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Things to Consider When Building Your Own PC

Geek!This is Calvin’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

These days, more people are building their own computers rather than buying them from a retailer. I built myself a new computer back in August. My experience was mostly flawless, and those minor problems I did have were quickly fixed. Perhaps you’re looking at getting a new computer, and giving thought to building your own? Here are five tips that I believe will help you.

  1. Know what you need. Generally, when you’re building your own computer, you’ll need a motherboard, processor, RAM, video card, optical drive, hard drive, power supply, and a case. You may also need a keyboard, mouse, or monitor, depending on what peripherals you’ve got laying around. There are also extras like TV tuners, media card readers, and dedicated sound cards, which all can improve your PC experience, but you don’t need them – and not buying them can lower your purchase price.
  2. Don’t forget the operating system! While buying components, it’s very easy to forget to pick up an OS. Unless you’re going with Linux, it’s usually easier to buy the OS from the same place you’re getting the parts from, at the same time (so you don’t forget). You’ll probably want a copy of Windows Vista, which is Microsoft’s latest operating system. You can go with 32-bit or 64-bit versions, but unless you’re truly using more than 2GB of RAM, you should go with the 32-bit edition.
  3. Don’t put all of your money into one component. You can easily spend ~$500 on a graphics card. Unless you’re doing extreme gaming, you probably won’t need a top-of-the-line graphics card. The same goes for processors — even though the price-per-gigahertz is getting lower by the day, you still probably don’t need the high-end model. Remember: you don’t HAVE to buy the best out there to have a great computer.
  4. Don’t spend more than $100 on a motherboard. Unless you’re going to overclock (which you probably aren’t), you don’t really need all the special features that the more expensive boards sport. In many cases, the cheaper ones will perform just as good as their pricier counterparts – and they should give you all the options you might need. When buying a motherboard, make sure that the socket is the same as your processor, the RAM speed is compatible, it has at least two SATA ports (for the hard disk and optical drive), and that it has at least one PCI-Express x16 slot (the long one) for your graphics card.
  5. Shop around. If you stay patient and persistent, you can find some pretty great deals on the hardware you’re buying. Online retailers through TagJag.com provide regular discounts on their products, and coupons.lockergnome.com offers coupon codes to lower the price even more. Buying online will generally be cheaper than buying in-store, and you usually won’t have to pay taxes on what you buy. Some products also have manufacturer rebates on them, so be sure to print those out and send those in to save even more money!

Hopefully these tips will help you with your new machine. Also remember to have fun. It can be quite an enjoyable experience – to put together your own machine, and then see it run for the first time. If you do experience a problem, there are tons of hardware and PC-building forums out there that would be happy to help you. And of course, if you have any questions, ask! Good luck!