Author Topic: How to go about building a PC?  (Read 1237 times)

Baron Brymbo von Pickelhaube

  • Adel auf dem Radel
How to go about building a PC?
« on: February 05, 2019, 11:27:07 am »
I'm contemplating building a desktop Windows PC and would welcome any hints/tips/war stories from others who have done this.  Is it just a matter of selecting compatible components from a website like pcpartpicker, looking up practical build guides, and just getting on with it?

My only experience is with installing HDDs, memory, and interface cards to upgrade already-built machines.  I'm looking for any pitfalls in building from scratch which I should be aware of.
The present is a foreign country: they do things differently here.

Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2019, 12:51:24 pm »
Yes, it's essentially a case of picking compatible components and plugging it all together.

It's the picking the part that's complicated – not just to ensure you get components that work together, but also that you're getting the best bang-per-buck for whatever you're spending. Building the thing is simple in comparison, particularly if you're already comfortable with upgrading components yourself.

When buying, you'll also need to consider that there's more inside a PC than you might ordinarily consider – power supply, fans, CPU heatsink, cables, screws to hold everything together, a case...

As long as you're careful and fastidious, I don't think there are any serious pitfalls – just little things to overlook. Failing to use paste between the CPU and heatsink used to be a common one, as was using an inadequate power supply, or buying a motherboard without enough expansion slots – or the appropriate memory slots.

Oh, and consider how you're going to install Windows 10 in an age where it's a download – you'll need to create an install DVD/USB flash drive on another PC first. Not an issue if you already have a working PC, but when all you have is a freshly-built PC with no operating system to boot from...

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2019, 01:03:06 pm »
Pretty much that.

My main advice (other than making sure everything's compatible - the one I tend to get caught out by is power supplies not having enough of the required connectors), is not to skimp on the case.  The case will out-last the internals, and a quality one will make for a quieter machine (by using big, slow-revving fans) and less inconvenience when you have to fettle something (think easy thumbscrews, side panels that can be removed in situ, no sharp edges to cut yourself on while fighting with molex connectors).  Positive-pressure ventilation with a filter on the input makes for a much less dusty computer, though you have to be a bit creative, as most cases are designed for fans sucking air out of the case (and therefore dust in through every crevice).

If you need fans, you can't go wrong with the Arctic F-series.  Well worth the premium over whatever's-cheapest-at-eBuyer, both in terms of noise, and bearing life.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Gattopardo

  • Lord of the sith
  • Overseaing the building of the death star
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2019, 03:47:44 pm »
It's usually cheaper to buy pre built. 

Unless you are trying to build something super quiet. Or if it is something you just fancy doing.  Go for it.

Look at places like scan ebuyer and overclockers etc.. sometimes they do package deals.

Google is your friend for product comparability and problems.  The overclockers forum has been very helpful in the past.

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2019, 04:08:53 pm »
Every time I build  PC, things have moved on so much that everything I knew is wrong.
I have to re-learn what's current in CPUs, mobos and memory types.

Decide what CPU you want.
Then go look at mobos that support it. This will be determined by the mobo chipset.
Then you can divine what kind of memory you need.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2019, 04:16:52 pm »
It's usually cheaper to buy pre built.

This.


Every time I build  PC, things have moved on so much that everything I knew is wrong.
I have to re-learn what's current in CPUs, mobos and memory types.

Also this.


Quote
Decide what CPU you want.
Then go look at mobos that support it. This will be determined by the mobo chipset.
Then you can divine what kind of memory you need.

I seem to end up doing it the other way round these days.  I know I want a mobo with plenty of RAM expansion capacity, lots of SATA, Intel networking[1], some PCI slots[2] or whatever, then chose a CPU based on compatibility.  Obviously what matters depends on what you want the computer to do.


[1] I'm still traumatised by the Realtek 8139.
[2] Now an endangered species, which is annoying when you've got obscure requirements.  I've managed to ditch the 8-port serial card, but the analogue telephony card is on borrowed time until the next server upgrade.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

fuaran

  • rothair gasta
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2019, 04:56:28 pm »
Could look at a 'barebones' system. That gives you a case, PSU, and motherboard, and usually some sort of fans/cooling all ready built. So its fairly simple to add the other bits you need.
Also consider how big it needs to be. There are plenty of smaller cases/motherboards that could do what you want. eg Shuttle XPC. Though they are a bit more expensive.

Nowadays most motherboards have graphics, sound, network etc built in. So less need for any expansion cards, unless you have particularly niche requirements. And probably don't need a CD/DVD drive. You can install Windows for USB, most other stuff can be downloaded.

Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2019, 06:13:05 pm »
I bought a gaming PC recently - off the shelf. No brainer - I CBA with the faff of sourcing parts and building it.

ETA: Of course, you MBA, and could well be someone who gets great enjoyment out of sourcing and building PCs. There are some great parts websites now that'll tell you whether your shopping list is all compatible.

Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2019, 06:19:33 pm »
I built a PC in 1995 and spent most of my time driving to / from industrial estates far too far away, collecting the parts.

Morat

  • I tried to HTFU but something went ping :(
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2019, 06:45:30 pm »
I was going to build my own but went with Dino PC instead. They allow a lot of customisations.
Kim is right about the case, also it's worth spending on the monitor. I find they have a longer lifespan than most other components and of course it's the bit you spend loads of time looking at.

What is the PC for?
Tandem Stoker, CX bike abuser (slicks and tarmac) and owner of a sadly neglected MTB.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2019, 06:51:45 pm »
Despite being a certified klutz, I used to build PCs back in the 00s. It was interesting for a while and the main difficulty was sourcing complimentary bits from the alphanumeric soup of product numbers (which I imagine has only gotten worse). That and knowing the precise amount of force required not to bend CPU pins while at the same time providing the socket the necessary level of encouragement to give a home to that processor.

By the late 2000s, most of the stuff was already on the motherboard, at most you'd be adding a graphics card and HDD. So basically, there was nothing to it. Slot it all in, fiddle a bit with fans and heatsinks, and plug in the PSU. The activities that took the most time were ordering the parts and installing Windows. Gave up around then. As others have said, you'll get something cheaper off the shelf if you don't have special requirements.
!nataS pihsroW

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2019, 07:01:36 pm »
Despite being a certified klutz, I used to build PCs back in the 00s. It was interesting for a while and the main difficulty was sourcing complimentary bits from the alphanumeric soup of product numbers (which I imagine has only gotten worse).

There must be a whole generation of young people who don't remember the days when model numbers were coherently incremental.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2019, 08:35:21 pm »
For your first build you may want to consider buying a partially built up motherboard where the CPU, cooler and paste have already been sorted out. In the days of computer fairs often the seller would do this for you. I have killed a cpu in the distant past by bending a pin although this is less likely now due to improved CPU mounting design. The other one to watch is shorting out your motherboard by not using the correct stand off studs when mounting the board to the case. Studs and screws should come with your case but you need to check and get some spare if nesc. If budget allows go for a full size board rather than a micro, it simply means more room for fat fingers and possibly removes clashes between slot in cards such as graphics cards/ sound cards and sata cable connections. Make sure your power supply unit (PSU) has the correct number of connector pins for your board. Other than that it is mostly plug and play. On board sound chips are now very good indeed so normally no need to do anything else regarding sound, at least initially. Connecting power pins can be a bit fiddly so READ the manual and take your time. Dont let Bios frighten you, if you get stuck say so. Plenty here to help out.

You will get a huge kick from building you own machine.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2019, 08:53:11 pm »
...

You will get a huge kick from building you own machine.

Yes, but that's mostly through shorting the PSU across your fingertips.
!nataS pihsroW

Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2019, 08:56:49 pm »
When they fail they certainly can go with a bang!
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain

Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2019, 09:22:23 pm »
I built a PC in 1995 and spent most of my time driving to / from industrial estates far too far away, collecting the parts.

My last build was probably 10 years before that, but I lived in Coventry, and Rugby had several parts emporia all on the same industrial estate.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #16 on: February 05, 2019, 09:23:05 pm »
It's a lot like building your own bike by buying all the components and putting them together. As long as you check the compatibility of all the parts it's fairly straightforward to put them together, but it will be more expensive than buying a standard model that's been put together for you. Unless you have very specific requirements and know what they are, it normally makes more sense to buy one that is close to what you want and perhaps change the saddle or brakes when you feel you need an upgrade.
Quote from: tiermat
that's not science, it's semantics.

Gattopardo

  • Lord of the sith
  • Overseaing the building of the death star
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2019, 10:56:45 pm »
I bought a gaming PC recently - off the shelf. No brainer - I CBA with the faff of sourcing parts and building it.

ETA: Of course, you MBA, and could well be someone who gets great enjoyment out of sourcing and building PCs. There are some great parts websites now that'll tell you whether your shopping list is all compatible.

That is the bit I liked, moved on from computer fares, then industrial estates then mail order..then stopped as I did little gaming.

Baron Brymbo von Pickelhaube

  • Adel auf dem Radel
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2019, 01:12:08 pm »
Thanks for all the very informative replies.  I'm most likely going to have a crack at it.

The machine is actually for my son, who intends to edit video (maybe even 4k) using Sony Vegas, or whatever it's called now.  He says the ready-built machines from the likes of Scan aren't what he wants, but maybe he wants a machine to match the application's system requirements exactly and is unwilling to make compromises.

He's used pcpartpicker to create a couple of build parts lists (£1500-2000 :o  ::-)) and I've just started the process of scrutinising these while informing myself about the components and machine building at the same time.  From the topic replies and what I've since gleaned from the WWW I'm encouraged rather than dissuaded wrt building it myself.  However, it would not surprise me if the hardest part of this IT project is the human aspect, as ever.
The present is a foreign country: they do things differently here.

CommuteTooFar

  • Inadequate Randonneur
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2019, 11:02:54 am »
Buy an anti static wrist strap first.  Rarely matter but when it does.

When buying a modern processor make sure you buy a modern motherboard to carry it.  Although older boards may work they might need a bios update, which you will need an older processor to update.

Video editing can be processor hungry application, one of the few that still benefits from a hefty system.

Two years ago you would have needed to choose an Intel processor to get top performance AMD was simply a cheap option.

Now the AMD Ryzen processors are very competitive and still cheaper. They have a slight under performance in single thread applications but supply more processes than the equivalent Intel part. Good Video editing packages scale well with more processes.

In the second half of this year it is hoped Ryzen 3 will arrive.  These are expected to be comfortably quicker than anything Intel will have.

Memory is trickier. Some processors get little benefit from faster memory. Ryzen 2 will certainly take advantage of faster memory. Generally buy simms in pairs but some Intel processors/chipsets prefer threes.  Some online memory helpers do not always recommend the best memory choice.

Video cards take a lot of work off the processor. It is doubtful a top gaming gpu is needed for video editing.  I have no recommendation. If the software you use uses Open-CL choose AMD, If the software you use uses CUDA choose Nvidia.

Asus, Gigabyte and Microstar International (MSI) are regarded as the top tier retail motherboard makers and are widely available.  The second tier make good boards but if may be harder to find a specific board.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2019, 12:01:41 pm »
Buy an anti static wrist strap first.  Rarely matter but when it does.

Definitely won't do any harm.  Although you'll get most of the way there by installing the power supply in the case first, and plugging in (no need to switch on) the mains lead before installing the other components.  That way the case will be grounded, as will you every time you touch it.

Certainly don't unwrap the RAM on one side of the room then walk across the carpet and offer it up to the motherboard without touching anything, or have someone carry it over and hand it to you, or similar.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Baron Brymbo von Pickelhaube

  • Adel auf dem Radel
Re: How to go about building a PC?
« Reply #21 on: March 03, 2019, 12:03:01 pm »
IWe've actually built it.  Thanks to all respondees for very useful information and encouragement.

It's astounding how easy it it to spec., buy, and build a desktop PC.  Ordered components Mon evening, components arrived Thu/Fri, hardware built Sat afternoon/evening, software installed Sun morning.  Started up first time and all devices/memory visible.  My son's currently customising the Windows 10 "experience" to his liking.  I'm slipping into the background at this point...
The present is a foreign country: they do things differently here.