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What's in a Custom Computer?

By amancuso

A custom computer might seem like a luxury to some, but having a desktop built to your specific needs and specifications can actually be a more effective and less expensive choice than buying your home or small business computer pre-built. Why? Because, in the end, all computers are made up of the same basic parts! Instead of comparing the capabilities and prices of a fully built Mac or PC, ordering a custom computer from the experts here at BuzzAGeek means comparing the individual components. That allows greater freedom in creating a computer that meets both your performance needs and your budget, with less compromise.

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So What's in a Custom Computer?

A custom Mac or PC shares the same basic components as a pre-built one. All computers need a processor (CPU), a motherboard, both RAM and hard drive(s) for memory and storage, a power supply, a graphics card, and a case—and, of course, your choice of operating system. Beyond that, there are still many options for customization—for example, WiFi cards to allow WiFi access, Bluetooth cards for Bluetooth capabilities, a webcam, an optical drive to read CDs and DVDs—but you will still have a functioning computer without them.

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The processor (CPU) is the most important part of a computer. It functions as the brain, allowing your computer to run programs, multitask, and perform the tasks you ask your computer to do. Processors can be compared by the number of cores (single-core, dual-core, quad-core, etc.) and its clock speed. A greater number of cores will allow your computer to multitask more efficiently, while a higher clock speed (which measures how many instructions your computer can handle in one second) determines how quickly your computer can perform those tasks.

If the processor is the brain, the motherboard is the nervous system and the skeletal structure combined. It is the physical board into which your other components will be placed, and it’s what allows them all to communicate with one another. It also determines how many extra components you can have. For example, it will determine how many USB slots you can hold, how much extra RAM, and how many expansion cards (WiFi, Bluetooth, graphics & sound, etc.) you can install.

Ram Modules

RAM and your hard drive(s) act as the short- and long-term memory for your machine, respectively. The RAM stores the information your computer needs to run its currently open programs faster, and so more RAM means being able to run more than one program at the same time more effectively. Hard drives, on the other hand, are what store your files, documents, and operating system data. A larger hard drive, or multiple hard drives, means a capacity for greater storage.

Your power supply is an important and oft unconsidered part of your computer; it’s what’s needed to power all the other components. Depending on the power demand of your custom computer, you may need one that provides a higher wattage—but remember, a higher wattage can also mean a louder and hotter machine. Choosing a more efficient power supply or a case that provides better cooling and sound-control options can help offset this.

A graphics card is what helps display the graphics on your monitor, but the quality of your graphics card is usually only incredibly important if you are using your custom computer for video or image editing or high-definition 3D gaming. Many graphics cards work just fine for basic desktop and internet viewing, and some motherboards even come with one pre-installed.

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As with the motherboard, the most important thing to consider in a case is whether it has ample room to fit all the components your custom computer will need. Too little space in a case can mean higher temperatures, which will cause your computer to overheat. You will want to make sure that your case provides plenty of airflow, isn't too loud, and, of course, isn't an eyesore in your home office or small business space.

Lastly, choose an operating system to install! While the latest versions of Windows and Linux are popular choices for installing on custom machines, it is also quite possible to have a custom-built computer that runs Mac OS X—colloquially known as a “hackintosh.” Don’t worry though; the name refers to ‘hacking’ in the same way that popular do-it-yourself sites such as LifeHacks does. There’s nothing illegal about it.

With the addition of a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, your new custom-built Mac or PC will be good to go—and you’ll know it was made exactly to your own needs and specifications.

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