Building computers is a hobby for many people. It may seem like a difficult task, but it is not anything more than plugging components together. Yes, you can buy an off-the-shelf computer, but they are expensive and slow for the price. Also, more than likely, you won’t get the exact configuration you want. So let’s get started on building your computer with this straightforward guide on getting the right components. However, think about purchasing a Surge Damage warranty to protect your computer if an unexpected power surge occurs.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The CPU is the brain of the computer and the first component you should look for when building a new computer or buying one off the shelf. There are two leading players in the CPU world, Intel and AMD. However, it is becoming challenging to recommend Intel anymore as AMD CPUs are faster, cheaper, and better for the overall price. The specific CPU choice depends on your need, like whether you need more cores to handle a professional workload like photo/video editing/3D rendering or multitasking and streaming. Or do you need one with fewer cores but a higher clock speed per core that is more suitable for gaming performance? My overall recommendation would be to get an AMD CPU like the Ryzen 5 5600x that will offer you a combination of the above – multiple cores with good clock speeds. It retails for around $400-$450, and you really can’t go wrong with this option.
Once you have a CPU, you need something to plug it into, which is the motherboard. A motherboard, in simple terms, is a platform/circuit board that connects all the parts of a computer. Now, this is one place where you can end up spending a lot of money unnecessarily. The first thing you need is to ensure that the motherboard you’re buying has a compatible socket with the CPU you have chosen. AMD motherboards work only with AMD CPUs, and Intel motherboards work only with Intel CPUs. Assuming you’ve picked out a Ryzen 3, 5, 7 processor, the socket it works with is AM4, and the compatible chipsets are A520, B550, and X570.
Now, this may be getting a bit confusing so let me explain. Motherboards with an X570 chipset have the most advanced and latest features for the computer enthusiasts out there. Motherboards with a B550 chipset have fewer features but are cheaper and directed towards casual PC builders. Motherboards with an A520 chipset have even fewer features and are directed towards those who want to save money yet work with a good product. One tip when buying a motherboard, make sure you get one that costs the same or less than the CPU. Otherwise, you are just wasting money. My recommendation would be an Asus Strix B550-F motherboard for $200. This board has the latest features, built-in Wi-Fi, suitable input/output regarding USB ports, and the ability to connect multiple fast storage devices.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
RAM is the bridge between your data and processor. It is where all your applications are loaded onto when you run them. It is something that has traditionally been synonymous with speed—more RAM=Faster PC. There are two components to RAM. Its capacity and its clock speed. A higher clock speed RAM will end up draining your cash fast for performance that is not much better than one with a lower clock speed. Whereas a RAM with more capacity will serve you far better for a lesser cost. 16GB of DDR4 RAM at 3200 MHz is the current sweet spot for users, and it’s compatible with the latest AMD and Intel CPU/Motherboards. My recommendation would be Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB sticks) which retails for $90-$100. The best thing about RAM is that you can always add more later. The motherboards mentioned above have 4 RAM slots. Get one of the above kits, and you will have 32 GB total RAM, which is more than enough for any user.
Graphic Processing Unit (GPU)
Now, the graphic card is the fun part of your computer. The GPU is the component of your PC responsible for rendering the image and graphics you will be seeing on your monitor. You must spend the most on this component if you are planning to game on your computer or do any GPU accelerated tasks such as 3D rendering, video editing, and crypto mining. If these activities are not your requirements, then this is one component where you can save money. Due to the current worldwide chip shortage, GPUs are hard to find, and if you find them, they are costly. My recommendation would be Nvidia RTX 3080, which retails for $700. If your workload is GPU dependent, check out the Nvidia RTX 3060, which retails for $300. I would strongly suggest you not purchase a GPU until the chip shortage ends and graphic cards are available at reasonable prices again.
Now you need something to store your files, applications, and media. A few years back, you would have been buying a combination of both a solid-state drive (SSD) and a hard drive (HDD). The solid-state for your applications and the hard drive for bulk data. However, as SSDs have become far cheaper now, it is unnecessary to buy a slow, clunky, and unreliable hard drive anymore. Currently, there are multiple types of solid-state drives that I would not purchase. The ideal option would be to get an M.2 NVM-E SSD assuming you have a motherboard with an M.2 slot on it like the above-recommended motherboard. My recommendation would be a Samsung 980 Pro 500GB or 100GB that retails for $100 and $200.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
Now that you have the major components in order, you need something to power them, and that is where the PSU comes in. Purchase this component based on the power requirement of the different parts of your computer. Don’t skimp on the power supply, as that will risk damaging your components over time. Aim for an 80+ efficiency guaranteed power supply with a gold, platinum, or titanium certification. 600-700 Watt PSU will meet the needs of most computers with plenty of power to spare for future component upgrades. My recommendation would be an EVGA 750W Super Nova 80+ platinum and modular power supply for $180. You really cannot go wrong with this one.
Once you have all the components, you need a case to put them in. This one will depend on your personal choice, whether you want one that looks more minimalist or rugged or one that is small or big. A good recommendation would be an NZXT H510i for $80. It is small, elegant, and modern.
With that, we have all the components figured out and are ready to assemble our very own personal computer. Follow the manufacturer’s manuals and watch YouTube tutorials because putting together a computer is nothing more than building a LEGO structure. Best of luck, and welcome to the PC master race!
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