Here’s a primer on computers and how you can go about putting together your own.
Q & A
Firstly, what is a computer?
A computer is a device made of various electronic parts that processes a bunch of 1s and 0s.
The first computer ever built was in 1946. It took up an entire room and was incredibly limited.
After many decades of technological advancement, scientists and engineers have been able to create computers that can process tons of information every second and almost instantaneously communicate with other computers.
And to this day, smaller and better computers are continually developed.
Why should I build a computer?
There are plenty of reasons to build a computer.
- You can take this skill and make it a business. You put computers together then sell them!
- A computer that you put together is completely customize-able! You pick the parts and you can upgrade it at any time! Store bought laptops don’t offer that!
- You can put together computers as a hobby or for a hobby (such as playing video games).
Are there any disadvantages?
The biggest disadvantage is portability. By that, I mean the size and weight of your newly built computer.
A computer that you put together will be big, bulky, and can weigh anywhere from 20lbs to 80 lbs depending on what you decide to stuff in it.
Plus it’s nearly impossible to put together a laptop.
If you want a laptop, I recommend that you just buy a used one online or buy it new at a store.
(I have a “HP Pavilion x360” laptop with an “Intel i3″ processor that I bought on Ebay for about $300. That’s what I used to type this article up! I also have another computer that I put together.)
How the hell do I put my own computer together?
You just buy all the necessary parts separately and assemble them.
Sounds simple enough. But let’s go a bit more into detail.
Computer Parts List
A standard desktop computer is made up of several parts:
- Processor: The processor is basically the brains of the computer. The two major brands available are called AMD and Intel Processors. As a general rule of thumb, the more money you spend on a processor, the better processor you get.
- Power Supply Unit (PSU): A power supply unit delivers electricity to all the parts of the computer. It’s basically a brick with wires sticking out of it. The unit of power is called Watts.
- Motherboard: The motherboard is a piece of plastic with electrical connections soldered all over it. What it does is connect other computer parts together. They usually come in two variations. An AMD motherboard to hold an AMD processor and an Intel motherboard to hold an Intel processor.
- Hard drive: Hard drives are spinning magnetic disks that store information. There are new “hard drives” called Solid State Drives that are completely electronic. That means they are much faster and more foolproof. This is where everything on your computer is stored permanently.
- RAM (Random Access Memory): This computer part processes temporary information. The more you have, the more your computer can “multitask”. If you do not have enough RAM, all the temporary information is stored on the hard drive and this process slows down your computer a lot!
- Graphics Card (optional): This is a special computer part that is built specifically to process graphics. Most processors can already do this, but a separate graphics card gives your computer a huge boost. Some people spend $1000 or more on a graphics card so they can play games flawlessly in 4K resolution or on 3 monitors at once! There are also special workstation graphics cards for professionals and hobbyists working with 3d models and animation.
- CD/DVD/Blue-Ray Reader/Writer: You need this part so you can install an operating system onto a hard drive. Also, you need this part if you want to watch blue ray/DVD movies or listen to music CDs.
- Computer Case: You obviously need a case to hold all the other parts! There are many variations. Some small, some huge, some with good airflow, some that can hold a lot of fans, some flashy!
- Operating System (OS): An OS is just some code stored on your hard drive that helps your processor interpret data! Very important! There are three variations today: Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Linux is free, Windows & Mac is not free.
- Human Interface Devices (HID): This is just your mouse, your keyboard, your computer monitor (or TV), your USB ports, the CD/DVD/Blue-Ray Drive, your speaker/headphone jack, and so on. HIDs are anyway that you interact with the computer!
- Other (optional): There are plenty of other electronic bits that you can stick into your computer. You can throw in a “sound card” or a “Bluetooth” receiver or a solid state drive or another hard drive or graphics card, or anything else that will fit on the motherboard!
Those are all your parts, time to do some shopping!
You can buy computer parts on almost all the major online shopping companies but I’ll stick with newegg.com
Oh, wait. First things first…
What type of computer do you want?
Do you want a “cheap as possible” computer to experiment with this skill? A budget of around $250 will do. Go to the “DIY PC Combos” section.
Do you want to make a “godly” gaming computer with plenty of bells and whistles? It will cost you about $5000. Maybe $15,000 if you plan on buying and using the absolute latest and greatest parts.
Still need some ideas? Check out this site for some ideas.
Let’s say for the sake of argument we have a $1000 budget to make a gaming computer. Let me walk you through the process of buying the parts.
We want a computer that can play games with very good graphics and can be used for everyday things such as surfing the web, watching blue ray movies, listening to CDs, lots of video editing, and occasional tinkering with some 3d modeling software.
Shopping for Computer Parts
Here’s my shopping list:
|Qty.||Product Description||Total Price|
I go on the website and start by looking for parts.
I’m on a budget so I’ll stick with an AMD brand processor. The most expensive AMD processors are just as good as a “mid-tier” Intel Processor. Take note of the amount of power it draws and the “socket” (so that the processor fits the motherboard).
Then I look for a graphics card. I can’t afford a $1000 graphics card, so I browse for something that’s the best bang for my buck. I found a Radeon R9 480 graphics card for $200.
(The one I picked is brand new! It came out June 28, 2016!)
It mentions how much power it draws. How much space it takes up. And how many “stream processors” it has (how good it is compared to similar cards). Take note of that while browsing around.
I look for an “AMD AM3+ motherboard” so that my processor fits.
While browsing, I try and stick with motherboards that came out recently and have slightly more connections than I need in case I want to upgrade in the future. Also, I look for a medium sized (TX) motherboard. I found one with lots of opportunity to upgrade it for $180.
I grab a simple 1TB (1,000 Gigabyte) hard drive for $50.
The rpm is 7200 (how fast it is), and the size is 3.5″ (standard size).
I look for some RAM. I grab two DDR3-240 (“desktop sized” with a 240-pin connector) 8GB sticks that run at an 1866 speed for $60.
I find a simple, medium sized (mid-tower), high air flow, computer case for $65.
Power Supply Unit
I look for a power supply that has slightly more power than needed to run everything. I find a 1000W power supply for $120.
I decide to not buy an Operating System since I’ll stick with a Linux Operating System.
Look around for some. A few notable ones are called Ubuntu & FreeBSD.
Mouse & Keyboard -$30
Simple wired mouse and keyboard combo with flashy blue lights!
Wireless Adapter (optional) -$27
Stick this on the back of the computer and then you can connect to a wireless router. If you are going to keep the computer in the same room as your router, you don’t need this. You can just run a wire from the router to your computer.
Blue Ray Burner – $50
Note: you can get a DVD burner for $20. I decided to spend $30 more for something that can read and write onto blue ray discs. But you can just get the “DVD burner” if you have something that can play blue ray discs already.
Go over this checklist to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes picking out your parts!
- Did you pick a processor that is compatible with your motherboard? Is the “socket” the same? Did you pick a processor that draws too much power and so it is not compatible with your motherboard (the AMD FX 9000 series has this problem).
- Did you pick a graphics card or motherboard that will fit inside your computer case? Check the size of the case and compare them to the dimensions of the parts to be sure.
- Did you pick the right sized RAM or one with speeds compatible with your motherboard? The desktop size is “DDR3” with 240-pin connectors with differing speeds. Check the motherboard again to be sure.
- Did you pick a power supply unit with enough power to run everything? How about one with enough power to handle upgrades in the future? How about enough electrical connections? (you can use adapters, but better safe then sorry)
Putting everything together!
Okay. I assume you have your parts picked out and ready to order.
That last thing you have to learn about is putting the parts together.
Luckily you have the limitless knowledge of the internet available to you, so do a quick YouTube search and… here it is! How to put a computer together:
(the gist of putting a computer together is to connect everything you can to the power supply and the motherboard, then tuck away any loose wires. That’s all!).
Okay. There is a ton of information to digest in this post.
First and foremost, take some time to decide if you want a custom desktop or not. What are you going to do with it? Business or pleasure? What is your budget?
Second, go over the list of parts. Browse for those parts. Make sure that the parts are compatible with each other and are the best bang for your budget.
Third, take some time to learn how a computer is put together. Watch the entire video above!
If you feel that you are ready to try this. Order the parts!
There a lot more to this topic such as electrical engineering and general computer science. But this is just grabbing parts and assembling them. Hope you found this small guide useful dear reader.