Building a custom computer is something most people won’t even consider when it’s time to replace the old one. While there is wide variety of off the shelf computers available today, a custom computer system offers several advantages over their store bought counterparts. The biggest advantage of a custom built computer is that it can be created specifically to suite your needs. For example, a computer being used to design buildings with a CAD program is much different than a computer managing inventories at a warehouse. Another bonus is that, every part on a custom computer can be upgraded if needed. In the end you will not only have a better computer, but you will also have saved a lot of money in the process.
To build a computer you will need several parts. The basic parts you will need are a…
– Power Supply
– Hard Drive
– Video Card
– Sound Card
– CD/DVD Drive
– Mouse, keyboard, speakers and monitor.
– An Operating System. (Any newer version of Windows)
Collecting these parts shouldn’t be too hard, as they are widely available at many electronic stores like Best-Buy, CompUSA or FRY’s Electronics. They can also be found through internet resellers such as Tiger Direct or Newegg.
Along with the parts that will make up the computer, you will need…
– A couple small screwdrivers
– A decent sized work area work area (a desk will work)
– A pair of gentle hands
– Some Patience
As mentioned before, the biggest advantage of a custom computer is the fact that it can be made to suite your requirements. To meet these requirements you will need to buy an array of parts that will work together. Without getting too nitty gritty, here is a basic explanation of the parts that make up a computer.
A computer case is what holds all of your computers components together and protects them from the elements. All cases do pretty much the same thing but there are several things to look for when buying a case. Aside from the color and styling, there are different sizes to choose from. Bigger cases have room for more components whereas a smaller case will only limit you to the basic necessities. Also, some cases have “luxury features” like built in headphone jacks or USB ports that are in easily assessable areas.
The power supply converts 120 volt ac power from your wall into various dc voltages needed to run the components. The biggest factor when choosing a power supply is choosing the correct wattage. More components require more power, so a computer with lots of components will need a power supply that supports a higher wattage. Wattages usually range from 300watts to 800watts.
The heart of any computer system is the motherboard. The motherboard is a giant circuit board that connects all of your computers components together, similar to the veins, arteries and nerves of the human body. The motherboard is the most critical part of your computer system and a lot of time and extensive research should be put into choosing the correct motherboard for your system. Lots of computer companies have their own standards for parts, so it is important to choose a motherboard that will be compatible with the rest of your components.
The Central Processing Unit or CPU chip is the brain behind your whole computer system. It performs all the calculations and executes all the computers processes. CPU chips are rated in GHz. The higher the GHz rating equates to a faster and more responsive computer. In the end, the speed of your CPU will dictate the maximum level of performance your computer can offer. It is recommended that you buy a CPU chip that is a little faster than needed, so that you can leave room for upgrades in the future.
Random Access Memory or RAM comes in the form of a memory stick and fits into a slot on the motherboard. Having more RAM helps maintain the speed at which your computer is operating when multiple processes are happening simultaneously. This in turn reduces the amount of time your computer has to load. (Adding more RAM is like adding additional lanes onto a highway so that traffic will keep moving during rush hour.) Upgrading your RAM is very easy and cost effective since you just have to install additional memory sticks instead of replacing the existing ones.
The hard drive is what stores all of the computers data. A larger hard drive or multiple hard drives will be able to store more data. Movies, songs, games and programs take up lots of space, so if you intend on storing these on your computer, it would be a good idea to get a hard drive with more capacity or multiple hard drives. A backup hard drive could also be a good form of insurance if you intend on storing a lot of important data on your computer. Hard drives are usually one of the first components of a computer to fail, and when they do you usually lose everything that had been stored on your computer.
The video card is the device which creates the image on your monitor. A computer used for multimedia videos, gaming, or photo editing will greatly benefit from a faster and higher performance video card. It will be able to create sharper images and it will be able to process images quicker for smoother transitions.
The sound card is the device which translates numerical codes into pulses that your speakers use to create different sounds. A quality sound card along with a good set of speakers will help to create better sound quality, which is ideal for a computer that will be used for entertainment.
Once you have done your research and have bought your parts, it’s time to start the building process. Before any building begins though, you need to discharge yourself of any static electricity. A static shock can easily destroy computer parts, so before you touch any bare computer parts, find something that is made of metal and is grounded to touch. A door handle should work just fine. (This will cause the negative electrons from your body to go back into the earth like lightning does) The first step in building a computer begins with the assembly of the motherboard. This includes the CPU and memory sticks. The CPU chip will have a notched corner that will align perfectly with another notched corner on the motherboard. Once you have the chip positioned, you simply drop it right in place without using any pressure. Once seated, you can then slide the lever arm that’s on the motherboard to lock the CPU in place. After that, you’ll need to install the heat sink, which is done by peeling off the tape off of the back of the heat sink and sticking on top of the CPU. Next you will need to install the RAM memory sticks. On the motherboard there will several slots marked channel 1, channel 2 and so on. The memory sticks need to be pressed into the slots very gently, and then they need to latched in place with the clamps that are located on each side of the slots. You’ll know when memory sticks are locked in because the clamps make a faint click sound once they have latched.
Now it is time to start assembling the case. After removing the case’s cover (some cases are different, but most case covers slide right off) you can then begin to install the power supply. The case will already have a space cut out at the top rear where the power supply fits into place. To mount the power supply, you will need to locate the four screws that came with it, and insert them through the pre drill holes at the back of the case. It’s a good idea, to support the power supply with one hand and insert the screws with the other hand. Once all four screws are loosely fitted you can then grab a screwdriver and tighten them up. After the power supply is secured, it is time to put the mother board in. The mother board will be positioned vertically beneath the power supply and will be mounted to the left side of the case. Like the power supply, the motherboard will align with holes that have been predrilled into the case. The only difference with this is that you will need to install a set of spacers in-between the case and motherboard, so that the motherboard has about a quarter inch air gap. Once the motherboard is mounted, you can then connect the power leads from the power supply to the mother board. There will be one small connector and one large connector that fit into matching slots on the motherboard.
After installing the motherboard you can proceed on to installing the hard drive. Inside the case you will find a bracket that is wide enough to accept a hard drive. Simply slide the hard drive into the bracket, and use the 4 screws that are provided to lock it in place. The hard drive will come with a ribbon cable (long flat cable) that attaches the hard drive to the motherboard. You will also need to grab another power lead from the power supply and plug it into the hard drive. The CD/DVD-rom drive installs very similarly to the hard drive. It slides into a bracket, is held in by four screws, and requires a ribbon cable to be connected to the motherboard and a power lead to the power supply. The only difference is you will need to pop out a faceplate in the front of the case so the CD/DVD drive can open.
This completes the basic setup to get a computer running. You can now connect your, mouse, keyboard and monitor and turn the computer on for the first time. A screen will pop up asking you to put in the correct date and time. You will then insert your copy of Windows into the CD drive and it will automatically install itself.
Adding other components such as a video card, sound card, or router/modem for internet use is pretty easy. Accessories like these can be installed with minimal effort. They simply plug right into the motherboard without any wires, and only require one screw that is mounted at the back of the case to secure it.
I currently use a custom built computer that I built myself, and I have been 100% satisfied with it. I have a special video card that allows me to use two monitors instead of just one. It’s a great feature and it allows me to do work much more efficiently. This is a feature I could only have with a custom computer.
Building a custom computer from scratch is actually a pretty easy process. It doesn’t require any fabrication, soldering or any special tools. Once you have learned the basics, it’s really just a plug and play job. The cost of a custom built computer will be less than a store bought counterpart version and the possibilities for upgrades are endless.