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Building a PC for dummies


Image credit: Andre Tan / Unsplash

A computer powerful enough to run any game or application is something wanted by many. Now, imagine if you could pick out every last detail of it! Well, it’s possible, and I’ve done it myself. There are many benefits of building your own PC instead of buying it that will be discussed in-depth throughout this article.


Should I build a PC? Benefits of a Custom VS. Retail

If you are interested in a computer for gaming, editing, coding, or whatever the case, you can build it without any prior experience. Due to its customizability, you can go for the cheapest option for all of the different parts needed (which will be explained further on) or pick the parts that will give you the the best computer for your needs. On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy the best computer possible, you can spend some money for a PC much better and cheaper than the best prebuilt computer you can buy.


You have to think about what you want to do on your computer. If you aren’t going to use it for gaming or editing, you can probably get a laptop. Laptops are also expensive, especially if it's built by Apple, but if your main focus is to do work and take it around, a laptop has many more benefits.


Now, if you are interested in a wide variety of games, editing, music producing, or coding, building a PC might be for you. Although it seems very overwhelming, there’s actually less than 10 pieces of hardware you need to build a computer.


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The Different PC Parts and their Functions

Obviously, you need a case for your PC. It’s like the house; it’s the box that all the parts live in. Other than different sizes, every different option for a case is your own aesthetic preference. There’s not very many options to choose from because they all get the same job done.


Next, you need a motherboard. It’s the big board that every future part of your computer connects to. Without the motherboard, all of your parts would have nowhere to plug into.


The brain of the computer is the CPU, which stands for “Central Processing Unit.” The CPU is a mini computer itself. The power of your CPU works together with your RAM, (which I’ll explain next) to process any program. The better the CPU, the more power and potential your computer will have.


The RAM is the part that comes in two to four sticks depending on your needs. It’s really satisfying to snap into your motherboard, and it works together with the CPU to open tasks and manage multiple applications at once. The more RAM you have, the more multitasking your computer can do. Every motherboard only has 4 spots for RAM, so that’s the best amount you can get.

Often forgotten, the next part is the Power Supply Unit, or PSU. The PSU does what it says, it gets electricity to the computer. The power from the outlet goes through the PSU to the motherboard. From the motherboard, it sends the power to all of your different parts.


So what makes you able to see what's actually happening on your computer? The graphics card (GPU) and the monitor. The GPU translates everything that the rest of your computer is doing onto the screen, which is your monitor. The better the GPU, the more frames per second you can get, which makes videos and games look smoother. Also, a better GPU can allow you to run more fancy graphics.


Image credit: Aviv Rachmadian / Unsplash
Storage

The hard drive (HDD) and the solid state drive (SSD) are the 2 choices you have for storage on a computer. The HDD has a bigger capacity than the SSD. It looks sort of like a disk. However, hard drives are usually slow to grab all of your data from, so that's why the SSD exists. A solid state drive is a good place to store files that you want quick access to. SSDs sit on the motherboard and are much smaller than HDDs, but they make up for it in speed. The best solution to storage on a PC is buying both an SSD and a HDD. They work together to open up your files as fast as possible.


Unfortunately, I made a huge mistake when first building my computer. I took a lot of advice from a friend that didn’t actually know that much about building PCs. I’m not sure why I trusted him, but I didn’t do enough research on my own. He told me to only buy a hard drive because that would be all I need. While technically possible, a computer can run fine with exclusively an HDD, but it took 10+ minutes to turn on every time, it was really slow, and it crashed all the time. I had my computer for a year before I bought my SSD. Once I installed it, my download and opening speed became much faster. I know it may seem obvious, but I can’t stress enough to do your own research and use trusted sources.

Image credit: Andy Holmes / Unsplash

A recap of what to do before you purchase any parts

If you’ve decided that building a PC is the route you’re going to take, then make sure to watch a lot of YouTube videos from channels like Linus Tech Tips or JayzTwoCents. From here, you can watch their guides on how to actually build it or more explanations on how to fix more specific issues you may run into. If you want to lose all of your dignity, you can also join some subreddits or discord servers to ask specific questions to nerds online. Make sure to also check if all of your parts are compatible by learning stuff on YouTube. Most importantly, don’t make the same dumb mistake I did.

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