DEVELOPMENT

Do It Yourself – Building a Computer

2.25.13 CPU Build

(The Information Age is continuing to expand. In an effort to assist readers with professional and personal growth, I am reaching out to friends to give insight in areas where they are experts. Chris Cheatham, a good friend, offered to write about building your own computer. Below is his summary of what you need to build a desktop computer.)

The common misconception is that computers are expensive and that you must buy a computer premade from a major manufacturer. I am here to tell you that you can build yourself a good computer at a fraction of the price with just a little ingenuity and guidance. In this article, I will give you a simple overview of what you will need to get started and finish your very own custom built personal computer.

A computer is comprised of 8 components and all are necessary in order for your build to be functional. These components are: a Chassis (the actual computer case), a CPU, Motherboard, RAM (Memory), Power Supply, Operating System (Microsoft Windows), Hard Drive and Optical Drive. Once you get all of these items, it is just a matter of putting it all together. Every build can be different and tailor made for your wants and needs.

The first thing you need to understand is what a CPU is. The CPU by definition is the Central Processing Unit, or in layman terms, just “processor”.  It is the brain of the computer, without it, your computer is useless. When choosing what processor you want, you generally have two brands to choose from. These brands are Intel and AMD which are the two largest manufacturers of computer processors in the world. Now which you choose is entirely up to you, Intel processors are generally more expensive than AMD processors, but they are also better processors overall. I have computers of both types in my house, I prefer Intel, but depending on the needs, AMD processors get the job done as well. There are many different types of processors; you have dual core, quad core, hexa core and even octa core processors. Now you may ask, what is a core? Well a core is a computing component within the processor that does all the work. Computers used to just be a single core, meaning you could only run one task at a time. Now you can have from 2 to 8 cores to run the tasks that you need to be accomplished. Once you decide how many cores you want; now you need to decide the speed you want. Speed is self-explanatory; it is how fast the processor runs. Just realize the price raises with the amount of cores and the higher the speed.

The second thing you need is a motherboard. The motherboard is the body of the computer, it is the board that all of your components hook up to. The first thing you need to know is what size board you need. The sizes are known as form factors, and they are ATX, MicroATX (mATX), ITX and MicroITX(mITX). ATX is the standard size and Micro ATX is the smaller version of ATX which is commonly used for smaller computers and media center builds. ITX are smaller than mATX and are generally used for really small builds. Once you figure out the Size that you want (make sure the case you buy fits it), you have to make sure you get a board compatible with your Processor. An Intel motherboard will not work with AMD processors and vice versa. Next you need to find out the socket number of your processor and match it up with the motherboard. Once you have done this,(picked your form, processor compatible board  and socket), then you will have choices of what brand and what you want on it….I won’t go in depth on this, just know that there are MANY brands and MANY options that you can choose based on the type of build you want to make.

The third thing you need is Memory (RAM), RAM is storage space that the processor can use to access data fast. A computer will not boot without RAM. The type of RAM you can use is dependent on the specifications of the Motherboard.  RAM varies in size and speed. You determine the size that you want (1 gb, 2gb, 4gb, 6gb, Etc)…But the motherboard decides what form and speed it will accept. I always suggest a minimum of 4gb of RAM for any build. And once again, there are many brands of RAM and it’s not that expensive, so you can choose what you want I would just say go according to price.

Hopefully you have noticed a theme when building a computer. Your processor determines the type of motherboard you need and your motherboard determines the type RAM it can use and the size of the chassis you will need.

The fourth necessity is a power supply. The power supply simply gives the computer electricity to run. They come in many different brands and range from 250 Watts up to 1500 watts. If you have no video cards for your computer, you can get away with a 400-500 watt power supply as a minimum. I wouldn’t advise anything less than that. Once you figure out the wattage you need, you can then choose either modular or non-modular. Modular means that the cables you do not need, you can unplug from the power supply. A non-modular power supply is a power supply that does not include any detachable cables. All bales that are not used will need to be tucked away neatly within your chassis. They also have semi-modular power supplies which are half and half, some cables you can unplug and some you cannot. Just know that modular powers supplies are more expensive than non-modular.

Lastly, I will group the optical drive, hard drive and operating system together because they are the final things you will install into and on your computer. You need a hard drive to store data and install your operating system on. You need a CD/DVD optical drive to run your Window’s install Discs and install any software that you might have on a cd or DVD. You can also skip the optical drive all together if you are familiar with booting from a USB Flash drive as well.

Congratulations, you are now done and have purchased all the parts you need for a fully functional computer built for you BY you!  I have personally built many computers and each one has been different from the next, the options for builds are almost infinite. Once you grasp the concept of actually putting one together, then you can really start to customize it by adding high end components.

There are things that I may have left out of this article, but that is simply because this is an overview. The purpose of this article is to show you that you can do the same thing for yourself that a big box company does and a much reduced price. If you are interested in building your own computer, I would advise you to buy your components from NewEgg.com, Tigerdirect.com, Buy.com and Microcenter.com (which also has 2 stores in the metro area). I would like to thank Silas Grant and The Information Age for giving me the opportunity to speak on this subject, if you have any questions or simply need some advice, feel free to contact me at Christopher.Cheatham@gmail.com.

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