Before I get in depth in regards to the actual selection of components, let me begin by quickly answering the why.
Why build your own PC?
Well, I personally built my system because I’m a gamer. I see the console space at the moment, and I’m frustrated to say the very least. Incremental changes and upgrades, and a space I assume will soon become modular. That is to say, you’ll soon be switching out hardware inside the device, just like a PC. That is simple speculation on my part, of course, but should this happen, consoles could quickly become more expensive than PCs.
In short, this is a really good time to invest in a PC. It’s never been less complicated to build (if I can do it, so can you!), and powerful hardware is becoming less and less expensive.
I will leave you with a small disclaimer, however: it is also not a great time to build. For several different reasons, PC component pricing is a more than a little messy at the moment. For example, I built my current PC about a year ago and paid less than half the current going price for my memory stick. Graphics cards, which I will get into in just a moment, are also in a weird limbo at the moment. You either fork up around $100 for a graphics card that will do well in lighter games like Rocket League and Overwatch, or pay $400 for a graphics card like the GTX 1070 that will crush every game ever.
Okay, now to begin. For the sake of simplicity, I will begin with a very basic list of parts required:
- Operating System – A user interface. Typically Windows in PC, and OS X for Macintosh computers.
- Processor/CPU – The “brain” of the computer. Almost always either an Intel or AMD branded part. Intel’s lineup includes the i3 (entry level), i5 (middle tier), and the i7 (enthusiast). Similarly, AMD has the new “Ryzen” lineup, which follows the same numbering scheme.
- Motherboard – The “body” of the computer. The CPU, memory, and all other pieces fit onto the motherboard. It’s important to remember that what motherboard you should purchase depends largely on what CPU you want, as well as the form factor that fits your tastes.
- Memory or “RAM” – The CPU stores temporary information here, in the same way that a smartphone allows apps to be preloaded into the background for later use.
- Storage/Hard Drives – Where files and all other information is stored. The main two types are mechanical and SSD, or solid state drives. Solid state drives are much faster, but more expensive. A two hard drive configuration, with solid state supporting the operating system, and mechanical for everything else, is common.
- Graphic/Video Card/GPU – A card that allows for extra computing in specific tasks, such as video rendering or gaming.
- Power Supply – The charger for your desktop. Wattage needed depends on the requirements of the hardware.
- Case – An enclosure for your components.
At this point, I’d like to introduce you to a wonderful resource: pcpartpicker.com. It allows for you to select components you want, tells you the vendor which sells it at the lowest price, as well as checks for major compatibility issues.
I’d also like to point to other resources: A wonderful basic “How to Build a Computer” guide by Paul’s Hardware, the LinusTechTips channel in general, as well as YouTube in general for question regarding specific parts or benchmarks.
For those curious, this is my current desktop.
Stephanie is a gamer, otaku, and your local friend who posts on Twitter too much. From Mississippi, she spends most of her free time prepping for her next convention or getting beaten at Overwatch. Follow her on Twitter.