I have come to realize that many people entertain the thought “Hey, I should upgrade my computer!” or “I could just build my own PC!” only to quickly counter themselves with “Wait, what’s all this stuff on the inside? Looks fragile, I might break it. Better not.”
- “I’m going to break something” – Looking back, it was the same thing for me. Especially the motherboard, with all the transistors and soldering on the backside – seems like you could easily damage something if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. But really the printed circuit boards are fairly durable, and the only cause for concern is damaging a part with electrostatic discharge. That is, when your body builds up a static charge and releases it onto a nearby object. Like when kids shuffle their feet around a carpeted floor in order to shock each other. The worry is so great (but very exaggerated) that most computer part stores also sell anti-static discharge wrist bands. But instead of spending money on another piece of junk, one can simply place their hand on another conductive surface to ground their charge (often times the frame of the desktop computer itself). Just don’t wear your sweatshirt and pajamas that you just took out of the dryer and everything will be OK.
- “It’s too expensive” – People often times upgrade their RAM to improve performance because of the increasing demands of newer operating systems and applications. It is also a cheap upgrade, costing as little as $30-40 for 8gb of RAM. Dropping in another hard drive ($40 for a 1 terabyte drive) is even easier, or a good opportunity to do a fresh operating system install (in my opinion, the best remedy for “my computer is running slow”). Building your own PC from scratch is no different. You can get a much better performance/cost ratio by shopping smartly and assembling the parts yourself. Just think about it – you’re cutting out the cost of assembly by doing it yourself.
- “It’s too hard to make sure everything is compatible” – The next big thing that trips people up, is compatibility issues. Will this part work, or won’t it? People want to KNOW before they buy something. This was part of the impetus behind the creation of PCPartpicker – a website that streamlines the entire compatibility/putting together process. You simply select the part you want until you have all the parts and it automatically filters the list of products so only compatible parts show. You can disable this feature if you just want to browse all products, too.
- “I don’t have the right tools” – These desktop PC components are made with that in mind. All you really need is a screw driver and a flashlight. Also thermal paste if you’re installing the CPU and cooler. There are an abundance of YouTube videos that show how to do this.
- “This all looks so… Complicated” – Relax, that’s what everyone says to themselves at some point in a project. You never know how things will turn out until you actually do it.
The purpose of this short article isn’t to persuade you into buying something you don’t need, but rather to explore a possible project without getting caught up in worrying about doing something wrong. This should be helpful for casual PC users who know that you can tinker around with your machine or build a custom PC, but were always hesitant to actually take a look inside and get their hands dirty. Here’s a look inside my old desktop, and how I modified it to suit a new purpose.