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Home >> Cases & Fans  >> Resources - Cases >> BYO: Build Your Own >> 

How to Build a New System Using Old Parts?

How to Build a New System Using Old Parts?


by Jeff Greenman

You are encouraged to make links to this article from your website and tell your friends

The following article is based on years of experience. It is provided as a free service to our customers and visitors. However, Directron.com is not responsible for any damage as a result of following any of this advice.

Copying the contents for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without Directron.com's written consent. However, you are welcome to distribute these computer support tips free to your friends and associates as long as it's not for commercial purposes and you acknowledge the source. You are permitted and encouraged to create links to this page from your own web site.


  1. Introduction
  2. Purchasing New Parts
  3. Motherboard/CUP Upgrading
  4. Other Upgrads
  5. Hard Drive Cleaning
  6. Preparations
  7. Installing In A New Case
  8. Installing In Same Case
  9. The First Boot
  10. Hard Drive Formatting
  11. OS Installation
  12. Post-OS Work
  13. Conclusion


Introduction                                                                        | Go to Top |

The purpose of this manual is to inform you on how to enhance your current computer and bring it up to today's spec. Upgrading a current computer is a very good idea if the computer is over 2 years old. Over time, it can be clogged up with old files and bad registry settings, and upgrading many parts to newer ones can enhance performance greatly. The computer that I will be upgrading is a Soyo socket 7 motherboard with an AMD 350 Mhz processor and a 2.5 GB hard drive. I will be putting in a new AMD Socket A motherboard with a 800 Mhz processor, a 13 Gb hard drive and a more spacious case.

Purchasing New Parts                                                         | Go to Top |

Getting newer parts for your system is the main thing to do in helping to get a faster system. Doing some shopping around at different places will help you to find the best prices. Also checking online computer review sites will help you find the best model/brand. The main component to upgrade is your CPU/Motherboard, it will make the greatest speed increase and has SDRAM slots and USB ports if you don't already have them. Increasing the amount of memory without a processor upgrade will also help speed up your system but will do little if you have a slow processor and EDO memory ports. If you are a gamer and want to play the newest games in blazing fast 3D, getting a faster video card will help tremendously. Other things such as a 3D sound card or a huge monitor won't increase system performance, but will increase the "Wow" factor. If your hard drive is not that big and you want more storage space, a hard drive around 10Gb will increase storage space. In general: upgrading the CPU, Motherboard, and possibly Video Card will be the catalyst in making a faster, newer system.

Motherboard/CPU Upgrading                                               | Go to Top |

If your system is 3+ years old, it is highly recommended to upgrade your CPU/Motherboard. Most Motherboards over 3 years old will probably be of the AT standard. Upgrading to a newer ATX standard will give you more expansion room for a faster processor and memory. Refer to pictures 1 (AT) and 2 (ATX) to see which type you have. I would highly recommend purchasing an AMD Duron processor and a socket A motherboard bundle that will fit your budget and upgrade needs. AMD processors are highly reliable and usually have the slight edge in speed compared to a similar CPU of another brand. However, the best part is that it will not burn a hole in your wallet. A 64MB PC-133 memory stick along with that will boost application performance. All of those parts will add up to about $275 and will help the most. If your case is of the AT style then you will need to purchase an ATX form factor case in order for the motherboard to fit. Any case that says ATX and comes with a power supply will be fine, just choose one that you like. A case will only add about $60 to the total and if the industry stays with the ATX form factor, you can use it for a long time.


Picture 1



Picture 2


If your system is 2 years old or newer, a whole CPU/Motherboard upgrade will probably not be necessary unless you want to upgrade. Check and see if your current system will accept any faster processors. Purchasing a faster CPU will help speed up things a bit if your current processor is less than 500 Mhz. You may want to look at other areas where your computer may need speeding up. More memory is always helpful and if you are a gamer, then a fast video card will help. In addition, a large hard drive may be a good idea if your current one is nearing full.

Other Upgrades                                                                | Go to Top |

A new CPU/Motherboard combo is the main part that will speed up any system. There are many other parts that you can buy to greatly enhance your computing experience. CD/RW drives are becoming more popular because the price has greatly decreased in the past few years. They are useful because they can be used to create custom CD's and copy any game or they can be used just like a super high capacity floppy disk to transfer files. A bigger hard drive might also be a good item to take into consideration. Newer hard drives have a much bigger storage capacity and are much faster than models of yesteryear for the same price. Hard drive space is always welcome in any computer to allow large games to be fully installed for maximum performance and to let your Mp3 collection soar without boundaries! If you already have a hard drive that you will be putting in your new upgraded system, than it is highly recommended to do a reformat of it, which I will explain later. Now go shopping for your new parts, remember to think about what I said earlier when you look for new parts. Consult with other people to get their opinions on the best upgrades for your computer. Continue when you have all the parts you want to use.

Hard Drive Cleaning                                                           | Go to Top |

Hopefully now you figured out what parts you want to get for your computer and what will benefit you the most. That is actually about 1/3 of the total upgrade process. Now you should be prepared for starting the dirty work on the upgrade process. As I said earlier, a reformat of your hard drive is highly recommended. After a while the Windows installation gets clogged up with old and missing files, bad registry settings, and many mish-mashed files. The easiest way to fix it is backing up all of your files you want to keep and then reinstalling Windows. Also, if you are installing a new motherboard and CPU, that will further confuse windows. If you do not think that you are confident in a reformat of your hard drive and possibly destroying precious data, then running Scandisk and Disk Defragmenter will help a bit, but will not fully optimize your system.

If you feel that you want to try reformatting your system, just be careful! Remember to back up all of your files on your hard drive to a zip disk, tape drive, CD-RW, or any other backup medium. Remember to get everything backed up that you want to save. Keep in mind that anything that is not backed up will be gone forever. Remember to write down settings for your Internet and email if you have it. If you have a computer that is old and doesn't need anything saved, then just start formatting.

This next step is only needed if you are going to use your current hard drive in your new system. Now you need to get rid of all of the garbage and junk files on your dusty old hard drive. First, boot into DOS using a windows boot disk. If you do not have a boot disk then go to Control Panel and then Add/Remove Programs and click on the Startup Disk tab. Say goodbye to Windows as it is the last time you will be seeing it on your old system! At the DOS A:\ Prompt type "FDISK" and answer "yes" to the large disk support if you get that message. First delete the logical DOS drive and then the primary DOS partition (Boom! You just 86'd your drive!) . After that is all said and done, you need to create a new partition for your computer. I would highly recommend creating two, one for Windows and frequently used programs. The second for all of the stuff you download and miscellaneous programs. To create the partitions, first go to the main screen, select option 1, and option 1 again. Don't choose to use the maximum space, just enter a size about 1/3 of your total drive or 2000 megabytes (whichever is larger). Now make that partition active by choosing option 2 at the main screen. To create your second partition, choose option 1, and then option 2 (Create Extended DOS partition). Make that partition use all of the remaining space. Congratulations! You just formatted your hard drive to be squeaky clean; hopefully you didn't forget to back up anything that you needed. Now do not worry about installing Windows yet, first we need to get that new hardware you bought into your computer, which I will cover next.

Preparations                                                                  | Go to Top |

Before you jump right into installing the new parts, we need to get prepared first. Gather all of the software that came with every single bit of hardware you got. Remember the boot disk you created awhile back and a copy of the operating system of your choice. Next, you should make a good workspace for you to use. I would recommend a nice sturdy desk that has ample room to work on, or a table that is again sturdy and has plenty of space. If it is a nice day, you might want to do it outside in the fresh air! Now gather your old system (just the tower part) and all of the new parts that you bought. I would highly recommend getting an anti-static wrist strap to use. You can easily fry your brand new computer parts if not handled carefully. If you don't have a wrist strap, then remember to always touch a metal part of the case to discharge any static electricity. Now with that out of the way, it is time to get working!

Installing In A New Case                                                 | Go to Top |

If you are putting all of your equipment into a brand new case, then you will need to follow these instructions. First, disconnect all of the cables to everything and save them for reattachment in your new case later. If there is a cable that looks out of the ordinary then remember where it came from so you can reconnect it again, picture 3 shows the cables all properly taken off and ready to remove the other parts. Now unscrew all of the add-on cards such as the video card and sound card which are the cards shown in the bottom half of picture 3. Carefully remove them and place them in anti static bags if you have them, or else just on a good surface. Remove the screws on the sides of the CD-ROM and hard drives and slide them out. Also, remove the memory from their slot if they will be used in your new system. Remove the motherboard if you will be using it, and remove the CPU/Fan if you will be using them also. Six screws located on the motherboard are holding it down to the case. Locate the screws, unscrew them, and carefully remove the motherboard if it is to be reused.


Picture 3


In your new case, start by putting in brass standoffs where needed. The brass standoffs look like a bronze screw with a tall nut attached to the top. Temporarily set the motherboard you will be using in the proper location inside the case. Take note on where the screw holes are on it. Usually there are six of them, two on the top, two in the middle, and two on the bottom. Hand tighten the standoffs into the holes on the case in the appropriate location. Set the motherboard with the CPU and fan properly attached to it in the case. Check that the standoffs are in the right spot and then screw the motherboard into place, be careful to not over tighten the screws. Now reassemble all of the parts in the new case just like you did to take them out. Picture 4 shows my motherboard properly set up, check that yours looks somewhat like it. Remember to reattach all cables. Refer to the instructions of any of the parts for specific physical installation help.


Picture 4




Installing In Same Case                                                     | Go to Top |

If you are not purchasing a new case, than follow these instructions to install all of your new parts. If you are installing a new motherboard, then remove all cables connected to the old one, and remove all add on cards such as the sound and video cards. Remember to also remove the memory from their slots. The motherboard should look as if it can come straight out without any cables or cards stopping it. Refer back to picture 3 in the previous paragraph for a picture of my motherboard ready to come out after the sound and video cards are removed. Unscrew the six screws holding the motherboard in place. Picture 5 highlights three screws and shows the approximate location of a fourth screw (behind the CPU) of the six holding it down. The other two are towards the bottom on the left and right sides. Remove the old motherboard from its spot. Place the new one into place, and check that the 6 brass standoffs where the old motherboard was screwed into place are in the correct location for the new motherboard. If they are, then use the same screws to screw the new one on. If not, adjust so they are correctly placed, and screw the new motherboard on. Now put back all of the cables that you took out. Install any other new parts that you bought, and make sure the hard drive you recently formatted is in and properly plugged in. If you are having troubles with connections for cables, refer to the manuals for assistance. Also refer back to picture 4 in the previous paragraph for my properly set up motherboard assembly.


Picture 5




The First Boot                                                                 | Go to Top |

Now comes the moment that you have been waiting for! Double check that everything is put into place correctly. Put your case back where it belongs and plug in all of the cables on the back. Have the boot disk that you created a while back handy. Also make sure that your big stack of software is somewhere nearby. Stick the boot disk into the floppy drive and turn on the power switch. Hopefully everything is going smoothly. It should check for the boot disk and start up with that, if it ends up at the DOS A:\ prompt, than everything worked fine. If you had an error along the way, then turn off the power and open up the case. Check that all of the cables are plugged into the right spot, and refer back to picture 4 for a shot of my computer. Study the locations of the cables in my computer; check that it looks pretty close to the layout in your computer. And refer to your hardware manuals to check that you did not miss anything. If nothing happened, it is possible that your power supply is dead. Check with the place that you bought it from for more information on returns and testing. Otherwise, if everything was hunky dory then continue to the next section!

Hard Drive Formatting                                                     | Go to Top |

Hopefully you have now made it to the A:\ Prompt. If you have already formatted your hard drive, meaning you did not purchase a new one, go ahead and skip down to the next section on installing Windows. If you purchased a new hard drive it might have come with its own formatting and installation program. Use the program it came with to format your hard drive, remember that it is preferred to have a 2-3 GB partition for the main OS (Operating System) and essential programs, and format the rest of the space for all of your other junk. If your hard drive did not come with a formatting utility, then use good ol' FDISK. Scroll on up to the "hard drive cleaning" section and start reading and following the instructions from about ?the way down from the 3rd paragraph.

OS Installation                                                                | Go to Top |

I will be using Windows 98 as my example in this section. Installing other versions such as Win2k and Win ME should be pretty similar. But if you are installing other OS'es such as Linux or BE than you are on your own and good luck! By now you should have your hard drive the way you want it and be at the A:\ prompt. Make sure you answered "yes" to CD-ROM support on boot up. Pop the installation CD from the OS of your choice into the drive. Wait for it to spin up and go to the drive letter of the CD-Rom (ex. f:\) and type in "dir". You should get a list of all the files on the CD. if not, try other letters to find the CD-Rom. To speed up the installation I would recommend copying the folder that contains the data (for example the "Win98" folder on the windows 98 CD) for the OS to your hard drive. Whenever it asks for the Windows CD when you install new hardware later on, it will just go to the folder on your hard drive! The keystrokes for copying the windows 98 data to your hard drive would look like this:

d:\ Md win98 Cd win98 Copy f:\win98\*.*

Now type "setup" in the d:\win98 folder to start the installation. From here on out, the setup process is idiot-proof. Remember to check your manuals for specific help or settings on any problems you might encounter.

Post-OS Work                                                                 | Go to Top |

After the installation files are setup, you will need to install the drivers for all of the hardware in your computer. Have all of the CDs handy for when you need them. If you don't think that every driver was installed, than right click on "My Computer" and select properties. Click on the Device Manager tab and check for any question marks on anything. If there are question marks, click on it and then click on "Update Driver". It may be slightly different depending on your version of Windows. Play a few songs, install some programs, get your Internet set up, and make sure everything is ok. If not, again check all the manuals, and review earlier paragraphs in this file. Now would also be a good time to copy all the files you saved on your zip drive, CD/RW or other backup material to your hard drive. Hopefully you didn't forget to backup something!!

Conclusion                                                                      | Go to Top |

Upgrading your system will make a great improvement in your computer. If you checked websites and reviews on the Internet, you most likely got a great value on a quality product. Doing it yourself was much cheaper than having some high school kids throw some crappy parts in your computer for lots of money. Have a fun time enjoying all of the new possibilities of your new computer! I hope you enjoyed my writing and it makes sense to you, I had a great time creating this!

If you find this article useful, please create a link to it from your website or tell a friend about it. If you have any comments or suggestions about this article, please email information@directron.us

| Go to Top | Directron Home | Other System Manuals |

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