Build Your Own Computer, Part 1

You might think it’s hard to build your own computer. You’re probably not an electrical engineer, what do you know about building computers? (Or perhaps you are an electrical engineer: Congrats! You should know how not hard this is!) The truth is, it’s never been easier to build your own computer! The hardest part is picking out the components you want. And, who doesn’t love shopping? Actually, if we’re being honest, I don’t love shopping, especially for clothes. I find the concept of fashion utterly bewildering. But I do love picking out the precise computer components that will get me a really nice computer!

Why in the world would you want to build your own computer? You’re not a hardcore gamer and you can buy a really powerful machine that does what you need and is already put together for only a few hundred dollars. Well, the best reason to build your own computer is so that you can build exactly the computer that you need for your purposes. Another great reason to build your own computer is to learn how to do it. This may seem like circular reasoning, but knowing how to build a computer can give you knowledge you didn’t expect, such as, what types of CPUs are available out there and the differences between them. It can also save you money in the long run. Since you know exactly what went into your computer and how, you can replace parts that fail or upgrade parts when new technology comes up — without paying for a whole new system!

I’m here to tell you how to shop, where to shop, and how to put together your perfect computer. This post will be in three parts. The first part will show you where you can buy components. The second part will talk about each component – the necessary and the optional. The third post will show you how to put it all together.

Where do you buy parts?

There are many options available on the internet and in real life. Here is a list of places and the pros and cons of each one. I’ve put them in the order of least recommended by me to most recommended by me. This is my opinion, you may have different experiences or requirements than I do. You can also mix and match where you get each component.

  • Online Best Buy, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, etc.

    • Pros: Brands that you know. If you are a member of a particular store’s points program, you may get certain perks.
    • Cons: More expensive than other online-only retailers. May not have a large selection.
  • MicroCenter or other local computer store

    • Pros: You can get knowledgeable help from staff onsite. You can get up close and personal with the merchandise (this is great for cases!). There may also be an option to order online and pick up in store.
    • Cons: Less selection and more expensive than online stores.

    • Pros: Huge selection. Two day shipping if you’re a member of Prime.
    • Cons: Huge selection. How to choose which one is best? Or what goes with what?
  • Tiger Direct

    • Pros: Large selection. Easy to search for what you want.
    • Cons: Not many. Site is utilitarian, not horrible looking, but not great either.
  • Outlet PC

    • Pros: Decent selection. Easy to search. Very detailed information for newbies.
    • Cons: Bland website design.
  • New Egg

    • Pros: Great, attractive site. Lots of reviews and info.
    • Cons: May be a bit more expensive than other online sites.

The final item is not a place to shop, but it has been indispensable in my computer builds. You input the components you are considering and it will tell you whether they fit together or not. The cool thing about it is they also compare prices on various online stores for you, so it’s very close to a one-stop shop.

  • PC Part Picker

    • Pros: Tells you if the components you pick work together. Great resource if you don’t know what LGA 1155 means. The site showcases other people’s builds in case you don’t want to design your own. Also cherry picks prices from differet sites for easy price comparisons.
    • Cons: Ummmmm… you can’t buy anything on the site? Really, there aren’t many cons.

In part 2, I’ll get into the details of each component you’ll need for your perfect personalized computer!

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