Since starting Elite Gaming Computers, I’ve seen a number of simple mistakes that a lot of first-time builders make. Most first-time builders have a steep learning curve and so it’s only natural that a lot of them will make these silly mistakes.
However, making a silly mistake is a pretty big thing when building a computer. It could mean the difference between frying your computer and getting a system that works well for a long time. And, so it’s important that you make sure you have a solid understanding of how to avoid this problems.
In this post I will go over 5 tips that will help you avoid embarrassment in your quest to build your first computer. That way, you won’t fall into the same trap that other first-time builders stumble into.
Tip #1 – Make Sure Your Parts Are Compatible
One of the biggest problems that new computer builders have is that they don’t know which parts are compatible with each other. And, rightfully so…
There are so many different components out there, made by so many different manufacturers, that when you’re first starting out it is nearly impossible to know all of the little codes that signal processor socket, motherboard size, or video card series.
Fortunately, by spending a week or so reading forum posts and how-to guides, you can easily get a good understanding of what parts go with what. Also, it’s always a good idea to run your part list by an expert, or to post it in a forum, in order to see if you have chosen compatible parts. It’s better to look dumb on the internet than it is to order your parts, assemble them, and then realize that one or two different components won’t work together.
Tip #2 – Make Sure You Aren’t Using Off Brand Components
If you’re looking at buying a “PowMax” PSU because it’s cheap and it fits nicely in your budget, then be prepared to watch your computer blow up…
I’m serious… your computer could literally blow up if you use a PowMax power supply… and if your cat Fuzz Aldrin (yes, I stole that from an SNL skit) happens to be sitting near the computer at the time that the PowMax decides to blow, he could die.
Do you want that kind of blood on your hands? All because you wanted to save a buck?
The same goes for your motherboard, memory, case, and video card. The bottom line is, don’t choose components made by brands nobody has ever heard of. It’s a good way to seriously mess your system up.
Tip #3 – Plug Your Monitor Into Your Video Card
I made this horrible and embarrassing mistake when I built my first computer…
When you build your own computer, there is a very good chance that the motherboard you choose will have video inputs on it. These are different from the video inputs on your video card.
Basically, if you plug your monitor into the inputs on your motherboard when your video card is connected to the motherboard you will not get any signal.
When I made this complete rookie mistake, I actually made a forum post on why I wasn’t getting a signal on my monitor. There were literally four or five different responses from helpful forum members trying to help me diagnose what was wrong with my computer. Of course, none of them thought that I could be so dumb as to have not plugged my monitor into my video card…
Finally someone asked the obvious… “Is your monitor plugged into your video card or your motherboard?”
It’s funny, because now that I run a site that helps first-time builders, I actually get emails about this very thing all the time. And, because I remember what it was like to look at the back panel of a computer before I really knew what was inside of a computer, I think I know why so many people make this mistake…
For most new builders, the back of the computer is just a bunch of ports that simply go into the computer. And, since most new builders have never seen the inside of a computer, it’s hard for them to distinguish that some of those ports might be going to different components. So, for noobs, a DVI port is a DVI port… why would it matter which one you plugged your monitor into?
Well, it does matter. And, before you start getting all crazy about having a bad video card/monitor, make sure you check that your monitor is actually plugged into your video card.
(*Of course, there are many other scenarios where your monitor will not turn on even when it’s plugged into the video card. These could be related to your Boot Settings in your BIOS, driver problems, or it could be a bad component. However, before you go posting on forums, make sure you have confirmed that your monitor is actually plugged into the video card and not your motherboard.)
Tip #4 – Don’t Choose a PSU By It’s Wattage Rating Alone
Just as you shouldn’t by a PSU made by a no-named manufacturer, you should also avoid buying a PSU based solely off of its wattage rating.
You may run across the KenTeks or the PowMax’s of the world and they may promise you an inexpensive solution with their high wattage rating and their high-efficiency, but the bottom-line is, if it’s a high wattage (like over 800W) and it costs under $50, then it’s a terrible power supply.
There’s a reason why the name-brand 800W+ PSUs cost over $100… it’s because those manufacturers use quality parts in their power supplies. Conversely, there’s also a reason why KenTek can sell a 850W unit for $45.99… it’s because it was built with incredibly cheap parts.
And, if you build a system with a cheap power supply, you’re going to have huge problems down the road. So, just don’t do it.
Tip #5 – Don’t Overspend on One Component at the Expense of Your Other Components
Another huge problem that I see a lot of new builders make, is that they want to pair a $400 video card with a $75 processor. Or, in other words they want to get a GTX 670 and use it with their old Intel Pentium Dual-Core processor.
You can’t do that… you have to achieve balance with your components. This is even more true if you are working with a tight budget. You can’t spend the majority of your money on one really good component, spend the rest on cheap components, and then expect your system to perform at a high level.
If you have a low-end processor and you pair it with a high-end video card, the video card is only going to perform as well as the processor will allow it to. So, essentially, you’re paying all that money for a video card you can’t even get the most out of.
Basically, you have to know what your budget is, and you have to build accordingly. If you’ve got $700 to spend on components, then you can build yourself a pretty solid system. However, with that budget you won’t be able to afford an HD 7970 or a GTX 670, because it’s just not a part that will work within the budget.
So, make sure you aren’t pairing expensive parts with cheaper parts. It won’t work.
Don’t Be a Noob! Know What You’re Doing…
It’s important that you take your time with your build and that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Computer components are serious business and if you don’t know what you’re doing you could potentially damage your parts and cost yourself a lot of money.
And, as previously mentioned, following these tips and avoiding the mistakes outlined in this article will get you going in the right direction and will help you avoid looking like a noob on your first build.
Brent Hale runs Elite Gaming Computers, a blog dedicated to helping first-time builders through the building process. For more information on building your own gaming computer, check out Brent’s site by following the link above.