Building your own computer can be just as practical as buying one

Many users needing a new computer don’t realize how easy it is to construct their own. Factoring in labor costs, it is possible to build a computer that has equal performance with any PC available in the stores. However, only a handful of people attempt to build their own computers because they don’t know which parts they need and how easy it is to obtain them through many online retailers. Here is a brief overview of the parts you will need and what you should consider when wanting to design the ideal desktop.

Motherboard

The logical first place to start is deciding what type of motherboard you want.

The type of motherboard purchased will dictate what type of processor you can use, how much memory your computer will support and how much room you will have for add-ons such as extra video or sound cards.

The motherboard will include USB ports, LAN ports and sometimes a built-in video card.

In general, motherboards can be cheap as $40, but also can top out at hundreds of dollars.

Memory

The type of memory you need is determined by the motherboard you have.

Typically, the smallest memory size you should ever consider is 1 GB for practical purposes. One type of memory commonly used in motherboards is DDR2.

Processor

There are two major manufacturers for computer processors, Intel and AMD. Both offer entry-level processors starting at $39.99. Performance wise, these chips are fine for most applications.

If you are interested in a high performance system, however, a higher-end Intel or AMD dual core chip might be what you want.

Hard Drive

With the growing size of downloads and programs, it is wise invest in a large hard disk. A 500 GB hard drive runs around $50-70, depending on the manufacturer.

One key thing to look at is how fast the hard drive spins; typically, this is quoted in rotations per minute. Two common speeds are 5200 rpm and 7200 rpm. The faster the hard drive rotates, the faster it will allow you to access information.

Optical Drive

Generally, most optical drives available can read and write both DVDs and CDs.

There are also Blu-Ray drives available if you want to watch your movies in the best possible quality.

One thing to look at when purchasing an optical drive is the speed of the drive; similar to hard drives, the faster the drive the faster you can access information on the CD or DVD.

Enclosure

Now that you’ve bought all the parts needed to construct a computer, you’ll need somewhere to put it all.

Enclosures range from $30 and upwards, but it is critical to make sure your motherboard and case are compatible.

Most cases support the default form factor known as ATX, but it still important to check that the case and motherboard match up before making a purchase.

Power Supply

Some enclosures come with power supplies and some do not.

If it does not, make sure the power supply is capable of powering your motherboard and all the components you’ve added.

For most purposes, a 450 watt power supply is all you need, unless multiple hard drives and CD or DVD drives have been added.

Operating System

One unavoidable cost is buying the operating system.

Most likely, you will want a copy of the Windows operating system, and this can be somewhat costly. Most packages start at $109 dollars.

However, the CITES web store provides some good deals on operating systems for personal use.

Mac OS X, Apple’s operating system, can only be run on Apple hardware, so it is out of the question.

Linux-based operating systems, such as Ubuntu, are also an option for die-hard users.

Other Considerations

If you really want to add some performance to your system, you can look at buying a better video or sound card, or even add extra cooling.

When looking to buy the parts you need, it is generally wise to avoid big name retailers, as they tend to be overpriced.

Some of the best retailers are online and most offer great prices on parts for your own computer.

Several recommended online retailers include CompUSA.com (formerly known as TigerDirect), Geek.com and Newegg.com.