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How to Build a Computer with an
AMD Socket A Athlon or Duron Processor
Part 10 - Install the Expansion Boards
Last updated: 6/3/2001

In this, the final part of this article, we describe how to install the expansion boards and test the system.  One thing you don't want to do is plug in all of the boards at once.  Do a little homework before deciding which boards will go into which expansion board slots and Install them one-at-a-time in a logical order.

Interrupts.  A basic understanding of interrupts can be obtained by reading our short IRQs - Interrupt Requests FAQsIn theory, up to four PCI Plug and Play expansion boards can share an interrupt.  In practice it is often Plug ‘n Prey and one should try to share as few interrupts as possible.  A visit to Abit's KT7-RAID FAQs provides some information on how the interrupts are organized by the motherboard:

The AGP slot and PCI-1 share an IRQ
PCI-2 and PCI-3 share an IRQ
PCI-4, PCI-6, and USB controllers share an IRQ
PCI-5 has its own IRQ

PCI Slot Assignments.  PCI-1 is the PCI slot next to the AGP slot.  I do not advise sharing the interrupt used by the display adapter.  Also, my experience shows that sharing an interrupt with a soundboard can often be problematic.  Network adapters are a little more forgiving, but I try to give them their own interrupt as well.  Keeping all of these factors in mind, I decided to install the expansion boards as follows:

PCI Slot Use Notes
1 Not used for a board. shared with the AGP graphics board.  USB cable/bracket assembly.
2 Not used. Shared with PCI-3.
3 Soundboard. The CD-ROM audio cable length is a factor.
4 MODEM. Can live with the USB controller.
5 Network Adapter. Has it's own IRQ.
6 Not used. Shared with PCI-4 and the USB controller.  Physically shared with the ISA slot.

Other factors, such as expansion board lengths, IRQ priorities, ISA boards, boards that do not require an interrupt, cooling, and cable lengths may influence slot/board choices.

Also, to accommodate boards with specific physical requirements/limitations, IRQs can be assigned manually in the CMOS Setup in the "PnP/PCI configuration" submenu.  Many motherboards, but not all, have this capability.  It is sometimes useful in solving difficult IRQ-related problems.

Board Installation Order.  I installed the network adapter first and temporarily configured it for my shop network so I could get at software downloads, test software, etc. hosted on my Windows NT file server.  Also, it provided access to the Internet via my Barricade router and Surfboard cable MODEM.  Next, if you access the Internet via dial-up, you should consider installing the MODEM and configuring it for the Internet.  Again, you may need it to download software and your computer will be Internet-ready if you want to register products online. 

128.  Power-down the computer and unplug the power cord from the computer.

129.  Lay the computer down on it's side with the front facing towards you.

130.  Remove the expansion board slot covers for PCI slots l, 3, 4, and 5.

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