The purpose of this guide to outline the necessary tools, precautions and preparations common to installing just about any ATX
Before you get started the first thing to do is to ensure that you have all of the necessary tools for the job. While it can vary from case to
case, you will almost always need the following:
Philips head screwdriver Screws for motherboard, all devices and the case cover Anti-static wrist strap (semi-optional... see below)
Anti-static mat (optional) Motherboard risers Motherboard manual Needle nose pliers (optional)
If you purchased a new case, it should come with all of the necessary screws and MB risers. The risers are usually small brass extended
screws, although some motherboards still use plastic risers. If you are upgrading your current case, you may already have screws and risers that
you can use.
An anti-static wrist strap is always nice to have, but if you do not own one just be sure you have a clean workspace available to you, and any
time you need to touch a piece of hardware be sure to ground yourself by grabbing the frame of the case first. ESD (Electro-Static Discharge) can
destroy a sensitive chip without you even feeling the shock. As a general precaution, whenever you are handling hardware keep your fingers on the
PCB and away from any integrated chips. An anti-static mat is great to have too, but not necessary.
If you don't have the original motherboard manual, try a search on-line for a copy. If you really can't find anything on it, don't worry too
much, we'll just need to plan ahead a little. Finally, needle nose pliers are helpful for pulling jumpers, but not absolutely necessary. You'll
know if you need them when you get there.
Preparing your hardware
Find a clean, well lit area where you can take up some space. If you are upgrading your current case, then the first thing to do is to remove
your hardware from that case. Store all of the removed parts in one place, and keep all of the screws together or you will misplace them. Make
sure it isn't plugged in, and start by removing all of the cables leading to the hard drive(s), CD-ROM(s), and floppy drive. Take note of where
they plug in to one another, and especially the alignment of the cable. You can plug cables in backwards and upside down. Next, unplug the power
from each of the devices and clean away any dust that is left in there.
If you do not have the manual that came with your motherboard (if any), it's important to take note of a few things before you remove the rest
of your hardware. Your case will have a number of small wires leading to the motherboard, which are all plugged in next to one another. These
wires control the >LEDs on the case, the power button and the reset switch. Without a manual to refer to, it can be a pain to remember what
order and where these wires go. Most motherboards will have it marked directly on them, but to play it safe I would recommend you jot down the
order and name of each wire, you can do this as you remove each one.
Once that is taken care of, you can continue removing the rest of the hardware. Start with your bay devices - hard drives, CD-ROMs, CDR/Ws,
DVDs, etc. Once all of these devices have been removed, the only thing left plugged into the power supply should be the motherboard. Squeeze the
clip on the connector where it meets the >mobo and gently pry the power header off. Now you can clear away any dangling wires and start
removing your PCI/ISA/AGP devices. If you have other wires leading to your motherboard, sound card, or elsewhere, write down the location and the
device so you can refer back to it. Remove all of the cards in the motherboard one by one, and store them very carefully in a static free area.
The motherboard itself is secured by a number of screws, and can be removed fairly easily by undoing the screws and lifting very carefully from
the edges. Some people might suggest removing the CPU/HSF and the memory before removing the motherboard, but this is really up to you. If you're
careful then you won't damage either, and you also won't need to reinstall the >heatsink on your CPU which is a time saver. Now that you have
everything out of your case you should be able to see the motherboard risers. Again, they are usually brass or plastic, and they are located
exactly where each of the motherboard screws was placed. If your new case wasn't shipped with these risers (they are usually in with the screws
and accessories in a small bag), go ahead and remove the ones from the old case. If your new case doesn't have a power supply, remove any screws
from the PSU and remove that also.
Installing your case
With all of your hardware removed from the old case (if any), we can start the process again, except this time it's backwards! First go ahead
and secure the power supply, and move any power cables out of the way. Next, make sure that the motherboard risers are installed in the case and
screw the motherboard back down again. Be sure to line up the port bezel properly, it can be a little annoying at first trying to get your video,
PS/2, USB, etc. ports to line up with the faceplate. Try bending back the small metal tabs around each port on the bezel, this can make it a lot
easier. I guess we won't be doing this completely backwards, because I recommend that you plug all of those tiny wires from the case into the
mobo at this point. Refer to your motherboard manual if you have it, or the notes you took down earlier. Now plug the motherboard power header
back in, and reinstall your bay devices (HD, CD-ROM, etc.). Plug in the ATA cables from each of these devices to your motherboard, looking back
on your notes, then plug in the power cables, and then you can reinstall your PCI/ISA/AGP cards.
If you had any other wires (such as a wire from your CD-ROM to your soundcard, reinstall them at this point).
Now it looks like we're done! Well, not quite. Before you fire that thing up take a moment to make a mental checklist. We want to be sure of a
All cables are properly plugged in, secured and not obstructing any moving parts All PCI/ISA/AGP cards, RAM and CPU are all seated properly.
The motherboard is not making direct contact with the case - I.E. the MB headers are installed properly. The voltage on the power supply is set
It is absolutely crucial to ensure that the voltage is set correctly on your PSU. Look at the back of the unit and there should be a small
switch to select either 110 or 220 volts. If you're in the US make sure it is set to 110. If you are in another country set it according to the
kind of power your electricity provider supplies you with.
If everything looks good and you have checked and double checked for mistakes, plug that sucker in and give it some juice. With any luck your
brand new case will be humming peacefully away, and you can rejoice. Or, on the other hand, your computer could burst into flames and you can
shake your fists in anger. Alas, the chances of fire are small; and if you did everything carefully and correctly it will be doing
All in all, installing a new case is a simple task. It takes some patience, a few tools, and a lot of focus; but in the end it's a lot more
fun than just buying pre-built!