7 tips for building your first computer

Whether you’ve decided to build a computer from scratch for gaming, as an experiment or as a way to learn more about technology, it’s one of the best decisions you can make. Getting to the end of a project like this feels hugely rewarding and your computer will stand as a testament to your abilities for years to come.

#1 Decide on build type

Not all computers are created equal, and nor should you attempt to build one that will excel in all areas. Instead, decide in advance what you want to use the computer for. This might be for gaming, watching movies, or it might be as simple as browsing the internet and answering emails. The choice you make here determines the parts you’ll need (and how much you’ll pay for them) later.

#2 Consider the CPU

The CPU is the beating heart and brain of your computer, so it stands to reason that it will take up a large portion of your budget. When it comes to the CPU you have two choices: AMD or Intel. There’s no wrong decision, but the two are different, so you should pay careful attention. Perform diligent research, because once you’ve picked a side it isn’t easy to go back.

#3 Set a budget

Building a computer is a passion project for many, which means that costs can easily spiral out of control. To keep things under control you should always set a budget. Perform some research to find out how much individual components cost and, by extension, how much the finished product is worth. Of course, this also needs to be weighed against longevity. Building a computer designed to last (using more expensive components) will deliver better long term value for money.

#4 Source quality parts

Computers contain hundreds of components ranging from simple screws to motherboards and circuits. The beauty of building from the ground up is that you can control quality and only include the best, cutting-edge components. Many people use a specialized search engine like Octopart to source the components they need at the highest quality.

#5 Check compatibility (and then double check)

Not every budding computer engineer realizes this, but components aren’t universally compatible with all systems. Getting it wrong costs time and sometimes even money, so always check. You might find that your motherboard isn’t compatible with your CPU, for example. That puts a big roadblock up and can slow the project down for weeks, depending on the availability of replacement parts.

#6 Beware static

Static electricity is far more than just a mild inconvenience. A static shock is enough to destroy some of the more fragile components in a computer, so you should always take precautions. Wrapping an anti-static strap around your wrist is a great way to safeguard your new computer.

#7 Watch the thermal paste

Thermal paste is an essential but messy part of the process and one which many newcomers would prefer to avoid. If the idea of spreading paste seems off-putting you can opt for a cooler that comes with paste already applied. More than just a convenience, this can prevent paste from getting into areas where it’s not wanted.

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