How to build your own personal computer - Kitchen Table Computers
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Installing the Front Panel Connectors


We're almost finished!

Front panel connectors.One somewhat tedious but vital step whenever you assemble a computer is to connect all those little wires for the front-panel switches and LED's from the case to the motherboard.

If you purchased a "barebones" computer with the motherboard already mounted, then this was probably done for you already. Otherwise, you'll have to do it yourself. Hopefully, you have good eyes and can read the tiny lettering on both the connectors and the motherboard. Otherwise, break out the bifocals!


Attaching the front panel connectors.Each switch and LED on the front panel has a connector attached to it that must be connected to the appropriate pins on the motherboard.

Some of the connectors (especially the LED's) are polarized, meaning that they have to be connected in the correct polarity. Polarized connectors have a little arrow or a plus sign by the positive wire, but no keyway to prevent you from attaching them backwards.

Long story short: If one of your LED's doesn't work (or if it stays lit all the time), chances are that you attached it backwards. If so, simply correct it.

Unfortunately, there's no universal rule about the positions of these pins. To determine the correct pins to attach the connectors to, you will have to consult the motherboard manual or look for the teensy lettering on the motherboard adjacent to the pins.


The basic front panel headers found on most motherboards are those for the PC speaker (the one built into most cases that beeps when the computer passes POST), the power switch, the reset switch, the hard drive activity LED, the power LED, and sometimes a few others. Of these, the leads for the LEDs must be connected in the proper polarity in order to work properly. The rest should be connected in the proper polarity just for the sake of doing things professionally, but they will work even if they're attached backwards.


Time to Double-Check

Before firing up your new computer, take a few moments to double check the following items:

  • Use plastic cable ties, not metal twist ties, to secure cables.Check all the fans to make sure they are properly connected. Starting up your computer with the CPU fan disconnected will likely kill your processor!

  • Make sure that all wires and cables are safely tied away from the fans. Neatness counts. Use plastic cable ties, not metal twist-ties. If you can't get plastic cable ties, then use electrical tape.

  • Check that all of the power and data cables are securely connected and are attached in the correct polarity.

  • Make sure that there are no tools, screws, or jumpers floating around in the case.

  • Check that all expansion cards and RAM modules are securely seated.


Get Ready for The Moment of Truth

Everything checks out okay? Great! Now comes the moment of truth: Get ready to start up your homebuilt computer for the first time!







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