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Anybody here ever built their own computer? Any tips you can provide?

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Can't say I've built me own machine, but I have upgraded RAM and transplanted hard drives. So…

Be careful about static electricity. If you've got a grounding strap, use it. If not, make sure you touch metal (the drain off any static charge you may have accumulated) before you handle any components that would be sensitive to static charges.

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I'm by no means an expert, but here's everything that comes to mind for me:

The three most important things are research, research, and research. Have a plan for everything before you buy anything. You can find tutorials for ANYTHING on YouTube these days, including pretty much every kind of home-repair/maintenance you can perform on a computer, software or hardware, and Wikipedia is your friend.

Don't expect to be able to walk into an electronics store like Best Buy or Fry's and buy individual components anymore. Most brick-&-mortar retailers seem to be doing everything in their power to discourage people from building their own computers anymore, and don't even bother stocking the pieces, just the pre-built whole. You'll most likely be buying components through their online stores, or through online-only retailers like New Egg.

Your basic shopping list is going to look something like this:




Power Supply

Hard Drive(s)

CD/DVD Drive(s)


Video Expansion Card

With the exception of the video card (every motherboard is going to have on-board video), your computer just plain will not work without every component on that list. (I include the CD/DVD drive on there because without it the machine will technically work, but you won't be able to install an operating system on it.)

Choose the motherboard and CPU first, because everything else you buy has to be compatible with that. For example, not every RAM stick is going to work in every motherboard, and you won't know how big a case you need until you know what motherboard you're trying to screw into it. You're most likely to find the motherboard and CPU as a package deal.

It's tempting to get a cheaper motherboard with few slots, but you'll regret it later, because you will eventually want to upgrade. I wouldn't get anything with less than 4 RAM slots, 2 hard drive ports, and 3-4 expansion card slots, all in a relatively current format/standard.

Don't bother with a single-core CPU, if they still even make those. Get a dual-core processor (two chips working in tandem). They have quad-core CPUs now, but they're probably overkill and diminishing financial returns for what you need, unless you're doing some professional graphic design or animation, or are the most l33+ of g@m3rz.

Any motherboard is likely to have onboard video, sound, and ethernet ports, and maybe a wireless antenna. But you can also get expansion cards for better versions of all of those. You'll definitely want to get a separate, dedicated video card, and you might want a dedicated sound card as well, if sound quality is important to you.

After grabbing the motherboard, your next step should probably be getting the case it's going to be mounted in, and the power supply. When it comes to the case, I prefer to go big, so I can work comfortably when it comes time to swap out components or even just clean the damned thing. Others prefer to go small, so it takes up less space. As far as the power supply goes, check the power requirements for all of the other individual components you're cramming into this box (especially the video card) and make sure you're getting a power supply big enough to give it the juice it needs.

Some individual components (power supplies, CPUs, video cards) will have cooling fans built-in, and some cases will come with one or more already mounted in strategic locations. But you can always mount more of them, and I think it's better to err on the side of cool. 8-) Obviously, you don't want the machine to overheat and break, and it's simple physics that electricity conducts better in cooler environments. I've never messed around with the fancier cooling systems, so I can't advise you there.

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Umm, I'm a graphic design major, so yeah, I'll probably try to do some professional graphic design and animation. Thanks for the advice.

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