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By Robert B.
This is was a major mistake that I made as a rookie computer builder. I know how anxious you may be to build your first computer; I can still remember how excited I was when UPS deliveredmy first part.
But before you start buying parts left & right, you should set down and answer the following questions:
"What do I want to do with my computer?"
Simple internet browsing?
Audio and video editing?
Play video games?
"How long do I want this computer to last me?"
Only for a couple years
The idea here is to decide where your money will be best spent to maximize the use and/or life of your computer parts. For long term and/or intensive use, such as video/image editing, you'll want something that you can easily upgrade over time. While for short term and/or simpler tasks, a cheaper, less upgradeable PC should work fine.
The easiest way to assure that all of your computer components will be compatible is to purchase them all at the same time. This way you can compare the features and requirements all at once.
I recommend that you start with your motherboard and processor. Many companies sell motherboard & processor bundles. A bundle is great way to start buying your computer parts because usually you'll get a deal when you buy the processor and motherboard together. In addition, the processor will be compatible in that particular motherboard, which is one less thing you'll have to worry about.
Next, select the type of RAM that is compatible with your motherboard and decide how many MB's of power you want with it. Generally 512 MB of RAM will be sufficient. If you plan on doing image/video editing, or playing video games on your PC, 1 GB of RAM would be better suited for this job.
Now you can decide what types of extra components you want, such as a video card, hard drives, CD/DVD drives, etc.
Once you've picked those out, determine roughly how much wattage of power you'll need from your power supply. I've attached a power usage chart below with how much each component uses, but these are only averages, so I can't guarantee this is what you'll observe.
Device -- Power required (Watts) Video card -- 20-30 PCI card -- 5 Floppy Drive -- 5 CD, DVD-ROM -- 10-25 RAM per 128 MB -- 8 Hard Drive -- 15-35 Motherboard -- 20-30 CPU -- 25-70
Generally 400 watts should be plenty of power, even for the most power hungry systems you can build. Also consider purchasing a quiet power supply, because the power supply is generally your noisiest piece of hardware. I personally use a 400 Watt Zalman Quiet Power Supply (pictured at left) that I love. It provides tons of power with virtually no sound.
By purchasing everything at once you can ascertain that your computer parts will support all of your computing needs. Another benefit is that you'll save money on shipping charges by purchasing everything at once rather than separately.