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Guide: Building a PC

January 31, 2017

college student has laptop, but there are many limitations to what a laptop is capable of, such as processing power and storage space, as well as ergonomics and comfort. In these cases, a desktop is the best choice.  Desktops can be bought pre-built, or they can be purchased as individual parts. Building a PC yourself is often the best way to go because you can save money and customize your machine to fit your budget and meet all of the performance benchmarks that you need, whether it is for gaming applications, video or music recording and editing, or any other use case. It’s also a lot of fun to build your own machine to your own specifications. In this guide, I’ll discuss necessary components as well as general assembly and resources for construction of your machine, but will exclude peripherals such as monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc. The final cost of the machine will vary depending on the what components are selected based on the consumer’s needs and budget; desktops can range from $500 to $5000.

 

Case:

First and foremost, you’ll need a case to house your components. Cases are important because they house all the individual parts of your computer. It provides all the necessary mounts as well as cable management for most of your components. They are one of the cheaper parts of your machine, and can be acquired for less than $50.

 

Motherboard:

This is one of the most important pieces of your machine; the motherboard is the foundation that all of your other components operate off of. It contains all of the necessary ports and connections that your components will need to function, as well as the input/ output ports that you will use when using your computer. This is one of the more expensive components, costing around $200 for a decent model.

 

CPU:

The processor is another major part of your computer. This is essentially the “brain” of your machine, performing all the computation and processing for your computer that it needs to function properly. This another major budget hog, going for around $200. This price can vary depending on if the CPU is capable of overclocking, which is good for gaming when you want to maximize your machine’s performance.

 

Memory:

Memory is another important asset for your computer. This is the temporary form of memory, called RAM, used for storing information that your computer actively needs to run programs.

This part comes in sticks that insert directly into the motherboard, ranging from 2 to 16 gigabytes of RAM per stick. Most motherboards have four ports for memory sticks. 8 gigabytes are generally enough for most programs, but some applications can require more RAM, such as gaming or any image or video rendering software, such as Sony VEGAS or AutoCAD. Two 4 gigabyte sticks of RAM costs about $50.

 

Storage:

As opposed to RAM, your storage is where you put files you want to save permanently. There are two major types of storage drives: hard-disk, which is the traditional design, and solid state, which is the new type that offers faster, quieter operation but is much more expensive for less storage. A good option is to get a solid state drive with less space to store higher demand programs that you use frequently, and a hard drive with more space to store programs and files that aren’t accessed very often. A 250 gigabyte solid state drive will run you about $100, while a 1 terabyte hard drive will be about $50.

GPU (optional):

A graphics processor, or video card, is another component that supports the CPU and other components by handling more of the graphics related demands of gaming or video recording and editing. They come in measurements of memory, starting at 2 gigabytes, all the way to 16 gigabytes, which is for very high demand programs. A 4 gigabyte video card is about $150.

 

Cooling:

Cooling is an important part of your PC. There are two methods: air or water cooled. For low demand machines, a couple of case fans will be sufficient to keep your machine cool; however, for higher demand applications such as gaming, a CPU and GPU air-cooler or even water cooling could be necessary to maintain optimal operating temperatures.

 

Power Supply:

The final component is the power supply. This should be chosen last, after you determine the power consumption of the previous components so you can choose the proper wattage supply to power your machine adequately. A 500-watt power supply will run about $40.

 

Assembly and Setup:

This guide won’t give exact instructions on assembly, but rather some recommendations for construction. Most of the components will come with specific instructions that should be followed to ensure installation is done properly. The OS for your system will also have to be installed, so that you can use your desktop. YouTube has a ton of videos that show step-by-step how to put your machine together as well as videos for software setup and configuration.

 

Resources:

PCPartPicker.com is a website that allows you to create and save a custom PC build, enabling you to keep track of all your components, total price, part compatibility, and your power consumption for choosing a power supply. It expedites the process of building a PC enormously. LinusTechTips is a great YouTube channel for anything PC related, such as instructional build videos, product reviews, and much more.

 

Hopefully this guide was informative for those considering building a PC or introduced you to what building a PC entails. Good luck on your future builds!

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