This is the first part of a series on how to build your own computer. If you can handle a screwdriver and follow directions, almost the same as Ikea, you should be able to cobble together your own computer in a relatively short period of time. The computer I am writing this on is about four months old and was painstakingly assembled in a few hours. Things don’t always go smoothly, however. Asus ran into a problem with the USB ports on the original motherboard, forcing me to disassemble then reassemble it when the new motherboard came in. Sure, it was a pain but I learned to develop some speed in the assembly the second time around!
These days, you really only need to buy a few parts. Most of the new motherboards already have just about everything built into the board itself. In this post I will tell you what you need, using this computer as an example.
1. Motherboard/CPU combination – I chose Asus as a manufacturer based on my past experience with another Asus board. For the CPU, I chose Intel simply because they have a brand new set of processors with four cores and they also have a good reputation. For my use, four cores are overkill, most of the time anyway, but the price was right. The Asus motherboard came with just about everything that I needed already on it. There were three video outs which would support two monitors, a sound card built-in plus networking and a slew of USB connectors. I also use Firewire for video captures and there is a connector for that. Sure, the video isn’t for gamers but I was able to use the computer for a couple of months just as it was. I installed a video card recently but only because I wanted to play Far Cry.
2. Case/Power Supply combination – I like a tower case, as opposed to a small form factor case where you have to squeeze everything in. For the Power Supply (PSU), I chose a Corsair 600W model. Corsair has a great name and a good warranty. The case is an Antek unit, based on price and ease of construction. It looks pretty mean, all black with a nice grill on the front. Make sure you have a PSU that supports your power requirements. 600W is pretty medium now, some factory built units come with much smaller PSUs that crap out way before you want them to. Consider 750W or 1000W if you are a hardcore gamer and want to use the latest, greatest video cards and hard drives.
3. RAM – I chose Mushkin based on price and reviews. For my rig I figured 8 gigabytes of RAM (memory) was fine. I use Windows 7 Ultimate and I never notice a slowdown, no matter how many programs I have open. Consider 8 a minimum.
4. Optical Drive (DVD/CD writer) – A basic (non-Blu Ray) unit, a Samsung Writemaster fills the bill nicely. I may go for a Blu Ray later on but this is fine for now.
5. Hard Drive – For this, I chose a Western Digital ‘green’ 2 TB drive. WD has a good reputation and a good warranty. In the past, I’ve used Hitachi and Samsung but lately I’ve been using WD. Since I have lots of room in the case, I am using several hard drives. The WD 2TB, a WD 1.5 TB, a Kingston SSD that was an experiment, and a 1 TB WD 7200 RPM ‘black’ drive. At some point in the near future, I will re-install Windows and use the 1 TB black drive as a boot drive.
6. Keyboard/Mouse combination – I have keyboards in abundance and didn’t have to buy one. Same thing for a mouse. Depending on your needs, get a combination that suits your lifestyle. Wireless is nice but not necessary for me. There are also some pretty fancy mice out there, check them out if you’re a gamer.
7. Monitors – I had two nice Dell monitors so I didn’t need to buy them. My working model is a 22″ LCD, nothing fancy and my other one is a 20″ Dell. I use the 20″ for my TV watching, using a Hauppauge 1600 HD tuner card.
8. Cooling unit – The Intel CPU came with a cooler already but I chose to change it up with a Coolermaster Hyper 212 unit. It installed much faster than the Intel factory unit which proved to be cheap and really wonky to figure out. $19 was cheap for a much better unit from Coolermaster.
That’s it. Next time I’ll tell you how to put it all together.
TIP: All the bits and pieces came from NCIX, the best of the best. NCIX is a one-stop, no worry place to buy computer parts and electronics online. They have bricks and mortar stores, too. Full of helpful tips and tricks, these guys are the best. Did I already say that? (Choose your country: U.S. or Canada.)
Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter : @_BrianMahoney