How to Build a Desktop Computer From Scratch

You are feeling the notion to build a custom desktop computer from scratch. Great. Now what? Its not like you can just go down to your local retailer and just pick one up, that’s missing the point of building a custom desktop. Anyone can get a cookie cutter PC, but how do you make one that does exactly what you want it to?

Decide the Purpose of the Computer

What is this computer going to be doing most of its life? Is it a gaming PC, a DVR replacement computer, glorified typewriter, or just a multimedia creation computer? Deciding on the purpose before you build will help you get the components you need and make your desktop truly be customized for your tasks. Building a computer from scratch allows you to not waste money on stuff that doesn’t matter to you. Now lets look at the components a couple different builds will need to have.

Gaming PC

Gamer’s are all about speed. They need fast processors, fast video cards, and the extreme gamer’s even have super fast solid state hard drives. They also need a fair bit a fast memory to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Home Theater PC

The home theater computer needs to have large hard drives to store all of the recorded TV and movies, ideally in excess of 4 TB but you could start the build with 2 TB with the option to expand later.

Another key item is a TV tuner. There are many TV capture cards out there, but with cable and satellite providers encrypting their channels you need a tuner card that is capable of decrypting them. The HD Homerun Prime or the Ceton Inifinity 4 are currently the only two cards in production. Both can handle recording multiple channels at once which saves you from needing to buy a second card. Personally I couldn’t afford the high prices so I bought a used ATI TV Wonder HD 600 for only $99.

The only other thing a HTPC needs is a graphics card cable of at least 1080p output, however this is pretty standard so it shouldn’t unnecessarily increase the price of the build.

 The Cheapest Desktop You Can Buy

If you truly want to build the cheapest desktop possible then you are going to want to combine as many components as possible. Get a case that comes with a built in power supply. Get a motherboard that has built in video capability. Then simply find the cheapest of everything else. I’ve built a nice desktop for $500, so a super cheap desktop should be in the area of $300 or so.

Find your main component and build around it

The first step to build a desktop computer from scratch is to choose the primary piece of hardware and then make sure everything else is compatible with it. This applies especially if you are building around a specific processor or motherboard because they are connected by the socket requirement of the processor.

The other instance is if you are building around multiple video cards. AMD card use Xfire technology to connect multiple cards while Nvidia uses SLI. Therefore you need a motherboard that will support the brand you choose.

The main component that my future computer is going to be based on is a Samsung MD230X6, which as the image shows is a 3 by 2 array of 23″ HD monitors that have thin bezels. This is the multitasking and gaming dream setup. If you want a computer than can actually use all of these monitors then you have to get a AMD Eyefinity capable graphics card and a AMD Xfire motherboard for a future addition of a 2nd graphics card.

How to Actually Build a Desktop Computer From Scratch

No you’ve purchased all the right parts (computer building checklist) it is time to put the computer together. What is the best way to assemble everything you ask? Well the build order I would suggest is as follows.

  1. Open case
  2. Screw motherboard into case
  3. Insert memory dimms into slots on motherboard, make sure they are firmly snapped into place
  4. Install the CPU, ensure that the markings on the socket and CPU line up so no pins are bent. It should fall into place with almost zero resistance, don’t force the CPU into place.
  5. Install CPU cooler
  6. Connect case fans and front panel wires to motherboard
  7. Install video card into appropriate motherboard slot
  8. Install power supply if not preinstalled in the case
  9. Connect power to motherboard, CPU, and graphics card
  10. Install hard drives and connect them to motherboard and power supply
  11. Install optical drives and connect them to motherboard and power supply
  12. Connect monitor
  13. Connect keyboard and mouse
  14. Connect external speakers (optional)
  15. Connect plug power supply into outlet
  16. Turn on the computer

With so many manufacturers and so many different parts you are going to have to refer to either the motherboard manual or the case manual on how exactly to connect each component. But it is not difficult. Just last month I was able to help my friend assemble his first AMD APU gaming desktop over Skype by basically relaying the instructions I listed above.

Post Assembly (The Operating System)

After powering on the desktop for the first time you need to install an operating system (OS). This can be Windows XP/Vista/7 with Windows 7 being the recommended operating system or a version of Linux, with the recommended version being Ubuntu. Whichever OS you choose you will need to burn it to a DVD and then insert it into the optical drive. You then need to make sure you boot from the DVD. If that doesn’t happen automatically look in your motherboard manual for how to access the boot menu, once your in then choose the optical drive.

And that is how to build a computer from scratch. If you have any questions drop a comment.

Tags: , , , ,

One Response to How to Build a Desktop Computer From Scratch

  1. Miriam says:

    That hideous-atrocity-of-a-monitor will ONLY be a part of your future if you have build yourself a private little cabin somewhere far away from me. But then you would miss me, so let’s just skip the drama and settle for the two huge monitors that we already have dominating our desk. Love you!

Leave a Reply