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It’s not as hard as you think. A few years back, all I knew about computers was on the software side of things. I am a developer and have been programming since I was twelve. I never considered doing anything on the hardware side of things myself. I remember the computer I bought in 1994 cost me $3,800. Computers today are not that expensive, but they still are pricey, BUT I AM HERE TO TELL YOU THAT YOU CAN EASILY BUILD YOUR OWN COMPUTER. It is easier than doing a puzzle … really.

Here in a couple of posts, I’ll try to detail out the steps to building your own machine. I, myself, have now built four “killer” machines that have been outstanding and are continually running without any problems. My last machine, I consider pretty top of the line, I built for around $350 USD. Not bad! Don’t even have that much? Well, here’s how you do it.

First off, figure out what you need to purchase and either 1) Purchase it all at once, or 2) Purchase it piecemeal. You are going to need to buy these items:

1)      Computer Case + Power Supply + Case Fans
2)      Motherboard
3)      CPU
4)      CPU Fan
5)      Memory (RAM)
6)      Hard drive
7)      DVD Drive
8)      Video Card ** Optional depending on motherboard
9)      Sound Card ** Optional depending on motherboard
10)  Network Card ** Optional depending on motherboard
11)   Modem ** Optional

Items 1 through 6 are pretty much required and items 7-10 might be required by what you need, or even better yet, they might already be built into the motherboard. The computer that I am going to show you how to build is one meant for developing upon and not gaming as gaming computers will cost more (especially in concerns with the video and sound cards), but you can take the same steps basically to achieve the results you want.

As I said, you can either buy all the items you need at once, or do it piecemeal. How do you do it piecemeal? This is how I did it:

GET THE SUNDAY PAPER. In it, you will find ads for your local electronics store. The best place to look is Best Buy and/or Fry’s Electronics (if one is near you). They always have that one or two items that they are basically giving away just to get you in the store so that you will buy other things when you are there. Don’t fall for the temptations of buying anything else other than the super-discounted items that they are advertising. Also, pay close attention to the fine-print which might say things like (only 3 per store) or something of that nature. If that is the case, then you have to show up when they open and do the cabbage-patch dance (if you don’t get that joke, don’t worry about it). You can do this kind of purchasing over the course of one/two or more months till you have everything that you need to build your computer.

Ready to go now? Here are some ideas on where you can purchase some of these items:

Computer Case + Power Supply + Case Fans

Antec Solution SLK1650 Beige Computer Case

The computer case that you get really can also depend upon the type of motherboard you get. If you look at this motherboard: http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=13-157-030, you can see that the page lists the Form Factor of the motherboard (which in this case is microATX). Then you will want to find a computer case that takes microATX motherboards. Really it all has to do with the screw holes in the side of the case and if they match up to the screw holes in the motherboard. Most cases today allow for multiple types of motherboards, so if you are getting a standard motherboard, you can be sure to be pretty safe with the case that you get.

You can find some cases here:
http://www.newegg.com/app/manufact.asp?catalog=7&DEPA=1
http://www.compgeeks.com/products.asp?cat=CAS

You don’t need an expensive case. Don’t fall for those $200 cases. I spend no more than $75 on a case. One of my cases cost me $30. Some cases include the POWER SUPPLY with them by default. Some require you to buy the power supply separately. I usually purchase mine online as they are really expensive at CompUSA or Best Buy. Get a 350 or 400 watt (or better) power supply and if it is only like $5 for a better one, it is usually a good idea to upgrade here to a better choice.

CASE FANS!!! BUY THEM!!! Usually case fans are not included or there might be only one included. This is one area to go overboard with. Heat is a computer’s worst enemy (sometimes two-year old children are the worst enemy … but usually it is heat). Spend an extra $4 and get more case fans. Keep your computer cool. You do know have to buy fancy water-coolant fans or wacky nuclear fans, just a basic fan will work.

The Motherboard

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=13-157-030 (for Intel)
http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=13-157-024 (for AMD)

I like this motherboard as it has the video, sound and network cards built right in and they are rather decent. This is a big money saver. When purchasing motherboards, you have to pay attention to making sure that your motherboard and CPU are made to work together. CPUs have a certain number of pins on the bottom or are of a certain style and motherboards have to be made special for specific types of CPUs. So, you have to think whether you are going to use an Intel chip, or an AMD chip and which version, etc. Which to use you ask? Really, you can go with either. I have some computers using AMD and others using Intel. I am happy with both. Though, I would stick with either Intel or AMD – I really wouldn’t get some other brand. Concerning the motherboards I link to above: these are kind of no-name brands, but I have been happy with my purchase thus far and I personally don’t have a problem with purchasing AsRock motherboards. But, if you want to go after some of the name-brands that are great motherboards, then look for motherboards from Asus or Abit.

Some sites offer motherboard/CPU combos. You can see a large list of them at: http://www.pricewatch.com. This is also a good place to look for other components as well.

CPU

 AMD  intel

Again, you have to get a CPU that will work with the motherboard that you buy. Either buy them in combo, or make dang sure that they will work together. Think of the speed you want for your machine. CPUs are important!

The trick to purchasing CPUs is that you don’t buy the top-of-the-line model. They are usually quite expensive. The trick is to buy last year’s offering as it will be considerably cheaper. Again, you will want to stick to Intel (such as a Celeron) or an AMD. Don’t really do anything other than these two brands.

CPU Fan

MASSCOOL WhisperRock II 5F263B1M3 80mm Ball Cooling Fan

Heat, heat, heat. As I stated, this is our enemy. We hate heat … remember! Your CPU will require some beefy CPU fan. You can troll the sites and get the CPU fan that matches the CPU that you are purchasing. Again, it has to really match with the CPU that you purchase as these fans are designed for a specific CPU.

Memory (RAM)

Patriot Signature Series 1GB (2 x 512MB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM Dual Channel Kit System Memory

You are going to want to try and get a motherboard that allows you to use DDR memory. The motherboards (AsRock) that I pointed out earlier allow for DDR memory and have two slots for memory. A motherboard has a specific number of memory slots. Some have two, some three, some four. You are going to want to make sure all the memory sticks you get match in size. This means that if you have two slots, you are going to want to get two matching memory sticks. It is good to stick to the exact same brand and model. So get two 512mb sticks for those slots. This will give you more than 1GB of memory for that development machine. Oh yeah!

Hard Drive

I usually get my hard drive at places like Fry’s or Best Buy. I have had the hard drive quit on me a few times and it is so easy to go back to these stores (WITH YOUR SAVED RECEIPT ) and get a new one. They’ll say, “Um, do you know what is the matter with this hard drive?” And you’ll say, “I dunno. I put it in and it just don’t work!”. Very easy. No hassle. Look for the weekly deal here as these stores will carry a deal at least once a month. For instance, I just bought a Maxtor 160GB hard drive (7200) at Fry’s for $45. You can’t beat that!

DVD Drive

You will need to have a way to install the operating system of your choice onto the computer you build. You will usually need a DVD drive to accomplish this task, so this is usually a good purchase. Go for the generic here as it really doesn’t matter what you get here.

Video Card ** Optional

Ah, you can get a video card, but if your motherboard takes care of this, you are not required to. These are great to get if you are creating a gaming machine though. You will want a 64mb card or better. There are lots of choices and they cost some serious dough. The more you pay the better card you get. Just remember that.

Sound Card ** Optional

Same as above here. If you need to get one, just get a cheap SoundBlaster card.

Network Card ** Optional

This should cost you anywhere from $5 to $30. Just buy the most basic one you can. This is so you can use your new computer on a LAN. Home networks are the rage, all the cool kids are doing them. …. Ok… serious now, I have a home network with my DSL Internet line coming into my Linksys router which then spans out to a series of computers all connected using Ethernet cables and network cards. Connect them all together, map some drives and whola, you have a super system!

Modem ** Optional

If you must. My advice: Invest in DSL.

Hey, what about the monitor, keyboard and such?

Alas, this is where the cost of your computer greatly increases. My suggestion though, is if you already have a computer is to use this new computer and the old one together using a KVM switch. This is a switch that will allow you to share a single monitor, keyboard and mouse between 1-x number of machines. You can find these switches at http://compgeeks.com. As shown here:

Summary

So, do some looking around. Get what you need. Slowly start getting the pieces together. Building your own computer is fun. You will learn a lot about computers and fixing them later will not be a problem. This is also a good thing for kids that are in their early teens. Your kid begging you for a computer? Tell them, sure, “but you gotta build it yourself”. It really isn’t that hard. I will be back with part II of this story where I will detail out for you on how to put this all together!

Posted on Friday, October 22, 2004 2:28 PM Social Life | Back to top


Comments on this post: Build Your Own Computer - Part I

# re: Build Your Own Computer - Part I
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This was a tremendouse help. Thanks so much. When are you coming out with Part II?

Thanks again, Chuck
Left by CHUCK on Dec 13, 2004 12:14 PM

# re: Build Your Own Computer - Part I
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Really simple and straight forward infos...
(Jokes are good as well!)
Even though I could not shop on those stores links, I really enjoyed reading it.
I have to look for these parts in UK to save on the costs of delivery.
Well done Mate..
Keep up the good work..
Left by Ravi - UK on Jun 04, 2005 7:17 PM

# re: Build Your Own Computer - Part I
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I would like see part 2
Left by david branch on Nov 26, 2005 2:19 PM

# re: Build Your Own Computer - Part I
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I had a friend build me a pc and i love it he used some parts you mentioned. I would like to know how to put it all togetherand im looking forward to part two.


Gary
Left by gary on Jun 19, 2006 1:53 PM

# re: Build Your Own Computer - Part I
Requesting Gravatar...
Something tells me that after two years, if there hasn't been a part two yet, there may never be...
Left by JB on Sep 14, 2006 10:34 AM

# re: Build Your Own Computer - Part I
Requesting Gravatar...
u bought a 160gb for 45$ i bought a TB for £80
Left by Bruce on Mar 17, 2009 5:08 PM

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