Computers are a necessity in the modern world (which you know, since you are reading this using one). Entertainment, employment, art, research, lifestyle, and so much more are handled with and by computers. The phones in our pockets are more powerful computers than people 60 years ago could have imagined. Fortunately and unfortunately we are constantly having to upgrade and replace computers fairly regularly as the tasks we require of them get more advanced.
There are many ways to buy a computer. Often it is very accessible for people to buy pre-built computers much like they buy a car by looking at the features and thinking of what they can use to get from point a to point b. Buying a computer can be much the same, however, the variety of tasks and needs in a computer means that there’s a lot more nuance to what your own computer needs to get the work done that you needed a computer for in the first place. Nowadays it is more accessible to buy the specific parts you are looking for to build your own PC than it is to buy car parts to make your own car.
Building your own computer has many advantages over purchasing a pre-built one. Mainly, building a computer makes it specialized to your own needs. You will not have to spend more than you need to so you can meet your criteria. When you buy computer parts for yourself, you have more control over how your PC can handle the tasks you are going the throw at it for work or play.
So, how do you get started? That’s what this article is here to help you figure out. Don’t be afraid to stop and look up some of the acronyms and brands here, because computer stuff was definitely named by engineers (and we love them for it).
Choosing Your Parts
Building a computer does not have to be outrageously expensive. Focus on what you will be using your computer for. A gaming PC and a workstation will require different types of components, and there are ways to save a buck with either type of build. First-time builders will likely be intimidated by picking components. They are worried about compatibility issues. They are worried about performance. They are worried about the components all fitting in the case. However, the only major compatibility issue to look out for is your motherboard and CPU.
Choosing the Motherboard and CPU
The motherboard is the frame that houses your computer parts. Think of it like an interconnected series of plugs for all the parts to connect to. Your motherboard selection should be based on a few things. Find out which CPU you want to use first. Next, find out whether you will be overclocking the CPU. Personalization may also be important to you. Motherboards come in a variety of different colors. Some motherboards even have RGB lighting on them.
If you wish to overclock your CPU you will need a motherboard that allows overclocking. Remember, every CPU under the Ryzen lineup from AMD is overclockable. Intel’s CPUs are only overclockable if they are “K” SKUs.
Choosing your RAM
RAM (Random Access Memory) is what allows your computer to manage tasks quickly. While your processor does a lot of the heavy lifting, you can think of RAM as the computer’s ability to move its attention quickly. RAM should be chosen based on which CPU you have. DDR4 RAM only works with the newest CPUs. If you are using an older CPU in your build, you may have to go with DDR3 RAM. Consult your CPU manufacturer to find out which types of RAM are supported. It will also be a good idea to pay close attention to the speed of your RAM. Some CPUs only support RAM up to a certain speed. You will be wasting money if you buy 3200 MHz RAM and your CPU only supports 2666 MHz.
Do I Need a GPU?
A GPU governs your computer’s ability to display graphics on the screen well. If you plan on building a gaming machine, then you definitely need a GPU. Depending on your computer’s needs, such as rendering art or if you plan on using it as a media device, you may need or want a good GPU even if you don’t play video games. This is often the gamer’s holy grail, however, so evaluate your need honestly when you are budgeting for this part.
Depending on the type of games you will be playing, an APU from AMD may also work, meaning you will not have to buy a GPU. However, if you purchase an “F” SKU CPU from Intel, you will always require a GPU. The “F” SKUs do not have onboard graphics, meaning you will not have a display if you do not put a GPU in your machine.
You should choose your GPU based on which CPU you have and what games you want to play. For example, do not buy a high-end GPU if you have a cheap CPU or vice-versa. Try to match the performance from each component to get the best results. Pay attention to brands of GPU that are designed specifically to work with a particular CPU and you will save yourself a lot of grief.
Choosing a Power Supply
Your power supply should be selected based on how powerful your components are. If you have a high-end GPU in your system, you will need at least a 750-watt power supply. On the flip side, if you have a GPU that pulls all its power from the PCIe slot (a slot on your motherboard), you can get away with using a power supply as low as 300 watts. Most importantly, do not cheap out on the power supply. Always buy a power supply from a recognizable brand. A faulty power supply could fry every single component in your machine.
Many CPUs come with their own cooler. However, if you will be overclocking, you will require a different cooling solution. Many people prefer to go with liquid cooling if they are overclocking because it is very efficient. However, there are a few air cooler brands available that can cool an overclocked CPU effectively. Ultimately, this decision will differ from person to person. You should pick a CPU cooler that you think looks and works great, and you should also keep the temperature and climate of your area in mind. The winter in Canada and the summer in Australia are very different, and your home’s cooling solution could be ineffective if your weather and environment factor in without your consideration.
Case and RGB
Now comes the fun part – customizing your PC’s aesthetic to your personality. Airflow should be your number one priority when it comes to a case; however, looks come in a close second. Choose a case that you will be happy with because that’s what you’ll be looking at the most. Many of today’s popular cases have a glass side panel as well. This means you will be able to see your components too.
RBG, which refers to the red, blue, and green lighting that you see on many PCs, is an important factor for many people as well. Choose as little or as much RGB lighting as you want. This is one of the easiest ways to personalize your PC.
Personalizing Your Parts
There are nearly limitless options for motherboards, RAM, GPUs, and CPU coolers. This means it will be easy to personalize a PC to your needs and wants. You could even go with an all-white build if that is your thing. With determination, research, and lots of time, you will be able to find a parts list that perfectly matches your performance needs, budget, and aesthetic wants.
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