How Do I Test Hardware Compatibility When Building a Computer?


Assembling your own custom desktop computer is an exciting and cost-saving exercise if you really love computers. Surprisingly, assembling the actual components does not take any special tools: a Phillips head screwdriver is the only tool you will need. Most assembly instructions can be found in video form on the web. But assembling a quality, functioning computer yourself does require care, planning and most important, research. When you do the proper research before buying components, you rarely will have to worry about compatibility issues.

Motherboard Compatibility Issues

  • Motherboards present compatibility issues that need to be considered before buying the add-on components. Not all processors are compatible with all motherboards. This information is disclosed in the motherboard literature. Motherboards are also selective about the speed and type of RAM memory sticks needed. Not all RAM sticks will work with all motherboards. This information is also found in the motherboard specification information.

PCI Slot Issues

  • Newer motherboards feature PCI slots in the newer PCI-Express format while older motherboards offer a combination of AGP video slots and regular PCI slots. Know which type is featured on your motherboard before buying PCI components like video cards and sound cards. In most cases, if you install the correct type of card in a matching PCI format slot, compatibility won’t be an issue.

Hardware Conflicts Detection

  • On occasion, however, components will conflict for various technical reasons. You will know such a conflict occurs because the computer will “blue screen” just before or just after the Windows desktop loads. “Freezing” is another sign of conflict. You can test for this problem by pressing F8 as you boot the machine, and load Windows in Safe Mode. Safe Mode will sidestep drivers and devices not needed for basic Windows operation. If your computer does not blue screen in Safe Mode but resumes blue-screening in regular mode, it is certain you have a hardware conflict.

Avoiding Conflicts

  • One way to avoid hardware conflicts is to build the computer one component at a time. This way, if you install a component or device that is incompatible with the motherboard, or another device, you will know instantly “who caused the trouble.” When you assemble the entire machine all at once, without running boot tests between stages, you will not be certain which device is at fault. Therefore, install the power supply and boot the machine. If the machine powers up--and beeps at you because it’s missing the RAM and hard drive--that’s a good sign. Install the memory sticks and boot the machine again. If the machine boots to a BIOS screen this time, continue. Add the hard drive and an optical drive and install Windows. Reboot. Continue adding devices, one at a time, testing for a successful boot after each new piece.

Video Cards

  • Save any upgraded PCI video card for last in the installation process. Video cards and their drivers often create hardware conflicts. If there is a compatibility problem with your new video card, and your on-board video service has been disabled due to the presence of the new card, you could be “blind,” without any video at all, and this will make fixing the problem very difficult, to say the least.

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