I'm glad to see you want to build a computer. I am a computer
consultant and deal with people on a daily basis who are looking to
build computers. I order most of my parts via TigerDirect.com, as I
have had a positive experience with their parts, customer service, and
shipping policies. However, you are perfectly welcome to go
1. The Case
If you don't have a case already, you'll need to purchase one before
you start building your system. There are three differences between
various cases - whether or not they come with a power supply, the
materials they are made out of, and the size. Many cases come with a
power supply already built in, and these can range from 300W-450W.
This can be a tremendous cost savings, and one less thing that needs
to be installed. Even if you find a case with a power supply less
than 300W, I would not recommend purchasing it as it will be unable to
provide sufficient levels of power at system startup, causing the
computer not to boot and also possibly damaging components. I
personally would go with no lower than a 350W power supply (I am
currently using a 430W on my computer), just to be safe. Cases can be
made out of metal or plastic, and the difference is mainly aesthetic,
with the exception of Aluminum cases. These cases are specially
designed to dissipate heat from a computer in a highly efficient
manner, however these come with a much steeper price tag, usually
starting at $99 and above (and usually do not contain power supplies).
You also must make the choice between a Mid-Tower and Full Tower
case. A mid tower is a standard home computer case, while a full
tower case is generally designed for servers and can stand as high as
8-10 inches taller than a mid tower. Some home users prefer Full
Tower cases (despite the fact that they are more expensive) as there
is more working room inside the case, allowing for easier installation
of parts and future upgrades, while others want a standard mid tower
for space-saving purposes.
For pricing on specific cases, see the site below:
2. Once you have a case, you'll need to purchase a motherboard.
Practically all motherboards are the same form factor (size) - ATX -
so fitting the board in your system should not be a problem. However
you must make a choice of what processor to purchase. The two
competing models on the market are the Intel Pentium 4 and the AMD
Athlon XP. Pentium 4s use slightly less energy and run cooler
(requiring fewer fans which equates to a less noisy system), so they
are the choice of most system builders. For this computer, I will
assume you will want a P4, however if you'd rather have an Athlon just
let me know and I would be happy to provide compatible motherboards.
P4s use Socket 478 motherboards, so if a board is labeled as such, it
will be compatible with your system. In my system building experience
I have found that the three most reputable manufacturers of
motherboards are Soyo, Shuttle, and MSI. I personally am using a
Shuttle board currently (though I am running and Athlon XP), however I
have had some difficulty reaching their technical support department
(I had to be connected to a company operator to reach the support
department as the phone menu would only direct me to leave a message).
However, either of these three boards should work perfectly fine for
I recently installed the following board into a client's computer and
have had an excellent experience with it:
MSI 845E Max L ATX Socket 478 Motherboard
This is a good mid-range motherboard, with on board 10/100 Ethernet
(if you use a broadband connection) 6 PCI (expansion) slots, an
on-board sound card, and two DDR memory slots that support PC2100
memory. More expensive boards will come with 3-4 DDR slots that can
support faster memory (such as PC2700 or PC3100), and support for ATA
133 when drives begin supporting it. In a nutshell, more expensive
boards such as the
Soyo P4S Dragon Ultra ATX Socket 478 Motherboard
come with capability to run faster parts, and (in the case of RAM)
more space for future upgrades.
4. RAM - The MSI board I mentioned uses DDR PC2100 RAM, which can be
purchased at www.crucial.com for $140 for 512MB.
"DDR PC2100 Modules"
I would recommend 512MB, as I find that many users need an average of
around 300MB on a daily basis, and 512 offers plenty of space for
future RAM-hungry applications.
5. Processor - Most of todays computers are coming with 1.8-2.4 Ghz
processors. Based on your needs as stated in the question, I would
recommend a 2 Ghz processor for your computer, combining both
performance and economic value. If you want a slightly faster system,
you may want 2.2, while if you will settle for a slightly slower
system go with 1.8.
"Intel Pentium 4 1.80GHz"
"Intel Pentium 4 2.0Ghz"
"Intel Pentium 4 2.4Ghz"
5. Video Card - Most video cards now run as AGP 4x cards. Even if you
have 2X cards and below, you cannot use them with a Pentium 4 system
as they will cause damage to the motherboard. I recommend a low end
GeForce video card, as they have widespread compatibility with all
games and other products that need video acceleration currently on the
market. A GeForce 4 Ti440 should be sufficient based on the
information provided in your question. If you want, you can always
spend extra money and get the Ti4200, which is much more powerful (in
terms of graphics performance) than the 440. I currently use a 440,
and between that an my 2.2 Ghz Processor, I have no problem running
even the latest of games.
"XFX GeForce4 MX440se 64MB DDR AGP with TV-Out"
"PNY GeForce4 Ti 4200 64 MB DDR AGP Video Card"
6. Hard Drive - As you noted in your question, you have two types of
Hard Drives to choose from 5400RPM and 7200RPM. I would recommend the
7200 to any user without question, as they have significantly better
performance than the 5400, and greatly subtract from the time it takes
to boot your system and load applications. Any major manufacturer
(Western Digital, Maxtor, Seagate, or IBM) will provide a good quality
"Hard Disk Drives"
Since you explained that you already have a DVD-ROM and floppy drives,
I will not provide information on these. As I mentioned above, the
sound card is built into the motherboard, so there is no need to
purchase a sound card for the system either. A neglected to add a
modem to the above list (I use broadband internet so it is not an
issue for me), however any standard 56k PCI modem will be sufficient.
SEARCH STRATEGY: None. I used my existing knowledge as a computer
I hope this information is of assistance to you. If you need any
addition information feel free to ask for a clarification.