The first step in building a PC is deciding what kind of computer you actually need. This is why I have labeled this as Part 0 (Zero) instead of Part 1, as it really is a pre-step in your Custom PC Build Project.
For this post we will talk about the following PC Build Types:
- Budget PC
- Basic Desktop
- Workstation / Power User Desktop
- Gaming PC
- Home Server
The first type of of Custom PC Build is the “Budget PC”. It is a very basic PC that is mostly used as an Internet Browsing PC, although with the level of hardware available today even a Budget PC can do basic School (Primary School tasks should be fine, however some more advanced High School tasks might be slow to do) and Home office tasks and probably be OK to use as a “Work from Home” PC if your Internet is fast enough. It should be able to stream 1080p video but it would struggle to keep up with 4K videos and video conferences probably will look very fuzzy and choppy. Specs in 2020 for a Budget PC are not as bad as they were in the past. You are probably looking at a 4-core / 4-thread CPU (possibly a 2-core CPU, but they are getting more difficult to find, and really not worth the money anymore), and somewhere between 4GB and 8GB of RAM (a Store Bought Budget PC will probably have between 4GB and 6GB, but the cost of 6GB vs 8GB is so small a difference in a custom build even in the budget range you will probably opt for 8GB if you go for more than 4GB). You probably will only have 1 storage device so it probably will be a hard drive (probably between 1TB and 2TB) not an SSD, although you could get a 32GB – 128GB SSD for under $100 these days if you look, good enough to boot from, but again since we are talking about building a budget PC, lets assume SSD is off the table, but in the future could be a nice upgrade. A budget PC will definitely not have a discrete graphics card so you will have whatever Integrated Graphics comes with the CPU you buy.
The second type of Custom PC Build is the “Basic Desktop”. It is your everyday home PC that can be used to Browse the Internet, Watch Videos, Stream at 4K (if your Internet Connection Speed is fast enough), participate in Video Conference and calls, Edit Photos, and do basic School (both Primary and Secondary, and probably most basic college projects that don’t require any specialized software) and Home Office tasks like using Microsoft Office to edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations or to use as a “Work from Home” computer. It’s a relatively powerful computer, can be used for basic software development and some basic video editing, but you probably won’t do heavy video editing or play the latest games on this type of computer. It is one step above a “Budget PC Build”, but this kind of PC will definitely last you quite a bit longer as it should be able to keep up with the times better than a Budget PC. In 2020 a Basic Desktop will have between 8 to 16GB or RAM (with 16GB recommending by the Author), a SSD (between 256GB and 512GB) and possibly a second Hard Drive for additional storage (between 2TB and 4TB). The CPU will have between 4 and 8 cores and 8 to 16 threads (the author recommends at least 6-cores), and it may or may not have a discrete graphics card (if a discrete graphics card is used probably at previous generation GPU with 4GB to 8GB of VRAM).
The third type of Custom PC Build is the “Workstation” or “Power User Desktop”. It is a very powerful desktop computer for the home, that is on par or better than Workstations used in most large corporations. It can handle 3D CAD, heavy video editing and rendering, be used for advanced software development, and pretty much handle anything you can throw at it, including play most of the new games on the market. The biggest difference between a Workstation and a Gaming PC will be how much you spend on the graphics card (you are still going to get a relatively power graphics card for rendering and other GPU tasks, but it might not need to be the latest and greatest card on the market) and the “coolness” factor. The Workstation in 2020 will have a lot of RAM at least 32GB, multiple SSDs and secondary Hard Drives, at least 8-cores and 16-threads, plus a Graphics Card with at least 8GB of VRAM.
The fourth type of Custom PC Build is the Gaming PC. It is basically a workstation build but has the most powerful graphics card you can budget for and it will have the coolness factor added in. Most probably you will want to go for a Case with a Glass or Clear Plastic side and the cables, fans, and other parts will have multi-colored LEDs, some even have mini-LCDs integrated on the motherboard for effects. Water-Cooling will be used most probably, because gamers like to overclock their CPUs, RAM, and Graphics Cards. If you aren’t going to overclock, water-cooling is still typically used for gaming PCs for the coolness factor as the tubing and other components are usually translucent and lit up for effect, although if you aren’t going to overclock, water-cooling is not necessarily required, even basic overclocking can be achieved with passing cooling given enough fans and the right CPU Cooler (heatsink).
The fifth and final type of Custom PC Build is the Home Server. Here you want to get a Server level motherboard used for small businesses or an AMD Threadripper, and you want to spend more money RAM, CPU, and Storage, and not so much on the graphics. In 2020, we are talking about specs like a CPU with at least 16 Cores and 32 threads (although the author recommends a 32-core 64-thread CPU) and somewhere between 64GB and 256GB of RAM (the author recommends between 126GB and 256GB so you can run multiple VMs simultaneously). You will be running either Microsoft Windows Server (Microsoft offers a version called “Essentials” which is cheap enough and powerful enough for a Home setup) or you can run a Linux Server installation. With this type of hardware you can run a Hypervisor and run both Windows Server and a Linux Server simultaneously, again the reason for maxing out the RAM and giving it as many CPU cores you can afford. This kind of setup you want to consider multiple physical network cards one for each OS you will be running, a very good power supply, and top of the line fans, because it will be running 24/7 as your home server. I do not recommend water cooling for this same reason, I don’t trust water-cooling solution for 24/7 machines. You don’t want it leaking and destroying your server in the middle of the night.
The next parts in this blog series will discuss building a “Basic Desktop”, as this is the most common setup you will find in most people’s homes.