The first step to building a computer is acquiring the parts. This guide will start with a quick explanation of essential parts and elaborate on them further on.
A computer is made up of a case (or chassis) which houses several important internal components, and provides places to connect the external components, including non-peripherals.
Inside the case go the following internal parts:
- Power Supply/PSU – power supply unit, converts outlet power, which is alternating current (AC), to direct current (DC) which is required by internal components, as well as providing appropriate voltages and currents for these internal components.
- Motherboard/mainboard – As the name indicates, this is the electronic centerpiece of the computer: everything else connects to the motherboard.
- Processor/CPU – central processing unit, the "brain" of the computer, most actual computation takes place here.
- RAM – random access memory, the "short-term memory" of a computer, used by the CPU to store program instructions and data upon which it is currently operating. Data in RAM is lost when the computer is powered off, thus necessitating a hard drive.
- Storage - either HDD (Hard disk drive - slower of the two but less expensive) and/or SSD (solid state drive. Very fast but not as cheap) – the "long-term memory" of the computer, used for persistent storage – i.e. the things stored on it remain even when the computer is powered down. The operating system, and all your programs and data are stored here. OSes can be booted and use storage from inexpensive USB Drives, although this is only with extremely lightweight systems.
Optional components follow: (Components that depend on the function that will be given to the machine)
- Optical Drive – device for reading/writing optical disks. May read CDs, DVDs, or other optical media, depending on the type. It is essential for installing many operating systems and programs, although the vast majority can be run from USB. It may be able to write some of these discs, as well. Some people like to have two such drives for copying disks.
- GPU/Graphics Card/GPU – does processing relating to video output. Some motherboards have an "onboard" GPU built in so you don’t need (but may add) a separate video card. Otherwise, you will need a video card. These plug into a slot on the motherboard and provide a place to connect a monitor to your computer.
- Sound card - Comes with motherboard but may want to be upgraded
On top of the internal components listed above, you will also need these external components:
- Keyboard – for typing on. Many motherboards won't even boot without a keyboard attached.
- Mouse – for pointing and clicking. Unless you chose a text-based operating system, you will likely want one of these.
- Monitor – This is where the pretty pictures go. They come in many forms, the most common being CRT and LCD.
Simple web surfer
If you have a little extra money, spend it on a better monitor, mouse/keyboard, and case/power supply in that order.
|Component||Low build||Average build||Higher/Extreme build|
|CPU||AMD X4-7500||Intel Pentium G3450($70)||Intel i3-6320($149)|
|Graphics||Integrated||Integrated||Nvidia GT 740|
|Hard disk||320 GB HDD(5400 rpm)||1 TB HDD(7200 rpm)||256 GB SSD|
|RAM||2 GB||4 GB||4 + GB|
|CPU||Celeron G1850||Intel i5-6400||Intel i7-6700K2|
|Graphics||Integrated||Nvidia GTX 950||Nvidia GTX 970/equivalent Quadro model1|
|Hard Disk||500 GB HDD(5400 rpm)||128 GB SSD||256 GB SSD+ 1 TB HDD(7200 rpm)|
|RAM||2 GB||4 GB||8 GB|