Whether you’re a dyed in the wool geek or you’d just like to save a little money, building your own machine can be very rewarding. If you’re new to the game, here are a few things worth considering before you begin the adventure of creating PC life from nothing. Lucky you!

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Your PSU is like the heart of your machine, converting mains power to power for each and every component of your machine. It even looks the same; hearts have veins and arteries and PSUs have power cables connected to different parts of the machine. The PSU is one of the most important parts of your new machine as it needs to provide a good source of reliable power that won’t fluctuate and cause you stability issues. In addition, depending on what components you plan to include in your build you will need to make sure that your PSU can supply enough power to run everything in the machine. Worth a note as well is the efficiency rating of the PSU, if possible try and go for a unit with higher than 80% efficiency.

Motherboard

Your motherboard is like the spine of your system, all other components plug into it. When considering which motherboard to buy you will have to first plan out what kind of other components you want to use as motherboards will be designed to fit specific manufacturers and generations of CPU. You don’t want to buy an awesome component and then suddenly discover your motherboard won’t accept it!

CPU/Processor

This is like the brain of your machine, its job is mostly just to calculate. Whenever you launch a program the CPU will crunch data and communicate with other components to run the program, and the faster it can do that the faster the program will run.

RAM/Memory

Think of RAM as the muscles of your machine. The more muscle you have, the faster you are and the more you can do. RAM is very important for multitasking (having more than one program open at once) and the speed with which things load. As a basic rule, the more the better.

Hard Drive

These come in three flavours; Solid State Drive (SSD), traditional mechanical drives and Hybrid drives. A lot of machines have multiple HDDs these days, an example of this will be a PC with an SSD with Windows installed on it so that Windows boots up nice and quickly and a secondary mechanical drive for bulk storage. The second drive will be much slower but all it needs to do is store data used infrequently like pictures, so that’s fine.

Graphics

The benefits of graphics cards are mostly found in gaming and design work, however it does also mean the ability to plug in multiple monitors without using those ghastly USB adapters that only ever work once in a blue moon when a chicken is painted yellow by superstitious townsfolk. GPUs can take a lot of extra power if they’re the higher end variety, so make sure you have enough case space and power to run it.

Casing

Think of your case as the skin of your PC. All those lovely, expensive components have to go somewhere to stop the cat from sitting on them. Your case will come in a variety of sizes, the most common of which are ATX (normal full size), Mini ATX (smaller) and microATX (smaller still). The size of the case will be dictated by what you want to use the machine for, a full size ATX case would not work for an HTPC but a microAtx would be perfect. Just make sure you have enough room for all your components!


These are the absolute basics to consider when building your own machine. If you’d like me to cover any of the components in more depth, drop me a line and let me know. If now, however, you feel confident to get started then let the adventure begin, you lucky thing!