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Wasn't sure exactly where to put this one. Whether in the General Chat or in the Tutorial Section (but since it wasn't about film making or the software, I thought it was most appropriate here)
Anyways, I decided to put this tutorial together because we certainly get a lot of questions around here about computer specs for editing and then we usually suggest to try to build your own computer. This is for the people who don't know ho to do that, or need a refresher. I tried to make it as thourough as possible. Enjoy.
Also, it is intentionally divided between three posts because of the lenght and because they then correspond to the videos.
How to Build a PC
Building a Computer Guide Part I: The Basics
Okay, so you’ve decided to brave it and build your own computer. Great! You’ve probably already heard of all of the advantages of building one yourself, but let’s hear some of them again.
- You can choose exactly what parts, brands, and specifications you want your system to have rather than being limited by what is offered by the manufactures.
- You can save quite a bit of money because you’re not making a profit off of the computer.
- And, you get full access to all of the individual warranties of the parts rather than being stuck with a one year warranty for the computer company.
Oh, so you knew all that already. Well, let’s see how much you really know! Onwards to part 2.
Part II: The acronyms explained
There are, as you have probably already discovered, many computer related acronyms and abbreviations. If you aren’t up on the latest tech trends, or haven’t heard these words used before, you could be a little bit confused. No problem. We’ll explain the common ones here!
CPU- this simply means Central processing Unit or processor. This is the brains of the computer and along with the RAM, determine the mulit-tasking capability and speed of your computer. Which leads us to the next abbreviation!
RAM- Random Access Memory. Or just memory.
HDD- Hard Disk Drive. Or hard drive.
SSD- Solid State Drive. A faster, more secure, and more reliable drive. But beware of the high price tag and the low amount of storage space.
GFX- just graphics
Optical Drive- the DVD or CD drive. Used to install programs, games, and the operating system.
OS- the operating system. Examples of current ones are: Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Past operating systems included Windows 2000, Windows 98, Windows ME, and others.
PSU- the power supply unit. Provides power to your system.
Mobo- the motherboard. Basically controls and connects everything within the system.
GHz- gigahertz. Used to measure processor speed such as Quad Core 3.4 GHz which would mean one physicall processor running 4 cores 9the equivalent of 4 single-core processors all running at 3.4 GHz). The more GHz, the better!
MHz- megahertz. Used to measure RAM speed, but more gigabytes of RAM at lower speeds is better than less RAM at higher speeds
GB- gigabytes. A unit used to measure hard drive space and the amount of system RAM.
TB- also used to measure hard drive space. 1TB= 1,024 GB
MB- megabytes. Oh gosh! I remember when RAM and hard drivers were measured in that! Yeah, don’t look for any drives with that little storage. Won’t be able to install the latest Call of Duty or Age of Empires on that! You’d need 3-4 GB for that!!
AGP- Acelerated Graphics port
RPM- ah, a familiar one! Rotations Per Minute, applies to hard drives in this case
Well, there you have it! Some of the most common computer acronyms that you’ll come across while building your computer!
Part III: Choosing the components
This is one of the most fun parts. You get to pick out which parts you’ll put into your system. But before we do that, we need to determine what you plan to do with your computer, what programs you’ll run, and what components you have to have.
The two most powerful computer related tasks are gaming and video editing. Both of these tasks require a lot of computer power, especially if you’re playing the latest games or editing in high definition. So, let’s check out my recommendations!
The users that would be in this class would be a basic, home user or student running office and email and internet. Maybe some basic games like chess or similar light graphics and system straining games.
What to look for
Case: basic, ATX minitower or desktop chassis, 1 fan
CPU: Single Core (2 GHz or higher) or Pentium Dual Core (about 2.0-2.2 Ghz)
RAM- about 1 GB for Windows XP or 2 GB for Windows Vista
OS: Vista Basic or Windows XP Home
Hard drive- 80- 160 GB, preferably 7200 RPM
Floppy drive- optional, not really needed too much, except for some backups
Optical drive- DVD ROM/ CD burner
Video Card/Graphics- Integrated is usually fine, or a 256 MB low end card will do
Monitor- 17-19 inch will be adequate
Ports- USB, maybe a firewire/ IEEE1394 port (external drives, camcorders, etc) parallel port possibly (printers), ethernet, mouse/keyboard if not USB, onboard sound card, be sure to have at least 3 SATA ports (1 for optical drive, 2 available for hard drives and all)
Optional: injek printer, upgrade to DVD burner
These users would play a lot of DVDs, maybe a burn a few, edit a few basic videos from a consumer camcorder using a program like Windows Movie Maker. These users also use the computer for basic word processing, itunes or Zune, and web surfing.
Case: ATX minitower, 1-2 fans (watch for noise if it will be part of an entertainment center) or Micro ATX for entertainment center computer
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo model (2.4- 2.83 GHz)
RAM: 2-4 GB
OS- Vista Premium (native HD) or Windows XP Media Center Edition
Hard drive- 250 GB or greater (at least 7200 RPM)
Floppy drive-could be handy for backups, but not used too often
Optical drive- DVD burner, about 18X, maybe dual layer
Video card- 512 MB or so, Nvidia Geforce 7200 or greater, no integrated video
Monitor- 20 inch or so, your preference
Ports- firewire, USB, parallel, eSATA (maybe), possibly HDMI, usually standard sound card, Ethernet, 3+ SATA ports
Optional: wireless G or N adapter or PCI card, laser printer, scanner, TV Tuner (works with Media Center in Vista Premium and XP Media Center)
These users would be using this computer for work related activities and as a workstation. You’ll want to run the latest office software and be able to make PDFs and scan and attach to networks easily. You’ll want business tools and backup ability. You won’t want downtime, but may be on a budget, especially if outfitting many users with new computers. **See note 2**
Case: ATX minitower, desktop model, about 2 fans
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2- 2.4ish GHz
RAM: 2-3 GB **See note 1**
OS- Vista Business or XP Pro
Hard drive- 250-320 GB 7200 RPM (assuming there is a server for network files)
Floppy drive-could be handy for backups once again
Optical drive- DVD-ROM/ CD burner
Video card- integrated or 256MB should be more than enough unless running very intensive engineering programs (then the above would need changing too)
Ports- several USB, parallel, eSATA (maybe), standard sound card, Ethernet, 2-3 SATA ports
Optional: laser printer (wireless?), scanner, fax, copy machine, webcam (video conferencing)
Video Editing Powerhouse
Yes, the part you’ve been waiting for! The film making machine. These users need ;lost of RAM, hard drive space, and fast processors for fast rendering times and storage (especially with HD footage). Though the graphics you’ll require won’t be as intense as the next type of user, you’ll still need a powerful computer! We’ll help you choose and you’ve come to the right place!
Case: Really, it’s up to you. Whatever gives you enough room for upgrades and all should be fine. My suggestion would be ATX tower or mini tower
CPU: Quad Core. Definitely as most video editors and NLEs can utilize 4 cores. Look for Core 2 Quad, Phenom II X4 (don’t go for the triple core) or Intel Core i7
RAM: 4GB or more (go for as much as you can afford especially with 3D rendering and HD) **See note 4**
OS: Vista Premium or Ultimate
Hard drive: 500GB- 1.5 TB or more (especially if using HD cameras)- external storage would be good too **See note 3** 7200- 10K RPM
Floppy drive: not really
Optical drive: Dual layer DVD burner, light scribe, Blu-ray burner/reader
Video card: about 512 MB should be enough- look for GeForce 8800 or higher
Monitor: about 22-24 inch
Ports: several USB and firewire, eSATA, upgraded sound card (sound blaster) TV Tuner, [url= http://www.logickeyboard.com/shop/shuttle-pro-v2-1509p.html]Shuttle V2 Pro[/url]
Optional: good printer (for graphics art) scanner, good speakers, microphones, multi-media keyboard (you can get keyboard sticker sets for filmmaking shortcuts at www.editorskeys.com )
The title says it all. This is the gamers rig. For all the latest games, best graphics, and ability to play lots of graphics intense games. If that describes you, this is the right section!
Case: ATX Tower or Full Desktop Chasis
CPU: Fast Intel Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad or Phenom ii X4 (look for lots of Cache) **See note 5** Or Intel Core i7 if your budget allows it!
RAM: Get at least 4 gigs **See note 4**
OS: Vista Ultimate
Hard drive: about 750GB- 1TB or get a lower storage drive with 10K RPM
Optical drive: at least a CD/DVD reader and burner
Video Card: GeForce 8800 or higher, SLI and CrossFire support are possibilities, maybe several graphics cards?
Monitor: your preference. 22” or more is my recommendation
Ports: microphones, good sound card, lost of PCI slots, firewire maybe
Optional: joystick (maybe), comfortable gamer keyboard and mouse, webcam, Xbox 360 controllwer for computer
Okay, once you figure out what type of user you are, you can begin choosing your components. Good places to shop for components are at www.amazon.com and www.newegg.com for discounted parts and the latest technologies. At Newegg, you can sign up for sale emails with shell shocker deals which can be great!
As far as the motherboard goes, this is the part where you need to make sure everything matches up. The important things to look for are the processor socket, whether it supports AMD or Intel, the number of SATA ports, RAM slots, RAM speeds, maximum amount of RAM, processor support, etc. See figure 1 for an example of a motherboard and processor that work together. Also, be sure to match the motherboard form factor with that of your case (ie. MicroATX case= Micro ATX motherboard)
For the processor, look for the correct number of cores for your particular type of usage, then look at the processor socket type foe motherboard compatibility. Again, see figure 1 if confused. Look for the most amount of gigahertz and higher cache sizes to determine multi-tasking capability. For instance, I’m running a Phenom II X4 at 3.2 GHz and with over 8 MB of L3 chache. And it’s fast.
For RAM, don’t worry so much about the speed (except for compatibility with the motherboard) as much as the amount you put into the system. Get more GB of RAM rather than faster RAM. Just don’t get less than 667-800 MHz. Unless you're a video editor or gamer, this is mostly unimportant.
For the OS, an important consideration is of course, XP or Vista/Win 7. For a new build, just go with Vista. The compatibility issues for the most part aren’t major and are generally with the old hardware. You’ll be fine. Just get 64-bit if using more than 4 GB of RAM. If you’re really stuck on XP, that’s fine too, but keep in mind that Microsoft will stop supporting it soon- probably about late 2010-2011. And see my recommendations above for the version of Vista to get. Also, let me fill you in on a little secret- you can get the system builder versions of XP and Vista much, much cheaper than the normal consumer versions. Check it out here
Hard drives. How much movies, music, videos, TV shows, documents, and applications will you put on the computer? That tells you how much drive space to get. Remember, 1TB= 1,000 GB.
Power supply. That’s a good question. Well, first, are you getting a good graphics card? If so, you’ll need at least 300-350W. At least. For CrossFire and SLI set ups, you’ll want in upwards of 500W. Next, suing Intel Core i7? Make sure you get a Core i7 compliant PSU. Now, you ca head over to a site like this or a simpler one like this one Also, look for the amount of SATA power adapters included as you may need to get some adapters if there aren’t enough. As far as power supplies go, the 12V rails become important with very fast systems and multiple video cards.
One, actually two more things! Then you’re done. Get yourself an antistatic wrist band/strap so you dopn’t fry the sensitive components with static electricity. And get some thermal grease for the processor to apply between the heat sink and the exposed top of the processor.
Okay. Now you’re ready to order your parts! Isn’t that exciting!
1.Dual channel memory only works when you have 2 identical modules- for 2 GB you’d want 2X1GB, for 4GB, 2X2GB, and for 3GB maybe 2X1GB and 2X512MB. Triple channel would obviously mean 3 identical modules.
2.The business class computer would be used for the majority of employees as a workstation. This would be for average tasks, like spread sheeting, word processing, PDFs, etc and internet usage and email. This would not be a great combination of parts for 3D apps or engineering purposes.
3.External storage is a good alternative as you can add lots of drives with more storage and are convenient on the go and for backup and storage purposes. Look for firewire or eSATA for faster transfers.
4.Be sure when selecting more than 4 GB of RAM to get a 64-bit version of Vista or XP operating system to recognize more than 4 GB.
5.As far as AMD goes, it has played catch up with Intel for a while, but many of its Phenom II X4 Black edition processors are just as good as the Intel Core 2 Quads out there. I have used and have both, and they are pretty evenly matched.
Video Install Guide Part 1 corresponds with Parts 4-5 below!
Part 4: Unpacking
So, you’re parts arrived today did they? Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s get them unpacked! Just be very careful when taking them out of the box not to drop the parts and to not put them on the static rug. It’s often best to leave them in the anti-static bags they came inside of until we’re ready to assemble them.
You’re also going to want to set up an area that won’t be disturbed to set up your computer. Usually a large corner of your office will be fine. If you have pets and won’t be finishing the build in one sitting, you’ll want to have it on a table. Just don’t build it on the rug!!!!!! Static, remember?
Finally, gather the tools you’ll need for the installation. These include: scissors, pliers, and a flat bladed and criss-cross screwdriver.
Part 5: Get the case ready for assembly!
Okay, once the case is out of the box, you’re going to want to remove the side cover and have a look inside. You’ll want to move wires out of the way so the motherboard can fit in and make sure nothing gis loose or rattling around. Now, attach the feet to the bottom of the computer case by clicking them into place.
Next, you’ll need to get your power supply and put that into the case and line it up with the large opening on the top or bottom of the case. Using the 4 or so screws that come with it, mount it to the inside of the case (often times the screw holes are on the back of the case) See figure 2
Then you’ll want to remove the IO panel shield (see figure 3) from the case. This may be possible to remove by hand by twisting the metal until it snaps off, or you can get some pliers to snip it. Then you can take the new IO shield panel that came with your motherboard and place that in the opening. There are usually little tabs that will hold it in place until you fasten the motherboard in.
Now we are going to get the motherboard unpacked from it’s box. Be careful when taking it out because the parts are fragile (wait, f-r-a-g-i-l-e, that must be Italian). It’s best to leave the motherboard in the static resistant bag until we are ready to install the components.