Building your own personal computer can be a very rewarding experience. Not only do you walk away with a sense of accomplishment from having built something from scratch, but also you can save a lot of money. Pre-built PC’s often have the price raised much higher than what the actual parts that make up the PC cost. In addition, in many cases preloaded software on pre-built PC’s is unwanted and can actually bog down a system. With a fresh build, you can install a fresh operating system and only install software that is necessary for your needs. However, the software is only a small benefit to building a PC, as you can install a fresh OS to a pre-built manufacturer’s machine as well. The real benefit to building your own PC is the hardware.
Selecting Your PC Hardware
When building your own PC the hardware you need will be determined by what you are going to use the machine for. PC’s have many different uses: programming, graphic design, gaming, or even just simple daily tasks like browsing the internet, or writing a document. You may think that the only people that need to be building a PC would be those that have needs beyond basic computer tasks, but I would argue that is not true. For the same price that you can acquire a manufacturer PC, you will almost always be able to build a better machine for cheaper.
There is a wealth of information on what pieces of hardware are best for what tasks on the internet. The biggest factor in making hardware choices is linking your needs to the proper hardware. This can be tricky, but there is lots of help on the internet for making informed choices and if you know exactly what you want to use the PC for before you start shopping, it makes the process much easier. The main pieces that make up a PC are the CPU Unit, the Motherboard (MOBO), Memory (RAM), Storage, GPU, PSU, and the case. Each piece serves a different purpose and, depending on your need, will vary greatly in price. Read more about them below:
The CPU (Central Processing Unit): The CPU will come from one of two companies, AMD or Intel, which will also determine which type of motherboard you will need. Deciding between the two is mostly subjective, but reviews can aide you in your decision.
Memory (RAM): Memory is a relatively inexpensive portion of the machine and generally 8 GB will serve almost any personal computing need, other than applications that are extremely taxing on your CPU, such as 3D rendering.
Storage: Storage comes down to a choice between two technologies, the first being a hard disk drive (HDD). HDD’s are relatively inexpensive and offer great storage capacity, but are much slower in accessing data than the other option, a SSD. SSD’s have much faster read/write speeds then hard disk drives. There is also the option of a hybrid storage scheme, where you use a SSD and a HHD for separate purposes. Typically a hybrid set up will use your SSD for storing your operating system and frequently accessed programs for fast boot times and quick access to programs, while using the HHD for all other files.
GPU (Graphical Processing Unit): THE GPU determines your display capabilities and has a wide pricing range. If you plan to use the system for gaming, video, or 3D editing then these can become very expensive. Your PSU will be determined by the rest of your components.
The Case: Your case will need to be large enough to store all of the aforementioned components.
Another advantage of choosing all of this hardware is that you will know your machine much better than a pre-built machine. This will allow you to easily upgrade parts and your home built machine will likely last much longer than a manufacturers machine, because you will be able to easily repair any parts or expand to meet the needs of new software and technology.
Assembling Your Homebuilt PC
The most intimidating part, after spending money on the parts, is putting the machine together. This is actually much simpler than you could imagine. If you have never put one together before, most of it is just plugging the proper cords into the proper ports. Many YouTube videos can hold your hand through the process and ensure that you correctly hook everything up (see my list of links below).
When assembling your machine, one very important factor to consider is electrostatic discharge (ESD). Computer parts can be very sensitive to ESD, so keeping yourself grounded is critical when putting your machine together. There are two common strategies to keep yourself grounded when working with computer hardware: the first is to purchase an anti-static wristband, and the second is to keep one hand in contact with the bare metal interior of the computer case. Obviously the anti-static wristband is a better option. Generally your parts will come with instructions that should be followed and the links provided at the end of this blog can guide you through the overall assembly.
Once your machine is finally built, you can have the satisfaction of knowing you built it from scratch with pieces you decided were best for you. The machine will function better than a pre-built machine because you built it specifically for what you will use it for, whereas manufacturer computers are built with a wide array of users in mind. After you are done, you can compare the specifications of your machine to retailer’s machines around the same price and you will realize that you have saved a lot of money going the custom route.