II: The research phase, how to pick all your components



There are two great moments when building your computer: The first one is when you receive all the boxes with your shinny components and you start to open all of them discovering all parts and pieces. The second one is when you power up the computer for the first time and you see the BIOS message, which means that everything is working fine (or at least, it is close to be working properly). What people don’t say is that both of them happen when all the hard work is already done.

That’s because as I’ve introduced in the previous post, the most difficult part of the building is not assembling all components together, but picking all the components between the vast amount of options you will encounter. When choosing the components for your new machine, aside from individual specifications and performance the main thing to look for is that all the components are compatible between them. Currently, I find two ways of doing this:

  1. The traditional, time consuming and hard way: You can read the specifications of every component and check that all of them are compatible between each other. For example, if the type of the case you want is a Mid Tower compatible with ATX format, you should look for a motherboard that is also ATX. I want to stop to say something that may be obvious, but seems to be often forgotten: everything that you don’t know can be found if you do a quick search in Google. If you have got lost with acronyms in the previous example, ATX (Advance Technoloy Extended) is a motherboard configuration specification. If the motherboard is ATX and the case is also ATX, it means that the case is ready to fit this kind of motherboard. You can do the same for every component, another example of something you will have to deal with is the memory: if the motherboard is ready for DDR3 RAM memory with several speed options, when you pick the memory, it should be DDR3 type with a speed that the motherboard is able to handle. As you can see, it is a straightforward comparison, although it takes a lot of time for each component. Fortunately, there is another way
  2. The automated way using internet: Things change quickly and you may not have any interest in what all the acronyms mean (I can tell you that for sure I don’t know all of them). Nowadays the best way is to use a website that allows you to see clearly all the specifications and it automatically tells you which components are compatible between them. You can use anyone you like but one that is commonly used, and I personally recommend is PCpartpicker. There you can choose the component, quickly check the most important  specifications, a rating from previous buyers, the prize and if they are a part of an offer that includes another component.

My recommendation is then to use the help of any system builder because the hardest and most boring part of the research is done for you. Also, if you have any doubt of your choice you can publish it to other users and they can evaluate if you should modify something with a better choice. There’s just no good reason not to use that amount of help.

Another interesting thing in this kind of websites is the availability of check building guides and completed builds done by other users to get some inspiration on what you want to buy. You can quickly learn from the comments and ratings of other users why people made some picks and why they didn’t do others. Also, many people will tell you not only what components they choose but why did they choose it, which gives you an idea of the capabilities and the possibilities you have.

From now own, I’m moving talk about each component by itself and I am going to tell you what you should be looking for depending on what do you want for your computer. Because I will assume that you will be using help to check for compatibility and to improve the lifespan of this guide, I will not go deep into current technologies but how to know that you are choosing what you need and not what has the most “hype” in the moment.