Tag Archives: gaming

Building a Computer 101: Research

The Job posts are taking a hiatus.

I’ve been looking at building a computer more and more lately. When the Orange Box was released I was partially enticed as I wanted to play Team Fortress 2 on the PC. (I’m not a big fan of console FPS, but I manage.) Next came the official announcement of the Spore release date. I’ve also been running into issues based on how I first partitioned my drives. I originally only alloted 20gigs to the C drive. I mean come on…if I only install vital components there I should have 10 gigs of buffer space. (I’ve even allocated My Docs to a different drive.) Low and behold, 5 years later and the stupid drive has somehow managed to work its way down to 2gigs to 200mb of free space at any given time. Baring a complete wipe and reinstall, this issue is mighty difficult to fix. (If you know a way around this, I’m all ears.) The last and most recent issue is the fact that my video card is starting to go on the “fritz”. (It’s a technical term.) Since I only have AGP slots to replace the graphics card, my choices are limited. (AGP is now old tech.) All of these combined events lead me to start looking at building a new computer.

Since I’m planing to go through the process, I’d figure that I would share this journey with you. Keep in mind that each edition of this series will occur when it occurs and to be candid, the information that I present during the first couple of posts will likely become outdated by the actual build time and require me to repeat a few steps.

With that said let’s begin:

The first thing you will want to do is figure out your needs.

If you just need a computer for web browsing and word processing, then I suggest you go the laptop route. In that case our journey together ends here. I suggest you give Dell a look or any other well reviewed laptop. As I’ve never purchased a laptop and my “best” laptop is a 386+ (That’s old school folks), I’m not one to ask about laptops.

If however, your needs happen to require a desktop, a high performance desktop ;-), then you and I have something in common. You could be doing video work, photo work, playing games, developing games or anything else that requires a power hogging, heat generating beast of a machine.

If you want to do some research on your own I suggest reading HardOCP. They are an amazing and (presumably) unbiased website that reviews and details all kinds of hardware components. Within the reviews you can find benchmarks, comparisons and a bunch of well presented useful information.

Here are the basic parts you will need to research for your computer:

  • Case (Bigger allows for flexibility)
  • Power Supply
  • Mother Board
  • CPU
  • RAM
  • Hard Drive
  • DVD/CD ROM Drive

And here are the parts that we will want for our computer:

  • Video Card
  • Sound Card? (Some MoBos come with pretty good integrated sound.)
  • Multiple Hard Drives
  • TV Tuner

The list of things that have become antiquated and you probably won’t need:

  • “A” Drive (Floppy Drive)

I think I’ve listed everything that you need to build a fully functional computer. Some optional items you might be interested in are case mods, physics cards, additional cooling or even a different form of cooling (water/refrigeration). Being that my experience is limited to affixing custom fans and heatsinks using thermal paste, I won’t be covering exotic forms of cooling. (Exotic cooling is generally only necessary if you overclock or live on the surface of Mercury.)

You may be wondering why I didn’t list a monitor. Well unlike some giant chains would have you believe, you don’t need one monitor per computer. (You can use one monitor for multiple computers if you have a switch.) The computer is a separate entity from the monitor and will be selected after building the computer. This is an especially good idea because some video cards only have certain types of output or can handle only certain levels of resolution. Your monitor and your video card need to coexist in blissful harmony. Trust me, choose a monitor after you have ordered the parts for your computer.

In the next post I will detail the exact parts that I have selected if I were to build a computer tomorrow. It’s important to know this even if you plan to build many months out. It gets you in the practice of researching and might clue you in to any possible future breakthroughs that you should wait for. More on that tomorrow!