How to Build Your Own Computer

Tech Talker walks you through building your own desktop computer, and tells you what to look for to make sure it meets your computing needs.

Eric Escobar
5-minute read
Episode #135

Hey, everyone--this week I’m going to walk you through building your own desktop computer!.

I think I’ve reached a point in my podcasts where I can safely write about how to build a computer. I’ve done a ton of background episodes on all of the pieces of the computer (which I’ll link to in the shownotes of today’s episode). So this week, I’m going to lay the groundwork on how to start building your own desktop from just a pile of parts!

Set the Budget

First and foremost, set your budget. This will be the total amount that you’re willing to spend on all of the parts for your computer. I generally set my budget at around $600 for a computer that I expect to last anywhere from 5-6 years. If you were to buy a similar computer pre-made, the price would be anywhere from $1000-1600, depending on where you bought it from.

This is a huge price difference, and one that generally varies based on smart shopping and customizing the computer to fit your needs. For example, if I wanted to play a ton of video games, I might get a better graphics card, and not get as large of a hard drive. Or, I may only care about having a ton of storage, or making the computer super quiet. It comes down to you picking out what’s most important to you.

Decide on the Details

After you’ve set your budget, make a list of the things you want to have your computer be able to do. For example, some people may want a bunch of hard drive space, or to edit videos, surf the web, play video games, watch entertainment--you name it. This list will dictate your hardware purchases.

Here are some rules of thumb for what to focus on, depending on the type of computer you want:

  • Gaming computer: Look for a solid state hard drive, and a killer graphics card.
  • Storage computer: Get multiple hard drive ports (SATA connectors)
  • Energy Efficient: Seek a lower-power processor and an energy efficient power supply (Gold rated)
  • Entertainment: You'll want a decent graphics card
  • Video/Picture Editing: You need a decent amount of storage, and lots of RAM

You’ll notice I didn’t specify any hardware brands or numbers--rather, just general areas where you’ll want to focus most of your budget.

Research the Goods

From here, Google will be your best friend. You can simply search for terms related to the type of computer you want to build, such as “DIY gaming computer” or “DIY video editing computer." There will be no shortage of blogs and articles with people detailing their latest build, and explaining why they chose the hardware that they did.

One of my favorite places to start is LifeHacker. They have sample builds for $300, $600, and $1200, and they explain which hardware they chose, and why.

From here, you start deciding the hardware you want. The best place to compare hardware is on PCPartpicker.com, which will walk you through all of the necessary parts for a new computer build, and show prices and specs of each piece of hardware. While this is a really nice way to see what website has the best price for a certain piece of hardware, my favorite part about this site is the fact that it also checks the compatibility of all of your parts.

This has saved me big time when I've been putting together a system, and the website has alerted me that a certain piece of hardware I picked out isn’t compatible with another.


About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.