January 31, 2001

Web review: Learning how to build your own computer

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -

So, I have it on good authority that not every Open Source follower has
built his or her own computer yet. Since I'm getting close to taking that step,
I've located a few sites that offer step-by-step instructions in custom PC
creation.Building your own computer makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, you can
often save money by getting parts on sale (and you don't have to pay someone to
put it all together for you), and since you made it, you know exactly what's in
there, how old it is, what the quality is, and most important, how to tear it
apart and replace when things go bad or you want to upgrade.

But the coolest thing about making your own computer is that you get exactly
what you want, and it's your very own creation.

Knowing that, let's take a look at some what I thought were the better "how-to"
sites out there. Remember, though I know what all the components are and I've
replaced a good number of them at various points in time, I haven't actually put
together a computer from scratch yet. So what I'm looking for is a site that is
thorough and fairly easy to understand. Interesting would be nice too, but
that's just icing on the cake.

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of stuff about building computers out there on
the 'Net. A lot of it is no more than surface checklists, i.e., choose a
motherboard, put it in a case, plug this, this, and this into it, install an
operating system, and there you are.

That's not helpful, and it's a waste of your day. So, in the interest of helping you conserve your precious time, here's the best of what I found:

PC Mechanic's Build Your Own

While decidedly Windows-oriented when it comes to choice of OS, this site is
very thorough and organized in its discussion of PC building. You're taken
through all the steps, from purchasing the components, through preparation of
the case, motherboard configuration, installation of the CPU and accoutrements,
connecting everything, configuring the BIOS, and testing the system. Just stop
when it gets to the part about installing Windows, of course.

This guide is written in friendly, easy-to-follow language, and uses the word
"crap" often enough to make me think the writer is a regular guy.

The Techzone's Build
Your Own Comp: A Step by Step Guide

This is a very nicely-done tutorial, complete with pictures and humor (like the
page for "tools needed" that features a photo of a screwdriver and a Coke). In
this example, the author teaches you to build a specific type of computer, but
you can mix and match your own components anyway. Again, we're asked to install
a Windows OS ... and again, we can ignore that part.

Rockville Living's Build Your
Own PC, Part I (What you need)

This is the first part of an incomplete series (and since it was published back
in June of 2000, I'm thinking the second part isn't coming out). It's not too
out of date, so the information is pretty good. What's nice about this article
is that it explains each component, recommends the best kind, and lists prices
ranges for each, so you can get an idea of how much this is going to cost. The
second part of the article was to have been about the nuts and bolts of putting
it together, so you'll miss that, but it's still worth taking a look at.

SysOpt's How To Build Your Own

Here's another thorough look at what it takes to complete a PC building project.
There's good advice and ample explanation and some useful photos, plus the authors remind us not to
automatically choose Windows (but then they go ahead and explain how to install
the Windows 98 operating system, go figure). The tutorial is almost two years
old, but still up-to-date enough to be relevant in 2001.

After reading all these how-to sites, I'm ready to go start ordering my
components. If you've been hesitant, hopefully these fine sites will get you
fired up about PC construction. Just don't forget to skip the part about

If you know of a site that's worthy of a spot in the Newsforge weekly website
review, email me.


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