There was a time when you had to be a certified engineer to build a PC from scratch. Getting to know about different PC parts and their connections was a tiresome task, indeed.
However, over the past decade, major computer parts have become easy to connect and use. Among other things, it means that you can build your desired PC without worrying too much.
All you need is a comprehensive idea about computer parts and how you can pick suitable options from the market.
Our objective with this article is to create such a comprehensive guide. Therefore, we have talked about some of the most crucial computer parts you should know about. Most of them are so vital that you cannot build a standard-performance PC without these components.
On the other hand, some of these parts add value when you create a modern PC. Either way, having a clear understanding of these parts is a necessity for everyone who wants to build a PC – now or later.
So, without further ado, shall we start exploring these computer parts?
We will add some tips on how to get the best components whenever possible. However, some products are so broad that you will need additional buying guides.
#1 PC Case
PC Case, also known as the PC Tower and PC Cabinet, is the component that accommodates most PC parts. In most cases, everything can be put inside the PC case except for the display, keyboard, and mouse. More so, PC cases have become more compact and versatile.
For instance, you can choose between vertical and horizontal PC cases with ease. Nowadays, you can find an impressive variety of sizes as well. Thus, for example, it is possible to find PC cases that you can carry around easily.
On the other hand, you can find oversized PC cases that can accommodate the best possible components, including a discrete GPU and additional PCIe-powered parts.
Nevertheless, we must add that vertical PC cases are considered the norm, primarily due to their airflow-boosting design and space to add more components if needed.
Most manufacturers use metal and plastic to build PC cases, and they are pretty affordable. Nevertheless, it is possible to find premium PC cases with a transparent glass side panel. More importantly, these cabinets may come with built-in fans and RGB lighting.
Therefore, besides simply accommodating all the parts, a PC cabinet can add aesthetic value to your PC build. As you can guess, you will have to pay extra for these new designs and fans/cooling systems.
You have to consider a few factors while selecting a PC case for your build. First, the case should house all the other components, especially the motherboard and the GPU. Second, it must go in sync with the cooling method that you want to implement.
Finally, you should ensure if the case has the necessary buttons/ports on the desired parts. For instance, if you want to control the power or the LED lights through a single button, you cannot pick a random PC case.
Motherboard, also known as the board, is the component that houses some of the critical components of a PC. Technically speaking, a motherboard is a printed circuit board.
It receives power from the PSU and relays the same to other parts of the computer. Most importantly, you will be connecting your processor, GPU, and RAM to the motherboard. In addition, the board will take care of primary Input/Output via ports USB, HDMI, etc.
Most motherboards are designed in a way that you can access the Input/Output ports from the rear side. In the case of older motherboards, you used to have dedicated ports for audio, keyboard, and mouse.
Now, a lot of these needs are routed via USB or Thunderbolt. It also means that the I/O options on your PC will be based on the motherboard model you have. It can also come with additional slots for add-in cards.
So, if you want to add an Afterburner card, you need one of the advanced motherboards in the market. In addition, a few motherboards come with built-in cooling systems and heat-spreaders. As you can guess, they come in different capacities as well. For instance, not all motherboards may not have an equal number of RAM slots or M2 slots.
Because they are so versatile, motherboards need to be chosen with care. The first thing is the form factor of the board. You can primarily choose between ATX and micro-ATX motherboards.
While an ATX board is the standard and can accommodate more components, micro-ATX boards are more suitable for compact PC builds. You should also consider the CPU socket that the board comes with. The best idea is to compare the sockets supported by the CPU you want to use.
Even though you can find adaptors, native support is always the best option. In addition to these, you should check if the motherboard comes with desired features and the required number of PCIe slots and SATA ports.
Based on the number of features you need, a motherboard can cost anywhere between $100 to $2000.
For instance, you will have to spend extra if you need maximum compatibility and features like UEFI BIOS. But, on the bright side, these features can make it easy to build the PC.
The Central Processing Unit, better known as the CPU or the Processor, is hands down the most crucial part of any computer. In short, you cannot even boot up a system without a processor. It is an electric circuit that can process the calculations requested by the OS and other software on your PC.
These chips are added to the motherboard using the CPU socket, which may vary. Therefore, you have to make sure that the CPU you want to buy uses the same socket as the motherboard you have already bought – or vice versa.
However, like other computer parts we have discussed, CPUs have also become smaller over time. Nowadays, a CPU weighs only a few grams and has a length and breadth of a few centimeters.
Yet, at the same time, CPUs have become so powerful to be used for an impressive variety of requirements. Intel and AMD are the trusted names when it comes to processors. They have been in the industry for decades and have the newest generation of CPU chips available in the market.
Finding the right CPU for your PC build is one of the most important things. If you choose the wrong combo of CPU and other components, you may face problems with performance.
It is also important to complement the CPU with other resources like RAM and storage to get the most out of the processor.
In addition, when you are strict about the performance requirements, you should look at the number of cores and threads on the chip. In general, a higher number of cores represents improved performance capacity.
You may also have to consider a few other aspects, such as the support for overclocking. If you want the CPU to run at the maximum power, it should be unlocked and have overclocking support.
You can find processor line-ups with overclocking support from both AMD and Intel. Of course, you will have to use some tools to control the overclocking options. Last but not least, you have to consider the pricing of the CPU before you get one for your dream PC.
As a general rule of thumb, we recommend going for the latest-generation CPUs from either maker.
Doing so will ensure the best level of compatibility in the future. By the way, as you know, CPUs generate a lot of heat. Therefore, you have to combine the processor with a dedicated CPU cooler, which consists of thermal paste, heat sink, and a cooling system on top.
Depending on the performance you need, you can pick air or liquid-based cooling options.
Random Access Memory, commonly called RAM or Memory, is a type of short-term memory that a computer needs to function. When the computer is running, it will store the information on RAM in no order. It is one reason why the name Random Access Memory is given.
Because it is temporary, RAM will erase all the info when the computer is turned off. The process of information exchange takes place at super-fast speeds with RAM modules. Therefore, the RAM you choose for the PC can determine its overall performance.
Depending on the situation, you can choose one of the many RAM types. For instance, DDR4 RAM is the best and newest variant you can get today, but it can be a little expensive. On the other hand, DDR3 RAM is one of the old variants.
Another thing you should keep in mind is the speed of the RAM module.
This speed is measured in MHz, and you can find RAM modules as fast as 3600MHz or higher. However, the maximum speed of the RAM module you can use depends on the motherboard/processor you are using.
Along with the type and speed, you should also check the latency of the RAM module. A module with lower latency will improve performance noticeably.
More importantly, you should also have a suitable capacity for RAM. Modern systems can support up to several GBs of RAM, but you have to ensure at least 8GB to be on the safe side. However, if you want to build a gaming-focused computer, you will have to add more RAM.
As always, you have to ensure motherboard-level compatibility before selecting the best RAM modules for your computer. The amount of RAM you can add to a PC will also depend on the number of RAM slots.
Keep in mind that random selection does not work when you want the maximum performance from your PC. For instance, if you have the wrong type/capacity of RAM, even having some of the best CPUs/GPUs will not help you achieve best-in-class performance.
#5 Hard Drive
The hard drive is a term used to refer to the storage options of your computer. For many years, the term Hard Drive had referred to Hard Disk Drives. These are mechanical drives with a read/write system inside.
But, in the past years, we have seen the increasing popularity of Solid-State Drives. These drives offer better speed, lower weight, and improved stability. However, HDDs remain the less expensive option even today. Therefore, you can choose between HDD and SSD when it comes to PC storage.
Regardless of your choice, storage is what will take care of the system files and personal files. For instance, the storage space will accommodate the necessary files for the Operating System.
Then, as you start using your computer, it will add personal files, application files, temporary files, etc. Unlike RAM, however, hard drives do not delete the information once the system is turned off. So, you can consider hard drives as the long-term memory of your computer.
Based on your requirements, you can choose between a variety of HDD/SSD options. The capacities can go up to several Terabytes, offering you enough space to store files.
However, you should keep in mind that an SSD will always have the upper hand in performance. For example, you can see that the system boots up quickly when equipped with an SSD. Therefore, you have to pick SSD over HDD when building a PC for gaming or heavy-duty tasks like video editing, 3D modeling, or CAD.
Hard drives also come with different connection options. For instance, you can find SSDs that use either M2 or SATA slots. You have to make this choice based on your budget and the size of the computer.
M2 SSDs are great from a space-saving point of view. On the other hand, SATA-based SSDs may help you save money, but they add bulkiness to your PC.
In addition, different motherboards may offer better/lower speed based on the data connector of the hard drive. So, sometimes, choosing M2 over SATA can keep things snappy.
#6 Graphics Card
A Graphics card, also known as a Graphical Processing Unit, GPU, and video card, is a specialized processor that you can attach to a computer.
It is tasked with processing 2D and 3D images for the computer. While a CPU takes care of the general instructions from the Operating System and software, GPU will become active only when graphics-intensive processes are required. These processes include gaming, film editing, CAD, 3D modeling, audio rendering, etc.
Unlike the parts we have mentioned above, a Graphics Card is not essential for a computer. Computers can run without a discrete graphics card, but they will struggle in terms of gaming performance. We should also keep in mind that most CPUs come with an integrated graphics card.
However, these integrated graphics have been optimized for day-to-day tasks and not gaming. Therefore, if you want a high-FPS gaming experience from your computer, you should stick to a discrete graphics card.
Having a graphics card on your computer can help with a few other tasks as well. For instance, crypto mining is something that requires a high-end graphics card. However, it is worth noting that the cores inside a CPU and GPU are different. Therefore, a GPU cannot replace a CPU or vice versa.
As far as the selection of a GPU is concerned, you have to consider a few things, including the pricing. First, you have to ensure that the card is compatible with your motherboard and the CPU.
Choosing a graphics card that does not work well with the CPU can lead to performance and compatibility-related issues. You do not want to see these errors while spending a considerable amount on a GPU. You should also ensure that the GPU will be sufficient for your tasks.
For example, if you are into video editing, you need to get one of the higher-quality GPUs. On the other hand, if you want to equip your PC for casual gaming, one of the entry-level graphics cards will do the job.
The monitor, also known as the display, is another essential part of the computer. It is an area where you have more freedom to choose. As long as you take care of compatibility, you can connect your PC to a display of almost any size.
Some people connect their computers to a full-sized television, and they work just fine. However, if you are looking for an ideal-performing PC, you should get the right monitor for it. And screen size is the least important thing.
PC monitors are available in different resolutions. You can easily choose between HD Ready, Full HD, Full HD+, and UHD 4K resolutions. Of course, you will have to pay extra for monitors with higher resolutions.
But, if it sounds okay for you, you can have a premium viewing experience. You should also consider getting a PC monitor with an increased refresh rate for your gaming PC.
The standard refresh rate of a PC monitor is locked at 60Hz. However, you can get a monitor with 120Hz, 244Hz, or 300Hz refresh rate for snappy gaming.
Once again, you have to ensure maximum compatibility. Most high-end monitors connect using HDMI, which is standard on modern motherboards and GPUs. However, older monitors may also come with VGA, which is not as powerful as HDMI.
Another alternative connection method is DisplayPort, which is not that popular per se. More importantly, now, you can find monitors that transfer data and power through a single USB-C port.
While getting a monitor, you should pay attention to other aspects like the size, budget, VESA mount options, and bezels. In addition, you will have to pick from the different types of panels, like IPS, TN, and VA.
If you ask us, you should be ready to spend a decent amount on the monitor if you want a best-in-class computing experience. For instance, if you are into photo/video editing, you need a monitor with improved color accuracy and wide support for the spectrum.
#8 Mouse and Keyboard
As you know, you need to get a good pair of mice and a keyboard before using a computer. Again, many options are available in this category. First of all, you can choose between wired/wireless mice and keyboards.
These devices use Bluetooth or 2.5GHz wireless to connect to the computer. It is worth noting that wireless keyboards and mice are now as fast and responsive as wired ones. The only exception is when you want to use the keyboard for gaming, where latency matters a lot.
When it comes to choosing a mouse, you have to consider the size and the customization options. You may need customizable buttons and better control for professional computing and gaming. For example, Logitech MX Master 3 is one of the most popular mice among professionals.
On the other hand, if you are into serious gaming, you can find so many options from makers like Razer.
Similarly, you have to look at the keystroke type and size when choosing a keyboard. Some people prefer a silent keyboard, while others go for mechanical variants. While each type has pros and cons, it is more about the user’s preference.
Fortunately, you can find two kinds of keyboards in the desired price bracket. So, you do not have to worry about spending a lot to get a better experience.
Rest assured, a computer will work with almost any keyboard and mouse.
In addition to the core components mentioned above, you can use the following accessories with your computer. All these are optional and do not play a vital role in keeping the computer up.
A webcam for videoconferencing and Zoom meetings
A headset with an integrated microphone
VESA mount for wall-mounting your monitor
External speakers for listening to the audio output
A power strip for connecting the different components
A cooling system with many fans/water blocks
Additional fans or coolers for the PC case
An RGB lighting system that you can customize
A mousepad for a smoother user experience
The Bottom Line
We believe we have covered everything you should know about the essential computer parts.
These parts play an indispensable role in making sure that your PC works fine. We have also explained the various options you have in each sector, especially if you want to optimize your PC for gaming. Did we miss anything crucial?
We will be keeping our ears wide open for your comments.
Martha Davis is a computer hardware specialist who works extensively in designing and manufacturing hardware devices, researching advanced computer technology. She built GadgetGangster.com as a platform to share her insight on computers and PC assembly with the web. Currently, she is carrying out her research on Robotics and Computer Vision and working privately to deliver services. Martha makes sure that readers of GadgetGangster.com master the basics of setting up computer components like motherboard, CPUs, and GPUs through the informative articles that she writes.