Build a Better PC - Testing
Article:  Andy Collinson
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Once assembley is complete, you can test your computer by running a live operating system direct from the CDROM. There are certain versions of Linux that can be run in live mode. These disks allow testing of all the major hardware components, including PSU, motherboard, graphics card and monitor, sound card and internet connection. They will not touch your hard drive, so they are safe to use, even without a loaded operating system.

BIOS Setup
When you push the power button, the first thing that will happen is that your computer will load the firmware from the BIOS (Basic Input Output Setup) chip. There have been major changes in BIOS over the years and the BIOS on modern motherboards is intelligent enough to configure itself. It will auto detect the processor, memory and clock speeds. Some settings may be adjusted to optimize the configuration but the system should work from power on.
BIOS Tuning
Some BIOS settings can be tweaked to gain extra performance. Altering clock or bus speeds, commonly known as "overclocking" is often used to boost performance. Overclocking means that components will run faster than normal, taking more current from the power supply, and therefore running hotter. You need to make sure that you have extra power available and sufficient cooling and ventilation, otherwise your system could become unstable.
Small motherboards now have boost features which can increase clock speeds by a small percentage for extra performance. I would advise caution against overclocking, as extra heat may reduce lifespan of some components.

Live CDs
There are many linux CDs that can work in live mode, Knoppix, Ubuntu, PCLinux. To use a live CD, insert it into the CD/DVD drive and press power. The BIOS will look for a boot sector on the hard drive, but without any OS loaded, the BIOS will then look for a bootable CD. The CD I used for testing my system with was PCLinux. After a few minutes the following screen is displayed:

If you have speakers connected you will also hear a startup sound and if you have a working internet connection, then you can also use firefox to browse the internet. (The exception is if you have a modern wireless chipset or dongle or one that does not work with Linux.)

If you get this far, then you know that, the PSU, mainboard, memory, graphics and monitor, mouse and keyboard, sound and internet are all working. Not bad for a few minutes wait!

If Something Went Wrong
If you hear loud noises or grinding, switch off immediately. These can be caused if a cable touches a fan or is not free to rotate. If nothing works, then a power connection is missing, or you've forgotten to switch on the power switch on the computer PSU. If you get a fan noise but no display, switch off and check that the graphics card is seated and screwed down, and that the monitor plug is fully pushed in. These are not the only symptoms, but just a basic fault guide.
Intermittent Faults
Intermittent faults can be the hardest to find. If the system behaves erratically, first make sure that you are not overclocking any component or reset BIOS to default settings. Often memory can be a source of instability, so you can always power up using 1 bank of memory if you think this is a memory issue. Other things to check are that all connectors are good and not loose, and all screws tight. Running with the case lid open, allows extra ventilation, so if problems disappear with the case open, it could be an overheating problem.

The next step is loading the operating system, the page can be accessed here or from the fixed sub-menu on the left.