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These days, it's easier than ever to build your computer. There are so many places to buy and comparison shop for individual computer parts that you almost have to try not to get a good deal on a homebuilt PC. Even better, there are a number of resources out there that offer step by step instructions, buying guides, and support, so you've got help every step of the way, even if you're a beginner. We've compiled 100 of these resources, as well as some of the things you'll need to get the job done.
Tools & Components
These tools aren't online resources. Rather, they're the essential bits and pieces you'll need both in your computer and the tools to put it all together.
- PC Case: This is the piece of hardware that everything will live in.
- Phillips head screwdriver: Most PCs use a Phillips head screwdriver.
- Hard drive: This one's essential, as just about everything in your computer will live in the hard drive.
- Screw extractor: If you drop a screw into your PC's body, this tool will make it easy to get it out.
- Wire stripper: This tool comes in handy if you need to do more advanced electrical or wiring modifications.
- Cable ties: Tidy up your cables with these ties to help increase airflow.
- Keyboard: You can't get by without attaching this input device.
- Mouse: Another important input device, the mouse is just as essential as the keyboard, unless you want to learn a lot of keyboard shortcuts.
- Monitor: Although media PCs may not need it, most PCs can't get by without a window into the way it's working.
- Flashlight: Get a good look at what you're working on by using a flashlight.
- Lint-free cloth: Get rid of accumulated dust with a lint-free cloth.
- Processor: A processor will interpret instructions in your computer.
- Processor cooling fan: Keep the processor cool and efficient with a built-in fan.
- CD/DVD Drive: If you need to install software from a disk, or play a DVD or CD on your computer.
- Tweezers: These are helpful for picking up and installing various bits and pieces. Needlenose pliers will work as well.
- Motherboard: The motherboard provides the connections other components will need to work together.
- Motherboard spacers: Although spacers generally come with the motherboard, you may need to buy some to space your motherboard off of your mounting plate.
- Memory: Without memory, your computer would only be able to perform a fixed operation and immediately output the result, like a calculator. With memory, your PC becomes a multifunctional device like the computers you're likely used to.
- Power supply: Without juice, your computer won't run.
- Video card: A video card will generate an output image on your display. This is especially important for gaming computers.
- Drive cables: Although they may be included with components, be sure you have the cables you need to hook everything up.
- LAN card: This card can be used to connect computers together and form a network. Your motherboard may already have a LAN port, so check before you buy this.
- Screws: PC cases generally provide all of the screws you need, but just in case, make sure you're covered.
- Sound card: The sound card translates digital signals into analog audio. This is essential if you want to play games or run multimedia applications.
- Spare parts container: Store small parts while you're working to keep everything handy and safe. This can be anything from an old coffee can to something you pick up at the hardware store.
- Anti-static wrist band: Computer components are sensitive to static electricity. Make sure you're wearing an anti-static wrist band to protect them.
- Grounding strap: Just like an anti-static wrist band, a grounding strap with help mitigate static electricity.
- System disk: This disk should have all of your system and setup files on it.
- Device drivers: Although they usually come with hardware, you'll need to ensure that you've got all of the right device drivers to do the job.
- Operating system: This software will manage your computer and give you a way to interact with it.
- Fdisk and Format: These utilities configure PC hard drives for use. You'll also learn about hard drive partitioning and formatting from this resource.
Get help finding the best parts for the best price with these guides.
- How To Build A PC: From Component Selection To Installation: Read this article to get the lowdown on picking up a processor.
- How To Choose A Motherboard: A Guide For Beginners: Check out this guide for valuable information on choosing this all-important component.
- How to Build a “Cheap” Gaming Computer: This article lists the components for a budget gaming computer rig.
- Budget PC Guide: Check out the parts of a budget PC here.
- How to pick the right case for your build: This guide offers reputable brands and advice on buying this important component.
- 5 Essential Things to Know About Buying a Computer Power Supply: Read this article before you buy a power supply device for your computer.
- Computer monitor buying guide: Learn about monitors from CRT to LCD and the factors to consider when choosing one.
- Choosing a Hard Disk Drive: If you're building your computer from scratch, you're probably going to buy one or all of these components. Find the right hardware for your needs using this guide.
- Five Best Places to Buy Computer Parts: Buy parts that meet your needs by using this guide.
- Audio Interface Buying Guide: Learn the ins and outs that come with buying a sound card here.
- Desktop Video Card Buyer's Guide: Find the right video card for your PC using this guide.
- What's The Best Place to Buy Computer Parts?: This article recommends good PC shopping sites and provides advice for making the shopping experience a little easier.
- Learn How to Choose Computer Parts That Suit Your Needs: Get the ultimate in customization using this guide.
- My Cheap Computer Tool Kits Suggestions: Read about one computer builder's must-have tools.
Learn how to build your PC through these tutorials that range from all-inclusive guides to specific task instructions.
- Anti-Static: Learn how static works against your PC components and what you can do about it.
- CPU Cooling: Read this resource to learn why CPUs get hot and what you can do about it.
- PC Building Precautions: Read this guide to stay safe and avoid damage when building your PC.
- Build Your Own Computer: PC Mechanic offers this 23-step tutorial that takes you from materials to tidying up.
- IDE Configuration: Use this resource to set up multiple IDE hard drives and CD/DVD drives in your PC.
- Installing an Operating System: Get installation guides for a number of operating systems here.
- How to Build a Computer: The Complete Guide: Check out Lifehacker's complete tutorial.
- Build a Hackintosh Mac for Under $800: Check out Lifehacker's tutorial for building a Mac from scratch.
- The Basics of Personal Computer Hardware: Learn about hardware essentials in this article.
- Installing a CPU Onto Your Computer's Motherboard: Find out about the details behind installing a CPU.
- Building a Low Cost PC: This article offers a 6-part tutorial for building a highly customized PC on the cheap.
- How to Build Your Own PC: “If you want the strongest, most adaptable, and most upgradeable PC, you should build it yourself.”
- Installing a Motherboard is Easy: This guide breaks motherboard installation down into four easy steps.
- How to Format a Hard Drive: Once you've got your components in, format your hard drive to get started.
- My Super PC: Learn how to build an affordable, quality computer with this guide.
- Build a Cheaper, Customizable Alternative to Apple's Mac Pro: Get your hands on a super cheap Mac using this tutorial.
- How to Install a Power Supply for Your Computer: Get the juice to your PC using this installation guide.
- How to Install a Primary Hard Drive: Install a hard drive with this four-step guide.
- Install RAM Memory in Your PC: Find out how to install this component and give your PC some speed.
- How to Open a Computer Case: Follow this guide to learn how to open a case properly.
- Build Your Own PC: This tutorial takes you through many steps of building your own computer from purchasing components to installing the OS and drivers.
- Hard Drive, Floppy & CD Drive Install: Read this guide to learn how to install a hard, floppy, or CD drive.
- Install PCI Cards on Your Desktop Computer: Get the details and troubleshooting information on this easy install.
- Learn to Build a Computer: This 13 step tutorial takes you through everything you'll need to build a computer.
- Installing a Dual Boot Operating System: Learn how to put both Red Hat Linux 9 and Windows XP on your computer with this tutorial.
- Learn What Lies Inside a Computer: This article details the many parts of a computer.
- How to Disassemble a Computer: If you're scrapping an old PC for parts, be sure to check out this guide.
- Learn How to Install a Motherboard: This article details the installation of a motherboard.
Media Center and Gaming Resources
If you're going to build your own PC, why not take it a step further and build a media or gaming machine while you're at it? These guides and resources will help you get the job done.
- How to Convert Your Computer Into a DVR Using Windows Media Center: Check out this tutorial to learn how to build a DVR on your computer.
- PC build guide: the best budget gaming PC: Read this guide to learn how to build a cheap gaming computer that works great.
- The $1,000 Gaming / Productivity PC Build: Build a gaming PC on the cheap using this guide.
- Best Gaming PC Build For Under $1000, A Gaming Build for Gods: Get the details and price list for building a gaming PC here.
- Updated Home Theater PC Builds for 2016: Build a great home media PC with these components.
- How to turn your old PC into a modern media center with Kodibuntu: Check out this how-to to find out how to build a media center on Linux.
- How to Set Up a Home Media Server You Can Access From Any Device: HowToGeek offers a guide for creating a home-brewed media center.
- Home Theater PC Build: This article discusses building a media center PC with home theater capabilities.
- Introduction to Building Custom Gaming Computers: Get introduced to the world of custom gaming computers and learn about their advantages.
- MythTV: MythTV offers all-in-one software to get TV on your computer.
- The pros and cons of building your own computer: Find out about the perks (and risks) that come with building a computer on your own.
- FreeCodecs.com: Load your PC up with all of the essential audio and video codecs with FreeCodecs.
- Building a Cheap Gaming Computer: Tips to Save Money: Build your computer on a tight budget with these tips.
You're not alone in your homebrewed PC adventure. Get tips, support, and more from these communities and services.
- PC Mechanic Forums: These forums have advice and support for building your own PC as well as general computer questions.
- Hardware Zone: Check out Hardware Zone's Hardware Clinic for help with technical issues.
- Taming The Beast Hardware Training: This training section has a plethora of information about specific pieces of PC hardware as well as troubleshooting.
- Hardware Central: Hardware Central's forums offer peer support on everything from motherboards to overclocking.
- Glossary: If you're confused about PC building terms, check out this growing glossary for some insight.
- CyberTechHelp: Get free help and support from this online community.
- /r/buildapc: Find hardware discussions and help on these Reddit forums.
- My Super PC Forums: Get help from first boot problems to assembly on these forums.
- PC Troubleshooting Plus: This resource has loads of troubleshooting help for homebuilt PCs.
- 10 Tips for Maintaining Your PC: Follow these tips to protect your hard work and investment on an ongoing basis.
- PCMech Forums: These forums offer support and discussion of the technology behind home PC building.
- alt.comp.hardware: This discussion forum on Google Groups offers lots of hardware help.
- alt.comp.hardware.pc-homebuilt: Homebuilt PC users can share information and help each other using this group.