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New Computer Checklist

People used to build custom systems because it was cheaper then buying complete computers.  Now buying a complete system from a systems manufacture (e.g. HP, Dell, etc.), is often cheaper then building a custom system.  Although, because of the slim price margin on these systems manufactures have cut cost by using components of different qualities.

Now people build custom systems to meet specific needs (e.g. performance, compactness, quietness, etc.). Although if you make enough compromises with quality and the components you use you could build one cheaper then it would cost you to buy a complete system.

Building a custom system is not easy if you don't know what you're doing.  There are lots of considerations, such as:
  • Making sure you have the right type of RAM and CPU for the motherboard. 
  • Does you power supply have all the right connectors for the peripherals you want to hook up to it.
Below is a component list of parts you will need to build your own computer.

Computer Checklist
  • Case
    • Case style: tower, HTC, etc.
    • Needs enough room for the drives and internal peripherals (e.g. GPUs, sound cards, etc.)
    • Cooling: Support for extra fans for heat, or liquid cooling
    • Motherboard Form Factor, varies depending on case size
    • Power Supply Form Factor, varies depending on case size
  • Power Supply (PSU)
    • Enough power to support all your peripherals (600w or >)
    • Make sure it has all the right connections for the motherboard, GPU and drives
    • Form Factor
  • Motherboard
    • RAM type & speed supported
    • Ports: SATA, USB, Video, Audio, Ethernet
    • Number Interface Sockets (e.g. PCI, PCIe, etc.)
    • Form Factor
    • CPU Socket
    • BIOS
  • RAM
    • Note: Needs to match CPU & motherboard
    • Type
    • Speed
    • Size
  • CPU
    • Note: Needs to match CPU & motherboard
    • Manufacture: Intel or AMD
    • Cores
    • Speed
    • Cache
    • Socket Type
  • Optical Drive
    • Interface
    • Media types supported (e.g. DVD or Blu-Ray)
  • Graphics Card
    • Interface (e.g. PCI, PCIe)
    • Dual monitor support (e.g. VGA, DVI or HDMI)
    • Single or dual GPU card configuration
    • GPU
    • RAM
  • Hard Drive (HDD)
    • Mechanical or SSD
    • RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) Level 0/1/5
    • Size
    • Speed
    • Interface (e.g. PCI, PCIe)
    • Cache
  • Cooling (case and CPU)
    • Air: Large slower moving fans are more quiet
    • Liquid: Better for overclocking, and very quiet
  • Keyboard
    • Regular, Ergonomic or Gaming
    • Wired and wireless
  • Mouse
    • Regular, Ergonomic or Gaming
    • Wired and wireless
  • Speakers
    • Input: Analog, and Digital (S/PDIF)
    • Stereo or Surround Sound (5.1 or 7.1)
  • Monitors
    • One, two or more monitors
    • LEDs monitors are thinner and more energy efficient LCD.
    • Large screen monitors 20" or larger
    • Interface (e.g. VGA, DVI or HDMI)
  • Operating System
    • Windows
      • Make sure to install the 64-bit version of the OS if you have 4GB of RAM or more.
      • Older peripherals may not have 64-bit versions of the driver available.
    • Linux
      • Linux has better support for older peripherals then newer devices.
Optional
  • Media Bay
    • SD, Compact, MMC, etc.
  • Wireless networking
    • 801.11 A/B/G/N
  • Printing
    • Laser or Ink Jet
  •  Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
Extra Considerations
  • Compact PC
    • Configuring the case and components to minimize space.
  • Energy Efficiency
    • Configuring components to maximize energy efficiency of the system.
  • Quiet Computer
    • Quieter systems extra baffling on the case and components (cooling and HDD) to suppress the sound.
  • Performance (e.g. for games) or Budget
    • Higher performance components are more expensive, budget systems sacrifice performance for cost.
  • Overclocking
    • Requires a motherboard, CPU, GPU and RAM that supports overclocking.

A great example of a system that utilizes quiet, energy efficient, compact system design is Apple Mac Mini.

Pre-Construction

  • Make sure that you have enough of the right types of cables and connectors for all the peripherals you're going to connect
  • Tools: screwdrivers, flashlight, screws, etc.
  • Make sure to keep track of the drivers disk that come with your motherboard and other peripherals.
  • You will also need your operating system disk, and installation media for application that you want to install
    • You will also need your product keys for software to activate it.

During Construction

  • Beware of static components are sensitive to these types of electrical shocks, so use anti-static precautions
  • Make sure all the CPU and RAM are installed properly never force into the slots, pay close attention to how the components are keyed.
  • If you're not sure how where something goes, check the manual.
    • Depending on the RAM (e.g. manufacture, type, speed, and amount) you're using, slot configuration may vary.
  • Try to tie down lose cable, and make sure that you have secure connections to your peripherals are secure.

Post-Construction

  • After installing the OS on the system, download and install the latest motherboard BIOS.
    • There is a good chance that your you will need the network drivers for your computer.  You might want to pre-download these drivers ahead of time to have them available.
  • Download and Install the latest drivers for the OS, and all your devices peripherals.
  • After installing all your application, download and install the latest updates.
  • Let the new system burn-in (e.g. leave it running) for about 24 hours.
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