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The ultimate guide for building your custom computer

Nothing is more fun for me than planning, purchasing, and assembling all of the components for a custom-built system. I guess that's why I like repairing computers. But most people do not know where to start when it comes to putting together a custom-built computer. So here is the ultimate guide for building your own custom computer.

The ultimate guide for building your custom computer

I have been building and repairing computers since the late '90s and have assembled hundreds of systems. What got me started building custom computers was the fact that I could not upgrade the graphic processor inside the Packard-Bell system I had.

Long story short, I contacted the manufacturer of the graphics processor installed on the motherboard and was told that Packard-Bell had ordered the graphic chip with one of the pins disabled. That way, I would have to go back to Packard-Bell to get an upgraded chip.

I decided to build a computer instead and have been running custom-built computers ever since. In fact, I just recently recycled one of my very first AT cases (it had six (6) 5.25" bays and was over three (3) feet tall). So, without further ado, let's start planning, purchasing, and assembling your custom-built computer.

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Planning your computer

If you need to become more familiar with the technical jargon surrounding computer components, this is where you want to start. Understanding the jargon used with computer components is essential to the success of your custom computer build. Let's take a look at the vocabulary surrounding building a custom computer.

Defining confusing computer hardware verbiage

It's an age-old problem: Form vs. function. Do you want a sleek-looking computer that takes up a small amount of space or one that can handle multiple graphic cards and run games with intensive graphics? Let's take a look at some of the things you might want to consider when planning out our custom-built computer,

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

Sometimes, the simplest things can become problems. For example, using plastic-coated wire twist ties instead of plastic zip ties for cable management or installing case fans with the incorrect air flow direction. These common mistakes can cause problems down the road. Let's take care of them right here and now.

Common problems to avoid when building your own computer

Your computer case is a reflection of you and your style. You can get one with a ton of glass and lights or one that is basic with no bells and whistles. It's entirely up to you. Let's look at some of your options when selecting a computer case.

Tips for choosing the perfect case for your computer

The motherboard is likely the most important component you will choose. With so many options, like the different types of I/O connectors and the number and type of PCIe expansion slots, choosing a motherboard can be daunting. So, let's take a closer look at finding the right motherboard.

Tips for choosing the right motherboard for your custom-built computer

When someone is planning on building a computer for gaming, this is usually the first component they look at. Whether you plan on surfing the web and watching cat videos or are planning a multi-monitor gaming rig, the graphics card you choose is important. So, let's take a deeper dive into graphics cards.

Tips for choosing the right graphics card for your custom-built computer

Keeping your CPU cool is a major priority, as is selecting the right CPU cooler. Should you go with an air-cooled heatsink or a liquid pump and radiator type? Are you planning on overclocking your CPU? Let's examine the options for choosing a CPU cooler.

Tips for choosing the right CPU cooler for your custom-built computer

By now, you should have a good idea of what components you will use to build your computer, so it is time to decide on a power supply. With your choice of case, motherboard, and graphic card(s), you should be able to determine the best power supply for your computer. Let's look at how to determine how much power your computer will require.

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

Purchasing the components

You should now have a list of parts you want to use to build your computer. The trick is to make sure that all of them are compatible. Since you will probably be ordering most, if not all, of the components online, why not check their compatibility online, too? Let's look at some online resources for selecting and purchasing computer components.

How to find compatible computer parts online

Assembling your computer

At this point, you should have all the parts needed to assemble your computer. The following article describes how I typically build a computer. It is long but has plenty of images to guide you through your computer build.

How to build a computer

Tips for choosing the right graphics card for your custom-built computer

Are you building your first custom-built computer and looking for a graphics card? Or you may want to upgrade the graphics card in your current system. In this article, we'll provide some tips for choosing the right graphics card for your computer.

Tips for choosing the right graphics card for your custom-built computer

When it comes to choosing the right graphics card for your computer, the abundance of options available can be overwhelming. A graphics card is vital to any modern computer as it processes images and videos.

Now, graphics processing on a computer is done with GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit). GPUs can be built into a CPU or be part of separate graphics cards. If the GPU is built into the CPU, it is called Integrated graphics. If the GPU is on a separate graphics card, it is called Discrete graphics. Let's take a quick look at these two types of graphics that you can use with your custom-built computer.

Integrated or discrete graphics

  • Integrated graphics: Some CPUs have a built-in GPU, commonly called on-board graphics. To use the GPU feature in a CPU, your motherboard has to support on-board graphics and include a connection or two for display connection(s). Integrated graphics are excellent for text-based applications like word processors and spreadsheets.
  • Discrete graphics: A separate graphics card with a GPU, memory (VRAM), cooling system, and dedicated power regulators. The types of display connections will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and multiple displays can be connected simultaneously.

Determine your needs

Before jumping into the vast sea of graphic cards, you need to determine what you need it for. Different tasks require different levels of graphical horsepower. Here are three (3) of the most common scenarios:

  • General user: Everyday tasks like checking email and surfing the web. Integrated graphics work fine. But if you want smoother video playback and better multitasking, consider a low to mid-range GPU
  • Content creator: Video editing, 3D modeling, and rendering require graphic cards with GPUs optimized for creative workloads. Look for CUDA cores (for NVIDIA GPUs), stream processors (for AMD GPUs), or Xe-cores (for Intel)
  • Gaming: If you're a gamer, prioritize graphic cards that have GPUs with high clock speeds, ample VRAM (Video RAM), and support for the latest gaming technologies (like ray tracing and DLSS)

Graphic terminology

Let's take a quick look at the terminology associated with graphic cards. Though understanding GPU specs can be daunting, fear not! Here's a quick rundown:

  • GPU (Graphics Processing Unit): Chip designed to accelerate graphic and image processing
  • Clock Speed: Higher clock speeds mean faster performance
  • VRAM (Video Random Access Memory): More VRAM allows for smoother texture rendering and multitasking
  • CUDA Cores (NVIDIA), Stream Processors (AMD), or Xe-cores (Intel): These parallel processing units affect performance in specific tasks
  • Ray Tracing and DLSS Support: These features enhance visual fidelity in supported games

Check your system requirements

Once you've determined your needs, checking your system requirements is important. Make sure your computer has the necessary power supply and enough space to accommodate the graphics card. You'll also want to check the compatibility of the graphics card with your motherboard and operating system.

Also, consider the weight of the graphics card. As graphics cards become more and more complex, the weight of them can also get excessive. If the graphics card you are considering purchasing is relatively large, you may also want to look at getting a graphic card brace.

Consider the brand

There are several brands of GPUs on the market, including NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel. Each brand offers different features and performance levels. NVIDIA is known for its high-end GPUs that are ideal for gaming and video editing. AMD offers a range of GPUs that are more affordable and suitable for casual gamers. Intel is known for its integrated graphics that are built into the CPU, but it has recently ventured into the desktop market.

Look at the performance

When it comes to selecting a graphics card, performance is a key consideration. The performance of a graphics card is influenced by a number of factors, including its clock speed, memory size, and memory bandwidth. Clock speed determines how quickly the graphics card can process data, while memory size and bandwidth determine the amount of data that can be processed at any given moment.

Consider your budget

When selecting a graphics card, it's important to remember your budget. Graphics cards come in a wide price range, from less than $100 to over $1,000. To get the most out of your money, you should decide on a budget and search for a graphics card that provides the best performance within that budget.

Read reviews

Before making a final decision, it is essential to read reviews from other users. Look for reviews on reputable websites such as Amazon or Newegg, as they can provide valuable insights into the performance and reliability of a graphics card.

Future-proof your system

When choosing a graphics card, it is crucial to future-proof your system. You should look for a graphics card that comes with the latest technology and features, such as DirectX 12 support or VR compatibility. By doing so, you can ensure that your system can handle the latest games and applications for many years to come.

Choosing the right graphics card for your computer can be a challenging task, but by following these tips, you can make an informed decision. First, determine your needs, then check your system requirements and consider the brand. It is also important to look at the performance, consider your budget, read reviews, and future-proof your system. With the right graphics card, you can elevate your gaming, video editing, or 3D design experience to the next level.

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

Whether you are building a new computer or replacing/upgrading your existing one, one of the most important considerations is the Power Supply Unit (PSU). The PSU is responsible for delivering power to all the components in your system, including the motherboard, CPU, graphics card(s), and other peripherals. Choosing the correct PSU is crucial to ensure stable and reliable performance and prevent damage to your components.

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

Two (2) components in your computer will consume most of the power: the motherboard and the graphics card(s). The motherboard uses a relatively small amount of energy but supplies power to the CPU, memory, PCIe slots, and USB ports.

To determine the appropriate wattage for your PSU, you must first consider the power requirements of your components. Here are some guidelines to help you estimate how many watts your PSU should be:

  • CPU: The power consumption of your CPU depends on its model and clock speed. Generally, high-end CPUs require more power than budget models. You can find the power requirements of your CPU on the manufacturer's website.
  • Graphics card(s): If you plan on using a dedicated graphics card(s), these will be one of the most power-hungry components in your system. High-end graphics cards can consume up to 450 watts under load, so check the manufacturer's specifications before choosing a PSU.
  • Motherboard: Your motherboard's power consumption is relatively low compared to other components, but it still requires some power. Make sure to choose a PSU that can provide enough power for all the motherboard components, including the CPU and memory.
  • Storage: Hard drives and SSDs consume very little power, so you don't need to worry about them when choosing a PSU.
  • Other components: If you plan to use other components, such as a sound card, network adapter, or USB devices, make sure to factor in their power requirements when estimating your PSU wattage.

Now, some online power supply calculators can estimate the power requirements given the specifications of the components. You can use these websites to calculate a rough estimate of the amount of power your computer will require. Here are a few online power supply calculators.

Newegg - Power Supply Calculator

PC builds - Power Supply Calculator

Cooler Master - Power Supply Calculator

Once you have a rough estimate of the power requirements for your components, add some extra headroom to ensure stable and reliable performance. A good rule of thumb is to choose a PSU that can provide at least 20% more power than your estimated requirements.

In conclusion, choosing the suitable PSU is crucial to ensure stable and reliable performance for your computer. By estimating the power requirements of your components and adding some extra headroom, you can choose a PSU that meets your needs and provides room for future upgrades.

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