I grew up in a in a house where the personal computer was a permanent appliance. My father worked as a programmer and we updated our home computer regularly as the technology developed. I remember booting DOS games from floppy drives, our first Amiga with a color graphical interface, and eventually getting internet at home through a dial-up modem. As the technology developed, so did my knowledge and interest in the hardware itself.
Since then I’ve used a variety of Windows and Mac machines. While some people swear loyalty to a certain operating system, I prefer to go with the best option for the intended use and budget. For the past 10 years or so, I’ve used Apple computers for my video and photo production needs. For whatever reason, Apple has lagged behind in the professional market in recent years and this has lead me to the decision that it’s time to build a powerful Windows based machine.
Disclaimer: The very nature of the computer industry means that things are constantly changing. The parts I used below are fast and modern as of May, 2017. When building a PC, it’s important to do your research, read reviews, and pick components that are the best match for you. Also, many of the links below are affiliate links. This just means that if you purchase an item through one of my links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. In other words you’ll be helping to support the cost of running this blog if you purchase one of my recommended items. I only recommend and link to items I truly use and think are great.
Just want to see the parts list? All of the parts and prices are compiled in a table at the end of this post.
Choosing a Processor
This is the first step in any custom computer build as it will determine some of the other parts you choose. There are really only two brands to choose from – AMD and Intel. Intel has been considered to be the industry leader for quite some time now with AMD making up a much smaller portion of the market share. AMD recently set out to disrupt the market with a new line of processors called Ryzen. The top-of-the-line Ryzen processor is an 8 core workhorse that is currently half the price of the most similar processor from Intel.
After weighing all the options and prices, I decided on the AMD Ryzen 1700x for my build.
Once you select a processor, you must select a compatible motherboard that supports all the features you’ll want in your computer. A fantastic tool for searching compatible parts is the website pcpartpicker.com.
I ended up selecting the MSI – X370 SLI PLUS ATX AM4 Motherboard. This motherboard lacks some of they fancy LED lighting that some gamer’s love, but does support more high end features such as overclocking, M.2, and Dual Graphics card compatibility.
The Ryzen 1700x does not come with a stock CPU cooler so I chose the Corsair – H110i. This cooler uses a small pump to circulate fluid past the CPU and up into a radiator that is cooled with fans. Water cooling tends to be more quiet and more efficient than the traditional CPU heat sync and fan setups. Most Corsair coolers come with thermal paste already applied. If there is no thermal paste already applied, be sure to apply some before installing your cooler.
I have to be honest, I chose the Corsair – Dominator Platinum 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3000 Memory partly because I liked how it looks. These RAM modules have metallic headers and white LED lights that add a classy touch to your motherboard. Of course looks only really matter if you buy a case with a side window to show off your parts. When choosing RAM, it’s important to check the motherboard’s compatibility list, usually found in the support information for the motherboard you choose. Picking compatible RAM from the list can reduce the potential headache of your RAM not functioning correctly. RAM quantity is measured in gigabytes and it’s speed is measured in megahertz. Again, do your reading and find out what speeds and capacities are supported by your motherboard.
Mechanical hard drives haven’t changed much in the past 10 years accept for their increasing capacity and lower prices. Solid State Drives are the new innovation, but they are still fairly expensive even for smaller capacity drives. I purchased a Samsung – 960 EVO 250GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive to install my operating system and applications onto. For mass storage I’m using external hard drives or traditional internal mechanical hard drives.
Your video card is the component that drives graphics to your monitor and does the heavy lifting when it comes to video playback and image editing. I wanted to do some casual gaming on this system so I opted for the MSI – GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition Video Card. Here’s a helpful video from Paul’s Hardware that can shed some more light on the subject. In fact, Paul’s channel is great for answer a ton of questions you might have when assembling your PC.
Most modern cases are very similar in function these days varying mostly in size and aesthetics. I chose the Phanteks – Enthoo Evolv ATX Glass ATX Mid Tower Case. This case has a good balance of size vs expandability. It has tempered glass on both sides if you like that look. There are many much less expensive cases. The big thing is to find one that can accommodate the size of motherboard you choose as well as has room for the hard drive, video card(s) and other peripherals you want.
The big thing here is to makes sure you get a power supply that can handle the components you choose. pcpartpicker.com has a cool tool for this. I ended up with the Corsair – RMx 850W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply.
Many motherboards now come with an integrated wired ethernet adapter. Some will come with an integrated wireless adapter as well. If not, you may want to add a wireless card unless you have a ethernet jack near where your PC will be setup. I purchased this: Rosewill RNX-AC1900PCE, 802.11AC Dual Band WiFi Adapter.
No real choice here unless you want to try and run Linux. Pick up a copy of Microsoft – Windows 10 Pro OEM 64-bit and away you go.
|CPU||AMD – Ryzen 7 1700X 3.4GHz 8-Core Processor||$360.26|
|CPU Cooler||Corsair – H110i 113.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler||$124.00|
|Motherboard||MSI – X370 SLI PLUS ATX AM4 Motherboard||$139.99|
|Memory||Corsair – Dominator Platinum 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3000 Memory||$297.96|
|Storage||Samsung – 960 EVO 250GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive||$127.99|
|Video Card||MSI – GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition Video Card||$549.99|
|Case||Phanteks – Enthoo Evolv ATX Glass ATX Mid Tower Case||$189.99|
|Power Supply||Corsair – RMx 850W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply||$119.99|
|Operating System||Microsoft – Windows 10 Pro OEM 64-bit||$139.99|
|Wireless Network Adapter||Rosewill RNX-AC1900PCE, 802.11AC Dual Band WiFi Adapter||$59.99|