Building a computer is arguably one of the best technology investments to make because of its versatility and longevity. A computer can perform various functions and outlasts a smartphone and gaming console. For content creators, computer science majors, enthusiasts, and even beginners, this guide aims to make it easy for anyone to delve into the world of DIY PCs.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
Like all things, a computer needs a brain to perform logical and mathematical operations. Intel and AMD are the two major brands that create the “brain” component of the computer. They both create a range of processors catering to different budgets and use cases. For example, an Intel Xeon or AMD Epyc are business-oriented server processors. Consumers’ eyes should be set on the AMD Ryzen or Intel Core series. Be mindful that the CPU you choose to purchase alters every other component that comes after to some degree.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
RAM is a short-term memory that determines how much data your CPU or computer can process at a given time. As of 2023, there are five generations of RAM, with the latest being DDR5. The CPU a person chooses can only work for specified RAM generations. The capacity of the RAM will also be dependent on your workload. For starters, 16GB is the recommended capacity and should meet the necessary requirements. For a beginner, we recommend focusing on the DDR4 generation as it is the relative norm and supports a majority of the current CPUs.
The motherboard is a printed circuit board (PCB) that facilitates backbone connectivity between the components. It is a circuit bus that allows components to plug into its various slots to enable them to communicate. A motherboard is not universal and will only accommodate predefined components. If you recall, it was mentioned that there are two dominant chip manufacturers, Intel and AMD. Each creates its CPUs differently, leading to different-sized sockets into which they fit. An Intel CPU can only work on a certified motherboard for that CPU and vice versa. The motherboard also accommodates RAM, which is typically universal across the CPU brands. It has slots for hard drives, graphics cards, and much more. For a beginner, we recommend Asrock, Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI
GRAPHICS PROCESSING UNIT (GPU)
A GPU is a piece of hardware that is built for graphics accelerated processing. Think of it like a CPU but for graphics. Anything you want to do on the computer that involves graphics and animations utilises a GPU. Graphic designing, video editing, animation, and gaming are nigh impossible without one. For a beginner, we recommend looking towards Nvidia and AMD for their graphics processing units.
It isn’t wrong to assume everyone knows what a hard drive is at this age. From modern-day smartphones to satellite decoders to even a smart fridge, hard drives are used wherever there is a need to store user data. The hard drive, as a result, has seen many iterations, all aimed at improving performance and efficiency. There is a lot to choose from, from magnetic tapes like SATA Hard Drives to NAND-like Solid State Drives. It’s important to try and find a middle ground between storage space and speed. Always place your operating system in the faster storage type to fully harness its speed and efficiency. For a beginner, we recommend an NVMe SSD for the operating system and a normal SATA Hard Drive for the user’s files. Look towards Crucial, Samsung, WD, and Sabrent for quality hard drives.
POWER SUPPLY UNIT (PSU)
You can’t run any of these components without a power source. The power supply unit, or PSU, provides necessary and specific power to the various components in the system. It comes with an array of cables, each prelabelled and created for specific ports to fit in. From powering the CPU to the motherboard to the hard drives and the GPU. The more power the components draw, the more wattage requirements the PSU must meet. Most power supplies will generally fit in modern-day cases, with a few form factors being the exception. The rating of the power supply is important, too as it shows fault tolerance and efficiency levels the unit can manage. For a beginner, we recommend brands such as EVGA, Corsair, and Cooler Master.
Last but not least is a case that provides protection and various slots for all the components. There are various sized cases for different use cases and scenarios, but they all offer customisation with the necessary functionality. The case is a great component to showcase your creativity and personalisation. Let your personality show. There are about four general form factors for PC cases, ranging from the smallest to the largest. The type of case one chooses affects the entire configuration, so it’s important to scrutinise the case one purchases. Don’t be afraid to purchase any case you see that meets your criteria but is unbranded. The design is standardised across the industry, meaning your components will fit despite the case’s branding.
One of the best things about building a gaming PC is that the job is never truly finished. You can further customise your build to meet your needs and update it with the latest hardware as software system requirements advance. The custom PC you just built will serve as your foundation for all the experiences ahead, and fine-tuning your components is all part of the fun of owning it.