Introduction: Guide to Making a Budget Computer.
If you clicked on this Instructable then you are probably like me. You want a somewhat low end computer to play simple games like Minecraft and Toribash on, but you dont want to spend 700 euros on a new one.
Budget computers have something magical about them. You put it together completely yourself, so you can always add, remove or change something as you wish. Its also completely customizable to your needs, both part and cost wise.
Going blindly into making a computer isn't a good idea if you've never done it before though, that's why I am here to help you choose your parts wisely, and put them together to make your very own cheap computer.
I highly recommend reading this complete instructable before planning and buying parts, unless you might just waste some of your precious money on parts that might be completely useless. I also recommend looking around your neighborhood and see if there's a computer shop that sells low end parts. Ebay or something similar is also a great source of parts, but can be more expensive because of shipping.
If you do everything well you will probably spend between 120,- and 200,- euros on this, but this is all based of of what you want and how you plan it.
TL;DR Building a budget computer can save you great amounts of money. Its also customizible to your needs and a lot of fun to make. Good sources of parts are either Ebay or a shop that sells secondhanded parts. Building a computer can cost up to 200,- euros but might cost more.
Step 1: The Motherboard.
The motherboard is the heart and soul of every computer. This will be the part that you will spend most time researching on.
You see, you can't just buy any part and expect them to work together. All of the computer parts have variants that can fit in different slots in the motherboard, this is why that when you pick the motherboard you must find out which parts you actually want so that you wont get any incompatibility.
In the next steps I will go over which component needs which slot on the motherboard. With that information you should be able to find a motherboard which supports all that on Ebay or somewhere else.
A decent motherboard will cost you around 20 euros.
Step 2: The CPU.
This little thing does the main all the calculations, want to know what 2+2 is? He knows it. Want to know what 65*(16/24)-473^2 is? He knows it.
CPU's come in wide varieties of slots which we call sockets.
Some common sockets are: AM2, AM2+, 775, 1155, 1156. 1155 and 1156 are often for higher quality CPU's that you are not interested in. You are mainly interested in the other 3, AM2, AM2+ and 775.
Picking the right CPU is very important. There are a few things that matter.
- Clock speed. This determent how much things your CPU can do in one second. We count this in GHz
- Cores. If you have more cores then you can calculate more things at the same time.
- OP-Codes. Determents how efficient your CPU calculates, this is very important!
Never CPU's often have better OP-Codes, that why a Intel I5 quad core @1.2 GHz could easily outdo a Intel quad core at 2.8ghz.
The CPU you want would probably come along the lines of a Intel Pentium 4, Intel2Duo, AMD Athlon 4800+, or if you can find anything better, go with that. Just make sure you pick the right socket.
TL;DR Newer CPU's are often better than older CPU's. Pick one that comes close to what I mentioned above and look closely at the cores and clock speeds.
Step 3: RAM
Random Access Memory; or RAM for short has a myth going on that should be cleared right now.
NO, more ram does not mean "faster computer".
Ram is the thing where all of your data gets temporary stored. Imagine you're playing a game, that game then loads the textures for some items and stores them in the ram, so later when it needs them, it can quickly access it and draw it on your monitor.
If you open a application you fill a bit of your ram. If you open lots of applications at once, you fill up a lot of your ram. If you open to much applications and the ram overflows then you will have a bad time.
To prevent this from happening you should first find out how much ram you're going to need, always take a bit more than you need to be save.
Windows takes around 800 Megabytes.
Minecraft takes prefers 1000 Megabytes.
Other applications that I open take ~500 Megabytes.
Adding this up gets me to 2300 megabytes, or 2,3 Gigabytes (gb), So I probably want around 2.5 or 3 gb or ram.
Now, lets talk about the difference types of ram; DDR, DDR2 and DDR3.
DDR is pretty old but could still do the trick for you, but you probably want DDR2 ram, DDR3 is probably to modern for you, and if you pick it then you shouldn't be reading this guide.
There are 3 differences between DDR and DDR2 ram.
- DDR ram does not fit in a DDR2 slot and vice versa.
- DDR2 is often 2 times as fast as DDR ram.
- You can only get a max of 4gb of DDR ram, with DDR2 ram, thats 8gb.
I'd highly recommend getting DDR2 ram, although it can be a bit pricy at times.
When you pick a motherboard also make sure that you have enough ram slots. Motherboards have 2 to 4 ram slots. And DDR2 ram "banks" come from sized 512MB to 2gb. You can mix and match the sizes as you want.
TL;DR: Make sure you get enough ram, preferably DDR2 ram. Your motherboard has ram slots (DIMM slots) which need to be the same type as your ram. You will probably spend 10-40,- euros on ram.
Step 4: The HDD
So you know that crap ton of essays, porn and downloads you have on your computer? They're all stored in this little baby, the HDD.
Choosing a HDD is not to hard, there's just 2 things you want to care about.
First of, the size. AKA, how much data it can store. Modern computers often have about 500-1000gb of HDD space. For casual use, you probably want to get 250gb or more. But if you plan on using more, then get more of course.
HDD's also have a variety, IDE and SATA.
SATA is generally just a tad faster than IDE, meaning some files will open faster or you'll move that .zip from there to there in a shorter time.
HDD's do not get put on the motherboard directly. They are connected using either a SATA or IDE cable. All motherboards have a IDE slot, but not all have SATA, so look out for that.
IDE cables also allow you to connect 2 HDD's to one IDE slot, so if you want 2 HDD's you only need 1 IDE slot.
TL;DR: Find out how much storage you're going to need and if you really care about that extra speed from SATA. You will probably spend about ~20,- euros on your HDD.
Step 5: The Video Card.
If you're going to play games on your computer then this is very, very, very important.
The video card takes care of all the rendering that needs to happen. It draws everything on the screen and all that shizzle.
Even if you are not going to be gaming on your computer just get one for 7 euros. It will take a load of the CPU so that one can perform better.
Video cards (or GPU's) also have 2 variants, PCI-16x and AGP.
PCI-16x is replacing AGP because it is faster, however, the video card that you want could still use AGP as you are going for a budget computer.
If you're going to game then look at "Can I run it" to find out what kind of video card you need and compare it to what you have in mind.
Some video cards that I recommend:
Sapphire Radeon 1150x
Get a video card that has atleast a core clock of 650mhz and you'll be good.
TL;DR: For the video card the variants doesnt matter for performance. Just make sure the motherboard supports your video card. You'll spend 10-30,- euros on one.
Step 6: The PSU
Yeah, your computer needs power; suprise!
Your motherboard has 2 slots where power needs to go into. One for the motherboard itself and one for the CPU.
The HDD also has a slot. The slots will be different if you have a IDE or SATA HDD. But most PSU's support both of these (They always support IDE HDD's).
If you have a video card that takes a 6pin power supply then you'll need a somewhat powerfull-ererer power supply than what I recommend.
If your video card takes 1 or 2 4pin power supply thingies then you'll be good.
The power supply you want has to be atleast 350watt and it will provide you with all the power you need.
TL;DR: Get a PSU that has all the connectors you need and will be able to provide enough power, you'll spend about 20 euros on one.
Step 7: Peripherals
Your motherboard will have a few white slots, these are PCI slots. Next to those might be a small one too, this is a PCI-1 slot.
The PCI-1 slot is as good as worthless, but the PCI slots are really very dandy handy. In these slots you can put some peripherals like a Wifi adapter or a sound card (Which takes load of of the CPU btw, I recommend getting one). You can just plonk these into the PCI slot, boot the computer, and it will automatically install the drivers for it to let it work.
You can also get a optical drive. These also take a 4pin power supply and is most likely connected over an IDE cable.
Also, dont forget your keyboard and mouse, that would be embarrassing.
Step 8: The Case
My mom yelled at me when I didnt have a case around my computer; get a case around your computer.
The case will house all of your precious parts. From your motherboard to your HDD. It all goes in there.
When you get a case make sure your motherboard fits in there. If it does, the rest will fit too.
Other then that, there's not to much to say about it. Get a ugly or nice case. Your choice.
You will spend between 5 and 100,- euros on it. Again, your choice.
Step 9: The Monitor
So, now you only need to like, see your stuff.
When it comes down to monitors you dont really have much choice. Either go with a old crappy one for 10,-, A new one for 100,-, or find someone who has a epic monitor which doesnt work and gives it away for free, get it and repair it. (I can't believe that actually happend to me)
One big thing to keep in mind is performance. Higher resolutions means more pixels means more work for the GPU. So if you have a old crummy GPU do not expect to run 1920x1080 of of it.
Also make sure your GPU supports the connectors of the monitor. Your GPU will probably have VGA output, but most old monitors support this too.
Its again your choice how much you want to spend on this.
Step 10: Putting It All Together
Now that you have all these parts together you can finally put it all together.
For this I highly recommend any other instructables on here that will go in much greater detail than I ever will.
Dont be sad when something didnt work out or that you mixed something up somewhere. Everyone makes mistakes. Heck I thought I could fit a AGP card into a PCI-16x slot when I build my first computer.
I hope you will be able to make your own computer with this guide, and if you have any questions feel free to ask.
Thanks for reading :)