The idea of building their first PC intimidates a lot of people, but there's really nothing to worry about. Building a PC is no more technically challenging than changing the oil in your car or hooking up a DVD player. Compared to assembling one of those "connect Tab A to Slot B" toys for your kids, it's a breeze.
PC components connect like building blocks. Component sizes, screw threads, mounting hole positions, cable connectors, and so on are standardized, so you needn't worry about whether something will fit. There are minor exceptions, of course. For example, some small cases accept only microATX motherboards and half-height or half-length expansion cards. There are important details, certainly. You must verify, for example, that the motherboard you intend to use supports the processor you plan to use. But overall there are few "gotchas" involved in building a PC. If you follow our advice in the project system chapters, everything will fit and everything will work together.
Nor do you need to worry much about damaging the PCor it damaging you. Taking simple precautions such as grounding yourself before touching static-sensitive components and verifying cable connections before you apply power are sufficient to prevent damage to all those expensive parts you bought. Other than inside the power supplywhich you should never openthe highest voltage used inside a modern PC is 12V, which presents no shock hazard.
This chapter doesn't cover the nuts-and-bolts details of assembling a PC, because that's covered exhaustively in text and images in the project system chapters. Instead, this chapter explains the fundamentalseverything you need to prepare yourself properly. It examines the advantages of building your own PC and explains how to design a PC that is perfect for your needs. It tells you what you need to know and do before you start the project, and lists the components, hand tools, and software tools you'll need to build your system. Because the motherboard is the heart of a PC, we include a "motherboard tour" section to illustrate each major part of the motherboard. Finally, because the best way to troubleshoot is to avoid problems in the first place, we include a detailed troubleshooting section. Let's get started.