General discussion

Building a PC

Hello everyone. I apologize in advance for the long post. I'm looking to build myself a desktop. I'm not well versed in computer hardware; I'm a gamer and video games are what I know best. My understanding of how computers work is fairly limited, hence why I'm posting here. I'm currently using my laptop as a gaming machine. It can run most games on medium-low settings, although this means that many games (even on the lowest settings) still suffer from lag and bad framerates.

I'm looking to build a machine that will be running Windows 7. In terms of budget, I'm looking at 500-1000$, though it's somewhat flexible. I'm not looking to build the ultimate machine, but rather, a machine that can run high-end games (such as Crysis) on high(est) settings. Obviously, I also want a machine that won't become obsolete too quickly.

I play games such as EVE Online, Oblivion, Metro 2033, and Two Worlds II among many others. I'm looking forward to Skyrim and (hopefully) Guild Wars 2 in November. Hopefully this gives you a decent idea of the kinds of games I'll be running.

I'm completely new to building computers, so I have almost no clue where to begin. What I do know is that (apparently) Newegg is a good place to get good deals on computer parts, though whether this is true or not remains to be seen. More importantly, I still don't know which parts I should get.

Lastly, I should mention that I already have a monitor, mouse and keyboard. My monitor is an Asus VW224, and my mouse is a Logitech G500. My keyboard is a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard (nothing special, but it's a step up from my laptop's keyboard).

Note: from what I've read, it would seem that Nvidia cards are better than ATI simply because they are compatible with PhysX, which some games require in order to run properly. Thus, I'm assuming that I should be going with an Nvidia card, though I have no idea which one.

I thank you for your patience, and hope that you can all offer some advice.

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Building is easier than you might think

I've built a few computers, and upgraded the hardware in several more. Believe me, it isn't rocket surgery.Happy But I have to warn you: it's easy to spend more building your own computer than you would just buying a comparable machine, customized to your specifications, online.

A number of magazines and Websites have how-tos, complete with photos, that you can use to guide you through the building process, and even help you decide what to put into your machine. I'm especially fond of the how-to features Maximum PC magazine runs periodically. You'll need just a few simple tools; depending on the components you use, you might not need anything more than a No.2 Phillips screwdriver and an anti-static wrist strap. (I began my first build with a preassembled toolkit that included several screwdrivers, a couple of nutdrivers, tweezers and more. While this isn't a bad way to go, it may be overkill -- I've never used a chip-puller, soldering iron or wire stripper on a computer's components.) I do suggest you get a three-prong pickup tool for retrieving dropped screws. If you wait until you actually have all the components and look through their manuals, you'll have a better idea of what tools you need.

It's important to do your homework before you buy components and make sure you're buying parts that actually fit together and work together, so start your shopping list with the CPU you want to use. I suggest you limit your choices to the latest families from Intel (using the LGA1155 socket) or AMD (AM3+ socket). Then select a motherboard that's designed to work with that processor, and also has whatever built-in features you want. Llet the motherboard and CPU determine just which other components to buy. Bear in mind that the motherboard is the single hardest component to upgrade., so choose carefully.

Some first-time builders forget how important the choice of case can be; yes, you want a case that looks good, but it also has to be big enough in the right places to hold all the parts. Some cases just can't accommodate a long high-performance graphics adapter, and video is a high priority if you're a gamer.

Be sure to buy a high-quality power supply unit that's big enough to power everything; I like to go with 10 to 20 percent more capacity than I need initially, since I know I'll upgrade at some point. And I only use PSUs from brands with reputations for quality; a cheap, poor-quality PSU is more likely to fail, and take other core components with it.

RAM, video, hard drives, and other components are important, but if you have a good case, PSU, CPU and motherboard, the rest is reasonably easy to upgrade as your budget permits (and your requirements grow).

Read all the manuals that come with your components, and keep them handy during your build; they contain useful information that you will find valuable. Trust me on this.

When you're ready to begin putting things together, make sure you have plenty of room on your worktable, ground yourself with that wrist strap I mentioned earlier, and follow the steps you found on the Web or in one of the magazines you undoubtedly subscribe to. You'll quickly discover that building a PC is not at all difficult; and once you've built it (and it works!) you know you'll be able to handle future upgrades.

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Thanks for an excellent article.

Thanks - article appreciated, particularly the clarity and lack of spelling/punctuation errors etc - an almost lost art these days!! The time and effort in proof-reading makes all the difference between a good and a bad article.
I'm not (yet) thinking of building a computer but mine is now quite slow even for normal work (not games) and I do have an electronic background, so this thread has given me ideas - who knows what can happen (provided it is economically worth the effort and risk). Also the thought of providing it with a really good audio system is appealing as I love music. Thanks again, **** Jenkin.

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@boromia RE Sound system

I searched for several months, shopping the sales, before buying. I would have liked to be able to spend several thousand dollars on sound equipment but just can't. I do own $5l worth of audio gear, unfortunately I need to repair the Amp and don't have an O'scope. I too have and analog electronics background. I finally decided on getting the Logitech Z-5500 5.1 THX system and am quite pleased with it for the price. I was able to get it for $329 with free shipping. To achieve the same quality of sound with anything else would have required going with $1200 worth of separates speakers and AV amp. I actually went to a Frye's and listened before buying. I do not like buying audio equipment w/o listening to it first! I Hope this is helpful.

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Building your PC

Hi Varthome, I built this computer last year and am currently in the process of upgrading it. I had a much more limited budget, lol. I would think you could get a nice case with plenty of cooling fans and a large enough PSU, MoBo and quad core chipset, 4gb of good fast DDR3 RAM, a good HD, a decent CD/DVD optical drive and a fairly good video card with Win7 for around that price. You could add more Ram later, along with another video card in a Crossfire or SLI configuration. That would liven it right up. Maybe add a good audio card then. I built mine as a dual core with only 2gb 1066mhz DDR2 RAM. a Seagate Barracuda 500gb HD, HP optical drive and it had a ATI 4200 video on the MoBo, and a 600W PSU and case. I've added 2 gb more RAM and a better video card and am installing a quad core chipest and going to Win7 Ultimate 64 bit later this summer. Then I'll pull the RAM and go to 2-4gb 1066 mhz DRR2 RAM and I'll ad 2 more 4gb boards later. Then i'm planning on a very good audio card (I'm really into good audio) and later add another video card in an SLI configuration.
I bought most of the parts from either NewEgg or tigerDirect, both are excellent, trustworthy and ship in a timely fashion. I also used NextTag to find where the best deals were located. This is the first PC I've built. I only learned to use a computer 5 years ago, lol.
If you're ever on Guild Wars and see Paula Padsoft, a Ranger (only level 2 so far), that's me. Happy I also play Go on KGS ( and am a room owner and sometime teacher. I'll follow this thread, so if you have questions, feel free to ask. --->Paula
PS- I agree to everything daddywalter said with special emphasis on the third paragraph. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! I found a Mobo with chipest combo which can save a few bucks. I'd make sure the Mobo/chipest will run plenty of fast RAM too.. RAM matching is VERY important! It isn't hard to find a MoBo that will accept a number of different chipserts like I did. That makes upgrading much less expensive.

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In addition to the comments already made..

suggest posting the proposed parts here on CNET with links before you buy (many examples to look at here on CNET). Then folks can comments on the 'proposed components'.

Last, make sure you 'bench test' the PSU, motherboard, CPU and RAM BEFORE mounting the MB in the case. That way you know if the MB, CPU, RAM and later the video card are working before going to all the effort to mount the MB.

Questions...we'll be here.


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building a recycled CS server (Custom Server?)

<span id="INSERTION_MARKER">1st post, just found cnet;looking for duh what is hard-drive 80gb? Fixed income and have had hand-me-down pcs. Need to kick this slug. Have and will keep XP pro OS SVC PK 3. The used, rebuilt converted Server has 1GB Ram (told that should be adequate, can go 2GB if not). Intel 3.0. 80gb Harddrive (bud sez may need more HD). Tech will move my hard drive (loaded) into server. What else do I need to ask for? Video Card memory? dkn what that's about. Wannabe writer (unpublished) with 4 novel series in the works and serious music lover (loads in wmp). Want to run cd burner - sharing screens on Skype (dropping heavy files n docs) and adding photo/doc flatbed scanner soon and that is another question for XP compatability issues i dont know yet.

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Hope this is a free move.

But let's point out this discussion is about Building a PC by Varthorne. You may have posted in the middle of someone's discussion so I'll point out ONE BIG ISSUE and ask you start your new discussion.

-> Windows does not "transplant" like that. You will likely lose any file or app that you didn't have a backup for.

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CS Server

Sorry Bob, new here. Looking at XP related thread and building a server into a desktop pc .. connects to a tech dummy. hope the info "transplant" doesnt mean I will loose everything with the move over
wi;; get out of this other biz

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Let's just state what should happen.

Move a HDD with XP to another machine = Does not boot XP 99% of the time.

And any tech that doesn't warn about it usually wipes out what's on the HDD trying to fix it.

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Little update for everyone:

I've been a bit busy these past few weeks (hence the silence). I dropped by a local business to see what they had to offer. I'll post the options within the next few days; they have two setups in particular that interest me, though they will require some customization. The problem, with regards to my budget, is that (aside from the graphic cards and power supplies) they don't list the prices of individual components, but instead give a price total, based on the choice of processor.

(More to come soon)

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Tell 'em you want an itemized list by component. Otherwise

the vendor can substitute anything they feel like at any time. List the Item name, the mfg name, the series, part number and cost. If they won't do that ... take your business elsewhere.


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Building your own PC/Barebones kits

A way to get started quick and easy is to start from a barebones kit like TigerDirect sells. You generally get tge case w/CPU and MoBo and hipset, HD some RAM and OS and sometimes even a graphics card or Optical Drive. They often have up-grades giving you more RAM, bigger HD or an upgraded OS. This way you get all of your core parts for lees than you could buy them separately . You can find some ridiculously low prices that way, then just add stuff to it to complete it.

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Barebones = good way to go

A big "amen" to pebarefoot's suggestion! Several companies offer barebones PCs with upgrades available; and since they buy in bulk they can offer prices that may beat what it would cost to buy the parts individually. Review the "standard" components and upgrade as you see necessary. If you want to do part of the work yourself (a good way to get to know the computer inside-out), buy and install parts that aren't included in the barebones system. However you do it, the result is a computer you *know*, one that is tailor-made to your specifications and probably better than anything you could buy off the shelf at a big-box store. And if money is a little tight now, bear in mind that you can always upgrade later during the computer's life; I'm already contemplating that with the system I just finished.

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