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How to choose hardware for new build?

Last response: in Systems
November 26, 2010 10:00:26 AM

Hi guys, i was wondering where do i start on my search for a Above average computer.
For ex. should i start with CPU and work through to mobo, then ram, hdd and incorporate what the mobo has and get parts that match it.

Or do i start witha mobo and get cpu that matches it etc?

More about : choose hardware build

November 26, 2010 10:15:54 AM

^ CPU would be the first, select it based on YOUR requirements and not go the fastest in the market or cheapest....

Best solution

November 26, 2010 3:40:31 PM

My process is as follows:

Step 1) Define the main purpose of the system.

This step will help you determine which components you need to spend more money on. For instance, if the system is primarily for graphic intensive applications/games, then you want to spend a little more money on a graphics card. If the system is primarily for multi-tasking or programs that require or can use fast, multi-core cpus, spend a little more money on the CPU.

Step 2) Define a budget.

Ask yourself how much *can* you spend on a system. Then ask your self how much you *want* to spend on a system. If these figures are the same, then you have your budget limit. If how much you can spend exceeds how much you want to spend, then your budget limit is how much you want to spend. If how much you want to spend exceeds how much you can spend, then your budget limit is how much you can spend, but now you need to determine if you can build your "above average" system while staying within your budget limit (how much you can spend); also keeping in mind the primary purpose of the system or whether you should wait until you can afford a better system.

Step 3) Familiarize yourself with current technology and prices.

Even on a meager budget, no one is going to recommend buying a Pentium 4 processor and DDR1 RAM with an AGP graphics card. If budget doesn't allow going with today's technology, it's better to go with yesterday's technology rather than last year's technology. Understand what the advantages the newer technology provides and argue that against the cost (remember, you're trying to work within a budget). A perfect example would be hard drives. Does a New Solid State Disk drive's speed merit the cost of $2/GB of space against a standard platter based hard drive at 1/6th the cost per GB?

Step 4) Understand compatibility

There more to it than matching and Intel processor with an Intel Motherboard and plugging in RAM. The processor you want requires both a compatible motherboard processor socket and northbridge chipset. The motherboard you select that is compatible with your processor requires specific RAM modules and power connectors from your power supply. Add-on cards require specific slots on the motherboard and maybe specific power connections from your power supply. Does your motherboard have connections for any components you intend to bring forward from your old system? Are there drivers available for all your components that work with your chosen operating system? You need to keep all of these compatibility questions and concerns in mind when selecting components to use in your new system.

Step 5) Define what components you need.

A full build requires the following components:

Power Supply
Hard Drive
Optical Drive (CD/DVD Drive)
Graphics Card
Operating System

Some of these components (Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers) you already have and can be used with the new system (unless you're building a complete second system). Other components (Hard Drive, Optical Drive, Graphics Card) may be brought forward into your new system, but you may want to consider upgrades to them. If you old system is a custom build, you could probably re-use the case and power supply as well. However, if your current system is an Off-The-Shelf system (Dell, Compaq, Acer, etc...), then I'd strongly recommend purchasing new. The main thrust behind building a new computer is the core or "bare-bones" of the system; the motherboard, CPU and RAM.

Step 5a) The CPU

Choosing a CPU is a matter of gauging primary usage, budget, and compatibility. If a dual-core processor is enough for your intended system usage, is there a need for a quad-core processor? If you think you need a quad-core processor, but cannot afford the Intel premium, then look to an AMD solution. My advice is to start with a solid higher-end processor (keeping budget and intended system usage in mind) and build around that. If you end up being slightly over budget, drop down to a lesser processor. Remember, if the primary purpose of the system is graphic intensive, spend less on the CPU. If the purpose is CPU based, spend more on the CPU.

Step 5b) The Motherboard

There are three primary concerns when considering a motherboard:
1) Is it compatible with my processor?
2) Do the Northbridge/Southbridge chipsets have the functionality and speed you want/is it good enough?
3) Does it have the necessary connection slots/ports you require for add-on cards and disk drives and possible future upgrades?

Other considerations include:
1) Does it include the newest technologies (USB3/SATA 6.0GB/PCI-E standard 2.1)?
2) How many RAM slots does it have and what type/speed of RAM does it accept?
3) What expansion slots do you need and how are the expansion slots placed? Does your double slot graphics card prevent usage of the adjacent slot and do you need that slot?
4) What's the form-factor of the motherboard (ITX, ATX, mATX)? Will it fit within my case and will my case fit where I want to place it?

Step 5C) Everything else

Once you have the CPU and Motherboard selected, everything else can be based off of that. Your motherboard specifications will tell you what RAM type/speeds are compatible as well as quantity of modules and maximum RAM. Your hard drive and optical drive (either new or salvaged from your old system) should be compatible with the available ports on the motherboard. Your Power Supply should have matching connectors for your motherboard/CPU power connectors, optical drive and hard drive as well as additional power connections (Graphics card/Case fans). The keyboard, mouse, and speakers should be able to utilize native connection ports or connect via an adapter. Your monitor will connect either to the motherboard's on-board graphic port (if available) or an add-on graphics card (required if the motherboard does not have an on-board graphics chipset). The case needs to have space for all your components and adequate cooling/air flow. I recommend at a minimum one front 120mm fan blowing in and one rear 120 mm fan blowing out. The rest is pretty much aesthetics.

A note about power supplies. This one component can be the most damaging part of a system build. Under a power spike or device fault, this one component can destroy any other component it's connected to. This is where quality matters the most. Most commonly accepted manufacturers of power supplies are Corsair, Antex, Fortran Source (FSP), PC Power and Cooling, and Seasonic. There are guides available on the web which list the most dependable power supplies available. I suggest reviewing these before making a purchase. Also understand that multiple hard/optical drive or high-end/dual/tri-graphic card systems are going to require much higher rated power supplies. To put it simply, I wouldn't trust $600 in graphic card components to some unknown manufacturer's $30 power supply.

That pretty much covers the basics. Staying within budget, build your core system plus power supply and graphics card. Then add everything else needed, staying within budget. If you're not able to do that, select a lower cost CPU or graphics card (depending on system requirements) until you're within budget.

Hope this helps.

-Wolf sends

November 26, 2010 6:37:38 PM

Best answer selected by BurrNews.