Parodyman - Song Parodies by Rex Ungericht


Parodyman's Checklist for Building a PC

Parodyman has been mucking about inside personal computers since before the term "personal computer" was invented. Having recently semi-built a new PC, he thought he would jot down some random brainwaves for folks who might be considering building their first PC. This information is NOT for folks who already know the ins and outs of building a computer, although it might remind those people of a basic consideration or two. It is also not meant to be comprehensive, so don't blame Parodyman for not thinking of everything.


Part 1 - Build or Buy?

If you're here reading this, it's likely that you're already leaning toward the "build" option. And although building a PC is not as daunting a task as many believe, it's not always the best choice. So before we proceed into the details of PC construction, here are a few reasons why you might NOT want to do it.

If you decide that building your own PC isn't for you, but you still want one that's custom made, Parodyman recommends Puget Systems.


Part 2 - Checklist Introduction

So many parts...where to begin? One thing to keep foremost in mind when buying components is to make sure it all works together. Don't buy a micro ATX case and a full size ATX motherboard. Don't buy a motherboard that only supports SATA drives, and then buy a PATA drive. If you aren't paying attention you can easily wind up with a component that won't fit or won't work in your PC.

Another thing to do is check the reviews. Parodyman recommends tomshardware, anandtech, xbitlabs, hardwarecanucks, silentpcreview, and jonnyguru, just to name a few. These sites are serious about hardware testing, and although you might not be able to follow all the details that they go into (I sure can't - just what the heck is a bridge rectifier, anyway?) they sum things up so that folks who are not electrical engineers can use their results.

I'm not as enthusiastic about telling you to read the comments on the reviews. The folks who post are often owners/builders of very high-end systems, and their comments may not apply to you. For example, when I was reading reviews of CPU coolers, I came across many comments that the stock Intel cooler was useless. This is probably true if you're a big overclocker, but if you plan to run your CPU at its stock speed, the stock cooler should be perfectly adequate. I'm using one now and my system is running plenty cool.

And one final general tip: the latest leading-edge parts haven't been out in the marketplace long enough for any and all possible problems to manifest. If you like to play it safe, you'll want to limit yourself to components that have been on store shelves for at least several months, and that have good reviews. Personally, the more leading-edge I go, the more inclined I am to hire a custom builder to put it together and test it for me.

And now, on to the checklist.


Part 3 - The Checklist

CPU (Central Processing Unit, aka the processor)


NOTE: If you install a processor cooler that has a fan, and it makes clicks or clacks or any other noise besides normal fan running noises, it's probably defective or installed incorrectly. (This is true for any and all fans in your system.)





There is an inconsistency in the PC world when it comes to "internal" vs. "external" devices. Traditionally, both internal and external devices went inside your computer case, just in different types of bays. An internal device went inside the case in an internal bay -- i.e., a bay that was not accessible without opening the case. An external device went inside the case in an external bay -- i.e., a bay that faced out of the case to give you access to the device when the case was closed up. A CD drive would go into an external bay, so that you could access it from the front of the case.

Nowadays we have a variety of devices that are not installed into the computer, but that connect via a port (often a USB port) on the computer. These are collectively called external devices. So we now have a situation where there are external devices that go inside a computer case, and external devices that don't go inside a computer case. More and more, everything that goes inside the case is being called internal, but there are still a few cases where external means "internal device in an external bay".




When buying a power supply, keep in mind a couple of points. One, power supplies tend to run more efficiently in the middle of their power range. (So, it's often more efficient to, say, use a 600W unit to run a 350 - 400W load. Check the reviews/specifications for the power supplies you are considering.) Also, it's usually good to leave room for future expansion. Right now I'm running an 850W power supply on a system that maxes out at around 400W (although I would have been happy with a 600W power supply -- it's just that 850W was the smallest wattage of the model I wanted).

Oh, and one other thought -- the wattage stated on the power supply should be the maximum continuous wattage that the supply can deliver to the PC, although that's not always the case. Check the specifications and read the reviews before buying.