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Complete List of Parts Needed To Build a Computer

Saturday, October 15th, 2011 | Permalink

I’ve built a few computers over the years and the components you need for each build varies depending on your budget and purpose of the computer. Therefore, the list of parts that you need to build a computer depends on what type of computer you are trying to build. Because giving you a list for a super computer will do you no good if you only have a couple hundred dollars I’m going to provide a couple different lists. This way you can choose which list suits you best, get all the components you need, and build yourself an awesome machine. The three different lists will be Essential, Basic, and the Gamer.

Essential v Basic v Gamer Component Lists

The essentials list will be only the absolutely required parts, this is also known as a bare bones build. The basic list will be a good computer, like the one I built for myself and something you wouldn’t be ashamed to own, and would serve as a low budget gaming computer. The gamer’s list of computer components will be top of the line and built for graphics and speed.

List of Essential Parts Needed to Build a Computer

You may ask yourself, “What do you need to build a computer?” Well I’m here to tell you that despite what Newegg or other retailers are trying to sell you, the parts that you absolutely have to include in order to have a functioning computer are as follows:

Essential Components
Motherboard with built in GPU
Case and Power Supply combo
Hard Drive
Optical Drive
Operating System

Even though the operating system, or OS, is required to use a desktop computer you don’t have to purchase it. There are many free OS’s available. My favorite free OS is Ubuntu. Simply download, burn to a DVD, and install. It is true that many people will choose Windows 7 as their OS, but it is not required. If you want to save around $100 on the most basic of computers then Ubuntu is very good choice.

Another way to get an operating system is to get the product key from an old machine, say the computer you are replacing. It is as simple as finding a free product key finding program and running on the computer you are getting the operating system from. You can then download the Windows install disks for free and then install

There are also things that are necessary to you using the computer but that you may already have (or be able to get used for really cheap):

Needed Peripherals

Example of a Bare Bones Build

You should note that a bare bones build is the cheapest desktop computer you can get.

Foxconn H67S Micro ATX Motherboard$54.99
Intel Pentium G620 Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz$72.99
G.SKILL Value Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333$24.99
Rosewill R363-M-BK Black Computer Case with 400W Powersupply$49.99
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD1600AAJS 160GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive$33.99
LITE-ON Black 18X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM$17.99

With the operating system either being from an older computer or a free version of Ubuntu.

List of Basic Parts Needed to Build a Computer

The main difference between a bare bones computer and a basic computer is that you getting a discreet graphics card and a better processor. A motherboard upgrade is also included, but that doesn’t improve your machine on the same scale the graphics card and processor will. You also get to pick a power supply independent of the case, but that doesn’t really affect performance that much. The parts that a basic, low end gaming computer would need are as follows.

Basic Components
Video Card
Hard Drive
Optical Drive
Power Supply
Operating System

I’ve already written a post about how to build a mid range custom desktop computer. I helped an old roommate of mine build that one and as you may have noticed it had no discreet video card. That is because it uses one of the new AMD accelerated processing units (APUs) which gives you the performance similar to a high end video card with just the processor. It saves you a lot of money and gives good performance.

List of All Computer Components that can be used to Build a Gaming Desktop Computer

The gaming computer is what all other desktops aspire to be. It has the fastest processor, the fastest GPUs, the fastest hard drives, and best of everything else. There are two main configuration differences with this custom gaming rig and the two other builds I’ve shown, first is multiple video cards and second is multiple solid state hard drives as well as a traditional hard drive.

If you are a serious gamer then its all about performance. By adding two, three, or even four video cards to your system you are ensured that you can run the most visually demanding game on the highest settings without a drop in your fps, frames per second. This is a must, especially if you want to use multiple monitors to give you a truly immersive experience.

The second big change is the upgrade to solid state drives (SSDs). By going solid state your load times will be vastly improved and you won’t be left waiting for practically anything. Of course you still have a giant standard hard drive for storing all your music and movies on. But the operating system and all of the games go on the SSDs. By using two of them in a RAID 0 configuration you can increase the speed even further.

Gaming Components
Video Card x 2 (or 3 or even 4)
Solid State Hard Drive x 2
Hard Drive
Blu-ray Burner
Sound Card
Power Supply
Operating System

Example of a High End Gaming Build

ASUS Rampage III Black Edition Motherboard$559.99
Intel Core i7-990X Extreme Edition Gulftown 3.46GHz$999.99
ASUS MARS II GeForce GTX 580 X 2$1499.99
G.SKILL Sniper Gaming Series 12GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 Memory$189.99
G.SKILL Phoenix Pro Series 120GB SATA II Solid State Drive X 2$393.98
Seagate Barracuda XT ST33000651AS 3TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive$179.99
ASUS Black 12X Blu-ray Burner$91.99
Antec High Current Pro 1200W Power Supply$279.99
SILVERSTONE RAVEN RV01-BW Black Computer Case$229.99

While everything in this build is expensive, the majority of the cost comes from the dual top of the line graphics cards and the 6 core extreme edition of the Intel i7 processor. But if performance is top priority and price is of no importance, then a build very similar to this would be top choice.


The differences between the essentials only, basic, and gamer’s list of computer components are huge. Make sure you know what you need and know your budget so you don’t end up with something you can’t afford or something that doesn’t do what you need it to do. Most people will choose something along the lines of a basic build. Only the people on the tightest budget will get an essentials only build. Only an extreme gamer will be able to afford the high end gamer’s build, but he will have a machine in the top echelon of all custom built PCs for his efforts.

Building a Sub $500 Gaming Desktop with a AMD A8 APU

Monday, August 29th, 2011 | Permalink

Recently a friend of mine wanted me to help him build a desktop. He is just starting law school so he needed to build it as cheaply as possible. I considered his needs, which were basically a reasonably fast computer that was reasonably future proof–not outdated by the end of the week. Now he didn’t specifically say he wanted to build a cheap gaming desktop, but when we looked at the price and performance of the AMD A8-3850 we figured he could build a cheap desktop that just happened to be a medium range gaming desktop.

The Budget Gaming Computer Build

We chose all the components based off of the processor and this is what he ended up getting:

ProcessorAMD A8-3850 2.9GHz$134.99
MotherboardMSI A75A-G35$84.99
Graphics CardNone$0.00
MemoryCorsair Vegence 2 X 4GB 1600 MHz$57.99
Hard DriveSeagate Barracude 1TB 7200RPM$59.99
Optical DriveSamsung Blu-ray SH-B123L$59.99
CaseLancool PC-K85W$69.99
Power SupplyOCZ ModXStream Pro 500W$64.99
Operation SystemWin 7 Professional$29.99
Rebates and Discounts-$55.00

Probably the biggest compromise we made was on the motherboard. It came in a combo with the RAM making it a steal at only $64.99 (after mail in rebate), but it is definitely the entry level motherboard for the FM1 socket type. It only has two dimms for memory, you can’t use both HDMI and DVI at the same time,  and although it has four USB 3.0 connections (two on the back I/O panel and two on the board) only two can be used at once so you have to decide which two you want. If it were solely up to me, I would spend a little bit more and get a less restrictive motherboard, but for building a gaming PC on a budget then this not a bad choice.

As you can see from the table he used Windows 7 Professional Upgrade. The only reason was price, because as a student it comes really cheap. I’ve used it before upgrading from Vista or XP, even using the custom install (clean or fresh install) option, and it worked just fine. Initially it wouldn’t validate the install, but one search we found a handy guide on how to change a single 1 into a 0 using regedit.exe and after a reboot it validated without a problem.

Buying versus Building A Gaming PC Under 500

Why choose building a gaming computer over just going out and buying one? The number one reason is price. If you look at the chart below you can see a comparison between a Dell Inspiron 620 and the custom built budget gaming desktop shown above. The Inspiron 620 has an i5-2310 which ranks closely with the A8 APU and a graphics card that will deliver similar performance to the A8’s video processing. The other components, upgrading where necessary, are as close to the same as I could make them. The fact that Dell charges $60 to upgrade from 6GB to 8GB of RAM should be a giant red warning flag, especially since the 8GB of RAM we bought only cost $57.99 to begin with.


Build a PC vs Buy Pre-made Computer Comparison Chart

If you are on a budget and you want to own a decent gaming desktop computer then you have to build your own. If you don’t, you are settling for an inferior machine. (side note: NEVER buy a monitor through Dell, especially not one that comes with a desktop, and the worst sin of all is upgrading to a bigger screen size on Dell. They are the biggest rip off outside of anything with an Apple logo on it.)

The second reason you should build your own computer is future proofing. If you buy a computer from Dell, or any manufacturer, it is almost impossible to upgrade. They typically only have one extra hard drive slot in the case. The heat sync and fan are built into the case in most cases so you can’t upgrade that very easily either. They aren’t guaranteed to have the lastest technology in their motherboards (SATA III over SATA II, USB 3.0 built in, or displayport connections for example) and they won’t even tell you what board they are using (usually it is custom built for the manufacturer). You can’t customize the video output connection types (2x DVI and 1x HDMI, or 1x VGA and 2x DVI). I’m sure there are more things I could list but you get my point. For the sake of your future self, don’t buy. Build instead.

The last reason you should build your own gaming computer is that you get to customize it and make it exactly like you want. I think that going on to Newegg and finding all the parts that you want in your new computer is one of the funnest things you can do. I love figuring out what components go best with other components. Finding the best price on a component that meets my needs. Saving a few bucks on X so I can spend it on Y. I seriously love building computers, I wish I could do it all the time.

Bottom Line

My friend wanted a cheap computer so I built him just that, with the added bonus of being able to use it as a gaming computer. We had one minor hiccup with the Windows install that was fixed after 30 seconds of Googling. We saved about $200 and got a better and more future proof machine that was a ton of fun to build.