There’s a mark of pride that comes from completing a customized computer. From buying the parts to piecing them together, the moment that computer comes on and doesn’t catch fire, it’s an achievement. The sense of satisfaction that comes from using a computer after putting it together by hand simply cannot be duplicated by a pre-made machine.
Building one’s own computer can be rewarding, exciting, and an adventure. It also can run the gamut of frustrating, incomprehensible, and headache inducing. But with a little bit of experience, and a liberal dash of reading and understanding, building a customized computer is well within the grasp of anyone who dares try it out.
To start with, consider the advantages of building a computer, as well as the necessary concerns and the potential pitfalls on the path to a custom computer.
Advantages to Building a Custom Computer
The biggest advantage is building a custom PC is that it’s just that – customized for one’s individual computer experience. The hardware needs of an avid gamer are different from a casual Internet surfer, and it’s easy to get too much computer when buying out of a box. By identifying what the computer will be used for and what hardware best accentuates that usage, one can create a computer that best fits their needs.
A frugal side benefit is that if the old desktop still has functional components they can be re-purposed into the new computer; there’s no need to throw them out, so long as they work together with all the new parts. If the current case is big and sturdy enough, there’s no reason to replace it. Reusing the functional pieces of an old computer also eliminates trash; not all computer components are necessarily safe to throw away.
It also helps to know every piece that goes into the computer – if something should malfunction there’s nothing stopping the owner popping the box open to check the problem. There are no warranties to void, and no tech support to argue with.
Absolute Necessities to Building a Computer
When deciding to build a computer, bear in mind that it’s going to take a little bit of research to compose a computer that’s optimized for the user’s needs, budget, and time. Designing a top of the line computer in the imagination can be tantalizing, but the price tag tends to be top of the line as well.
The most critical components to consider are the motherboard, the processor, and the RAM. No matter how the computer is being used, these are the hardiest pieces of the computer. The easiest way to see what kind of power the custom computer will need is to check the system requirements of commonly used software. For instance, the system requirements for Ubuntu 10.04 are significantly less than Windows 7 — thus the user planning to install Ubuntu can safely purchase a smaller hard drive than the Windows user.
Other computer components vary depending on the user; gamers and artists are going to need a serious video card and more processing power than writers and casual users.
Also, having a proper environment to build a computer in is key. Excess static can be hazardous to computer components, and small computer pieces can be hazardous to small children and pets. Making sure that everything can be completed in a place that’s safe for both machine and man is something that needs to be considered.
Potential Pitfalls to Building a Computer
Sometimes the pros can become quick cons. Should a malfunction occur, there is no warranty to lean on, and no factory to send it off to for a quick repair. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on the temperament and experience of the owner.
Many of the big pieces are pretty easy to attach to the motherboard; things like the video card, sound card, and many of the power supply cords are as simple as piece A into slot B. However, other parts of computer construction can be more taxing: positioning the motherboard into the case, making sure that the heat sink is working with the processor, and fitting all the components into the case are marginally more difficult tasks.
Knowing the components is crucial. More than making sure that the video card can play all the latest games, it’s important to make sure that it will be compatible with the motherboard of your choice, and that the chosen processor has enough oomph to make everything run smoothly.
Arranging the components to prevent overheating can be all-too-easy to overlook — the power supply cords can be especially troublesome to sort and move for proper air-flow, and are big culprits in disrupting the movement of hot air inside the computer. It’s critical to have enough fans to keep everything cool, both for exhaust and auxiliary fans for any high-heat components.
Understanding the Computer
The best thing to do, before jumping right into building a new computer? Learn. Read tutorials on how to customize a computer. Look around and experiment inside the home desktop, if possible. Get the feel for the inside of the machine and avoid going in blind. That way when the old computer eventually does break down, or is so obsolete that it’s become more paperweight that machine, all that’s left to do is buy the new pieces and have some fun.