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Upgrading and Repairing PCs Tip #22: Building Your Own Computer: Start By Deciding What to Build

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According to the CompTIA A+ Certification 2012 exam objectives, there are at least eight types of custom configurations for PCs. In this excerpt from the 22nd edition of Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs, Scott looks at these as a guide to help you select the appropriate components for your custom PC build.

Find more tips from Upgrading and Repairing PCs here.

From the book

One of the benefits of building your own system is the ability to customize it to specific needs. According to the CompTIA A+ Certification 2012 exam objectives, there are at least eight types of custom configurations for PCs. Let’s briefly look at these as a guide to help you select the appropriate components for your custom PC build.

System Optimized for Graphics (Photo Editing, CAD, CAM Design)

If you’re building a system optimized for graphics editing, it should contain

  • A fast, multicore processor from Intel or AMD.
  • High-end 3D graphics. For photo editing, you can use consumer 3D cards based on the fastest AMD Radeon or NVIDIA GTX series GPUS. For CAD/CAM, choose workstation graphics cards based on GPUs such as AMD FirePro series or NVIDIA Quadro.
  • 16GB or more RAM.

System Optimized for Audio/Video Editing

If you’re building a system intended to create or edit audio or video, it should contain

  • A fast, multicore processor from Intel or AMD
  • High-end 3D consumer graphics
  • 16GB or more RAM
  • Dual 23-inch or larger displays; 4K displays are recommended if you are currently or plan to edit 4K video.
  • 3TB or larger SATA 6Gbps hard disk running at 7,200RPM or faster with a 64MB or larger cache
  • High-end audio card optimized for music creation

System Optimized for Virtualization

If you’re building a system intended to host virtualized operating systems and applications, it should contain

  • A multicore (four or more) processor with virtualization support
  • 16GB or more RAM

System Optimized for Gaming

If you’re building a system optimized for 3D gaming, it should contain

  • A fast, multicore processor from Intel or AMD
  • High-end 3D consumer graphics with at least 2GB RAM per GPU
  • Support for SLI (NVIDIA) or CrossFire (AMD)
  • Gaming-optimized audio card
  • High-end air or liquid cooling as needed to support overclocking or high-performance GPU operation

System Optimized for Home Theater

This type of system puts a premium on connectivity and quiet operation, so its requirements are a lot different than the previous custom builds. It should include

  • Compact form factor (Home Theater PC recommended)
  • GPU or processor-integrated graphics optimized for DVD, video, and HDTV playback
  • HDMI audio and video output
  • Surround sound audio
  • Digital or CableCard TV tuner

Home Server PC

Don’t let the name fool you. Although Microsoft discontinued Windows Home Server in July 2012, there’s still a need for a home network device that’s ready to shoulder the storage burden. A Home Server PC build should include

  • Support for media streaming (UPnP router and operating system optimized for media streaming, such as Windows 7/8/8.1/10)
  • File and printer sharing configuration
  • One or more shared printers
  • 3TB or more shared hard disk space
  • Gigabit Ethernet NIC (connected to Gigabit Ethernet ports in a switch or wireless router)
  • RAID 1/10/5 array for secure storage

Standard Thick Client

If you’re building a system to run desktop applications, such as Microsoft Office, you don’t need a lot of customization, nor should you spend a lot of money. Just make sure your system meets the recommended requirements for the version of Windows (or Linux) you want to run.

Standard Thin Client

If you’re building a system to run basic applications, such as web surfing or email, just make sure your system meets the minimum requirements for the version of Windows (or Linux) you want to run. Based on the type(s) of systems you want to build, you can then make suitable choices of components to help make your system as individual as you are.

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