How to Build Your Own Office Computer
The suggested components and configuration in this article are specifically for an office computer. Although the build process is similar, the components suggested are not recommended for computers that will be used for design, video editing, music production and other creative disciplines in the professional field.
- Tools you’ll need
- Choosing Components
- Before Assembly
- Installing the CPU
- Installing the RAM
- Installing the Motherboard
- Installing the Power Supply
- Connecting the Power Supply Cables to the Motherboard
- SSD and CD/DVD Drive Installation
- Connecting Power, Audio and USB Ports
- Connecting the System Fans
- Switching Your New Computer On
- Installing the Operating System
- Final Note
A simple build guide for DIY office computer assembly
Building your own office computer is more cost-effective than buying a pre-built PC and you often get better pefrormance for your money.
The thought of building your own PC may sound intimidating to some, but it is not overly complicated. Anyone should be able to assemble their own PC with a bit of help from the internet. Think of building a computer as if you are building a LEGO model by following the provided instructions. It is a matter of connecting the correct components with one another.
First, we want to make sure we have the correct tools for the job.
Here is a list of tools you will need.
- A star screwdriver (Philips star), preferably one with different sized interchangeable bits.
- Scissors - This is optional, only used for trimming cable ties.
- An anti-static wristband – optional. You can discharge yourself by touching any ground point (like the screws) on an electric outlet every now and then while you are building your PC.
Secondly, we must decide on the hardware (components) we will be using.
To build a complete office computer we will need the following:
- A Case, also called a computer chassis: we will need something to put everything in.
- Motherboard (also called Mainboard or MOBO for short): this is where everything connects to.
- RAM, also called memory.
- CPU (Central Processing Unit) also called a Processor: the brain of our computer.
- PSU (Power Supply): this provides power to our office computer.
- SSD: this is our storage device where we will install our operating system (Microsoft Windows is a operating system) onto and any other software you use.
- DVD drive: this is optional but we will go over on how to install a DVD drive should you need one for work.
Our article about choosing a good computer for office use may be helpful in choosing some good components. You can use any components that suit your need and budget.
You can also refer to this article to find a good and affordable monitor for your office computer.
Keep in mind that we cannot just mix and match any random components. There are two major manufacturers of CPUs for computers – Intel and AMD. The CPU you end up choosing will be from either one of these two manufacturers. It is important to note that you cannot use intel CPUS with motherboards made for AMD CPUs, and vice versa.
When choosing a CPU and Motherboard you must make sure that the CPU will work with the Motherboard. The easiest way to do this is to simply have a look on the manufacturer’s page for the motherboard and view the CPU compatibility list.
Here is an example of finding the CPU compatibility for our AMD Ryzen 3200G 3Rd generation CPU with our MSI B450M Pro-M2 MAX Motherboard.
Websites such as PC Part Picker can also help you choose compatible computer hardware.
This same procedure can be applied for RAM compatibility. There are also many forums online that will provide help and helpful information regarding hardware compatibility.
For our example build we will be using the following components:
These are not affiliate links. We are adding them for your convenience.
- DVD Drive:
A note regarding graphics cards
This guide does not include a graphics card as they are not needed for most office tasks. It is therefore essential to make sure the CPU you buy has built-in (integrated) graphics.
Preparing to assemble the components
Make sure you have a clean desk to build on. Avoid building on plastic tables as they can cause static electric discharge that may damage your components. It is a good idea to build on top of the box your motherboard came in. We want to assemble and install as many components as possible outside of the computer case. In most cases, this will be the CPU, CPU cooler and the RAM.
1. CPU Installation
The installation process for your CPU will vary slightly depending whether you have Intel or AMD components.
The CPU is installed into the CPU socket which is located on the motherboard.
Place the motherboard on its box or a non-conductive surface. To open the CPU socket, push the retention arm to the side and lift it up.
- Intel sockets have a metal bracket that goes over the top of the CPU to keep it secured in the socket.
- AMD CPUs have pins that go into the socket and they are secured in place when the retention arm is lowered again.
There are many videos on YouTube showing how to install CPUS from both manufacturers. The instructions included with both your CPU and motherboard should also make the installation process painless. We have included two videos below these paragraphs for your convenience.
CPUs generate heat and need a cooler to keep them from overheating. Most CPUs will come with a stock cooler. Some more high-end CPUs from Intel do not include a stock cooler and will require that you buy an aftermarket CPU cooler.
All the stock Intel CPU coolers are installed the exact same way. The method for installing a stock AMD cooler will vary depending on the model of AMD CPU you have. Either process is straightforward if you follow the step by step instructions included with your CPU.
Plug the CPU fan into the motherboard. The fan on the CPU cooler must be plugged into the motherboard. Locate the plug (CPU fan header) labeled CPUFAN on the motherboard and connect the CPU fan.
Installing an Intel CPU and stock CPU cooler
Installing a AMD CPU and Stock Cooler
2. Memory Installation (RAM)
The RAM is installed into slots located on the motherboard.
Your memory sticks (also called RAM or memory modules) can only be installed one way. There is a notch at the side of the RAM module where all the gold contact points are visible. This notch must align with the notch in the memory slot on the motherboard. If you install only one Memory module you should install it in the slot that is the closest to the CPU. If your motherboard has 4 slots for memory and you have only two memory modules, you should always leave one slot open between the two sticks.
Most motherboards will have memory slots (may be called banks in some motherboard manuals) with clips on either side of the slot. Push these slots to the side so that they open. Once they are open, align the memory module up correctly so that the notch on the module aligns with the notch on the memory slot on your motherboard. Insert the module into the slot and press it down on both sides until the two locking clips at the sides of the memory slot have locked in place. You might hear a click when the clips are locked.
3. Motherboard Installation
Now that the CPU and RAM have been installed into the motherboard, we can install our motherboard into our PC case.
Open up the side panel of your PC case. This will be the one on the left side when you view the PC case from the front - see the manual included with your PC case if you are unsure of this.
NB – Install the IO Shield
The IO shield is the metal plate that will protect your motherboard’s input and output ports at the back of your computer case.
Locate the IO shield in your motherboard box and install it into the back of your computer case. This shield just pops into the opening at the back of your PC case where the Input and Output ports of the motherboard is located. The IO shield can only be installed from inside the case: use some force by pressing at the edges to make sure it is properly installed.
Motherboards come in different sizes, more commonly known as form factors.
It is important that you know what form factor your motherboard is in order for you to correctly install it into your PC case. The most common motherboard form factors are ATX, Micro ATX and Mini ITX.
Each motherboard will have mounting holes that should match up with those in your PC case. To do this, you must look at the holes on your motherboard and then match them with those on the motherboard tray in your PC case.
These holes on the motherboard tray inside of your PC case are threaded. After you have determined the location of these holes in relation to the mounting holes on your motherboard, you can now install the motherboard standoffs. Use your pliers for this.
4. Power Supply installation
Your power supply will either be modular, semi modular, or non-modular.
Modular simply means your power supply will not have any power cables that provide power to your components permanently attached to it - it will allow you to only plug the cables into the power supply that you need. Semi modular is the same but usually have one or more cables that cannot be removed. A power supply that is not modular will have all the power cables permanently attached to it.
If you bought a modular or semi modular power supply make sure to reference the included user manual on where and how to plug in the provided cables.
For a PC build like our example that only uses one SSD and no other storage or video output hardware, you will need these three connections from your power supply:
- 24 Pin ATX Power cable plugs into the motherboard to provide power to the motherboard.
- CPU Power cable plugs into the motherboard to provide power to the CPU.
- One SATA Power cable that plugs into the SSD – This will power the SSD. see this section
The Power supply must be installed from inside the case. Depending on the case, your power supply will either be top or bottom mounted.
A. With the side panel off, install the power supply with its power input socket facing the rear of your computer case.
B. Secure the power supply with the mounting screws included with your power supply. If you did not get any mounting screws with your power supply, have a look at the screws included with the computer case as case manufacturers usually include those as well.
5. Connecting the power supply cables to the motherboard
There are only two cables coming from your power supply that must be connected to your motherboard:
A. The ATX 24 Pin Cable
B. EPS / ATX 12v 8 (4+4) Pin cable.* (CPU Power)
Refer to your power supply manual to locate the correct cables.
*Take note: some motherboards don’t need a 8 Pin ATX 12v cable but will instead use a 4 Pin cable. Most 8 Pin ATX 12v cables will split in two so that you can use only 4 Pins. This cable powers your CPU.
6. SSD and CD/DVD Drive Installation (storage device)
Your SSD will use a SATA data cable to connect to your motherboard as well as one SATA power cable from your power supply to power the drive. (See the diagram below.) Your motherboard should include at least one SATA data cable. If there is none included be sure to buy one, they are fairly cheap.
Where you install your SSD in your computer case will depend on the case itself. Different cases have different options for the installation of an SSD. Please refer to the manual that comes with your case.
Installing the SSD is straightforward. With most computer cases, this requires only 4 screws at most to attach the SSD to the computer case. From most midrange computer cases upward, the installation usually requires no tools or screws.
The SATA data cable will connect to the motherboard. Connecting the SATA data cable to the SSD is very easy as the cable can only connect one way, to the SSD as well as to the motherboard. The SATA cable will have a key that needs to match with a key on the connection of your SSD and the same goes for the motherboard.
The SATA power cable from your power supply unit will connect in the same way, as it can only be connected one way to minimize human error.
If you are stuck, see this short video on installing your SSD
Your CD or DVD Drive will install in the exact same way as your SSD. It will also require one SATA power cable to power the drive and one SATA data cable to connect it to your motherboard.
Plug the SATA data cable into any open SATA port on your motherboard. See your computer case manual on how to install the CD/DVD drive into your computer case.
7. Connecting the Power/Reset switch, front Audio and USB connections.
Your computer case will have a power and a reset switch that should to be connected to the motherboard. Where and in what order you plug these wires in o the motherboard may vary depending on your specific motherboard. Please see your motherboard manual for the correct way to connect the power and reset switches.
The wires connected to the power and reset switches as well as the hard drive (SSD) activity lights, plug into pins on your motherboard. In most cases, these pins are located at the bottom end of your motherboard in most cases. Your motherboard manual will give you the exact location of these pins.
Each black plug will be labeled to indicate where to plug it in on the motherboard and in what orientation. This will be indicated with either a + (positive) or – (minus) symbol.
Here are how these labels will be printed on the plugs as well as on your motherboard:
I’ve put the full description of the label in brackets.
PLED+ (Power LED Positive)
PLED- (Power LED Negative)
PW+ (Power Switch Positive)
PW- (Power Switch Negative)
RES+ (Reset Switch Positive)
RES- (Reset Switch Negative)
HD+ (Hard Drive Activity LED Positive)
HD- (Hard Drive Activity LED Negative)
Front USB and Audio
If your computer case has front USB ports, refer to the computer case manual to determine if the computer case has USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 or both. USB 2.0 and 3.0 use different connectors. They should be labeled. If not, see your computer case manual to determine which are your USB 3.0 and your USB 2.0 connectors.
Motherboards will have labels near the ports stating if it is USB 2.0 or USB 3.0. Locate them and plug in the correct USB connectors. Repeat this process for the front audio.
Front panel connections: Power, Reset, HDD, Audio, USB, etc:
8. Connecting the system fans
System fans are the fans installed in the computer case to provide airflow over the components to keep everything running cool. Your case will have at least one system fan installed. Most commonly, it will be at the back of the case. Locate all your system fans and connect their plugs to the pins (commonly called fan headers) on your motherboard. These are labeled SYSFAN. See your motherboard manual if you are unsure.
Once everything has been connected, you can close the side panel of your computer case.
Switching on your new computer
Connect your computer monitor to your computer and power it on to make sure you have POST (display on your monitor). It will state that there is no operating system installed: this is correct. Press and hold the power button to power the system off. If you have no power make sure that the power switch on the back of your power supply is turned on.
9. Operating System Installation.
To use your computer, you will need to install an operating system. The most common operating system for a desktop computer like the one you have assembled, is Microsoft windows. Microsoft Windows can be downloaded from Microsoft and then installed via an 8GB or larger USB flash drive. In order to activate windows you will need a key. Legitimate Windows keys can be bought online at good prices. You can always create an account on carbonite.co.za and buy a key from one of the many resellers there.
Please see this video from Tech Deals on installing and activating Microsoft Windows.
A final note on building your office PC
Remember that the internet is full of information on how to install computer hardware and software, as well as trouble shooting guides should you run into any trouble during your office computer build. Most PC building guides, including this one, are best used with the help from YouTube and Google. I will include a video below that should be all you need when used in conjunction with our guide to build your office computer.
Office PC Full Build Guide
Remember to have fun!
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