So, if you have done any research up to this point you will probably have noticed the shear amount of combinations there are when it comes to building your own. Selecting the right motherboard and cpu combination, memory, power supply, and case can all seem a bit overwhelming but this process can be simplified with a bit of planning and remember it is also about having fun!
So why build your own PC?
Personally, building a custom PC to me is my version of working on the hot rod in the garage. The customization and tweaking are all part of the process I enjoy. It also gets you closer to the technology and allows you to really appreciate and understand it from a perspective that otherwise might not be so clear. Ultimately, the feeling you get when it all comes together is worth it alone.
The first thing you really should do is decide what you want out of your build by asking some basic questions. What is this build for? gaming,video/photo editing, multiple OS machine, server, media hub. Once you decide the build purpose, you can narrow down your choices a bit. Another Consideration here is budget, how much are you willing to spend? Look around for different retailers and find the best deals. Another important thing to consider here is brick and mortar stores vs online. There are distinct advantages for both here but remember some stores will price match. Also consider the need to return/exchange a product, if a local store can price match go there, why wait a few days to get something exchanged or refunded when you can drive right to the store?
The CPU (AMD or Intel?)
This is the first real fork in the road here and an important decision to make early on because your motherboard selection will only work with one or the other. Both AMD and Intel make great chips, each company offers differing performance for price and ultimately the decision is entirely up to you. I wont try to push you in either direction here as your decision is more about the type of CPU rather than the brand.
CPUs are generally broken down into groups based on the amount of cores, operating frequency (GHz), and Socket. There are other factors to consider as well such as power consumption and cache. Choosing the series of processor should not be difficult but you should put some thought into your decision really think about your computing needs and what your trying to accomplish.
After you have chosen your CPU you can select the motherboard you would like to use. There are a few features to consider when choosing a motherboard like how many drives your planing on having and what size of motherboard you want to use. Motherboards come in many form factors, Standard ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX, and Nano ITX. The two most common here are Standard and Micro ATX. Check over the specs on the motherboard and make sure it meets your I/O needs (usb ports, Firewire, optical,bluetooth). Think about how many SATA connectors you will need and what speeds they operate at, typically 3Gb/s and 6Gb/s for SATA.
Factor in how much memory can the motherboard support and how many PCIe slots are available and if it supports multiple GPUs what type of multi-GPU support it has (NVIDIA SLI Technology or AMD CrossFireX Technology).
The big thing to take away from choosing a mobo/cpu combo is making sure things are compatable.
*USB 3.0 is becoming more common and is featured on many new motherboards, however many only come with a few 3.0 ports and the rest 2.0, so take note of how many you need and how many are included.
The wonderful home for all of these components needs to be large enough to support all of the of the hardware you plan to install inside it. This may sound like a no brainer but I know that many people have later on realized that they wanted the latest and greatest graphics card only to find they dont have enough room, and some may have even gone to great lengths to make it fit ie.(dremel tool). So make sure you you give your self enough room to work with for what you need and what you may want in the future.
Make sure the case you choose has adequate airflow design that makes sense. Believe me, you would think that this would be considered more when manufacturers make these cases, just trust me here when I say not all cases are created with intelligent airflow design.
-Management and other Features-
Most cases will have nice features like drive bays that you can simply slide and lock into place and wire management areas to keep your wires from becoming a rats nest. Check to see where headphone jacks and USB ports are located.
The Power Supply you choose should have all the nessesary power connectors you need. Remember each drive you install needs power, each graphics card you install needs its own power connector. Wattage will be determined by the amount of devices needing power and if you plan on installing a graphics card you will see a minimum requirement for wattage right from the GPU manufacturer.
*It is better to have a little more power then barely enough, you don’t want to stress your system and its components.
*Newer drives use SATA power connections, older drives use Molex connectors.
The type of memory or system RAM you install will depend on what is compatable with the processor you chose. Check the memory guidelines for the processor you choose. Once you find the right type of RAM, choose how much you want to install.
*If you are running a 32-bit version of Windows then you can only utilize up to 4GB of RAM, anything over this amount will not be recognized by your system. To gain access to memory capacity larger than 4GB you will need a 64-bit version of Windows.
If you’re planning on gaming or doing other demanding video tasks then you will want to get a high end graphics card capable of handling lots of video data at once. The brand you go with is less important unlesss you are planning on using multiple graphics cards at once, in this situation need to make sure your motherboard supports the technology you’re trying to use. SLI and Crossfire are the two major communication protocols used in Nvidia and AMD graphics cards. Basically, it is the technology that allows multiple video cards to work together.
Storage and Media
Choose how much hard drive space you will need and what type of optical media you want to use. Plan on watching movies? Grab a blu-ray drive, preferably one that also burns blu-ray discs.
Another popular choice for storage are solid state drives or SSDs. SSDs are much much faster than standard hard drives and cointain no moving parts, so they are silent when running. This is a great performance boost in any system but it comes at a price. Many SSDs sell for about $1.00 per gigabyte, which is much more expensive then the old hard drive.
This should hopefully help guide you through the first part of your pc building experience. I will be adding more parts to this guide in the future. You can really get into the details of each of these components more on your own as you learn more about the hardware that powers our computing experiences these days.