What are the general parts need for a build?
The Processor or CPU is the heart of the computer. There are two major manufactures of CPUs, AMD and Intel. They both make a range of CPUs to fit various budgets and performance requirements.
AMD is the smaller of the two manufacturers, so they have to try harder. They were the performance leader for a few years when Intel was trying to make the P-4 systems work. Core architecture moved the performance crown back to Intel but the differences are not huge. I often use an AMD processors when I upgrade an older system.
Intel has about an 80% market share. They have vast resources as far as R&D and manufacturing is concerned. And they are currently building the fastest processors available for the PC. The newer Apple computers also use Intel processors. I use them for my higher performance systems. I would like to build an i7 machine but I can't really justify the expense at this time (the background image for this page was make from a micro photograph of i7 circuitry).
The working memory of the computer is another necessary component in the computer system. This is the scratch pad for the processor. It keeps all the notes on how to do things ready for the CPU to reference. To a point, the more memory the better. This makes things run quicker because the CPU does not have to check the hard drive for the information that is in working memory.
The motherboard has the chipset to control the CPU and sockets for the CPU and memory. It also has the in/out panel that you see at the back of the computer. The parts all plug into the motherboard. The mother board that you choose has to support the CPU that you choose. Most current motherboards have onboard audio and many of them also have a video solution on board. Onboard video is usually fine for basic tasks, but if you want real performance you will probably want an add-in video card.
The Hard Drive
This is the mass data storage device for the computer. When you install your OS and other programs you write them to the hard drive. There are now two options as far as hard drives are concerned. The conventional hard drive has a rotating platter covered with a magnetic film. There are pickup heads that read and write the data. Just coming onto the scene are Solid State Drives. These use flash memory similar to the card for a digital camera or cell phone. They can be faster than a conventional drive. They are considerably more expensive still and do not come in the very high capacities that we expect from hard drives today. Many people that use a SSD today use it for the system drive and still have a hard drive for a data drive.
The Optical Drive
Most computers now use a DVD drive for the optical drive. You will need an optical drive to load the OS and any programs that come on CD or DVD. It is possible to use an external option for this, but nearly all desktops and most laptops have something in the way of an optical drive.
The Power Supply
To provide all the needed power for the computer one needs a power supply. The main plug from the power supply plugs into the motherboard. It also supplies power for the optical drives and other options that you may have in the computer. The power supply is a very important component in the system. You need to match it to the other components of the system so that everything works as it is intended. The better power supplies are rated above 80% efficiency. It is better to spend a little more for one of these as it will save money in the long run if you run your computer several hours a day.
The Operating System
There are a couple of options as far as an operating system is concerned. Most computers use some flavor of Windows, but there is also the Linux OS to consider. If budget is your main concern Linux may be a good choice as it is an open source software. There are not as many games for Linux and most well known software packages are built for Windows. There are some software packages that have Linux versions and there is a great deal of software that is built for Linux, so you can probably find a software that will do most things that you may wish to do.
We now have all the components that we need to build the computer, but where are we going to put all of these parts? The case is the answer and a part of the computer build. You need to make sure that the case you choose is designed to hold all of your other pieces. There is a wide variety of form factors of cases available. There are also many styles to choose from. I tend toward a utilitarian case but if you want to make a statement you can probably find a case that says what you want to say.
You may want a card reader for your computer. This will make it easy to transfer pictures from a digital camera. You may want to hook up a printer or scanner or other external device to your computer. All of these things are easy to do if you are building your computer.
There are many options in the selection of all of the listed parts. When you build your own computer you can match the parts so that you get the most for your money. You do have to be sure that the parts are compatible for best performance. Building your own computer can be a rewarding experience. You will know what has gone into the computer and you can match the computer to your needs. You will have a computer that often performs better than a computer that you would buy for the same or more money.