When someone sets up to begin building a gaming PC, most folks would ask how, but I believe that the more interesting question is “why?”. Why build your own computer when there are literally hundreds of alternatives to building one and dozens of reasons not to. Building your own computer comes with no warranty and no guide. I do not have an effective counterpoint for every concern that someone may raise to dissuade you from pursuing it.
However, we live in a largely digital world. With quarantine coming up on the one-year mark, we have spent much of our lives on the computer. Surprisingly, few of us understand how they work. Building a PC will require that you become intimately familiar with each component and how it works so that you may make the best selection to suit your needs.
Sharpen Your Problem Solving Skills
Building a PC is also a skill that you will take with you no matter where you go. The process demystifies the inner workings of a computer and allows you to see it for what it is, a combination of parts that all play a role in the operation of the machine. You will no longer be shackled to a computer repair service for simple issues and diagnostics. As the architect, you will have a greater understanding of where issues may be stemming from based on the symptoms you are encountering.
This role of tech support is an excellent way to sharpen your problem-solving skills. For example, I found that a computer I recently built would start only to power down seconds later. This problem drove me crazy. At first, I thought one of the components was drawing too much power, so I removed the graphics card and restarted the PC. Unfortunately, this was not enough as the problem persisted. I then tested all of the connections on the motherboard with no success. I decided to remove the entire board and test it on the desk that I was using. When I removed the board, I saw that one piece of the case was making contact with a metal lead causing the whole computer to short. I insulated this metal tag and reinstalled the parts, and the computer started right up without issue.
To some, this may sound maddening (and it was), but it was immensely gratifying. One by one, eliminating different points of failure until the problem was solved. This type of solution is rarely this clean during our day to day lives. However, the core idea is an excellent method of problem solving that I have incorporated into my toolkit.
Hone Your Research Skills
Building a PC requires research. There is no way around that, but it also should not be looked at as a chore. There are dozens of channels on Youtube that are dedicated to the craft of building computers. These channels are not some dry affair either. They are usually staffed by funny and personable folks who love what they do and know how daunting that first build really is. They help to break down the process into easy, digestible instructions while pointing out potential pitfalls. These channels also offer a dearth of other content adjacent to building PCs. Some cover the tech news, gaming news, documentaries, photography, and reviews of new components or other gadgets.
Each component you buy has its own warranty that usually extends far beyond the store guarantee that you would get from a big box store, often 2 or more years from the date of purchase. If something goes wrong, you pop the part out of the case, wrap it up, and ship it out to the manufacturer using prepaid postage. The replacement will usually arrive by the end of the week.
Save Your Money
You also have the ability to save money on your build. By building a PC yourself, you don’t have to pay for someone else’s labor. In addition, you gain a valuable set of skills and experiences that you would have completely missed out on.
Some Resources To Get You Started
Photo credit: Andre Tan