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PC Building, P2 - Plans and Parts

Posted April 14, 2014 12:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

This is part 2 of a series on building a desktop computer, titled "PC Building". Click here to read the previous entry.

The decision made to build my own desktop, I now have to figure out where to start. The main things I picture doing with my PC include multi-tasking regular tasks (web surfing, word processing, playing music, etc.), gaming, music recording (via USB mic), and basic photo-editing. So to begin, I thought it best to lay out all the parts I would need or want for my machine. I began compiling a list of essential computer parts, including a barebones definition of what each is and does. Here's what I came up with:

Core Components

The Case - The computer's skin & skeleton. Holds all the computer components together and protects them.

The Power Supply - Provides electrical power from the wall socket to the computer.

The Motherboard - The computer's nervous system. Contains all necessary ports and slots for connecting all components of the system together, and the circuitry for them to communicate.

The Central Processing Unit (aka the CPU or Processor) - The brain of the computer. Does all the calculations and performs all the active functions.

The Random Access Memory modules (aka RAM or memory) - Provides temporary data storage for information being readily accessed and used by the computer (e.g. running programs).

The Storage Drive (aka hard drive) - The permanent storage space for computer data and programs. Comes in solid state and hard disk forms.

Additional Components

The Graphics Processing Unit (aka the GPU or Graphics Card) - An expansion card with its own processor and memory, specifically designed to handle system graphics.

The Sound Card - An expansion card which handles audio signal input and output from the system.

Fans and Cooling Devices - Keeps the case environment and system hardware cool.

With this list in front of me, I now had to figure out where to put my money. With today's computer prices, $850 is not a modest budget by any means. That's not to say I couldn't easily spend beyond that on just one or two top end computer parts. The reality is, in the electronics industry there is always a sweet spot in performance/dollar. Determining hardware priorities will help me determine these sweet spots and when it's worth paying more.

It became very clear to me after a little digging that the most crucial parts of any computer system are the processor and motherboard. The processor is the workhorse, and its speed will largely determine the speed of the computer. The motherboard is also key; not because of speed, but because it is designed around the processor and components it uses. The motherboard is also the limiting factor for system upgrades - I can't buy better parts down the road if they can't connect to my board. My conclusion - don't skimp on the processor or motherboard.

For my system, the graphics card is the other key piece. While most CPU motherboard combos have video processing capabilities, those who want to watch movies or play games on the computer need a dedicated video card. To make my system future-proof for the next few years, a mid to high level card is a priority.

With the CPU, motherboard, and GPU at the forefront, I can now begin compiling and purchasing parts. There are a number of great online resources for selecting PC parts, my favorite being, which I will be using to track my build.

To be continued…

(Dude writing list image credit:


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Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 293
Good Answers: 3

Re: PC Building, P2 - Plans and Parts

04/15/2014 9:08 AM

I think you might want to increase your budget I suspect that is low for a custom high-end computer.

On the motherboard (MOBO) slots for cards and memory need to match your immediate plans and future plans.

I mentioned the importance of the power supply. $20-30 more will protect your $1000 investment. I gave you a link to check out on your last post. I suspect you haven't checked this out. No one I have noticed in CR4 come close the the expertise you will find there. After my first computer I bought in 1984, I have built all my computers. You need to know exactly what you want before buying anything since the parts will need to fit such as, different video cards need different video card slots, your MOBO needs to fit in your case, your CPU will determine your fan configuration, ect.

I needed to pay about 30% more for my custom computer than something similar 'off the rack'. I say similar because what I wanted wasn't on any rack but other than wanting 6 HD ports my wants were modest.

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