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Installing the CPU Cooler

Installing the CPU Cooler-the arrows indicate where to insert the pins

You’ve successfully installed the processor! Hurray! Next on the list is the processor cooler. In some cases, the processor you bought may have a cooler included with the purchase, or you bought it separately. The installation is the same.


Chances are your cooler is the air type cooler, with its distinctive large fan. You may need to apply the thermal paste. If the cooler came with thermal paste pre-applied (if it’s a bundled AMD or Intel cooler), then there’s no need to apply thermal paste. Otherwise, if your cooler is a used one or bought separately, then simply apply a pea-sized amount of thermal paste on the processor. Nothing more.

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Secure the CPU Cooler

Make sure the four push pins for securing the cooler are facing the correct direction. The grooves on the push pins should be facing the center of the CPU fan. Place it on the processor gently (right on top of the drop of thermal paste), into the four holes on the four corners of the processor socket.

Once you get the proper alignment, place your thumbs on the two diagonal and opposite push pins and press down firmly on both pins at the same time until you hear a “clicking” sound. Do the same for the other pair.

Next, attach the included power connector to the 4-pin header for the cooler on the motherboard. Look for it near the processor socket.


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All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler

All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler

If you got an all-in-one liquid cooling system, then it’s time to install it. The advantages of a liquid cooling solution are obvious – better cooling efficiency for overclocked processors.

An all-in-one liquid cooler is made up of the pump, radiator, radiator fans, and installation brackets and screws.

  1. First of all, you need to install the back-plate on the underside of your motherboard, behind the CPU. This will be used to secure the pump assembly firmly on top of the processor. Your cooler should include brackets for either an Intel or AMD processor socket design. Check your cooler’s included manual for the right position for the adjustable mounts that came with it. Having done this, locate the four holes under the processor socket on the motherboard, insert the bracket’s mounting points into these holes, then move around to the front of the motherboard. Securely hold the bracket in place with the four included screws.
  2. Next, we install the radiator fans on the radiator. The fans come loose in the box; they need to be attached to the radiator before installing the assembly into the case. Depending on available space in your PC case and airflow preference, you can install the fans on both sides of the radiator for enhanced cooling performance. Connect the fans to the radiator using the screws supplied. Position the fans in such a way as to ensure their cables can reach the motherboard fan headers easily. Always consult your cooler manual for installation directions if you are lost at any stage.
  3. A good PC case should include installation mounting points for the radiator. You may find these on top of the case. Carefully insert the radiator into the case, and arrange the fan cables neatly by the side. Do not bash the pump or twist the rubber hoses that connect it to the radiator as you position the cooler into position. Simply use the supplied screws and washers to install the radiator into the mounting points on the case.
  4. Next, you need to secure the pump to the motherboard and CPU. If you haven’t done so already, connect the integrated retention bracket to the pump. It should fit neatly over the motherboard standoffs we installed earlier. Then, place the pump on to the CPU, making sure the standoffs go through the holes on the retention brackets. Then, check the radiator tubing to ensure there are no twists or blockages. Finally, firmly screw on the cooler with the supplied thumbscrews. You should find that the front and rear brackets are now tight.
  5. Finally, attach the power cables to the appropriate connector on the power supply unit and the motherboard – the pump to the fan header next to the processor socket, and then the standard SATA power connector to the appropriate power supply socket. Next, connect the fan cables to the power supply unit.

At this stage, you did it. Sit back and pat yourself for a job well done.


Install RAM

Hold the RAM by the edges or top

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Next, install the RAM modules. Remember to hold the RAM sticks by the side, not on the golden contact points.

Your motherboard should have like four RAM slots, and most motherboards require installing the RAM modules serially, i.e., slot 1, slot 2, slot 3 and slot 4. If you have two sticks of 8GB each, that means you must install in the first and second RAM slots. Each RAM slot on the motherboard is labeled appropriately, so you shouldn’t have any problem locating the correct slot.

To install the RAM sticks,

  1. Relax the clips at each end of the RAM slots on your motherboard.
  2. Align the RAM modules with the notches on the slots.
  3. Firmly press down evenly until you hear the “click” sound of the RAM clips snapping in place, holding the RAM securely.

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Arrows indicate where to insert screws while installing the motherboard

By now, the power supply is in place inside the case. The processor, the cooler, and RAM have been installed on the motherboard. It is time to lay the motherboard in its resting place – inside the PC case.

Locate the I/O shield, a flat piece of shiny metal that came with the motherboard. The I/O shield is important for protecting the PC components from EMI (Electromagnetic Interference). It has cutouts for most of the ports at the back of the PC case.

IO Shield

IO Shield

To install the motherboard, follow these steps,

  1. Slide the I/O shield into place (you should see the provided cutout for it), it should snap into position firmly.
  2. Hover the motherboard over the PC case back-plate to locate standoffs that match your board. Standoffs are provided for most motherboard sizes. If standoffs are not pre-installed on your PC case, you should find them in the case packaging. Install them in the four corners of the back-plate to hold your motherboard.
  3. Next, align the motherboard with the I/O shield. You should see standoffs where you need to place the supplied screws. Gently place the board in position.
  4. Fix the screws with a screwdriver. Do not over-tighten. Just enough to hold the motherboard securely. Check to ensure all four screws are intact.


So far, everything is looking good. Next, we install our storage drives. You should probably have two types of drives, an SSD and a traditional hard drive. The SSD is the lighter and smaller of the two.

To install the SSD,

  1. Attach the drive to the bracket with the supplied screws
  2. Slide the bracket that came with the attached SSD into a drive bay. Attach it with the supplied screws.

To install the mechanical Hard disk drive,

  1. Remove the HDD bracket from one of the drive bays, preferably the one next to the installed SSD bay
  2. Insert the mechanical hard drive into the bracket
  3. Attach the drive to the bracket using screws or in some cases, screw-less mechanism. In this case, as soon as you push it in, it should snap into place
  4. Slide the bracket with the attached drive back into the bay.

In some cases, you have an M.2 NVMe drive. All you have to do is locate the M.2 socket on the motherboard. It’s usually smaller in length. Simply align the drive and push it into the slot. It’s that simple.

Next, we install the optical drive.


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Install the Optical Drive

 Your configuration may include an optical drive, maybe a Blu-ray or DVD drive. Well, they both have the same installation procedure. You should see the SATA cable and screws that came bundled with the drive. Keep them because you’re going to need them later.

To install the optical drive,

  • Slide the drive into the topmost drive bay on your PC case
  • Use the included screws to fasten it to the case, on both sides.


 This is probably the last thing to do. We chose to install this last because it occupies space on the board, and might interfere with other installation steps above. Your graphics card should come with an additional power cable or two, a software disc, and the manual.

Install the Graphics card

To install the graphics card,

  1. Unscrew the PCI case brackets at the back of the case that aligns with the PCI Express slot you intend to use
  2. Locate the PCI Express slot on the motherboard
  3. Pull back the retaining clip at the end of the slot
  4. Align the graphics card on the slot and push firmly into the slot. The clip should snap into place, holding the card securely
  5. Gently screw the card in position with a screw at the back of the case. You should see the provision for a screw at the top of the metal bracket at the end of the card.

So far, so good. Next, we plug everything in.


Now that we have installed all components, it’s time to connect everything together. We’ll start with the motherboard connectors. We assume you are using a modular power supply.

  • Motherboard: The PSU offers a single power cable for the board: a 24-pin ATX cable. You should see it together with other cables from the power supply –  it’s the one with the largest connector. Push the connector firmly and evenly into the slot on the motherboard, it should snap into place with a ‘click’ sound. Connect the other end to the appropriate socket on the power supply.
  • Processor: Locate the 8-pin processor power cable. Press it into the slot on the motherboard, next to the processor. Connect it to the appropriate socket on the power supply, that is, if you are using a modular power supply.
  • SSD and HDD: Solid State Drives and traditional hard drives use SATA connectors for data transmission to the motherboard. The SATA connectors are the 15-pin flat connectors with a bracket on one side to ensure plugging them in one way.

Plug the connectors to the drives, then plug the other end to the motherboard SATA sockets.

The SATA ports on the motherboard are labeled SATA0, SATA1, SATA2, etc. It is advisable to install the boot drive to SATA0, the traditional hard drive to SATA 1, the optical drive to SATA2. If you bought more than one traditional hard drive, you can connect that to SATA3.

Likewise, attach appropriate power connectors from the power supply to the drives.

  • Optical Drive: Connect the optical drive with the included SATA cable. Look for a power connector from the power supply and attach it to the drive.
  • Graphics Card: Next, connect the graphics card to a power slot on the power supply, using the included power cable.
  • Front-panel USB/Audio: These front panel headers control the USB, the power button, the reset button, the HDD activity light, and the power LED, all on the front of your case.

Install the Front Panel header

To connect the front-panel header pins, you must consult your motherboard manual. These pins are located on one side of the motherboard. You should exercise care when plugging in these small connectors, which is why you should look at the motherboard manual for information as to the layout of these pins and to know which pin plugs into which socket.

To make things easier for you, each little socket on the motherboard is labeled with the corresponding pin name, which you can easily see on the pins. Plug them in carefully until all are secure.

  • Case Fans: In case your PC case came with fans installed for a more cooling effect, simply connect the fans to the appropriate power socket on the power supply.


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Cable management is recommended for better airflow

Now that all components are successfully installed, we’ll turn our attention to the cables. Most cases have provisions for better cable management, in which case you don’t have much work to do.

Many cases have a covering that hides the bundle of cables coming out of the power supply, allowing for a neater interior. Yet some cases have provision for routing the cables under the motherboard back-plate, completely hiding them from view.

The major purpose of cable management is to ensure that your PC maintains better airflow because cables can block fans and air movement, thereby increasing the ambient temperature inside your PC. This is not good for your components.

A second reason is you want to make it easier to find the cables you need to unplug when you add or remove components from your PC, in case of an upgrade. Finally, you want to make your PC innards look smart and great. Nobody likes looking at the cluttered bowels of a PC!

What you need for cable management,

  • Velcro straps
  • Zip ties
  • Twist ties

You can easily get these from your local hardware store. The best is Velcro, as it is flexible. Zip ties aren’t that flexible. For instance, if you need to add or remove a cable from the bundle of cables, you will have to cut the zip tie and replace it when you are done.

This is not a good option if you frequently add or remove components from your PC, that’s why we recommend Velcro straps.

Look out for tie-down points on your PC case (if available), and use these to secure the zip ties or twist ties if you are using these to manage your cables. Some cases have clips for holding large cable bundles. Take advantage of this as much as possible. In the end, your PC cables should be safely out of the way, making for a much neater interior.


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Phew! Having come this far, you can see how easy and fun it was to build your own PC. As part of finishing touches, make sure all cables are securely connected. A loosely connected cable could give you problems later. Also, make sure the RAM is firmly in place. You can double-check by pressing down on the sticks once more. Do the same for the graphics card.

Once everything is good, plug in your monitor using the supplied cables. You may want to use the DVI or DisplayPort, or the more popular HDMI. It’s all up to your preference. Now is the time to connect your keyboard and mouse. If it’s a wireless keyboard, simply plug the little USB adapter to a free USB socket on the case.

Your hard work is about to pay off, except that, eerrh, your operating system isn’t installed yet. Never mind, we’ll come to that shortly. Well, at this point, take a deep breath, and hit your power button. The system should display the POST (Power-On Self-Test) screen with the technical mumbo-jumbo. After the initial POST screen, the PC should ask for an operating system. Of course, we’ll do that. Just stay with us.

If your PC refuses to power up, double-check all the connectors, that is, after switching off the power supply. A loose RAM module, a loosely connected cable, any of these could hinder a successful boot.

Well, if the PC keeps asking for a boot operating system, it’s time to install one.

My passion for PC hardware is my greatest motivation. I love technology and how it can make life easier and less complicated! When I’m not tinkering with hardware, I’m reading. I love to travel and I usually can’t wait to sit down on my PC to work.

I’m also a copywriter, designer, video editor, and writer. I also do some 3D with 3DS Max. Do you want to reach me? Use the Social Media buttons, or shoot me an email. I’ll be glad to hear from you!

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