Hello there! If you’re reading this, you’ve taken the first step to building your very own custom PC. I’ve been building computers for about four and a half years now, and I think I’ve come to some conclusions as to which parts are the best…
We’ll start with the parts that affect compatibility with the rest of your computer the most, and work our way down from there! Enjoy!
1: The Motherboard
The motherboard is a very important component of your computer. It holds many of the crucial operating components in yor PC, including the processor (CPU). There isn’t an incredibly wide variety of motherboards, as many ofhem will operate in a very similar manner. However, you do want to make sure you’re buying from a trusted brand. Some of my favourites include ASUS and GIGABYTE brand motherboards, but there are a few other good companies out there.
One number to make note of is the FRONT SIDE BUS, which is measured in megahertz (MHz), and is the transfer speed between the CPU and the northbridge. This process is somewhat complicated to explain, so I think I’ll just keep it brief and say, the higher this number, the better. Generally you want to aim for at least 1000MHz, but don’t overthink it. It’s not the most important part of your system.
Another specification of your motherboard is the SUPPOTED MEMORY TYPE. “Memory”, in this case, is your computer’s RAM, which will be explained later. Anyways, the three memory types are DDR, DDR2, and DDR3, all of which will be explained in the RAM section of this guide. Do make sure to make note of which memory your motherboard supports, though, as it is very important.
Also, be sure to remember your motherboard’s FORM FACTOR, which will most likely be ATX or MICRO ATX (mATX). This is reffering to the shape and size of your motherboard, and has nothing to do with performance. It does, however, determine wheter your motherboard will fit in your case or not.
Possible the most important characteristic of your motherboard is the SUPPORTED PROCESSORS. This is incredibly important, as it pretty much lays out which processor you should buy, and which ones will actually work. Make note of this and move on.
This is technically the least important part of your computer, but it is vital that you make sure every part will fit inside. The first aspect of a computer case that you should notice is it’s LOOKS. This has nothing to do with performance, and is completely up to personal preference, but remember, if it looks cool, it’s probably more expensive than a more standard looking case.
Another attribute of you case is it’s SIZE, which is pretty self explanitory. There are three main sizes to a computer case, and these are FULL TOWER, MID-TOWER, and MINI-TOWER. For everyday home use, you’re probably going to want to stick with a mid-tower. Full towers are primarily meant for making a server, and mini-towers are generally awkward and often will not fit all of the parts you have picked out.
Your case will also state whether it supports ATX motherboards, or mATX motherboards. Make sure your case supports the right type of motherboard before buying!
Also, do note that some cases come with CASE FANS, which are useful tools that keep your computer cool and reliable. Whenever I buy a case, I always make sure that it has at least one case fan included, just to remove the hassle of buying one seperately.
The last thing about your case that you need to know about is it’s FEATURES, which can include a frontal audio port, frontal USB ports, Optical drive slots etc. Choosing which features you want is not for me to decide, and is all dependant on what you are going to be using your computer for.
3: Power Supply (PSU)
Without this, your computer would just be a box! When choosing a power supply, there are really only two charactertics that you need to pay attention to. One of these, is it’s WATTAGE. The wattage that you should get is dependant on what you are going to be using your PC for. Here are some of my recomendations:
Computer used for: Typing documents, Viewing simple photos, generally working with microsoft office. Wattage Reccomended: 400-500W
Computer used for: Simple gaming, Viewing videos, other typical home useage. Wattage Reccomended: 400-600W
Computer used for: Advanced gaming, Editing photos and video, viewing Blu-ray movies. Wattage Reccomended: 550-750+W
The second specification of your power supply that is important is it’s MOTHERBOARD CONNECTOR. This will either be 20 or 20+4. Always, ALWAYS go for 20+4 unless you have a motherbord from the stone ages, as most, if not all newer motherboards have a 24 pin plugin.
4: Processor (CPU)
The processor is essentially the brain of your computer. The performance of your PC will be greatly affected by this, so make sure you choose wisely! When buying a processor, you will be presented with a decision right off the bat. You will have the choice to go with an AMD processor or an INTEL processor. Both companies are equally good, and the only advantage that I can think of right now is the fact that Intel’s processor fan is generally easier to intall. I prefer to use Intel either way, not because it’s better, but because I have a greater understanding of their processors and have been using them for many years.
The first thing to take note of is the processor’s TYPE and NUMBER OF CORES. The type of the processor is fundamentally how new the CPU is, and examples of this include Intel’s CORE 2 (older model) and the CORE I7 (newest model). Examples of AMD processors include the ATHLON (older model) and the PHENOM II (newest model). Generally, it’s best to stick with the newest model you can afford, as technology is improving every year. The number of cores in a processor is, in effect, how many CPU’s are packed into one. To explain this as simply as I can, having more cores means you can run more applications at the same time, and generally speeds up your computer. The most common numbers of cores in a processor are 1 (SINGLE CORE), 2 (DUO CORE), and 4 (QUAD CORE).
The most important number to make note of when buying a processor is it’s SPEED. The meaning of this should be quite obvious, and this specification is measured in gigahertz (GHz). Essentially, the higher the GHz, the faster your computer will be. How fast your processor should be is dependant on your computer usage. Here are some of my recommendations:
Computer used for: Typing documents, Viewing simple photos, generally working with microsoft office. Speed Recommended: <2.30GHz
Computer used for: Simple gaming, Viewing videos, other typical home useage. Speed Recommended: 2.30-3.00GHz
Computer used for: Advanced gaming, Editing photos and video, viewing Blu-ray movies. Speed Recommended: >3.00GHz
5: Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
Your HDD is the long-term memory of your computer. There are two numbers that you should make note of here. One of these numbers, is the hard drive’s CAPACITY. This measures how much data you can write to the HDD, and is usually measured in gigabytes (GB). How much space you want is entirely up to you, but I would reccomend getting at least 100GB of space, as HDDs are quite cheap nowadays. However, if you really want to go above and beyond, there are HDDs that have over one terrabyte (TB) of space, and, in case you are unaware, one TB=1000GB. Unless you are building a server, I do not recommend getting this much space.
The second number to notice is the SPINDLE SPEED. This number will either be 7200RPM or 10000RPM. 10000RPM HDDs will write data faster than 7200RPM HDDs, but will require quite a bit more cooling and are generally less reliable. In most cases, I would recommend buying a 7200RPM hard drive, as the difference between the write speed is subtle and a 10000RPM drive is not worth the extra cooling.
Another characteristic of some hard drives nowadays is that it is possible to get SOLID STATE DRIVES. This means that there are no moving parts withing the hard drive, which means faster write speed, more reliability, and a longer lifespan. However, they are far, far more expensive than a regular HDD. Whether you get one or not is completely up to you, as both types of HDD have their advantages and disadvantages.
6: Random Access Memory (RAM)
If you think of your HDD as your computer’s long-term memory, think of RAM as it’s short-term memory. RAM stores temporary files that are used to run applications, and deletes them when they are no longer needed. RAM is measured in GB, and the bigger your RAM, the more applications you can run at the same time. I would recommend at least 2GB of RAM for everyday use, but 4GB of RAM or more is useful for gaming or viewing Blu-ray movies.
Remember that specification of your motherboard that I told you to notice earlier? (DDR, DDR2, DDR3) Well that comes into play now. If you check the MEMORY TYPE of your RAM, you should see one of these three combos of letters and numbers there. Search for RAM sticks that have the same memory type as your motherboard suggests.
Your RAM will also have an associated MEMORY SPEED, which will be measured in MHz. This number represents how fast data can be written to your RAM. The higher this number, the better, and I would recommend getting above 1000MHz of RAM speed.
7: Graphics/Video Card (GPU)
Your GPU is in charge of how good your gaming, videos, and photos look on your monitor. Once again, similar to processors, there are two main types of graphics card to choose from, NVIDIA and RADEON. Again, both companies are equally good at making video cards, and it’s all up to personal preferance as to which one you choose.
The two specs of GPU’s that people pay attention to the most is it’s TYPE and it’s VIDEO MEMORY. Type is the model of the graphics card. For this spec, you’ll have to do a little bit of research into the GPU that you want, to see if it will suit your needs. Some examples of types are the EVGA NVIDIA 9500 GT and the XFX Radeon HD 5870. Sounds confusing, right? Don’t worry about it too much. These are just the model names, you’ll have to look up the card name that you want in order to choose effectively.
Video Memory is another characteristic of your card, and is measured in GB or MB. Once again, the higher this number, the better. Usually, you’ll want to aim for 1GB, or 1000MB, or higher. This way, you’ll be able to run most games, videos etc. on the highest settings with little to no difficulty.
8: Optical Drive
This the the CD and DVD reader of your machine. The features that this includes is all up to you, and there is really only one characteristic that you should have. This characteristic, is that you should make sure it is called a DVD BURNER and not a CD DRIVE. This is because a DVD bruner can write, rewrite, and read CDs AND DVDs, and a CD drive can only read CDs. You can, however, buy one of each if you prefer, but you must remember that each computer case has a different number of slots for optical drives, so you should not buy more than your case can support.
And with that, I conlude my guide on how to choose parts for your computer! Keep in mind I will always be adding to and tweaking this article, as some things may change over time. Thank you for reading!