, or no processor exhibit. NO POST.

Once I found that out, I felt like such a dummy. I had to then repeat the procedure of removing the 3200+ and installing the 4200+. Everything worked out fine after that. Windows XP Pro even plugged and played the new "ACPI Multiprocessor PC" Hardware Abstraction Layer Driver (HAL) for me. All I had to do is agree to a reboot and the Windows kernel then brought SMP (Symmetric Multi Processing) online.

I have a co-worker who flashed the BIOS of an HP or perhaps Compaq laptop he was working on as a side job. He did the research and found a BIOS update would fix a network issue of dropped packets as new firmware was needed. He did this update and the flash program or process froze in the middle. He let it sit for about 10 minutes, but it did not complete. After saying a prayer and crossing his fingers, he rebooted the laptop and it was dead. Being the good, honest, hard working, individual with credibility, and integrity, he spent hours searching the Internet in finding a solution such as a special method to re-lfash. Eventually, he bought a replacement motherboard from eBay that was refurbished by a seller with high ratings that owns a big business selling parts. He bought it with warranty and the fastest shipping method he could get. He even paid extra. It took him 2 weeks to get the motherboard and it had a small stain on it. It worked, but it had no video. He was really pissed off. The seller said he would take it back, but he was not sure if he damaged the lid switch and wanted to check first. As it turns out the motherboard the seller sold was damaged. He got burned by eBay this time. There is a saying that goes like this, "When it rains, it pours!"

Making Good a Mistake

This co-worker ordered a replacement lid switch and identical laptop for about $300. He also ordered a brand new palm rest that was unstained. He then moved the keyboard, new palmrest, old LCD wireless card, hard drive, and all the stuff to the new laptop. He returned the laptop which was now upgraded slightly and had warranty from HP or maybe it was Compaq. It is still working perfect to this day but only because of his honesty, integrity, and willingness to throw personal time, money, and labor into correcting this problem. He is a good guy.

Moral of these stories is that everybody makes mistakes and sometimes bad stuff happens but usually not due to ESD. Therefore, I recommend minimizing risk and using caution, especially when working on or with somebody else's computer. You are responsible when you mess up even if it is not really your fault. Basically, if a computer works and after you work on it, it quits working, it is usually your time and money that will end up fixing it. For this reason, I limit the amount of work I do on the side. Even as a seasoned, specialist Tech, I do not want to work on somebody else's personal computer. If something goes wrong, even if it is not my fault, I am going to feel obligated to fix it. How could I explain to someone who does not know the name or function of even one part in his/her computer case why a specific part failed and it was not my fault even though I worked on the computer last? I would find it easier and would feel better just paying for a replacement part and fixing the problem.

Working Side Jobs for Money:

I would much rather have something catastrophic happen to one of my computers than something minor happen to somebody else's computer that I work on. The reason is that I can live without one of my computers, I have backups and other computers, and I am not obligated to fix my own problems. However, if I inflict any damage even minor damage or something bad happens such as a hard drive dies while in my care loosing data, I am pretty much obliged to replace the drive, recover some data, acquire pre-recorded optical-media, install OS, drivers, software, get keys, get an ISP working... Worst of all, I may be legally required to send the drive out to a company such as On-Track and spend thousands of Dollars for their services even if the computer I am working on is a Pentium 2 not worth the price of the cheapest replacement hard drive. For these reasons, you should never assume the liability of DATA. Get a waiver signed.

Next, you should avoid opening the computer case for a client/customer unless you plan on owning that computer forever. For example, if you open and dust it and a fan fails, all they will remember is that you were the last to open it and perform work. Also, you can most likely not obtain proprietary parts easily such as parts from Dell, Gateway, eMachines, HP, and Compaq without going through them. It may be a lot of work and they may only send you consumer serviceable parts, which do not usually include things like motherboards and proprietary power supplies. They may make you pay to have an incompetent tech come out if the system is out of warranty or get certified to work on their proprietary stuff such as the Dell Certified Systems Expert (DCSE). With all this said, I recommend working on systems only when you have a specific goal, the system is an industry standard system that fits an ATX case, and you can still acquire new parts via retail stores without having to buy entire groups of parts like a motherboard, processor, and memory.

Here is a challenge: try finding a Pentium 3 Motherboard that takes PC133 SDRAM in your local CompUSA. Obviously, you cannot. If you were to break something like this, you would be stuck buying a motherboard, processor, and memory, and possibly a video card too if it uses newer PCI-Express only.

There is always eBay for finding that hard to find part you must have and is not for sale new by any vendor anywhere!

All of the above being said, it is definitely profitable in the long run if you were to do good quality work and back it up with good business ethics. Overall, you would earn more money and get repeat business if you do a good job. Additionally it is much like extended warranties. If I buy $1000 in stuff from Fry's Electronics and spend $200 buying their 1 year extended warranty on all that stuff, I am spending 20% more money. Considering that not even 1 part in a $1000 computer costs $200 except for maybe the processor (they fail at a rate of probably 1 in 5000), you would have to have 2 failures in a year for it to be worth it. Additionally, you would have to trust the place in which you purchased the extended warranty from the honor it. A chain like Fry's or CompUSA would probably have many questions, make you sign papers, and jump through hoops. I am sure they would honor their agreements, but you would probably need some kind of proof such as your paperwork or you would need a friendly employee who actually cards about helping you query your info from a database and help you find your missing paperwork. In all, you can most likely replace 2 or 3 parts for $200 especially a year later when you are buying last years parts. Additionally, Time will be on your side. If you buy a $150 processor today, a year from now it will probably be available for $50. The reverse is that the latest and greatest today will be cheap, worthless trash eventually. You may eventually actually pay someone to dispose of the computer you are planning on building right now!


I have found it is best to just buy things online and instead of paying $1000 and maybe $200 for an extended warranty to pay only abut $700 to $800 for all of the parts without any extended warranties or easy return policies. If I have a problem, I can then replace them with brand new parts and still spend less money than I would have just buying the parts no warranty at a retail store. In summary, I spend less money initially and spend more later if you need too. By avoiding extended waranties, I will end up spending a few hundred dollars here and there to fix things, but that is cheaper in the long-run for me. I prefer it overspending thousands of dollars to buy warranties for all o fmy stuff and then having to store the paperwork. People who sell warranties know that if 5 people each spend $200 for a warranty and then 1 person files a claim for $100, the profit is $900.

Included/implicit Warranties
Besides, many on line vendors like NewEgg have a policy of replacement/warranty; however, I think it would be more of a haste to coordinate shipping and the RMA info. It will at the very least take longer and probably cost some money! Additionally, there is manufacturer warranty on most items assuming I keep my recipts and an willing to dig through websites, call telephone numbers, write letters, request RMA numbers, box items, pay for shipping, and wait for processing, I should qualify for warranty replacement on most things that break. There are also warranties that very from State-To-State and are a required burdeon for companies who do business.

Secret Warranties
Many corporations and private companies, including, Dell Computer Corporation have assembled many computers with faulty motherboards made by Foxconn during a specific time period due to malformed “Made Somewhere Other than Japan” fake capacitors passed off to Foxconn by a reputable vendor with a good service history. Someone got a great deal and the parts looked okay and checked out perfectly fine too if they were measured. Unfortunately, after being in a working circuit for somewhere between 6 months to several years these capacitors broke down, bulged, leaked, and spewed their innards. Foxconn was not apprised that the capacitors they were buying actually were not made in Japan by a quality company and instead were counterfeit fakes. The result of this was that many of thousands of Dell GX270 and SX270 computers were hit. HP, Apple, Cisco, Foxconn, ABIT, and other electronics companies were also hit with this problem to no direct fault of their own. Good companies such as Dell will typically replace or offer free replacement motherboards for computers affected with this problem. Hence, if your deal is dead and has leaking capacitors, let Dell know. You have until 2008; I think.

Here is a Picture of what a motherboard with bulging capacitors looks like. If this is anything like the Dell GX270 (It is definitly Dell in Design given the fancy heatsink next to the heatsink and their typical board layout), when that row of capacitors adjacent to the CPU start to leak badly it will start up and say, “Shutdown due to thermal event, Press F1 to continue, F2 for Setup” If the other capacitors are bulging/domed it will either not start up, not POST, or run for a while and freeze or the screen will go black like it went to sleep and will not wake up. These are common symptoms. This is what to look for to actually make the diagnosis and confirm it.

(Picture from Google Images) Look at the bluging, domed, leaking capacitors above. The tin can looking electronic components.

HP had a problem with some of their 615n Jet Direct Cards. They just quit working and being detected. The procedure that worked for getting free replacement JetDirect Network cards, a $300, product was to Call HP's Toll Free number, when in contact with an automated system, say “Jet Direct” to get to the higher end networking department, next select “Linux and Novel Operating Systems” as I found it does not matter, but these people are smarter and actually answer the phones instead of spend all day walking users through installing drivers on Windows XP. (Hum). Describe the issue specifically point out that the card is bad, you tried it in a different printer, did a cold reset (and explain how it is done for your printer), and that a card from a different printer does work and is detected. Next, let them know that you know about the service bulletin and all of the sudden things change. They ask for your address and some information. In about 2 days, you get a brand new 620n Jet Direct card that works like a charm. I figured this out at work and have done this about 7 times saving about $2100.

With all of this in mind, if broke, determined, persistent, and have a lot of time and social skills dealing with companies, it is definitely do-able to get most parts replaced free of charge. If you know how, you can place pressure on even big corporations. Just ask, what can I do that is legal and will cost them much more money than satisfying me? BBB, Consumer Affairs, FTC, At tourney General, Small Claims Case, perhaps a friendly letter?

Why buy redundant warranties when everything already has a return policy and is covered by some warranty somewhere?

Last edited by Guest on 31 Dec 2006 03:33:58 am; edited 1 time in total
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Byte by bit

Bandwidth Hog

Joined: 20 May 2003
Posts: 2369

Posted: 30 Dec 2006 03:18:12 am    Post subject:

Installing the Motherboard and Power Supply

Okay, attach the power supply to the case. This is obvious and requires screws. Just attach it where it goes and put the screws in then get the leads out of the way. Hopefully reading the last sentence does not make me come across as condescending after all, I have been known to get complaints about using the aforementioned word, "obviously or obvious." I really am not going to give you any pictures because I am absolutely certain that anyone can figure this out, even you Wink Heck if you have read through the previous 18 pages of *euphemism/Adj Here* I have written, you are more knowledgeable than the aforementioned *anyone*, so you will notice that there is a big hole in the back and that is where the power supply goes. If you seriously are confused, I am honestly sorry and did not intend to upset you. I am practicing humor. - Just look at the back of any other computer. No Pun intended.

Now, it is time to mount the motherboard. I recommend taping 2 sheets of paper together or getting a large sheet of paper the size of your motherboard then makring where the screw holes are. This is a very easy method to get the correct number of spacers and get it right the first time. I know this is silly, but it may save you a motherboard and it is better to get it right the first time.

Now that you have figured out where the spacers go, screw them into the holes in the case. If you have one that does not line up, do not use it. You do not need to use all of the spacers, but use as many as you can. I think it is best to use as many as possible to make certain the motherboard is not going to flop around and short out.

If you have a spacer that looks like a dome or a protruding piece of metal. I.e. one that does not accept a screw, put it in the middle. This is a special spacer to help stabilize the motherboard to help you line it up properly with the backplate. Here is a picture of an 80mm fan and cables out of the way and the spacers put in the case.

This is a picture of the motherboard.

This is a picture of how the back plate that comes with the motherboard will line up with it.

Put this backplate in the back of the case to adapt the case to fit the motherboard. It will look like this when snapped into place.

I made certain to move all of the power supply cables out of the way by pushing them into the top section of the case away from the motherboard to create working room.

Now, I carfully lined the motherboard up and lowered it into position without scratching the back. I made certain it lined up perfectly with all of the spacers/studs and the back of the case. I also tightened the screws but only a little. I put them all in then I tightened them just a little bit more. I did not overtighten as that could possibly pull the spacer and screw together and crush or crack the motherboard. Just tighten it enough to where the motherboard will not move or vibrate from the fans

Now, I referenced the motherboard manual to connect the LED and switches from the case to the motherboard. This is honestly the most challening part. If an LED does not work, you got it backwards. They are polarized - they are diodes!

I also adjusted the fan settings via a hanging switch and tied it out of the way, so it won't get caught in any case or CPU fans.

Last edited by Guest on 02 Jan 2007 04:11:40 am; edited 1 time in total
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Posted: 30 Dec 2006 04:50:34 am    Post subject:

Installing the CPU

Okay, here is where we install the CPU. The pictures above already have it installed, but that is only because I broke down this working computer before making the tutorial. We will just call this Internet Magic much like TV magic. :biggrin:

I opened the ZIF (ZERO Insertion Force) lever all the way to its 90 degrees / perpendicular to the motherboard. The entire socket moves a little bit opening holes for 939 pins of the processor.

Now, I lined up the processor and dropped it into place.

Next, I closed the lever as shown here:

Finally, I put a dab of thermal paste on top. I am not going to show a picture of how much I used because everybody has their own opinion as to how much. Some say, the size of a grain of rice, other people think a pea sized amount, some like to smear it... Basically, you want it as thin as possible while still maintaining 100% contact. Meanwhile, you want it to be rubbed into the pores of the metal. You also want complete coverage of the metal heat spreader for best thermal contact, yet you do not want spillage over the side. It is also said that smearing it may cause air bubbles and that complete coverage on top is not really important. With all this in mind, I just put a small dot on the processor and heatsink and rub it in then wipe it off. Next, I put a small dab in the middle depending on the surface area and heat-sink type. I have decided that I do not mind a little bit of ooze out, but I do not want much. I do not want any to actually ooze from the cooler all the way to the motherboard. Intel processors have lower surface area on top; thus, a smaller dab is needed.

Since I am not going to show you a picture of how much let me just say to use a quality product like Arctic Silver 5, Antec Silver Formula 5, Shin-Estu MicroSi, or the thermal pad that comes pre-applied to your heat sink. Do not use both the pad and the grease. Use one or the other, but always use some type of TIM (Thermal Interface Material)

Here is the syringe of Antec Silver Formula 5 I pulled out of my top desk drawer:

Now, I put the heat-sink on and made certain the cam-lock was in the unlocked position. I then put the lugs over the plastic heat-sink retention bracket. This picture from removal shows what I am talking about well; I think. Repeat on the other side. For Intel just slide all for posts down and lock them.

Here is what you have now:

Basically now, I locked the cam-lock by pushing it to its fullest down position:

I next put a tiny bit of pressure directly down on the heat-sink to push the thermal material thin and attached the fan. You can see in the picture above with the camlock locked that I attached the fan power cable to the left of the camlock in that picture.

This concludes attaching the CPU/Microprocessor and heat-sink/cooler.

Last edited by Guest on 02 Jan 2007 04:14:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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Posted: 30 Dec 2006 05:14:22 am    Post subject:

Installing the Memory

Please handle memory by the edges and avoid touching the contacts on the bottom as they may corrode especially when in the presence of about 2.5V of electricity with your finger print as the electrolyte. This is also a good anti static or ESD measure though I am not overly concerned with ESD. I also recommend using a can of compressed air to spray out memory slots unless the board is brand new. You have either 184 Pin DDR or 240 Pin DDR2 depending on your motherboard. It would not take much to interfere with smooth operation if something is obstructing a clean connection

This motherboard supports Dual Channel DDR 400. It is even printed on the board. Heck, it has only 2 slots, so we do not even have to bother checking the motherboard manual for this one. However, most motherboards have you put the memory in the slots that are the same color. Sometimes you put the memory in adjacent slots and sometimes every other slot. Other makes have you use different slot colors for dual channel although this is rare.

The General rule I have found in this situation is to buy a Dual Channel Memory Kit such as the Corsair Value Ram, which is high quality, non-generic, matched memory. Although they call this Value Ram, it is actually of great quality. It is not guaranteed to overclock greatly or anything, but I will say that this set designed for DDR 400/PC3200 has run at PC3500 speeds when I was playing around with manually configuring the settings. It had no trouble exceeding its specifications.

The design of this type of kit is as follows: Both modules are exactly the same size, with memory made in the same lot, with the flash EEPROM (Electronic Erasable Read-Only Memory) ID chips flashed the same, and with exactly the same SPD timings. In other words, these modules are guaranteed to look identical to the motherboard; hence, they are highly compatible even with pickey motherboards when it comes to running dual channel. Basically, you take a set like this and you put each module in the appropriate slot and the BIOS will automatically set identical SPD settings and configure the motherboard for Dual-Channel Operation in most cases. At least in all but the dumbest of motherboards. :biggrin: In better motherboards, i.e. some ABIT, ASUS, MSI, and others some have a smarter BIOS and better tools for configuration. Some can let you manually configure the settings to force unlike modules to run at exactly the same latencies and therby allow the motherboard to be forced into Dual Channel mode. Cheaper boards like this one without any advanced configuration settings rely on the modules using SPD to configure themselves identically to do Dual Channel.

Here is a picture of the empty slots. I opened the tabs on the sides by sliding them apart to prepare them for the insertion of memory:

Here is after inserting one stick. Notice how the tabs on both sides of the stick are closed and the other side is open. I should also point out I felt a definite snap when the memory was properly seated.

Here is both identical (2 x 512MB) modules inserted:

Also note that I attached the ATX 24 Pin connector and the 4 Pin Power connector to the motherboard and that I also attached a Molex Power Cable to a hard drive while I was at it. I guess I just got ahead of myself and the tutorial. For that matter, I also removed two aluminum backplates in preperation for adding the PCI Express X16 Video Card and a Wireless Card (PCI) later.

You will see how I neatly tied all of the wires out of the way to prevent them from getting caught up in the fans. Zip Ties are my friend in this photo

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Posted: 30 Dec 2006 02:57:35 pm    Post subject:

Drives Install

The first step to adding drives is to figure out how to use your case/chassis. Typically, it is usually obvious and unsnaps and unscrews. However, I have had times when it took a great deal of thought just to figure out how to open a case let alone actually work with it. For these reasons, I read my case/chassis manual before working with it. I just familiarize myself because everything is obvious once I know how to do it. I think I save some frustration going this route. One thing I cannot over emphasize is to get a quality case that is thick, light, and sturdy. I typically look for a name brand such as Antec and try to get a case that supports good Air Flow like this one. I have seen people buy generic cases just to find out that the small holes for the spacers/studs do not perfectly line up with those on the motherboard. Regardless, any quality case will support ATX, MicroATX, and possibly other form factors.

I recommend that you get a case that supports at least these two form factors then stick with the full-size ATX motherboards because they are no more expensive than the MicroATX variety, yet they typically offer better upgrade-ability at a later time. I.e. many ATX motherboards support 4 or more memory slots as opposed to only 2 on most MicroATX boards. Most ATX motherboards also have many expansion ports such as PCI, PCI-X sometimes, PCI-Express X16 or/and older AGP, PCI Express X1, and sometimes PCI Express X4. Regardless, ATX boards are larger and therefore have more room for adding stuff, which will be talked about later.

To Add Drives, you typically remove the front of the case or on fancier cases put drives in drive carriers or add plastic/metal rails to the drives for fast swapping or hot swapping. This is a mid range Antec Case with the front off.

I added my Optical Drive, a Lite on 16 X DVD burner, which can be had for about $30. IT is an ATA/66 device; hence, it requires the 80 wire PATA cable. The 40-Wire cable is for ATA/33 and below ONLY. I put the drive in and then screwed it down but also adjusted it to be perfectly flush/level with the case, so it does not look displeasing. Finally, I put the front panel back on.

Next, I re-oriented the case and then set all of my Drives as Cable Select (CS), since the motherboard will then automatically detect and properly configure them. Most motherboards at least those Pentium 3 or Newer have no problem with Cable Select. Manufacturers such as Dell, HP, eMachines, and others use Cable Select too because it is easier and prevents user error. I do the same because it works perfect for me every time; however, it is possible to force one drive as master and another as slave. It is also possible to set one drive as a standalone/single or perhaps master. Quite honestly, each motherboard and drive is a little bit different, but, in general, they all support the IDE jumper settings universally. Cable Select works with 1 or 2 drives, so it is very universal.

Here is an 80-Wire PATA (Parallel/ATA) Also Known as IDE or EIDE Cable. 80-Wire cable works with everything and is required for ATA/66 and above DMA transfers. The older 40-Wire cables are good only for slower ATA/33 DMA mode transfers and slower such as PIO mode (very slow). You will find that most Optical Drives except DVD burners can function properly on the older 40-wire cable. However, this Lite-On is ATA/66, so it must have the better cable. These cables often come with boxed optical drives, boxed motherboards, and boxed hard drives.

As you can see above, one end connects to the motherboard then near the other end of the cable there are two connectors closer together for drives. The connector furthest from the motherboard is Master, and the Middle connector is the Slave drive. This is just terminology for adding up to 2 drives on one IDE cable/channel.

Motherboards often have 2 slots for these PATA cables. They are labeled IDE0/IDE1 or IDE1/IDE2. Regardless, the smaller number is the primary channel and the higher number is secondary.

Hence on IDE0 in the case of IDE0/IDE1 or IDE1 in the case of IDE1/IDE2, if you plug the cable into that port on the motherboard the stuff attached to your cable gets detected as Primary Master, and Primary Slave. If you connect to the other, your stuff gets detected as Secondary Master and Secondary Slave.

Here is a picture of the IDE connectors on the motherboard. This shows the hard drive (only one in this build) connected as the master to the primary channel.:

As you can see, there is also a picture of a hard drive in this picture attached to an 80-Wire Cable at the very end. It is connected to the Primary IDE channel in this picture. It is typical for the Primary Channel to be colored blue and often the other channel is some other color. Orange/Red is typical. Also, many IDE cables have blue on the end to help indicate it is an 80-Wire cable usually used for hard drives. It also helps get the idea across that it plugs into a blue IDE slot. Regardless, just read your motherboard manual and the markings on your motherboard and you will be fine.

You may also notice that the cables are marked and notched. There is a red, pink, or sometimes another color running up one side. This connects to pin 1, which is opposite of 40. You cannot really mess up because these are almost always notched to fit in only one day now days :biggrin: Just line everything up and do not force anything. I have seen the work of college students in a computer repair class via some donated computers that arrived at work. It was obvious to me that some students forced things and probably did not pass or at least would not have passed if I were there teacher. If you cannot seem to get something together check the pins and alignment. Forcing only results in more damage or bending pins more. Essentially, you will not have any problems if everything is oriented properly.

You can add up to 4 devices at 2 x channels times 2 per cable. Obviously, you can get add in cards and may have SATA on your motherboard too. This board supports SATA, but SATA (Serial ATA) is not fun to talk about. I figure I should cover PATA before the technology totally dies. Some IDE cables have only one connector. In that case they support only one drive per channel. Obviously, you could replace a single cable with a double cable. Dell is one manufacturer that does the smart thing of using a shorter cable that supports only one drive per channel on their smaller form factor computers.

Now let us talk about tradition. Traditionally, the Primary Master IDE Hard Drive is used to boot the computer. That said if you did nothing except connect 4 hard drives each with a Master Boot Record and a working Operating System, the motherboard would most likely by default boot the Primary Master Drive and the OS would then assign each other drive (well partition) a drive letter or device mapping of some sort depending on OS. It is best to distribute the load. I.e. if you have 2 hard drives, it is best to put them on different channels to facilitate copying files between them. This will help prevent saturation of one cable. That being said if you have 2 hard drives and a optical drive like a DVD Writer (slower than a hard drive), it is best to put one hard drive on each cable and the DVD writer with one of the hard drives. Obviously, you want the OS to run fast, so I would put it on the cable the OS drive is not accessing. If you have 2 optical drives and 2 hard drives, I would 1 optical drive on each cable and one hard drive on each cable. Essentially, you are trying to balance things. Obviously if you have one ATA/33 CD-ROM and 2x UDMA ATA/133 hard drives and you put both hard drives on the same cable and the CD-ROM on the other, you are using about 6X more bandwidth on the cable with the hard drives than the CD-Rom Drive.

In this tutorial, I am using only 2 drives. One 16 X Dvd Burner ATA/66 and 1 ATA/133 Hard Drive. I jumpered both Cable Select and connected both to the end of their own 80-Wire PATA cable to help balance the load. This should make it faster to read from a DVD or CD to the hard drive for instance or faster burning a DVD or CD from the hard drive to the Optical Medium because they are on entirely separate channels.

I did:
Primary Master: Hard Drive
Secondary Master: 16X Lite-ON DVD Burner

If I had only one PATA cable, I would be forced to put the hard drive on the end and the DVD writer in the middle. That would be:
Primary Master: Hard Drive
Primary Slave: 16X Lite-ON DVD Burner

Regardless, it is going to work for the most part. I recommend if booting to an IDE drive that you put it on Primary Master. It will be less confusing to anybody else that works on or inherits the computer too.

Booting is actually quite complex but has not changed in the last 20 years at least not except the OS Kernels, which since the 386 days begun using 32-bit memory mapping first really used by Windows 9x and more fully with NT...XP, Linux, and others.:

As far as booting, most motherboards boot the Primary Master out of the box. Basically, the BIOS Boot ROM loads a small assembly program and resets things like memory and sends signals to everything connected to the various bridges and buses to reset. Hence, your Video Card for instance will receive a signal saying clear yourself and load your own Boot Rom, Then your computer reads the 446 Byte Master Boot Record, which is the first 446 bytes of the hard drive. One of the ASM (Assembly code compiled into Machine Language Here) programs copy the boot record program or part of it somewhere in the first 640K of system ram and execute it. This 446 Byte x86 Assembly program partition table bytes 447 to 512 and ensures there is exactly one Active Partition and that the Checksum of the MBR is okay. It then uses the Partition table to locate the boot sector and loads that into memory and jumps to it. The boot loader assembly program varies by OS, but it eventually loads the OS Kernel into memory which in turn changes memory mapping from real mode to 32-bit protected mode and re-maps everything then loads loads the rest of your computers bulky Operating System. All of this happens with less than 1 K of memory up until the point your OS kernel takes over and loads stuff up the wazoo, this original 1k is later reclaimed anyway :biggrin: Obviously, once the OS loader/kernel load things get really bulky from there and C and C++ compiled stuff gets run instead of ultra efficient x86 Assembly.

The BIOS boot sequence or Boot Order is configurable. You can boot from CDs, DVDs, Floppies, Network PXE, USB Memory sticks, all kinds of things depending on what your BIOS supports. Basically all that is required is a few partitions and an MBR or just a Boot Sector for a floppy disk

Here is a picture of an optical Drive. This is a Lite-On 16X burner, but all optical drives and other IDE devices are similar at least on the back for that matter.

I should point out that the drive above is 5.25" AKA 5 and a quarter(INCHES), yes it is sort of a USA thing that is standard all over the world! The smaller devices such as zip drives, hard drives, and many tape backup devices are 3.5" devices. As you can see in this picture, a hard drive has no where to insert a disk. Instead, it is self contained, fast, and stores a lot of data. Regardless, just like any other IDE/EIDE/PATA device it has the same place for a PATA ribbon cable, it has the same Molex Power connector, and it has a jumper for configuration.

I should also add that like optical drives I configure all IDE devices as Cable Select. I look for the letters "CS" near the jumper. I can usually always find a chart, map, or other depiction on the drive itself explaining the jumpers. Each drive will have the exact same settings of Master, Single, Slave, Cable Select, sometimes Capacity Limiting... Just read the booklet that comes with it or better yet, toss the book in the trash and read the drive itself and observe its depiction.

In this case/chassis, the entire drive cable comes out if you look 2 pictures back, you will see the screws next to the 80mm FAN. However, it is also accessible from the back. You can also see that I zip tied the wires to keep them out of the way to allow for better air flow and to prevent entanglement in the fans.

Also, I would like to point out that I tried to move the cables out of the way for good airflow. This case had room in front for an 80mm fan, so I installed one. It also came with a 120mm fan mounted to the back. By Design, Air comes from the front of ATX cases and moves across everything and out the back. Hence, the power supply has one or more fans pumping air out of the case and the 120 MM fan pumps air out of the case. This causes air to come in through the front vents and move over everything. I also have a fan in the front pulling air in or rather pushing it in to be entirely accurate in describing what fans actually do. Think about how air is going to flow. If you have fans in the back and front of the case pushing air in opposite directions, all you are going to do is create stagnant air that gets hot in the case

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Posted: 02 Jan 2007 04:27:34 am    Post subject:

Adding Expansion Cards

In this example, I am going to add a video card to a PCI Express x16 expansion slot. In addition, I am going to install a wireless card in a standard PCI slot.

The cards I am going to install are:
Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT 128 MB GDDR3 by EVGA (Video Card)
Netgear WG311 802.11 B/G Wireless NIC (Network Interface Card AKA Ethernet Card)

Depending on your motherboard, it will support different video cards. Cards come in all shapes and sizes for all different kinds of motherboards and chassis ranging from PCI, AGP, PCI-Express x16, PCI-Express smaller than x16. Cards come full size/full height, they come low profile/half height and probably in other shapes too to help accommodate small cases such as small form factor or Micro ATX cases. Some cases are simply too small to allow a full-size card to fit.

Find the appropriate slot such as PCI-Express x16 in this example. Remove the back panel via a screw or other access, so there is a slot on the back for the card to be accessible from. Do the same for a PCI slot for our Wireless cards. Any PCI slot will do and generally any PCI Express x16 slot will do for the motherboard, but you should read your manual if you have multiple slots as you may have to configure SLI Enabled or Disabled on the motherboard.

Above is a picture of the two blanks removed in preparation for the video card and the wireless card. Additionally, from the CPU to the end of the case on the left we have a PCI Express X16 Slot (Orange/Orange Red), 2 PCI Express x1 slots (the small white ones), then an AGP slot (Orange/Orange Yellow actually not an industry standard AGP slot on this motherboard), then we have 2 white PCI slots. near the very end of the case. The brown slot is perhaps a sound riser or something to that extent. I did not read the manual to find out, but it is most likely a proprietary slot to the ECS motherboard. I ignore all non-standard slots.

I.e. I did not use the AGP Express Slot because AGP Express != AGP. Biostar makes something they call PCI Extreme, which is a PCI Express x16 slot wired with only about x4 channels. Avoid this kind of non-standard stuff. I recommend not choosing an ECS motherboard or Biostar although many people think they are great and they typically do work fine. I recommend choosing something Like Intel, AMD, Nvidia Chipset, MSI, Gigabyte, Abit, or Asus. Get a quality motherboard.

Now insert your cards and it will look like this: I connected everything again as well and did some cable management (moving cables out of the way).

The picture above is the finished build of the computer in this tutorial.. Please note how everything was carefully put into place and everything is tied down to prevent wires from getting caught in fans, wires getting cut by fans, fan bearing problems, and airflow obstruction. Chances are good if you knocked this computer off of your desk, it would probably stay together and work fine provided something did not break loose from the motherboard, snap loose, or become disconnected. Oh, Hard Disk Drives do not like to be dropped, so thee is no guarantees how long a dropped computer would function.

Now, make sure any sliders or other retention devices at the far end of the PCI express slot are open. Orient the card properly and then firmly press it down. IT should line up perfectly in back and fit snugly in the case and slot below. You should feel it actually go into the slot. When this happens, attach the retention clip at the far end of the card much like one memory/ram clip at the far end. Add a screw or other case/chassis retention device to hold the card in place.

We will also be adding a wireless card, hence the antenna on back. To do this, I just line the card up with any PCI slot and just like above, slide it into the slot.

Pictures of the finished computer all closed up and ready to be POST tested:

Back of the case in the build orientation as towers are typically not assembled upright.

Back as it will appear when put into operation:

Front of the computer with proper working USB, Optical Drive, Reset Button, Power Button, HDD LED, and Power Button LED.

Hardware testing and BIOS/Motherboard Configuration Coming Later,hopefully. come later

Adding Cards such as video and wireless different slots...

Create Glossary
Table of Contents
Although this is off my head, a Works Cited Page perhaps in MPA or APA notation
Correct Grammar and triple check spelling
External Links Page

Make PDF version

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