/PC Dissection Lab

Learning Outcomes

After completing these activities you should be able to:

Today's lab will involve both the disassembly and the reassembly of a working computer. The computer should be functional at the start of this lab, please inform your instructor if it isn't. For full credit it should be functional at the end of the lab. For this lab a functional computer will show some message regarding "Windows" upon start up.

Electrical safety is paramount. DO NOT reach into an open, energized computer!
Don't force pieces in/out of the computer/motherboard!
Keep meticulous track of all screws! Don't strip the screws!

The physical computer is comprised of numerous components that each have a specific function. Among the more important are the ones you will see and touch today:

1. CPU      4. Motherboard
2. RAM (memory)      5. ODD (optical disk drive)
3. HDD (hard disk drive)      6. Power supply

While the computer is made up of these (and other) components, a computer user also needs to be able to identify the physical ports on the computer. For instance, you need to know what a USB port looks like so you don't try to plug something wrong into that port! Here are some physical ports you should be able to identify on any computer:

1. USB 3.0
2. DVI-D (Dual Link)
5. Audio
6. Fire Wire
7. USB 2.0
8. DVI-I (Daul Link))
9. RJ45 (Ethernet)
 All of these pictures are clickable. Use them!


  1. Verifying that the computer works.

    DO NOT do this yet, but you will be listening/looking for the following:

    NOW you may do these steps:

    1. Connect the monitor to the computer using the DVI connector (see diagram above) using the video cable that is already attached to the monitor.
    2. Check that the power rocker switch on the computer is in the OFF ( 0 ) position.
    3. Plug the computer and monitor power cords into the power strip.
    4. Flip the power rocker switch on the computer to the ON ( 1 ) position.
    5. If the computer does not start: press the ON/OFF button on the front once - you should hear the fan start and the HDD spin up, and after a few moments the BIOS start screen and then the Windows start screen should appear.
      If the BIOS or Windows start screen does not appear, press the power switch on the monitor.
    6. STOP HERE and contact your instructor if the computer still does not power on or if the Windows start screen does not eventually appear. Otherwise, proceed.

  2. Powering down.

    1. Once you have confirmed the computer is functional, press AND HOLD the ON/OFF button on the front of the computer until it turns OFF.
    2. Flip the power rocker switch on the computer to the OFF ( 0 ) position.

    3. Unplug both the power cord and the video cable, and set them and the monitor aside.

  3. Opening the case. Keep meticulous track of all screws!

    There are 2 different types of screws, don't mix them up!

    • Remove both side panels. For each side panel, remove 2 screws, then slide the panel toward the rear of the case 1 inch and remove it.

  4. Removing the front panel.

    1. Slide the front of the computer just off the edge of the desk.
    2. Behind the left side of the front cover, locate the three tabs that hold the front cover to the main case.
    3. Release these three tabs, pivot the front cover off, then set it aside.
    4. Lay the computer back onto the desk on its side, so the motherboard and components are visible.

  5. Locating components PRIOR to removal.

    At this time, every team member should locate (but not remove) every one of the items listed below.
    You will LATER (not now) be removing or disconnecting the ones listed in green.

    1. Motherboard
    2. CPU Cooling Fan
    3. Motherboard Main Power
    4. Peripheral Connectors
    5. Case Cooling Fan
    6. Power Connectors
    7. DVI Port
    8. Hard Disk Drive.
    9. Optical Disk Drive (CD/DVD).
    10. Memory (RAM).
    11. Case Power Supply

  6. Disconnecting the motherboard main power

  7. Removing the HDD (hard disk drive). Keep meticulous track of all screws!

    Note: Some drives are held in place by screws and some by locking tabs or both (See below).

    1. Disconnect the power and data cables from the HDD. The data cable is red; this connector type is called "SATA". It is very fragile, squeeze the metal release and pull straight back on it. Do not wiggle up and down to remove, this will break it!
    2. Remove the screws fastening the HDD to the case. There may be screws on both sides, so lift up the case, if necessary.
    3. Remove the HDD by sliding it towards the center of the case. It will probably be necessary to angle it out to avoid the CPU cooling fan.
    4. Set the HDD gently aside.

  8. Removing the ODD (optical disk drive). Keep meticulous track of all screws!

    1. Disconnect the power and data cables from the ODD.
    2. Remove the screws fastening the ODD to the case.
    3. Remove the ODD by sliding it out the front of the case.

  9. Removing the RAM.

    1. To free a RAM module, carefully press down on the two white side tabs for that RAM slot. The module will pop up.
      Remember which slot color (black or blue) the stick of RAM is installed in
    2. Remove the RAM module and set it aside.
    3. Repeat for any additional RAM modules.

  10. Inspection.

    1. Have your instructor inspect your work.


Note: Reassembly order is the reverse of disassembly

  1. Reinstall the RAM
    Reinstall the RAM into the same slot (black or blue) that you removed the RAM from If you do not here a beep after 10 seconds when rebooting the PC, then you likely try the RAM in a different slot
  2. Reinstall and reconnect the optical disk drive (ODD)
  3. Reinstall and reconnect the hard disk drive (HDD)
  4. Reattach the front cover, ensuring the three tabs lock. Replace the front cover screw(s)
  5. Replace and the side covers (access panels) and refasten their screws
  6. Perform Disassembly step 2 again to power up the computer
  7. Have your instructor verify that the computer has booted properly
  8. Perform Disassembly step 3 again to power down the computer


  1. Police your area for loose screws (not including your classmates or instructor)
  2. Disconnect all power cords and peripherals (Leave the desks as you found them.)