Building your very own personal computer (PC) is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. Though that might sound like hyperbole, putting together your own system, troubleshooting it, and marvelling at the finished product is quite rewarding. If this is your first time, you may not know about all of the separate components you need for a PC.
There is a range of components that create your PC. It’s not just about the Central Processing Unit (CPU), hard drive, or RAM. You also need to pick out the perfect range of pieces to give you the best value for money.
You’ll need a copy of Windows
Unless you’re into Linux, you’re going to need your very own copy of Windows 10. You’ll be able to pick up a copy from most PC shops. Generally, you’re only going to need Windows 10 Home and not Windows 10 Pro, which is almost double the price.
You may have also heard about 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) operating systems. With Windows 10, it comes with both versions, but be sure to install 64-bit. The biggest difference, as long as first time PC builders are concerned, is that the 64-bit version supports more Random Access Memory (RAM), over 4GB, which will allow you to build far more powerful PCs.
The CPU: the heart of your PC
Think of the CPU as your computer’s brain. The faster and more powerful your CPU, the better your system. Just be aware that CPU prices increase astronomically for higher-end/faster models. You’re going to need to do a bit of research on whether you want an AMD on Intel CPU – these are the only two manufacturers of PC CPUs. Both have their pros and cons to them, which either side’s fans will vehemently defend.
When choosing a CPU, be sure to note what socket it’s using – that’s the physical underside of the component. Not all CPUs are made identical and every few years there’s a new socket revision that will only work with new motherboards. Trying to use an incompatible CPU and motherboard can result in both pieces breaking, which will void any warranties.
Your motherboard is the heart of your PC
Knowing which CPU socket you need is important in choosing a motherboard. These come in all shapes and sizes, literally. Some may have four SATA (hard drive) ports, while others only have two, as an example. When building your system, you’ll more than likely look at the mATX (micro) and ATX (standard) sized motherboards.
An important factor to be aware of with the motherboard is which RAM speeds it supports, and what type. Also, the number of slots it has for graphics cards.
Your computer’s RAM
RAM is an essential piece of your PC build. In fact, you cannot have enough RAM, but you can always have too little. The more RAM you have, the more applications you can run at a time, and the more you’ll get out of your system. If you’re using Photoshop and editing high-resolution images, the program is going to use a lot of RAM, for example.
Though many pre-built home computers will come with 4GB of RAM, rather look at getting 8GB instead. Also, if your motherboard only has two or four RAM slots, try not to fill all of them the first time. If the system has two slots, get a single stick of 8GB of RAM. If you’re building a home PC, you’ll also want the fastest RAM available with the lowest latency, or the time it takes for data to travel between the RAM and your system.
Hard drives for storage
The hard drive (HDD) has expanded exponentially over the past few years. Depending on how many applications you want to install on your hard drive, or games, or movies you want to keep, you’re going to need a lot of space.
The recommended build for a PC is having both a Solid State Drive (SSD) and HDD in the system. The SSD, which is much faster than an HDD, but more expensive, is where Windows and most of your applications will be installed. This will ensure a faster boot time as well as faster program launches. The HDD is where all of your other files, like music and movies, will sit as they don’t require speed.
The graphics card
For those of you looking to build a gaming PC, you’ll want to pay special attention to the graphics card. If you’re not going to game, then you can mostly ignore this part as most CPUs and motherboards will have basic graphic output options.
Like CPUs, there are only two manufacturers of graphics cards: ATi and Nvidia. And like CPUs, both have camps that will argue for and against them. Be sure to get the best card you can afford now so that you won’t need to upgrade it for a while.
The optical drive
Unfortunately, you’re going to need to purchase an optical drive, whether it be for DVDs or Blu-rays. While technology is moving away from this now archaic storage medium, with Windows becoming a system that downloads everything you need, the operating system and drivers for your components will still arrive on discs. You can always borrow an optical drive from a friend, setup your PC, and then give it back.
The power supply
Of course, you’re going to need a power supply (PSU) to house all of your components. This is mostly standard stuff, but just be sure to check voltages current, and exactly what components the power supply will support. If you are unsure of what you’ll need, there are a range of PSU online calculators. Be aware the PSUs do degrade slightly each year, so get something with some extra wattage.
The chassis, or PC case
And, finally, the PC case, or chassis, where all of your components will be housed. This is what you’ll see every time you look at your system. When looking for a case, be sure it can take the size of your motherboard as well as all of your components and has enough bays for hard drives. Also, don’t splash out on the cheapest case you can find as you get what you pay for.
That’s all you’ll need to build a PC. While it looks like a lot of different items, it all actually makes a lot of sense.