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Basics of PC Building and Customization: Part 3

We're going to try to wrap up our PC building basics guide with this article, reviewing some information on your RAM, storage drives, and booting the finished product. Of course, there's a ton of information available on each and every one of these components and the myriad of options available to builders both casual and professional, so definitely research before buying! As mentioned in part 1, the communities at /r/pcmasterrace and /r/buildapc are friendly and provide great recommendations and guidance on your selections, whether you are building your first PC or your fiftieth. That said, let's dive right in.

You're going to need some data storage. Not just for your OS, but for your installed software such as all the incredible games you're going to play. Once again, you have another choice to make but if you've got the budget, you can certainly go with the best of both worlds here. Most storage drives are either SSDs or HDDs. The differece between these is vast, and you'll need to select which one (or both) will best suit your needs. HDDs are traditional hard drives that have been around for years; mechanical devices that spin up metal platters to read and store data in large quantities. Most of these drives are available over 1TB, and are quite affordable in cost. This is a great option for storing large amounts of data such as video files, games that use HD textures, or multi-layered files used in things like Photoshop or CAD software. So, what's the downside? As mentioned before, hard drives have moving parts and are mechanical devices. This means they have to spin up to read and store data; moving parts means slower access, and higher failure rate. Jarring a hard drive or having it near a magnetic field can irreparably damage these devices and your data with it. This is a problem that is resolved by SSDs. Solid State Drives do not have moving parts, and do not store data on platters like hard drives. This means super fast access time, smaller size, and higher durability. This comes at a price, however. SSDs have come down significantly in price in recent years, but are still at a premium price in comparison to the data storage offered by traditional hard drives. Many users choose to use both, storing their system files and commonly played games and used applications on the smaller SSD, while storing their bulk data on a much larger HDD.

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While we're talking about data and how it's stored, another important choice is your RAM. This is where your active programs go, so your RAM speed and the size available will greatly affect your new PC's performance. While you have dedicated VRAM on your video card for gaming, your PC's RAM will also affect gaming and how your PC runs the game software. It's also important to be aware that this will greatly affect other software if you are using your new PC for high-intensity things like CAD software, video editing and rendering, and other powerhouse tools. Much like with video cards, there are tons of variation in size and speed, and you will need to evaluate your activities to best determine what you should get without going overbudget for extraneous hardware. Thankfully, as long as your RAM slots on your motherboard match the architecture of the RAM you are purchasing, this is one of the easiest items to upgrade at a later date and can have the most significant effect on your performance.

So, you've got everything build. Ready to boot? Double check all of your connections to make sure they're secure, everything that should have power is connected to your PSU, and your extra cords and cables are neatly organized away from any fragile or moving parts. Now hit that power button and enjoy the sound of your fans whirring your new creation into existence. But what if you don't get a video feed? This means there's something wrong, but we can troubleshoot that. Your motherboard should have a small speaker that you installed during the setup process, and if there any problems with the boot process that prevent it from going to BIOS, it will let you know through a series of beeps. These beeps are a code to help you determine what went wrong, and these codes can be deciphered based on your make and model of motherboard. Consult your manual or look online for a resource to help you figure out where the issue is, and work from there. This also doesn't mean that you did anything wrong with your build, as computer hardware can have a high failure rate and most large retailers offer excellent RMA policies for this. Once you get a successful boot, you will be taken to the BIOS screen that will allow you to check on your diagnostics such as installed parts, CPU temperature, etc. From here, if everything looks good, you're ready to install your OS of choice!

We hope that you've enjoyed this rundown of what goes into building a customized PC, and definitely encourage you to try your hand at making your own custom rig for your next computer. It's a lot of work, but you'll find that you will end up with a nicer, more powerful machine at a lower cost overall, and you'll have the knowledge and skills to upgrade it so it will last you for years. Be sure to keep focused with some Catalyst Mints, and show us some of your favorite PC builds!

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 October 2016 15:01
Written by Catalyst
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