PC Build Series: Finally building a personal computer (part 1: the research)

PC Build Series: Finally building a personal computer (part 1: the research)

For years I have wanted to build my own gaming computer. I hate to make excuses but at the end of the day, things just never materialized.

There are a lot of factors, but most of those involved being a student. My undergrad lasted from 2005-2010, my college degree from 2010-2012, and finally my master’s degree from 2015-2017.

While I’ve always been a gamer, the time I have had to invest in gaming has always been up and down. However, in August of 2019, Blizzard Entertainment re-released World of Warcraft in the form of World of Warcraft: Classic and I decided that now would be the perfect time to build my first PC.

Research

As a librarian, research has always been a big part of my life. I’ve conducted varying degrees of research (academically) for the past 15 years. I love researching! When it came to building my new PC I did what came naturally, I researched.

As a result, I found a number of resources online that were extremely helpful in building my computer.

PC Part Picker

This was an absolute wealth of knowledge when it came to building my PC. PC Part Picker was a great tool for a few reasons.

  1. As a starting point, you can choose the type of PC you want to build called, Build Guides e.g. entry, modest, great, excellent, enthusiast, etc.
  2. Most sites I found when conducting my research reviewed value in USD not CAD. PC Part Picker allows you to select your country and will find the best prices in your country.
  3. Signing up for an account allows you to save builds.
  4. People can comment on your builds if you make them public. This can be great in receiving comments and suggestions on your build.
  5. Compatibility! If you’ve never built a computer before compatibility is extremely important. You need to ensure all your components are compatible. That means your CPU and motherboard work together, your motherboard and RAM work together, your power supply is high enough to power your system, etc. It’s all very important. PC Part Picker tells you if your computer is compatible.
PC Part Picker compatibility feature.

Reddit

You have to be careful here. Reddit can be a really good source of information, or it can be a toxic place where people flame you for asking questions. I found two great resources in the Reddit community.

/r/buildapc

This community is a great source of information for beginners. It is an active community and a great place to see people’s random questions about building a computer.

/r/CabaloftheBuildsmiths

This community is a bit more, intense. These are seasoned veterans in computer building who answer posts from people asking for build advice. For instance, in the screenshot below you can see an example of a request from a member of the community for a $1000 build. It can be a bit intimidating but again, there is a wealth of knowledge in this community.

An example of a post on /r/CabaloftheBuildSmiths

User Benchmark

This is another great tool for comparing computer parts. I used this extensively when I was deciding which graphics card to purchase. The very simple display makes it easy to compare your components.

You can compare individual components.

Similarly to comparing specific computer components. You can also do full build comparisons. The aspect of build comparisons that I found particularly helpful was the “value” and “bench” feature. Sure, I could put an $800 graphics card into my build and have a very high bench score but the cost-to-power ratio might be very imbalanced, therefore it would have a low value score. You can see this in the screenshot below.

You can see the bench and value scores here are presented in a very easy to read interface.

YouTube videos for building

Videos are a great way to see how to build a PC. Below I have included a few that I found most helpful.

Installing a CPU

Great video for understanding CPU installation.

Installing your power supply unit (PSU)

Detailed video about the various cables and installation of a PSU.

Installing Windows OS on a new PC

Excellent video on setting up a new Windows OS install.

My final build

In the end, this is the parts list that I chose for my computer. Not all parts were purchased from the vendors specified on the list.

PCPartPicker Part List
Type Item Price
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 2700 3.2 GHz 8-Core Processor $149.99 @ Amazon
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler $29.99 @ Amazon
Motherboard ASRock B450M Pro4-F Micro ATX AM4 Motherboard $96.83 @ Amazon
Memory G.Skill Aegis 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory $69.99 @ Newegg
Storage Crucial MX500 500 GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive $66.99 @ Adorama
Video Card Sapphire Radeon RX 580 8 GB PULSE Video Card $179.99 @ Newegg
Case Fractal Design Meshify C ATX Mid Tower Case $98.99 @ Walmart
Power Supply Corsair CXM 550 W 80+ Bronze Certified Semi-modular ATX Power Supply $69.50 @ Amazon
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 Home OEM 64-bit $99.99 @ B&H
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $862.26
Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-02-13 09:52 EST-0500

Conclusion

Building your own computer can be extremely intimidating. I consider myself pretty tech-savvy and I was very nervous building my first computer from scratch. However, there are really great resources available to people and these include build guides, veteran builder communities, and installation videos.

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