I want to build my own computer and I'm scared.

I want to build my own computer. There are three reasons. The first is that I enjoy having everything to my specifications. The second is that I will almost certainly be able to save money doing so, even if I don’t save tons. And the third is that I just want to have the experience.

But I’m scared. My God! I’m supposed to put together all the parts! What if I don’t buy the right parts? What if they’re not compatible? What if I do something wrong and destroy all my RAM or destroy my CPU or something? What if I do everything right but it just won’t boot up?

Please help. I’m so scared. =(

Allow TigerDirect to help you. It’s almost paint by number. Read their tips web page.

Don’t be scared. The fact that you want to do it in the first place probably makes you qualified on its own. Building computers is not that difficult and it is hard to truly break anything. It is mostly like putting together Lego bricks with just a few wired connections that are hard to screw up in a fatal way.

A lot of people brag that they can throw one together in 1 - 3 hours but don’t count on that your first time out. You will likely screw something up your first time but it probably won’t hurt the hardware (put in those little motherboard risers though; that is important and it can ruin your week if you forget.) Software installation takes a while as well. The most important thing is to do research on every single component before you buy to make sure you get what you want. There is plenty of on-line help in that regard so just make a list, read the reviews, check for compatibility and make your choices. You probably won’t save any money unless you want to build a high-end system but you will get exactly what you want and learn something in the process.

Those are some awesome links, thanks. I too have always wanted to build my own computer for Bith’s first two reasons. I want the damn thing to my specs and I like and want to save money doing so. And Bith’s second paragraph is exactly why I haven’t yet.

RAM is the one component which needs to be handled with a significant amount of respect, i.e. ground yourself first, handle by the edges, don’t wear your favourite polyester Hawaiian shirt. The only other somewhat tricky part is attaching the heat-sink (usually via a metal clip) to the motherboard which should be done firmly but not forcefully. Everything else is relatively robust and straightforward with reasonable instructions.

I posted the same question last December, you will find the thread helpful.

If you have ever opened a computer case to upgrade a hard drive, modem card, graphics card, memory, optical drive, then building a computer is like doing this, but all at once. :slight_smile: I had done all of this but had never touched a CPU.

If you have never opened the case, you can still do it but you will need to allow a lot of time. Here’s what I learned.

People that do this do it for fun. Don’t do it if you’re just trying to save a few bucks. It won’t be worth it unless you have a knack for it and you enjoy it, or at least you are willing to put in some effort for a learning experience.

You will ask 10 people for advice and get 12 answers.

You will get to the point somewhere or another where the instructions or manual don’t match what you’re looking at. Get help if that happens, from the manufacturer, or us. But don’t force something to go in a way it doesn’t want to go.

Read the instructions for installing a CPU at least three or four times. This is one step you don’t want to screw up.

Lots of computer magazines have suggested build specs for building your own at different price points. Do a lot of research before you start buying stuff. I’m thinking that the first decision is whether to go Intel or AMD because that will influence motherboard and graphics card selection.

Most of the time everything works out fine but I’ve read horror stories of defective parts, and the trouble in diagnosing them. What will do you if you push that power button for the first time and nothing happens? Mine came right up the first time, no problems, but I still worry about what I’m going to do the first time something fails. However, bad memory seems the most likely candidate.

I’m glad I built mine because I got exactly what I wanted for a good price with no additional pre-loaded shitware.

Also try New Egg for parts, www.newegg.com. They have lots of customer reviews of equipment which can be helpful but take them with a grain of salt. These are not scientific surveys.

I came in to second TigerDirect - I just finished building a great system with parts from them - quad core processor, 4gb ram, 1tb hardrive, 1gig 3d video card, fast DVD burner - and spent around $600. Their service was fast and great. :slight_smile:

The last time I actually priced things out, the major assemblers of computers had such low prices due to their volume purchase of the components, you couldn’t save hardly any money. If you consider any value for your time, it is cheaper to buy.

Having said that, the other two reason in the OP are valid. Anyone with even a vague interest in this should build at least one computer themselves.

Dear lawd! How in the world did you manage such a price?

Nevermind the poster above you of course.

Seriously though, how long does it take for someone to assemble all the pieces? Because unless I have absolutely zero free time to build my own computer, I’m not going to put a price on my free time. If building my own computer is something I want to do, it’s not costing me anything because I specifically set out to do this.

Take right now for example, I’m listening to the Beastie Boys and posting on internet message boards and will have the next several hours completely free. Why would I factor in these next few hours if I were building my own computer when I wasn’t going to be doing anything with these next few hours anyways?

I didn’t take today off work to build the computer or anything. That I could see the inclination to put a price on my time, but I didn’t take the day off work.

I built my first computer a year and a half ago, and IIRC it took about 4 hours. And that was using a mini-tower case, so I had a certain amount of bullshit to put up with in doing it. If I’d used a full tower or even a mid-tower, I probably could have been done in 2.

Did that included getting the up-to-date drivers and all that shit? I assume that takes a bit of time but honestly have no idea.

I had remarkably little trouble in the way of drivers, etc. I have a relatively sophisticated sound card which gave me trouble, but that was because I installed the card then the software and I was supposed to do it the other way around. That was another half hour or so figuring out a few days later. With installing the OS and all the little tweaky things I do to a new computer, I’d say software config took another two hours on top of the simple assembly.

But I do some pretty picky stuff to make things work the way I like them.

ETA: Oh, and I swapped out the original PATA CD-ROM drive for a SATA CD/DVD burner a week or so after I put the whole thing together, so that was another 15 minutes.

Whenever I’ve researched this, I’ve found the major manufacturers (the ones where you will get savings) skimp on the motherboard, power supply, quality RAM, and generally limit your graphics options (and the graphics upgrade costs more than separately buying a graphics card).

RAM and CPU should be handled gingerly, everything else respectfully.

I agree with D_Odds. It seems to me that computers by companies like Dell only seem to be on par with computers you could assemble yourself for the same price because the most fundamental components in the corporate machines are not high quality. I want a good motherboard, power supply, and RAM.

As for how long -

I’m reasonably adept at system building, having built maybe six systems from component parts.

I’d say maybe three hours if everything goes right. If you were building the same system over and over you’d get quite a bit faster, but of course most people just build their own system once.

A HUGE amount of time is always in poring through the mobo manual and fiddling with annoyingly small plugs (I’m looking at you, USB everything.) Damn those tiny wires and my meat hands.

[li]Installing RAM[/li][li]Seating CPU[/li][li]Mounting drives (HD and optical)[/li][li]Installing GPU[/li][/ul]

[li]Connecting all the power leads[/li][li]Getting fiddly little plugs (example - leads for case USB ports) correct[/li][li]Setting jumpers on mobo (granted most mobos don’t require much of this anymore)[/li][li]Installing O/S[/li][/ul]

Then of course add 2-3 hours to install the O/S, install drivers, etc.

Like has been mentioned, I vastly prefer my own systems for a few reasons:

  1. I can customize everything to what I want
  2. The big brands sell on CPU, total RAM, and HD capacity. They skimp on graphics, power supply, RAM quality and system cooling. Which is silly. If you want a performance PC, you want to be looking at CPU (of course), GPU, FAST RAM a good PSU to power it all and a nice case with plenty of airflow.
  3. It’s fun. It’s a hobby.

Ask around, (and look online) and get opinions on CPUs, motherboards and RAM. Make sure the RAM goes with the motherboard.

I just did this with a couple of problems. First, the motherboard was delivered with a bad backup battery. It wouldn’t even POST until I thought to get a new one.

Then, after 2 months, the motherboard blew. But, of course, I didn’t know whether it was the RAM, CPU or motherboard.

I finally got it working again and hope it’ll last for a while.

The hardest thing I had to do was to attach the CPU fan to the CPU. You need three hands sometimes.

Indcidentally, a Microcenter guy told me that NewEgg is more reliable when/if you have to return stuff; that Tiger Direct will replace returned parts with reconditioned stuff.

Good Luck.


I built my own and it came together with no problems. Then I turned it on, and it didn’t see the hard drive. This was a SATA when SATA was still quite new, so I spent a long time with those connections and read up on HDD troubleshooting all over the internet. Turns out the problem was that the RAM was overclocked in the BIOS. I changed that setting and the hard drive immediately got noticed. Worked fine after that.

That was fun for me because I enjoy that kind of puzzle. Just be ready to have to fiddle with everything.

Strangely enough I am down to the fiddly bits on a computer build today. You really have to be a specialist to grab the “best” components for a build. As I haven’t even installed a CPU in 6+ years, I went to the results of a build competition.

I went to Tom’s Hardware and got the parts for their Sept 09 $650 Gaming system. I ordered on Sun and here it is Thurs everything is put together and Vista is running. I ordered all of the parts from New Egg – they came from 3 locations, the bulk came Tues, the rest today.

I have also followed some of the BIOS instructions and am overclocked. The Videocards aren’t playing nice with Vista, but I will eventually figure it out.
Link to the build article

I love building PCs. Love it love it love it! I’m like Emelda Marcos when it comes to PC parts shopping. When I built my HTPC I spent three days just browsing through parts. I start with the arstechnica.com system guides http://arstechnica.com/guides They are an excellent way to find out what you really need vs. what’s just nice to have. Slickdeals.net is also helpful in finding cheap computer parts. The hardest part is getting all the little tiny connections plugged in, but the documentation that comes with the motherboard is helpful. The arstechnica forums are good for ‘need help fast!’ questions too.

To get more bang for my buck I buy parts that won’t go obsolete quickly (like keyboards, mice, speakers, case, and monitors) when they go on sale, so I can spent more on the guts of the thing when I buy them all at once. I buy almost everything off of Newegg. They have good prices, easy to navigate and honor their various return policies. Read the return policies on everything before ordering!

Oh yes, and when everything is plugged in and ready to go, do NOT screw the side panels onto the case yet! That’s a guarantee to have forgotten one step, like plug the power cable into the hard drive, or plug the CPU fan in.

…personal status update on build. I downloaded the new catalyst drivers for my video cards and installed them. Vista is happy and they are working properly.

This is only on of your parts, but I made it (well assembled it) with my own two hands [with ham-fisted fingerses]