If you are building a computer, it would be nice to just be able to buy the parts needed and simply snap them into any motherboard. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. There are several factors you must take into considerations when getting the correct parts. In theis first post of the "Buying Computer Parts" series, we will discuss the performance specifications you will want to think about when choosing what components will make up your computer. These things are very important to consider because they have a direct effect on how your computer will perform running constantly changing software over the next few years – or if it will run at all. All computers age over time. They ecome slower running newer, more demanding applications. However, planning ahead will allow your computer to age more gracefully. So let us get started in our first discussion of computer hardware basics – building a computer from scratch.
The first component that you will want to choose is the most important as all other parts will be chosen based off of their compatibility with this. This is the motherboard. Motherboards have standard sizes, or form factors. They directly affect how many and which compnonent ports are on the motherboard. If you plan on installing many cards, including graphics, RAM, etc. or plan on upgrading your computer in the future, make sure to pick a board that has many ports and that is easy to upgrade. So make sure how many ports there are to install RAM. See if supports dual and tri- channel memory. You will want SATA support for hard drives. If you do not need a graphics card, make sure that the mother board includes its own video hardware. Find out what CPU's the motherboard accepts by checking what ind of slots it has. Also, check USB support; 3.0 is the current standard. Check for other ports you may want as well, such as firewire, etc.
To find the right CPU, make sure it fits in the CPU slot on the motherboard. You will most likely want at least a dual core processor. Intel and AMD both make dual core processors. However, if you want improved performance, they also make multi-core processors with their latest desings, supporting up to six or more cores. Clock speed is also important as it will improve performance. Also, the higher the cache storage(you will see it displayed in specs lists), the faster the processor will be able to send instructions to the rest of the computer.
Picking RAM includes looking for data storage capacity – most sticks store at least two gigabytes. You will also want to make sure if they support dual or tri-channel modes to improve performance. The motherboard must support these features as well for them to work.
Hard drives are easier to pick. SATA drives are the standard, but newer generations transfer data quicker. The most current and fastest revision is 3.0. Of course you will want to make sure how many bytes of data can be stored. The average range is between 500 gigabytes and two terabytes. It all depends on what type of files you will be saving and how many. Solid state drives are the newest thing in hard drives. They offer a noticeable boost in speed. However, they have a smaller capacity and are much more expensive at this time.
For CD/DVD/Bluray drives, you will want to make sure if they read and write and know their write speed. You will also want to know which versions of discs they accept.
When searching for power supplies, you will want to know their wattage. They are usually between 300 and 800 watts. If you want to build a computer for normal use, such as office work and using the internet that do not require much power, you can stay around the 300 watt area. If you are building a computer that requires more power, such as a gaming machine or one that runs demanding business, programming, or design multimedia applications, you may want to try the 500 and above range. Also, remember that the more USB peripherals you connect to your computer that do not have their own power supply, the higher the capacity power supply you will need.
For video cards you will want to see how much RAM is installed. You will also want to take note of what type of RAM is installed as speed differs a lot with video cards. The GPU is also another component that is important. Make sure of its processing speed. Also, know which ports are attached to the card. These include VGA, s-video, DVI, and HDMI For network cards, you should see what kind of networks they support. wifi support? Ethernet? For sound cards, you will want to know its polyphony capabilities and if it supports surround sound, its sampling rate, and output ports.
And there you have your first lesson in computer hardware basics. The information above is not exhaustive. It is just to provide some basic information to get you started in building a computer that is right for you. Of course, you can use this when you are just buying a computer as well. Future posts will consider the attributes and characteristics of these computer components in more depth.