Or maybe you are an amateur photographer/video editor. As you move your clips of video around, your computer freezes and takes forever to process your command.
Sure, you could go out and buy a powerful pre-built machine that is expensive forces you to buy things you don't need, or you could make a powerful computer yourself and design it according to your needs and save cash!
This guide will teach you how to build a computer that can run Mass Effect 2 or Crysis on Very High settings with 16X Anti aliasing and full water effects, or edit High Definition video as if you were editing a text document.
This project can take a long time. Deciding what parts to buy and learning about those parts is not difficult to do, but it is a timely endeavor. Don't let this scare you away! This is an incredibly fulfilling and learning experience that anyone can do given enough time!
Step 1: Basic Components
Here is a brief description of the basic parts every descent computer needs.
Motherboard - This is the 'nervous system' of your PC. It not only communicates with all devices in your computer, but also allows different devices to communicate with each.
Compatibility- The type of motherboard you get will determine what technology goes into your computer. Your motherboard must be compatible with everything that goes into your computer. It must support the processor, graphics card, operating system, hard drive, CD drive, and RAM you chose.
Processor (Central Processing Unit, or CPU)- A processor does nothing but make calculations, so faster the processor, the faster your programs will run.
Compatibility- Processor technology progresses at a great rate; new socket types of processor cores are being created all the time. Some processors are only compatible with certain types of RAM and motherboards, so take great care when choosing your processor.
Cooling Fan- Lastly, every processor comes with a cooling fan. While a processor is running, it generates far more heat that it can dissipate by itself. With the aid of a cooling fan, the processor can stay cool and continue to complete calculations.
Graphics Card (Graphics Processing Unit or GPU)- A GPU is a processor that is specialized to calculate the position of points in a program and translate that into an image on the screen. If you want things to look beautiful and smooth on your computer, then you need a good graphics card.
Quality- If you are building a computer for the best video editing, 3D modeling or gaming, then you need a very high powered graphics card, such as this one. However, better graphics cards come out every quarter, so even if you buy the best one on the market now it will be average in a year. Unless you need to play the most taxing game on a computer, buy a graphics card that is high quality but not necessarily the top-of-the-line.
Power- Graphics cards draw a LOT of power, so it is very important that you purchase a power supply that can feed the card the energy it needs. Newegg will list a card's estimated power requirement.
Compatibility- Make sure the motherboard you buy has the correct port you need (PCI, PCI Express, etc.). If it does not then you need to find a new card or motherboard.
RAM (Random Access Memory)- This is the "short-term" memory for your processor. It stores data that is relevant to a processor's task in a series of cells. After the data is used, the cells are erased and ready to receive more information.
How much?- The more RAM you have, the faster your processor will be able to calculate. 3 X 2GB means the package contains three 2GB sticks of RAM for a total of 6GB. Today, 4GB is a good standard for a high powered machine.
Compatibility- As of right now the standard form of RAM is 240-pin SDRAM DDR3, though there are a few others, such as 240-pin SDRAM DDR2, and 184-pin DDR SDRAM. Your motherboard will dictate which type of RAM you buy, because motherboards only support one type of RAM.
Hard Drive- This device is the "long-term" memory of your computer. It holds every type of file you have on your computer, such as Program Files, Documents, Pictures, and Music. Therefore, it is important to consider
Quality- Get a high quality hard drive (i.e. one that people have rated highly). If a hard drive dies, you may not be able to recover your data.
Size- Today, a 500 GB hard drive is very cheap. Unless you are downloading a lot of movies and music, you shouldn't need anything bigger than this.
SATA- To make life easy, buy a hard drive that uses SATA. This interfaces with nearly any motherboard and is incredibly convenient.
Disk Drive - These are becoming used less and less now that nearly all software can be found online. However, a CD drive is necessary for installing drivers and your operating system.
CD/DVD- CD drives can read CD's. DVD drives can read CD's and DVD's. DVD technology is replacing CD's, so buy a DVD player.
Burn Capability- Burning CD's and DVD's is very useful if you are video editing or need to move large amounts of files on disks. However, be aware that CD burners do not burn DVD's and DVD burners do not always burn CD's.
SATA- For the same reasons as the hard drive, purchase a disk drive that runs with SATA
Power Supply- In order to get power from the wall, your computer needs a power supply, which divides the power from the wall into safe, usable outlets. If you plan your computer correctly, you can avoid spending too much on a power supply that is too powerful.
Output- Useful power supplies range from 500W to over 1000W. Generally, the two things that will affect your need for power are your processor and graphics card. Both of these will have estimates on their box tell you how much power they draw.
Computer Case- This is the metal box that holds your computer within it. There are several things to consider when choosing a case:
Price- Do not make the case very expensive; all it does is hold a computer.
Number of Fans- A case that only comes with 2 fans and no other places to put purchased fans is not a good buy. Instead, find a case that either comes with or has places for many fans.
Size- There are several sizes of motherboards, but desktops usually have an ATX motherboard ( there is also the MicroATX). In addition to different motherboards, there are different sized cases to consider as well. A larger case will allow for bigger, better components and better cooling.
Looks- Do not get an ugly case! The case is all you will get to see! Get something that you like (I recommend one with a side window so you can see inside the case).
Required Tools- There are a number of tool-less cases on the market, which make assembly a piece of cake. If you can find a large, tool-less case with many fans that looks good, get it.
Operating System- You need this to run programs on your computer. There are two options for the newer computer builder: Microsoft Windows (Easiest), and Ubuntu. The operating system package contains an installation disk that contain instructions on how to install it.
Compatibility- As with all components, ensure that the operating system is compatible with your motherboard. Call the manufacturer if compatibility is not obvious. Also, If you have more than 3GB of RAM, than you need to get a 64-bit operating system (rather than 32-bit). 32-bit operating systems can only handle a little over 3 GB of RAM, so any extra bytes of RAM you have will go to waste.
Other- This includes a keyboard, screen, mouse, and speakers, etc. You can also find these on Newegg, or you can just use old ones.
Do not be worried if you frequently change your components. Every component is dependent on several others, so it will take time and effort to end up with the machine of your dreams.