I wrote this guide a few years ago for another forum and I just went through it and changed a few things to update it so here it is.
How to build your own computer:
A guide for those who might be a little confused about where to start or where to go when you decide you want to build your own computer.
Figuring out the direction for the build.
Like every project a person chooses to start, it needs to have a direction. Knowing where you are going with it will make it a whole lot easier to get there. So first off, you need to answer a few basic questions.
What is the computer going to mainly be used for?
Are you going to be just word processing and surfing the net with it? Are you going to be running a lot of media applications or graphics intensive applications? Are you going to be gaming and would like to be able to run all the newest games? This is one of the main questions that you need to answer before you go about choosing your parts. Being able to run different programs require different parts, for instance, if you are going to be just surfing the internet, word processing and other light applications like that, you won’t need a whole lot of power. But if you are going to be running a lot of graphic intensive games, or graphics editing software, you are going to need a good graphics card and a decent amount of cpu power.
What operating system are you going to run?
Windows 7? Mac OS? Linux? There are a lot of choices when it comes to operating systems for a pc. Obviously Windows is the most popular and will afford you the most possibilities when it comes to hardware compatibility, Windows 7 being the newest version.. Now that you can run Mac OS on a pc, that is a possibility as well. Linux will probably be used in server type situations, but it is a bit more complicated to use and probably not the best choice for the run of the mill PC user.
What is your budget?
This is probably the most important question since everything you buy will be determined by how much money you have to spend. For some people money isn’t an issue, but for most, it is a big issue. If you are building a middle of the road pc for normal things like internet, you will be spending less, lets say $500 -$700 for just the computer parts minus a mouse, keyboard, monitor….etc. But for a high end gaming pc you would be looking at spending somewhere north of $1000, minus the mouse, keyboard…etc. Add more for the peripherals. For a high end pc, most people like to buy high end keyboards, mice and monitors, not to mention speakers…..etc, so you could really get into some big money if you really wanted to.
So, now that we have those 3 basic questions answered, lets go to the next section, “Picking the parts”.
Picking the parts.
So now that you know what the direction of the build is, it’s time to pick out the parts that you will be using. The computer is made up of several parts, all of which have to be compatible. Here are the parts that you need to know about
The motherboard is the brains of the computer, it’s the part that everything else hooks to. When choosing a motherboard look for a motherboard with a wide range of features like a few pci slots, pci express x16 slots (2 if you plan to run 2 video cards in sli or crossfire mode), an ide connection and multiple SATA connections (most motherboards have these nowadays), and the correct socket that you need for your cpu. Most have built in audio and some even have built in video so you don’t even have to get a video card. Motherboards come in two sizes, ATX and the smaller Micro ATX, the only difference is that Micro ATX motherboards usually have less pci slots and of course are smaller than ATX motherboards. It makes no difference which you choose and most computer cases will accept both sizes.
CPU (Central Processing Unit):
This is the brain of the computer and it goes into the big socket in the motherboard. Basically you have 2 choices of brands to go with, AMD or Intel. Both have their advantages and both have their disadvantages. For example, AMD processors are popular with gamers, so if you are planning to build a high end gaming pc, you may choose to go with a high end AMD processor. Intel processors are good for multitasking and running cpu intensive programs like photo and video editing software. Both companies have quad core offerings as well if you plan to build a high end pc with either brand so it’s really up to you as to which you would like to use. If you buy from an online source, make sure that you buy a retail version of the cpu, retail versions come with a heatsink and fan in the package as well as documentation…etc. If you buy an OEM version, you will need to purchase a cpu cooler separately.
Ram (random access memory):
What kind of ram you buy depends on what your motherboard supports. Motherboards today support DDR-2 or DDR3 memory, check with your motherboard specs to see what the highest speed is that your motherboard supports. Most times 2 gb of ram is enough, but if you are going to be running high end programs and high end games, perhaps you might want to jump up to 4 or 6gb of ram, but for that you will need a 64-bit operating system.
Probably the most important piece if you are building a high end gaming pc. You will want to get a PCI Express X16 card. Which card you buy really depends on how much you want to spend. The highest end cards will usually run you over $500. Most of the cards in the $300-$500 range will be able to play any newer game just fine provided it has enough graphics memory. 512mb up to 1gb of GDDR3 memory is what you want to look for. Basically you have 2 choices on brands here as well, ATI or Nvidia. Both have extremely high end cards, all the way down to just basic cards for the average user.
The hard drive is where all your information as well as the operating system will be stored on the pc. Normal for hard drives today is SATAII interface and big sizes are very popular as well. 500gb all the way to 1tb and beyond are available. Basically a rule of thumb for a hard drive for me is to buy the biggest one you can afford, or that fits your budget. Most hard drives are 7200 rpm, but if you are building a high end pc, you might want to get a 10,000 rpm drive, or better yet, 2 10,000 rpm drives in a more advanced configuration called RAID which ties the drives together in one of a number of different ways. Whichever hard drive you choose, just make sure that the brand is reputable, like something by Seagate, Maxtor, Hitachi, Western Digital and there are lots of others.
When choosing an
optical drive basically what you’d want is a DVD or Blu-Ray drive. DVD burners also play and burn regular CD’s as well so you can still use those. You don’t have to spend a lot of money here to get a good drive, they are relatively cheap these days and are mostly well made. Prices range from around $20 up to around $250 for a top of the line Blu-Ray disc burner. Or, to save costs, you could use one that you have from another pc, or if you are upgrading a current pc, you could use the one you had in that pc unless you’d like to upgrade to a faster drive. Some drives come with Lightscribe, which is a disc labeling system where you turn the disc label side down and it will burn a disc label that you design right onto the disc. This requires special discs and a drive that supports it. The technology isn’t great yet, so don’t base your decision on whether a drive has it or not, it’s basically a novelty at this point.
Case and power supply:
The case could be an important part of the pc to you because it determines how it looks. Back to the case, you want to look for a case that is made out of aluminum and has at least 2 cooling fans, one for intake, and one for exhaust. Also make sure it has enough space for the number of hard drives and optical drives you will be using. Your choices are endless when it comes to looks, there are hundreds of designs to choose from available from tons of different