How to Build Your Own Computer

My goal is simple: I want to present an illustrated, step-by-step guide to building a computer from scratch, in simple language, to help make your do-it-yourself computer-building project as enjoyable, educational, and rewarding as it can be.

That's a good question. After all, it's a lot easier to buy a computer from a reputable computer shop than it is to build one yourself. But the truth is that most of us computer geeks and geeklings build our own computers simply because we enjoy it. We think it's fun. But aside from being fun, there are other advantages to building your own computer. For example:

  • You can build your computer exactly how you want it, as best fits your computing needs. When you build your own computer, it truly is a "personal" computer.
  • Building a PC is an educationally rewarding experience that can enrich a person's knowledge of and appreciation for applied math, electronics, and physics.
  • Sometimes a homebuilt computer can be less expensive than a comparably equipped store-bought computer, especially if you start with a barebones computer kit.
  • Building computers is an enjoyable hobby with the potential to lead to a career. In fact, many IT professionals got their start by building their own computers, and some have even gone on to earn computer programming degrees from prestigious universities. 

What do I need?

Like any other do-it-yourself project, computer building requires certain skills, tools, and resources. For example:

  • You must be able to read and write.
  • You have to know how to do some basic math.
  • You need some basic hand tools
  • You have to have a clean place to work with a suitable table or workbench.
  • You need to be able to follow instructions and observe basic safety and anti-static precautions.
  • If you're a child or a teen, you will need a parent, teacher, or other adult to help you and to supervise your project. A lot of kids email me and tell me they are building computers as science fair projects. Cool!.
  • You need someplace to obtain computer parts, like the companies who advertise on this site or your local computer shop.
  • Books, videos, and other references may be helpful if you have never attempted a do-it-yourself electronic project before.
  • Before doing anything, you must plan carefully and pay particular attention to connectivity. For example, you should make sure you have enough HDMI, DVI, or USB ports if you want to add extra peripherals like an external hard drive to your computer once it has been built.
  • And finally, you need the parts to build your computer. Check out the computer components section to learn about the different parts of a computer, and please consider using our online computer parts store when you're ready to buy. Geek Toyland is another good resource for computer parts and educational toys in general.
  • Please note that these instruction only pertain to building your own computer. Information about other electronic devices such as radios, televisions and fridges, for example, is not discussed on this site. Although these devices may not be more difficult to work on than computers, they are simply different and require different instructions.

    Navigating this Site

    This site uses an unusual navigation system. The "Getting Started" link on the top of each page will take you to a map of the site. So if you get lost, click on "Getting Started." You can find your way from there.

    The links for "Components" and "Software" will take you to mini-maps of the pages dealing with those topics.

    In addition, some subjects are divided into multiple pages, with mini-maps on the bottom to navigate between those pages.

    The reason I chose this odd layout is because I know from experience that designing and building a computer is not quite as much of a step-by-step process as one might hope. It involves a lot of back-and-forth, as well. After experimenting with different navigation styles, this one seemed most like the actual process. And after years of the site being live and several rebuilds, I still think it works pretty well; so I kept it.

    Javascript Required

    Please note that this site uses JavaScript (Active Scripting) for some layout and navigation functions and to open thumbnail images in new, movable, automatically resized windows, which allows visitors to look at the images while continuing to consult the text.

    If you do not have JavaScript enabled, if your browser doesn't support it (is there a browser that doesn't support JavaScript?), or if it is being interfered with by another application (for example, by a poorly written ad blocker that's too stupid to tell content from advertising), then this site will not work properly.

    Ready to begin?

    Good! Then let's get started!

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