How to Make a Computer From Parts- Part 1: Parts of a Computer and How Much Money You Will Save

This purpose of this article series is to teach you how to build your own computer from parts.

This article will show you parts needed to put together a computer, as well as comparing it to buying a computer from a manufacturer.

I believe every person should be able to make their own computer, and after reading this article series, you should have no problem building your own.

Why Build Your Own Computer?

The benefits to making your own computer include:

  1. Less expensive than buying a pre-built computer.
  2. Better, usually much faster parts than a pre-built computer.
  3. Less expensive to upgrade to a newer computer
  4. Allows you to be more selective of what parts are in your computer.
  5. Your choice over operating system and installed programs
  6. Helps you learn what parts are in your computer
  7. Allows you to be able to troubleshoot problems easilier.

And in more detail:

1. Since you aren’t paying someone to put together your computer, pick out the parts, and install software on it, you end up saving a lot of money.

2. Pre-built computers aren’t built to be top of the line- they aren’t even built to be in the middle. They are made to have as low manufacturing cost as possible, which means every part that can be skimped on will be, even if it’s only a few dollars for something that is much better.

3. A pre-built computer is manufactured only to the specification you get it at. Don’t expect to be easily able to change your motherboard, cpu, and video card, and use the same case. If you want to upgrade anything other than the ram, hard drive, and sometimes possibly the video card, you’ll have to buy an entire new computer.

4. Does that video card built into the pre-built computer overheat when playing 3d games? Is the hard drive known to fail at exactly 2 years? You don’t know, because you don’t know what parts are being used.

5. Don’t you just hate Vista? Everyone does. Why pay an additional $200, when for $60 you could have a familiar version of XP, or for $0 have a cleaner, open sourced operating system known as Linux or Ubuntu? You can even install the Mac OS on a PC, if so possessed, creating something known as a “Hackintosh”(see inexpensive mac, that will run exactly the same as shelling out the extra $800 for an equivalent Mac).

What about “Bloatware”? Software that has been installed by the manufacture that takes up hard drive space, you’re not interested in using, and you’ll have to go through and uninstall and sort through. When building your computer from parts, you know exactly what is on it- because you install it.

6 and 7. As you put together your computer, you’ll also learn how to replace all the parts. Video output not working? Go borrow a video card from another computer and test it out in yours to see if it fixed the problem. It’s very easy to fix computer problems if you know how to narrow down what the problem might be.

Why Wouldn’t You Build Your Own Computer?

Some potential reasons why some people might be scared of building their own computer are:

  1. Being responsible if you mess something up.
  2. Having to know what you are doing.
  3. You’re a mac person/sheep with no concept of individuality

The first and second one just mean using common sense, and thoroughly checking to make sure you are doing stuff right. Don’t do anythign unless you understand it.

Unforunately, if you are a mac person, there is no currently known cure. You will be driven to buy all Apple products, no matter how much common sense may fight against the idea.

Luckily, the internet is available these days, which means most information can be found with very little time spent researching, thus making building a Windows/Linux/Mac system fairly easy.

What Parts Are Needed For A Computer?

  1. ATX Case
  2. Power Supply Unit (PSU)
  3. Motherboard (Mobo)
  4. CPU (Central Processing Unit)
  5. RAM (Random Acess Memory)
  6. Hard Drive
  7. Video Card (If not built into motherboard)
  8. CD/DVD/Blue Ray Drive
  9. Montitor
  10. Keyboard
  11. Mouse
  12. Speakers

Optionally, you could also pick up a sound card, network card and RAID hard drive controlling card, but these are already part of pretty much all motherboards, and only useful if you really need upgraded ones.

What Do the Parts Do?

I’ll briefly go over the list of required parts, but I reccomend looking on http://wikipedia.org” for more information.

1. ATX Case. This is what all your computers parts need to go into, aside from the monitor, keyboard and mouse, and speakers, obviously.

2. Power Supply Unit. This is what gets plugged into the wall to give your computer power, with cables going to each of your components that need power (motherboard, video card, hard drives, cd drive).

3. Motherboard. This is what connects all the components of your computer. The CPU (with fan) and ram are placed directly on this, and the power, video card, hard drive, cd drive, case connectors all get plugged into this.

4. CPU. This is the “brain” of your computer. It does all the work (aside from graphics). The faster this is (as well as the cache size and number of ‘cores’), the more responsive your computer will be.

5. RAM. This is temporary, but very fast storage. It empties out whenever you turn off the power, but all programs that you have open/ running are temporarily stored in RAM, which makes them much faster to use than where they are stored before you run them- on the hard drive.

6. Hard Drive. This is where you install all your programs and files to. It’s usually much larger than ram, and it is where all your files are stored, including music, videos, programs, text, ect.

7. Video Card. This is what allows you to connect to your monitor, and see what your computer is doing. This is also what is used by 3d games to be able to render out 3d worlds. If you only will be doing web browsing, you can get one of these for $10, or built onto the motherboard. But if you want to play the best games out there, on the highest settings on a giant monitor, you can spend $500 or more on one (usually a $100 one is good for most things)!

8. CD/DVD/Blue Ray Drive. This is what can read cd’s/dvd’s/blue rays. You can also get drive’s to WRITE these as well. Right now most people will be fine with just a cd/dvd writer (about $20).

9. Monitor. This is what actually displays the pictures from your computer. Higher resolution, the smaller things can be made on your computer- and the more things you can see at a time. You can also use most newer LCD TV’s as a monitor, since usually bigger ones are less expensive. In general, the better the reolution, the better the monitor, and sometimes more expensive.

10. Keyboard. Input device you type on to give text input to the computer. Can come with a USB wire or wireless with a battery.

11. Mouse. Input device used to control the cursor on screen. Can also come as USB wire or wireless with a battery.

12. Speakers. Used to output sound. You can also use headphones. Optional since most people have headphones, or already have speakers.

Price Comparison of Pre-built Vs. Custom Made Computers

Lets look at some pre-built computers with as similar specs as I could get, to see how much they cost:

Dell Precision T1600 Workstation

  • 3.10 GHz Quad Core Xeon
  • 4GB (2x2GB) memory
  • 1TB 7200-rpm hard drive
  • 16X DVD+/-RW
  • NVIDIA® Quadro® 600 with 1GB
  • UltraSharp U2711 27-inch Widescreen Monitor
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard

Total Price: $2,048.00

Mac Pro

  • 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
  • 3GB (three 1GB) memory
  • 1TB 7200-rpm hard drive
  • 18x double-layer SuperDrive
  • ATI Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB GDDR5
  • Apple LED Cinema Display (27″ flat panel)
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple Keyboard

Total Price: $3,498.00!!!!

Wow! For $1450 less you can have the same computer (and in fact a bit faster) built by Dell as you could get a Mac!

Well, lets now see what we can get for a custom built computer, using first the cheapest, then the best quality products in the same area as the other two:

Cheapest Custom Built Computer

  • ATX Case GIGABYTE=$25
  • LOGISYS 480W PSU=$15
  • 3.1GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon=$209
  • 4GB (2x2GB) memory G SKILL=$39
  • 1TB 7200-rpm hard drive HITACHI=$60
  • 16x SuperDriveMulti DVD RW LG=$18
  • ATI Radeon HD 5670 with 1GB GDDR5=$70
  • ViewSonic 27″ FullHD WideScreen LCD=$270
  • Pixxo USB Keyboard + optical mouse=$15

Total Price: $721.00 for the hardware!!!!

Best Rated Custom Built Computer

  • ATX Case ANTEC Nine Hundred=$100
  • CORSAIR 750W SLI PSU=$95
  • Motherboard (Mobo)
  • 3.2GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon=$234
  • 4GB (2x2GB) memory G SKILL Ripjaws=$47
  • 1TB 7200-rpm hard drive WD Caviar Black=$84
  • 16x DVD RW ASUS=$20
  • Geforce GTX 460 with 1GB GDDR5=$180
  • ViewSonic 27″ FullHD WideScreen LCD=$270
  • Pixxo USB Keyboard + optical mouse=$15

Total Price: $1045.00 for the hardware!!!!

You could of course buy much more expensive parts for all of them, but I was trying to find simmilar components.

If you need to buy Windows on top of this (not using Ubuntu, or not just replacing your old computer with a different one), you’ll need to add $100 for Windows 7 Home 64bit, or if you chose to, Professional for $140.

Total Savings

If instead of buying a Dell, you built a similar computer, you would save:
$1,003 – $1,327

Or if you were, for any reason considering a Mac, by building your own you would save:
$2,453 – $2,777

(add $100 to all if you also need to buy Windows 7 64bit Home)

In other words, you could buy 2.8 custom built computers for the price of a similar Dell, or 4.9 computers for the same price as one Mac Pro!!

Additionally most of the components had free shipping with newegg, but that is something to be aware of as well- you might have to add shipping to either the pre-built computer, or to some of the components.

Conclusion

You can save a lot of money by building you own computer, or even by 3-4x as many computers for the same price as a pre-built one!

In the next section I will talk about how to select which components you want and how to put them together, but for now you should be able to look up any of the main components used to build a computer, and compare price and number of reviews on http://www.newegg.com, or even http://www.amazon.com.

Please leave me any comments, questions or feedback you have.

Other Articles in this Series

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