Choosing your parts and building your PC

Intel chips use a slightly different system: here, when you lift the lever, a metal casing will open to reveal the socket.

Intel processors don’t have protruding pins, so just place the processor gently into the socket, using the arrow in the corner and notches at the sides to ensure it’s aligned. Lower the lever to lock the casing and secure the chip.

Cooler and thermal paste

When you buy a CPU as a “retail” package, it comes with a standard heatsink and fan unit. If you buy an “OEM” or “tray” model, you’ll need to find one. Most AMD processors use a standard cooler attachment, so you may be able to reuse an older cooler. This isn’t the case with Intel: here, a new CPU will probably need a new cooler.

You can buy third-party coolers, too. These are typically quieter than stock models and they keep temperatures lower, which can help with overclocking. Some cooling systems use water to conduct heat from the CPU, but that’s for hard-core enthusiasts only.

Potential pitfalls

Make sure that the power cable for your fan is long enough to reach the power connector on the motherboard. If it isn’t, try fitting the cooler the other way round. It’s also worth double-checking that your cooler is fitted properly before you power on the PC for the first time: if your CPU overheats then your computer will crash.

How to install it

Check whether the bottom of the heatsink has been pre-treated with thermal paste. If not, apply some paste manually – small tubes can be bought cheaply from most component suppliers. Make sure the top of your CPU and the bottom of the cooler are clean, then spread a thin, even layer of paste onto the top of the processor.

PC Build 3 Cooler 640x480

Next, mount the cooler. For an AMD cooler you do this by fitting the two metal flaps over the plastic tabs on the motherboard and engaging the lever to secure it.

To fit a standard Intel cooler, first check that the four fasteners around the cooler have been turned clockwise as far as they’ll go (away from the direction of the arrow).

Then align the cooler with the holes in your motherboard and press down each fastener until it clicks into place. If you need to remove the cooler, turn the fasteners anti-clockwise and pull them up. Some specialist coolers use screws instead of these standard fasteners: these attach to a plate that goes on the underside of the motherboard.

Once your cooler is in place, you’ll need to plug it into the motherboard to power the fan. There will normally be a four-pin connector labelled FAN near to the processor socket for this purpose.

Case and power supply

When choosing a case, size and features are as important as looks. Consider how many drive bays a case offers, and whether it has conveniences such as a front-facing USB and audio connectors. Remember that, in order to use these connectors, you’ll need to choose a motherboard that has internal headers for them to connect to.

Some cases come with built-in power supplies. There’s nothing wrong with these, but they’re typically noisier and less energy efficient than the models that are sold separately.

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