Build Your Own PC Chapter One: Parts Info/Selection Updated December 15th 2010 Current comments start on page 2 where noted. I have let this guide go un-updated for a while now. Lots of things have changed in the last two years, so i plan to cover that now. This guides original purpose was to help those members on the forum who want to build a custom computer, but arent completely sure of what they need, or what parts will work together. Some Often Used Terms: OEM - When used in term of computer hardware refers to hardware sold with the intention of being used by a builder. Often packages without instructions, or fancy packaging. Refurbished - This means that the part or item has been "fixed". When some items are broken or defective and returned to the manufacturer they sometimes fix them and then resell them at a lower price. BIOS - These are the settings that are saved on your mother board that tell the computer what parts are there and how they work. This will be covered more in the later chapters. Section 1: The CPU/Processor The CPU is the brain of your computer and the most important part. I find that the CPU is the best part to start your search with. When choosing your CPU there are a few pieces of information to look at. The two main brands out there now are Intel and AMD, both great manufacturers. The speed is often if not always denoted in a number of Gigahertz(#.##GHz). A higher number is better. In a multi-core situation each core has the ability to reach that processing speed. Now this does not mean that a dual-core CPU at 3.0GHz will achieve speeds of 6.0GHz. All a dual or quad core CPU does is allow the cores to work in parallel when they can. Now the next thing to look at is your cache. The cache is what allows your processor to access memory more efficiently. Once again a higher number is better. Tho with the current mainstream processors there isnt much variability in cache size within the speed ranges. Compatibility: The specifications of a CPU that relate to compatibility are the Socket#, FSB/Other, and sometimes voltage. -Socket# / Socket Name: This is essentially how you tell what it will "plug" in to. It is important when choosing a mother board. -FSB*: This is the Front Side Bus. It denotes a speed, It also will weigh in on how you choose your mother board. -QPI(Intel only): Intel QuickPath or Quickpath Interconnect has replaced the FSB rating on newer Intel Core series CPU's. Currently this can be ignored as the majority of motherboards cover the full range of CPU's that will fit on them. -Hyper Transport(AMD): HT is used in place of FSB on AMD based motherboards. Most of the time it will coincide with the socket. This only becomes an issue with more powerful AMD CPU's. -Voltage: Sometimes you will be required to set the CPU voltage in the BIOS. You should make sure that whatever motherboard you select will support the amount you need. (However this is not often an issue) * Mostly an older technology, not used on current mainstream or future CPU's. Section 2: The Graphics Card/GPU With all the different options out there these days i find that it is best to make your graphics card the next component you select. The two major chipset manufacturers out there are AMD and nVidia. Currently they make the Radeon HD and GTX/GTS series respectively. With current graphics cards the specifications that you want to look at are the Core Clock, Stream Processors, Memory, and Connections. -Core Clock: This is similar to the speed on your processor. It in fact is the speed of the GPU. Most often denoted as ###MHz. Once again a bigger number is better. Also there are now graphics cards with multiple cores/GPUs. -Stream Processors: This represents the numbers of individual precessing cores used withing the GPU itself. Once again a higher number is better. Tho this number cannot be compared when looking at graphics card from different chipset manufacturers. AMD and nVidia use different architectures so you can only use the number of stream processors to compare within brands. -Memory: Most if not all current graphics cards have dedicated physical memory. It is actual memory chips on the graphics card itself. Denoted as ###MB or #GB. Generally you want as much as you can afford, as long as it is offered. Compatibility: When looking into the compatibility for a Graphics card these are the things you need to look at. -Interface: This is the part that connect to the motherboard. Most cards are now PCI Express x16 version 2.1 and the majority of motherboards have support for this. Just keep in mind that cards needing PCIex16 version 1.0 or version 2.0 will work on a version 2.1 motherboard. However the reverse is not true. If your card needs a higher number, so does your motherboard. -SLI/CrossFire Support: When you choose to use two often identical graphics cards together you can often tether them in order to use then in parallel similar to how multi-core processing works. -Power Connector: You will need this info when choosing a Power Supply. Make sure to note the type of connector and number of pins. Also some cards require two connectors.(Sometimes these have different numbers of pins) -Output Connectors: This is what you need to look at when choosing a monitor. Most common is the DVI connector. Most cards have two of these. Most cards now in production also now have either a HDMI, Display Port or both. These two have the ability to carry sound as well as video. They also carry additional data lines, tho this is often unused.