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Picking out the Right Parts for Your Build

Note: Because Computer Parts comes out so often, the parts listed in the guide may be outdated or possibly even the guidance given. While the article, Picking out Parts for Your Computer may seem drastically similar at first, know that the content discussed in this article will go far deeper than the ones expressed in the previous article. This new guide will suggest actual builds for parts that have came out in the current year this is written with possible updates, as well as advice for future builds (in which it hopefully doesn't become invalid later on!), Advice on the process of receiving your parts in mail and what to do if they didn't work, and heavily detailed descriptions of each part, painting you a greater picture of how the tiniest things can affect your new build in every way possible! Know that this may be for the faint of heart, so reading the other article as a basic guidelines is not a bad idea.

By now, PC Building has become less of a niche community and more of a medium of being able to mix and match quality parts suited for your needs in the computing world. Whether or not all you're going to do is browse on the internet, stream videos and movies or play ultra-res games in 4k resolution. This guide was written with the sole intent of helping those who would like to put together their own Computer of their dreams of any kind. The guide will try to scale different choices in parts and list them accordingly. There are plenty of things to know before hand, while building the PC and after it's done. There are even things to consider while waiting for the parts to be delivered at your doorstep if you choose to buy online (which is highly recommended). Nonetheless, let's get started!

Basic Hardware Components

It's extremely recommended that you know each individual part of a basic computer. All of the parts listed in this section are paramount to a fully functioning, modern day computer that a consumer would build.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The Central Processing Unit can be perceived as the computer's “brains”. It's where logic is done and data is actually calculated. A CPU's clock cycle is measured in Hertz (Hz), or basically how many operations can be done in a second. Modern day CPUs are measured in GigaHertz (GHz) and would determine the performance of a CPU, but that's not quite true. Each generation of a CPU has it's own Architecture, which is the way how the die is essentially made to process information. One generation can have a dramatic efficiency increase than the last generation, and the next might barely see any performance increase. You might come across two different CPUs and see the same specs like they're a quad core and they can run 3.4 GHz with completely different prices. That's because their architecture is completely different. The best way to measure the performance of a CPU is by looking at user made benchmarks and reviews.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

The Random Access Memory (RAM) can be looked at as cache, in which it would store a large handful of data to be quickly accessed. While CPUs have their own cache, the problem is that it's a miniscule amount, usually seen in Megabytes. In layman terms, think of the CPU cache as a tool belt where you can access your tools quickly because it's on your person, but RAM is where all your most important power tools, resources and materials are going to be stored for you to go to and pick up. The ones we would be looking at would be technically called Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory. Obviously that is a mouthful and advertising campaigns for markets would definitely not use that, so it's really advertised as DDR RAM. It's important to know that there are different generations of DDR, notably DDR2, DDR3 and DDR4. Know that DDR2 is very obsolete, and came from the days of the Intel Core Duo. DDR3 is the more modern counterpart and is found on most computers today, although DDR4 is (very) starting to pop up in some builds, the performance increase isn't really worth the upgrade in parts until we start to see CPUs utilizing DDR4 to their full advantage. You would typically hear people having 4Gb of RAM, 6Gb, 8Gb or even 16Gb. The capacity is actually measured in Gigabytes, and is essentially volatile storage, meaning that data stored only on RAM and not written to a non-volatile medium of storage is loss. That's is why you cannot resume a computer when pulling the power cord, but there is no power being supplied to ram to keep the data.

Back on the topic of DDR3 and DDR4 RAM, it's ultimately up to the consumer to decide if they'd want to spend a few more DDR4 with the negligible performance increase. The builds we're going to be talking about will use only DDR3, but might mention DDR4 options time from time. Each RAM generation has their own clock rate. For example, DDR3 is usually found in clock rates of 1066Mhz, 1333Mhz, 1600Mhz, 1866Mhz and 2133Mhz. There are changes in performance to be found when choosing different clock rates of RAM, but they more-so really depend on the types of applications the consumer is going to be running. For example, RAM intensive applications would include running more programs at once (multi-tasking), Compressing and Uncompressing packages files (ZIP, RAR) and even some complex, CPU intensive games where the RAM would definitely help. Usually higher clock rates would be more expensive, but 1600Mhz would be considered great. DDR4 on the other hand doubles these clock rates, giving off an impressive 3200Mhz. Although, there is a significant trade off with higher clock rate, a lower CAS Latency. Common Access Strobe Latency (or just CAS Latency) is the time it takes for the memory module to actually package and move data from and to a different medium. Once again, depending on what applications you're running, this might be important to you. The logic here is that a higher clock rate will speed up processing time inside the memory module, so things like rendering a video overnight will definitely apply. However, transferring large amounts of small files might be affected because the CAS Latency is significantly higher. Small files don't need much to be processed, but a large amount of them will ultimately depend on your latency, in which lower and tighter timings will make things faster.

Now comes the capacity of a DDR RAM. Most modern computers will do completely fine with 4 Gigabytes of RAM, but yet again, that really just depends on what you're doing. For example, 2 Gigabytes is the minimum amount of RAM required for running Windows 7 (Windows 10 would use a lot less). 4 Gigabytes is suitable to doing some amount of multitasking, but would definitely slow down if you were to run a magnitude. This is purely dependant on what you plan on doing on your new build. The capacity necessity of RAM scales considerably from light browsing to intense, high definition rendering in Video Editing and Professional Graphics Design programs. The general guidelines here would to have 8GB RAM for gaming builds, this can easily scale up to 12GB/16GB if you also plan on running a lot of applications at once. The only real reason a person would need more than that is if they were to run a server or virtual environment along with the mentioned Professional Media Production software.

The Motherboard (MoBo)

The motherboard can be seen as the skeleton of a computer, it's what holds everything together in place. The Motherboard is essentially where you would install the Central Processing Unit, Random Access Memory Modules, Potential Add On Cards (like a PCI-E Graphics Card), connect power from and to along with the suitable Storage Medium for the system to boot off of. It's designed to be a highway of electrons, each lane doing it's own thing and with a very important, specific purpose. Know that with older generation of motherboards, there can be some 'Traffic', also known as a bottleneck. When a system is 'bottlenecked', this means that one component of the system does not complement another, therefore it's functionality and/or performance is hindered by said component.

There are a magnitude of different types of motherboard suited for different applications, the most important being of which is the fact that it's compatible to fit with your components. When talking about the form factors of different motherboards, there are generally these types: ATX stands for Advanced Technology eXtended, and is now the most popular type of motherboard used in personal and commercial related desktop environments. Depending on the design, it allows for 4-8 RAM Modules to be installed along with from up to 7 expansion card slots. However, a more compact version of the motherboard includes Micro Advanced Technology eXtended, which might only include just 4 RAM Modules and just 4 expansion card slots. Eventually, you'll hear the term, 'HTPC', which stands for Home Theatre Personal Computer. This is a computer designed to play/stream Videos, Music and is able to function as an actual Personal Computer. While any type of build can be used for these, enthusiasts often use the form factor, Mini Information Technology eXtended. These type of boards are very compact while still allowing you to place just One expansion card.

While all different form factors have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the consumer's or commercial usage, each generation has their own limitations. DDR3 SDRAM was introduced in 2007 when almost every computer incorporated DDR2, years later DDR3 was the new major standard and paired up with modern CPUs to provide an even faster computer. Now, DDR4 is becoming more relevant, but whether or not people would want to upgrade to DDR4 for a slight performance boost is negligent (but not until a CPU properly uses it). Now, had you try to place in DDR3 Module into a DDR2 Module Slot, you'll notice that it wouldn't fit. DDR2 and DDR3 modules are rated at different voltages, therefore placing them into their wrong counterpart and turning the computer on Will damage the component. But what has been keeping us from doing this? There are notches are RAM modules placed at different differences depending on the generation. The major point here is that each generation and type of motherboard will have specific limitations to the hardware it can support. AMD socketed motherboards can't support Intel socketed and vice versa. AMD sockets includes different generations like AM2, FM2+, AM3 and AM3+ (AM3 will work for AM3+ socket motherboards, but not vice versa), so it's extremely important that you get the one that'll work.

Storage Options: Hard Drive Disk (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD)

In every computer medium, there has to be some non-volatile storage that can hold onto data even if the power is off. Typically a system will boot from this device, or if there are multiple drives in a single system, the primary boot partition. The usual standards for connecting modern drives to your system would be a Serial AT Attachment cable (SATA). There are 3 generations of SATA, SATA1, SATA2 and SATA3. SATA1 would support 1.5GB/s of speed, SATA2 would support 3GB/s of speed while SATA3 would support 6GB/s of speed. This bandwidth would translate to 150MB/s, 300MB/s and 600MB/s respectively. Naturally, you'd want to use the latest generation, SATA3 but I doubt you'll actually buy anything other than that if you're buying a typical consumer drive brand new. Older generations of storage connection includes IDE and PATA, so if you're forced to use those older drives with a modern motherboard, don't forget to get an adapter (although, a lot of boards does include support for IDE).

Hard Drives can come in a variety of different capacities. The most common are usually between 500 Megabytes to 1 Terabyte. It's ultimately up to the purpose of the build if you're to determine how much capacity you would need. If you play a lot of Triple A title games, then you would be leaning towards 2 Terabytes because of the sheer amount of size they would take. If you're into Video and Media Production, then you would want to pick a case and a motherboard with open expansion slots to 'future proof' your build, adding in additional drives along the way. If you're a power user, you would eventually be leaning towards getting a SSD. A Solid State Drive is essentially a storage medium where there are no moving parts. Think of it as a huge, static Flash Drive. Before, they were unreliable for consumer use and extremely expensive for the performance gain. Now, they're very viable to use and a user would have significant performance gains in loading up programs and software off from this drive. They tend to be much more expensive per gigabyte due to their manufacturing process. A great option is a SSD + HDD Combo inside a system. One could install their Operating System onto the SSD and boot off of it, while keeping all of your personal data in the Hard Drive.

Different models of drives from different brands can have their own technology designated for their advertised purpose. For example, the Western Digital Red NAS drives are specifically designed for use in NAS environments because of their high reliability, great performance and constant runtime. The Western Digital Green is use for office and eco-friendly environments where the drive would scale down its runtime, attempting not to hinder the performance and saving power for the system while being ultra-quiet.

Video Cards

In every system, there is a GPU, Graphics Processing Unit no matter what type it takes the form of. It can be Integrated inside your Motherboard, driven by your CPU or as an actual external card. For most office environments, the GPU will actually be Integrated or sometimes, a weak external card. For gaming builds, you would almost have to use an External since an internal GPU won't be able to push out the required power used for high definition gaming. There are really only two brands in the market just like CPUs, Nvidia and AMD.

Video Cards will typically come in the form of a PCI-E x16 Expansion Card, this is because since there is a lot of information that has to be communicating between the controller and the card itself, the bandwidth has to be

Useful Resources

There are plethora of useful sites to help guide you in building your new rig. One of the most iconic is nowadays is PCPartsPicker, It allow users to create their own shopping list of parts, helping users find the cheapest component from the shops they can compare with, wattage usuage and possible incompatibilities. If you're unsure with what parts to pick, LogicalIncrements is a great, community created site that also holds guides on choosing monitors and keyboards. Although, I would highly recommend not going with every part on the list since there's going to be at most a few parts that's outdated or unlisted. Another good but very experimental site is ChooseMyPC, rather than a static list of PC Parts like Logical Increments, the site determines a budget and several factors you can choose to determine your build list. It's very experimental, for example, I generated a build with a budget of a thousand and several parts either had terrible ratings or incompatibilities.

When you're researching a specific component, you'll eventually come into benchmarks or essentially a review on the performance of the component. CPUs and GPUs are mostly compared with one or another in these benchmarks, and could be the deciding factor for gamers with choosing the card with the best performance for the price they're looking for.

[Category:Computers]


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