There are more PC parts out there than sand in the ocean – or at least, almost as many. While that can be a great asset to building your PC since you have many options, it also means that it can be difficult to pick the right parts for your dream machine – particularly when said dream machine has a specific purpose.
If you need your PC to perform a specific task well – gaming, video editing, streaming or rendering 3D objects, for example, you need to make slightly different choices than if you are just building a PC for the fun of it. In fact, a fantastic part for gaming might not be a good choice for users who want to focus on compiling code and vice versa.
In other words, to build the right PC for your needs, you’ll want to make sure that you have a clear goal in mind. Not all parts are ideally suited to each other, and if you pick the wrong CPU, you could end up bottlenecking your entire machine.
Tip: A bottleneck is a hardware limitation usually in either the GPU or the CPU, where one insufficient part slows down performance and throttles higher-performing parts because it can’t keep up – for example, pairing a cheap graphics card, such as a GT 1030, with a high-tier CPU such as an i9. The GPU limits the system’s performance and prevents the strong CPU from reaching its potential.
Determining the Purpose
The first step in creating your custom PC is working out what you want it to do. Of course, it’s fine to use it for multiple things, but you’ll want to determine what you use it for the most – and what you do on it that would be the most challenging for the parts.
For example, even if you mainly use it for games, you won’t need a full-scale gaming setup if you only play simple browser-based games. If, instead, you occasionally do some video rendering, it’s better to spec your PC for that, even if you don’t do it as often as playing the games.
Tip: Write down all the major things you want to do with your new computer, and then work out what on that list has the highest impact on your PC’s performance and therefore has the biggest impact on your new system!
If you need more help with your PC build, we’ve created a series of guides for this exact topic. So if you want to build a gaming machine, VR-capable machine, streaming machine, esports machine, or work machine, we’ve created a helpful guide for you.
Planning for Limitations
Unless you have both unlimited space and money, you won’t be able to build the ‘perfect’ machine, no matter what you do. As such, you will need to work out the limitations of your system. The bottleneck points are often the CPU or GPU, but RAM and storage can also become an issue. Work out by using online comparison sites like https://pc-builds.com/bottleneck-calculator/, which part of your build is the bottleneck.
Then, if necessary, adjust your plan to counteract the bottleneck – and potentially trade a few other parts for worse ones to get a better CPU/GPU/etc. instead, and increase overall performance, or go ahead if you are happy with your build.
The Biggest Decisions
There are obviously a lot of parts that go into a computer – but realistically, some are more important than others. The heart of any PC is the motherboard and the CPU/GPU combo. They are often the most important decisions, so if you have one or two specific parts you want to form your build around, they are a good place to start.
For other parts such as the power supply or the hard drives, the decisions are easier – other parts will help you determine which ones you need, with some room for negotiation, of course. Unless you are building your rig around one particular part, it’s always a good idea to work out the CPU/GPU/Motherboard combination you want and then continue from there.
The CPU is ultimately the brains of your PC – so you definitely want to pick a good part here. While you can upgrade your CPU down the line, doing so isn’t as easy as replacing many other parts and can even involve replacing your motherboard. It is also a fairly expensive part, so picking a good one immediately can save you a lot of headaches in the future!
For any sort of gaming, video rendering, or even when running a high-spec monitor, you’ll want to make sure to get a GPU that can handle what you’re going to throw at it. For a work PC or one used to compile code, you won’t need to focus on the GPU as much, but you’ll still want to pick a good quality card, even if it’s a lower-spec one. Quality matters when it comes to your GPU – and unless your CPU has a built-in graphics chip, your computer will be useless if yours fails!
Motherboard (size, compatibility)
While the exact motherboard model won’t matter so much, you’ll have to think of several things when choosing – for example, whether or not your selected CPU and motherboard are compatible. Many good brands offer two versions – one compatible with Intel CPUs and for AMD ones. Make sure your choice has the correct socket for your CPU, or you won’t be able to build your PC at all! The chipset is also important as each generation typically gets a high- and low-end motherboard chipset.
Another thing to consider is the size of your motherboard. There are several sizes, such as E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. Smaller boards fit into smaller cases but can place restrictions on what you can plug in – and top-spec GPUs probably won’t fit into anything other than a full-size case with a full ATX board or an even bigger E-ATX. On the other hand, if you are trying to build a more mobile PC, and all your parts are compatible with a Mini-ITX, you can save a lot of space and weight by building yourself a tiny PC.
No matter what you’re building a PC for, it’s normally a great idea to plan out your build before buying anything unless you see a spectacular deal on something you know you’ll want. Planning gives you time to ensure compatibility, make sure you’re spending the most money where it makes sense for your use case, and ensure that everything fits in your overall budget.
Finally, before just going out and buying everything on your parts list from Amazon or any other retailer, it’s worth shopping around. You can often find some decent deals, and if you’re lucky, you can even get an upgrade from what you wanted for less money because it happened to be on sale.