There comes a time in most people’s lives where they must buy a new computer. There are several things to think about when buying a new computer: Operating System, Processor, RAM, cost. If you are on a budget and are technical savvy, why not build your own computer or, at the very least, hire somebody to build the computer for you.
How do I build a computer, you ask? It really isn’t as hard today as it used to be. You can shop several websites and buy components for your computer. You can even buy barebones kits that include everything needed to build the computer yourself.
But what do I need? That really is a common question. Here is a list of the common components found in a PC.
- Case – This is the container that houses the computer components. The case has the power button.
- Motherboard – This is the circuit board that sends signals to and from the processor. The motherboard is one of the most essential parts of the computer. Motherboards usually have integrated sound. This eliminates the need for an additional sound card. Some also come with integrated video and wireless.
- CPU (processor) – There are many CPU’s on the market today. You have single core, dual core, quad core and now even 6 and 8 core processors. For the average user, a dual core processor is ideal. The single core chips are almost, if not already, completely obsolete.
- RAM – The RAM, or random access memory, is what makes your computer work. When using a program, RAM is constantly updating the state of the program. For instance, if you are using a word processor – until you save the file, it is being stored in RAM as you key in data. Once you save the file, it is still in RAM until you close the word processor. For most people, 4 Gb is enough but 8 Gb is better.
- Hard Disk Drive – The hard disk drive (HDD) is where the operating system is stored and all of your data is stored. 20 years ago, you were fortunate to own a 1 Gb hard disk. These drives were extremely expensive. Today, you shouldn’t get less than 250 Gb. There are many barebones kits that include a 1 Tb (terabyte) drive, or 1000 Gb. These drives don’t cost more than $50 now.
- CD/DVD ROM – Again, the price is so cheap now that a typical CD/DVD burner can be purchased for less that $20. If you really want to go pro, get yourself a BluRay burner. These are less than $75.
- Video card – Unless your motherboard doesn’t have integrated graphics and you aren’t a gamer, you won’t need this. However, some motherboards don’t carry integrated graphics and it is detrimental to buy a video card. If you aren’t a gamer, a good video card with over 1 Gb RAM can be purchased for under $30. If you are a gamer, don’t expect to spend less than $150 on a good video card.
- Wireless card – If the board doesn’t contain integrated wireless and you need WI-FI at home, you can purchase a decent PCI express Wireless card for under $10.
- Power Supply – Here is where it can be tricky. You need a good power supply that can power your computer at all times. For most people, 450 Watts is ample to power the computer. However, if you are building a gamer PC, consider 650 +.
- Operating System – When building, you choose the OS that you wish to install. For me, I install Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 8.1 Enterprise because I prefer both of these operating systems. You can get Linux for free. Simply download Ubuntu and you are all set.
I recently built myself a new computer. My old laptop has seen better days and before it completely died, I built a system that is pretty decent. It contains the AMD 8 core FX-8350 cpu. This chip ranks in at #5 on the top 10 performing chips, via CPUBenchmark.com. I am using a mid range motherboard, MSI 970A-G43. The board doesn’t have integrated graphics and the chip doesn’t have a built in GPU so I purchased a low range video card, Sapphire Radeon HD5450. I also purchased a Seagate 1 Tb hard disk, LG DVD burner, and Hiro wireless card. For my power supply, I have a Solid Gear 650 Watt power supply. My RAM is Adata – 8 Gb. The case that was included with my kit is a ThermalTake Versa gaming case. For $5 more, I ordered neon lights to install on the inside of my case.
This barebones kit sells on TigerDirect.com. And I purchased everything for under $600 (not including the monitor). Some other things that you will need that isn’t included is thermal paste and a wrist ground strap. I purchased both of these from eBay for less than $5 with free shipping.
If you choose to build the computer yourself, these are the steps I took to build mine.
- Open the Motherboard and remove it from the box.
- Open the CPU and remove it from the box.
- Being careful, place the CPU in the Motherboard following directions. (Look for the arrow on the chip and in the slot to install the CPU)
- Lock the CPU into place by closing the latch on the motherboard at the CPU socket.
- Apply thermal paste to CPU. This is tricky. You don’t want to overdo it because this will cause the CPU to overheat. However, not enough will also cause the CPU to overheat. A lot of heatsinks have thermal paste already on them. If this is the case, you shouldn’t apply any.
- Attach heatsink to the CPU and latch it following directions for your machine.
- Install Motherboard in case. It is essential that nowhere on the board touches the case except for where the screws attach. Inspect your case and verify if it needs spacers are not. The spacers will be included with the hardware for your case.
- Install power supply in case. Attach all cables to motherboard, as per the specs of your board.
- Install RAM. The RAM fits into the appropriate slots on the board and locks down with tabs on the two outer edges of the stick.
- Install video and wireless cards if necessary. If your machine requires the additional cards, remove the covers from the outside of the case following the directions with your case.
- Install HDD and CD/DVD drives. These will install into the case following the directions of the case. Attach the appropriate cables from the power supply to the drives. Also attach the SATA communications cables to the motherboard.
- Finally, attach all of the wiring in the case to the motherboard following the directions from the case and motherboard. This sounds harder than it really is.
- Once you have all wiring installed, use cable wraps to clean up the installation.
Congratulations, you have built a computer. Now, connect the power supply to the wall, your keyboard and mouse to the PC, and your monitor to the machine.
Install your OS and you are all set.