General build tips
Brushing up on the basics is a smart move from time to time: things change, methods adapt and standards morph.
TIP 1 AMD CPU installation
Outside of Threadripper, AMD has stayed with the PGA (or pin-grid array) setup — the interconnect pins between the motherboard and CPU lie on the processor, as opposed to the motheboard’s socket, meaning fewer broken boards. To install your AM4 processor, match the golden corner on the chip with the corner on the socket. Lift the retention arm on the socket, carefully slot the processor into place, push it down firmly in the middle until it’s secure, then bring down the retention arm to lock it into place.
TIP 2 Thermal paste application
If you’re building a Ryzen or Coffee Lake system (or any mainstream CPU build), a small pea-sized dot of paste in the centre of your CPU is all you need. If it’s a larger processor, one of Intel’s Extreme Editions, for instance, use two pea-sized dots, and three for Threadripper, down the centre. This should be enough to ensure that any CPU heatsink, fan tower, all-in-one, or water block has sufficient thermal interface material to transfer heat away from the CPU die, across to the outer extremities of the heatsinks.
TIP 3 PCIe installation
When it comes to installing graphics cards and other add-in PCIe cards, first remove the rear PCIe covers from your case. Then, carefully line your card up with the PCIe slot on your motherboard and gently push it into place until it clicks down. Make sure you install your GPU into the topmost PCIe slot for the best performance. There are different lengths of slot suitable for different purposes. PCIe x16 are the longest slots, designed for GPUs. You may find that some slots that look like PCIe x16 slots are actually x8 instead. You can decipher this by identifying whether the pins inside the slot go halfway or all the way to the end.
TIP 4 Intel CPU installation
To install any LGA processor, lift the retention arm out and up, then lift up the bracket, leaving the protective plastic covering inside. Line up the processor’s golden triangle with the etched triangle on the socket, gently drop it into place, then give it a tiny wiggle to make sure it’s secure. Bring the socket bracket back down, securing it under the Torx screw, then bring the retention arm down, and lock it in place. The plastic cover pops off on any LGA 115X platform, but you need to give it a bit of a tug on the 2011 sockets.
TIP 5 Memory installation
Installing memory correctly is fairly straightforward. Find the notch on the bottom of each stick of memory, line that up with the notch in the memory slot on the motherboard, and carefully push it into place, making sure the clips on either edge of the memory slot are sticking up—these click into place once each stick is secure. Be sure to populate the color-coordinated memory slots, to ensure dual-channel or quad-channel support is operating correctly. If uncertain, refer to your mobo manual.
TIP 6 M.2 Installation
Installing the world’s latest and greatest M.2 PCIe SSDs varies depending on which motherboard you’re installing them on to. Some come with heatsinks, some don’t. But the basic theory is pretty simple: Use a small screwdriver to unscrew the tiny Phillips screw that holds the M.2 down, line up the M.2 connector with the slot and push it into place until it clicks in. Then line the end up with the mounting point at the other end and secure back down with the tiny screw. You may have to move that mounting point depending on the length of your PCIe SSD, and there may be an additional heatsink you need to add before resecuring it (remember to remove the thermal pad’s sticker first), but that’s all there is to it.