Desktop Hardware Selection

Building a computer can be an intimidating task for someone who has never worked with hardware before. The hardware selection is the most important step when building a computer. This guide is for those interested in learning about customizing hardware selection. It will cover every required component while taking into consideration price, performance and complexity. Each component will also be provided with a budget friendly and current (May 2012) example.

Some of the advantages of building your own desktop as opposed to buying a prebuilt one are:

  • Price: It is much cheaper to build computers yourself than to order prebuilt ones.
  • Customization: You can choose any piece of hardware for your exact requirements.
  • Knowledge: Learn how each of the hardware components interacts with each other.

So let’s get started selecting our hardware.

Hardware Selection

At a minimum we have to select the following components:

  • Central Processing Unit (CPU)
  • Motherboard
  • Random Access Memory (RAM)
  • HDD or SSD (Or Both)
  • Power Supply Unit (PSU)
  • Computer Case

Additional Components:

  • CD/DVD Drive
  • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
  • Keyboard/Mouse/Monitor


The first decision you have to make is what kind of CPU you would like to purchase. Take into consideration which applications you plan on running on the machine. Are these applications CPU intensive? Do they rely more on multi-threading or multi-processing? Your budget can have a huge influence on your CPU selection as AMD processors tend to cost less than their Intel counterparts. Be sure to check customer reviews for any glaring problems with your selection. The CPU Socket Type will influence your motherboard selection as the socket types have to match.

Example CPU: AMD FX-6100: $139


After deciding on your CPU the next step is to select a motherboard. When searching for a motherboard, filter your search with a matching socket type from your CPU. If motherboard selection does not include on-board graphics processing then you will be required to purchase a separate graphics processing unit.

Example Motherboard: ASUS M5A88-V EVO: $115


RAM is one of the cheapest components of your computer and provides a big performance boost for a minimal increase in cost. A motherboard will typically accept up to four sticks of RAM. Take into account that your RAM operating frequency must match one of the accepted speeds on the motherboard. Also note that an operating system can limit both operating frequency as well as the amount of readable memory.

Example RAM: G. SKILL 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) $21

Hard Drive

Determine how much space you will need on your disk drive. If you will be storing files in a remote location you do not require having a lot of space on your drive. Take into account that over time applications will continue to get larger and your movies and pictures will take up more room if they are higher quality.

Example Drive: Western Digital 500 GB Hard Drive: $75

CD/DVD Drive

Lets you read and write DVDs. Pick one which costs the least while having good reviews.

Example DVD Drive: ASUS DVD Drive: $18

Power Supply Unit

In order to determine what kind of power supply unit you need, it’s possible to use one of the various online voltage calculators. These calculators determine the amount of voltage which is required to run your computer. You should NEVER skimp out on the PSU as it has the ability to ruin all of your expensive hardware.

Wattage Calculator:

Example PSU: Thermaltake 430W PSU: $46

Computer Case

Choose a computer case which is an appropriate size for your hardware components. Certain graphics cards (GPUs) take up a lot of space and require extra room for proper storage and air flow.

Example Case: NZXT Mid Tower Case: $40

Good luck in your selection.