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Building Your Own Computer

  1. May 27, 2005 #1
    Greetings, its the noob again:)

    Recently I had a discussion with a friend of mine who claimed that he knew how to set up his own computer (putting the parts together, not making the parts themselves). When I asked him if he's ever done it, he said no, but he said that he knows what most of the parts are and that if he had the tools he could figure it out. He knows absolutely nothing about electrical circuits (or electricity for that matter) because he's never studied it. And when I asked him if he knew about grounding, his reply was: "what's that?" So I'm wondering, is it really possible to set up your own computer with the limited knowledge that I described here, or are there very important things that must be learned first? If so, what are they?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2005 #2
    It's surprisingly straight-forward. Just a case of pushing the right things into the right slots, and most motherboards come with a manual to show you what goes where. As long as you ground yourself every now and again and before touching sensitive parts, there's not much that can go wrong. :smile:
  4. May 27, 2005 #3
    while selecting the hardware Just remember that the faster the data goes to and fro from the processor the better will be the performance.
  5. May 27, 2005 #4
    A 7 year old could be taught to assemble the components and get a computer up and running. Installing the operating system can be a bit tricky if your not familiar with locating and installing drivers, but if your working with all new parts, they should come with drivers and instructions on how to load them.

    The real question is why would you nowadays? You used to be able to save a lot of money by buying your own parts and putting it together, but now it will cost you more in parts then a new dell would. Unless you want to do it to increase your own knowledge, just buy a dell or gateway, or, if you want good parts, alienware.
  6. May 27, 2005 #5
    If you want to build a cheap gaming system then build it yourself. It would turn out cheaper than an Alienware system. I've never built a system but I've modded and played around with all the parts that building one would not be a problem. I think the trickiest part would be installing the motherboard in a new case because if you mess-up how you screw it in (grounding, etc.) you could spoil it.
  7. May 27, 2005 #6


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    Ive built about 6 computers myself and its now-a-days become a matter of just shoving things into slots with almost no electrical knowledge required.

    One guy on this other forum though was acten pretty dumb lol. Hes a 13 year old in junior high and he asks us all "Can i make my own pentium 4?". No he was serious... the actual processor... he asked "what book should i read so i can make it?" .It was nice that a lot of people flat out told him "No, its absolutely out of your league" etc etc... citing the billion dollar facilities Intel uses to make those processors in some cases... but the stupid thing was that some people actually encouraged him!

    When it comes to cost though... one thing you gotta realize is that, costs usually are teh same when you go custom DIY vs. a name brand BUT you are actually getting a better, faster system even if the components specs are the same. Dell and Compaq and all the big name brand companies use proprietary software which make the components go MUCH slower just so they reduce the chances of hardware failure and less workload for their support staff. They also do it to reduce the heat that builds up which allows them to run fans at much quieter speeds which is why there computers are so quiet (aestheticall pleasing is what customers want i guess)
  8. May 27, 2005 #7


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    Its actually quite easy. Motherboards have stand-off screws which means the motherboard never really comes in full contact with the case so its not really a problem.
  9. May 27, 2005 #8
    I understand that it must be easy to learn and I can see why it is straight-forward. But assuming that my friend never did it before, has no manual and has no one there to help him, what are the chances that he will mess up? What if he simply does not understand the concept of grounding? In other words, is it really that simple that I can confidently give him all the parts and let him do it, or should I find someone more experienced?
  10. May 27, 2005 #9


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    Ive never (ok so im lazy) taken precautions to stay grounded... and ive never had a problem. Depending on if he knows 1 golden rule about building computers... he either has like a 90% chance of screwing up or a 2% chance lol. If he at least realizes that pin-orientation is key... then he probably wont screw up at all. He'll probably take a few days to do it...but he'll figure it out. Take some hit and misses with screwing in everything in a way that everything lines up nicely (cd and hard drives) but he'd figure it out probably. Most BIOS (the most basic software on a computer) come pre-configured in a way that it would work fine for the setup...

    I would get someone more experienced though actually. There is ONE tricky thing... mounting the heatsink/fan onto the processor. Its hard as hell and most people who do it for the first time think there going to break it. Plus he might forget to attach the fans which might destroy the computer (depending on which one he forgets hehe). I wouldnt trust him if u had the choice.
  11. May 27, 2005 #10


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    What do you mean no manual? I assume that he has access to the internet, there are many hardware fourms that walk you through step by step. The hardest part may be selecting the processor/ motherboard and memory these need to be compatable, all else is common.

    The nice part about BYI is that when it comes time to upgrade you can reuse most of your parts, so down the road you can add memory as you need, or if you are careful in the choise of your motherboard you can upgrade the processor with only the cost of the processor.

    Most Dell's, Gateways, Compackards ect come with a power supply that is very tightly speced to run exactly what is in the box. You must be very careful about adding components or an overloaded PS can result. If you build your own you can get a bigger then required PS just for growth purposes.

    I have been building my own for on the order of 15yrs (my first was a 286) and will continue to do so as long as the industry and government allows.
  12. May 27, 2005 #11


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    Hey integral... you hear there reacing the 1000W level with commercially available atx power supplies lol. I really wonder what computers a gamer could build that would need a thousand watt source. I doubt dual SLI 6800's would demand such power...
  13. May 27, 2005 #12


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    All you need to build one is a #2 phillips screwdriver and the ability to assemble an erector set or legos. The software is another matter, and drivers can be an absolute nightmare even from name brand vendors. The newer and more fancy the piece, the higher the likelyhood you're waiting so long for good drivers the thing is already outpaced by the time the bugs are worked out.

    One (ESD) electrostatic discharge COULD potentially kill a piece, but we used to joke that you could spot a newbie not just because they swapped parts slowly but because they would actually bother to put on a grounding wriststrap. As my one friend would joke each time, "I'll wear it twice next time" and transport NICs and whatever in plastic grocery bags. Really quite durable stuff but its never harmful to be careful.

    I gave up building long ago for a couple reasons, first I stopped caring about spending so much money to be extra current (and stopped playing games that need it) and also got tired of hassles with warranty and driver incompatibility junk. I find it very frustrating to spend money on a feature I can't use or have stuff break and pay shipping and wait for replacements. With Dell I can call them up and its there the next day with a return shipping sticker so you can send it back in the same box - zero hassle.

    Sometimes its part of the adventure and learning, and building can do that. But I mess up plenty of things when doing it for the first time, its always one of those learning experiences where you see a scratch you made a few years ago and laugh at how you didn't know then what you know now. And with your own money at stake, you have a couple other options:

    Read around tomshardware or a copy of maximum PC or PC Computing and figure it out yourself. Or have someone supervise the assembly that can tell you how to locate the standoffs and make sure the slots are lined up so the cards slide in easy. While at it they can help you find a nice case and power supply so you don't need to Y off power and have some junker with sharp edges cut you while working on it. Yes, the case costs money and price isn't the only indication of quality, with some $25 special you get what you pay for.

    But if you can't assemble it on your own then how can you select the componets properly? If you want legitimate MS software then you'll want to simply purchase a Dell or Gateway, many provisions are being put in place to restrict updates to compliant machines and if you're online without updates....well, MS knows very well you need them so it makes sense to restrict access.... :smile:
  14. May 27, 2005 #13


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    Hey cliff, i guess since you havent built computers in a while you arent up to date on drivers. With windows XP, with almost every piece of hardware you can buy, the drivers install themselves upon OS installation. If you install a piece of hardware after the OS is installed, the drivers again will install themselves when you turn on the computer. Windows XP is an absolute dream vs 95 and 98 and 2000. The last computer I built 2 months ago... i just put the xp cd in... clicked a few buttons for time, date, time zone, user names, etc... computer restart, went to the desktop and sat back and watched every single driver self-install. Its an absolute dream! Incompatibilities are also becoming far less common. The unified and common drivers of NVidia and Ati (since as you know, video cards are the real big deal when it comes to paying outragous amounts for small inrease in performance... machismo in the geekiest sense lol) of the last few years means every card just needs a single file to get the latest working drivers for it.

    And i dont know what your talken about with the "legitimate MS software". You can go to say, newegg and all you need is a Y power adapter to be eligable for the OEM version of the operating system which is completely legit and updatable as would be one bought in a Dell or gateway brand "computer" :P
  15. May 27, 2005 #14


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    Sure, there's always exceptions. But even with XP if you start pushing the edge and get flaky BSODs and the vendors blame XP and you install 2000 then they blame AMD processors (sure) or your HD controller and it continues on like a soap opera with everyone passing the blame like a politician. So then you got to ponder whether it pays to buy the Intel with their chipset - and then you're almost better off having just purchased one.

    I didn't realise a power adapter counted, but its not like a $10 4x CDROM is a big deal either.

    I've had good luck with Ati but haven't bought a card over $150 since the ninties so I guess I'm just bascially messing with my AM radio and carburetor in my systems. :smile:
  16. May 27, 2005 #15
    I don't mean to imply that any of you are stupid or anything, but I don't think my question was fully understood...

    When you say you mess up plenty of things when doing it for the first time, do you mean mistakes that are 'fatal' to computer hardware? Perhaps my question was not clear enough. What I am asking is if I should or should not let my friend do the job. I am not asking whether or not it will be fun or how much of an educational experience it will be. I am not asking about the cost-effectiveness of doing it yourself, nor am I asking about how I will benefit from this experience.

    Perhaps this will put things into perspective (the following conditions are not subject to change, so don't bother suggesting otherwise):
    You buy some computer parts, and your friend would very much like to set it up for you, and you can't set it up yourself because [insert excuse]. When you ask him if he's done it before, he says no but he thinks he can figure it out. He knows what SOME of the computer parts are. Your friend is not the type of person that will read a manual, and even if you give it to him he won't use it. Knowing all of these things, would YOU let him do it? Why or why not?
  17. May 27, 2005 #16


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    If you have the choice and it wont cost you more then... $100 to get someone to do it (which means someone whos experienced but not a shop because they'll probably do it at $75/ hour and take around 4 hours to do it)... then get someone else to do it. Your friend.. if he doesnt know what all the parts are then no matter how idiot proof most computers are these days... hes still gonna screw something up probably. We dont wanna have you come on and say "oh some freak accident happened! he somehow jammed his sandwhich into the CPU socket and accidently ate the hard drive". Plus whoevers experience will probably get the settings in the optomized configuration.

    Wait wait come to think of it... DONT LET HIM! If he doesnt know what all the parts are... he most likely will forget to put the heatsink/fan on and will fry the processor instantly.


    Well it depends on how well you know computers. If you get BSOD's and dont already know what the problem is (most people can tell what it is based on the recent history of the computer) then you probably shouldnt build your own. I guess it depends on how much you know about computers. I dont remember ever calling a tech support line in my life with XP. I can only remember... 3 BSOD's with XP and ive used it since... hmm... well, well before the first service pack came out... I dunno, maybe its because i stick with major name brands like WD and creative and corsair and giga-byte (and pay a nice penny for it too).

    The business im starting is selling/repairing computers nad im sticking with these big name brands simply out of the fear of getting bad parts or incompatibilties that i'd have to deal with when customers call in complaining.
  18. May 28, 2005 #17


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    Have you ever fried a processor this way?
    Microprocessor manufacturers have thought about this scenerio long ago.. They developed failsafe circuits for the motherboard manufacturers. The circuitry (which include thermal diodes) immediately turn off the power supply before the CPU reaches a destructive temperature. They shut down around 85 deg C.

    I was troubleshooting a friend's PC that was behaving strangely. He had installed a new component (a DVD drive) and after reassembling found something wrong. The PC would start to boot up and then mysteriously shut down :bugeye:

    I opened up the pc and found they had forgot to reconnect the power line to the CPU fan. Ooooops.. But the CPU didn't burn up..
  19. May 28, 2005 #18
    I can’t understand why anyone with the slightest mechanical ability would not want to build their own PC. As mentioned it only takes a Phillips screwdriver, a glob of heat sink compound, and a thin slot screwdriver to engage the heat sink.

    Dollar for dollar you do about a third better for equivalent systems when you DIY. Do not consider a Pentium chip, the only way to go is with the AMD 64 bit processors. Further savings can be realized with OEM components, but I recommend retail components for the novice builder since software, drivers, manuals, and cables will be included. Buy only Windows XP compatible “plug and play” hardware. Do buy the OEM version of Windows XP Home Edition as it can be purchased legally, as long as the order includes a piece of hardware, for less than $95.00 versus $200.00 + for the retail version. You will lose MS tech support, but you are entitled to all free upgrade privileges that the retail buyer has. Installing Windows XP is a snap; just sit back for about 25 minutes while XP prompts you with various instructions and questions.

    HP and Compaq are basically the same stuff; each loads up your hard drives with a huge amount of useless software, as do the other brand leaders. Often it is difficult to upgrade their PC’s because of compatibility issues.

    The OP should ask the same question at either of the following sites and also ask for hardware purchase advice:


    http://www.community.tomshardware.com/forum/categories.m [Broken]

    These sites have many experts who will work with you during your build process.

    P.S. – I buy all my components from Newegg because they have a no questions asked return policy for thirty days; their prices are good but not the lowest. I am not in any way affiliated with Newegg. I always install the CPU onto the motherboard while it is out of the console. I always have the case of the computer grounded and touch it before I handle any component. It’s cheap insurance but not good enough for the military. Since 1976 I’ve put together over thirty systems. One MB failure; I don't know if I was guilty or not; replaced free of charge by Newegg.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  20. May 29, 2005 #19
    If you don't trust a novice to build your pc from ground up. Maybe what you should do is get a some combos; like a motherboard-cpu combo. I think in most cases if you buy a motherboard-cpu combo it would be cheaper than a separate motherboard and cpu.
  21. May 31, 2005 #20


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    mister_okay - No is the answer because it is safer than the yes answer that requires caveats. For example, I don't think twice about this stuff, but as a friend of mine worked his way from the world of Macs to PCs it surprised me with how many little things he did not know, and messed up. One bad example is a major brand of hard drive and major BIOS that would be on many motherboards and it involves the Master/Slave/Cable Select setting. Rather than noting what was the correct setting he started guessing and pretty soon the hard drive made a cricket type noise and would not work, their tech support had no problem warrantying the issue as if it happened all the time. Later another hard drive from the same manufacturer was making noise like a bearing was going dry so we went through the same procedure to get their tech support to replace it (because the bearing noise was insufficient on the first call) so it was a recipe for failure we could dial up at any time. This same friend had a couple of the newest latest greatest hard drives fail in his mac the same year, so maybe he's cursed but I could give examples of things I've hooked up incorrectly or things like some cheap floppy drive that had the keyed connector on backwards. Who would think that rather than the typical red stripe to power connection it would be reversed, and without a keyed ribbon cable the user had no idea as did I until I swapped it into a known good machine.

    You can buy lots of 3-4 year old machines off ebay for $100-150 and tons of old hardware and learn all you want. Some of the stuff is near indestructible, a little of it is fragile and can be messed up, but for the most part you'd learn a lot be just messing around with the stuff.

    Pengwuino - Even hardware from majors can be problematic as can their drivers. At some point you develop loyalties with certain brands because of bad experiences with others or within your circle of computer friends. For a SCSI card, a NIC, or a video adapter its hard to convince me to stray unless I can 'test drive' the pieces to ensure clean operation. And when it comes to specialized machines like one that would use a $3500 video editing card, even the motherboard chipset can break the project because of a conflict. One guy I know was upgrading and ended up on his old machine and spent a long time trying to offload the new MB/CPU/RAM because it just didn't work reliably with the editing card but was otherwise a fine setup.

    At some point you realise that all hardware and software has the ability to have issues, even 'big' platforms like a RS/6000 or AS400 or mainframes that can cost companies thousands or millions per day when offline. Sure its a big divide between a professionally supported system and the average PC running whatever junk the average ignorant user has failed to maintain, but failure modes are there whether you like it or not. Its just a matter of minimizing the likelyhood and having a plan to mitigate the risks and costs.

    In your business, its all about how much value your customers see in your services. I'd simply make sure to tell them upfront about data protection many times, that way when the complaints about the size of the bill to replace/recover or explain the total loss of data time comes, you can start the conversation by asking for their most recent backup and let them at least partially share in the 'blame' that is likely zero your fault. Otherwise its easy to be the oil change place that someone tries to get a free paint job from - sure things can happen but with computers the enigmatic nature means that if the customer is sure X is the problem then when Y doesn't work it can be messy. The bigger the customer, the easier everything is to work on.

    Ouabache - a couple years ago tomshardware had a video of a CPU burning up in seconds after its heatsink was removed. They had a video of another brand that simply slowed down after its heatsink was removed. They had accepted advertising from one of the two brands about the same time so there was controversey, but it did not look good for the one brand at all. Since this was a couple years ago, finding a couple pieces and testing the validity of their results would cost much less today and hopefully the bigger outcome of this public display would be protection from this problem across the manufacturers.
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