Have you ever tried to build a computer? For geeks like me, building your own computer is a sort of rite of passage. But even if you’re not a geek, there’s plenty of advantages to building a computer yourself. It’s quite a process, but when all is said and done, you’ll end up with a machine custom-suited to your needs for (possibly) cheaper than you would’ve spent on a regular old computer on the shelves. So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be taking you through the process of building your own custom computer.

Last week, I took you through the step-by-step process of putting a computer together. But what if you get all the parts you need, hook it all up, and it still doesn't work? First of all, don't panic. It may be something as simple as a bad connection. Go back in to the computer and make sure:

  • The power supply is firmly plugged in and turned on. You might also want to try a different outlet.
  • The power supply is plugged into the motherboard
  • The case's power switch is properly connected to the motherboard
  • The drives are connected to the motherboard properly.
  • The video cards are in working order. Try unseating it from the motherboard, reseating it, and powering in on again. If your motherboard has a built-in video card, try removing the additional video cards and boot up the system using just the on-board video card.

If you've tried all of that, you may have a bad part, and the only way to figure out which part is bad is to start switching them out. And remember, there's no shame in asking for help. If you bought the parts locally, you can always go back to the shop and ask them to help you out. If you bought them online, you may have to enlist a computer repair company or a tech-savvy buddy to help you out.

To wrap things up, I'd like to answer a few questions I've received about building your own PC.

Why should I build my own computer in the first place?

There are plenty of reasons to build your own computer as opposed to buying one off the shelves. For one thing, the PCs you can buy in a store may not have everything you're looking for in your budget, or may have a bunch of unnecessary components you have to pay extra for just to get the components you want. One of the great things about PCs is that it's quite easy to customize the individual components of the machine, and building your own PC from scratch ensures that you get only the components you want. Not to mention that, in some cases, it's actually quite a bit cheaper to build a custom PC than buying one off the shelves, and since you know each individual component, it will also be easier to pinpoint any problems and repair them, again for probably less than you would pay for someone to check out your entire machine.

How much will building my own computer cost me?

That depends on how much you're willing to spend. It's possible to build an efficient, inexpensive computer for under $500, but I've also seen some custom-made rigs out there that cost upwards of $4,000. It really depends on the parts you use, and what kind of computer you're looking to build. As I mentioned before, a high-end gaming system will have some very different requirements that your average run-of-the-mill computer. Basically, your new computer will cost you however much you want to put into it.

Do you have any recommendation on parts/suppliers?

Again, the parts you choose really depends on your budget and your purposes. So it's a little difficult for me to recommend specific parts. However, I can recommend a couple of companies that make the parts:

  • For processors, you basically have two choices: Intel or AMD. And don't forget that the processor you choose will also affect which motherboard you use.
  • Seagate and Western Digital are good choices for your internal hard drive. Both offer super fast drives with some massive storage capacity.
  • For RAM, Kingston has been in the market for a number of years, and has always offered some solid memory. Corsair, G. Skill and Crucila are also good choices.
  • For video and graphics cards, Nvidia and AMD both make some excellent cards, particularly Nvidia's GeForce brand and AMD's Radeon brand.
  • And for sound cards, ASUS and Creative Sound Blaster both offer top-notch cards.

As far as suppliers, I would recommend specialty sites like Newegg and TigerDirect. Sites like these tend to buy computer parts in bulk, which means they can offer them for cheaper prices. Also, these sites in particular have excellent customer service and reputation, so I would try them before anyplace else. You can also check out the bigger names like Amazon and eBay, but if you don't know the exact part you're looking for, it can be difficult to find what you need.