How to Build Your Own Computer
The most difficult process of building your own computer is deciding what you want in it. Your have plenty of options but for now let’s just focus on the two major factors about your computer….AMD or Intel. Read all you want and do all the research your heart desires but this is mainly a factor of preference. AMD and Intel based computers will run almost the same and chances are you will never be able to tell the difference. The only exception to this is that sometimes one or the other will occasionally offer better or newer technology than the other. A personal preference of mine is to stick with the one you trust. If you’re just starting out on your own and don’t have any idea of which to choose than you will probably want to go with the cheapest route. The market changes so fast that some times AMD parts are cheaper than Intel or vice versa.
Once you have decided on what you want powering your system, AMD or Intel, you can then begin the wonderful process of picking out all the other hardware you want in your computer. Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to building a working computer!
Step 1.) Decide on a case and power supply. There are many sites on the net that allow you to browse a large selection of computer cases. The main thing to keep in mind when deciding on a case is the look. If you don’t like the look of the case you won’t take much pride in your computer. After you have found a case that matches your taste you will want to know if it comes with a PSU, or power supply unit. Power supply’s come in different wattages. The more wattage the power supply has, the more things you can put in your computer. Despite the fact that some cases come with power supplies already in them, you can change them out. All power supplies should fit into virtually any computer case you can buy; it’s just a matter of lining up the screws and tightening. Stick to this rule of thumb when looking at power supplies. If you plan on playing games get no less than a 500w power supply. The reasoning for this is that gaming computers often require quite a bit of power which is needed to fuel the graphics card. Getting a high dollar graphics card and having a low wattage PSU could result in slow gameplay or the game not running at all! Also make sure that the power supply is SLI capable. Don’t concern yourself to much with what SLI is if you are not sure yet, we will cover that in another step.
Step 2.) Find the right CPU for you. This is where you could end up spending most of your cash. As this article is being written, the most powerful CPU on the market today is the new Core 2 Duo CPU by Intel. The CPU is what drives your computer. It sorts out all information and sends it where it needs to go. The faster it can do this the better. CPU speeds are often gauged in gigahertz (GHz). If you have ever paid any attention to the apparent GHz difference between Intel and AMD it would appear that Intel has always been the fastest. But don’t be fooled by that number, often companies such as Intel use that number as a marketing scheme to get people to believe that their CPU is faster. Now I could go into detail about how this speed is calculated but to be blunt it would probably just confuse or bore you to death. Instead I will give you a brief description about the main difference between an AMD and an Intel CPU, speed wise. AMD CPU’s process more information at slower speeds, while Intel processes less information at faster speeds. Read that again and you may catch onto what I am trying to say. Knowing that, take a look at the speeds of AMD and Intel CPU’s. You will notice that most Intel Pentium CPU’s have speeds of 3.0 GHz and higher and AMD have speeds of about 1.2 GHz and as high as 2.0 GHz. If you caught on quick enough you can do the reasoning and choose what’s best for you. When getting a CPU make sure to take note of the socket type it requires as this will be the underlining factor in which motherboard you can get. Also, make sure that the CPU comes with a heat sink. Most boxed retailed CPU’s will come with one.
Step 3.) Get a motherboard to match your needs. This is where it starts getting a little trickier. The motherboard is what everything in your computer will be connected to. A quick search and you will find that there are a lot of choices out there. Thankfully the CPU you want will drastically reduce the amount of motherboards you have to choose from. Make sure that you get a motherboard that is the correct socket type for your CPU. If you remember at the beginning of this article I told you that building your own computer is a long learning process. You will be spending quite a bit of time learning about what the different types of motherboards have to offer. Don’t over do it, stick to the most important parts. As long as your motherboard can support your CPU, RAM, Hard Drive and Graphics card you should be good to go. It’s always a good idea to get a hold of the motherboard manual before proceeding. Most manufacturer web sites offer free downloads of the manual. It will save you time and money!
Step 4.) Find a decent CD/DVD Rom and a floppy drive. Floppy drives are dirt cheap, coming in around $10 a drive. It really doesn’t matter which you choose, it basically comes down to a choice of what color you want. CD/DVD ROMs are a different story. If you want to burn things to CD then you will want to get a good CD/DVD combo drive. But if you want to burn DVDs or add things to an existing burnable CD then you will have to spend a little more cash on a CD/DVD RW. The most common form of CD/DVD ROMs and floppies come in a Parallel ATA form. If you have ever opened up the case on a computer and have seen a ribbon like cable lying around, that’s what a Parallel ATA cable is. It connects your CD/DVD ROM, floppy and hard drives to your motherboard.
Step 5.) Find a hard drive that is big enough to hold all the information you think you will have. The typical amount of space on hard drives these days is around 80GB. This is quite a bit of storage space. However, if you plan on using applications that require a lot of storage space you will most likely want a larger capacity hard drive. Hard drive capacity rage anywhere from about 40GB to 1Terabyte. A terabyte for you computer is so big it’s almost ridiculous, it’s 1000GBs! Most users could easily get by with 120GB’s of hard drive space, any more and it may be a waste for home computers. After you decide on size you will have to choose what type of interface you want. In step 4 I talked about a parallel ATA connection. For hard drives you have a choice between 3 different types of connections, which offer different speeds. SATA cables, Serial ATA cables, offer the best results for people on a budget. They average out at about 3 GB of information per second. This means that it can retrieve a lot more information faster than normal Parallel ATA cables. SATA also helps to keep your system cool by freeing up a lot of space in your computer case. The air flow in your case won’t be restricted by the thick ribbon cables of Parallel ATA. Your last option is SCSI, pronounced Scuzi, which offers the fasted speeds but also costs the most. You will pay anywhere from $200 to $300 extra dollars to get one of these your computer, some of the best SCSI hard drives can cost you upwards of $1000!
Step 6.) System Memory, or RAM, is the next thing on the list. It’s imperative to get a hold of the manufacturers manual of your motherboard before you purchase your RAM. Not getting the correct type of RAM in your computer could make it not run. Also, some motherboards only support a certain amount of RAM. If you get to much you could experience some problems with your computer, even though you may get it to boot up. While there are many types of RAM available, your motherboard will only support certain types. Be sure to get RAM that is recommended for your motherboard.
Step 7.) Graphics cards, for you gamers out there, this is another very important part of your computer. If you plan on playing the latest games on the market be prepared to spend upwards of $150 on a decent card. Once again, there are many to choose from and motherboards are pretty forgiving about which types you can get. The main two different types of graphics cards available are AGP and PCI cards. Check with your motherboard documentation on which it supports. A word of warning though, AGP graphics cards are becoming a thing of the past. If you do manage to find a motherboard that supports AGP cards, don’t be surprised if you are unable to upgrade your card in the near future.
Step 8.) A sound card is the last piece of hardware that will go inside of your computer. Sound cards come in all different types and range from anywhere from $20 – $500. It really depends on what you’re going to be doing with your computer. If you’re looking to set up a recording studio with your computer the sound cards can cost you around $1000 or more. In most cases users are happy with the sound that is provided with the motherboard. Check with your motherboard manual to see if the sound equipped on it meets your needs.
Step 9.) And now the fun part, piecing it all together. Unfortunately I can’t go into detail about how everything fits into your computer. If you have followed all these steps and ordered all these parts you should me more than fine doing it by yourself. Each and every part of your computer comes with documentation about how to install and setup your hardware. Just follow the instructions. They will let you know what to do and what not to do.