Building your own desktop computer can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be a little daunting if you’re not familiar with the process. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the 10 most important things you need to know before starting to build your own desktop computer.
GPUs are back in stock (well, sort of)
GPUs are, finally, starting to become more readily available. 3DCenter Germany released a report in mid-April indicating that AMD GPU prices had declined in the past three weeks by an average of 13%. Nvidia cards had dropped 6%. While this is good news, we're not out of the woods just yet. All of the stock cards sold directly by AMD and Nvidia are out of stock and you'll still need to pay a small markup for most cards. Should you choose to build your PC now, I would recommend purchasing a GPU first and then returning components should you run into any issues.
PCPartPicker is your best friend
If you're planning to build your own desktop computer, PCPartPicker is your best friend. Universally loved by DIY computer builders, PCPartPicker has all the tools you need to map out your PC's components. Need inspiration? The website has a database full of completed builds. Photos uploaded by its users will give you an idea of how certain components look. Once you get a feel for what's out there, head to the System Builder page and start choosing components. With PCPartPicker, you can be sure that you're getting the best deal on the parts for your desktop computer build.
Know what to prioritize
When building your own desktop, it's important to think about what you're using it for. Are you a gamer? A content creator? Do a lot of multitasking? Make sure to prioritize the tasks you'll be using your computer for and factor that into your budget. It's easy to get carried away with all the bells and whistles, but remember that you can always upgrade your system in the future. Some components are worth spending a bit more on, like your PC case. Make sure it's a good quality case that will last you through several builds.
Don’t cheap out on the power supply (PSU)
Don’t cheap out on the power supply. One of the most important—and often overlooked—components in a custom desktop computer build is the power supply, or PSU. Get a quality power supply with a high-efficiency rating so you don’t have to replace it down the line. The wattage number on the power supply will tell you how much muscle it has. A good rule of thumb is to buy a lower-capacity power supply that’s from a reputable brand than go for a higher-capacity knockoff that might save you a few bucks.
Hit these basic system requirements
There are a few basic system requirements your PC needs to meet in order to build a desktop computer. You'll need at least 4GB of RAM, an SSD, and a motherboard compatible with your CPU and memory. As a general guide, fill at least two slots of RAM to take advantage of dual-channel and try to budget for at least 16GB. As for storage, you should use an SSD for faster boot times and launching apps. The other components - like your graphics card and case - are more need-based. If your desktop is meant to be a gaming rig, it'll need a decent graphics card, for example.
Research, research, research
Before you even open your toolkit, do some research. What are the latest and greatest parts out there? What's the best bang for your buck? Sure, you could build a desktop with last-generation hardware, but do you really want to? I recommend checking out PCPartPicker, as well as other consumer tech sites. It's helpful to know about the latest products so you don't end up buying old parts and building an outdated desktop. Right now, the latest CPUs are Intel 12th Gen and AMD Ryzen 5000, while Nvidia’s RTX 30-series graphics cards are in high demand. AMD also has its own Radeon RX 6000 series of graphics cards. New models are always being launched, so it's important to stay up to date. Otherwise, you might end up with a computer that can't keep up with the latest games or software.
Your components need to be compatible
When it comes to PC components, not all brands and models play nice together. If you’re not careful, you could wind up with a Franken-PC that won’t turn on (or worse, will blow up in your face). The last thing you want to do is spend a ton of money on a component only to discover that it isn’t compatible with the rest of your build.
If you’re using PCPartPicker, you probably won’t run into any issues, since the System Builder already filters out incompatible parts. However, if you’re freestyling this, then you need to do some research to ensure your CPU, memory, and motherboard are all speaking the same language. Forums like Tom’s Hardware and Anandtech are great places to start.
Have your tools ready
The tools you'll need for the job include a screwdriver, preferably with a magnetic head, and a pair of scissors or a sharp box knife. Many cases come with their own screwdriver, but it's always good to have a backup. Stanley knives are also great for cutting open packaging without damaging the product inside. You'll also want to have some zip ties or twist ties on hand to keep your cables in check. Not only do they make your setup look neater, but they'll also make removing and installing components much less of a hassle.
So you’ve decided to build your own desktop computer. Congratulations! This can be a really fun and rewarding project, but there are a few things you should know before you get started. First, don’t let the process be stressful. When you run into a frustrating roadblock—and you almost certainly will—try to frame it as an exciting challenge. After all, building a desktop is just one big puzzle where you get to choose the pieces before putting them together. Second, don’t forget that a desktop is very much a piece of art and an expression of yourself. I’m not saying you should build one of these, but don’t be afraid to get funky with it. The sky is the limit when it comes to customizing your own desktop, so have fun with it!
Don’t forget about the accessories
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of building your own computer and forget some of the important steps. Don't worry, we're here to help. The first order of business? Connecting your computer to the proper accessories. That means attaching your monitor, keyboard, mouse and any other peripherals you might need. If you want to use your computer's speakers, you'll need to plug them into the back of your PC. And don't forget that power button! If you want your computer to do anything, you'll need to press it. (Just don't hold it down—that'll start up your computer in a hurry and might not be what you want.) Finally, make sure you have all the software you need installed and ready to go. That includes your operating system (Windows, MacOS or Linux), anti-virus software and any other programs you might need for work or play.
Building a desktop computer from scratch can be a daunting task, but with the right advice, it can be a breeze. Our guide walks you through each step, from choosing the right parts to avoiding common pitfalls. So whether you’re upgrading an old PC or building a brand new one from scratch, read on for our top tips on how to build a desktop computer.
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