How to build my first computer

Do you have a question? Post it now! No Registration Necessary.  Now with pictures!

Threaded View
I would like to build my first computer and use it for my business. I
will only
use it for business with programs such as Microsoft Office
03' Quicken 05' maybe
TurboTax, probably a printing program, but I
won't be doing a whole lot of
printing.  Really don't need a great
video card or a great sound card. Probably
80-120 GB HD and a dvd
burner would be enough. I already have the monitor,
keyboard and
mouse. I would love to hear you guys suggestions.


Re: How to build my first computer

(sgtsaunders) wrote:

Quoted text here. Click to load it

There is nothing in that description, that allows narrowing the
choice down at all. There are probably 1000 motherboards that
could solve your problems. Just about any currently shipping
CPU could do the job. The number of combinations is astronomical.

When it comes to building, there has to be a reason. You
don't necessarily save money by building your own. Maybe
you like to build stuff, which is a valid reason. Generally,
though, a business person puts 100% of their time into their
business, and fiddling with a computer in those circumstances
is counterproductive.

A Dell/Gateway/HP gets the job done with one order, allowing
you to do other things.

The last build I did, I spent about 1 month researching and
planning the purchase of parts. It can be time consuming
weighing all the pros and cons, finding out about issues with
various motherboards, which are the good CPUs, and all that stuff.
If you just get someone's random recommendation, there is no
knowing whether their suggestion will put you into the weeds,
or will give you a smooth working system. At least if
you read the customer reviews on Newegg, you'll get some
idea if a product is extremely bad (but due to some of the
reviews making multiple entries in the reviews, there is also
a danger of getting too negative a view of a product as well).

Another thing you could consider, is finding computer stores in
your town, that build systems for customers. Usually, those
stores will have a small set of "trusted" motherboards, ones
that have proven by experience not to cause problems. I had
a store that used to do that, and they used Intel chipset
boards for their Intel processors. At that time, they charged
about $100 CDN over the cost of the parts, to build a computer.
The results is a computer that looks like a homebuilt, but
they install the OS and put the right drivers and the like
on there. You can still tinker with it if you want. Because
they use a real Windows install CD, you have no nasty restore
disks like you'd get from a prebuilt Dell or the like. And
you'd be keeping a small computer store in your town in
business, which is handy the next time you need some parts
in a hurry. Check your local newsgroups, like one with
your town/city name in the newsgroup name, to get a
recommendation of places to shop or places to avoid.

I don't want to turn you off the concept of building your
own system, but generally the people who build, do end up
learning quite a lot along the way. And that takes time
that not everyone has to spend. If you'd said "I'm building
this for home use", then in that case the time spent
is discretionary and "free" :-)

In terms of planning and execution, I would recommend a
one month lead time for a first time builder. If you
need the system on Sept 1, then start your planning on
Aug 1. That will give you enough time, if for example,
something needs to be returned to a vendor.

To give you a starting point, either get a 3GHz
Intel processor or a 3000+ AMD processor. I worked
up a sample Intel system here, but you select your
own case. The power supply is selected to be a
quality unit, with just enough power for the level
of system in question  (i.e. this is not a high
power system). The video card is a plonker in
gaming terms, but is fine for office work. If you
want to upgrade later, just pull the card and plug
another one in.

Intel System:

Intel P4 531 3GHz/FSB800/1MB cache 84W $83
ASUS P5LD2 LGA775 945P ATX full sized mobo
Kingston 2x512MB (for dual channel) DDR2-533 CAS4 (1GB total)
eVGA Geforce 6200TC DDR PCI Express x16 Video Card
Seagate 120GB SATA disk
NEC ND-4570A Black OEM DVD writer
ENERMAX EG365P-VE FMA 1.3 ATX 350W power supply

Since there is currently a price war going on between
Intel and AMD, you can also assemble a nice AMD S939
or AM2 socket solution as well. And perhaps one of
those would run a bit cooler. Substitute the following
two lines, for the ones at the top of the other list.

Athlon 64 3800+ AM2 (because it was cheap enough) 62W $119
Asus M2N-E Socket AM2 motherboard

As of today, Conroe is in too short supply to use that in
a sample build. Apparently, the slowest and fastest Conroes
are available in some places, but since you are a first
time builder, bleeding edge stuff is not a good place to
start. That is why I selected the 531 processor instead.


Re: How to build my first computer

sgtsaunders wrote:
Quoted text here. Click to load it

Some computer building guides can be found at:

Watch out for static electricity and shorts.  Static damage can happen
even if you don't see sparks (it's best to cover entire work surface
with anti-static pink foam sheet or anti-static pink bubble wrap and
work in short sleeves and bare feet), and shorts usually occur between
the case and mobo.  Don't install everything and then turn on the
power.  Instead, first install just enough stuff to let you verify
operation, then add one device at a time and test it before adding

When installing a heatsink/fan that requires a screwdriver to fasten
the spring clip in place, use a screwdriver of the right size (blade
about 1/4" wide) and shape (sides should be straight, not curved).
Otherwise you may not be able to pry the clip properly.  If possible,
slip something thin under the area where the clip hooks to the CPU
socket to protect the copper traces on the mobo if the screwdriver
slips.  Thin cardboard works, but much better is the plastic used for
soda bottles.  I check a heatsink by shining a flashlight from the
opposite side to see that  it's flush with the CPU and not crooked.

One of the first things I do after the computer boots is configure the
BIOS, especially its overtemperature alarm and protection.  Then I run
MemTest86 for a few hours (boot from floppy or CD-ROM) and measure
voltages periodically with a digital multimeter.

I normally test with everything outside of the case (mobo has to be
placed on top of the anti-static foam sheet included with it and about
1" of newspaper -- not shiney paper, which causes static, so the rear
bracket of the graphics card will clear the table.  When installing the
mobo in the case, first check each mounting hole, top and bottom, for
copper traces that run too close and may short against the brass
standoffs or its screws, and install fiber insulating washers as
necessary.  If the case won't let you install a standoff within 2" of a
corner of the mobo, support that corner by sticking a press-on rubber
foot to the case near the corner.

Leave at least 0.5" of air space on each side of each hard drive to
help cool them.  Even better is vertical mounting, such as from the
bottom of the drive rack.

Re: How to build my first computer

sgtsaunders wrote:

Quoted text here. Click to load it

I forgot to mention that you want to avoid junk PSUs because they can
damage your system when they fail.  Decent brands include Enermax,
Fortron-Source/Hi-Q/PowerQ/Sparkle, and Antec.  Fortron is really good,
conservatively rated (a 350-400W Fortron will beat the average 500W)
and unusually cheap -- see or  Antecs are
sometimes very cheap after rebate, like $15-25 for a 350W with case  Be
careful about relying on PSU reviews because most are garbage, with
some of the very few exceptions being those at,,,, and

If there's a Fry's in your area, check them because they can be really
cheap, especially for mobo/CPU deals (see to get an idea of their offerings).
  If not, consider NewEgg and a mobo made by Asus/Asrock.  It seems
that you don't need much graphics power, but still get something
compatible with DirectX 9 or later because some programs, even those
that don't require fast graphics, like video players, won't run without
it.  Even lowly nVidia FX5200 and ATI Radeon 9550 cards support this,
and they're sometimes offered for $0-20. lists most local computer specials, although they
tend to miss Fry's deals.  The cheapest HDs are now often 160-200 GB.

Re: How to build my first computer

If you want to do it to learn and have fun it's great.  However, it is
cheaper to buy a computer set/bundle in Best Buy.

Re: How to build my first computer

sgtsaunders wrote:
Quoted text here. Click to load it

another way to approach this

whoever you order you parts from
get them to match things up

for example, get them to pick out compatible memory chips for the
motherboard you select has low end barebone systems

in other words, you get everything but say.. the hard drive and say..
the memory

as a rule for a econo but durable pc.. get a motherboard that has good

like, one that has built in sound and video
barebone comes bundled with a processor cool? cool?

then just pick out a hd and dvd burner

checkout tigerdirects, barebone systems


get a fast one, you can get 3 ghz celeron (which is not bad at all)
for under say 250.00 (cumalative costs)

or, consider a dual processor from AMD (also at T.D.)
AMD rox! will be hard-core for years. but AMD usually costs a tad more.


Site Timeline