Do you remember when you were a kid, tearing things apart to figure out how they work? Well, this Lazy Old Geek does. I was a Nerd before I became a Geek. Actually, I still tear things apart to see how they work.
Now that I'm older, I thought, how about figuring out how some thing works by putting it together. And I am talking about a computer.
Now there are a lot of good Instructables on how to build a computer.
But perusing through them, I noticed a topic that is not covered very well: component selection, choosing parts that will work together. So I will guide you in the selection process and hopefully give you some insight on how computers work. Even if you don't want to build a PC, someday you might want to fix or upgrade your PC. This Instructable should help you do that also.
Skip this: Since you are reading this, I assume that you are fairly knowledgeable in using a computer. But what do you do if/when your computer stops working. Well, I know many of you have a GoTo guy/gal that you call up to fix it. Well, this GoTo person is probably a GEEK. So do you want to become a GEEK? No, I don't think so. But maybe you would like to communicate better with your GEEK.
Totally Irrelevant: GoTo is also a programming command that was often in early versions of Basic. In early computing days, there was a big division between Basic programmers and C programmers. C programmers always thought Basic programmers weren't really computer programmers because they used the 'GoTo' statement. There is a little bit of truth to that. I've always been more of a Basic programmer, than a C or C++ programmer.
So why build your own PC? Here are some of my excuses, uh, reasons:
Save money. The truth is I don’t really need a new PC.
Design it the way I want it.
Put in expandability/upgradeability that I might want.
Challenge to see if I could do it.
No bloatware (probably). Bloatware is all the free software most manufacturers put on their production PCs that’s hard to get rid of.
Out of boredom.
Incompatibility. I will try to address mostly of these issues.
What if it doesn’t work?
So here is my list of essential components:
A phillips screwdriver
Willingness to learn
If you read through all of this Instructable, you may not believe it but most of these components are standardized. Motherboards come in a few standardized sizes and layouts. Memory modules for desktops are the same size and fit in the same sockets. Power supplies are physically about the same size and have standard mounting holes. Hard drives and DVD players fit into a couple of different standard slots and have only a couple of different interfaces. Power supplies have pretty much standard connectors.
Step 1: CPU Selection
The CPU (Central Processing Unit) or microprocessor is the brains of any computer. See Computers Are Dumb
ASIDE: IMHO most of the high end computers systems/components are driven by gamers. Well, I play games on my PC; well actually I play ‘Spider Solitaire’ so I’m not really a gamer. ‘Spider Solitaire’ plays almost as well on an old XP as my new Sandy Bridge. I do use ExtremeTech.com which is pretty much tech for gamers and GEEKs.
TIP: I made all of my computer part purchases from Newegg.com. They seem to have pretty good prices especially with E-blast and Shell shocker deals. I also usually read the reader reviews before buying. Newegg’s descriptions are much better and more complete than Amazon.com.
AMD vs Intel
Many of you know these are the two big microprocessor (CPU) manufacturers. They are pretty much your only choices. There is no best choice. It depends on your needs, funds and preferences.
Aside: There also used to be two big video card makers, ATI and Nvidia. AMD bought out ATI. So now there is AMD and Nvidia. Now Intel is also trying to get into the video market so the whole industry is a bit muddled.
Some people say AMD has better bang for the buck (performance/price). And their current processors should be compatible with most AMD motherboards. This makes upgrading CPUs easier.
Intel processors are generally faster processors. The thing I hate is that there are so many different types and different sockets they plug into which means you may have to replace your motherboard if you upgrade your CPU.
Step 1: Choose your CPU manufacturer: AMD or Intel
Step 2: Choose the CPU model
These choices should be made:
What you are going to be using your computer for, now and in the near future
Are you a gamer, do you just surf the Internet, will it be used for business, are you into photo/video editing; are you a Geek?
I chose Intel. Some of the current types are Pentium, dual core, i-series first generation and i-series second generation. If you want a Pentium or dual core, I would suggest you just buy a completed PC system.
Confusion: What I call the i-series are i3, i5 and i7. Here is where it gets more confusing. This year, Intel came out with 2nd Generation which is still i3, i5 and i7 but not compatible. These are generally known as Sandy Bridge. Sandy Bridge is defined as a processor microarchitecture which gave me a headache trying to figure out. Sandy Bridge includes integrated graphics/video. Besides the i5, there is some more numbers which identify processor speed.
CPU Sockets: All CPUs are installed in a socket on the motherboard. The reason this is important is that each CPU will not fit into any socket. The first Intel i-series used LGA1156 and LGA 1366 sockets. The 2nd Generation uses LGA 1155 sockets. AMDs have different sockets.
Bottom Line: Once you choose a CPU, find out what socket it uses.
I chose the Intel i5-2500K. The 2 in 2500 means it is 2nd Generation. The K means it can be overclocked. That means the speed of the processor can be raised above standard values. This CPU uses the LGA 1155 socket.
CPU fans: Most CPUs come with a heat sink and fan. CPUs do so much work they generate a lot of heat. The top of the CPU is metal. a good heat conductor. The heat sink is pressed against this with thermal compound which helps transfer the heat from the CPU to the heat sink. The fan dissipates the heat from the heat sink. The stock heat sink/fans are adequate for most users. For extreme uses, there are higher performing add-on cooling fans that cool much better than stock fans. Some are even liquid cooled. (See pictures)