Building a new computer - advice needed

March 10, 2011 at 23:27:10
Specs: Windows XP
I intend to build myself a new computer and wanted some advice on what to look for in the various components, and what brand, specs, etc other people consider to be good/bad. I've been looking around and for some things it just seems they all look the same.

The plan for the computer will be to run Windows 7. I'm a fairly standard user, so don't typically do very high intensive gaming or anything like that. A lot of components on my current computer are either broken or too old to be useful for such a new system, so new ones of them will need to be purchased, but some are quite adequate.
I'm willing to spend a bit of money on this, as I would like it to be adequate and functional for many years without replacement or upgrade being needed, but at the same time I'm not willing to cough up for the top of the line components if their functionality is far beyond what I would actually need.


OS: Windows 7 for definite. Home? Pro? Elite?

Other software, eg Office: Just going to go with what I currently have, since it's adequate, and I can easily upgrade later if needed.

Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse: Already have them.

Hard drive: Current hard drive is old and clunky, but ok, so will probably use it as my secondary hard drive. Would like to purchase a solid state hard drive though, even if I only put my programs and OS on it. Advice?

Motherboard, CPU, Case, RAM, PSU, graphics card: Will be purchasing all these. Advice?

Sound card: Is this even needed? I can't get a clear idea of this.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, no matter how much or how little.


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March 11, 2011 at 06:32:17
1st you need to decide whether you want to build an AMD or Intel system. All modern AMD systems use the AM3 socket so that makes things fairly easy. Intel systems use a variety of different sockets (775, 1155, 1156, 1366). Of the Intel sockets, 775 is the oldest, 1155 is the newest, 1156 is mainstream, 1366 is high end.

Once you've decided on the brand, then you can decide on a CPU & motherboard. All boards have integrated sound so a discrete sound card generally isn'y necessary unless you're a hardcore audiophile. Many boards also have integrated graphics. This is generally adequate for general purpose use but for 3D graphics and/or gaming, a discrete graphics card is required. More budget oriented boards will only have 2 memory slots, others with have 4 or more. These are all thing that will need to be considered.

Personally, I'm not sold on SSD technology yet, especially considering the cost per GB. A 128GB SSD is over $200, a 1TB conventional HDD is about $50-60. SSDs have been shown to be considerably faster, but their long term reliablity is still unproven. However, they should be much better than conventional drives.

All modern systems uses DDR3 memory, so it's just a matter of deciding on how much, which speed it needs to run at & which brand to use. The speed needed depends on the CPU you choose.

Choosing a good power supply unit (PSU) is critical. This is not the place to cut corners or buy generic. The wattage requirement will depend on the rest of the hardware you choose, but you should look for reputable brand with a single high amperage +12v rail, active PFC, & 80 plus efficiency rating.

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March 11, 2011 at 07:26:12
I would add to this the following,
If this is your first build, get a board with the cpu already installed.
Be sure the board comes with a cd.....chipset and driver cd.
Look closely at what type of memory and the cost of it.

Lay the board ,hd and cdroms on a non conductive surface and connect all parts....yes it will look like a bowl of spaghetti.....but it is easier to test and fine any problems before putting it in a case....(bench test)

Above all.....take your time.

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March 13, 2011 at 07:17:06
Although this would technically be my first complete build, I have done plenty of component installation and diagnostic reassembling with my current computer, so I'm not such a complete newbie that I wouldn't know the difference between a SATA cable and a power cable.

There's certainly things I've never done before though, and installing a CPU is one of them. Why would it be best to buy a motherboard with this already installed? And if I buy them separately, what should I keep in mind when installing the CPU?

Thanks for all the advice so far. It has been very helpful.


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March 13, 2011 at 07:45:11
If you buy a mobo with the cpu already installed, it saves one step, but it's not hard to do. I haven't installed one in a long time, but when I did, it came with a thermal pad, so no grease was necessary. Insert it into the mobo socket, apply the pad and lock down the heatsink, plug it into the mobo and away we go. Sometimes you can get a better deal on a mobo/cpu combo, like at

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