Building a Computer For the First Time: What Components Do You Need
Building a computer gives one maximum flexibility in terms of getting to choose the exact components you want instead of having to settle for whatever a desktop computer seller sticks in an off-the-shelf system. It can also be an exciting learning experience by reading up on what's needed and how all the hardware is put together to create something that works when it's plugged in and turned on. A computer build should be approached with the task or tasks it's intended to accomplish foremost in mind since it will need to be capable enough to execute these tasks. The first decision you'll have to make is between Intel or AMD. These are the two main camps when it comes to the core components of CPU and motherboard that the rest of a system are built around. Whichever of these directions one takes, however, there will be certain parts needed to be able to put a complete computer system together.
1 - Computer Case
There are many different sizes of cases available depending on whether internal room for expansion is more highly valued or mobility is the prime consideration. First-time computer builders may not give this item a lot of attention, and that can be a big mistake. While any case might seem to suffice when it comes to containing your computer's parts, different cases will have different interior layouts that can make putting your system together either a simple task or much harder than it needed to be.
2 - Power Supply
This is the part that goes between the plug in your wall and the motherboard. Some cases come with power supplies, but the better quality ones tend to be those that are sold separately. Knowing what other parts you'll be putting in your build and their power requirements is extremely important when it comes to picking the right power supply unit (PSU). When building a high-end system that has more than one video card as well as multiple hard drives and other components, you want to make sure the PSU is up to the challenge. Power supplies tend to range from about 400 watts to over 1,000 watts. Because a PSU can take out other components when it fails, it pays to spend a little more for a quality brand.
3 - CPU
The CPU, or central processing unit, can be thought of as the brain of the computer. It basically handles all the calculations performed by your computer that are not a part of the graphics display, which is handled by the GPU or graphics processing unit. Many modern processors, as CPUs are frequently called, have an integrated GPU in them, so if a computer builder is not anticipating graphics-intensive tasks, the integrated GPU may prove sufficient. Because of the importance of this component to so many computing tasks, you need to make sure it's up to the challenge of whatever the computer is needed for. Intel and AMD are the two major CPU manufacturers, and the decision between them will determine what motherboards will be compatible.
4 - Motherboard
If the CPU is the brain of a computer, then the motherboard can be thought of as the nervous system. It's the component that all the other components are plugged into to make all the parts able to communicate with each other. Beyond the overall compatibility question of AMD versus Intel, motherboards will have a socket and a chipset as well. The socket will determine what family or generation of Intel or AMD processors will work in them. The chipset will affect the features and overall flexibility of a motherboard. As with the CPU, therefore, it's important to know what kind of power and capabilities one will need from their computer before making a motherboard choice.
5 - RAM
Random Access Memory, or RAM, is a critical component of any computer system. In 2018, no one should seriously consider building a computer system without at least 8 gigabytes of RAM. To take advantage of the maximum performance capabilities, this should probably be in the form of two sticks of 4 gigabytes of RAM each. For high-end computer uses, such as editing high-definition videos or playing the latest video games, you may want 16 gigabytes or more. RAM has certain specifications and characteristics, and you'll need to check your motherboards manual to ensure any specific type you're thinking of buying is compatible with that motherboard.
6 - Hard Drive / SSD Drive
Hard drives have been the medium of choice on which computer users have been storing vast quantities of data for decades now. The solid state drive (SSD) is a comparative new kid on the block. Basically, solid state drives are faster, but hard drives give computer users a better price per gigabyte of storage capacity. For this reason, in order to save money but still have a fast system when it comes to loading programs, many people have a comparatively small SSD that they have their operating system and other programs installed on and then a larger hard drive for mass storage of documents, images and other files.
7 - Mouse and Keyboard
Just as cars have a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals, computers require physical input devices for the user to be able to interact with them. This is, of course, where the mouse and keyboard come into play. These “peripherals” as such items are called, are where computer users can get pretty elaborate or pretty basic. Some people find a cheap mouse and keyboard just fine whereas those with specific uses for their computer may want a high-end mouse. Computer gamers frequently prefer a mouse that has adjustable sensitivity and extra buttons to which they can assign additional functions.
8 - Monitor
There are a multitude of computer monitors available. Unlike the CPU, motherboard or RAM, compatibility is not an issue. As long as your computer has a DVI or HDMI port on the back of the motherboard or the video card, any modern monitor should plug into it. The size and resolution of monitor one can get today for the money compared to a decade ago is truly astounding. Computer builders should buy as large and high resolution a monitor as they can afford.
9 - Video Card
Some people may not even need a separate video card. If it's not going to be used for heavy gaming or video editing or other video-intensive tasks, many modern CPUs have integrated graphics processors that can handle simple video display tasks. For those who do need one, AMD and NVIDIA are the two main types. If all you're getting is one video card then either type should be fine. Certain motherboards can hold two or more, however, and for them to be able to work together, the motherboard being used will determine which type will work.
10 - Speakers
Finally, a decent pair of speakers will complete a new computer system. Even if it's primarily being used for work, there may be times that sound is needed. Also, modern motherboards tend to have onboard sound, so basic sound capability is not something that has required a separate sound card for a while now. A good pair of speakers coupled with a decent sized monitor can help your computer serve as an excellent entertainment system.