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Common problems to avoid when building your own computer

Are you planning to build your own computer? It can be an exciting project, as you get to choose the components that match your needs and preferences. However, building a computer from scratch can also come with its own set of challenges and errors. In this article, we will discuss the common problems to avoid when building your own computer.

Common problems to avoid when building your own computer

Having built and serviced many custom-built computers, there are certain things I watch out for. The tips outlined in this article are meant to assist you in building your own computer. For the basic steps to building a custom computer, check out How to build a computer.

Choosing components: One of the most common mistakes people make when building their own computer is selecting the wrong components. You must choose components that are compatible with one another. For example, if you choose a motherboard that only supports DDR4 RAM, you won't be able to use DDR5 RAM, no matter how much you want to.

How to find compatible computer parts online

Enough space for components: When building a computer, it's essential to make sure that you have enough space for all the components. If you're building a Small Form Factor computer, make sure that all the components you choose can fit inside the case. It's also essential to make sure that there is enough space for adequate cooling and airflow. Remember, you cannot install a full-size ATX motherboard into a microATX case.

Things to keep in mind when building a custom-built computer

Motherboard IO shield: If your motherboard comes with a separate IO shield, remember you have to install it before the motherboard. Also, be careful when installing the motherboard so you do not bend any of the prongs on the IO shield.

Photo of a motherboard IO shield showing the grounding prongs

These prongs are meant to ground the various ports but often get bent out of shape. Install the IO shield in the case and then test fit the motherboard into the case. If you place the motherboard at an angle in the case, you can get the ports on the back underneath any IO shield prongs that need to be on top of them.

Cable Management: Cable management is often overlooked, but it's essential to keep your computer tidy and organized. Proper cable management can help with airflow, reduce dust buildup, and make it easier to troubleshoot any problems. Make sure that all cables are neatly tucked away and secured to avoid any damage or interference with other components.

Photo of plastic coated wire tie and plastic zip tie side by side

When performing cable management, use only velcro or plastic zip ties. Never use plastic-coated wire twist ties since they contain wire, which, if used too close to any exposed circuit board or bare metal, could cause a short.

Power Supply Requirements: The power supply is one of the most critical components of a computer, and it's essential to make sure you get the right one. A power supply that isn't powerful enough can cause your computer to crash, and one that is too powerful can waste energy and increase your electricity bill. Make sure that your power supply can handle the wattage required by your components.

Also, use a modular power supply if possible. With a modular power supply, you only have to attach the cables required for the components inside your case. For example, if you use only M.2 SSDs (Solid State Drive) for storage, you would not need to attach any SATA cables to the power supply, thus saving space inside the case.

How to estimate the power required for your custom-built computer

Cooling: The components inside your computer generate a lot of heat, and it's essential to keep them cool. If your computer overheats, it can cause damage to the components, shorten their lifespan, and even cause them to fail. Make sure you have enough cooling, either through fans or liquid cooling, to keep your computer running at optimal temperatures.

When it comes to the airflow direction, I usually will have air coming in through the front/bottom of the case and going out through the top/back of the case.
Photo of a case fan with directional arrows highlighted
Case fans typically are marked with the direction of both the fan blades and airflow.

In conclusion, building your own computer can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it's essential to avoid these common problems. Take your time, do your research, and make sure that you choose the right components that are compatible with one another. Always double-check that everything is installed correctly and that you have enough cooling and space for all the components. With the right approach, you can build a computer that meets your needs and performs well for years to come.

How to find compatible computer parts online

Building your own computer or upgrading your existing system can be a dream or a nightmare. Simply finding parts that are compatible with each other can be challenging. But there are some really helpful websites that can make finding the correct parts easy.

How to find compatible computer parts online

There is no greater satisfaction than being able to say you built or upgraded your computer yourself. Whether it be upgrading the memory or drive in your computer or building a entirely new system from the ground up.

But picking compatible computer parts can be daunting. Most of the time, you have to use the different parts' specifications to determine which components will work together.

We at Geeks in Phoenix have been building custom-built computers for over two decades and have written numerous articles on the subject. Let's run down some of our more popular articles on computer building and computer upgrading.

Make your computer faster by upgrading the hardware

Things to consider when replacing or upgrading computer components

How to upgrade the hard drive in your computer

How to upgrade or add more memory to your computer

How to add an expansion card to your desktop computer

Things to keep in mind when building a custom-built computer

How to build a computer

But none of these articles will do you any good if you cannot find compatible computer parts. If you're working on an older PC, say five to ten years old, you will have to use the different manufacturers' specifications to find compatible parts.

Now, if you are looking at upgrading a relatively new computer or building a new one, then the following websites will come in handy. When it comes to finding compatible computer parts, the websites seem to be broken down into two categories; complete systems and just memory.

Complete computers

Let's start with websites that can help you find every part of a custom-built computer. Several websites will give you a list of components that work together, but only a couple allow you to customize the different elements truly.

The first website is PC Part Picker. You can select any component (motherboard, processor, etc.) and assemble a list of compatible parts for a complete system. Or you can use it to find compatible parts to upgrade your existing computer.

The nice thing about PC Part Picker is that it will notify you when you have selected an incompatible component. It usually will not even show you parts that will not work together. That way, you are assured of getting completely compatible parts.

And almost every part listed has a link to where you can purchase it and its current price. I noticed that the majority of the links go to Amazon, but sometimes they have the lowest price.

The second website is Newegg. They have a section on their website specifically for custom PC building that is similar to PC Part Picker. The only difference is they link to products they or their affiliates sell.

Separate computer components

The PC Part Picker and Newegg websites can also help find individual components. As long as the manufacturer is still selling the component, you can use either of these websites to find compatible parts for your computer.

Let's say you built a computer recently and want to upgrade the processor. All you would have to do is find your specific motherboard, and these websites will show you what processors are compatible with your motherboard.

But as I always say, the biggest bang you can get for your buck is a memory upgrade. And most of the memory manufacturers have what they call 'memory finders'.

All you have to do is find your computer make / model or motherboard make / model; their websites will show you which of their memory modules will work in your computer.






FYI - If you are trying to get the lowest price on a component, you can check a vendor's website to see if they do price matching. I have used price matching to get some terrific deals on hardware.

If you have found a website with a computer parts configurator that we do not have listed, please let us know. Just send us the information via our contact page.

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