Malice's Guide to Building a Custom PC

Discussion in 'Tech & Support' started by Malice, Jan 11, 2006.

  1. Malice

    Malice BMFH

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    New and Improved! Building a New Computer

    Building a new computer today, trully is not that hard. You simply need to be organized, and then the hardest part, is physically putting the whole thing together.

    Please note, I know computers, but when it comes to the intimate knowledge of individual PC parts, I am not as knowledgable as others.

    PLEASE MAKE COMMENTS...IF YOU HAVE A BENEFICIAL COMMENT I WILL EDIT THIS GUIDE TO INCLUDE YOUR COMMENTS.

    STEP 1 - "What will this computer be used for?"
    This can be a hugely complicated question to something really simple. Answers could range from, sending and receiveing emails to playing games. This question once answered drives what you really need in your computer.
    Here are a few answers to the question, and what they would need:

    playing games - Needs memory, hard drive and good 3d video card
    browsing the web - basic pc will suffice
    compsing music - needs memory, fast hard drive and good motherboard with bus speed
    creating art - Needs memory, hard drive and good 3d video card
    spreadsheets/word documents - basic pc will suffice

    That is just a small list of some of the most common items I have heard.

    STEP 2 - "What is the MAXIMUM and PREFERRED amount you wish to spend?"
    I say both, because some people can never determine between preferred and max prices. You simply need to financially decide on a ROUGH price. It will always fluctuate due to the market.

    STEP 3 - "Find the parts!"
    This is the most time consuming process. For ease, I will break this down into sections.
    First we have the REQUIRED components section. This section is what is required in a STANDARD PC build today.
    Second we have the OPTIONAL components section, these are things not what I would require in a STANDARD PC today.

    (remember, some of these components you may not even need in your pc, then some might want located in the OPTIONAL
    hardware.)


    Each hardware component is separated into four sub-sections, Technical, Financial, Personal and Overall.
    Technical explains the differences in differences you see in different types of hardware.
    Financial is the guage of the financial take, things that up the price, what models are cheaper, things like that.
    Personal is simply my personal take, just what I have observed from personal use in the past.
    Overall is my complete overall thoughts on what is needed for a average PC.

    REQUIRED COMPONENTS
    1) Case
    Technical
    There are THOUSANDS of cases out on the market. Basically picking a case is like picking a paint job for the car.

    The internals of the case can be customized, but you need to be happy with the outside. Do you want a clear (see through) case or one that is a solid color, or even ones with neon colors. This is ALL personal taste. This can take you forever to pick because there are now so many on the market. Make note of the FORM FACTOR for the case, because this is
    required when making the pick of the Motherboard, they must match. This FORM Factor dictates the type of Motherboard you can have, so you may have to pick the Motherboard and Case at the same time. You also need to note if this case has a Power Supply included. Some do. Note how many watts it is, some included with PC's tend to be baseline, thus may not support allot of hardware in the PC.

    Financial
    The simple cases of course will cost you almost nothing at all, you can get them for around $30 or so. A good Aluminum case which is what I reccommend, will cost you from $50 to $150. Depends on the bells and whistles you want on it. The cases with neon lights and things like that, which I honestly have no experience in, can cost from $75 to $250.

    Personal
    I personally am one who does NOT care to see the internals of my PC. Cases collect dust. If I see the internals, I will see the thousands of Dust Bunnys waiting to clog my system. I simply dont wanna see it. I am one who doesnt care. I bought for my last PC a simple tower case in Black Aluminum. Black, because I like the color, Aluminum since it helps disappate heat better then steal or plastic.

    Overall
    A descent case will cost you $50 to $100 if its not "bundled with other hardware."


    2) Motherboard
    Technical
    There are many different types of motherboards.
    First we need to determine the FORM FACTOR (its the general design as to what kind of CASE that the board fits in). You need to find the motherboard you like in the same form factor the case you picked above. Make note, many boards now come with alot of different hardware built onto the motherboard. The hardware you frequesntly see built on-board are as follows: Modems, Sound Cards, Network Cards, RAID Capability and Video Cards. Most manufacturers now, have builting the BIOS the ability to turn each piece of hardware off, thus making it easier to replace them.

    Financial
    Motherboards truly can vary in price. Again, just like the car comparison, you can spend just a few dollars, and you will get a few for it. They can range from like $30 to $500 depending on what you get on the board. Most likely you as the "power gamer" will prolly be needing one that is arond the $150 mark. (or more).

    Personal
    The last PC I built was an ABIT motherboard with Sound/Network/Video and RAID capabilities built-in. I used the Sound Card, since I am not using it for a huge surround sound system. Two speakers are just fine for me. Having a builtin network card is also, nice, so I used it as well. I disabled the Video Card since 90% of Video Cards that are built onto motherboards are not 3D graphics cards thus not able to play modern games. The RAID capability I disabled since I am currently not needing it. I have used a few boards from different Manufacturers, here are my personal thoughts:
    PCchips - avoid like the plaugue (I have personal experience here)
    ABIT - good
    ASUS - good
    There are many websites out there for motherboard reviews.

    Overall
    I would imagine for the average gamer or simple power user, you will spend about $150 and get the Motherboard with the integrated Sound and Network, the other options you will most likely purchase separately as cards. The cost for your motherboard allows you a good processor and the possibility to upgrade later.


    3) Processor
    Technical
    You generally have two brands, Intel or AMD. I am not going into the difference here, but I will speak in generalities. AMD TENDS to be cheaper than Intel, but AMD processors tend to run hotter than Intel processors (thus meaning you need to make sure you have adequet fan circulation in the 5th section, Fans). You need to find out what processor SOCKET your motherboard supports and up to what speed. Then once you know that (from section 2 above) this will eliminate a good portion of the processors, thus leaving you with a smaller more easilly manageable pick. There are two things you may with to weigh in, 64-bit architecture and cache.

    Financial
    Well, again, like every other section, it varies. Which processors are newer to the market will obviously be the most expensive. they range from $50 to $400. The usual cost for the middle of the road to slightly above average
    processor is about $150 to $200. The price jumps dramatically after these processors for those that are not very old in the market.

    Personal
    I have a few PCs at home plus my laptop which I use now while on the bus home from work. All my personal PC's have Intel Pentiums while my Laptop has a AMD 64-bit Athlon. Personally as far as they both go, I have no preference with either company. They both make good processors. I just would not reccommend purchasing the smaller processor that Intel and AMD put out (the Celeron for Intel and the Sempron for AMD). They are a little under powered even though their clock speed may be nice. They generally have almost no cache so have to wait on the motherboard alot.
    Make sure the processor you buy, fits your motherboard, and will run all your applications you want, with a little room to spare. Nowadays, if you want a gaming PC, you should get a Dual Core or Quad Core Intel Processor. AMD is a little behind in the processor market right now.

    Overall
    Dont spend your money on a brand new processor design, buy one that has been out a little while (few months). Buy the middle of the road processor, not old, not bleeding edge, but fast or cutting edge technology. This will cost you $150 to $200. Make sure to use Thermal Paste, this will help prolong processor life and dissipate heat better.


    4) Memory
    Technical
    There are again, many different manufacturers of memory out there. You need to make sure you get enough to support what you are planning on doing with this new PC plus more. Basically, with memory, the more the better. Granted, I am not saying buy 4GB of RAM for a PC to only be used for mail. 1GB of RAM should suffice for all but the MOST intrusive applications and uses. (Windows XP only recognizes 2GB, so if you are to run XP, dont get more than 2GB)

    Financial
    1GB of RAM wil cost you about $75 to $100 depending on the brand and where you get it.

    Personal
    The new laptop I got, has 1GB of RAM. If I was going to build a desktop now, I would put in 1GB of RAM with the ability to upgrade it to at least 2GB later on. If you are running windows DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES have less than 512MB of RAM.

    Overall
    I would reccommend at this time, for any person to get 1GB of RAM if they have XP and dont play games, or get 2GB of RAM if they have XP and do play games. If you have VISTA, I would reccommend a base of 2GB of RAM to start with.


    5) Fan(s)
    Technical
    I included this hardware component because processors at the point in time are getting so hot, you really need to be dilligent on a good cooling system for the processor itself and then possibly another for the PC. You need at least TWO fans nowadays. One fan sits in the back of the case that expels the hot air from the PC. The other is the one that is placed directly on the processor to keep it cool. This is EXTREMELY important since a bad fan can alow the processor to overheat and burn out, thus making you have to purchase another one. You might even want to add a third fan that PULLS air into the case.

    Financial
    Fans are pretty much required these days. But I must say, you can get away with a GOOD fan for about $20.

    Personal
    My personal take on this one is dont skimp. Get a good one. You dont need to get the one that will cool down the sun, but a good one will keep your processor/computer around longer to use.

    Overall
    A good fan, by a company like ThermalTake is somewhere around $15-$30.


    6) Power Supply
    Technical
    Power Supplies come in all sizes and makes. The generic power supply is usually a 300 or 350 watt supply.

    Financial
    Power Supplys can cost anywhere from $15 to $50. The middle of the road one will most likely cost about $30.

    Personal
    I must confess, I am not the guru in this subject. I would imagine a good middle of the road Power Supply is what is usually needed. No need to get a huge powersupply since it will simply cost you more money in the long run by electricty used.

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    7) Video Card
    Technical
    Video Cards, or Graphics Cards are some of the most heated conversations online. Some of these cards now are so powerful now, they have their own fans built directly onto them to keep them cool. A Graphics Card now has a builtin processor that handles all graphics mathimatical functions, so your computer processor does not have to. Video Cards also, have onboard memory on them as well. This memory that is built on the card, assists in the card processing the graphics as fast as possible, thus alleviating the computer processor and RAM for other tasks, non-graphics related. There are a few companies that make the cards but the big ones are ATI and Matrox. Make sure any card optained has enough RAM to support your use. Thus if you play ALOT of modern games, one with quite a bit of RAM (256MB or even 512MB might be needed). But if you dont play much in the way of games, you might be able to get by with a slightly smaller 64MB card.

    Financial
    Video Cards have a HUGE variance in cost. Smal ones can cost you $30 to $50 then up to the extremely powerful top of the line cards that can (I kid you not) cost you $500 to $600.

    Personal
    I have used ATI cards for years. They have a good stability history with me. I say got with a good ATI card that suits your price.

    Overall
    I would recommend getting yourself a card that falls right around $175 mark. Unless you absolutely need the extra power.


    8) Hard Drive
    Technical
    There are numerous manufacturers of Hard Drives, the big ones are Western Digital, Seagate and Maxtor. There are two basic factors to a Hard Drive. Speed and Size. The speed is actually the RPMs (Revolutions per Minute) at which the magnetic disk spins. The faster the better response time you get. Granted the faster you get, the more heat that builds up. Then there is Size. Size is how much data in GB the drive stores. Drives now go from 40GB basically to 500GB. The avarage person should not ever need more than about 40 to 60GB.

    Financial
    Drives are cheap these days. Buying online, you can purchase a 250GB drive online for about $100-$125. A good 60GB will cost you about $50 online if not less.

    Personal
    I would reccommend spending to get the 7200 RPM drive if you can, it helps speed up reads to the drive. Dont get a 200GB drive, if you honestly dont think you are going to use it. Its just excess cost.

    Overall
    Hard Drives are one of those pieces of hardware you can increase without a HUGE increase in price. As you can see by the finnacial section, there is not a huge increase from a 60GB to a 250GB. Basically for 4times the size it only costs 2 to 3 times the cost. Get one you know you can use, with some space to spare. A good 60GB or 80GB usualy will suffice for most people.


    9) Optical Drive
    Technical
    CD drives are dead, just get a DVD drive. Get a burner if you want to burn 4.7GB or more to a DVD.

    Personal
    As far as I can personally say, since they are so cheap, buy one, it breaks, put in another.

    Financial
    CHEAP! Get one for about $15 to $30 or so.

    Overall
    Dont bother getting a CD drive anymore. Simply get a DVD drive.


    10) Keyboard
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    11) Mouse
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    12) Monitor
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    13) Cables
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    OPTIONAL COMPONENTS
    1) Network Card
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    2) Modem
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    3) Sound Card
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    4) Scanner
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    5) Printer
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    6) USB Hub
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****


    7) Floppy Drive
    Technical
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Personal
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Financial
    *****MORE TO COME*****

    Overall
    *****MORE TO COME*****
     
  2. Malice

    Malice BMFH

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    I decided to post what I had since I am going on a 4 day vacation....
    This way people can make comments, point out typos, or corrections I need to make.
    Etc...
    Thoughts everyone?
     
  3. War Lord

    War Lord Registered

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    It's great, thanks.

    I hope that this thread never gets deleted.
     
  4. DOG LIPS

    DOG LIPS El Señor Presidente

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    Close/Delete/Ban






    I keeed I keeed!! Seriously though, I had a friend build my computer for me. I've learned a lot since then, but at the time I was computer-******ed. We went down to ACS and he bought every piece needed and put it all together for me. I don't talk to him anymore so this thread will be very helpful when needed, and I'm sure many people will benefit from some sound advice. :up::up:
     
  5. BAH HUMBBUG!

    BAH HUMBBUG! There's an invisible man

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    Will this list be able to say compose a computer for two or three uses? Say gamming, and composing/creating music or movies?

    So if I wanted I could just go through the list and combine the required parts for what I would need for both uses and build a PC that way, or would you need to create a few topics a little more specific or talored?
     
  6. Malice

    Malice BMFH

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    Yes you could....
    My topic will point out what you must have, and help guide you a little...
     
  7. Odin's Lapdog

    Odin's Lapdog Registered

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    HOw long would it take a novice on average to put together their own pc provided they have all the necessary parts and tools for assembly?
     
  8. Malice

    Malice BMFH

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    Assuming a novice is staring at all the parts...

    Honestly, with a good Phillips head screwdriver, I would estimate about 1 hour to assemble it.

    Then of course about 30 minutes after you put it together, you realize you made a mistake and will have to open the case to change a jumper on the hard drive. (I do everytime)

    Honestly, I would say probably about a little less than two hours after a few tweaks to the BIOS might be needed before you can actually start installing an Operating System.
     
  9. BAH HUMBBUG!

    BAH HUMBBUG! There's an invisible man

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    Sweet :up:
     
  10. black_dust

    black_dust FrEaK-A-ZoId!!!

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    Your not kidding! i do it everytime i bulid one :( my goal in life is to have it all dont in one go ;)

    Yeah then the OS and software + updates takes another 4 hours!!! :down
     
  11. TNC9852002

    TNC9852002 Banned User

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    Yeah...I hear the average time for beginners is around 4-6 hours total..

    Lookinh good so far, Malice!..I'll make sure I read all of it when I get a chance!

    -TNC
     
  12. Odin's Lapdog

    Odin's Lapdog Registered

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    heh, for some reason i always thought something like that would take days to put into place,

    although it may do for me, some flat pack furniture i have seems to have taken me a long time to put together so a computer is definitely not going to be any easier...

    :(
     
  13. Malice

    Malice BMFH

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    Well, I may honsestly underestimate the time it takes. It might take someone who has never built a pc 2 hours...I have done it a few times, so I am a little biased at times...
     
  14. Cobblepot

    Cobblepot Giant-Size Man-Thing

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    Malice, couple of things.

    Why do you prefer to choose a mobo first and then the CPU?
    IMO it's wiser to first choose your CPU (based on price/performance) and than find the best affordable motherboard for it.
    Currently for a game PC, I would recommend a AMD XP 64 Cpu. These processors beat the gaming benchmarks with Intel's.
    Get an Intel CPU if you're into graphic design / video editing.
    AMD 64 processors offer Cool & quiet, this comes in handy for saving money (on your electric bill) and your CPU cooler
    will run slower, making less noise.
    Voor an Internet/office PC I would recommend a Sempron or Celeron Processors.

    Internal memory.
    Make sure you get the right kind of memory (DDR, DDR2 etc) and the right ammount, in short:
    256 (bare minimum for a smooth running low-end pc)
    512 (basic amount, you can do a fair amount of gaming aswell, no next gen games!)
    1024 (beter for gaming and general)
    2046 or 2 gig (Best voor gaming and video processing)

    If your CPU has the ability to use dual memory, make sure you use it. It will give your Pc a performance boost.

    For a game PC the most important thing after CPU and internal memory, is the grapics or video card.
    If you wan't to know waht's the best video card for your buck.
    Look voor benchmarks.
    you can find these on www.guru3d.com and Tom's hardware guide.
    Currently there are two big companies, competing for your money. Nvidia and ATi.
    The amount of memory on a graphics card does not say anything about the speed of the card!!
    Some cards with for example 128mb run faster than cards with 256mb, this is because of the speeds (the less ms the better)
    of it.
    Mostly it's just a marketing trick.
     
  15. War Lord

    War Lord Registered

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    I bought a Black Raidmax Scorpio-868W Mid-tower ATX P4 Computer Case, Side Window, Front USB, w/ 420W Power Supply, which may prove underpowered by the time I get the computer built and want to know whether I can increase the power supply later or if I'm stuck with what I have?
     
  16. black_dust

    black_dust FrEaK-A-ZoId!!!

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    420W is enough power, to run a butt load things in a pc, if you do which to change it in the future (which you shouldn`t need to) its easy, just unplug it from the motherboard unscrew it and wack the new one in :D
     
  17. War Lord

    War Lord Registered

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    :up:

    I asked, because I'm purposely taking my time in building it for the simple reason of a lack of cash and the fact that I'm building it for the sake of learning how to build one.
     
  18. Edward Brock

    Edward Brock Registered

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    Excelent thread. :up:
    You could also address other types of optional components like gamepads, steering wheels, etc. A small paragraph on the upcoming physics cards wouldn't hurt either.
     
  19. HerosOnFilm

    HerosOnFilm Registered

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    TNC, when are you going to build yours? Or are you still on the fence about building one? I think a couple hours is realistic (before you install Windows). Sometimes you have to be a contortionist or have midget hands to make connections inside the case, but all in all,it's not too bad.
     
  20. Edward Brock

    Edward Brock Registered

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    Installing CPU fans can be a nightmare. I know that.
     
  21. black_dust

    black_dust FrEaK-A-ZoId!!!

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    those clips are fiddley as hell :) haha, i had a great fan, only problem it tripped out my power supply after a few hours :O
     
  22. Danger Mouse

    Danger Mouse Kitchen Appliance

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    I love custom-made PCs. All of my computers, at home or at work, are custom-made.

    Fortunately for me, though, that there are tons of vendors around here that specialises in custom-made PC. All I needed to do was give them what I want to the very detail, and then get them to look for the components and put them together. They'd charge a nominal fee of about US$10 for the installation.

    So, yeah, while I know quite a bit about components and customisation to get the maximum performance for what I need my computer for, I really don't know how to place the motherboard and the CPU and the cables together. Installing peripherals and even the HDD is a very simple matter, though.

    Very cool thread. Extremely informative. I could learn a few things here. :up:
     
  23. Cobblepot

    Cobblepot Giant-Size Man-Thing

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    Easiest thing ever, even with 2 right hands.
     
  24. Danger Mouse

    Danger Mouse Kitchen Appliance

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    Then I guess I have 2 left ones. :)
     
  25. Edward Brock

    Edward Brock Registered

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    Nothing too shabby. They usually come with some pretty indept manuals and even if they don't, there's always the Internet. It's pretty simple, really.
     

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