What Parts Do You Need for Your First PC Build?
If you have the time, you should definitely look into building your own PC. Yes, it might be daunting to source all the parts, and you might be disappointed when the thing doesn't turn on after you assemble your first PC build.
It could also be the most fun you've ever had.
Are you scared about messing something up? Forgetting a part? Wasting money and ending up with a pile of scrap metal?
You don't have to be!
These days, PC-building knowledge is democratized. There are tons of helpful tools and guides to get you on your way, and robust building communities that are usually willing to answer questions you may have.
Keep reading for a breakdown of the parts you'll need for your first build.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
If you're wondering what to buy first when building a PC, this part should top your list.
Note that for all the parts in this article, there are quite a few options, so you might want to consider a tool like PCPartPicker to manage all the details of your build.
This is the "brain" or the "workhorse" of your computer.
There are 2 major companies that produce CPUs; they are AMD and Intel.
When choosing a CPU, you'll need to consider what applications you want to run with it. Will you use your PC for gaming? Media editing?
Here are some specifications to consider when looking for the right CPU for your build; you'll be able to choose how much processing power you get for the price, e.t.c.
Cores are working units of your CPU. Not all applications make use of the full amount of cores, but generally, a greater number of cores enables greater processing power and speed.
4-core and 8-core configurations are common.
A newer CPU with fewer cores can outperform an older one with more cores because of generational improvements to the technology.
Clock speed indicates the number of work cycles a single core can go through per second, in billions.
Generally, between CPUs of the same generation, a CPU with a higher clock speed will perform better.
You can also overclock certain CPUs, meaning you increase the clock speed beyond the manufacturer's initial rating. This comes at the expense of increased power needs and heat output. If you wish to do this, you'll have to ensure the motherboard is compatible with overclocking and the PC has an adequate cooling system.
The motherboard is an essential component because all of the PC's parts must connect to it, and it enables interactions between parts.
The motherboard you choose will impact what upgrades you can do for your PC in the future as well as what other additions you can make to your PC. For example, if you are looking to switch out a CPU in the future, you'll want to have a compatible motherboard. If you're interested in overclocking and RGB lights, you'll need to make sure these are supported by the motherboard you get.
The following are considerations for your motherboard.
- Form factor (industry standardized dimensions of your motherboard)
- Socket (interface with the CPU)
- Chipsets (connected with the CPU)
- PCI Express slots (allow add-in cards like graphics or wifi cards)
- Ram slots (connect to RAM)
- Various internal ports
You can read more about the different components of the motherboard here.
RAM stands for Random Access Memory.
This is your CPU's short-term, high-speed, fast-access storage.
Program data is shifted from long-term storage (HDD, SSD) to RAM for easy access by the CPU or GPU when an application is running.
Excess RAM provides a minimal advantage, but a lack of it compels your system to terminate programs or draw data directly from long-term storage, which is extremely slow.
DDR4 is the memory standard, with DIMM 288-pin. DDR4 is the generation, and 288-pin refers to the size of the RAM with 288 data pins.
Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
The HDD is a long-term storage solution that's slower than RAM but ideal for massive amounts of static data (this could be pictures or videos).
You can get up to 20 terabytes in storage for an HDD. They are also relatively cheap for manufacturers to produce, so you can obtain one for a low price point.
They come in two sizes: 3.5" and 2.5". If you are building a PC, the standard HDD size should be 3.5", as 2.5" usually goes to laptops and ultrabooks.
Solid State Drive (SSD)
This is yet another form of long-term storage as an alternative to HDDs.
Because it uses flash memory, it is quieter, smaller, and faster than your average HDD. As a result, they are also pricier.
You may want to use one in conjunction with your HDD; you can store frequently used applications and the operating system on the SSD and static data on the HDD.
Video Card/Graphics Card (GPU)
How do you go about building your first gaming PC?
Some CPUs come with an integrated GPU, but for those that wish to run graphic-intensive games (most of the popular ones nowadays), you'll want a dedicated GPU.
This is a PCIe add-in that greatly boosts your PC's ability to process and display media.
If you want to play games at higher frames with the highest graphics settings, edit 4K video, or mine bitcoin, you'll need a dedicated graphics card.
If you are just looking to browse the web, play lighter games, or do most work-from-home jobs, then you can get away with an integrated GPU.
Because of global supply chain shortages, GPUs are probably the most expensive component you can buy, ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to over a thousand.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
This is the part that transforms the power from your wall socket to power that is safe and clean for your PC to use.
Power supply manufacturers have their own certification method for the energy efficiency of these units. The five tiers are
- 80+ Bronze
- 80+ Gold
- 80+ Platinum
- 80+ Titanium
Generally, a better quality product correlates with higher energy efficiency.
This is the part you'll be looking at the most, so you might want to spend some time deciding on a look and form factor you like.
There are an enormous number of cases out there by various manufacturers, so you'll want to make sure your case can fit the dimensions of your motherboard, CPU cooler, or dedicated GPU.
This is an item where it wouldn't hurt to ask around about other people's builds or to ask for recommendations.
Starting Your First PC Build
The first things to do after building a PC include making sure it turns on, installing the OS, and installing applications.
By taking the process slow and doing your research for your first PC build, you'll be embarking on what could be a lifelong passion. Information about PC building is more readily available than ever, so join the community today!
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about sourcing parts.