I want to learn how to build a PC

Is there some sort of relatively inexpensive kit type of deal I can pick up to learn to actually build my own PC from the ground up? I can solder and have a good understanding on comp hardware, but never actually dealt with the various parts of a motherboard.

I know Radio Shack (at least when I was a kid) had those 101-things-with-wires-and-stuff kits that let you learn about electronics by configuring them as radios, transmitters, clock, alarm, etc. Is there anything similar for a computer system? All kinds sought, I’d also like to play with this stuff with my nephews so they get introduced to it at an early age.

Thanks for any info

This any help? Build You Own PC

It is quite easy, no soldering irons involved.

The suggested link is very good and should answer most of your Qs. As noted, no soldering needed, everything just snaps or screws in place.

Having built many over the years, can say it is fun and satisfying, and when it works the first time, it is a big thrill. OTOH, if problems crop up with the first “smoke test” that you can’t solve, it can be unnerving and frustrating, and nowhere to go for help.

A coule of caveats. First, be very careful about static electricity, especially when inserting RAM, the CPU and other chips. Best to use a grounding strap on your wrist. Unlike buying a system, you do have to buy the OS and other programs, adding to the cost. Ironically, today you can buy a comparable system for less than you can build one.

One good source for components that I’ve found reliable over the years, and has fair prices, is JDR computer products. They are online at www.JDR.com or you can call 800-538-5000 to get a catalog. If you buy all the parts from them, they do have a good tech support system where you can go for help if things go wrong.

There are many other such outfits that you can Google to find the necessary parts. The good thing when you have finished, you will know exactly how the system works, and how easy to upgrade.

Good luck and have fun.

Putting a PC together from parts is about as difficult as making something with Legos. Maybe easier. The parts only go one way. Used to be you had to set a few jumpers on the motherboard and drives, but even this is largely gone.

I agree. It’s actually so simple that you really won’t learn a lot, except exactly where the various part (CPU, memory, etc) are located in the case, and how the various parts get power (since you’ll need to make the power connections.

10-15 years ago computer parts used to be very static sensitive. Today, not so much.

A friend and I wondered how much memory, drive, cpus and boards could take before they wouldn’t work. We abused the hell out of an old pentium II system. We raked 9 volt batteries across the parts, rubbed them on the carpet, zapped them with static from our bodies (rub feet on carpet, touch board). The system would still boot. By the end of it we were booting the sytem wet with water and running tinfoil along the parts with the system booted and running.

It took all the abuse we gave it. It restarted a few times but didn’t seem to have any major effects. (Scratch that. The memory I put in the microwave didn’t work. But when a part has pretty blue plasma streaks coming from it, one doesn’t really expect it to work very well)

It was only when I started pulling parts off the motherboard with plyers did it start to act funny.

Granted I wouldn’t do this with a computer I planned on using, but it was interesting to see how rugged everything really it.

“how rugged everything really IS

Bad tags! Double doh.

“…how rugged everything really IS.”

I think I need another cup of coffee before I post anything more.

For your first attempt, look for preassembled motherboard bundles…these have the processor & heatsink, and sometimes the memory, pre-assembled and hopefully fully tested. The processor is by far the most awkward element, and the most expensive to screw up. After this, it really is just very expensive, very powerful lego :slight_smile:

Having built my one and only PC a couple of years ago for my son-he just HAD to have a good game machine, it is in fact pretty easy. Collect all the parts, snap them together and you are done. The only hard part is picking a compatible set of parts. A knowledgable friend or a salesperson gets you past that point.

One thing though, when you are building PCs in lots of one, don’t expect to save much if any money on it compared to a generic computer or a cheap Dell. The only time you might save some money is if you already own some of the parts (hard disk, monitor, case, are some of the obvious pieces). Building your own does enable you to decide to waste a few buck on some truely awsome motherboards though. Those things come with the kitchen heatsink and everything!

I agree with this. If you only want to use it in the way you’d use a Dell, then don’t waste your money. However, building the thing puts you in an excellent position if you decide to upgrade it, even with something as simple as adding more memory.

If you don’t have a junker PC lying around, get one for $5-10 at a garage sale or a thrift store. Take it apart, put it back together, power it up, etc. Won’t be the latest thing and some connectors and such will be a little old-hat, but you won’t be out money if it smokes.

Remember: never work on it with the power cord plugged in. Touching the unplugged-in case (bare metal) is good enough for grounding.

I second this approach. Keep an eye on Craigslist to see if a cheap machine is being offered, and buy one for $50 or less. Your first step will be to take all of the pieces apart (RAM, CPU, heatsink, Motherboard, power supply, HDDs, and any other drives) and identify them by Googling serial numbers and words that appear on the components. Get the manuals (again via Google) and use these to determine what each component can do. Without ever turning it on, you should be able to figure out all of its major specs:

  • Processor speed (and type)
  • RAM volume and type
  • Hard drive capacity
  • Graphics capability
  • Sound capability
  • What goes in the empty slots

If you don’t want to spend anything up front to learn how to do it, go ahead and look for a barebones system for cheap. You can find a system with a 1GHz processor, and it’s very likely that it’s still modern enough to run WinXP. For about $100 you can probably get enough RAM to make it run beautifully. Another $150 will get you a cheap graphics card that will play most modern games well enough. If you get really serious, you can buy a new CPU for it; a 1GHz system might support CPUs up to 2.0 GHz if you’re lucky.

For example, this guy is selling a barebones machine that isn’t even close to maxed out. For another $100 you can max out the processor; for $100 more than that you can have an additional gigabyte of RAM in it. You can tinker around with it pretty easily, and when you’re done you’ll have a hell of a good machine!

After having replaced various components in my old computer over the years, I decided I was set to put together a new computer from scratch. As other have noted, it really is quite easy. Motherboards ship with nice pictures showing where everything should go, the CPU was easy getting in there, as was harddrive, DVD and RAM. Some of the cables where a bitch, mostly due to some cramped space.

The main reason for doing this was to get a quiet computer. Cheap Dells and the likes need to save money to keep the price down. What they skimp on are chassi fans, the power unit, the case and stuff like that. People tend to look a lot at CPU speeds and RAM and forget that a computer is made of a lot more stuff.

Some basic advice:

  1. Get a lot of RAM. I went from a P4 1.4 GHz to a P4 3.0 Ghz and I estimate a 20% increase in speed. Then I went from 512MB Ram to 2 GB RAM. Whoa. Now things are happening.
  2. Use S ATA which is the new standard for connecting hard drives and internal DVD players. Much easier and better.
  3. Get a small 10.000 rpm hard drive to put your OS on. This will make your machine a lot faster. You can put the software you use the most here too. Get a huge HD with 7.200 rpm as storage unit.
  4. Two HDs are great for backups, safety. Everyone always say they’re gonna back up, but they never do. Burning DVDs , using zip drives or whataever is just too much work. Having your important files on 2 HDs is no problem at all. The risk of both of them crashing at the same time is nil. Of course, should the house burn down, you’re screwed, but that would take care of your backups as well.