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7 Common PC Building Mistakes to Avoid

7 Common PC Building Mistakes to Avoid

Whether you’re a newbie or pro, no one is too smart to fall prey to the classic mistakes of PC building. No matter how many times you’ve done it, and how much you’ve planned it out, some common errors can sneak up on you and cause potentially significant headaches.

The best way to avoid these all-too-familiar foul-ups? Know them, look out for them, and prepare in advance. By taking some basic precautions during the planning and building process, you can help ensure that you make new and interesting mistakes rather than old and easily preventable ones!

  1. Going in without a clear idea of what you’re building.

We’ll start with a key tip for any newbies out there: Before you even order your computer parts, make sure you have a good idea of what you want your new computer to do. Basic office tasks? Audio and video editing? Graphically intensive gaming? Streaming your games on Twitch? If you haven’t thought it through, you could end up with expensive parts you don’t really need — or miss out on parts that you do.

All of these functions can change the parts your PC will need, so start by thinking about what you want and researching key components for the applications most important to you. This will illuminate the things you should be focused on, such as getting a multi-threaded CPU for an animation workstation, as well as ones you can make a somewhat lower priority.

  1. Failing to check the compatibility of your components.

Have you checked the compatibility on all of your PC parts using an online PC builder? If you haven’t, go do that right now. It will automatically show you if any of your part selections aren’t compatible with each other. This is critical for steering clear of common mistakes like buying an AMD processor and an Intel motherboard, or an NVMe solid state drive and a motherboard without an M.2 slot.

  1. Not preparing a well-equipped, static-free workspace.

You want to build your PC on a wide, flat surface like a desk or a table, made from a non-conductive material like plastic or wood. To avoid damaging your PC parts via static discharge, it’s best not to stand on any kind of carpet or rug, especially if you’re in socks. If you have to work in a carpeted space, you can wear an anti-static wristband or simply touch your PC case to discharge static before picking up parts.

Make sure you have the necessary tools and resources available, too. Keep a phone or laptop handy for watching tutorials and looking up questions, and consider bringing out a few small plastic containers to avoid losing track of screws and small parts. Finally, clean the surface so you don’t get dirt and dust in your PC before you’ve even turned it on.

  1. Forgetting to install the standoff screws and I/O shield.

Certain parts are easy to forget during the build process, and they can cause big headaches when left out. The standoff screws hold your motherboard away from the case, and forgetting to install them can short circuit your motherboard, potentially destroying it. Note that in most cases, your standoffs will come with your PC case rather than your motherboard.

Meanwhile, the backplate that protects your computer’s ports (called an I/O shield) has to be installed at the beginning with the motherboard, and it can’t be added later without taking the whole PC apart. It’s certainly not as dire as a shorted motherboard, but it might make you want to throw your PC across the room.

  1. Using the wrong cables on a modular power supply.

Modular power supply units are popular for their flexibility and ease of use since you can attach and detach cables as necessary. That comes with one really important caveat: When attaching cables from your PSU to other devices like your motherboard or hard drive, only use the specific cables that came with the PSU.

Unfortunately, pin layouts still aren’t standardized for modular PSU connectors. A cable that appears to fit perfectly can actually cause serious damage to other components if it has a different polarity or voltage. If you’ve lost one of the cables and need a new one, play it safe and contact the PSU manufacturer for an approved replacement.

  1. Not reading your motherboard’s manual.

Ideally, you’ll give the manual for every PC component at least a good once-over — but if there’s one thing you should never skip, it’s the motherboard manual. This document is packed with important info on how to connect your motherboard to the other parts of your PC. Every motherboard is different, so don’t assume you already know — even if you’ve used boards from the same brand before.

In fact, it’s a smart move to download your motherboard manual (and all of your component manuals) from their manufacturers before you start building. Put them in a cloud storage folder, and now you’ve got easy access whenever you need it. You’ll want it handy when you need to know the right configuration for slotting in your RAM, or you need help finding the connector for your CPU cooler.

  1. Connecting your monitor to your motherboard instead of your graphics card.

Turning on your brand-new PC only to find that you mysteriously have no video signal is a distressing experience. A common culprit that many PC builders miss is that they’ve connected their monitor to their motherboard rather than their graphics card. Both will have I/O plates on the back of your computer, and it’s easy to unthinkingly assume the ports in either one will work the same, but that’s not the case.

In some cases, if the CPU has integrated graphics, you’ll get a video signal, but the integrated card’s performance will be much slower than you want. Fortunately, this won’t do any harm to your components. Just plug your monitor (via HDMI, USB-C, or whatever you use) into the graphics card’s backplate, rather than the motherboard’s. It’s the best kind of mistake — one that’s easy to fix.


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