In this article I want to outline my interest in building gaming computers, how to build a gaming PC, and the approaches and mindsets that I take.
What is the roadblock for most people when it comes to building a computer? You either have no knowledge of how the components come together, or if you do have some knowledge of how the components come together you may be worried about having problems that you are unable to solve. After all, if you buy a computer from a reputable dealer, you are likely to get some service with it – so doesn’t that make it worth it? Maybe with a Mac, where you can be assured of a certain level of quality – but then your will be paying a boatload for a system that isn’t necessarily optimized for gaming.
This isn’t going to be a Mac vs PC debate. Macs are known for being tremendously reliable, well built and long lasting. PCs are often known for being cheaply built and often unreliable. So when someone thinks about building their own computer, naturally they will think of the cheaply built, often unreliable PCs built by assembly companies.
Here is where you can get the best out of both worlds. Macs are supremely reliable and stable because they are all made by the same entity – and the parts chosen and made for the macs are assured to be of the highest quality. PC assemblers aren’t necessarily going to chose the best parts, as they are trying to sell their computers and make money (though, it does behoove them to make quality systems, they only have to be better than the next guy in order to be successful). When you build your own system, you can chose the highest quality parts, that are proven to work well together, which will last long and be tremendously stable – all for 1/3-1/4 the cost of a mac. Mac reliability at (often) sub-PC cost.
OK, so we know that we can build a super reliable fast computer at low cost, but what happens if there is a problem? If I go with a PC assembler, they will provide me service (even if its for 1 year). Here is the beauty of it – while there are a lot of options out there, there are manufacturers which produce extremely reliable parts – the parts themselves typically have very long warranties (5+ years), so if you have an issue, all you need to do is narrow the problem down to the part, get it replaced, and you are back to business. That being said, if you do go with those well reviewed and used manufacturers, you are quite unlikely to run into any type of issue at all.
Lets say you don’t know a circuit board from a corn chip – that’s ok, the entire system is a lot simpler than it looks.
Here are the components that make up your typical PC:
The components are the motherboard, the CPU, the ram, the hard drive, the video card, the sound card and a few other misc pieces (internal additions including dvd drives, other input devices etc).
Thats it. The main core being the motherboard CPU and ram – these are the core because you can start up a system with just these pieces (most motherboards have some sort of built in video display). You wouldn’t be able to run any software with just that, but the system can turn on and ‘Post’ (where the core system acknowledges that core components are there and operational).
To take a step back from the techie talk – lets look at the whole computer system in an entirely different point of view. The motherboard is like the central nervous system. The CPU is like the brain. The ram is like the short term memory and the hard drive the long term memory. The Video Card is like having a second brain to process all of your visual components. The sound card is also like having another brain to process your hearing. There is also a very important element called the BIOS which is effectively the ‘primitive’ brain of the system. It controls all the basic elements – it allows the system to breath and pump blood. The BIOS initializes the startup of the system – and it exists on the motherboard.
The motherboard forms the base that all the other components plug into. Aside from that, it is basically like constructing a puzzle – a very simple 10 piece puzzle where all the pieces fit uniquely. Plug in the central processor, plug in the video card, plug in the ram, connect the hard drive, connect the power supply – all done!
Once you have a basic understanding of how and why the pieces fit together, the next main concern is quality – by putting together yourself are you in fact going to sabotage the quality of your system? If you choose well reviewed hardware that is proven to work together – and you choose the hardware from reputable manufacturers who not only are known for outstanding quality but also known for their service (IE. if there is a problem, then it is easy to resolve via the warranty) – then you will be creating a system out of the top components available to ANYONE (including those whom you would buy a pre-made PC from). The dirty secret of PC assemblers is that they often have proprietary hardware created which isn’t as well used, reviewed and analyzed as the standard available components. It is cheaper for the PC companies, but in the end you are more likely to run into issues. Plus if you can chose each component from everything that is available, you will be able to make a truly unique computer, tailored to your specific needs and desires.
So the ticket is to pick well reviewed, trusted hardware – and then realize that it all fits together quite easily. If something isn’t working properly, the manufacturers are there to help (if you chose wisely). In the end, you will be rewarded with a powerful high end computer system that will last for years (as well as the enjoyment of having created it yourself).