Now that we have our tools ready and a list of things needed, it is time to make some decisions on what type of system that we want to build. This is probably the longest section and for good reason. There is a lot to consider when buying the parts to build your new PC.
First, we are going to classify custom PC’s into 3 separate categories. This will help you know what parts to spend more money on and a general guide for the type of machine you are after.
Second, we will tell you the best places to buy your computer parts and to save the most amount of money in the process.
Third, we are going to list each individual part and a basic description of what it is. We will also list options available for each part.
And last on our list we will talk about which operating system will work best for your needs.
Which Type Of PC?
Here is a list of computer types. The budgets listed will give you a ball park idea of how much you will need to spend.
Pick the one that will best suit your needs and follow the guidelines for selecting hardware for it:
The budget PC is good for a person or family that needs to surf the Web, check e-mail and do some word processing. It will handle basic games and tasks. Generally the budget PC is comprised of some of the cheapest computer parts available and will use onboard video and/or sound via the motherboard.
- AMD CPU
- 4GB of Ram (2x2GB)
- 250GB SATA Hard Drive
- AMD Motherboard with onboard video and sound
- Inexpensive Case and 300+ watt Power Supply
- DVD + DVD Burner / CD burner/drive combo
- 15″ – 17″ LCD Monitor
- Keyboard and Mouse
- Basic Inkjet Printer
Approximate Budget: $600 or less
The workstation computer usually serves in a home office or business environment and runs software that requires more processing power and memory. Development tools for databases, web design, photo editing and sound engineering need the added resources to work efficiently.
Setting up a comfortable and ergonomic environment is one of the most important aspects for the workstation PC, so you may want to invest in wireless keyboards and mice. For video and sound editing applications it is usually wise to get as much RAM as you can afford and that the motherboard will allow for.
- AMD Athlon or Intel i3, i5 or i7 Processor/CPU
- 4GB+ of RAM
- 250GB+ SATA Hard Drive
- Motherboard that allows for adequate memory (Don’t forget to get the right motherboard for your CPU!)
- 512MB AGP or PCI Express Video Card
- Case and 400+ watt Power Supply
- DVD / CD burner/drive combo
- 17″ – 19″ LCD Monitor
- Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
- Inexpensive Speakers
- Inkjet or Laser Printer
Approximate Budget: $1200 or less
The gaming PC is used for playing the latest games that require high end video cards, the fastest processors and large amounts of memory. The nice thing about building a gaming machine, is that you will be able to run about any software and not have to worry about performance.
Building a gaming machine with the latest hardware can be costly, but it is the price you will have to pay to be able to play the newest games on the market with the performance that you want.
There are a couple of different video card manufacturers that support this capability. You also will want to get a lot of room for storage, so invest in a large hard drive.
- The latest AMD or Intel Quad Core based Processor
- 4GB of RAM +
- 500GB+ SATA/SCSI Hard Drive
- Motherboard that allows for large amount of memory, video card linking and overclocking
- 1 or 2 1GB+ AGP or PCI Express Video Card(s) that have the option to link with another card
- Full Tower Case and 600+ watt Power Supply
- Multiple DVD / CD burner/drive combo drives
- 19″+ LCD Monitor
- Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
- Satellite Speaker System with Subwoofer
- Inkjet or Laser Printer
Approximate Budget: $1500 or more
Computer Parts and Options
One of the trickiest things about buying all the parts is making sure that your memory, CPU, video card and motherboard will all be compatible with one another. Don’t get overwhelmed with the part names and acronyms, model numbers, etc.
The key is to make sure that everything fits with the motherboard. If you follow the specifications of the motherboard you can’t go wrong.
Make a list of the parts and prices to get an idea of your system cost. Here are a few general tips to get started when selecting hardware:
- We recommend that you first decide on going the Intel or AMD route. AMD is generally cheaper and offers comparable or better performance in some cases, it is just a matter of preference. Buy the retail version that includes a fan.
- Once you have chosen to go AMD or Intel, decide on a motherboard that fits with the type of system you are buying (budget, workstation, or gaming)
- Select the Processor that matches your machine type (budget, workstation, or gaming) and motherboard specifications. You will need to make sure that the speed and core type of the processor you select is compatible with the motherboard.
- Select RAM (memory) according to the motherboard specifications and your machine type (budget, workstation, or gaming)
- Choose a video card that makes the most sense for your type of system. Make sure to select one that is compatible with the slots on your motherboard. If you are buying a gaming machine, consider buying two identical cards that can be linked together for performance. The motherboard will have to be able to support this feature as well.
- Select a hard drive based on your machine type (budget, workstation, or gaming). We recommend going with an SATA hard drive over an IDE hard drive unless you are on a tight budget. The cost difference is not that much, but an IDE drive would be fine for a budget machine.
- Select a DVD/CD-Rom burner combo drive that will meet the needs of your system type. IDE is the standard type for these drives and should work with about any type of motherboard you buy. Most of these drives will be a combination all in on drive that can handle both reading and writing to CDs and DVDs. The cheapest drives offer great performance and value. If you have a gaming system, or extra needs it may be a good idea to buy two drives to be able to copy or use them both at the same time. You will have to have the ability to read DVDs if you plan on installing a new version of Windows such as Vista.
- Select a Case and Power supply that will meet the needs of your system. If you have ordered an SATA hard drive, make sure that your power supply has SATA power connectors.
- Decide on a monitor that is compatible with the type of output that your video card has. You want to go with digital (DVI) monitor and video card if possible for improved image quality. We highly recommend an LCD monitor for the small footprint and price.
- Choose all of the rest of your peripherals and accessories, including keyboard, mouse, printer and scanner if necessary.
- A network and sound card should not be necessary as most motherboards that you can buy have these built in. If you are serious about your sound though and want better quality with surround you might invest in a separate sound card.
- We recommend going with broadband (Cable or DSL) for your internet connection, which will likely need an ethernet port to connect to, which should be built into your motherboard (so you do not need to purchase additional hardware for this). If you want to go with a slower dial-up internet service you will need to buy a PCI based 56k modem however. These are very inexpensive.
Operating System Choices
It’s a fact that most of the PC’s running today are driven by one of the many flavors of Windows. The alternative to Windows is to run one of the many distributions of Linux, but if you are new to computers or to building your own machine, we recommend sticking with Windows for the large amount of software available for it and support community.
For any of the types of systems that we have been talking about, (budget, workstation, or gaming), Windows 7 and Windows 10 are the best choices.
Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows 7 Home Premium is the preferred edition for home desktop and mobile PCs. It provides a breakthrough design that is an improvement over Windows Vista that brings your world into sharper focus while delivering the productivity, entertainment and security you need from your PC at home or on the go.
Windows 7 Professional
Windows 7 Professional adds some features onto home premium including networking and better security. If you want more features but don’t need Ultimate then this is the perfect version for you.
Windows 7 Enterprise
Designed to significantly lower IT costs and risks, Windows 7 Enterprise meets the needs of large, global organizations with complex IT infrastructures.
Windows 7 Ultimate
Windows 7 Ultimate is the choice for those who want to have it all. Easily shift between the worlds of productivity and play with the most complete edition of Windows 7. Ultimate provides the power, security and mobility features needed for work and all the entertainment features that you want for fun.
So should I choose Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10?
For most users, we recommend Windows 7 Home Premium. It has all the functionality and features that most home users need if you don’t have a network setup. If you are in a business environment, go with the Professional or Enterprise edition, depending on your companies needs.
If you are building a budget based or cheaper PC, then Windows 7 is the way to go and specifically home if you do not need to network it. Make sure that all hardware you buy is windows 7 compatible. If you are going the 64 bit route you need to make sure that your hardware supports this as well.
What about Windows 8? In my not-so humble opinion – stay clear of Windows 8. It is ok for purely touch-based tablets etc, but to use as a PC without touch is a pain. Go with Windows 10 which provides the option of touch-based (Modern UI) Start Menu or a Start Menu which is more like Windows 7.
How Much is My Custom PC Going to Cost?
Now that you have made a list and you can see if the entire system, including shipping costs, will meet your budget. If you come in under your budget, expand your memory or upgrade another component such as the video card to improve performance.
If you are over budget you can cut back on some of the costlier accessories, or reduce the amount of memory, or CPU speed to curb the cost. Again, the nice thing about building your own custom computer is that you can easily add components and upgrade in the future and get more for your money down the road.
Where to Buy Computer Parts and Operating System?
Ok I have my list of parts and have figured out what operating system to get…but where can I buy them?
We recommend buying your computer parts from Amazon, they provide the best options and prices.
After you have everything ordered and receive your shipment, make sure to check and make sure that you received all of the correct parts.
Often computer parts will have a warranty that doesn’t last very long. It is important to understand this, especially on OEM parts. Keep all of the original boxes in case you need to make a return.
Our next step in the process of building a new PC is selecting the proper workspace.
Step 4: Preparing The Case