In the past, you had no choice but to purchase pre-built PCs, regardless of whether they were right for you. Today, you are no longer dependent on pre-built PCs. Now you can build a custom PC yourself with no expert assistance. Building your PC will be fascinating as you learn how to select components, determine compatibility, and build the system as a whole. For newbies, building their first PC from scratch can be a daunting task, but fear not, this comprehensive guide will help you choose the right components according to your needs.
You can build a PC starting with the following components:
- A case
- The processor
- Input Devices
- Operating system etc
Understanding the functions of each component will help you understand which parts are the best fit for you. Let’s first look at why you should consider building a custom PC before we discuss what parts you need:
List of Computer Parts Needed To Build A Computer
When you’re building a PC for the first time, you need to buy a PC case that lets you assemble and protect all of the components. Since the case has holes and screw areas where motherboards, fans, and other components can be attached, the case can be opened and closed easily.
The front of the PC case has power and restart button. You’ll also find multiple expansion slots for optical drives and other media. An opening on the back of the PC case allows for the connections on the motherboard to be easily accessed. Cooling fans can easily be attached to any side of the case.
Cases come in various materials, colors, aesthetics, and sizes. Steel and aluminum are commonly used in modern PC cases, alongside tempered glass on the sides, which shows off the fancy LED lighting. There are four common case sizes you’ll find: Full Tower (Large), Mid Tower (Medium), Micro-ATX (Small), and Mini-ITX (Smaller).
All of these sizes support one or more motherboards. Each case is designed to fit a specific motherboard size. Therefore, it is suggested to select the case based on your needs.
|Case||Size range (In Inches)||Expansion slots/bays|
|Full Tower||22” – 27” Height9” – 13” Width||5 + bays|
|Mid Tower||15” – 22” Height6” – 10” Width||3 – 4 bays|
|Micro-ATX||14” – 16” Height9.6” Width||1 – 2 bays|
|Mini-ITX||6.7” Height6.7’ Width||1-2 bays|
There are various reasons as to why you should purchase a PC case. It protects the PC from dust, liquids, and the external environment, which could damage its internal components. Furthermore, it conceals the components of the computer so no one can see them. The use of PC cases allows for increased air circulation, thereby keeping the hardware cool as well as allowing air to escape. A PC that fails to cool properly could overheat and potentially malfunction.
Usually, people who don’t understand the need to buy a PC case. They either mount the components on a wall or position them on the table. In case you wish to take the setup with you while traveling, this may not be practical. A PC case is, therefore, a necessity. The cost of a PC case can range from $30 to $500 depending on the size that you choose.
The motherboard is the primary circuit board that connects various hardware parts. Power cables, slots for cards like GPUs, and sockets are among the connectors you will find. On the motherboard, you find capacitors and transistors that are responsible for making the different hardware components work together seamlessly. Make sure you know which processor you’re getting when you buy the motherboard. Motherboards usually support specific processors and sockets through a specific chipset. Motherboards come in two different sockets: LGA and AM. Socket names are preceded by a number, like LGA 1159 and AM4. Intel chips make use of LGA sockets while AMD uses AM. A socket’s name is followed by numeric digits that identify the generation of Intel or AMD chips it supports.
There are three traditional sizes for motherboards: ATX, micro-ATX (mATX), and Mini-ITX. They are defined according to their dimensions and compatibility with hardware parts such as RAM, SATA, and GPU. ATX motherboards are widely used today and can run a wide range of different systems. It can be configured for dual or quad-channel memory with a minimum of four DIMMs, which can provide enhanced performance in some applications compared to other boards. Other motherboard types have got limitations in terms of the number of slots and features. Usually, a smaller motherboard has fewer slots and features.
The specification of each type of motherboard is summarized below. This will help you in buying the right motherboard according to your requirements:
|Motherboard type||Size||Maximum number of slots||RAM||GPU||SATA Ports||Use|
|ATX||12” x 9.6”||7||DIMM||4||Up to 12||Full Tower|
|MINI-ITX||11.2” x 8.2”||7||DIMM||Up to 1||Up to 6||Full Tower|
|Micro-ATX||9.6” x 9.6”||4||DIMM||Up to 3||Up to 8||Mini Tower|
A motherboard’s price varies widely, depending on how many slots it has and what you intend to use it for. Many are available for less than $100, and brands usually determine the price for similar features. If you go for an Intel or AMD chip, it will cost you more than $200. A budget board costs less than $50 while a premium board costs more than $1000.
The central processing unit is the crucial part of the computer without which your PC is considered useless. A computer’s processor determines how much data it can handle each time as well as how quickly it can handle it.
Before you plan to buy a motherboard, it’s wise to select an appropriate processor first that is compatible with the motherboard socket so the components can work well. Every CPU type has its socket, which must be compatible with the motherboard socket to be plugged into the motherboard.
If this is your first time buying a processor, you should consider the CPU’s specifications, such as cores, clock speed, threads, cache, and TDP. Here is what you should look out for:
There are a variety of processor options available, ranging from dual-core to eight-core. To determine the number of cores required, first one must understand what “multiple cores” refers to. It refers to how many processing units can execute instructions simultaneously. Multiple cores can split up the work of the processor. Consequently, the system runs faster and more efficiently.
The number of cores needed should be taken into account. A quad-core processor is suitable for most professional and business users. Furthermore, if the software is being used for more processing power, such as programming or graphic design, more cores are required. In most cases, a dual-core PC will be sufficient for normal office tasks such as writing documents, working with Excel, and browsing the web. It all depends upon the nature of the work you do.
- Cache memory
Computer memory is similar to a processor’s cache. In computing, the cache is built-in RAM that is used as a temporary storage area. A faster cache retrieves the data stored in memory quickly. Caches come in three types:
- L1, which is fast
- L2 which is slower but more spacious
- L3, which is spacious but quite slow.
In the absence of data from one of these places, the CPU approaches the RAM, which is much slower because it is physically away from the CPU.
Modern-day CPUs have cache sizes around L3 which is recommended since it provides sufficient memory capacity for file storage.
- Clock speed
Clock speed refers to the speed at which the processor works. It is measured in gigahertz or GHz. CPU clock speed rates measure how fast a CPU can perform clock cycles per second. If the number of cycles is higher, then you’d expect it to perform more work, but that’s not always the case. Modern-day CPUs adjust the clock speeds depending upon the task they’re executing.
You’ll need a higher clock speed, close to 4.0 GHz if you plan on using the computer primarily for gaming or editing. Basic computing needs do not require such a high clock speed.
A CPU is capable of performing multiple tasks at the same time because of threads. You will need a CPU with a lot of threads if you run many intensive processes at the same time. The number of threads you have depends upon the number of cores. A single core has 2 threads so for example a quad-core processor having 4 cores would have 8 threads. With a larger number of threads on the processor, multitasking is seamless and system performance is enhanced.
The Intel Core i9-7960X is one of the high-performance CPUs with 16 cores and 32 threads, and it has a clock speed of 4.20 GHz, making it an excellent choice for those seeking high performance. The Intel Xeon Platinum series is also a popular choice.
- Thermal Design Power
In terms of thermal design power, it refers to the amount of heat dissipated by the processor when it’s in use. It is measured in Watts. For example, a CPU may have a TDP of 80W, and therefore should produce 80W of heat when used. With a high TDP, the processor will perform better and need more cooling. Therefore, you need to know your CPU’s TDP so that you can choose the right cooling equipment.
RAM (Random Access Memory)
RAM is the main memory of the computer that stores the active tasks running at the moment. For example, if you’re browsing the internet, loading applications, and editing a video, the RAM stores the data temporarily. When the PC is switched off, the data is lost. The purpose of the main memory is to increase the performance of the computer since it offers more space to store data temporarily. RAM is part of every device, whether it’s a laptop, a smartphone or tablet.
RAM comes in different capacities ranging from 4 GB to 64 GB. Your computer’s performance is affected by the type of RAM you choose. Insufficient memory means that your system will become slow or unresponsive. In that case, 16 GB of RAM is recommended if you’re planning to use your PC for graphic designing or gaming. By adding RAM to the motherboard slots, you can also increase its capacity.
|RAM Capacity||Use||Price Range|
|4 GB||For light use||$15 – $25|
|8 GB||Minimum PC requirement||$30 – $45|
|16 GB||For extensive use||$60- $100|
|32 GB||For extensive use||$120 – $170|
Graphics Card/GPU (Graphic Processing Unit)
A GPU is a hardware component that processes and handles visuals, graphics, and video onto the display screen. The component is crucial not only for personal use but also for professional use. There are many applications where a graphics card is a must-have such as gaming, video rendering, and graphics.
You’ll find two types of GPUs: Integrated GPU and discrete GPU. As the name implies, an integrated GPU is already built into the processor, essentially turning the processor into a graphics card. Therefore, you don’t need to buy and attach a separate graphic card. Integrated GPUs are relatively inexpensive, small, and energy-efficient. However, it isn’t suitable for gaming and editing videos.
On the other hand, the discrete GPU aka dedicated GPU is separate from the processor. The GPU has its dedicated memory, which is separate from the CPU. Discrete GPU is separate from the processor chip, so they consume more power and generate more heat. With its power source and memory, it is more powerful than integrated graphic cards.
When choosing a graphics card for your PC, it is crucial to know your specifications. Buying a discrete GPU will be the best choice for you if you will be gaming, designing graphics, and rendering 3D graphics on your PC.
Otherwise, opt for an integrated GPU that can handle simple tasks like word processing and playing games without requiring an advanced graphics card. There are dedicated GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA ranging from $70 to $1,000
The storage medium is one of the major parts needed to build a computer. All the data, files, and OS files reside on the storage device when the power is turned off. There are three types of storage devices: HDD (Hard Disk Drive), SSD (Solid State Drive), and NVMe SSD. Data is stored on all three storage mediums, but the difference lies in the speed.
HDDs, the slowest storage media, read and write data at a rate of 100 Mbytes/second. They are useful when it comes to storing large amounts of data such as files, pictures, and videos. They are affordable and offer greater storage space.
On the other hand, an SSD reads and saves data at the rate of 500 MByte/s which makes it more expensive than its counterparts. Compared to HDD, it is six times faster and 90 times more energy efficient.
Furthermore, NVMe (nonvolatile memory express) SSD provides new storage accessibility for flash storage and next-generation drives. With it, enterprise workloads can achieve the highest throughput and response times yet. It reads and writes data at 7000 MByte/s. Since NVMe storage is used for bigger enterprises that are working in AI, machine learning, and other advanced technologies, they are expensive.
Depending upon your needs, it’s up to you whether you want to go for SSD or HDD. For long-term storage, SSD is better than HDD. HDDs typically cost between $25 and $50 (for faster models), whereas SSDs cost anywhere from $60 to $150.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
Another essential component is the Power Supply Unit, which converts high voltage current to direct current to operate your computer. As well as regulating the DC output voltage precisely, these components meet the requirements of modern computing components. As every hardware component needs a certain amount of power, a powerful power supply unit will ensure stability and longevity.
When you’re choosing the PSU for the first time, you need to make sure that it’s compatible with the motherboard form factor and PC case so that you face no issue while fixing it. The second factor to consider is wattage. It is important to consider how much power your components require to rely on wattage ratings. Higher wattage ratings can provide more power for your system, so you must evaluate what power your components need to survive.
As an example, if your system requires 600V, a power supply unit with 1200V would be ideal. A rule of thumb is to buy a power supply unit that has a higher power rating than the PC actually needs. The ATX standard defines the shape, size, and functionality of PC power supplies and how they connect to the PC. Thus, nearly all ATX power supplies will fit in both ATX and microATX PC cases. There are several popular power supply brands, including Corsair, Antec, EVGA, and Seasonic. Power supplies are typically selected depending on your personal preferences, their compatibility with your system, and what you intend to use them for (e.g. gaming, a small or large business, or for personal use).
Three different PSU models are available: non-modular, fully modular, and semi-modular. These three are distinct from one another. The fully modular power supply has no built-in cables. Separate cables are provided, whereas semi-modular supplies have built-in cables for connecting the major components of the PC, such as the processor, motherboard, and video card, which can be detached. Lastly, the non-modular power supply has cables already integrated into it which means they can’t be removed. When buying a power supply, check that the PC case you are using will support the PSU you are buying, and you should also know the recommended PSU wattage, which you can figure out using the power supply calculator on the manufacturer’s website.
Cooling the CPU is necessary because it generates heat, but the CPU isn’t the only component that requires cooling. For the GPU to perform well, cooling is also required, but every discrete GPU already comes with a cooling system, so no additional cooling is required.
A single CPU cooler comes in different fan sizes, speeds, and noise so choosing the right cooling system can be challenging. You will also need to follow a slightly different assembly procedure if your system is equipped with an AMD or Intel CPU. Buyers must choose either an air cooler or a liquid cooler.
For general PC users, air coolers are the best option. With the help of specially designed heat fans, the cooling units actively disperse hot air. This reduces the temperature inside the PC case. Compared to air coolers, liquid-based CPU coolers allow your processor to be more effectively cooled. Water cooling does not blow hot air all over your system. Heat is moved to the radiators by the liquid, and it is then blown out of your case efficiently. Consequently, your fans are able to run at lower speeds, resulting in quieter operation and maintaining excellent cooling.
Liquid coolers are recommended for those who use PCs for gaming and performing extensive work because under heavy load the CPU and graphic card get very hot. Otherwise, an air cooler would best suit you for normal use. Because the PC case is closed and all of the components inside are enclosed, the components require cool air to function effectively. Therefore, the cooling fan should be placed inside the case to increase air circulation.
The monitor is a display screen that lets you see and do everything on your system. It’s one of the fundamental parts needed to build a computer. Without the right display, you won’t have the best user experience when you’re gaming, watching videos, editing videos, or simply ready texts. Monitors are available in different sizes, colors, and resolutions. Modern-day display screens have got HD/4K resolution.
You should consider what purpose your investment will serve before you purchase a monitor. Ask yourself whether you’re going to use the display screen for gaming, general use, or work. Gaming screens need to have fast refresh rates and low response rates, while professionals are more concerned with color accuracy.
Another factor you should consider is the resolution of the screen. This refers to how many pixels a monitor has. A screen with more pixels would be more natural and realistic. Moreover, a higher resolution offers better visuals. 5K screens have the highest screen resolution i.e 5120 x 2880. The name of a monitor’s resolution indicates how many pixels it has. There are multiple names for resolutions. We’ve listed the most common resolutions you’ll encounter below:
|Resolution||Pixels (width x height)|
|5k||5120 x 2880|
|4k||3840 x 2160|
|Ultra HD display||3840 x 2160|
|Quad HD/Wide Quad HD/1440p resolution||2560 x 1440|
|2k/1440p resolution||2560 x 1440|
|Full HD/1080p/HD resolution||1920 x 1080|
|HD/720p resolution||1280 x 720|
Speaking of LCD technologies, three major panel technologies are used today: Vertical alignment (VA), In-plane switching (IPS), and twisted nematic (TN). Each of the panels has its own differences. The type of panel you choose will determine the image quality. IPS panels have the best viewing angle and colors but they respond more slowly than TN panels. They are expensive and suited for professional use such as video editing. TN is typically used for gaming because they are relatively inexpensive but it doesn’t have the best viewing angles and colors. For general use, VA is better due to its commendable display such as good colors, contrast, and image depth.
Once you’ve successfully set up the parts needed to build a computer, you need to install the Operating System. The OS lets you interact with the system to accomplish tasks. Windows is the most popular operating system. In 2021, Microsoft released the latest version of Windows, known as Windows 11, and it is a highly improved version of the previous Windows 10.
A major advantage of Windows is the wide range of software it is compatible with. Windows supports all kinds of software, from business applications to home computing software. Therefore, Windows is a popular choice of OS. By purchasing the Windows 10/11 DVD or downloading it directly from the website, you can easily install Windows 10/11 on your system.
The input device is used to send information to a computer. The input device usually interacts with or controls the computer. The main input parts needed to build a computer are the keyboard and mouse. There are other specialized input devices too used for graphic designing and gaming such as joysticks, tablets, and pens.
A mouse is a small input device that uses a point-and-click mechanism. It controls the movement of the cursor on the screen. The screen cursor moves in the same direction as you move the mouse. You can drag and drop, select and move files, images, and pretty much anything else on the display screen using this small input device.
The mouse comes in different shapes and sizes. You’ll find two types of the mouse: wired and wireless mouse. Wired mice are suitable for desktop computers and laptops. When it comes to gaming, a wired mouse is preferable since it provides the smoothest and most reliable performance. Also, they are designed to be more ergonomic. However, they can be a little expensive.
A wired mouse is suitable for daily usage. On a PC, you need a wired mouse with a long cord so that you can move it and connect it easily. Another factor you should consider is the DPI and sensitivity of the mouse. The DPI (dots per inch) refers to the sensitivity which means how responsive the mouse pointer is when you move the mouse. When buying a mouse, choose one with a DPI ranging from 800 to 2000.
Keyboards are peripheral devices that allow users to type text on a computer and send commands. It uses a combination of buttons and keys. Keyboards also come in different variants and designs. With a wired keyboard, you simply plug it in, while with a wireless keyboard, the power is drawn from the USB, so you don’t have to worry about batteries. Wireless keyboards are used preferably for gaming because it doesn’t cause any lag or interference issues.
When you’re buying the keyboard, make sure that it’s ergonomically designed so that it doesn’t cause any hand injury. The design should offer comfort and reduce stress on your joints. There are different keyboards designed for different purposes. Mechanical keyboards, for example, are ideal for gamers, programmers, and typists, as they are both precise and accurate.
By reading this guide, you should have accumulated the parts for building a computer and designed a PC that meets your needs. Congratulations on making it this far! After you build your own PC, keeping the hardware up to date is important by upgrading it according to your budget and requirements. If you are building a custom PC, always make sure it meets the specifications and is compatible with the components.