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How-To Build a Computer [Page: 1 of 2] (TTID #309)

Author:   Views: 7,209 /  Created: August 2, 2003
* republished with permission from

Author: Michael Larabel
Editor: Adam Kadzban


In this guide I will cover how to build your very own computer from scratch. First off, you may be wondering why you would want to build your own computer. Some reasons you would want to build your own computer; opposed to just going to the local computer store and purchasing one; is that with building your own computer, you can design it specifically for your needs – so you only have the items on the system you will want. Another reason would be that building your own computer should save some money. Thirdly, building your own computer should provide you with some more knowledge on how all the components work, so if you ever encounter a problem with your system you should be able to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it. Although there are many advantages to building your computer one big disadvantage is that with a home built computer you do not have access to the technical support that you would if you bought a brand name computer. Well its time to get building so read on if you’re up to the challenge of building your own computer.

Choosing the correct parts:

When building your own computer you will need to choose all the parts to use before you build it. First, look around at eXtreme Reviews for recommendations on computer components so you will have an idea of what parts to use and what not to use. Secondly, read the components specifications to make sure they are compatible with each other. Thirdly, purchase all the parts (one site I recommend for looking at and purchasing your computer components is Below is a list of the necessary parts that you will need to make your computer work.

1. Case: Back a few years ago all cases used to be pretty much the same style and beige color but now there are many different varieties of cases that range in size, color, windows, number of drive bays and slots, case material and more. One thing to remember is how many CD, DVD, floppy and hard drives you will be having in your computer. Make sure your case can cope with it, make sure your case is ATX compatible since most motherboards and computer components are ATX, and also make sure you have enough PCI slots in the back of your computer for however many PCI slots you have on your motherboard. Now you will need to look around and find a computer case that fits your needs and is in your price range since cases can range in price from $35 - $350. (Note: Some cases include a power supply unit if your case comes with a power supply unit you may skip over the power unit on the list of things you need to build your computer)

2. Power Supply Unit: The power supply unit is often one of the most overlooked piece when building your computer. It is crucial to have a rock solid power supply unit since the power supply unit converts the electricity coming from your outlet in the wall from AC (Alternating Current) to a DC (Direct Current) and the power supply unit is what you connect to all of your components. Some brands I recommend that you look at for a power supply unit are Antec or Enermax. Make sure that your power supply unit has at least 350 watts but if you’re going to be shoving lots of extra components into the computer get a 400 or even 500 watt one. Also, make sure your power supply unite has enough connectors to connect all of your devices. Power supply units will range in price from $30 - $150.

3. Cooling: You will want to have good cooling with your computer since an excessive amount of heat can cause damage and premature failure to your system. When looking at cooling you’ll see things from fans to water cooling. Make sure you have a minimum of 2 fans in your computer and a heatsink for the processor (If you buy your processor retail and not OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] a heatsink should be included). If you have some extra money you wish to spend on cooling you may want to look at water cooling which will keep your computer components very cool. Cooling components can range from $10 – $400 depending on what type of cooling you are going to get.

4. Keyboards and Mouse: When looking at keyboards and mice look for ones that you feel comfortable using and that are ergonomic. A laser mouse is a must, because it is more accurate than the old mice that had balls. While looking at keyboards look for keyboards with some additional features – you may like such as extra programmable buttons and volume control. A keyboard and mouse should only set you back $50-120 for both if you choose to buy wireless or optical.

5. Monitor: There are many types of monitors on the market from 15+ inches, LCD and CRT, color, and more. Look for a monitor where you can see the things displayed on the monitor clearly and should be at least 17 inches. If you are going to be doing lots of gaming or editing on this computer I would recommend for you a CRT monitor since some LCD monitors can have some latency problems. A monitor will cost usually between $100 and $300.

6. Processor: You will need to decide if you want an AMD or Intel processor, what speed processor, and what speed front side bus. If you are looking for an Intel Processor you should look for a processor which is 2.4-GHz with a 533 MHz or 800-MHz bus speed. A retail CPU is a CPU that includes a heatsink with fan and instructions but are generally a bit more expensive then OEM processors that usually just include the processor itself (a heatsink with a fan for your processor is a MUST). Processors range in price from $120 - $500.

7. Memory: In your new computer you will want at least 256MB of memory if not 512MB. Look at DDR (Double Data Rate) RAM, as DDR ram is faster then SD (Single Data) RAM.

8. Floppy disk drive: Floppy disk drives are becoming rather obsolete but it is still good in-case you have to transfer small files between work and home or if you need to make a boot disk. The only thing you really have to look for in a floppy drive is its color, to make sure the color goes along with your case. A floppy drive should only cost between $10 - $20.

9. Hard Drives: You will want to find a hard drive at least 20GB and at least 7200RPM. Buy as big of a hard drive as you can afford. If you buy a Serial-ATA hard drive make sure your motherboard can support it. Hard drives generally cost between $40 and $250.

10. CD-RW drive: A CD-RW is becoming a necessity in computers these days. You will want to buy the fastest CD-RW as you can afford. Prices for CD-RW drives generally range from $20-150

11. DVD or DVD-RW Drive: If you are into video editing you will want a DVD-RW so you can record your movies to DVD and play in most DVD players. Or if you are just into watching movies in your computer you can get just a DVD-ROM drive. Prices usually range from $30-90.

12. Graphics Card: A high-end graphics card is crucial if you are going to be doing any 3D graphics or gaming. You will want at least 64MB of RAM on your graphics card. Graphics Cards generally range in price from $50-$400.

13. Network Interface Card: If you’re on a Local Area Network with other computers in your household or if you have a DSL or cable Internet connection a network interface card is crucial. Network Interface Cards are pretty simple to choose from you just need to decode between a 10/100 and a 10/100/1000 network card and if there’s any other features you may want like “wake on LAN”. Network Interface cards are generally $5 - $50.

14. Modem: If you are connected to the internet on a dial up connection and don’t already have a modem you will need to purchase a modem. Modems are generally $20-50.

15. Motherboard: You will want to find a motherboard that supports the processor, memory and all the other components you chose. You will also want to make sure there’s also room on the motherboard so you can have an easier upgrade when you decide its time to upgrade components in your computer. You will want to stay away from purchasing a motherboard that has an on board graphics card because it will be harder for you to upgrade and doesn’t have as good of graphics as an AGP based graphics card.

16. Operating System: An operating system (OS) is also a necessity for your computer. You can choose between a Linux based operating system or a Microsoft based operating system. If you are looking at a Microsoft based operating system look at Windows XP home or professional edition and if you would like to go with a Linux based operating system I recommend looking at Red Hat Linux 9. Operating systems are free (some versions of Linux) - $200 (Windows XP Professional edition).

17. External Peripherals: This includes any extra hardware you may consider buying, such as printers, scanners, web cams, microphones and others. Depending on your budget and needs, u may spend between $50 - $300 on these items.

After you have chosen all your parts and made sure they are compatible with each other purchase them and get ready to build!

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