Checklist Before First Boot

A good once-over never hurt anyone; in fact, there’s a good chance that a quick once-over could prevent boot issues or component damage. Once that first build is completed, run through this checklist before hitting the power button.

What should you check before the first boot?

  1. Will any cables potentially interfere with system fans? Move them.
  2. Will any cables potentially interfere with the CPU or GPU fans? Move them.
  3. Is the memory fully seated? Make sure the push tabs are fully depressed and ‘snapped’ into place for every stick of memory.
  4. Check that the motherboard is not warped or bowing as a result of strain from the CPU cooler. If it looks like there is flexing, consider marginally loosening the cooler. The cooler should not ‘wiggle’ back-and-forth when grabbed from the top, but does not need to be tight enough to bow the board.
  5. Check that the 24-pin power cable makes full-contact to its slot. The slot and cable head should be butted against one another.
  6. Do the same for the 8-pin / EPS12V header. Sometimes, undue strain will be applied to the cable as a result of stretching behind the motherboard tray. Ensure that the cable is not pulling itself out of the slot at an angle. If so, consider rewiring with a more direct path (or using an extension cable).
  7. And now the same for the video card’s PCI-e cables.
  8. Front panel button and LED cables will be validated when you turn the system on. If any LEDs aren’t firing (e.g. on hard drive action), then something is connected incorrectly. It may be the case that the positive and negative wires are reversed, in which case a simple power-down and reversal would resolve the issue. Be sure to check for final, tight connection between the USB3.0 header and connector as well, given its loose nature. Front panel I/O should also be checked one last time before closing the side panel, as they may come loose.
  9. Check that any M.2 devices are secured in their slots. If using an M.2 wireless card, make sure the antenna is extruding from the case in a way that will get reception.
  10. Ensure that the video card is firmly and evenly mounted in its slot.
  11. Did you cut any corners with screws? Or accidentally miss one? Go fix that. It’s worth being a completionist for PC building.

For troubleshooting tasks, it’s worth adding a PC speaker to the motherboard’s SPK slot. Not every board and case include a PC speaker, but the ones that do will make bug-squashing easier – a failure will be conveyed via POST beep (Power-On Self-Test), and that beep code can be used to search for answers. Beep codes tend to be a little vaguely like Morse code – long and short taps comprise error messages, and those messages are mapped in manuals and websites (changes per BIOS).

Once running through this quick check-list, toggle that power switch on the power supply and prepare to boot. You’re almost there! – Steve Burke, GamersNexus