Building your own personal computer sounds like a difficult task that only an IT professional or someone with a computer science degree can complete. However, it's actually within reach of almost anyone. In fact, many young gamers build their own computers and there are learning kits for children.
I decided to build my own PC because 1) I thought it would be a fun challenge, 2) I wanted a desktop computer for gaming, 3) I wanted a backup for/alternative to my laptop, and 4) because it can be more economical than purchasing a pre-built one. I built my current computer about a year and a half ago and it's still working well. This post is a short recap of the process in case you want to try building a PC.
Doing The Research
In my experience, researching how to build a computer and researching what parts I needed was the most important part of the process. Preparation makes the actual build much easier. Reading about how to build a PC and watching videos of others building PCs was useful (Linus Tech Tips has good videos on their YouTube channel). Visualizing how you will do something before you actually do it helps.
As a first-time PC-builder, I took my time researching what parts to buy (and even learning what parts I needed to buy). For this task, I utilized PCPartPicker extensively. This site allows you to compile a part list, provides compatibility information, displays prices from different sources, compiles reviews, and shares build guides from other users. /r/buildapc/ is also a great resource and there are many other good sources of information you can find online. It's fun to select the parts you want to use and really make your computer your own.
Purchasing The Pieces
After researching how to build a PC and what parts I wanted to use, the next step was to buy the parts. If you have time, you can save money by shopping around and finding the best deals (again, research). For example, I was able to purchase my processor and motherboard in a package deal at a significant discount from an electronics store (Micro Center).
One thing that might throw a wrinkle into your plans is part availability. Sometimes as new versions of parts are released, there may be shortages or prices may be much higher than the MSRP. For example, I was purchasing parts for my PC when Nvidia was releasing their GeForce 10 series of video cards (GPUs). This meant supplies were limited and prices were high (if you didn't look around for deals). Today, GPUs are unfortunately more difficult to buy at a reasonable price than other parts due to the demand from cryptocurrency miners. Even used video cards are reselling for more than new cards were first sold for. This means you need to do your research and put in some effort if you want to buy a graphics card at a reasonable price. It's worth it to explore your online and local purchasing options and to be patient if possible.
Here is a selection of the parts I used:
- Processor: Intel Core i7-6700K
- Cooler: Corsair H100i
- Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 7
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX (2x8GB)
- SSD: Samsung 850 EVO (500GB)
- HDD: WD Black (1TB)
- Video Card: Asus STRIX-GTX1070-O8G-GAMING
- Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G2 80+ Gold Rated
- Case: Corsair 400Q Compact Mid-Tower Case
- Operating System: Windows 10 (USB drive)
- Monitor: Asus VG248QE 1080p 144hz Monitor
Bear in mind that I built my computer over a year ago and the market has changed. You shouldn't copy a guide or list of parts without first exercising due diligence.
Putting It All Together
Despite what you might think, the physical building process doesn't take too long. I built mine in an afternoon and I was a first-time builder. I would suggest taking your time, reading the instruction manuals, and installing each piece methodically. If something isn't working when you go to turn on your finished build, it could be something as simple as not plugging in the right cable. Keep a level head, be persistent, and you'll succeed.
After powering on the computer for the first time, you need to check and edit the BIOS settings (follow your motherboard's instruction manual) and install your operating system (Windows 10 for me). After this, you need to set up Windows, install drivers, and update software. It might be tempting to skip some of the software installation and updates, but you want to make sure you take care of your new computer. On that note, I'd install an anti-virus/security service too. If you're looking for further tips /r/buildapc has a good post on "Do's, Don'ts, and Tips for first time builders." Next time I build a computer I'll try to document the whole process.
When building a PC it's important to understand that you are responsible for troubleshooting anything that goes wrong. If your computer experiences an error, you can't simply send your whole PC back to the manufacturer. You'll need to solve the problem yourself, find a friend to help, or take your PC to a computer store.
However, if you are okay with doing research, methodically following instructions, and taking on a challenge, I'd encourage you to try building your own PC. It's a fun task and it feels very rewarding to complete. Give it a shot, you might surprise yourself!
Cover Photo Credit: Rafael Pol