Motherboards come with screws

Upgrade to a new PC case

So you've found a cute new case for your PC that's filled with LEDs, fan cutouts, and acrylic windows all over the place. Now all you have to do is take in all the courage of your current PC. Here is how.

Be warned, this is a complicated process: you'll have to go through more or less all of the steps to build a new PC from scratch, with the added disadvantage of having to disassemble another one first. It's time consuming and boring, but not particularly difficult. Liquid-cooled computers are also not covered here. The setup for these is very specific to the components your computer uses and can be quite tricky too. If you have a liquid-cooled PC, you'll need to find directions for your setup or, better yet, get help from someone who has already done so.

And as always, if you've never done this, we recommend taking pictures of how things are set up when you take your PC apart - where cables are plugged in, where components are housed, and so on.

What you will need

All you really need to start working on a modern PC is a Phillips screwdriver. I recommend two, a large one for leverage and a small one for those hard to reach crevices in your case. If you work in an environment that is particularly susceptible to static, you may also want an anti-static wrist strap. Lastly, having a couple of cups or bowls can really come in handy in preventing your various screws from rolling away.

I use my personal desktop demonstration for this. It's built into a Fractal Design R4 case, a fairly typical ATX mid tower size. If you're using a gaming PC, this one will likely look pretty similar unless you're specifically building something much smaller (like a mini-ITX build) or something more elaborate. Even so, the rough steps are broadly the same, even if your build is very different.

Set up

First, unplug all of the various power and data cables from your PC, then place it on a table or desk in a bright spot. If possible, use an area without a carpet to avoid static electricity.

First thing to do to start ripping up your machine will maximize access to all of its components. For an ATX tower, this means removing the access panels from both sides of the chassis (in some cases, a single panel can be peeled off as a unit, rather than separate access panels). They are attached to the back with screws (sometimes thumbscrews). There are usually two or three on each side. Take these out and set them aside.

Then simply slide the access panels towards the back of the device and pull them off. Put them aside.

With these important barriers to entry removed, you have easy access to every component.

If your case contains other parts that can be removed from the outside, such as: B. Dust filter, pull this out as well.

Before you actually begin removing components, it is best to decide on a general order. This depends on your exact setup and preferences. I prefer to remove the power supply first, however, as it plugs into almost everything else. Keeping it (and lots of cables especially) out of the way makes the rest of the job easier. In some cases, you may not be able to pull out the power supply without first checking other components such as B. having removed a CPU cooler. It's good. Do things in any order.

Remove the power supply unit

To begin removing the power supply, you need to disconnect it from any components that use it. On my computer, this includes:

  • Main board (24-pin primary rail)
  • Motherboard (8-pin processor rail - yours can be larger or smaller)
  • Graphics card (8-pin - yours can be larger or smaller)
  • Hard disk and SSD (SATA power cable)
  • DVD drive (SATA power cable)
  • Case fan (various)

For this and most of the other steps (besides the motherboard), it's probably easiest to keep your case vertical.

When you have a modular power supply that allows removing cables from both the components and the power supply itself, it's even easier. You can pull on either end of the cable to loosen it. (Note: most prepackaged desktops don't use a modular power supply.)

By now your power supply should be mostly clear. If it's not modular, put all cables as far away as possible in preparation for removing the device yourself.

Now go to the back of the case. There are a few screws on the back of the frame that hold the power supply in place. (In some cases, these retaining screws might be at the top or at the bottom.) Remove them and set them aside.

When the retaining screws are loosened, the power supply is loose and you can pull it out of the case.

Set it aside and move on to the next components.

Remove hard drives and drives

Older case designs only keep their hard drives, SSDs and CD drives in the frame with screws. Newer and more advanced models use "sleds" or "caddies" that screw the drives into these simple in-out devices and then slide them into place for easy replacement. The hard drive and SSD in my PC use this method while the DVD drive is screwed tight. We start with the former.

First, unplug the SATA data cables from your hard drive and from the motherboard at the other end.

With both the power and data cables removed from my drives, I can pull the caddies out of the frame of the case.

Now for the DVD drive. First remove the SATA data cable. Since the drive is screwed into the frame itself, I need to remove the screws from both sides before it comes out.

With the power cable, data cable, and storage screws removed, I can pull the drive off the front of the case. You may want to nudge it a little from the back, but pull it out from the front as you have limited space in the opposite direction.

Put your drives aside. If they are screwed into sliders or caddies, loosen them to prepare for reinstallation later.

Move on to the next component.

Removing the graphics card

Obviously, this part of the guide isn't really for you if you don't have a separate graphics card in your computer. So let's take it off the motherboard to make the final steps of disassembly easier.

If you have not already done so, remove the power cord from the power supply first. Then remove the screw that secures the GPU to the back of the case where the adapter plugs protrude. It's likely a thumbscrew. If your card is twice as wide, you will need to remove both screws.

Now press the plastic tab at the end of the PCI Express card slot into which the graphics card is inserted. It should snap into place on the motherboard and release the graphics card.

Hold the card with the retaining screws removed and the plastic tab depressed, and pull. It should come off the motherboard.

Set the graphics card aside and move on to the next part. If you have other hardware that occupies your PCI Express slots, e.g. For example, remove a wireless or sound card in the same way.

Remove the chassis fans

The fans attached to your case are designed to suck in cool air and blow out hot air. You want to get them out in front of the motherboard and the rest of the components. Fortunately, this is one of the simpler processes. And in all fairness, you may not need to remove the fans from the case yourself if your new case already has fans attached.

If one of your case fans was plugged into the connectors on the motherboard (instead of the power supply), unplug it now. These 3 or 4 pin connectors look like this:

Now just switch to the outside of the case and remove the screws that hold the fans in place. Be sure to hold the fan from the other side while you remove the last screw to prevent it from falling in.

Repeat this step for all of your enclosure fans. If your case has removable fan mounts, remove them the same way.

Removing the motherboard

We'll keep the RAM, CPU, and CPU cooler attached to the motherboard as they're generally light enough to come with the motherboard (and in most cases don't require an extra step). If you have a more elaborate CPU cooler or a water-based cooler, you may need to take it out to access some of the screws that hold the motherboard in place.

First, lay your case on its side with the motherboard facing up. Then remove any other cables attached to your motherboard. At this point, these should mostly be control, audio, and USB cables going straight out of your case.

Keep an eye on the I / O pins in the lower right corner of the motherboard. These are very difficult and must be connected in a specific order for the power switch, reset switch, hard drive indicator, and power indicator on your case to work. Unless you really like to stare at the tiny guy or check your motherboard's user guide for a photo with everything in it before you take it out. This will make it a lot easier when you move everything into the new case.

Now remove the screws securing the motherboard to the risers of the housing. These can be hard to see, especially if you have dark screws on a dark circuit board like mine. There are generally four near the corners with two to four more in the middle for stability.

After removing all of the motherboard screws, gently slide the motherboard forward to remove it from the I / O plate (the small steel rectangle with cutouts for the connectors on the back of the case). Then, lift it out of the case and set it aside. If the motherboard doesn't pop up easily, you probably missed a screw. Go back and check again.

As a final step, gently slide the I / O plate into the chassis and pull it out.

Now you should have all of your components free and ready to install into the new one. This article only reuses the original case as I don't have a replacement phone. And besides, if I've been blowing dust away and cleaning all of the components for five years, it'll be practically new anyway.

Install components in your new case

For the new case, we're essentially going to go backwards. You work with the same components, just put them in instead of taking them out. Remove both access panels from the new enclosure and get started.

Install the motherboard

If they aren't already installed, unscrew the motherboard risers that came with your new case. With these you can screw the motherboard tight and prevent the electrical contacts of the motherboard from shorting out the metal of the case itself. Note that in some cases other locations may be available for these risers, but they should match the available holes on the motherboard.

Now install the I / O plate. This is the same one that you carried over from your previous case. Just make sure it is properly lined up with the back connectors on your motherboard and slide it inside out onto the back. The new case may already have one. If so, you may need to remove it to insert the one that corresponds to the connectors on your motherboard.

Slide the motherboard in line with the riser with the screw holes. It may take a slight wiggle to press the connectors on the back of the board into their corresponding holes on the I / O board. Be careful, and make sure you have clean access to all ports on the back of the computer.

Now tighten the motherboard screws in the same position where you placed the shoulder straps. Make sure they are tight, but don't screw them too tight if you feel resistance. You could damage the circuit board.

Install Case Connections

Now reconnect all housing connections to your motherboard. In a modern case, these are cables for the power switch, the reset switch, the power indicators, and the hard drive indicator light. Consult your motherboard manual or the photo you took earlier for proper connections.

Your case will likely also have an HD audio cable and a USB 3.0 cable. There may also be other USB cables that lead to the motherboard. These are usually clearly marked on the motherboard.

As you run the cables around, here and everywhere, try to keep as little loose as possible during assembly. The back of the case is a good place to “hide” excess cable, if it isn't too thick to put the rear access door back on.

Install the chassis fans

Your new case may have come with a few fans preinstalled. If this is the case, plug them into the three- or four-pole plugs on the motherboard (marked with "fan" or similar). If not, reinstall the ones you removed from your previous case. Simply screw on from the outside.

The side of the fan with the plastic blocking the blades is the output - air flows towards the plastic. The inlet fans (with the plastic trim facing in) go forward, output is generally back, up, or down. Read this guide if you are unsure about proper airflow management in your case.

If your fans can connect to your motherboard, plug them in now. The same is true if they can connect to your chassis and there is a built-in controller.

Install the graphics card

Again, if you don't have discrete graphics on your map, skip this section. If you do this, first remove the PCI-E standoffs for the PCI Express slot you want to use, but hold onto the screws. If you don't know which option is right for you, check out this guide. It is usually located closest to the processor area.

Then slide the card down into the slot, first pressing the side closest to the back of the case. Make sure it is facing out so you can connect the monitor cables.

Press down firmly. When you see that plastic tab wobble, you're almost there. Pull up on the tab on the slot until it clicks into place on the card. Note that some motherboards contain different types of tabs. Some are locked automatically when the card is inserted, others are pushed in from the side.

Now reattach the screws to permanently secure the card.

Install the storage and hard disk drives

Here, too, you only do the opposite way. Place your drives in the appropriate bays, which are either screwed in directly or attached to the caddies. (You will need the caddies that came with your new suitcase, not the ones you removed from the old suitcase.)

Then connect the SATA data cables to the back of the drives and connect them to the SATA drives on the motherboard. You want to install them on the card in the same order (port 1, 2, 3, etc.) to avoid startup problems.

Install power supply unit

Now for the most complex part: installing the power supply. First insert it into the power supply slot of the new housing and then screw it into the rear with the power cable facing outwards.

Typically, you want to lead the power supply's built-in fan straight out of the case and away from the internal components, as it is constantly blowing hot air.

Now lay all the power cables to your required components.

  • 24-pin main power rail for the motherboard
  • 4/6/8-pin power rail for the CPU socket of the motherboard
  • SATA power rail to the hard drive and all other drives
  • 6/8/12-pin power rail to the graphics card (if present)
  • Extra power for more case fans and other accessories if needed

If you're not sure where they are, look at the photos you took or check your motherboard's manual.

Make sure the connections are tight and try running as much cable as you can behind the motherboard drawer to keep everything in order. Much tidier than my example if you can, which shouldn't be too difficult.

Cable management is more than just holding things that look pretty in your case. Keeping the cables out of the way will not obstruct the airflow inside the case and make it easier for you to get to the components if you need to.

Close and boot

You are almost done. Give it all all over again and pay special attention to your fans. It's easy to pull a loose cable on it. If it does, you need to open the PC again and look for the error.

When you are sure that you have everything covered, put back the access flaps on the left and right, and then insert the thumbscrews and slat down the hatches. Install any accessories for the chassis, such as B. Dust filter.

Move your shiny new case and dusty old parts back to your computer desk. Plug in everything and get started. If Windows doesn't start right away, you might not panic. You may just need to enter the UEFI (also known as BIOS) and set the correct boot order for your drives.

If you're still having problems, open your PC again and check your connections. Common problems are swapped SATA cables, forgetting to plug in the CPU power rail, and (yes, really) turning on the power.

Image credit: Fractal Design, Dell