Building your own computer can have a lot of positives. It is much easier to design and build a PC that meets your specific needs when you are doing the research and hand selecting the parts and components. The big box manufacturers, such as Dell and HP can’t possibly build a PC for each specific customer’s needs. They do a great deal of market research and build generalized systems that will meet the needs of most of their customers. Most people can then simply choose one of their standard product lines and have their needs met quite well. The downfall of this approach for the consumer however is cost and performance. The customer is often forced to either choose a PC that is way more powerful than what they need just to get the one or two additional components that they need. This can cause the cost of a new PC to rise dramatically. If cost is a factor, and a customer has a set budget for a new computer, they are often times forced into a lower end PC than they would have liked because their choices are so limited due to budget constraints. For example, many customers would give up the ability to burn DVD’s and have more hard drive space than they could ever possibly use if that meant that they could have a faster processor or additional RAM. When you are designing and building your own system, these choices are easy to make. It is often cheaper to build your own machine that meets your specific needs then purchase the class of machine required from a major manufacturer.
Another major advantage of building a computer from parts that you choose yourself is compatibility. Big Box computer manufacturers often times use proprietary parts in their machines. There could be any number of reasons why they do this, but the bottom line is when a component needs to be replaced, if for an upgrade or because a part has failed, it is usually necessary to return to the manufacturer and purchase the part from them. Because they then control the market for parts for the machine, they can set the price, and the consumer is forced to either pay the price, or forgo the upgrade or replacement.
A machine that you have build yourself can also be relatively free of bloatware. Bloatware is the software packages that comes pre-installed on many major name computers from the manufacturer. This software is things sure of numerous browser toolbars and add-ons, anti-virus software with very short update periods and the like. This software is usually included because the software publisher, rather than selling it to the computer manufacturer, contracts with the manufacturer and pays them to include this software on every computer they sell. The software publishers know that many consumers will use the free anti-virus trial for the 30 days that it is free, and then when it expires they will simply supply a credit card number and purchase an annual license when prompted to do so by the software. If you choose to use a different product, you must first remove the pre-installed software before setting up the software that you would like to use. These types of utilities also can cause extended startup times for a computer and reside in memory and consume system resources whether the user actually ever utilizes this software or not.
If, after reading the information provided above, you decide that you want to build a computer, you will want to first decide what function this computer is going to be used for. Once you have a general feeling for the type of system that you intend to build, it becomes time to start looking at specific parts. Review the list below for considerations on each of the major components that are required to build a computer.
Motherboard I would recommend starting with the motherboard since it is the one component of the system on which all other parts depend. Be sure to look carefully at all of the features of the board before making a decision. Things to consider are drive connections (IDE, SATA, Floppy), onboard video, USB ports, expansion slots, board class (ATX, Mini-ATX, etc.), compatible processors, and RAM (both type and the maximum supported memory).
CPU The CPU or Central Processing Unit is the brains of the computer. This is a major component of determining how fast the computer will preform. While a super fast processor is great, keep in mind however that the most cutting edge processors then to be very expensive. Considerable cost savings can be had by stepping down slightly on processor speed. Be sure to research and look for published benchmarks to see if the extra speed provided by a faster chip is worth the additional expense in relation to your specific needs.
RAM The type of RAM that you will need will be determined by the motherboard you choose. The amount of RAM that you install will depend of how powerful of a machine you need. Generally, a RAM upgrade is one of the easiest upgrades that you will do, so account for that when you are building your PC. Also, most multi core computers prefer RAM to be installed in pairs. Most quality motherboards have at least 4 RAM slots. Do your self a favor and allow for an upgrade in the future by keeping two slots open to add additional RAM is necessary.
Case The case size will be determined by the motherboard you choose, although you can always use a larger case. Some cases come with a power supply, and others require purchasing a separate supply. Make sure the case has adequate cooling fans. The more powerful the system is, the more heat that will need to be removed.
Hard Drive The hard drive is where you data is stored for retrieval later. This is also where your operating system and software will be installed. Large hard drives are very cheap these days so I would recommend a large hard drive to allow for future growth. It is not uncommon to install multiple hard drives in more high end systems. This can be to separate software and data, or the drives could be setup in a RAID configuration to provide data redundancy.
Optical Drive You will usually want to install some type of optical drive. This could be a CD-ROM, DVD drive or even a Blu-Ray player/burner. With prices the way they are today, I would recommend a minimum of a DVD drive or burner as they are not much more expensive than a simple cd-rom. Also, many software applications and operating systems are delivered on DVD as opposed the CD as software sizes have increased. Blu-ray players or burners are much more expensive right now as they are new technology.
Expansion Cards Depending on the motherboard you choose, you may need expansion cards. This could be a video card or network card if they are not provided by the motherboard. Or you may want to install a more high end video card than is supplied by the motherboard. Another common card is a PCI Parallel card if you intend to reuse a printer that do not support USB connectivity as most PC’s no longer have on board parallel ports.
Once you have decided on all of the components you wish to use you will need to locate and purchase them. Check for prices online and look for deals. If you are new to the concept of building a PC, you may also want to consider locating a small local computer store from which to purchase your parts. When you build your own PC, you do not have a standard warranty as you would on a big box PC. Therefore you may want to establish a positive relationship with a local store in case you ever need help troubleshooting an issue with your PC. Small local stores are also often very competitive on pricing because they don’t have the enormous overhead of operating a huge national chain.
Once you have purchased all of the parts of your PC, you will want to build the PC. Start with the motherboard. Install the CPU and the heatsink and fan as well as the RAM. Then mount the board in the case and attach all of the power wires from the power supply. Finally install the drives and connect the wires from the case to the board for such things as LED’s and switches. There you have it, you have just build a computer. Now install an operation system, software and configure it to your liking. Good Luck and happy computing.