January 2nd, 2004, 11:45 PM
Intro To Computer Building and Hardware
I'm starting to build my own computer and I'm looking at a lot of parts so I thought I'd make a tutorial on the parts and what are best for certain kinds of computers.
A. Deciding On The Type Of Computer
First you have to decide what you're going to use your computer for so you can decide on what type of parts you want to buy. Most people that build their own box use it for gaming. They want to have a performance machine customized to their own specifications because self-built computers are very easily upgrade able, the power of the hardware required for games is always increasing and so that they can feel the full force of the games they are playing. If you're not going to build a gaming machine or one for performance but instead are going to be using it for browsing, chatting, and work, you should probably buy one stock since most stock computers are built for these things.
B. Main Components of a Computer
There are several main components to a computer that are required. These are the MotherBoard (MoBo), Processor, Hard Drive(hdd), System Memory(RAM), Video Card, Power Supply(PSU), case, and nowadays, the CD-ROM/CD-R Drive.
The MotherBoard is the heart of the computer. It contains all the basic circuitry and components. It is the main card and every other card (expansion card) is attached to the MoBo. The MoBo transfers data to and from the processor over a component called a bus. The bus has a certain speed and the higher the speed the faster the transfer and the faster things are executed on the computer.
The processor is the component that processes the basic instructions that a computer needs to follow. The processor is also called the CPU (central processing unit). Pressing a key, clicking the mouse, doing anything on a computer accesses the CPU to process instructions that do what the user wants. Processors come in different speed measured in megahertz (mhz) and gigahertz(ghz) (1ghz = 1000mhz).
System Memory might be one of the hardest concepts to grasp about computer components. The other name for it, RAM, stands for Random Access Memory. It is the place where the computer can store bits of information for a short time and access it whenever, and wherever on the disk that it wants. It is used for the computer to perform its computations and instructions. When the computer is turned off the memory is cleared because nothing on it is needed anymore.
You might wonder where all the files and programs are stored on a computer. Well this is the hard drive. Its a large rectangular disk in the tower that holds all the files. Unlike the RAM, when the computer is turned off the files stay on the hard drive. Hard Drive space is measured in gigabytes.
The video card is what puts all the pictures and text on your screen. It converts all the binary that the computer communicates in into tangible visual images. The Video Card has its own RAM when a certain image is being used in a high frequency. Its stored here so it can be accessed quickly. Video Cards are crucial to gamers because many of the newer games are graphics intensive so they need high performance cards to keep up with the games.
A computers power supply converts the household power into a type of power that a computer can use. This is changing AC power to DC power. The power supply supplies power to the whole computer and usually contains the main fan to cool the computer. The power supply supplies power in measures of watts as different quality components take up different amounts of power.
The case of the computer is what encases and protects the components of the computer. It can be made out of many materials that differentiate in durability and the amount of heat they can absorb to help keep the computer cool. Cases come in a lot of different shapes colors and many even have windows and LED's to satisfy those who like to have a sexy machine.
The CD-ROM/CD-R Drive is where a person could take information obtained from another computer and put on yours. CDs are used for installing programs and swapping data between computers when the Internet is not an option. Many people use the R and RW abilities to write CD's to listen to music.
C. Other Components
Extra cooling fans are always great, the cooler your computer, the better it will run. Most run at about $20 and a lot of cases don't come with all the fans it can use.
Floppy disks are kind of outdated now but are very useful for people in school as many school computers don't have CD-RW available.
LED's and cathode lights aren't needed but they make your computer look very nice if you have a window. You can draw the praise of all your computer buddies if you have a nicely lit box.
D. Lets Put It Together
So you want to make a performance machine huh? Well you are gonna want some power inside that case. Lets take a look at good processors. AMDs new a64 line is built for those who are hardcore gamers and want their games to run flawlessly. The upgrade from 32 bit to 64 bit makes things run much smoother. With a 64 bit processor, you're going to need a 64 bit MoBo. As these things are new, they will be quite expensive. Another good option is Intels new P4 EE line. These chips run north of 1k but are well worth it with over 3 ghz of speed and a 800mhz FSB. With this processor you can still use 32 bit MoBos which run a lot cheaper than the AMD ones. The AMD vs Intel war in performance is very close in their new releases so its hard to really say which would be better. Now probably the gamers favorite chip, the video card. The two biggest companies, ATI and nVIDIA have some very impressive cards. nVIDIAs new FX line is very powerful. Its core speed is an impressive 475mhz and it has 256mb of RAM, as much as many computers. ATI's best line, the Radeon, is well behind the FX line with 380mhz core speed but its a good price option if you can not afford the pricey nVIDIA cards. RAM is usually an easier option to decide on. A gamer will want from 512mb to 1 gig of space at a minimum with intensive games. A gamer should get at least PC-2700 type RAM for quality. A gamer will want a moderately large hdd if they're going to have many games since they can be well above 2 gigs each. A 60gb to 80gb hdd will usually do and a 8mb cache would be desired for faster performance. CD-ROM/CD-R drives aren't very important but a drive that reads fast is desirable so a gamer should get a drive that reads CD-ROM at around 52x. A PSU for a gamer will definately need a larger wattage. At least 350watts because performance parts require more power to operate. As these parts are stressed more because of the intensity they will be used at they will get very hot. Cooling fans are a good investment to keep the computer as cool as possible especially if you get AMD because their processors run very hot. Cases are usually a good investment for gamers since they like to show off at LANs and stuff (you know you do). Many cases come with windows to watch your beautiful machine work and even with LEDs to light it up with colors. Many cases are made out of metals that absorb heat very well and are usually very durable.
By now you should have a good idea of all the parts of a computer and what you will need to build your own performance machine. A good machine can be built at around $1000 USD and can always be upgraded as needed. The one I'm building, the box alone, is about $700. If you go for the fastest processor, the best cards, and the biggest hard drives, your computer can go over $3000 USD easily.
This is my first tutorial and I hope I did well, thanks!