Once you have a clear idea of what you plan to put your new computer through, it is time to compile a list of the parts you will need to purchase. This is where the categories I defined earlier come into play. Every computer has the same basic requirements, but there are optional parts you can add depending on what the computer will be used for. For example, gaming and 3D modeling computers will require a graphics card while basic productivity and software development computers will not.
Every computer requires these same fundamental parts. The only thing you have to decide is how powerful you want them to be. These universal pieces consist of the following:
- Internal Components
- RAM or Memory
- Hard Drive
- Power Supply
- Peripherals and External Components
The focus of this instructional blog will be aimed at the internal components, since these are the most intimidating for those that have not built their own computer. We will discuss cases since there are different sizes that dictate the size of the motherboard, but the other peripherals will be excluded since just about any monitor, keyboard, or mouse can work with any custom-built computer.
Home and Office Components
If you are building a basic home/office computer and worry about extra parts you may need to buy, then you’re in luck. All you need to follow is the list of parts above. Even better news, none of those parts even need to be especially powerful. You can generally pick the cheapest components and expect your machine to handle the workload exceptionally well unless you plan to multitask at inhuman levels or stray beyond your original intentions and attempt to stream movies or do some gaming.
There is good news for the basic build with a not-so-basic budget. If you have enough money and just want a computer that looks good, you will want to invest more in a case that catches your eye or in some internal LEDs you can brighten it up with.
Gaming and Entertainment Components
There is no limit to what you can add to your machine if you plan to use it for gaming and entertainment. There are three potential additions you can make to the universal parts list, which includes:
- Graphics Card
- Sound Card
- TV Tuner
- Network Card
The graphics card is the gamer’s prized component. CPU and RAM are very important for gaming, but the graphics card is where everything hinges when you want the maximum graphic detail out of your experience.
The sound card is more useful a component for those that plan to use their computer for a home theater system that needs support for the best quality surround sound, but gamers can get some use out of them to as some advertise increased perception of in-game sounds.
For the dedicated home theater system, it may be necessary to consider a TV tuner. This card that attaches to the motherboard allows your computer to utilize HD antennas or cable. It effectively turns your computer into a smart TV. A very smart TV.
Most, if not all, motherboards come with built-in network utilities and even wireless connectivity. However, online gaming requires much higher speeds than basic internet surfing and even video streaming. It’s for this reason many gamers prefer to buy a dedicated network card that attaches to the motherboard and offers a much more stable connection.
Computers used for software development, video production, photo editing, or 3D modeling will have very similar requirements to gaming and entertainment computers. The options to consider adding to this type of machine would be:
- Graphics Card
- Sound Card
- Network Card
- Additional Storage
The graphics card in this case would be necessary for photo editing, video production, and 3D modeling. It would not be necessary for software development, however. The special case would be 3D modeling, which will require the most advanced graphics card you can afford. In some cases, you may even want to consider two.
Sound cards will only be useful to anyone in video or sound production. Typically, sound cards for computers are best used for sound input when it is necessary to have the highest quality sound recording. Gamers and entertainment system enthusiasts like to have them when sound output quality is a goal and they have the extra money to spend.
Network cards are optional in this category as well. If you see yourself downloading and uploading large files such as full length videos, games, or large software applications, then this is an option you need to consider. For those that plan to put their work onto a portable hard drive and ship it off somewhere else, this is less important.
Speaking of portable storage, if you are going to be dealing with large files such as raw video or storing lots of photos and sound files, you will want to consider buying multiple hard drives. This is not only important to ensure you have the storage space, but if this work will be your livelihood you will want to set up a disaster-proof storage system. This is achieved by having at least two separate hard drives with one used as a backup. Or, if you want to get really fancy and highly redundant, you can set up three or more in a RAID configuration. Since we are just going over the basics of putting together a computer, we will hold off on these more advanced configurations for another time.
When you have your list of components and are ready to think about purchasing, head over to part 3 of this instructional blog series. In the next part of this series, we will look at an overview of where you can find a decent selection of parts. More importantly, we will explore what features of each component you should look at to understand its capabilities.