What do you need to build your own custom computer? Here are ten steps to building the best custom computer:
Pick Your Processor
Select The Motherboard
Choose Your Case & Power Supply
Decide On Components (memory, video cards, etc.)
Prepare Your Workspace
Build Your Computer
Power On & Test
Install The Operating System
Install Updated Drivers
Install Your Applications & Software
Choose Your Processor & Motherboard
You should choose the best processor and motherboard you can afford. We build a lot of computers for Digital Marketing Agencies… One of our clients Local Search Technologies in Peoria Arizona tells us the main component they look at first when determining a new pc build is the Processor or CPU. The processor you choose will ultimately determine which motherboards you can pick from. Motherboard electronics are restricted to using only specific processors that are designed to work with them. For instance: Socket A, Socket 939, Socket 940, Socket AM2, Socket AM2+, and AM3 are designed to work with AMD Athlon & Phenom processors; while Socket 478, LGA socket 775, and the new LGA1366 are for Intel processors. Shopping online at computer hardware stores is the best source for motherboard bundles consisting of a processor, motherboard electronics, and memory; this can be a good way to save some cash, and make the selection & compatibility process much easier.
Remember when shopping for motherboards to pay close attention to the computer hardware peripherals you intend on using with your custom computer system. The chipset of the motherboard determines which integrated components (graphics, sound, Ethernet, etc.) are included on your motherboard. Typically integrated graphics aren’t as good as dedicated video cards, they’re usually OK for simple office tasks (anyone wanting to play games, perform desktop publishing, or use the computer for home theater should purchase a separate video card for these tasks).
Choosing The Best Computer Case & Power Supply
The plethora of custom computer cases is amazing, with hundreds of shapes, sizes, and styles available. I recommend that you closely examine the features of any computer case your thinking about purchasing. Some awesome looking PC cases are a real pain to work with, and sometimes are low quality.
I also recommend you look for cases that don’t require the use of hand tools. These “tool-less” cases are usually of the best quality, and don’t require much prior computer building experience to upgrade or replace parts. Most cases and motherboards use the ATX form factor, standardizing the sizes of the components and all of the power connections. Be sure to pick the correct motherboard for your case.
The right custom computer case can make working with your system a dream, but picking the wrong one will make it a nightmare. Though there are plenty of computer cases plus the power supply for less than $50, it is highly recommended that you spend more to acquire a case that has a high quality power supply, can be worked on without the use of hand tools, allows for multiple upgrades over time, and still looks attractive on the outside.
The vast majority of motherboards and computer cases are designed for the ATX form factor. It’s critical that your motherboard match the form factor of your case. Be aware of the fact that other standards do exist and are available. Pay close attention and note the form factor when buying your case. It’s imperative that the motherboard can be secured to the case correctly.
The best looking case may not be worth it if installing your computer components becomes a hassle. Be sure to purchase a case with helpful features. Removable motherboard trays, tool-less drive carriers, and multiple fan locations for cooling the system, are a few things to look for in your new case. Cooling is one of the most critical aspects to the long term health of your PC. Be sure your case has several locations to mount fans. Look for the best computer case you can afford and you won’t regret it.
Cheaper cases will often come with cheaper power supplies that may not be able to power a high-end, custom computer. Some of the more expensive cases don’t come with a power supply at all. This can be a good thing because it lets you choose your own. If you install a lot of new components inside your PC, you may overtax your power supply. So before you buy a power supply, make sure you get one designed to handle all of the components you plan on building your computer with.
Some computer cases are sold with a preinstalled power supply, examine it closely – your computer’s power requirements may exceed the wattage capacity of the preinstalled supply. You can use this recommended wattage guide to help you determine the power supply you will need for your custom computer system.
Component Wattage Required:
Motherboard 15-30 watts
Low-End CPU 20-50 watts
Mid To High-End CPU 40-100 watts
RAM 7 watts per 128MB of memory
PCI Add-In Card 5 watts
Low To Mid-Range Video Card 20-60 watts
High-End Video Card 60-100 watts
IDE Hard Drive 10-30 watts
Optical Drives 10-25 watts
You may need to purchase a higher output power supply for your new custom PC. Also remember the air flow, your power supply provides a great deal of system cooling and ventilation! Try to get the best power supply that meets your computer system’s wattage requirements.
Install As Much Memory As You Can Afford
Today’s computer systems can perform a wide array of tasks, but these applications require more memory then they did just 2-3 years ago. With more demanding software being run on your computer, you will need more system memory to keep your computer performing at optimal levels.
Upgrading a PC’s RAM is one of the most effective computer hardware upgrades possible. This upgrade procedure will help your computer keep more programs open, accelerate graphics programs and games dramatically, while also increasing your computer’s responsiveness.
The memory modules most computer systems accept are:
184-pin DDR2 DIMMs
The type of memory you buy depends on the motherboard you choose. For best results, choose the fastest type of memory module that works with your motherboards electronics. Install 2GB – 4GB for the best performance with today’s operating systems (Windows XP can only utilize about 3GB of system memory, whereas Windows Vista and Windows 7 can manage much more memory). Always look for the best computer memory your motherboard is compatible with.
This concludes Part 1 of this walkthrough guide. Part 2 will discuss the necessary preparations needed to begin building the best custom computer. Finally you will be given a step-by-step approach to building your own custom computer system.
Jason Ballard is an IT professional with over 15 years experience supporting corporate networks, servers, desktops, laptop computers, and custom computers . The author is a certified professional with Microsoft and has other leading industry certifications such as A+, Network +, Dell, and HP. Jason is also an entrepreneur and currently operates a computer service from his home known as PC Pal.
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