While, like the rest of us, you’re stuck at home (or at least are trying to manage given the more limited mobility nowadays), it might be good to set your hand to something creative. Some people keep houseplants, others take on origami or calligraphy–but for techies like you and me, building your own PC might be the way to go.
But it’s more than just a creative exercise, of course. Those of us who have particular needs and wants PC-wise, those needs that aren’t always met by off-the-shelf assembled PCs, might be best served by purpose-built PCs. Those of us who crave the most powerful, most adaptable, most easily upgradeable PC–one that’s perfectly suited to one’s particular specific needs–might find it best to put it together it themselves while balancing these purchases against their budget limitations.
The first thing you’ll need to look at is the processor. The processor or central processing unit is of course the computer’s brain; it takes on the instructions you pass to it through the other componentry of the computer. When choosing a processor, there are quite a few things to consider, including 1) number of cores (the more cores a chip has, the more it can get done in one go); 2) number of threads (two processing threads can be run per core to effectively double a computer’s core count); 3) clock speed or operating frequency (the higher the speed, the faster the speed per core); 4) cache (more memory storage in cache is associated with better performance); 5) socket type (CPUs can be identified by the kind of socket they plug into–this might not seem important, but it will determine the kind of motherboard that can be purchased); and 6) cooling mechanism (you’ll need to ensure that your PC’s cooling mechanism is sufficient to keep it from burning up if and when you push it to the max).
The second PC component you’ll need to pay attention to is the motherboard, which is synonymous to the computer’s nervous system. Just like a person’s nervous system, all components plug into it. Its socket type must match that of the motherboard’s socket type, for one. Other key considerations you’ll need to keep in mind include the form factor; how your motherboard deals with memory (you need to be aware of the memory type and standard, as well as the number of memory slots which will let you know how many individual memory modules or DIMMs you can add); expansion slots; storage (SATA is the most common interface for linking up storage devices); video card support; and onboard technologies such as Ethernet, stereo sound, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and so on and so forth.
Memory or RAM, which is where data is kept until the processor can take on the number-crunching, is the third component. The rule of thumb is that more is better, although of course after a certain limit set by your usage and budget, too much is just too much. But there are also other things you need to look at such as type of memory (if your motherboard doesn’t support certain kinds of memory, don’t buy them, of course); capacity of memory, and so on.
The fourth is the video card. If you’re a gamer or a professional who does things like graphics or video work, a discrete video card can really help (and is a must for gamers, of course). Make sure to look at processing cores (the more a video card has, the better it will perform, but the pricier it most likely will be), clock rates (the speed at which the graphics processing unit runs–again the higher the better but also the pricier), memory, ports and power requirements (video cards are extremely power-thirsty and you’ll need to know how this might affect your power supply or even electricity costs).
Internal storage is the fifth component. Of course if you’re building your own PC you can just upgrade your memory as you see fit and in line with your budget. You can select a regular hard drive or a solid-state drive (SSD), which is higher-tech and faster but quite a bit more expensive than the former. The form factor of the drive is another consideration–how large would you want your drive to be, or how large a drive can your PC accommodate?
Power Supply Unit
The sixth component is the power supply unit or PSU–you’ll need to look at things like maximum power needed (the more powerful the PC the thirstier it will be) and connectors–look at the number of pins for video cards, SATA for SSDs and newer hard drives, and so on.
The case is the seventh component. Of course it’s nothing more or less than a housing for all these components mentioned; but at the same time that makes it something you can really riff on. You can pick a case that’s just as big or small as you want (practicality a consideration of course), and go for the shape you want and color that suits you, as well as features like windows. But you’ll also need to look at things like ports and controls (does it have the slots and spaces you need?), drive bays for your internal storage, and also spaces for your fan/s.
Lastly, of course, you’ll need to consider your peripherals: keyboards, a mouse, a monitor or monitors, printer/s, and so on, without which your PC won’t really be usable. The list of peripherals your PC will require will depend on your needs and wants. But again it will also be constrained to some extent by certain factors such as the number of ports, for instance.