Custom PC building is not exclusively for the extreme gamer or super geek. Building a PC is for anyone who needs a specific set of hardware and software that they simply can’t walk into a store and buy direct. For many its a simply fun and rewarding learning exercise – or completely frustrating if you’re new to computers. We hope the following tips from us at 8-Bit should help you.
The custom be PC build can be a complete nightmare – even for the PC enthusiast. Keeping up with different terms and technologies, hardware updates let alone software can be quite a complex and time consuming process. And once you figure it out there’s sure to be new products on the market. However, as long as we take a few steps back from the whole ordeal and break down a PC into smaller manageable parts then we should be able to make it through the PC build minefield.
“When DIYing your new custom PC, the actual assembly process isn’t usually all that difficult. The difficult part happens beforehand, when it was time to choose the right components – and more so – compatible components.”
The fundamentals of any PC are the following: CPU, motherboard, memory (RAM), memory (ROM), power supply. If you get these right then the rest is straight forward.
The CPU you pick determines your motherboard and the motherboard you pick determines your CPU. So which comes first?
When you start building a PC always start with the CPU first. Why? Because if you buy the motherboard first you are limited to only CPUs that the motherboard will support.
Thus, decide on the CPU first and build around it.
So whats important in a CPU? Primary consideration is socket type. Or the socket standard. Intel’s current socket standard for the 7th and 8th generation CPU’s is LGA1151 or 2066. AMD’s is Socket AM4, SP3 or TR4.
Each CPU has its own unique number of features distinct from each other. Decide on the model then we can move on to the next most important part of the PC build process – the motherboard.
The motherboard you pick determines the features, capabilities and expandability you can expect in the future. There are three basic motherboard types in the consumer market, in order of size: Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX (mATX), and ATX.
ATX motherboards are full-sized standard consumer products, with a typical seven expansion slots. mATX boards are shorter and offer fewer slots, while ITX boards have the fewest expansion and memory slots of all.
If a Mini-ITX board is required for a specific project, then go with it. However, in most cases you’ll be deciding between a mATX or full-sized ATX motherboard.
Each board types comes with different configurations such as the number or type of network ports, display ports, usb ports, audio ports etc. Internally each can handle different types and number of memory cards, hard-drives, optical drives, fans, graphic cards etc.
RAM price fluctuate so keeping a keen eye on computer store prices is a great idea. The best advice here is buy according to your need and use. Just because a motherboard can support 64Gigs of RAM doesn’t mean you need to buy 64Gigs of RAM. So unless you need 32 or 64 Gig for ultra high definition video rendering or animation , then starting with 8 or 16 gigs of RAM is the sensible option.
DDR4 is the mainstream memory currently on the market and recommended by us (unless you have a motherboard that can only support DDR3 or lower).
Our final and super important peace of advice regarding memory is to deploy RAM in matched sticks in virtually all cases. Motherboards expect to see multiples of the same stick and in set combinations on the board itself. Anything else and expect to spend some time fault finding endlessly.
MEMORY/STORAGE (HARD DRIVE)
For storage there are two choices — a larger, but much slower hard drive, or faster and smaller SSD (solid state drive). Generally speaking, an SSD will always be the better and faster option. However our advice is generally have a hybrid solution and use both.
Install a moderate-sized SSD as a boot drive and preferred application installation platform (256GB or 512GB). For file storage a larger (2TB to 4TB+) can be used for data storage. Save all your movies, holiday snaps, work data, photoshop files or original video recordings etc here. If you are a heavy media user then 2, 3, 4 or more hard drives is always an option.
However, just to throw a spanner in the mix here, an SSD based on the M.2 standard that interface directly via PCI Express is also available. These are faster than traditional SSDs, which use SATA (so do HDDs) but require motherboard support. If you are interested in or have a need for a faster workflow, then an M.2 PCI Express SSD is an option. Just make certain your motherboard has the appropriate slot and level of support.
POWER SUPPLY (PSU)
When choosing a power supply, you’ll need to pay attention to several important considerations.
1) Ensure the PSU provides sufficient power for all the components in the system, with some additional room on top for a safety margin. Ideally refer to all the specifications of all the hardware that will be installed in your custom PC build, add a safety margin factor, say 30%, then choose your power supply to match.
2) Consider the number of six or eight-pin plugs for powering the motherboard itself, GPUs, hard drives, optical drives etc. As a simple guide, two eight-pin plugs (or one six-pin/eight-pin combo) will drive a single GPU, while four or more may be needed for multi-GPU configurations.
3) Consider whether you want an 80 Plus unit or something that offers a higher level of overall power efficiency – especially if you PC remains on for extended periods of time (or 24/7).
4) Most importantly, do not buy a generic power supply from a no-name vendor. We cannot stress this enough. Generic PSUs from no-name vendors will die at less than half the load they claim to rate, more often than not.
Unlike RAM, where you can buy less sticks then upgrade later, there is not that option with a PSU. A quality power supply here will save you headaches down the road.
When deciding on a PC case, don’t be mesmerized by the colours, dials and buttons. These are secondary to the most important consideration – can the chosen motherboard fit?
Keeping motherboard size in mind when considering case size is vital. A full size motherboard may not fit into a mid-size tower – especially if a large CPU cooler and graphics card is also on the menu. Cases are generally labelled “ATX Full Tower,” “ATX Mid-Tower” or “ATX Mini-Tower” or “Small Form Factor”.
Worry about size first then the accessories second. The next best advice here is don’t guess space. Look up the specification tables for all your parts and make sure your parts can fit.
Graphics Processing Unit is an important piece of hardware used fundamentally to display an image on a screen or screens. Some models are relative inexpensive but many can be more expensive then the actual motherboard or CPU. But are they essential? The honest truth is no – unless you have a specific need for it. That’s because all motherboards come with an integrated display port (vga or dvi or hdmi etc) and for 90% of people this will suffice.
However if you have a need to use 3,4 or more screens then a GPU is your solution. If you want to unlock and utilize the advanced processing features of your graphics card for animation and rendering support then a GPU is your solution. Or if you want to ensure the refresh rates and delays of Fortnite or GTA is kept to a minimum then a GPU is your solution.
If you want to include a DVD or Blu-ray drive in your build you certainly can, provided you pick a case that supports one. Sure, optical media playback isn’t as central to PCs as it was a decade or two ago, but the option exists. We recommend at least one optical drive if you have stacks of archive media or legacy programs that only exist on disk. Or simply keep an external DVD player in the draw because we all know the only time you find a use for something is the one time after you’ve thrown it out 🙂
PC cooling options range from the standard heatsinks that AMD and Intel ship with their own boxed processors to larger dual fan cooled rigs to water based cooling to full fanless oil immersion rigs.
The objective of CPU coolers is to keep your CPU within normal operating temperatures and running fine, even under load. If you intend to load your system with heavy processing or tweak the systems performance then upgrading your cooling might be an option.
If you do buy an aftermarket cooler, make sure to check its intended motherboard orientation, maximum cooler height (if installing it into a smaller chassis) and whether it may obstruction other hardware (eg installing RAM sticks).
If CPU cooling is your desire then ensure it’s a brand with quality attached to its name. Choose one that comes with excellent instructions, installation hardware like screws and screwdrivers and has good reviews.
Good note: CPU coolers are typically rated in terms of their TDP, or Thermal Design Power. This is the amount of heat the cooler is designed to dissipate over a given period of time and should be matched to the listed TDP of the CPU at minimum. It’s fine to use a cooler that can handle a 150W TDP on a 50W chip, but don’t try using a 50W cooler on a 150W CPU as the system may destabilize and will run slowly.
Personal preference is the primary factor to consider when shopping for peripherals such as mouse, keyboard, gaming controllers, touch pads etc. We recommend visiting retail stores in your area to test the comfort of several models before making a decision.
Again, personal preference is the primary factor here too. How many, how big, resolution, response times, colour depth etc will all be factors that are dependent on your intended usage and physical space. We recommend visiting retail stores in your area to test the quality and feel on each monitor.
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