How to build your own computer

A free tutorial for a low cost solution for a new computer

So you want another computer, or maybe you’ve just thought about getting a new one? The kids are fighting over who’s turn it is to use the PC, maybe your current computer is getting a tad bit too slow, or perhaps you’d just like to start your own home network, or expand it for that matter. Well here you’ll learn how you can build your own computer in easy to follow step-by-step instructions. I’d personally suggest that you review all of the information here thoroughly. Let it sink into you, and then, once you feel ready, take out your checkbook, get yourself a screwdriver and have some fun!

1. Deciding what type of system you really want or need

Before you go ahead and start building your computer, you should have a good idea what you will use this new PC for. Will it be:

  • To use for work? In this case, you probably won’t need such fantastic hardware, unless your work requires you to use some extensive software, such has 3D graphics, video and graphics, programming, CAD/CAM, etc.
  • To play video games with? If you want to build a new PC geared for video games, then you’ll probably want to get some of the latest new hardware, so you can really enjoy all the new 3d technology now featured in today’s video games.
  • Just to surf the web with? If you only want a machine that you can use to surf the web, use e-mail and chat, then you can rest assured that you won’t really need all that much expensive hardware.
  • Just an overall system? Most cases often than not, this are the system people want. Just a computer that can perform a whole variety of tasks, without being too slow, and without being too expensive.
  • Do you want power computer? One thing is for sure; these types of machines are great fun, yet they tend to be quite expensive.

You might also want to go ahead and look around at the parts at some computer shops or grab a flyer from your local area. Take a look at the deals. You may want to wait until you spot a really good deal on parts before starting to build your system, or you can also get the parts as they come out on special. Of course, there is nothing wrong about shopping online for your parts either. You can often find some good deals, when you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for shipping.

In the end, what’s the most important is that you shop around. Don’t let the fancy ads make you dish out your credit card or checkbook right away. Find out if other stores have something similar or even the same product for cheaper. Another thing, if you want to save money, don’t always go for the best brand name, yet don’t go for the cheapest item on the shelf either. Low priced items might look nice in the box, but once there in your computer, you can really start regretting it.

2. What exactly you need to buy

Out of all the steps outlined in this how to build your own computer guide, this is the one I dislike the most. Why? Well, just about every time I go out and get the parts I need to build a new PC, I tend to come back empty pocketed. At least there’s something to show for it after it’s all done though.

Anyhow, here is the grand list of stuff you will need, not need, avoid, and watch out for:

The basic parts you will need to build a computer. These are: the Computer Case (make sure you get one that has a power supply), the Motherboard, the CPU, some Ram, a Hard drive, a Floppy disk drive , a Monitor, a Video card , a Keyboard and a Mouse.

Casing will usually cost you (when not on sale) between RM80 to RM200 (and up). RM200 are being those big fancy black cases. Note that these prices are with the power supply already included. Strip out the power supply, and a case will cost you between RM40 to RM70. Computer cases come in two flavors: AT and ATX. The difference for these two is simply the power supply. You will see that when you buy your motherboard, you have the option of getting an AT or ATX motherboard. Just make sure you get the right one that fits with the power supply of your computer case.

The AT cases are really fine, and they are much cheaper (so are the AT motherboards), and you can still build a very reliable system.

The next thing you will be faced with when buying your case, is the size. Keep in mind that bigger is not really better. You can get a full size tower, and pay a fortune, and never end up filling up all of the available space. Basically you will want a full size tower for a server of some sort. For basic home computing needs, you should simply go with a mini tower, or a medium sized tower case if you plan to add allot of extras into your system. Also, you may be tempted to get one of the fancy non-gray cases, but consider the price difference and try to judge for yourself if a fancy computer case (which might or not might be ever seen by anyone) is really worth it.

Motherboard is by far the most important ingredient for building your own computer system, which is why it’s very important that you get the right one. In general, a normal motherboard for regular home based usage shouldn’t cost you more than RM170, and that’s a high price. Sure there are some boards out there that will retail for RM300 to RM1200, but do you really need these? More than likely, the answer is no.

So what exactly do you have to look for in a motherboard? For starters you have to get either an AT board or ATX board, depending on the power supply you have (see computer case above).

Next you will have to decide what kind of “horse power” you want your board to have. They’re a bunch of options in motherboards, which I’ll try to cover:

  1. Supported bus speed. Your board’s bus speeds is sort of how fast data is moved around throughout your board. The minimum bus speeds you want for your motherboard will be 800MHz, anything less would be insanely slow. You may consider getting a 1333MHz one, but these tend to be slightly more expensive, yet it is worth the extra money.
  2. Supported CPU. Now this is really important. What type of CPU do you want? A very expensive CPU, like the Quad Core, or the new AMD? Maybe something less expensive but with power, like the Core 2 Duo? Although the above 3 CPU’s are really great, unless you have allot of extra money, go with the Duo Core, or better yet, go with the bargain CPU’s, like the Intel Celeron. Both of are really great CPU’s and aren’t really expensive (around RM120 to RM220). Whatever you do plan on getting, I advise you to stick to the above list. At the worst, you can always get a regular Intel Celeron (usually less than RM120), but don’t expect these to hold out to long with all the new software available today.
  3. RAM Sockets. RAM (random access memory) is another important thing for your computer. Without it, you won’t really get far. Nowadays you should only consider a motherboard that can support Dual Channel RAM with 667MHz and above. This type of RAM is cheaper, and much faster than its antiquated ancestor, DDR RAM on 400MHz only.
  4. AGP, PCIE, PCI. These are the slots available for the various cards you will be putting into your computer, such as video cards, sound cards, modems, etc. If you’re looking to be using allot of video and 3D games, then make sure the board you will get has a PCIE slot. PCIE video cards are really great for video, since they deliver the best speeds. Now about PCI … since most cards being built today are PCI (modems, network cards, video, sound, etc.) you may want to get a board that has more PCI slots.
  5. In built sound and video. Motherboards with inbuilt sound and video may seem to be a great bargain, but once you hear, and see these add-ons, more than likely you will be disappointed. Unless you really don’t care about great sound and video (such as for a computer for regular web use, or basic work) go ahead and get this type of board. If you do care about sound and video, stay clear away from these.
  6. USB or no USB. USB is a really great feature you may want to have for your computer. It’s basically “real” plug and play. In most cases it won’t really cost you so much extra to have a board with USB. Unless you think you’ll never get yourself a USB device (keep in mind that just about every type of peripheral coming out now works with USB), then you won’t need this feature.

Well that’s about all the really important stuff for a motherboard. I didn’t mention anything about SCSI, because SCSI costs much more money. Another thing is getting an extended warranty on your motherboard. Usually not all that expensive, it might be worth to get. If your motherboard ever dies on you, you’ll be happy you got that extended warranty.

So, do you think it does allot of stuff to consider? Of course it is! Yet it’s all worth to study. Remember, your motherboard is VERY important, so make sure you choose your board carefully. (Look for those specials and clearances!).

Processor. The mighty CPU is the brainpower behind your entire computer. What to get? There are so many choices! Well here are a few things that should help you choose the right CPU.

For one, stick only to Intel and AMD. Both produce fantastic CPU’s, and both have a wide selection.

You should stick to Intel, if you want efficient, compatible and powerful processing power. You may be tempted to get the Quad Core, but these are really expensive. If you wait a few months you can get these for cheaper. Your best buy with Intel would be a Duo Core (preferred for applications) or a Core 2 Duo (preferred for video games). As for the speed of these CPU’s, 1.6GHz should be the minimum you’d want.

Also, before buying the CPU, find out what Bus frequency the CPU can support (1066MHz or 1333MHz). Getting a CPU that supports a higher frequency will drastically affect the overall speed of your new computer.

RAM. Getting RAM is pretty simple. Like I mentioned above in the motherboard section, you’ll only want to get DDR II RAM. I won’t get into the really technical aspects of RAM but I will explain the three main types of RAM you can buy.

The first types are of course the best. They are usually priced higher (RM10 to RM20 higher than the second type), you do get the performance for your money. You usually also get a lifetime warranty when you get this type of RAM.

The second type, are pretty much average. They perform very well, but you’ll usually only get a 1 year warranty on these. If you don’t want to pay that extra money for “the best brand”, then get the second type of RAM. More than likely it won’t ever fail on you.

The third type is the evil OEM brand, or better yet, the no name brand. Whatever you do, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT get fooled into buying this brand of RAM. It can be really attractive (price wise) but performance, compatibility, and warranty – just simply not worth the trouble of testing and returning it to the store.

Next, you have to decide how much RAM you’ll need. To be quite honest, 512MB of RAM should be the minimum to consider (not recommended). If you need something better, consider getting 1GB (my own personal minimum recommendation), or even 2GB (which is really great). Now if you want POWER, then just buy yourself 2 1GB DDR II 667MHz or 800MHz RAM.

Hard Drive. What’s really great about these is that nowadays you can get large drives for really low prices. If you shop around, you can easily get an 80GB hard drive for RM135 or under (these prices keep on going down all the time).

As your shopping for a hard drive, you’ll probably see a whole bunch of different brands. After all, the data on your hard drive is very important, and loosing it is not an option. So spending an extra RM10 for the good brand name is essential when it comes to hard drives.

Monitor. Out of all the items listed, the monitor will probably cost you the most (if you buy LCD). There isn’t much I can really recommend for monitors, except make sure you get something with a warranty.

If you really want to get fancy (and spend allot more money) you can get the LCD monitors. Also, if you’re like me and you have your eyes glued to your computer monitor for long periods of time, consider getting a LCD monitor. These run for about RM450 to RM1600. If you still have good eyesight, then I suggest you get one of these before you go blind ;-). Besides that, you can save a lot of space!

Graphic Card. Another main essential part of your computer system, the video card is a must. Without it (unless you have video inbuilt on your motherboard) you won’t really be able to use your newly built PC.

Now the tough question is what type of video card you need.

  1. 128MB 64Bits PCIE video card. This is your basic card (which I personally refer to as obsolete). While you won’t really feel much power if you work with graphics, and you really won’t be able to play allot of the newer graphical intense video games, a 128MB PCIE video card is perfect for just regular Internet usage and application and light games and other low graphic usage software. They are also really cheap.
  2. 256MB 128Bits PCIE video card. This is your better alternative to enhanced graphic usage and video gaming. These cards perform quite well for graphic work and can really stand up within video games.
  3. 512MB 256Bits PCIE video card. These types of cards are slowly becoming the standard in all newer computers now. Basically this is what you need if you want to experience video gaming and enhanced video and graphical work. Unfortunately the price tag for these types of cards is rarely under RM 300

Keyboard & Mouse. This is really a no “brainer” category. You should just get a regular keyboard, and not worry about the fancy keyboards or wireless.

If you’re building a new computer for your kids, you may want to get one of those keyboards made just for kids. They’re really great and easy to use for the younger child.

As for the mouse, stick with optical mouse. You don’t need to spend RM100 on a mouse. RM15 to RM30 should get you something good, solid and with a good looks.

Optical Drive. It’s quite simple. Don’t get anything less than a 52x speed drive, and don’t get the bargain DVD drives if your kid’s use the computer allot. Also, you may consider getting yourself a DVD-Writer.

So that’s about everything you really need to know about what to buy! Click here for some QuadTech package.

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