Step 3: Installing Interface Cards

Now that the Mother Board is installed, and the drives are in the case, we can proceed to installing the other interface cards into the system.
This section includes Drive Controllers (if they aren't built in to the system) and Video Adapters ONLY at this point. The goal is to eliminate the problems, and add changes in a controlled fashion. The Modems and other devices should wait for right now
Nothing is worse that thinking you have the system completely assembled only to have it fail to start. Our process will take a few extra minutes, but works 100% of the time, and can save you hours of frustration. We have adapted these procedures from an accumulation of over 50 years of experience, and building hundreds of computers. The average computer system takes 20 to 40 minutes to assemble (hardware only), depending on the case and the type of parts.
When installing the Controller and video cards (if they aren't built-in to the motherboard) it is important to avoid conflicts with IRQ, DMA, Port Address, and ROM Addresses. In most cases, factory defaults should be used (at least looked at, considered, and known). All of these settings are carefully detailed and documented in the Technical Manuals provided with the devices. Again, with these particular cards, the default settings will work without any problems 99.99% of the time. 
Once the cards are properly inserted, connect the corresponding data cables to the cards. No internal cable goes to or from the video card (unless you spent extra money and have a "feature connector" which is highly unlikely). 
Internally, the drive controller, whether on a card or built-in to your mother board, will have a cable going from it to the floppy drive and to the hard disk drive, the CD ROM drive. 
In addition, you have the I/O ports. There should be a cable going to the Printer port and 2 Serial ports at the least. There may also be a PS/2 mouse port to connect and/or USB connections, both of which are often available on the newer mother boards.
If you have a tape drive, jazz, zip, or other type of drives... wait for NOW. The goal here is to get one floppy (two if you have them), one hard drive (unless it is an upgrade and the other hard drive(s) are required for system start), and one CD ROM drive installed. We want the monitor, keyboard, and a mouse hooked up. These are the bare minimum devices which are required to operate a functional computer. Adding things later will be easy.

Double check yourself, and all of the connections... the power to the motherboard (black to black, in the center, on AT cases). Make sure you have power connected to both the monitor and the case. There are some basic rules and cautions:

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When you power the system on, do not touch the metal of the inside of the case AND keep your hands out of the inside of the case (off the cards, wires, and cables). A direct short and a faulty power supply can cost you a lot of money AND/OR cause you to change your hair style, and possibly have "Wanna Be Nerd" engraved on your tombstone.
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If you see smoke, immediately turn the computer off and pull the plug. Make sure there aren't flames. Assess the damage, and hope it wasn't an expensive part. Now might be a good time to call for help from a smart friend or trained professional. They might cost you something, odds are not as much as the parts you may have just ruined. NOTE: New monitors will emit a slight smell, which resembles plastic melting. This is normal. If the odor is too strong, or smoke is involved, then power off and double check everything. Continue at your own risk.
If you are absolutely positive that everything is connected correctly, it is time to hit the power switch.
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No shorts, no smoke, and no strange series of beeps... maybe you have properly put your system together. Yea! We're almost done... with the hardware part of things.
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Next, look at the monitor. Is there a picture or writing on the screen? If no, then something is wrong. See the Basic Trouble Shooting Section. If you can see writing (even if it is an error message - which it will be 99.9% of the time), then it is time to set up your BIOS and add the balance of your components.

Go to Next Section (LED and BIOS Configuration)

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Copyright 1998 T.E. Mercer, all rights reserved. This page was last updated 16 April 2000

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This site was last updated on 03/31/06