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7 things I learned once I built my first PC

Ben Patterson | July 7, 2016
Let my minor traumas be your teachable moments.

Soon enough, I was staring at my PSU, my GPU, my memory sticks and a tangle of cords in my PC case, without a clue about what to do next.

Eventually, my gaze drifted to the motherboard manual, and I began to page through it. Initially, few of the diagrams made sense, but the closer I looked, the more I recognized. Those thin little front-panel connectors dangling in the case? They go right here, the manual said (or at least, that’s how I deciphered the diagrams and connector labels.) Expansion ports? Here and here. Memory slots? One here, and one here. Your power cables go here and here, and right here is where your SATA connectors for the drives go.

The more I studied, the more I realized (belatedly, I guess) that the motherboard manual was the key to this whole puzzle. After all, all roads lead to the motherboard (or the “mobo,” if you want to sound cool about it) as far as your PC build is concerned, and once you understand where all the various cards, cables and connectors go on the mobo, you’ve pretty much nailed your build.

5. There’s nothing scary about a 'modular' or 'semi-modular' power supply

”Keep it simple” was my mantra as I picked the parts for my first PC build. But nothing sounded simple when it came to one of the biggest choices about picking a power supply—specifically, whether I should go with a modular, semi-modular, or non-modular PSU.

There’s nothing scary about a
Ben Patterson

A semi-modular power supply unit can keep the inside of your PC from getting stuffed with a jumble of unneeded power cables.

For those of you new to PC power supplies (as I was until just a few weeks ago), the whole modular vs. non-modular issue centers around the cables that connect the power supply to your various PC components. A modular PSU’s cables are all detachable, meaning you can connect just the cables you need and avoid a tangle of unused cables in your PC case. A semi-modular PSU has only the essential power cables attached, with the rest of the cables detached until you need them. A non-modular PSU arrives with all its cables already attached, so no need about worrying whether you’ve got all the power cords you need.

Initially, I was intimidated by the idea of a modular or semi-modular power supply. What if I didn’t know which cables I needed, or where they were supposed to plug in? Did “modular” mean one more thing I had to put together? I started leaning toward a non-modular model, reasoning that a PSU with all the cables attached would be easier to handle.

 

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