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Build your own hot, cool PC

Build your own hot, cool PC

High spec, hardware-intensive PCs like gaming PCs can cost thousands if you buy them ready-built. But the skills needed to put one together are not as impenetrable as some may think. You don’t need a degree in computer science, and you shouldn’t even need a soldering iron.

PCs are modular. You can swap out components like the CPU, memory and graphics card pretty easily. Putting together a PC from scratch involves buying a case, power supply, motherboard, hard disk drive, RAM, cooling fan, USB ports, sound card and a few other bits and bobs and slotting them together into a workable configuration. Then just add an operating system – free ones like Ubuntu are available but of course Windows costs money – and you’ve (hopefully) got a working computer that has cost you considerably less than an off-the-shelf or custom built one. So why pay someone else for the labour of putting it together when you could build it yourself?

A certain level of know-how is required, however, before embarking on the project. Doctor Frankenstein springs to mind. If you bolt together a random bunch of components, turn it on and yell ‘It’s aliiiiiiive!!’, well good luck and everything, but your results may vary. Building a good PC is as much about ‘tuning’ the components to each other as it is about throwing them together. To build a fast rig, optimisation is the name of the game.

A car analogy would be bolting a huge turbo to a small hatchback and expecting impressive performance. Actually, you’d need to upgrade most of the rest of the car to handle the extra power – and in any case the engine would probably blow up, rendering the rest of your modifications moot.

Adequate and efficient cooling is as vital to a well-tuned PC as the cooling system is to a car. CPUs and GPUs generate a lot of heat – any data centre manager will attest to that as he bounces off the walls over his air conditioning bill. That heat needs to be carried away by heat sinks, fans and sometimes liquid cooling systems as quickly as it is generated, or there’ll be a meltdown.

So building a good PC is not quite as simple as sticking bits together. There is a certain skillset to it. What’s more, knowing how to build a killer rig could land you a job in IT. For $129 you can learn all about PC building from IOA with their online course Building Your Own Computer.

We were going to call it a ‘crash course’, but that might be tempting fate, so we’ll settle for ‘a 30-hour course with video that introduces you to building computers for economy, fun and maybe profit.’