How do I build computers?

#1 Posted by YI_Orange (1169 posts) -

I got the behemoth sitting next to me back in 2009, but I think it's time it gets retired. It's served me well, but The Witcher 3(and other things) demand a more powerful machine. However, I am stupid.

I like to think of myself as pretty technologically savvy, but building computers is my blind spot. I know all the bits and stuff, but when it comes to picking out parts, I don't know what I'm looking for or when I've found it. Basically I'm looking for the best machine I can get for around $1000. Reviews always have vague positives and specific negatives so it's hard to put too much faith in the star rating for parts.

I'm not looking for someone to build one for me(though if that's the kind of thing that gets your boat floating feel free), I just need to be pointed in the right direction with a little guidance. I need to know how to pick out parts and why those parts are good/compatible with each other. Help me Giantbomb before I sob and give up!

#2 Posted by whur (36 posts) -

You just want quality parts. i5 since you want to be around 1k or sub, a quality motherboard with decent reviews. If at some point you want to think of over clocking, look into a better mobo. Ram is based on price and availability so doesn't take much thought (unless you want to over clock the ram but probably not around 1k price point). Quality video card usually nVidia because they're more stable, I'm fairly loyal to evga for video card boards. Price here is based on nvidia's product line (budget, normal, extreme gamer are the usual three brackets. I'm sure someone here will suggest one to you but it may be worth learning their naming scheme as you only need to learn it once to understand what they're doing. The rest is really preference and how much money you have left.

I only stress quality parts when building as it will save you nightmares of headaches later on.

#3 Posted by GnomeonFire (776 posts) -
#4 Edited by kylenalepa (133 posts) -

Check this out! I've been a Maximum PC reader for many, many years and have found their advice to be pretty spot on most of the time. As far as the process of actually putting the parts together, I'd recommend heading to your local newsstand and picking up a How to Build a PC magazine. Maximum PC, among other outlets, publish special issues on a semi regular basis that walk you through the whole process from start to finish, including photos. The regular monthly issues of Maximum PC (I'm sounding like a broken record haha) had builds each month for a while as well (I assume they still do).

EDIT: A couple more points! If you're a student, make sure to see if you can get Windows through your school or using your .EDU address to save a fair amount of money. Also, sometimes just browsing Newegg to see what the top sellers are in each category is a good way to get a sense of what to go with. Good luck!

#5 Edited by HatKing (6060 posts) -

I'm about 75% done building mine. PCpartpicker.com was pretty helpful when I was getting off the ground. You'll want some ideas going in, but you can pick a part and build off of what is compatible from there. They break down different components, let you search by all sorts of filters, and give a decent selection of retailers for price comparisons. They'll hide stuff that won't work in your machine by default, which is awesome for avoiding simple mistakes. Plus it's kind of cool to set your machine up there and use it as a high tech shopping list.

Oh, and if you do use that website, make sure you save your builds. I accidentally lost my original not realizing that I had to manually save it, then had to try to remember all the components I had decided on.

#6 Posted by TheManWithNoPlan (5902 posts) -

This really helped me when I was in the same boat as you earlier in the year.

Newegg Tv: How to Build a computer (part 1), (part 2) and (part 3)

#7 Posted by Andorski (5352 posts) -

Here you go:

PCPartPicker part list
Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($199.99 @ Micro Center)
CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight II SD1283 89.5 CFM CPU Cooler ($45.00 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5 Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($119.99 @ NCIX US)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($82.99 @ Amazon)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($79.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: MSI Radeon R9 270X 2GB TWIN FROZR Video Card ($189.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Corsair Graphite Series 230T Grey ATX Mid Tower Case ($67.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Rosewill Hive 750W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: LG GH24NSB0 DVD/CD Writer ($13.99 @ Newegg)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.99 @ NCIX US)

Total: $959.91

Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-07-27 23:03 EDT-0400

#8 Posted by OldGuy (1572 posts) -

This is all you need:

#9 Posted by MST3K_TOM_SERVO (16 posts) -

Watch as many different videos of different people building PCs. Linus tech tips, newegg, random youtube dudes, etc. There are a lot of constants you'll find no matter who builds the pc; People swear by Asus motherboards, Intel processors are a lot better for gaming but their price reflects that, Nvidia cards have better driver support and typically run cooler/quieter but again price reflects that, and other stuff like that.

I had a bad pre-built pc that had a heatsink fan crap out. That was about a year ago, after changing that fan i caught the bug and have since built two gaming pcs and have enough knowledge about what namebrands and parts are quality and which are not. That was obtained from just watching pc build guide videos online.

Also Newegg preferred accounts are pretty awesome. I have below average credit and they approved me for enough money to build a really nice pc. I have a year to pay it off with no interest. Worth looking into.

#10 Posted by C0V3RT (1377 posts) -

Tested has done some good builds over the years too you could consult. I leaned on their mini itx build they did recently for inspiration with mine and have no regrets.

#11 Edited by Ezekiel (514 posts) -
@mst3k_tom_servo said:

Nvidia cards have better driver support and typically run cooler/quieter but again price reflects that

And since he wants to play The Witcher 3 (presumably with lots of fur), Nvidia seems like a no-brainer. The next generation of Nvidia cards is rumored to release late this year. If I were the OP, I'd wait and then either buy an 800 series/Maxwell or a 780 at a reduced price. I bought a 780 recently and I'm already a little worried about how long it will be able to run new games well.

#12 Posted by Andorski (5352 posts) -

@ezekiel said:

And since he wants to play The Witcher 3 (presumably with lots of fur), Nvidia seems like a no-brainer. The next generation of Nvidia cards is rumored to release late this year. If I were the OP, I'd wait and then either buy an 800 series/Maxwell or a 780 at a reduced price. I bought a 780 recently and I'm already a little worried about how long it will be able to run new games well.

Last I heard the 800 series is not going to be Maxwell. TSMC is having trouble producing the 20nm silicon fab.

#13 Posted by dagas (2901 posts) -

@andorski said:

Here you go:

PCPartPicker part list

Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor ($199.99 @ Micro Center)

CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight II SD1283 89.5 CFM CPU Cooler ($45.00 @ Amazon)

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5 Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($119.99 @ NCIX US)

Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($82.99 @ Amazon)

Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($79.99 @ NCIX US)

Video Card: MSI Radeon R9 270X 2GB TWIN FROZR Video Card ($189.99 @ Newegg)

Case: Corsair Graphite Series 230T Grey ATX Mid Tower Case ($67.99 @ NCIX US)

Power Supply: Rosewill Hive 750W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($69.99 @ Newegg)

Optical Drive: LG GH24NSB0 DVD/CD Writer ($13.99 @ Newegg)

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.99 @ NCIX US)

Total: $959.91

Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available

Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-07-27 23:03 EDT-0400

Decent build but I would ditch the cooler and use the stock CPU cooler and get 16GB of RAM instead. 8 is enough for now but it is in no way future proof. Also, assuming the old PC have a hard drive I would invest in an SSD instead and use the old hard drive as the secondary hard drive. I upgrades to SSD back in 2011 and no other upgrade makes such a big difference in regular every day use. You can't go back to regular hard drives for your OS.

#14 Posted by musclerider (591 posts) -

I just built a computer a month ago and would highly recommend the Cooler Master HAF XB EVO as a case. It was my first time building by myself and having plenty of space for wiring made it a million times easier.

#15 Edited by 2HeadedNinja (1732 posts) -

The hardest part will be to find a case that doesn't look like ass :)

#16 Posted by MB (12923 posts) -

@dagas said:

Decent build but I would ditch the cooler and use the stock CPU cooler and get 16GB of RAM instead. 8 is enough for now but it is in no way future proof.

Stock CPU cooler, but use a motherboard intended for overclocking and keep the K-series CPU...while also spending unnecessary money on RAM that won't be used in games for probably years? That doesn't really make any sense.

Moderator
#17 Posted by Bollard (5756 posts) -

@ezekiel said:
@mst3k_tom_servo said:

Nvidia cards have better driver support and typically run cooler/quieter but again price reflects that

And since he wants to play The Witcher 3 (presumably with lots of fur), Nvidia seems like a no-brainer. The next generation of Nvidia cards is rumored to release late this year. If I were the OP, I'd wait and then either buy an 800 series/Maxwell or a 780 at a reduced price. I bought a 780 recently and I'm already a little worried about how long it will be able to run new games well.

I'm still on a 580 and able to run most games fine on high. Can't max em out like I did four years ago, and I doubt it'd hold up to The Witcher 3, but that should mean your 780 will be fine for at least 2 more years.

I'm still waiting for the 800 series to upgrade.

#18 Edited by Hayt (327 posts) -

@ezekiel said:
@mst3k_tom_servo said:

Nvidia cards have better driver support and typically run cooler/quieter but again price reflects that

And since he wants to play The Witcher 3 (presumably with lots of fur), Nvidia seems like a no-brainer. The next generation of Nvidia cards is rumored to release late this year. If I were the OP, I'd wait and then either buy an 800 series/Maxwell or a 780 at a reduced price. I bought a 780 recently and I'm already a little worried about how long it will be able to run new games well.

Seriously? I was eyeing that card as an upgrade from my GTX580 and I felt it might be overkill. What makes you think it wont hold up long? It seems monstrously powerful.

#19 Posted by MB (12923 posts) -

@hayt said:

Seriously? I was eyeing that card as an upgrade from my GTX580 and I felt it might be overkill. What makes you think it wont hold up long? It seems monstrously powerful.

I have a GTX 780 and trust me, it is monstrously powerful, especially if you only have a single 1080p/60hz display like most people. I wouldn't go so far as to call it overkill especially since I have a 2560x1440 144hz monitor, but it probably is in a lot of cases.

I'd consider Witcher 2 at 60fps locked at 1440p with everything turned on except Ubersampling (downsampling) to be monstrously powerful. I expect the card to last me several years or possibly even longer.

Moderator
#20 Posted by Sinusoidal (1740 posts) -
  1. Decide what kind of processor, ram, hard drive (ssds are a consideration these days) and video card you want.
  2. Choose a case, mother board and power supply that support those things.
  3. Buy it and put it together.

Crap. Just read the OP and this is not what you want at all...

#21 Posted by YI_Orange (1169 posts) -

@andorski: That's really helpful, but if it's not too much trouble, do you think you could explain a bit how you know those parts would meet my needs? It would help a lot for future computer endeavors. Also, would you happen to know of a comparable video nvidia card? I have developed a sort of comfort with intel processors and nvidia cards and a sort of caution about other brands. It's not really founded on anything except warnings from people who know more than I do.

@bollard said:

@ezekiel said:
@mst3k_tom_servo said:

Nvidia cards have better driver support and typically run cooler/quieter but again price reflects that

And since he wants to play The Witcher 3 (presumably with lots of fur), Nvidia seems like a no-brainer. The next generation of Nvidia cards is rumored to release late this year. If I were the OP, I'd wait and then either buy an 800 series/Maxwell or a 780 at a reduced price. I bought a 780 recently and I'm already a little worried about how long it will be able to run new games well.

I'm still on a 580 and able to run most games fine on high. Can't max em out like I did four years ago, and I doubt it'd hold up to The Witcher 3, but that should mean your 780 will be fine for at least 2 more years.

I'm still waiting for the 800 series to upgrade.

The 780 is 500 dollars right now. How much do you think the price would drop? I'm not willing to spend that much on just a card at the moment.

Thanks for the input everyone. I definitely have plenty to think about. Luckily though, I already know how to physically put together a computer, it's just the picking out parts where I get lost.

#22 Posted by mikey87144 (1811 posts) -

I wish I could sell my card to someone/somewhere and use the money to buy a 780. It's hard to justify just spending $500 on my PC when it isn't even a year old.

#23 Posted by Hone_McBone (180 posts) -

@yi_orange Like you I tend to choose brands I'm comfortable with so I generally build PCs that have intel/nvidia/asus parts. In terms of graphics cards it depends on the resolution you're after & how much you're willing to spend. If you're planning to just use a single monitor you don't really need anything more powerful than a 760, you could probably even get away with a 750ti, though obviously a 770 is going to give you the best performance without spending the cash for a 780.

Could use the hard drive from your old computer & pick up an ssd for the operating system/the games you play the most? Also I haven't had a dvd drive in my last couple of computers & I really don't miss them at all.

#24 Posted by Bollard (5756 posts) -

@yi_orange: I don't really know, I mean, looking at the prices of a 680 vs a 780 now, they are basically comparable if not the same... So if it does drop when the 880 launches, probably not much at all. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't drop just to encourage people to pick up the newer card at a higher price.

#25 Posted by MST3K_TOM_SERVO (16 posts) -

@yi_orange: The most important things are the GPU and CPU. No other parts in your PC are going to effect performance as greatly as the GPU and CPU. The sweet spot for the GPU right now is the Nvidia GTX 770. The sweet spot for CPU is the I5 3570K/4670K. They are basically the same processor but the 4670K is newer and a few dollars more. They bench almost exactly the same. After you pick those two things the rest of part picking is finding quality parts that are compatible and fit your budget. For example: The I5 3570K is a LGA 1155 socket type, so you need a LGA 1155 motherboard. The 770 requires a suggested 600 watt psu, make sure to get at least a 600 watt psu.

#26 Posted by A_Deep_Mushroom (89 posts) -

@yi_orange: Check out r/buildapc on Reddit or tomshardware.com if you want to get a lot of knowledgeable information. If you post your plight to build a PC, then I bet you'll get a few decent builds. Like others have said, pcpartpicker.com is a great resource.

logicalincrements.com is a great place if you want to skip the development step and just find a build that fits your budget.

My personal advice is to ignore overclocking unless you really are into it. The premium isn't worth the performance gain in gaming.

For this price range a i5-4590 CPU should work well with a 770 or 280x GPU (depending on manufacturer preference). Storage wise, a SSD with a HDD for games. Be sure to pick up a second HDD if recording gameplay(don't want to skip any frames!). A common mistake is to overspend on the PSU. The simple solution is to buy a quality brand (Corsair, Cooler Master to name two) with the minimum required wattage for the GPU. Wrapping up, 8GB of 1600 MHz RAM should be able to be bought for ~$70. You do not need more than 8GB unless you will be doing: virtual machines, CAD or professional video/photo editing.

Hope this helps and good luck :D!

#27 Edited by ripelivejam (4609 posts) -

@oldguy: i was hoping he'd stir it with a ladle at the end...

#28 Posted by Andorski (5352 posts) -

@yi_orange: I'm on my phone right now, so you will have to refer to my original post to see what I'm referencing.

I went with an the CPU because it is the current i5 processor. i5's are the standard for Intel gaming builds. Went with an unlocked CPU (noted by the 'k' in the processor name) because it allows for overclocking and is for some reason cheaper than the equivalent locked CPU according to PCPartPicker.

Went with that CPU cooler because it's relatively quiet and black (I tried to color coordinate your rig). If you want cheaper, go with the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo. If you want better performing, get the Noctua NH-D14.

8GB of RAM is standard for gaming rigs. Games in the foreseeable future don't seem to require more, and if they do you will be able to use the two spare DIMM slots to add another 8GB of RAM.

I went with that mATX motherboard due to it being a good deal. Gigabyte, Asus, and (kinda) Asrock are the only brands I recommend in regards to motherboards.

I change my mind on the case that I would recommend. Instead, I would go with the Corsair 350D. Well built, elegant case with a window. A bit cheaper too.

Went with A Seagate HDD because it was cheap. People always recommend Western Digital over them, but WD HDDs are pricier. Having owned a couple Seagate drives, I don't have a problem with recommending them when trying to save money.

PSU was cheap and from a decent brand. It's semi-modular, so cable management should be ready.

Went with the 270X because it's the best bang for your buck GPU. It sits between the 770 and 760 from nVidia in terms of performance. I think people tend to exaggerate the disparity between AMD and nVidia in terms of driver support. AMD cards will once in a while have issues with a game during launch, but AMD will usually sort out the problem within a week. In terms of performance to price, AMD usually bests nVidia.

#29 Posted by Stonyman65 (2822 posts) -

With Giant Bomb's own Jeff Gerstmann! The parts used in the video are old by now, but everything about building it is still relevant.

#30 Posted by YI_Orange (1169 posts) -

So, after some thinking, I went with @andorski's build basically. I swapped out the Radeon 270x for a Geforce gtx 760(and the second case he recommended). I wanted to post it here though and see if there's any final thoughts before I pull the trigger.

ComponentSelectionBase PricePromoShippingTaxPriceWhere
CPUIntel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor$234.99$234.99NCIX USRemoveBuy
CPU CoolerXigmatek Dark Knight II SD1283 89.5 CFM CPU Cooler$45.00FREE$45.00NeweggRemoveBuy Combo
Combo discount automatically applied. (View details.)
MotherboardGigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5 Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard$123.99-$10.00$7.99$121.98SuperBiizRemoveBuy
$10.00 mail-in rebate
MemoryCorsair Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory$89.99FREE$89.99NeweggRemove
Combo discount automatically applied. (View details.)
Add Additional Memory
StorageSeagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive$84.98-$5.00$79.98OutletPCRemoveBuy
$5.00 mail-in rebate
Add Additional Storage
Video CardMSI GeForce GTX 760 2GB TWIN FROZR Video Card$244.99Free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime$244.99AmazonRemoveBuy
Add Another Video Card For 2-Way SLI
CaseCorsair 350D MicroATX Mid Tower Case$79.99FREE$79.99NeweggRemoveBuy
Power SupplyRosewill Hive 750W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply$74.99Free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime$74.99AmazonRemoveBuy
Optical DriveChoose An Optical Drive
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 8.1 (OEM) (64-bit)$99.98-$10.00

I'm also thinking of getting Windows 7 instead of 8. From what I've used of 8 I'm not really a fan of it(interface mostly). Anyway, please let me know before I make a huge mistake!

#31 Posted by Andorski (5352 posts) -

@yi_orange: Looks good to me. A couple more things though about the way I specced that build:

  • The 750W PSU was used just incase you ever plan to go SLI with the video card. 750W will be enough to run two GTX 760s. If you plan on getting a much more powerful card (780 and up or a 280X and up) and going SLI/Crossfire with that, you might need a better PSU.
  • Another person recommended this: if your old hard drive is in good condition, you can forego getting a new hard drive and buying an SSD instead (and using your old hard drive as your secondary HDD).
#32 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (2964 posts) -

@yi_orange I noticed you called your old computer 'a behemoth'. And that you choose a micro ATX board which if size is a concern is a good path. But, I will just point out the, very nice, Corsair case you are looking at is 17.68" x 8.27" x 17.28". That is still a Mid-ATX case size in my opinion. Don't get me wrong it is lovely, a wonderful case, but for a case it is still quite large.

If, and only if, you were looking for less a a behemoth I would see if you could find a case that is maybe a bit smaller. It really comes down to shapes you like some like. The new cubes you see these days with two side by side bays are nice, and some of the typical ATX designs just shrunk are great. Just a though...

#34 Posted by Fattony12000 (7594 posts) -

The most recent Tested video regarding the matter...

#35 Posted by pcorb (148 posts) -

@yi_orange: I'd go for a Western Digital drive over Seagate, and that power supply is way overpowered and not terribly efficient. If I were you, I'd be looking at something like this instead.

That case is pretty big for a micro ATX motherboard too. You might want to consider something more compact like the Bitfenix Prodigy M if size is a concern.

I was a bit put off by the Windows 8 interface too, but it really isn't much of a change at all once you actually start using it. The only major difference is in the metro start menu, and you can avoid that entirely using one of the many third party fixes out there. Windows 7 is a 5 year old OS at this point, buying it now isn't a great value proposition.

#36 Edited by liquidsnakegfer9 (158 posts) -

All of this is what i used and things turned out great

http://pcpartpicker.com/ great for making a list of what you want to buy and keeping track of sales and your budget

and then I used http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapc and http://www.reddit.com/r/buildapcsales which was essential as I managed to get a 7950 last year for only 150$ because of that subreddit

EDIT: Also budget wise I recommend a minimum of 750$ if you want to get the most out of pc gaming and max out a lot of games, thats the budget I was on and I've been loving it

#37 Posted by YI_Orange (1169 posts) -

After a couple weeks of waiting for parts and a couple days of procrastination it's finally complete! Sort of...

I finished putting it together this morning hoping to leave for work with some peace of mind about the whole thing, but of course not. I plugged it in, kind of expecting it not to work, but much to my surprise some lights came on and fans started whirring...for about 2 seconds before shutting off. I've double checked and there's nothing rolling around in there and everything is firmly in place(except for maybe one plug that seems like it's for the disc drives or power button, but I've messed with it and I think it's as in as it's getting). Searching the internet I've learned that the problem could be literally anything at this point, but I have two ideas before I get into anything crazy. Between my video card and power supply there's three 8 pin connectors, but only one 8 pin slot on the motherboard. That's one. The other, is it's possible my processor slid slightly out of place when I was trying to secure my heat sink, but I feel like the problem would be different if that was the case?

So before I go crazy and rip everything out and put it back in only to have the same problem, anyone have any suggestions or ideas? I hope it's not just a bad part.

#38 Posted by doomocrat (136 posts) -

Make sure every power socket on the motherboard is connected. Sometimes there's a four pin connector near the CPU for the CPU fan that some people accidentally skip. There should be a set of jumpers near the battery on the motherboard to reset the BIOS; consult your motherboard's manual to find them. Make sure your video card, if it requires external power, has its power plugged in. That's what those six pin power cables are for.

#39 Posted by Nictel (2430 posts) -

After a couple weeks of waiting for parts and a couple days of procrastination it's finally complete! Sort of...

I finished putting it together this morning hoping to leave for work with some peace of mind about the whole thing, but of course not. I plugged it in, kind of expecting it not to work, but much to my surprise some lights came on and fans started whirring...for about 2 seconds before shutting off. I've double checked and there's nothing rolling around in there and everything is firmly in place(except for maybe one plug that seems like it's for the disc drives or power button, but I've messed with it and I think it's as in as it's getting). Searching the internet I've learned that the problem could be literally anything at this point, but I have two ideas before I get into anything crazy. Between my video card and power supply there's three 8 pin connectors, but only one 8 pin slot on the motherboard. That's one. The other, is it's possible my processor slid slightly out of place when I was trying to secure my heat sink, but I feel like the problem would be different if that was the case?

So before I go crazy and rip everything out and put it back in only to have the same problem, anyone have any suggestions or ideas? I hope it's not just a bad part.

I checked your power supply, graphics card and motherboard:

There are 4 6/8 pin PCI-E on your power supply; so two go to your graphics card and one goes to your motherboard. You should have enough cables. Check 1:11:00 of the video @liquidsnakegfer9 posted for how you should connect them :).

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