Help me build my first home-built computer, please!

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Hi Everyone,

I am looking for recommendations for my first home-built computer.
I have an old computer and the monitor is a 19 inch flat panel.
I want this for gaming mainly, but will be doing some MS Office, photo
and video editing on occasion.
I want to keep as close to my $800 budget, but will consider going
over if the cost is worthy. I really don't know what to purchase, but
I need everything to work together, including the case. Oh, I know I
want a good PSU - at least 600w, I do have flash drives, camera, zip
drives, and other things that will need power.
Please include model, price and store, and why that item. I want to
learn about the items as well as learning how to build and repair my
Different note: What are the differences between ATA, PATA and SATA?

Re: Help me build my first home-built computer, please! wrote:
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The purchase algorithm would be:

1) Intel processors offer higher performance options than AMD.
    Pricing should be comparable between Intel and AMD, in the low
    to mid range. For the upper ranges, an Intel processor might be used.
    The Intel processors go up to $1000 models, which would not be
    appropriate for your (or any) build. $300 or less will buy a
    nice processor. with no good reason to go higher than that.
    Some decent 45nm processors, just introduced, are $225 or so.
    A quad Q6600, which can be overclocked, is below $300.

2) Find a motherboard with good reviews. For example, this is a cheap
    motherboard, with a bare minimum of hardware resources. Only room
    for two sticks of DDR2 RAM. If you buy in the $100 to $150 range,
    you might get a few extra peripheral chips (Firewire might be handy,
    depending on the video camera you own).

3) Check the CPU compatibility for the motherboard. The list here is for
    that example cheap Gigabyte motherboard.

4) Repeat exercise for your preferred AMD or Intel processor choices.
    AMD boards are currently socket AM2. Intel are LGA775. Those are
    the mainstream.

5) Find performance charts, so you can understand what a more expensive
    option is buying you.

6) Price all of your infrestructure. (Power supply, optical burner, hard drive,
    keyboard, mouse, memory, computer case without power supply inside, etc.)
    DDR2 memory is dirt cheap, and 2x1GB sticks of DDR2 shouldn't cost a lot.

    The remains of your budget, after buying the basics, is your "graphics and
    CPU budget). Now, figure out whether there is money left for a $200 graphics
    card and a $225 processor, or whatever.

You're off a bit on power. Some of the recent hardware offerings are pretty
easy on power. And your list of "flash drives, camera, zip drives" draw no
appreciable power.

An ATI HD3850 PCI Express x16 video card, uses about 61 watts or so. A
Nvidia 8800GT PCI Express x16 video card, uses about 81 watts. (These
numbers can be found on, in some of their reviews.) A typical
Intel dual core processor (65 nanometers or 45 nanometers), uses 65 watts.
A hard drive is 13 watts. A CD drive is 25 watts (max, with media spinning
at max speed). The motherboard and a couple sticks of RAM, are estimated
as a budget of 50W, because nobody does detailed measurements on them. I've
measured my own motherboards, but the numbers are not representative of
recent motherboard offerings. Allocate 10W for standby power. Allocate 6W
for cooling fans. Total so far is

    61 + 65 + 13 + 25 + 50 + 10 + 6 = 230W

There are good reasons for purchasing larger supplies. Sometimes, the
supplies are 80% or more efficiency (which means less waste heat comes
out of them). Sometimes, to get a decent individual rail rating for
the multiple DC output rails, you need to purchase a larger one.
Or maybe, if the video card needs a PCI Express 2x3 power connector,
you have to purchase a better one to find that. But in terms of the
total watts number, a 600W is overkill for your application. With the
right supply, even a 350W could be used in a pinch. (If it was a
quality 350W design.) There are some cheap 600W supplies, that
are more like a 350W design in practical terms. You can learn more
about supply brands to avoid here. (If you're paying $20 for a 600W
supply, then it probably isn't a 600W supply.)

When you've completed your shopping exercise, post the links,
with a text description above each link, so we know at a glance,
what the link is for. Then, people here can offer feedback on
the choices you made, and how best to modify them.

There are hundreds of choices for each component. And better
for you to read the reviews, and make your own tradeoffs, than
for us to spend the time shopping, and select stuff you're not
interested in.

Note that there are a few games, for which no amount of hardware
allows them to be run smoothly at max detail settings. Which is a
fault of the game design, rather than the hardware. If you are
interested in particular games, then I recommend reading reviews
of the game (ones that mention the real hardware requirements),
in order to get a better fit between your hardware purchase
and the game. For the rest of what you do, the demands are less,
so once you design a "gamer box", the rest is for free.

For example, Crysis or Oblivion, would be resource hogs. Microsoft
Flight Simulator FSX is also pretty brutal on hardware, but its
performance improved after Microsoft released a service pack for
the game. Those are examples of games, where you should do the
research, before beginning your shopping spree.


Re: Help me build my first home-built computer, please!

I wouldn't recommend exactly following either of these:

or a rather more expensive system:,1697,2167624,00.asp

(Ignore the "girlfriend" bit.)

In the latter system, some cost savings are possible, partly because the
article is out of date. (It's from last August. Ancient history.) Replace
the 8800GTS 640 MB with an 8800GT 512 MB card:

$240 (save $155, even though it has better performance than the older 640 MB

The Q6600 is a bit cheaper than it was 6 months ago:

(<$280, save $20) You could switch to a Core2 Duo and save a little more
cash, but quad core has a greater nerd lust factor. ;-)

I'd probably also lose the microATX mainboard in favor of a standard ATX
one, such as:

($100, save $50. Caveat: like many recent mainboards, this one has a single
IDE port, supporting a maximum of two devices. If you need to re-use more
than two IDE devices, get a board with an older chipset, like a 975X.)

some less expensive RAM:

($54, save $55. Caveat: check that the mainboard can provide the 1.9V that
this RAM prefers)

Maybe this power supply:

($120, same price)

The Cooler Master case is probably a good choice:

($50 incl. shipping, same price)

Add a SATA DVD burner:


 You could change the OS to XP Home Retail Upgrade (if you have a qualifying
OS disk) and avoid some Vista compatibility worries:

(save $90)

(XP home supports a single CPU *socket*, so it'll work with a Q6600. You
won't get DX10 with XP, but that's of limited value at the moment. If you
decide that you want Vista, Home Premium is the right version. The Vista
upgrade versions are much more awkward to use than for XP, so I'd recommend
getting a Full version.)

I get a total that would be about $340 less than in the Extreme Tech
article, or about $1080. The 8800GT is a bargain for a high-end gaming
graphics card.

The only parts that I have on the above list are the Q6600 and the Samsung
burner. My system is built from somewhat pricier but otherwise similar
pieces. I expect that the above are pretty good.)

As regards your unrelated question, SATA is serial ATA. PATA is parallel
ATA, also known as ATA. (ATA means Advanced Technology Attachment, according
to Wikipedia. It seems to be essentially synonymous with IDE, Integrated
Drive Electronics.) These are interfaces for drives. PATA uses a 40 or 80
conductor ribbon cable; SATA is the newer interface, and it uses a much
smaller 7 conductor cable. There's not much point in buying new PATA
devices. SATA was more expensive a year or two ago, but the price
differences are small today. Some mainboards may require drivers to be
loaded so that the operating system will recognize SATA drives, but I
believe that is unnecessary with the Intel chipset (P35) above.

This isn't a complete story, but I hope that it gives you a starting place
for your own reading.

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