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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.

Note: All links included in this article will open in a separate window.

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 boosting productivity in Windows 11

Are you looking to boost your productivity on Windows 11? With its sleek design and improved functionality, Windows 11 offers a variety of features and tools that can help you work more efficiently. In this article, we'll explore some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your Windows 11 experience while improving your productivity.

Tips for boosting productivity in Windows 11

Start menu: The Start menu is Windows 11's central hub, and customizing it can help you access your most-used apps and files quickly. You can rearrange, resize, and pin tiles to the Start menu to create a personalized layout that suits your workflow. This can save you time and improve your efficiency by reducing the time spent searching for apps and files.

How to personalize the Start menu in Windows 11

Virtual desktops: One of the most useful features of Windows 11 is the ability to create and manage virtual desktops. This feature allows you to create multiple desktops for different tasks and switch between them easily. For example, you can have one desktop for work-related tasks and another for personal use.

This feature can help you stay focused and organized, reducing distractions and boosting productivity. Additionally, you can set a unique background for each desktop to quickly identify your current desktop.

How to create multiple desktops in Windows 11

  1. Left-click on the Task view icon Task view icon on the Taskbar on the Taskbar and select New desktop
  2. Open the programs you want to use on that desktop
  3. Left-click on the Task view icon Task view icon on the Taskbar again to switch between desktops

How to set the background for a desktop

  1. Right-click on the desktop you want to change and select Choose background
  2. Choose an image from the recent images or left-click on Browse photos to select an image

Keyboard shortcuts: Keyboard shortcuts are a quick and easy way to perform tasks in Windows 11 without having to navigate through menus and options. Learning a few essential keyboard shortcuts can save you time and boost your productivity. For example, press the Windows logo key Windows logo + D to minimize all windows and go to the desktop, or press the Windows logo key Windows logo + E to open File Explorer.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 11

My favorite left-hand Windows keyboard shortcuts

You can create keyboard shortcuts for items on your Desktop.

Everything you wanted to know about Windows shortcuts

You can also create custom keyboard shortcuts using the Keyboard Manager app inside the free Microsoft PowerToys.

Free Microsoft PowerToys for Windows 10 and Windows 11

Focus assist: Focus assist is a feature that blocks notifications and alerts while you're working on a task, reducing distractions and helping you stay focused. You can customize Focus assist settings to allow specific notifications or set it to turn on automatically during specific times or when you're presenting. This can help improve your productivity by reducing interruptions and allowing you to focus on the task at hand.

When you enable Focus assist, a timer will appear on the screen, the do not disturb button will turn on, apps in the Taskbar will not flash to get your attention, and badge notifications in the Taskbar will be turned off. There are several ways to start Focus assist in Windows 11.

How to start Focus assist from the Notiification center

  1. Left-click on the Notification icon Notification icon on the Windows 11 Taskbar(bell) on the right end of the Taskbar
  2. Adjust the length of time if you like, and then left-click on the Focus button.

How to start Focus assist from Settings

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the list of pinned apps on the Start menu, left-click on Settings.
  3. Left-click on the System category in the left-hand column.
  4. Scroll down the right-hand column and left-click on Focus.

How to start Focus assist from the Clock app

  1. Left-click on the Start button Windows logo to bring up the Start menu.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, left-click on All apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of programs and left-click on Clock.

Snap layouts and Snap groups: Windows 11 includes a new feature called Snap layouts and Snap groups that makes it easier to organize and manage multiple windows on your screen. Snap layouts allow you to quickly arrange your windows in predefined layouts, while Snap groups let you save and restore groups of windows for specific tasks. This can help you work more efficiently by reducing the time spent resizing and rearranging windows.

How to open Snap layouts

To open the Snap layout box, select the open program window and do either:

  • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + Z
  • Hover your mouse cursor over the Minimize or Maximize button

When you Snap every space with selected windows, this then becomes a Snap group.

Taskbar: The Taskbar in Windows 11 is more customizable than ever. It lets you pin your most-used apps and files for quick access and show only the apps you need, reducing clutter and improving productivity.

You can also easily add an existing shortcut to the Taskbar by right-clicking on almost any shortcut on the Start menu or Desktop and selecting Pin to taskbar. Additionally, you can use the Taskbar to access the Start menu, search, and virtual desktops, making it a central hub for your workflow.

Widgets: Windows 11 includes a new Widgets feature that provides quick access to news, weather, and other information. You can customize the Widgets to show only the information you need, making them useful tools for staying up-to-date on the latest news and events. This can help improve your productivity by reducing the time spent searching for information.

In conclusion, there are many ways to improve productivity on Windows 11. By using virtual desktops, customizing your Start menu, using keyboard shortcuts, enabling Focus assist, using Snap layouts and Snap groups, utilizing the Taskbar, and using the Widgets feature, you can work more efficiently and get more done in less time. By implementing these tips and tricks, you'll be well on your way to becoming a Windows 11 power user.

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

Are you looking for ways to keep your computer running smoothly and prevent overheating? The CPU (Central Processing Unit) cooler is a critical component that plays a significant role in keeping your computer cool. Choosing the right cooler that meets your needs and keeps your system from overheating is essential. In this article, we'll explore some tips for selecting the right CPU cooler for your custom-built computer.

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

Shopping for a CPU cooler can be a daunting task due to the overwhelming number of options available. To choose the right CPU cooler, you will need to take into consideration the type of CPU, available space, noise level, and whether you prefer an air or liquid cooler. Aesthetics may also play a role in your decision. Let's look at some of the things you must consider when choosing the right CPU cooler.

Compatibility and size: The first thing to consider in choosing the right CPU cooler for your custom-built computer is compatibility. Most CPU coolers will fit the majority of motherboards on the market, but if the CPU is relatively new, the coolers that support it may be limited.

The second thing you need to consider is the size of the CPU cooler. With CPU coolers, you must look at the space required for the heatsink (air) or radiator (liquid). For air coolers, is there enough room between the CPU on the motherboard and the side panel on the case? For liquid coolers, is there enough room in the case for a radiator and fan assembly?

Air or liquid: When it comes to CPU cooling, there are two (2) primary options: air or liquid cooling. Air coolers use fans to circulate air over a heatsink, while liquid coolers use a closed-loop system to circulate coolant over the CPU and through the radiator. While both options can provide excellent cooling performance, liquid cooling is typically more efficient and quieter than air cooling.

A manufacturers stock air CPU cooler

Now, some CPUs will come with a standard air cooler included. These work perfectly fine for surfing the web or checking email, but if you plan on putting the CPU under a heavy load, an air cooler with a larger heatsink or liquid cooler might be the best bet.

A performance air CPU cooler

Many years ago, Intel used to have different warranty periods for CPUs that came with and without their cooler (3 years with / 1 year without), so checking the warranty coverage is recommended. Also, remember that liquid cooling can be more expensive and challenging to install, so it's essential to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

With liquid cooling, there are two (2) types of systems: All-In-One (AIO) or a custom loop. AIOs are sealed and are not serviceable.
A all-in-one liquid CPU cooler
Custom loops are open and can be serviced.
A custom loop liquid CPU cooler
AIOs are easier to install but can not have any of the parts repaired or coolant replaced. Custom loops can be repaired, and coolant can be replaced, but use hard acrylic lines that must be cut and bent to the specific application.

Noise levels: The noise level is another critical factor to consider when choosing a CPU cooler. Some coolers can be loud, especially if you over-clock your CPU, which can be distracting and annoying when trying to work or play games. If you're looking for a quieter option, consider a liquid cooler or a low-noise air cooler. Be sure to check the specifications and reviews to get an idea of how loud a particular cooler is before making a purchase.

Remember that an air cooler with a large heatsink and multiple fans or a liquid cooler with a large radiator and multiple fans will cool much better than the manufacturer cooler. But with more fans comes more noise, so check the specifications of any cooler you are looking to purchase.

Cooling performance: One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a CPU cooler is the cooling performance. The cooler's ability to dissipate heat from the CPU significantly affects the overall system temperature. A high-performance cooler will keep your CPU running at optimal temperatures, which can improve system stability and prevent damage to your components.

Be sure to look for coolers with a high thermal efficiency rating and a high airflow rate for maximum cooling performance. Remember that with a large surface area, like with a large heatsink or radiator, you will get better cooling performance. And with plenty of airflow, your CPU will keep its cool even when throttled to the max.

Your budget: Finally, it's essential to consider your budget when choosing a CPU cooler. CPU coolers can range in price from as little as $20 to as much as $200 or more. While more expensive coolers may provide better cooling performance, they may not be necessary for your system. Be sure to weigh the features and benefits of each cooler against its price to find the best option for your needs and budget.

In conclusion, choosing the right CPU cooler for your computer is critical to keeping your system running smoothly and preventing overheating. By considering factors such as compatibility and size, air or liquid cooling, noise levels, cooling performance, and budget, you can find the perfect cooler to meet your needs and keep your computer cool. Be sure to do your research, read reviews, and compare options to make an informed decision and keep your computer running at its best.

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.

Creative ways to repurpose your old Windows-based computer

Do you have an old Windows-based computer you no longer use? Maybe you got a new one and just do not know what to do with your old system. Here are a few creative ways to repurpose your old Windows-based computer.

Creative ways to repurpose your old Windows-based computer

Are you tired of your old Windows-based computer collecting dust in the corner of your room? It's time to give that outdated device a new lease on life by repurposing it for other uses. With some creativity and basic technical skills, you can turn your old machine into a valuable tool for various tasks.

For this article, I will reference the two (2) types of networks you can use your repurposed computer on: Internet and Intranet.

  • Internet: A global system of interconnected public networks. The Internet is a type of Wide Area Network (WAN).
  • Intranet: A private network for sharing files and printers that you cannot access from the Internet. The Intranet is a type of Local Area Network (LAN).

The first thing we need to address is the version of Windows the computer you want to repurpose is running. The version of Windows your computer is running should dictate what you should use it for. Older versions like Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 no longer get security updates and should only be used on your Intranet and kept off the Internet when possible.

Intranet uses

The most popular use of a spare computer is as a server. There are several different types of servers, so let's take a quick look at each type.

Home Media Server: If you have a large media collection of movies, TV shows, or music, you can turn your old computer into a home media server. By installing Plex or Kodi, you can stream your media to other devices in your home, such as a smart TV or mobile device. This can save you from purchasing a new media server or subscribing to a streaming service.

Plex: Stream Movies & TV Shows

Kodi: Open Source Home Theater Software

File Server: If the computer you are repurposing has a drive with plenty of free space, you should consider using it as a file server. In just a few minutes, you can share folders and files between devices on your Intranet. Not only can you share folders and files, but you can also use a file server to back up your various Windows-based computers.

How to share a folder on a private network

How to backup your Windows 11 computer using Windows Backup and File History

Backup your files with File History and Windows Backup in Windows 10

Print Server: Do you have an older printer with only a USB or LPT port and would like to share it with other computers on your Intranet? Just set it up on your repurposed computer, then go to the Devices and Printers section of the Control Panel and right-click on the printer you want to share.

From the context menu that appears, left-click on Printer properties and then select the tab labeled Sharing. Place a check mark in the Share this printer checkbox and give the printer a share name. Your printer should now be ready to share on your Intranet.

Web Server: If you are interested in web development or want a testing server for your website, Windows has an extensible web server called IIS (Internet Information Service). This feature is not installed by default but can be quickly installed by simply turning it on. Just go to the Programs and Features section of the Control Panel and select Turn Windows features on or off.

Internet uses

Gaming Rig: If you're a gamer, you can repurpose your old computer into a gaming rig. While it may not be able to handle the latest games, you can still play older titles or retro games. You can also install emulators, like DosBox, and play classic console games on your PC.

How to use DOSBox to run old DOS games and programs

You can access some old software and play old video games at the Internet Archive. They have all sorts of older software, games, books, movies, and, of course, the Wayback Machine. This is one website you could spend hours, if not days, exploring.

Download old software and play old video games at the Internet Archive

Dedicated Streaming Machine: If you're a streamer or content creator, you can use your old computer as a dedicated streaming machine. By installing OBS or XSplit, you can capture and stream your gameplay or other content to platforms like Twitch or YouTube. This can be a great way to start your streaming career without investing in expensive equipment.

Open Broadcaster Software | OBS

XSplit: Livestreaming and Webcam Enhancement Tools

Education and Learning: Finally, you can use your old computer for education and learning. You can use websites like Khan Academy, Duolingo, or Coursera to learn new skills or brush up on your knowledge. You can also use your old computer to teach your children or grandchildren basic computer skills or programming.

Khan Academy | Free Online Courses, Lessons & Practice

Duolingo - The world's best way to learn a language

Coursera | Degrees, Certificates, & Free Online Courses

In conclusion, there are many creative ways to repurpose your old Windows-based computer. By giving it a new life, you can save money, learn new skills, and make your life more productive. So, dust off that old machine and start exploring the possibilities.

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

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Geeks In Phoenix LLC, BBB Business Review

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Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

Bring your computer to us and save

Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

Contact us

If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (602) 795-1111  and talk with one of our Geeks. Or you can send us a message from our contact page , and one of our Geeks will get back to you as soon as possible. Or you can stop by and see us. Here are our hours and location.

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