Building Your Own Computer: DIY

"But It's Too Complicated!!!"

Actually, building your own computer can be pretty simple. In the previous chapter, we have reviewed the most important parts you might need. Here are the possible steps:

  • Choose a CPU and motherboard
  • Get 4 GB of RAM of the type used by the motherboard
  • Decide whether you want a video card, then choose one
  • Get HDD and DVD drives
  • Add up your power requirements and decide on a case & power supply
  • Put them together (use clamps & screws, fairly simple)
  • Plug in a keyboard, monitor and mouse
  • Install the OS and software

That's pretty much the whole process, right there. You don't need to create parts from tiny pieces, and you don't need to be an electrician or an engineer. Just a basic knowledge of the parts and some patience are required. You will probably have to refer to web sites with advice to help you out from time to time, however.

Troubleshooting might be your biggest problem. If you put together your computer and it runs fine (which happens most of the time), then it's easy. But if something doesn't work, then you have to figure out what is broken, and how to fix it. That can be troublesome and sometimes pretty difficult.

We Did It

As an example, in the Summer 2010 semester, LCJ had its first Computer Making Club. The school gave us a budget of ¥50,000. With that much money, we built a computer which might cost ¥80,000 or more from a computer shop. Here are the basic parts we used:

Part Choice Cost Lesson Learned
CPU Core 2 Duo ¥ 11,000 We actually bought a used E7400 Core 2 Duo, but later learned that we didn't save any money. Also, used CPUs might have been over-heated by the former owner, and could be in bad condition.
Motherboard FoxConn G41MX-K ¥ 5,000 This Micro-ATX motherboard was a good choice for a cheap Core 2 Duo system. It has good ports and connectors for modern parts.
RAM 4GB Firestix DDR2 RAM (2 x 2GB) ¥ 8,000 ¥ 8,000 for 4 GB is a pretty good price, and these RAM modules worked just fine. There is a chance that any RAM module won't work with a certain motherboard, however, so you have to be careful. We bought one module first with insurance for return, and when it tested OK, we got the second module.
HDD WD Caviar Blue 500 GB 7200 RPM ¥ 4,000 The Western Digital Caviar Blue is a good, quiet, reliable drive for a low price.
DVD LG DVD super multi drive ¥ 3,000 Standard DVD super-multi drives are cheap and easy to find. A ¥ 3000 drive is standard.
Video Card MSI/NVidia GeForce GT220 with 1 GB DDR3 RAM ¥ 6,500 The one I linked to is not the exact model, but it's very close. A good video card for a fairly cheap price. It has DVI, VGA, and HDMI output ports.
Monitor I bought a used Sony 17" LCD monitor ¥ 4,500 The monitor was a bit old and clunky, but worked fine--much cheaper than a new monitor.
Case & Power Supply A new large-profile case ¥ 4,000 The case included a 450 W power supply
Total: ¥ 46,000

After that, you need an operating system. If you have no more money, you can use Linux, which is free. Some versions of Windows are available for about $100. After that, there is a wide range of free software you can install.


Want to Join Us?

This semester, we will be having the Computer Making Club again. I will give informal lectures on the computer parts, with more details on what you should look for with each part. We will take a field trip to Akihabara, buy the parts, and then put together our own computer!

In the summer 2010 semester, the computer we built was donated to the Talent Show. It was first prize, and helped raise more than ¥ 200,000 to help give a little girl in India a heart operation.