General Computers

How to Build a Computer / PC

Hard drive and floppy disk drive

One thing for sure you may need is a floppy drive. So before I go into the hard drives, make it clear to yourself that you need a *good* floppy drive. These will cost around 25 to 30 dollars. Whatever you do, don’t get the cheaper ones. It’s really not worth it. Especially when your floppy drives dies on you, and then you need to install drivers, software, etc, or even fix your Windows operating system. Most newer systems have eliminated the floppy drive.

Now to the hard drives. What’s really great about these, is that nowadays you can get large drives for really low prices. If you shop around, you can easily get a 80 gig hard drive for $100 or under (these prices keep on going down all the time).

As your shopping for a hard drive, you’ll probably see a whole bunch of different brands. To keep it simple, stick only to: Maxtor, Western Digital and IBM. Other hard drives might seem cheaper, but these 3 manufacturers produce quality drives. After all, the data on your hard drive is very important, and loosing it is not an option. So spending an extra $10 for the good brand name is essential when it comes to hard drives.


Out of all the items listed, the monitor will probably cost you the most (if you buy it brand new). There isn’t much I can really recommend for monitors, except make sure you get something with a warranty. I’ve lost several monitors over the years (thanks to the
Arizona heat), and it’s really no fun.

If you really want to get fancy (and spend a lot more money) you can get the LCD monitors.

Also, if you’re like me and you have your eyes glued to your computer monitor for long periods of time, consider getting a glare filter. These run for about 15 to 40 dollars. If you still have good eyesight, then I suggest you get one of these before you go blind 😉

Video card

Another main essential part of your computer system, the video card is a must. Without it (unless you have video inbuilt on your motherboard) you won’t really be able to use your newly built PC.

Now the though question, is what type of video card you need.

  1. 16 Meg PCI video card. This is your basic card (which I personally refer to as obsolete). While you won’t really feel much power if you work with graphics, and you really won’t be able to play a lot of the newer graphical intense video games, a 16 meg PCI video card is perfect for just regular Internet usage and application such as Word, Quickbooks and other low graphic usage software. They are also really cheap (don’t spend more than 20 dollars on a card like this). One thing to make sure is that it can support 1024 by 768 pixel resolution.

  2. 32 meg and + PCI video card. This is your cheaper alternative to enhanced graphic usage and video gaming. These cards perform quite well for graphic work and can really stand up within video games. These are also cheap, and will rarely cost you more than 50 dollars.

  3. 3d fx PCI/AGP video card. These types of cards are slowly becoming the standard in all newer computers now. Basically this is what you need if you want to experience video gaming and enhanced video and graphical work. Unfortunately the price tag for these types of cards is rarely under $100.

Keyboard and Mouse

This is really a “no brainer” category. You should just get a regular keyboard (about 8 to 20 dollars), and not worry about the fancy keyboards (which tend to be $30 and more).

If you’re building a new computer for your kids, you may want to get one of those keyboards made just for kids. They’re really great and easy to use for the younger child.

As for the mouse, stick with one brand, and that’s Logitech. You don’t need to spend 100 dollars on a mouse, 20 to 30 dollars should get you something good, solid and with a good warranty.

Sound Cards

Unless your motherboard comes with in built sound, more than likely you will want to have sound on your computer. There is a very large variety of sound cards you can get, each performing quite differently and with various prices.

If you want an excellent sound card that will truly give you the best audio experience ever, then there is no doubt, you have to get the Creative Sound Blaster Live. This card is comparable to what Hollywood studios use for sound editing. There are two drawbacks to it though. For one, the price tag … you’re looking at a 150 to 200 dollar sound card (ouch!). Second, this card is not fully compatible with joysticks. Although this is a problem that is being resolved, it’s something to consider if you plan on playing games which use joysticks as the main controlling device (flight Simulators for example). You may also opt to get the Creative Sound Blaster Live “Value!”. This card runs for around 80 to 120 dollars, and it doesn’t have incompatibility with game controlling devices. Note that both of these cards are PCI.

Next up, you can spend around 50 to 100 dollars for another good card, which will deliver you great sound, yet not with the full live surround 3d audio power of the two above cards. There is a very wide range of cards that fit this description, and my advice is, stick with the brand name Creative (and make sure you get a PCI card!).

Finally you can opt to get the bargain cards. This is a perfect solution if you really don’t care about sound, and all you really need is to hear some beeps and warning sounds. In this case, go ahead and choose an ISA card. You can pay as little as 10 dollars for these, but like I mentioned, don’t expect quality sound.

As for the brand names, it’s a good idea to stick with Creative. Out of all the sound cards I’ve used, Creative has always been the easiest to install (almost 100% plug and play!) and the most compatible with applications. You can get one of the “Sound Blaster” compatible cards, but you risk going through terrible installation problems. You’ve been warned.


Modems are another real “no brainer” device to get. Although you should consider if you really need a modem. With Windows 98 SE, you can actually share one modem connection with several computers, so why get another? Another thing to consider is high-speed Internet access. This is getting much more popular and it’s availability is also increasing. In which case, you won’t even need a modem.

Now if you do still want to get a modem, then go ahead and get an internal 56K ISA modem. No need to worry to much about brand names, most modems perform the same. Although acquiring a 3Com 56K ISA (or PCI) modem wouldn’t hurt at all if you got a few extra dollars.