Plan your Custom Build in 5 Stages

4 minute read

Welcome back! I assume you’ve read the first post in this series - why build your own PC. Hopefully you’re back because you want to learn more or have decided to build a custom computer of your own.

I know it’s tempting to start shopping for parts but restrain yourself and do some planning first. Having finished my build already, I’ve come up with a 5 point plan that I think will help custom build beginners. If you’ve done this before you should still find this plan helpful in kickstarting your project.

Stage 1. What is it for?

First think about all the things you want from your shiny new computer. It sounds obvious but so many people are seduced by all the latest components on offer. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting time looking at parts that you really don’t need.

Think about it, is your computer for gaming, office work, web surfing or all of the above? You should look up the hardware requirements for whatever software or game you plan to run. This will help you narrow down the right components for you and also help in setting a more realistic budget.

Going to the local electronics retailers is a safer bet, at least their staff can help you, right?

During a visit to my local electronics store (they will remain nameless!) I asked the sales guy what his recommendation would be between 2 similarly priced laptops. The best the sales guy could muster was one brand was better than the other, he had no idea about the features and specs.

The days of having a well-informed sales adviser are almost gone so it pays to know something about what you’re about to buy. In my experience, when it comes to computer parts most deals are found online.

Stage 2. Know the Basics

Whether you’re a first time or an experienced builder you need to learn about what the components do and how they fit together. With technologies changing so much all the time, learn about them and how your custom build can use them.

Are you building for the first time? Learn first, build second. I’m sure there’s lots of people who have brought a processor that isn’t supported by the motherboard or DDR2 memory for a DDR3 board.

There’s probably someone shopping online right now, wondering why 2 similar parts differ so much in price. Maybe there’s someone just about to pay for an expensive graphics card unaware the case has a maximum length for these cards?

If you learn about the different parts in a custom build you can avoid the hype and pick parts based on your needs. The last thing you want is a processor that is too slow or a graphics card that doesn’t support that game that you’ve been dreaming of playing.

Stage 3. Set your Budget

Unless you’re friends call you moneybags or you have a wealthy benefactor, you’ll need to set a budget for your build. Going crazy and choosing all the best parts is great until you notice all those zeros in your online shopping cart!

For a first build it’s difficult to know how to set a budget especially if you’ve never brought some of the components before. That’s why it’s important learn the basics so that you can choose components intelligently rather than ending up buying anything that was on special offer.

Doing this will allow you to set a realistic budget.

The way to stick to your budget is to find components that are in the good, better and best range. I used online shopping carts to add a bunch of stuff and then slowly narrowed down my search. Sometimes you’ll find a superior component for only a few more bucks and other times you’ll realise why going for the cheaper motherboard is better value for money.

Looking at similar products in different price ranges is a great way to figure out where you can save money and where you can afford to spend a little more.

Stage 4. Recycle Stuff

Unless this is your first computer, look at your existing one and see if you can recycle any parts.  You might even have some spare parts lying around as well (If you work in IT like me you’ll have lots of parts lying around). Components like hard drives, power supplies and optical drives can all be used again.

For my build I re-used 2 SSD hard drives and 2 SATA hard drives along with my old power supply. That’s a couple of hundred dollars that I didn’t have to spend and reusing these parts was the reason I was able to afford an Intel 6th generation processor and board.

The other option is to sell parts from your old computer to raise funds for your new build. Recycling working parts from old computers or laptops gives you more money to spend on better components or helps cover some of the cost of your build.

Stage 5. Don’t blow it up!

Let me set the scene; you diligently plan your build, spend time learning, select all the perfect parts for your custom build and carefully build your pc. As the sweat trickles down your forehead you tentatively press the power button in anticipation of computer utopia.

Silence, no lights, no whirring of fans and a blank screen.…f@!!! is the only thing you can say as you slump into you chair….

I suppose it is possible that the power supply or motherboard was already faulty but having read numerous threads on forums, I suspect that a good chunk of these dead components was caused by something else. Static my friend, static.

Electronics love static as much as Superman loves kryptonite, the two just don’t go together!

Invest in at least an anti-static wrist strap or go for a full anti-static kit which includes a mat. Include this cost in your budget and think logically, you’re spending a sizable amount on your pc so protect the components while you assemble them.

You’ll see in the upcoming videos how these kits work but essentially you are grounding yourself and your parts to prevent shorting you electronics.