As a follow-up to AnandTech's original article entitled, How to Build a Computer, part 2 of this ongoing tutorial covers the software initialization portion of custom building a computer.   This article makes the assumption that you have already constructed your computer either by following the instructions in part one of this tutorial or by some other means, and you already have in your possession the software you plan to install on your system.   If not, it is recommended that you make the proper decisions and take the necessary actions to bring you to this point in the building sequence otherwise you may find yourself quite lost in the following procedure.  For those of you that have everything ready and prepared, let's get to it.

What you Need

What you Want

Custom Built/Upgraded System Secondary System with Internet Access
Operating System Software w/ Boot Disk Operating System installation files on a HDD
CD-ROM Drivers if your OS is on a CD Blank floppy for a new boot-disk
Manufacturer's supplied drivers Latest drivers from the Web
Your Motherboard/BIOS Manual A copy of this guide in front of you

Your First Time

Although you can probably take that header out of context quite easily, the first time you boot up your newly constructed computer is the start of the entire software configuration process.  The first thing you will want to do is enter your BIOS (also referred to as CMOS) Setup Utility either by hitting the escape key, F2 or whatever keystroke is flashed up on the screen as it correlates to entering setup.  Once in the BIOS Setup you want to take the time to familiarize yourself with the controls, while some Setup Utilities may use the PageUp/PageDown keys for selection modification others may require a different approach, in any case you will definitely want to take the time to learn how to navigate your BIOS Setup. 


After acquainting yourself with the setup shell the first stop you will want to make will be in the General Setup section of your BIOS.  This section allows you to properly set the date and time, as well as configure your primary storage devices such as IDE Hard Drives, CD-ROM Drives, and Floppy Disks.  It is best to leave all of the settings on this screen set to Auto Detect your storage devices, after you get your system up and running for the first time without any problems you can return to this screen to manually enter in the storage settings or you can even opt to perform an IDE auto detect for all of your devices, but for now you will want to let the BIOS handle everything.  Remember that you want to get everything working perfectly (or as close to perfect as possible) before approaching any sort of system-wide tweaking.  You will want to keep in mind that if you have a Jumperless CPU Configuration setup you should properly configure your CPU in the BIOS setup before approaching anything else mentioned in this section, remember that you should never overclock your CPU until you have your OS properly installed and configured.

Next you have the BIOS Features Setup, while the name may differ depending on your BIOS it is usually referred to as something like "BIOS Features Setup" or "Advanced Setup."  The settings in here generally don't require much modification, even for tweaking purposes, but you will want to make note of a few settings in particular.  The first and definitely most annoying setting is the Quick Boot setting which, when enabled, will run through the memory count one time.  If this setting remains disabled the BIOS will count up your memory a minimum of three times, and up to as many as 5 times depending on the build of your BIOS.  This can become extremely annoying and, for most users, offers benefits that don't pertain to you.  The best thing to do is to leave this disabled, if you happen to be troubleshooting problems related directly to your system RAM then you may want to enable the setting.  Boot Up Floppy Seek is the next setting you will want to examine the status of, if you are at all concerned with the health of your floppy drive then it is highly recommended that you leave this setting disabled after initially setting up your OS.  Since you rarely have to boot from a floppy disk there is no point in accessing your floppy drive during each and every boot-up, so disabling this setting will help extend the life of your floppy drive.  Remember to do so only after you have completely setup your Operating System and no longer need to boot off of a boot-disk.  The third, and final setting you need to check while at this screen is the Boot Sequence.  Depending on whether or not your primary hard disk (the one you will be installing your main operating system on) is an IDE or SCSI device you will have to alter this setting accordingly.  The available settings are fairly self explanatory, the first boot device appears first in the list of devices the BIOS provides you with, if you happen to have an AMI WinBIOS BIOS Setup on your motherboard then the process is simplified even more.

If you are well versed in the BIOS/Software Setup of Building a Computer then you will want to assign generously slow RAM timings to your System in the Chipset Features section of your BIOS setup, otherwise you will want to leave these timings at their Default settings as provided by your motherboard manufacturer.  A setting you may or may not have included in your BIOS setup, depending on the revision of your BIOS and motherboard you may have the Video Initialize option which you want to set according to what sort of graphics accelerator you have.  If you have a PCI video card then you will want to set this option to PCI Slot, otherwise AGP should be your choice.

The final settings you will want to adjust are those in the Integrated Peripherals section of your BIOS Setup, here you will want to set the COM/Serial Port addresses to Auto and your Parallel (LPT) port to EPP + ECP mode for best compatibility results. 

That should be all you need to take care of on your first visit to the BIOS Setup, you will want to save and exit the utility preparing yourself for the next big step in setting up the software on your computer, partitioning and formatting the hard disk.

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  • kevinmcan - Wednesday, June 15, 2022 - link

    Wonderful tips on how to build a computer "cheap and cheerful."

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