By Michael Rushing, Technical Instructor
So you need (or want) a new computer tower. The reasons that you want or need this new machine will help you determine the form factor you need. So you begin looking at the sales circulars, retail stores, and websites of vendors to see what is out there in prepackaged machines. Lo and behold, there just isn’t a computer out there that provides everything you’re looking for so you are left with building a computer yourself.
Before you go shopping you need to do some research to find the specific computer components you want to use to build your new machine. In this multi-part blog, I will be discussing what the components of a computer are, what they do, and the options available for each PC component.
There are many types of computer cases, from a horizontal desktop, sometimes called a Pizza Box, to standard PC towers including Mini, Midi, Mid, and Full. There are even some specialty cases out there outside of the normal range of shapes and sizes. One of the important things to remember is that a larger computer case will allow for more upgrade options of the system. It is also generally a given that a larger computer case will allow for a cooler running computer.
Look for a computer case with ventilation on both sides and the back. Note that the case must be compatible with the motherboard you want to use. Motherboards come in Extended ATX, ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini-ITX sizes. Make sure you select a case with space for all the drives and readers you are going to want in your machine.
Computer cases are usually made of steel, aluminum, and/or plastic with a steel frame. I once built a custom PC for a friend where I took the metal frame from a Mid-tower PC case and added a Teak Wood exterior to match the interior trim of their 90 foot Ketch sailboat! I have also seen a gaming PC with an outer case shell made of glass.
Remember that one of the benefits of building your own computer is that you are limited only by your own imagination!
Choosing a Motherboard
If the CPU is the brain of a computer, the motherboard is the heart and soul. Every computer component connects to the motherboard, which then pumps commands to others parts of the system. When choosing the correct motherboard there are certain rules that must be followed: socket compatibility, size, slots, and ports.
The first consideration should be to select a motherboard that fits inside the case you choose. This is easy, as both use the same size nomenclature, Mini-ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, and Extended ATX. Next, you need to make sure it is compatible with your chosen CPU brand (AMD or Intel) and your specific processor model.
Each size offers different features, for example, a larger Extended ATX motherboard will have more sockets and ports than a smaller Mini-ITX motherboard. Some might want to make things easier on themselves and buy a Motherboard with a CPU already installed.
Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!
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