Build a PC
Building your own PC, whether it be for gaming, media creation, or another market has seen a steady increase in popularity as the overall price of hardware has stabilized. Many see it as intimidating, difficult, expensive, even dangerous, but building a gaming PC is most definitely a good investment.
There are many advantages to building your own PC, namely:
- No pre-packaged bloatware slowing you down.
- Hardware is overall a lot cheaper than prebuilt computers
- Purchase the hardware that you want, not what the vendor wants you to purchase.
- Easier and often cheaper to upgrade in the future.
- No included Operating System. Choose one according to your needs.
- Improved reliability - system vendors often cheap out on things like power supplies or system cooling to increase their profit margins. Since you're sourcing everything yourself, you can make sure every part is high quality.
- Customization - enthusiast cases come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, and many have large side-panel windows for showing off your rig. LED-lit fans, cold-cathode lights and UV reactive cable sleeving let you add light and color.
- With a PC you build yourself, you know every component in the computer. That can make troubleshooting and identifying problems easier.
- Assurance that you know every part is installed to your specifications...since you did the work yourself.
- Total system control. Unlike name brand PCs, there are no restrictions on how you set up your computer (other than OS restrictions), and you don't have to worry about voiding your warranty.
However, with anything there will always be a downside:
- No one warranty covers your computer. Warranties cover individual parts, and some will last longer than others.
- It will take time to construct, and if rushed can lead to complications, and possibly destroyed hardware if you have not connected it correctly.
- If you are not wise with your hardware purchases, you can create hardware bottlenecks - basically, money wasted as the computer cannot run all hardware optimally.
- No included Operating System. If you buy OEM then you must provide your own vendor support.
- A lot of researching and comparing needs to be done before buying parts, to ensure compatibility and optimal function. This can be intimidating and time consuming.
- Hardware installation must be done correctly or damage to the computer/components will result with having to troubleshoot the hardware. PC building requires some knowledge of both components and correct installation methods to avoid this.
- Limited technical support. If you are building your own computer, you are the manufacturer, there is no tech support for home-made computers outside of volunteer forums and support for individual hardware components and software. You are responsible for all maintenance, driver upgrades, and software installation.
- No included software. Like the OS, you have to provide every program you want on the computer for yourself.
Buying The Parts
When it comes to building your own computer, there are a multitude of parts available. If you haven't quite settled on a price range or don't know exactly what parts you want to buy, there are many guides available to help you choose your parts.
Th !e.FaLconO6 consistently updates an extremely useful and intuitive guide to building a computer on a budget. Includes manufacturer recommendations and price-based bracketing.
ZDNet puts together a bimonthly list of current parts.
PCWorld has posted a similar guide.
Tom's Hardware has combined benchmarks on the latest hardware, allowing you to better compare different parts.
Graphics Card Hierarchy has the Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart, News, and Reviews of Graphics Cards
WePC offers a number of builds from budget to mid-range to high-end alongside silent and streaming builds. All builds are frequently renewed based on the industry's latest developments and hardware, price changes, and component shortage. Within each guide, you will find upgrade paths, game compatibility and testimonials to support you purchasing decisions
It can also behoove you to look at the best selling items in each parts category on Newegg to see what other people are buying.
One final thing you want to do when using any of these resources is to shop around. Use these as a starting board, and don't treat them as the be all end all of kits. In looking at alternatives, you may find one that is slightly cheaper or suits you better.
Also try and purchase the parts from as few shops as possible as this will cut down on delivery costs as some online stores will deliver to you for free if you spend a certain amount with them.
While not guaranteed to have the lowest prices all the time, these sites are popular with the PC building crowd:
Building A Silent PC
When purchasing parts for your new PC you may want to consider the option to make it silent.
In a normal gaming PC the CPU, GPU, power supply, and sometimes sections of the case can have their own fan. This may be fine in a regular gaming PC, but multiple fans in a computer can lead to too much noise. Thus, there are special considerations that can be made in an effort to reduce noise.
Liquid cooling is the best way to both keep components cool and silent. There exist kits that allow you to liquid cool the CPU and GPU simultaneously. Motherboards and RAM can also be cooled with water but are uncommon. This can greatly reduce the number of fans running in a PC at a given time. Another option is to create a waterproof case and submerge the whole system in [ mineral oil] or [ vegetable oil].
The makers of such liquid cooling kits include:
Something to keep in mind when buying parts is "bottlenecking". Essentially, this is the fact that the slowest part of your computer will affect the speed of everything else. If you spend the money on a fast CPU and good RAM, but get a cheap graphics card, your computer will run poorly. Make sure all the parts you get are up to speed with each other, or your money will be wasted.
This section isn't meant to be a comprehensive install guide for newbies, you can find those farther down the page. This is a list of things to watch out for; steps the guides often skip or gloss over, and things to watch out for.
- Plan out your build before you begin. Once you've assembled a parts list, make sure you know the following for each item:
- How much space it will take up in the case, and what mounting fixtures it needs (if any).
- How much power it will need to run.
- How much cooling, if any, it needs.
- Look for reviews of the hardware you're planning to buy, both professional and user-generated. Read them carefully; look for hidden problems or conflicts.
- Seriously consider budgeting for a good uninterruptible power supply (UPS), they can save you all sorts of grief. If your budget is very tight, get a good surge protector at the very least.
- Read the manuals before you begin.
- No, seriously, read them. You'll avoid a lot of stupid mistakes—and possibly burnt-out hardware.
- Don't do the assembly when you're rushed, exhausted, stressed out or distracted. Definitely don't do it while drunk or stoned; you need a working brain for this.
- Keep pets, small children, clumsy/drunken roommates and other potential hazards out of the room while you do this.
- Small furry animals are a double hazard—they're naturally curious, and their fur can build up hardware-killing zaps of static electricity.
- Avoid clothing made of wool, polyester, or other static-building fabrics while assembling your PC.
- Ensure that you discharge any static you may have built up before touching any computer component. Grounding yourself or using an anti-static wristband will help with this.
- Do not work in an area filled with pet hair or tobacco smoke.
- Make sure you have the proper tools before you begin. Basic kit includes:
- #1 Phillips-head screwdriver
- anti-static wristband or table mat
- needlenose pliers or a similar tool for retrieving dropped screws from tight places
- bowls or empty egg carton for holding on to loose screws.
- If a part isn't going in the way it should, stop and look carefully; don't force it. If you force a part into place, you will break something, guaranteed. (Especially true when installing the cpu, which requires zero force)
- If your system won't power on, doesn't display a boot screen, or otherwise balks, don't panic. Strip the system back to the bare minimum components and try again.
- Try assembling the most important parts together (motherboard, CPU & its stock cooler, GPU, PSU) to ensure these components work. You can assemble this on the motherboard box, and tracing power wires accordingly. 9 times out of 10 the motherboard will come with a speaker that can be attached on the Speaker nub on the motherboard itself. This speaker will make a beep sound, yielding a successful boot. To turn on the entire system you'll need to nudge the Power nub on the motherboard with a screwdriver. To turn it off just nudge it again.
Setup and OS Install
- Keep your motherboard manual handy as you proceed, it will answer all kinds of questions.
- If you're going with Windows, make sure your copy is genuine. The money you save won't be worth the grief you get later on.
- If at all possible, have a laptop or second computer nearby with an internet connection; a timely web search can save you hours of frustrating trial-and-error.
- Update your drivers ASAP. Windows might find drivers for your hardware, but they are often either old or generic. Once windows is completely set up, install the latest drivers for your hardware from the manufacturer's website. This will make sure your system is running at full capacity. Also use Windows update to ensure all of the current fixes are applied to your computer, as well as ensure that you have the latest Windows Service Pack. Other OSes usually have a similar update feature.
- For modern operating systems, it is recommended, but not required, that you have internet access during the installation. This will allow the computer to preload OS updates, however it will increase the installation time greatly.
- For most modern OS configurations, the default setup is simple and generic enough to cover most computers. If you have unusual hardware, or desire advanced hard drive partitioning, or plan to dualboot on a single hard drive, you will have to use the advanced setup options.
PC Building Help
Hardware Revolution - A good site for finding a range of options for your build—from economy, to mid level, to beastly machines that will require a second mortgage. You can build a PC based just off of their suggestions with no compatibility issues.
Tom's Hardware - All manner of hardware reviews.
Ars Technica - A cheeky little video series on building your machine.
PC Perspective Hardware Leaderboard - helpful resource for getting the best parts for the money; updated constantly as new products are released.
NewEgg - NewEgg is great for finding good deals for computer parts.
PCPartPicker - Great to help you list the parts you're considering and then allows you to solicit feedback.
eXtreme Power Supply Calculator - Handy tool for making sure you don't under- or over-provision the power supply for your planned system.
Pangoly - Useful service that allows you to create and share custom builds starting from your preferred budget. Also PC build guidelines are available.
WePC - Product reviews, buying guides, how-to guides, tips & tricks and all the latest news around hardware and video game releases.
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