If you're looking for a high-octane computer to make industrial video editing or animation work, Apple & # 39; s Mac Pro workhorse will come this fall from $ 6,000. Or a fully equipped, customized PC from a computer manufacturer like Puget Systems could cost about the same. But if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do a little research, you can build a muscular PC that will cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars less ̵
Of course, a home-built PC is not for everyone: if you mainly write, watch videos & surf the internet, a laptop with a good budget might be the right ticket. Or if you are worried about the battery life or need a little more horsepower, a laptop that delivers top performance should also work.
But if your work or hardcore gaming requires serious computing power and tons of storage, it might be the best route to choose your individual components and then build a custom workstation or gaming installation.
That is the path on which CN Pad video producer Oliver Padilla decided to go down when he picked out a powerful PC workstation for the CNET video team. Here's how Oliver chose the components and then built the workstation. As part of the CNET video team, he naturally made a video of the entire process.
First, let's look at the various components that you want to consider when considering building your own PC and then see how they all fit together.
Collect the parts you need to build a PC
If you have decided to build your own PC, you need to do some research, collect the components and then assemble the PC yourself. It really isn't as scary as it sounds.
Weighing costs and performance for each component can seem challenging. But if you are looking for advice on where to put your money, the r / buildapc subreddit from Reddit is a useful and active community that is ready to give advice and answer questions about specific components.
If you need guidance in building a complete machine, the subreddit r / buildapcforme is a great resource for complete parts lists for everything from a budget PC to an advanced gaming rig. If you prefer not to post, PCPartPicker has some great manuals for people who might be too shy to ask at a forum.
Although we cannot decide which combination of components is right for you, here is a general list of the parts to keep in mind:
Motherboard. You connect your components to the motherboard, which handles the communication between everything. Make sure your components are compatible with your motherboard and that they fit in your case.
Storage. Not so long ago the choice between a hard drive and a solid-state drive (SSD) might have become a bit cheaper. But now, with SSD devices around the same cost as hard drives, the place to save a few bucks in your build is probably not with storage. Go for fast and reliable SSD storage unless you want to store terabytes of data – then you might want to consider a hard drive.
Case. Choose one large enough to hold all of your components and any upgrades to the base model.
CPU. You essentially have two brands to choose from when buying your CPU, the brain of your computer. Your processor choice is between that of Intel and AMD. Here you want to check in with the PC subreddits to see which processor maker suits you best – from a budget PC intended for a web browser to a super-loaded gaming installation.
Graphic card. The processor or motherboard that you choose can be supplied with an integrated GPU (spell here) for graphic processing and image processing. But if you do more than surf the web, you probably want a separate graphics card that can start at $ 100 and can be more than $ 1,000 depending on the intended use, such as video editing or animation.
Memory. For the random access memory of a PC, DIMMs are connected to memory slots on the motherboard and have different speeds and memory sizes. For the customized machine that we made at CNET, we had to pay close attention to which memory slots we filled and left open to take full advantage of the memory architecture of the system.
CPU cooler. Although your case may have a fan or two, you also need a special cooler for the CPU. Most CPUs come with one, but buying a better one can improve performance.
Nutrition. You can choose a power supply that comes with detachable cables – so that you can only use the ones you need and keep the clutter low – or one with all the cables that are already connected. Ensure that your power supply can supply sufficient power for your components. Newegg has a handy power supply calculator that estimates the power supply you need based on your components.
Windows 10. Of course you need a copy of Windows 10 ($ 126 at Walmart) on a flash drive to install. Use Microsoft Windows Media Creation Tool to create the installation media on the disk that you then install on your PC when you are finished.
Tools and supplies. To assemble your PC, you need a few tools, some that you may have and others that you may need to track down. If a specific component for the PC requires a unique tool, the manufacturer usually includes it in the box.
Here is a short list of the tools and other items that you want to have on hand before you start assembling your PC:
- A Phillips screwdriver, preferably with a magnetic tip.
- A flash drive, with Windows 10.
- An antistatic wristband. If you don't have one, regularly touch a metal part of the housing to discharge any static electricity in your body.
- Velcro fasteners, zippers and twist straps to manage cables
- Thermally assembled or thermal pads to maximize heat transfer and dissipation. (Your parts can be delivered with the assembly you have already applied, but have a few in case, especially if you are using second-hand parts.)
- A tray, bowl, baking tray with rim, or something you can use to organize – and not to lose – the screws and small pieces that you need to assemble your PC.
Build your PC
Each PC assembly will be different – due to component choices, motherboard configuration, and so on – and some components are easier to install on the motherboard before you insert the case. This is how we assemble the PC in-house. Watch the video step by step during assembly. We mention the specific parts that we have chosen at the end of the article.
Install the CPU. Because each motherboard and CPU are different, consult the manuals for your motherboard and CPU for installation instructions that are specific to your installation. In general, all CPU & # 39; s have some sort of marker to help you orient them correctly on the motherboard. And make sure that the CPU is correctly positioned because you can easily damage the pins in the CPU connection.
Add RAM modules. Again, the manual for your motherboard contains recommendations about the slots that you must use for your memory modules to optimize the memory of your PC.
Add the storage device. Oliver installed two MVMe high-speed drives in his build. Here you want to use thermal pads that come with the discs or that you have purchased separately.
Install the motherboard. At this point in Oliver's meeting, he is ready to place the motherboard in the case. After you have correctly oriented the motherboard, secure it with screws. Here the magnetic screwdriver is a blessing, because it is a challenge to fish a fallen screw out of the housing.
Connect the power supply. Although the direction of your power supply depends on the case, be sure to point the fan towards a vent, otherwise you will hold the hot air inside the case and your computer may overheat.
Attach your CPU cooler. Refer to the instructions of your cooler for installation information. Our cooler came with a thermal connection, but if you haven't done that, you can apply a little – about a big grain of rice. You will probably need to connect your cooler to the motherboard and to the power supply, according to the instructions in the manual. If you have more fans, connect them too.
Connect your storage. Now connect your storage device to the power supply and the motherboard.
Connect components to the front I / O panel. You may also need to connect audio and USB connectors, as well as the power button and reset button to your I / O panel. Make sure you connect all fans in your business.
Install the graphics card. Follow the instructions in the manual again and make sure the card does not contain any plastic or protective covers. Connect the correct power connectors to the card.
Close the housing and connect it. When you are finished, connect the flash drive with the Windows 10 installer and turn on the PC. You will hear a beep sound or not. The system can restart several times; this is normal. You are now ready to install Windows 10.
Install Windows 10 from the flash drive. Installing Windows depends on your components, so consult your manual for specific instructions. Here is basically how to do it.
1. Insert the flash drive with the Windows installation program.
2. Press the appropriate key on your keyboard to open the BIOS firmware.
3. Search in BIOS for "bootmenu."
4. Select the flash drive and press Enter. Your computer will now boot from the flash drive and the Windows installation program should start.
5. Follow the instructions to install Windows.
Oliver & # 39; s parts list
Every build is different, right? But here is what Oliver chose for his build, with prices. The final cost for his hefty PC is $ 5,063.92, about $ 1,000 less than the basic configuration of the Power Mac.
CPU ($ 1,399): AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960x
Motherboard ( $ 849.99): Asus R.O.G. Zenith Extreme II
CPU cooler ( $ 159.99): Corsair H100i RGB Platinum
RAM ( $ 354.99): Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 64GB (2x)
PSU ( $ 239.99) : Corsair HX1200
GPU ( $ 1,199.99 ): EVGA Nvidia RTX 2080ti
SSD ( $ 299.99): Samsung 860 Evo
NVME ( $ 299.99) : Samsung 970 Pro  NVME ( $ 299.99): Samsung 970 Pro
Fans ( $ 129.99): Corsair LL120 RGB (2x)
Case ( $ 259.99): Corsair 680X RGB
If you decide to make one yourself, please let us know know which components you have chosen and how the installation went.
For more information about Windows 10, you can upgrade and watch out for this fake update, which can block your PC, for free.