A Beginner's Guide To Building Your Own PC: The Parts

A Beginner's Guide To Building Your Own PC: The Parts

Why building a PC is a great quarantine project and is way better than buying a prebuilt one (and cheaper too!)

Everyone during the lockdown has been looking for a new hobby - something new and productive to do, something to help them get their mind off of what’s happening. And what's better than building something from scratch - that too a custom PC.

It can seem daunting and scary at first, your brain peppered with questions like which wire goes where and how to find parts that fit just right. But once you get down to it, it’s really not that complicated (read: maybe a little bit). Although it is advantageous to everyone who uses a PC, and not just gamers, there is a teeny tiny hitch - it's hard to find one single comprehensive guide that can cater to everyone's needs. The rabbit hole of DIY PC guides just gets deeper depending on what parts you have available and how/what you want your machine to be - but break the process down into a step by step, for dummies version and there might just be hope yet.

A custom built PC
A custom built PCPhoto by Derrick Brooks from Unsplash

Why build a PC and not just buy one?

Well, to start with, it’s cheaper. When you go out to a store to buy a prebuilt you pay a premium price for the brand name. Studies say that buying the same PC with the same parts can cost an extra $1000 or more. Other than this, another issue with prebuilds is you can’t always get the exact parts you need and want.

Everyone has different uses for their computer, some may be hardcore gamers who want to stream or play in the best quality possible, and others may be artists who need their PCs to support heavy-duty photo and video editing. These sometimes require different parts and if you buy a prebuild, you’re limited to what the company offers and you're not left with any power to choose.

Last but not least is the experience. It is one of the most satisfying experiences to build a PC and turn it on for the first time, feeling a kind of sense of achievement that comes from cooking a perfect sunny-side up. You look at it and go “that's my baby, I made that.”

Another upside is when your PC needs a little touch-up, you can work things around because you built it yourself so you understand your computer better and are more familiar with the parts. This leads to you figuring out what went wrong and simply order a new part and change it. This will save you hours of tedious customer service calls or the need to send it in for repairs which could possibly take a lifetime.

One of the main uses for a custom PC is video and photo editing
One of the main uses for a custom PC is video and photo editing Photo by Ryan Snaadt from Unsplash

Okay, you’re excited and you want to start but where and how do you start?

The first major step is going online (duh). Websites like PCPartPicker are probably your Bible when it comes to building PCs - you can not only buy your parts from there, but you can also see if the parts you chose work together or customize some of their examples builds to your liking.

Watching a few guides according to your needs is also recommended. This will help you further understand some of the basics - a cardinal rule is no matter what you build the PC for, you will definitely need a motherboard, CPU, RAM, Storage, and a Monitor. Whether you are an artist who will be using 3D applications or photo/video editing software or even a gamer, you will need a graphics card. This might be a lot of information right off the bat but don't worry, we got you. Here's a small breakdown of what each part does!

CPU

Considered the brains of the computer, it has a socket in the motherboard and is the single most important component. Be very delicate when handling this part because the pins can bend very easily and on the off chance that one is bent, fixing it is next to impossible and you'll probably have to buy a brand new one. Even though it's the most important part, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. For example, if you’re a gamer on a budget and want 1080p gaming, you can find some good budget options. They usually include a cooler in the box but most people recommend getting a better cooler separately.

Motherboard

This is the central hub for all your parts. Almost everything plugs into the motherboard one way or another, and this is where the different parts can communicate with each other. Motherboards aren’t universal, you can get them in different sizes depending on your requirements, and with different sockets that are divided in LGA and AM. Without getting too much into the details, these change over time to indicate which generation of CPU is compatible and whether it’s an Intel or AMD supported board. It’s crucial to know which CPU you are buying first because that lets you figure out which motherboard is compatible with your CPU.

An Intel CPU on a motherboard
An Intel CPU on a motherboardPhoto by Badar ul islam Majid from unsplash

Graphics Card

If you’re going to be gaming, video or photo editing, or even working on 3D applications, you will need a GPU. These focus on handling visual data such as gaming or rendering your video edits. It should be noted that due to COVID they will be difficult to be found at a reasonable price.

Storage

This is where all your data is saved. This is where you keep everything on your computer from games to movies, documents, photos, and the best part is, it’s expandable so you can add more storage. These come in two different major types which are Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and Solid-State Drives (SSD). HDD are cheaper with more storage but have moving parts which mean they have a higher chance of failing.

On the other hand, SSD’s have no moving parts and this makes them more reliable but more expensive. But the best part about building a PC is you can have both which is what most people do. Windows and all your important data is put on the SSD and your movies, games, etc are stored on your hard drive but it should be noted SSD’s also have better performance so running your games off this will be more advantageous!

Memory (RAM)

RAM is your short-term memory but it’s crucial because any software you open uses your RAM to temporarily store data so it can be retrieved quickly.

A built PC with RGB RAM and a NVDIA graphics card
A built PC with RGB RAM and a NVDIA graphics card Photo by Casper Camille Rubbin from Unsplash

Power Supply

This provides electricity and power to all the components. The higher and faster your components, the more power you need so keep that in mind.

Case

It’s exactly what it sounds like, it’s the box that holds all the parts. They come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, with glass panels or normal metal ones, wall-mounted or normal. It’s crucial to remember your motherboard and case should match in size - if you get a full-size motherboard and a mini case might not fit.

A fully built custom PC
A fully built custom PC Photo by Howard Bouchevereau from Unsplash

Operating System

Last but not least is an operating system, Windows or Linux are your options here, but they don’t come with any of the parts - you will have to buy a license and a USB drive to install it.

These are the main components you’ll need, I’m not going to get into how to put it together just yet, because there are thousands of build guides, and how you put it together really depends on the parts you buy.

But it’s definitely an experience everyone should go through at least once, it can be complicated the first time around but over the years manufactures have simplified the process. If you are stuck in quarantine and can’t decide on what activity to take up this time around, I definitely recommend giving building a PC a shot - we might just even release a step by step guide soon!

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