Rules for Building Computers
Figure out what you want the computer for
- If you are just browsing the web, a used
laptop will do it just as well as a new desktop. Don't build a
high end computer if it doesn't meet your use case.
Don't skimp on the power supply.
- When I was younger, saving as much money as
possible on my machine was the most important factor. Get as
much performance for as little as I could get. Often this
leads to getting "worse quality" components for the machine.
Usually the biggest savings can be found in the power supply.
Even when buying form a good brand, their cheaper PSUs are
often much louder then the higher end ones. Do not skimp on
the power supply. Get a Gold rated 80Plus power supply at the
minimum. It will last longer, put out less heat, be much
quieter, and be more reliable in the long run.
Set a budget.
- After getting a good PSU, set a budget for the
rest of the build. Once you have your budget, add $100 to it.
Trust me, spend a little extra on a machine you will really
like vs. a machine that's cheap.
- Often you'll find what you are looking for on
eBay for less than on Newegg/Amazon. Sometimes used, sometimes
new. It can take longer to ship, but the savings add up.
Check the Motherboard for expansion.
- These days, you probably arn't going to load
up on expansion cards for your machine. (see my retroPC for how ful they used to
get.) Depending on the form factor, low end motherboards
often don't come with additional expansion slots. For example:
a mATX mobo, a low end A520 board will come with 2x ram slots,
a x16 PCIe slot and a 1x PCIe slot. Now if you just want to
game, or are a casual computer user, this is fine. The CPU
will run as fast here as on a higher end board. But if you
want to add a faster network card, or expand the memory, you
might not be able to. Faster cards often need a x4 slot, and
unless you want to replace the existing memory, you can't add
on to it. If you think you will want to expand the machine,
look for a board that will allow you to do that.
If you're gaming, get a USB audio device.
- "Future Proofing" is buying a machine that
will be good for the next 5-ish years. This is hard to do, and
harder to predict. PCIe 4 just came out 2 years ago, and now
Intel supports PCIe 5. I wouldn't worry about building a
"future proof" machine. Just spec your computer out to run
current applications as fast as possible, keeping in mind the
budget you want to spend. Most parts available will run fine
for the next 5 years, since application makers have to
consider all of their potential customers. The bleeding edge
of tech is a tiny market. My Ryzen 1700 handles current games
Skip the HDD
- If you really need long term storage, you
should get a NAS device or buy a
cloud storage plan from a provider like Dropbox. Get a good NVME
SSD for boot, and a second cheaper SSD for storage. (sata SSDs
usually are cheap enough for this task). Spinning rust is for
Set a maximum price for the graphics card
- At the time I am writing this, the GPU market
is insane. Set a max price you are willing to pay for a
graphics card, then get the best GPU you can for that price. Newegg's
Shuffle is probably the best place to get a new GPU at
a sane-ish price. Keep in mind, everyone is taking advantage
of the increased demand, so it's likely you aren't going to
pay the MSRP for it.
You don't need a optical drive.
- Don't get one. If you find you really need
one, check out your local Goodwill or eBay, and get a USB
PC Part Picker can help
- Sites like PC Part picker can be
helpful. You can spec out the machine you want to build, and
find links to stores that sell the parts. You can compare
prices and shipping from there too.
Its 2021, prices are nuts
- Honestly, if you are looking to build a whole
system from scratch, you might be better served buying a
per-built system. The prices are more stable, you don't have
to wait for parts to be available, and you probably won't save
much money buying the parts individually (again, GPU prices
are crazy). Check reviews.