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Intel and AMD. There are 2 manufacturers of mainstream processors. Benchmarks measure different areas of a processors performance and it‘s unusual to find one processor fastest in all of them. but you can also make sure that every component is of good quality. as a slow processor will always result in a slow computer. Intel dominates both the mid and high end of the market with its ‘core2‘ processor. . Not only does this mean that you can buy parts that suit your needs exactly.Choosing : Choosing Introduction One of the best things about building your own computer is that you can choose every single part yourself. What’s in PC : Choosing Step 1 Processor Introduction The processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the brain of your computer and is arguably the most critical component. while AMD‘s offerings currently only compete in the lower end of the market. searching Google for the processor name + ‘review‘ should yield lots of results. Lots of sites benchmark processors as part of their reviews. however the most reliable way to compare processor speeds is by looking at ‘benchmarks‘. Although the speed of processor you need will vary depending on the way you use your computer (see table left). each of which are explained below. generally speaking spending 20-30% of your budget on the processor is a good starting point. There are many factors that determine a processors speed.
This is because when your computer runs out of memory. as it manages the interaction between each part of the computer and the processor.Choosing Step 2 Memory Introduction Memory or Random Access Memory (RAM) slots into the motherboard and is where all of the information being used by the processor is stored. Having more memory means you can run more programs at the same time without the computer slowing down. The 'chip-set' is the most important part of a motherboard. it is moved from the hard drive into memory so that the processor can access all the information related to it. For a basic PC. For example when you start a program. so make sure the chip-set you choose will make the most of your other . 1GB is a good starting point and for those running Windows Vista 2GB is more appropriate. the information stored in memory is lost. so when the computer is switched on. When the computer is switched off. As well as being compatible. open a picture or play an MP3. If you intend to use more memory intensive programs like games or design then 4GB + is recommended. it starts using the Hard Disk as 'virtual memory'. Faster Memory can make your computer quicker. As a rough guide try to get memory that is around 3/4 of your FSB speed as beyond this there will be very little performance difference. Choosing Step 3 Motherboard Introduction The motherboard provides the 'hub' of your computer that everything else plugs into. but only if your processor and FSB are fast enough to make use of it. Your choice of motherboard will be limited to one that is compatible with your chosen processor and memory. the motherboard you choose should be complimentary to your processor and memory. For example if you have chosen a socket775 processor with a 1333MHzFSB and some 800MHz DDR2 memory then you will need to look for a motherboard that has a socket775 and supports these FSB and memory speeds. It does this because memory can be accessed many times quicker than a Hard Drive. the motherboard figures out what components are where and how to get them all up and running. So if you have a very expensive processor then you should be looking at the higher end of the motherboards available for that processor. which is extremely slow. It also provides the first level of management. If you've ever had lots of windows and programs open at once and suddenly found your computer becomes unresponsive even though it appears to be doing very little then you will understand how frustrating this can be.
the best way to compare graphics cards is by looking at the results of benchmark tests. As with the processor. but some will have fewer features than others. The price of a graphics card will usually give you a reasonable idea of its performance and the sector of the market that it's aimed at. This storing of information is called 'buffering'. Each card has its own processor. An important decision to make when choosing a graphics card is whether you will need high performance 3D graphics. referred to as a Graphics processing Unit (GPU) and its own memory referred to as Video RAM (VRAM). In fact if you do not intend to play any 3D games. The GPU is also a very important indicator as the a cards potential performance.components. . Choosing Step 4 Graphics Card Introduction The Graphics card takes information from the processor and calculates how to display it on the screen. while more memory allows it to store more resulting information ready for the monitor to display. How many SATA ports will you need to connect drives to? Do you want a motherboard with a graphics card built into it? How many USB ports do you need? Do you want to be able to use more than 1 graphics card? Will you be overclocking? These are all things you will need to consider. But if you intend to use your computer for desktop and media tasks and to play some older games. The GPU processes the information and then passes the result to the VRAM where it is stored ready to send to the monitor. A faster GPU allows more information to be processed in a given time. If you want to play the latest games or run professional 3D design programs then the answer will be yes. The more it can store in the VRAM. graphics 'integrated' into a motherboard will do just fine. as well as charts for multiple graphics cards. the answer will be no. try searching Google for the chip-set name + 'review'. A good way to do this is to read some reviews of motherboards using a particular chip-set. Manufacturers will produce many models of boards using the same chip-set. the less chance there is of the monitor having to wait for information while the GPU is processing it. Tom's hardware has a comprehensive set of benchmarks for most of the currently available cards. The other factor to consider is which features you want included on your motherboard.
If you have the budget for it. All the programs. while a Blue-Ray disk can hold up to 50GB of data also on a Dual layer disk. rotations per minute. documents. size and speed. DVD and Blue-Ray. Given the very cheap price of DVD writers. it seems like the most suitable choice for most users. though the price to performance level is relatively low. or read and write disks (RW). There are drives available for each format which can either read only (ROM). As explained below you will see very little difference in terms of performance once above 16MB. but for most people a drive not less than 160GB is a good starting point. RAID can also provide both reliability and performance improvements on the same storage. . videos. 16MB or 32MB). For more info on RAID. Blue-Ray on the other hand is relatively new and for most users will not hold much value. Choosing Step 6 Optical Drive Introduction Choosing an optical drive is relatively simple. However for the vast majority of people a 7200rpm drive that connects via a SATA port will be the best option. photos. You may also consider RAID as a way of improving either performance or reliability of your storage. Some may also wish to have a DVD-ROM for secondary reading and direct copying of disks. Two situations when a blue-ray drive would be appropriate are firstly for a Media Centre PC where playing high definition Blue-Ray disks would be desirable and secondly where backup or distribution of very large files is important. cache and connection type. data stored on a HDD remains intact when the computer is turned off.5GB on a dual layer disk. Choosing a Hard Drive is relatively simple and is usually based of 2 factors.Choosing Step 5 Hard Disk Drive Introduction The Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is where all the data in a computer is stored when not in use by the processor. If you are building a very high performance PC you may want to consider 10000rpm drives. Remember that if you wish to play Blue-Ray movies then you will need a graphics card and display that are 'HDCP' compliant. leaving you simple to decide on the amount of cache you need (8MB. The size of the drive you choose will be primarily based on your personal needs. Currently there are 2 types of disk that are worth consideration. Speed is made up of a few factors. HDCP is the mechanism that Blue-Ray uses to ensure copy-righted disks are not copied. DVD has been around for so long that it would be unusual not to want some form of DVD drive on your PC. A DVD can hold up to 8. Unlike memory. see our RAID choosing guide. music etc that you keep on your computer are stored on the HDD and loaded into memory when you begin using them.
For help working out what the wattage of your system will be see below (under the 'wattage' tab). the noise produced by the fans and the number and type of connectors it comes with. resulting in a more stable system. Building : Building your PC Introduction Now that you have all your components it's time to put them all together.Other factors to consider are the speed at which you wish the drive to read and/or write data at and the type of connection it uses. This value must be larger than the combined wattage of all the components in your system and preferably about 30% higher. which is measured in watts(w) and denotes the total amount of power the PSU can provide. Good quality PSUs are not only less likely to fail in the short term. Choosing Step 7 Power Supply Unit Introduction The Power Supply Unit (PSU) takes the raw power from the mains source and divides it up in to 3 'rails' each with a different voltage. Other factors to consider are the actual amount of current per voltage rail(Amperage. but also contain circuitry to prevent damage to the rest of the components. It's always worth going with a reputable manufacturer when choosing a PSU. When a PSU fails (and eventually all PSUs will) it can cause other components in the computer to fail as well. as these are normally very low quality. 5v for less demanding parts like the hard drive head to 3v for the most sensitive circuitry. measured in amps). especially when overclocking. A good quality PSU will also provide more stable currents to each component. This process is far easier than you might expect and if you follow the steps in this section you should have very little trouble assembling your computer. . avoid non-brand or value branded items and never use the PSUs that often come with low-end cases. It's incredibly important to have a good quality PSU. The second factor to consider when choosing a PSU is the power output. These rails range in voltage from 12v for the most demanding components including the Processor and the graphics card. the efficiency of the conversion process (The percentage of electricity actually used in the computer compared to the amount taken from the mains).
If it doesn't then you will need to apply some before fitting it. For more information on this step.Building Step 1 Processor Introduction This video illustrates how to fit an Intel Socket 775 processor into the motherboard. If you are installing an AMD processor. Building Step 3 Memory Introduction In this video we install 2 Memory modules into their respective DIMM slots on the motherboard. Before you start installing the processor make sure to ground yourself by touching a grounded object or by wearing your anti-static wrist band. Building Step 2 Heatsink Introduction In this video we will fit the Intel Stock Heat sink Fan to the motherboard. read the explanation below. This process is as easy as it looks. the only thing you need to think about is which of the 4 slots should be used in order to utilise dual channel memory (see 'Dual Channel' tab below). . First step is to check that your heat sink hasthermal compound on it. read the section entitled "AMD Processors". Remove the plastic covers on the top of the socket and the bottom of the processor. heat sink and motherboard and place them on aflat non-metallic surface. You are now ready to begin. For more information on thermal Compound see the tab below. Once you are grounded. Again make sure to ground yourself before touching any of the PC components. unpack the processor. Before you start installing the processor make sure to ground yourself by touching a grounded object or by wearing your anti-static wrist band.
switches and LEDs (the power/reset switch and LED. just tuck the unused cables away somewhere inside the case that will not get in the way of any other components. If you cannot find pins on your motherboard to connect certain ports on your front panel. as well as the audio and USB ports) to the motherboard. This can be fiddly. Your case may have connections on its front panel that your motherboard does not support. such as IE1394 (Firewire).Building Step 4 Motherboard Introduction This video shows you how to fit an ATX motherboard into the case. . Before you start installing the motherboard make sure to ground yourself by touching a grounded object (such as the inside of the computer case) or by wearing your anti-static wrist band. so it's important to know exactly where you need to plug each one before attempting to connect them. The process would be exactly the same for a Micro-ATX and almost identical for a Micro-ITX motherboard. Building Step 5 Front panel Connections Introduction This video shows you how to connect the case's front panel ports. In order to do this you must find the diagrams in your motherboards manual which will tell you exactly where each set of pins on the motherboard are.
Building Step 6 Hard Disk Drive Introduction This video will show you how to install a 3. . one of which will need to be removed to fit the optical drive. refer to the instruction manual that came with the case. Building Step 7 Optical Drive Introduction This video shows you how to fit a 5.25" bays on the top front of the case. refer to the manual that came with the case. Once grounded unpack the hard drive and install it into a free 3. Almost all cases will have their 5. Before you start installing the processor make sure to ground yourself by touching a grounded object or by wearing your anti-static wrist band. however if you are unsure of how to remove the panel. In this video we use a case which does not require this. securing it using 4 'case screws'. however the principles will remain the same. Some cases may require you to remove the entire front fascia in order to remove this panel.5" hard disk drive into the most common type of case. They will usually have plastic panels covering each bay.5" Hard Drive bays may differ on different types of case. If you are at all unsure of how to fit the Hard Drive into your case. which have slightly larger threads than those used to secure the motherboard (left).25" optical drive into the most common type of case. The position of the 3.5" bay as per the video.
usually this is the 'DELETE' key or the 'F2' key. First step is to make a couple of small changes in the bios to ensure that the computer will be able to read your windows CD/DVD. The BIOS starts by testing each component to make sure everything is operating as it should and that the computer has everything it needs to load the OS. The BIOS settings are like to core values of the PC and they are used to dictate how the computer will operate at a fundamental level. usually when we talk about the BIOS we are really talking about the BIOS setup. and the interface that is used to adjust these settings. This starting test is called the Power On Self Test. but after that we will rarely or never need to come back to the BIOS (unless you intend to overclock that is). or POST. in reality we don't have to do much in the BIOS setup. There are a few we need to check and may need to be adjusted before we install our OS.Installing: Installing Introduction Once you have finished building you computer. be it Windows XP or Windows Vista. you must press a particular key during the POST. the BIOS will report them either through a series of beeps or by displaying the error on the screen. Then we can go on to installing an OS. . almost all of the default values are fine. It is located on a separate chip on the motherboard and is the first thing that is loaded when we turn the computer on. depending on your motherboard. Once the OS is installed we just have to install the drivers for our hardware and were ready to roll with our new machine! Installing Step 1 BIOS Introduction The BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is the lowest level of software in the PC. If any errors are detected during POST. its time to get it up and running with an operating system (OS) so that you can start using it. To access the BIOS setup. As complicated as all this may sounds.
often found under the 'support' or 'downloads' section of their site. installing drivers this way can mean you get unwanted software on your system that manufacturers include in the install. allowing it to only take the drivers and skip anything else. Installing Step 3 Drivers Introduction Drivers are like dictionaries for the operating system to translate the language of a given piece of hardware. Before you start you just need to make sure that your first 'boot device' in the BIOS is set to 'CDROM' or 'DVD' so your computer knows to look on the disk before tying to boot from the hard drive. Installing from the CD will also mean you won't be getting the latest drivers. The easy way is to just insert the CD's that came with the various components and let them install by themselves. It is also recommended that you download the latest drivers from the website of the components manufacturer. . Although not malicious this software will often run constantly in the background taking up memory. They allow the operating system to control that component and understand the information that comes back from it. It involves 'booting' the computer (which means to starting the computer from) the OS DVD which will then guide you through the installation process in a similar way to installing any piece of software. The second method for installing drivers is to let windows search for the drivers it needs. The following steps will take you through this second method for installing drivers. There are two ways to install drivers.Installing Step 2 Operating System Introduction Installing an operating system (namely windows) is a relatively easy task. Although easy.
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