Building a Computer? A Buying Guide for Computer Parts and Components

Building a Computer? A Buying Guide for Computer Parts and Components

Posted 07.13.2012 in Articles by Neil-Denny

Building a computer from scratch is an excellent alternative to buying from a brand. You can customize your computer to your specific needs and will have an easier time upgrading your computer when necessary. If this is your first go at putting together your very own PC, you will not only enjoy a sense of pride, but also a better understanding of how your computer works. The best part is, there's a good chance you'll save some moolah in the process. Whether you’re a regular Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor looking for a new project, or a beginner looking to start your first DIY experiment, here's a simple guide to buying the right parts and components for this new and exciting venture.
In its most basic form, building a computer requires eight major components. That’s it! They are: the motherboard, the central processing unit (CPU), random access memory (RAM), the case, power supply, a video card, storage, and an optical drive. Mix the ingredients together like a Cajun gumbo from Emeril Lagasse’s kitchen and BAM! You’ve got yourself a gorgeous homemade computer.
Okay, it’s not quite that easy, but building a computer is easier than most people think.
We’ll start with the heart and soul of the computer: the motherboard, the CPU, and the RAM. It’s a good idea to buy all three of these components at the same time, just to make sure all the parts are compatible with one another. The motherboard is what ties all the individual parts of your computer together. Things to consider include the external ports you’ll need (HDMI and USB peripherals), the type of video card you’ll be using (a little more on that later), the size of the computer, and the kind of CPU you will be getting.
The Central Processing Unit is the brains of this operation, literally, as it processes all the data and tells the computer what programs to run. The two main competitors for CPUs are AMD and Intel. The AMD tends to be on the cheaper side, while Intel seems to be the favorite for high-performance. Whatever you’re preference may be, make sure your CPU has the proper pin configuration associated with your motherboard.
While you’re at it, you’re going to want to take a gander at the RAM slots, the long skinny ones on your motherboard. If the CPU is the brains, the RAM represents the short-term memory. It holds the data currently running and affects the speed of your computer. RAM comes fairly inexpensive these days. While 2GB of RAM is good at the most bare bones basic level of computer use, 4GB would be a safer bet if you’re going to be playing games and surfing the net. As you did with the CPU, you’ll want to make sure the RAM matches the pin configuration on your motherboard. You will also want to check if your motherboard is designed for a dual- or triple-channel memory system. Make sure to buy RAM in a 2-pack for a dual system, and in a 3-pack for a triple system. 
Just like us, computers have both short term and long term memory. To retain information even while the computer is off, you’ll need a hard drive. There are two types these days, a hard disk drive, that stores data mechanically, and solid-state drives which use flash memory. Mechanical drives are bulkier but far more cheaper, while the SSD boots your system a whole lot faster. If you can sling the dough, why not get the best of both worlds?An SSD can be used primarily to boost your system, and the HDD can be reserved for storage.
Now that you’ve created the spirit of the system, it’s time to give it a body. The next thing you’ll need in this case, is the case. The Tower Style case is the most popular, but it really depends on your personal taste for size and aesthetics. Just make sure the case has a good airflow system to keep the temperature cool. To bring Frankenstein to life, you’ll need a power supply, the thing that plugs it into the wall and converts the AC current to usable power. Opt for a “modular power supply” to give you more freedom with the number of components you’ll be connecting, and look out for “80 plus certification” for better energy efficiency.
Though the last two components aren’t as important as those mentioned above, they can ultimately spell the difference between a computer you are content with, or one you absolutely love. They are the video card and the optical drive.
If video is of minimal importance to you, there are motherboards that come with integrated video cards, ideal for surfing the net or occasionally watching a kitten play the piano on YouTube. Gamers and video editors on the other hand will want to look into a discrete video card, one you have to attach to the mother board. AMD and Nvidia are the heavy-hitters in this realm. For hardcore gamers, you will want to look for a video card that supports DirectX 11 graphics.
Like the video card, the type of optical drive depends on the type of user. The optical drive is usually necessary for loading any operating systems for the first time. Other than that, if you just need it to listen to CDs or make DVD copies, a simple DVD burner will suffice. If you see yourself using your PC for more multimedia purposes, it’s a good idea to go for a Blu Ray Player.
Voila! You’re very own computer. The beauty of it is, since you built it yourself, you can upgrade and reconfigure it as you please! Not satisfied with the speed? Get more RAM! Better video card come out? You know just how to switch it out. Okay, Gheppetto. You’ve got the tools to make your favorite toy. Now go out there and bring Pinocchio to life.

Image (CC) Wolfie Fox 

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Posts: 1
Re: Building a Computer? A Buying Guide for Computer Parts and Components
Reply #1 on : Tue October 16, 2012, 07:57:04
How much RAM do i really need if i'm gonna be playing games heavily? Do i have to go all the way to 16 or is 8GB good enough?

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