Thursday, November 10, 2011

Building Your Own PC

Something you might not know about me:

Over a decade ago, before I started employment at the legal & finance publisher I work for today, I used to be an editorial assistant on 3 national tech magazines: the now defunct Computer Buyer's Guide and PC Upgrade magazines, as well as their sister publication, Laptop Magazine, which still enjoys success today. I was just out of college at the time and, up until that point, had only Mac experience with personal computing. But I learned a lot working on these publications, including the rudiments of building my own Windows-based PC.

Thing is, I've never actually done the deed before. Not on my own dime and in my own space. Also, it's been so many years since I've thought about doing so that the technology has gone up and changed itself in myriad and exciting ways since. To be sure, at its heart building a PC is still the same. You still need the basic components: motherboard (pictured above), CPU, RAM, GPU, hard drive, power supply, heat sink fan, and chassis. Except, of course, nowadays everything is more robust, faster, and way sexier than back in 1999!

Now, I'm not writing this to announce that I will be building my own PC. It's tempting, sure, but after recently ridding my nearly 8-yr old PC of a nasty rootkit takeover and ironing out some other minor issues, it's still running strong. At the time I purchased it back in early 2004, I had customized it with future-proofing in mind, so I'm not quite ready yet to take the plunge and actually attempt to build a new one myself.

However, that time may be coming soon. Maybe within a year, even. In the meantime, I thought I'd post up here on this blog a few really cool resources for the budding new PC builder. It's really not that difficult, but help is always welcome.

And to my friend, Rodney, who may be reading this: no, this is not in response to your recent blog update wherein you state your intent to build your own system. I already know you know what you're doing. This help is more for the novice, in which group I still include myself.

Part of why I'm putting up these resources is to help any of my readers who may be thinking of taking the plunge, but whom also find the whole idea of doing something so "techy" as building your own computer a bit daunting. And the other reason is so that I have a helpful repository that is easy to come back to for my own purposes, should I go this route later next year.

When it comes to building your own machine, as a n00b I can't really recommend a better source of enlightenment than It's a great site not only for learning how to properly go about constructing your own computer, but also to purchase the component parts you'll need in such an endeavor. There are other sites out there for this, true. But for ease of use and understanding, I'll stick with Newegg for now.

Newegg also has a convenient video channel you can subscribe to on YouTube, with all sorts of helpful tutorials and showcases for new technology. But I'm going to post up links to 4 videos from the channel that I found to be particularly useful for the purposes of this entry today.

First off:

The title is self-explanatory, but I recommend everyone watch this before attempting to build a PC from scratch. And while this video covers the building of a gaming machine, you can use these general tips when constructing any PC. Even if all you intend to use it for is low-key stuff like web browsing, MS Office, and the occasional movie.

Next up, a 3-part series that really goes in depth as to how to go about getting the deed done:

The first video goes over the list of parts you'll be needing, as well as a general overview of what to expect in this undertaking.

The second video covers the actual installation (note: he's constructing two separate PCs here; one is a higher budgeted machine for performance-minded builders).

The third video covers the software side of things: most importantly the installation of your new PC's OS.

When watching these helpful videos, you'll be prompted to visit Newegg's forums for additional help, or for confirming your parts checklist/compatibility with those in the know. This is a site I would really take advantage of if I were you.

Another helpful place is NeoGAF's open forum thread on building a new PC. Things get a bit nerdy and technical in there, but it's a great resource if you find yourself stuck, or if you encounter problems with your setup.

Lastly, I wanted to post up this helpful chart that's constantly being updated here. I found this chart to be immensely useful. Especially if you have a set budget, or if you know that you want a "good" PC but not necessarily a kick-ass "great" power machine. This guide helps you decide the parts you'll be needing for any of the pre-determined configurations listed. The components are not set in stone, though. This is just a general guide to give you an idea of what you might want, or of what's compatible with what.

And there you have it. Easy, peasy! Personally, I don't believe that this process is beyond anyone reading this to undertake. You save more money for the value you are getting than if you purchased your PC already configured from a 3rd-party vendor. I'm not knocking the 3rd-party vendors, mind you, since I've used them a lot in the past myself and appreciate the convenience. But if you're the type who likes to get things done with your hands, and you have the finances and time to try something new -- then why the hell not do it yourself, right?

Why not indeed!


The Frisky Virgin said...

Wow, thanks for this. My Dad has always been interested in building a PC. It's intriguing, but I'd probably mess it up and end up with some sarcastic, bitchy PC that flashed words like "single," "idiot," and "is that really a good color for you?" ;)

Yvonne said...

I could never build a PC. Like, never.ever.EVER! lol I admire people who do this for a living or have a desire to do it for fun.

Alittlesprite said...

We always have kick ass custom built computers, thanks to my IT Hubby :)
He's built so many over the years, he could do it in his sleep.

David Batista said...

Frisky -- You and your dad are welcome. :) And, LOL! You are too funny, you know that? Thanks for making me smile.

Yvonne -- Yeah, I admire those people too. Watching these vids have got me seriously jonesing to build a PC now. Grrr! I keep trying to hold on with my current one for as long as possible, though.

Sprite -- That is awesome! I did not know that about your hubs. Wow, you're so lucky! :)

Botanist said...

Well, the technology has changed even more since I built my first computer. I can't call it a PC, because the modern PC didn't exist then. This was back in 1979, and building really did mean building...empty circuit board, a bucketful of electrical components, and a fine-tipped soldering iron. Aah! Good times!

David Batista said...

Damn, Ian -- that's hardcore! My mind boggles at the mention of a soldering iron. I wouldn't even know how to begin!

Have you built a PC more recently? How did it go, if so?

Kim Kasch said...

My "kids" always build their own pcs - and they say they need the best video cards for their gaming. I don't know if that's true but they're always upgrading maybe this post will give them some ideas. I'll pass it on

Jennifer Hillier said...

I could never build a computer. I am so not good with stuff like this. I could decorate it beautifully... but someone else would have to build it. :)

David Batista said...

Kim -- They probably wouldn't find this helpful if they've built PCs before. Everything here is common knowledge to experienced builders. PC gamers, in particular, know a lot about this stuff since the hobby really requires that you keep abreast of all the latest upgrades coming out.

Jen -- After reading your comment in GYSC's latest update, I can bet a former aspiring makeup artist *would* want to decorate her PC. I myself would never think of such a thing (*gasp* The HORROR!), but whatever floats your boat! :)

Rodney said...

As usual, David, you present a veritable plethora of computing knowledge in nice palatable chunks! (I love commenting on your blog, I get to USE my Middlebury vocabulary!) I think you missed your calling, you should have been a teacher.

My one addition to this listing would be the following site:

How Stuff Works is great at teaching how anything operates in clear and simple terminology. For those of your readers that don't know how the underlying technology works and want to learn!

And don't knock Jen's decorative impulses! The world-wide popularity of Mac computers started with the iMac, a decent computer that LOOKED cool as opposed to the standard (at the time) eggshell chassis!

David Batista said...

That's a great link, Rodney. Thanks for putting that out there!

Oh man, I hated the iMacs when those first came out. I remember I was in charge of shipping at the magazines when the first of the review units came in and thinking: is this for real? :)

I love simple, understated cases that do more on the inside than what they look like from the outside. For instance, I'm totally in geek love with that Corsair Obsidian 650D case featured in the 3-part video series I posted above! I think that case alone is making want to just go out and splurge and build a PC right this moment.

getyourselfconnected said...

You are an genius scientist at heart! Very cool. I used to work on car engines all the time, miss it.

Antares Cryptos said...

Built a gaming one with a friend (inspired by alienware).
All I remember is how tedious the troubleshooting was, but thinking of "building" another one.

Botanist said...

Sorry David, not built one since. The complexities of modern PCs - and especially Windows - have taken all the fun out of it. Plus, I stopped being interested in such things when programming started being full time work for me. I figured you could have too much of a good thing :)

Ashe Hunt said...

Done this with friends a few times when I was in Cali. I liked it but never got around to doing it myself. Still want to though.

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