When handling computer components like motherboards,
videcards, memory, or even a hard drive it is best to hold them by the edges. If
you hold that videocard (for example) by the edges the PCB it is less
likely that your fingers will even come in contact with any conductors,
decreasing the chance of causing any ESD damage further still.
This is not only a good precaution, it is also a good
habit as any Electrical Engineer will tell you. Certain electrical components
(namely capacitors) can store an electrical charge even after the power has
been disconnected for sometime that can deliver a nasty shock, or kill
if they are sufficiently powerful enough... Don't worry though, all the
components we'll be installing in the computer are more afraid of
you, and don't carry enough charge to cause you harm.
Still, grabbing a board of electronics like you would a
sandwich puts your fingers in direct contact with the little metal leads from
soldered-on electrical components. If for example, your finger came in contact
with the leads from a powerful enough charged capacitor you could get a very
strong shock. The opposite rings true if you happen to grab a videocard
when you're all charged up with static electricity. Instead of receiving a
nasty arm-zapping shock, you may just deliver a nasty bolt of static
electricity to a sensitive microchip - damaging it in the process.
Obvious precautions: Try not to
remove articles of clothing while you work on the computer, for esthetic as well
as practical reasons. DO NOT let your cat near the computer parts. Cats are
walking static death bombs.
Now that the ESD precautions are out of the way, what do you need to build your computer?
- ATX computer case with at least 350-watt power supply
- Intel or AMD processor with appropriate heatsink
- Computer motherboard compatible with your processor
- 1 or more sticks of RAM (memory) compatible with the motherboard and processor
- 1 or more SATA/IDE hard disk drives
- 1 or more optical (CD) drives
- 1 floppy disk drive
- 1 PS/2 or USB keyboard.
- 1 PS/2 or USB mouse
- at least one video card (ie. PCI Express, 8XAGP, integrated video, etc.) compatible with the motherboard (this may be integrated into the motherboard on some models)
or VGA monitor (computer screen)
- Sound card (these are generally integrated into the motherboard, though depending on your requirements, this may not be enough)
- 10/100 Ethernet Network Adaptor aka NIC (if you plan to connect
the computer to other computers in your household)
- A Phillips-head screwdriver with a long neck, preferably magnetized, because you WILL lose a screw or two during the course of this.
- A flashlight is always a good thing to have. So is a big
desk, or table where scratches on the surface aren't a big deal.
Remember, you can also peek at the PCSTATS ShoppingList if you need some current suggestions to this basic list of components.
The system I am going to assemble in the article is a fairly
typical Intel processor based midrange system for office use. Nothing too cheap, but nothing too