Thomas McDevitt

building a PC for greenhorns

Having recently built a new computer without having done much computer surgery before, I thought I’d write a bit about my experience. For any who have thought of building their own machine, here’s a couple of things you might consider…

it’s not as hard as it looks

As a matter of fact, it’s deceivingly easy. Assuming the components are compatible and nothing needs to be forced into place (motherboard should fit into the case, CPU/RAM should fit into their respective sockets, etc) then the whole thing is pretty procedural. Obviously be sure to read a guide first.

it’s not always a significant monetary saving

Depending on the kind of computer you’re looking to have, there’s probably an existing build for it already out there. A reasonable gaming computer can cost £5-600 whereas top-of-the-line models are going for £2-3000. Totalling the price of the components for a computer of similar capability (as well as baseline software) can end up costing a similar amount, depending on available deals.

The benefit is in the customisation — not just in picking and choosing of components, but also in upgrading them over time. This way, we can invest heavily in components that matter for our use-case (GPU for gaming, CPU/RAM for video editing, etc) and go cheaper for less important components.

Chances are, if you’re thinking of building your own rig, you’re doing it for the extra choice. The other major benefit is that it’s obviously an excellent way to learn about computers. Speaking of which…

as far as learning experiences go, it’s a great one

Even if you have a good idea of the basic components of a computer, it’s great to get some hands-on (pun intended) experience. In learning about general PC components, there’s also some overlap with the content of CompTIA A+ which is something to think about if you’ve studied for or are thinking about going for that qualification.

if you’re thinking about trying it…

Here’s a couple of tips, most of which are obvious but I’ll state them anyway.

  • Set aside a few hours to select components and perhaps a day or so to put the thing together. YMMV depending on how much you know about it all already.
  • Check reviews for the components you’re looking at. This includes both consumer reviews (Amazon, Tiger Direct) and expert reviews (Tom’s Hardware, Tech Power Up).
  • Get up to date on component compatibility, the key ones here being the motherboard’s processor socket and what RAM it’s designed for.
  • Get an up-to-date motherboard. This is a safe bet if buying all new components to make it more future-proof when upgrading other components. If you’re harvesting components from an older machine, draft around that instead.
  • Remember to install the drivers once the OS is in place, notably the motherboard and GPU drivers.

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