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Building a PC for Dummies, 5th Edition

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  • Shows tech hobbyists how to build the perfect PC, whether they want to create the ultimate gaming machine or combine new and recycled parts to construct an inexpensive computer for a child
  • The do-it-yourself craze is sweeping through the tech community, and this guide is now significantly revised and updated to cover the wide array of new hardware and accessories available
  • Step-by-step instructions and dozens of photos walk first-time computer...
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Building a PC For Dummies

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Overview

  • Shows tech hobbyists how to build the perfect PC, whether they want to create the ultimate gaming machine or combine new and recycled parts to construct an inexpensive computer for a child
  • The do-it-yourself craze is sweeping through the tech community, and this guide is now significantly revised and updated to cover the wide array of new hardware and accessories available
  • Step-by-step instructions and dozens of photos walk first-time computer builders through the entire process, from building the foundation, and adding a processor and RAM, to installing a video card, configuring a hard drive, hooking up CD and DVD drives, adding a modem, and troubleshooting problems
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Can you, a mere mortal, build your own PC? Yes. Mark Chambers has helped thousands of otherwise perfectly normal folks do it. Now refined through five editions, and updated for the latest tech, Chambers’ Building a PC for Dummies is a godsend for the budding PC builder.

Patience and common sense: this book is packed with it. Chambers starts with some simple maxims that’ll dramatically reduce your chances of running into trouble. (For instance: if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.)

Then, one step at a time, you’ll walk through mounting your power supply; installing your motherboard (without shorting it out); and adding everything that makes your PC a PC: processor, memory, video, audio, storage, DVD, networking. Whether you’re building from scratch or cobbling together a “frankenputer” from excess silicon junk, this is all the help you’ll need. Bill Camarda, from the December 2005 Read Only

Booknews
Introduces the hardware components of a personal computer and how to assemble them at home. Individual chapters provide step-by-step instructions for installing the motherboard, RAM and CPU, monitor, hard drive, CD-ROM, sound card, modem, simple networking, ISDN, cable and DSL Internet connection, digital scanner, and SCSI devices. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471767725
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/17/2005
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 5
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark L. Chambers is an author, tech editor, and unabashed techie. He is the author of more than 30 computer books including iMac For Dummies, 4th Edition.

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Table of Contents

Introduction.

Part I: Can I Really Do This?

Chapter 1: What’s in a Computer, Anyway?

Chapter 2: What Type of PC Should I Build?

Part II: Building Your PC.

Chapter 3: Building the Foundation: The Case and Motherboard.

Chapter 4: A Bag of Chips: Adding RAM and a CPU.

Chapter 5: The Three PC Senses: Ports, Mouse, and Keyboard.

Chapter 6: Images “R” Us: Adding Video and a Monitor.

Chapter 7: Make Room! Your Hard Drive and Other Storage Devices.

Part III: Adding the Fun Stuff.

Chapter 8: Putting the Spin on CD-ROM and DVD.

Chapter 9: Let Your PC Rock!

Chapter 10: Modems and the Call of the Internet.

Part IV: Adding the Advanced Stuff.

Chapter 11: Attack of the SCSI Monster.

Chapter 12: So You Want to Add a LAN?

Chapter 13: Life in the Fast Lane with Broadband.

Chapter 14: Input and Output: Scanners, Cameras, Video Capture, and Printers.

Chapter 15: More Power User Toys.

Part V: The Part of Tens.

Chapter 16: Ten Reasons Not to Buy a Retail PC.

Chapter 17: Ten Tools and Tasks for a Power User’s PC.

Chapter 18: Ten Important Assembly Tips.

Chapter 19: Ten Ways to Speed Up Your PC.

Chapter 20: Ten Things to Avoid Like the Plague.

Part VI: Appendixes.

Appendix A: Choosing Your Operating System.

Appendix B: Glossary.

Index.

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First Chapter

Chapter 2
What Type of PC Should I Build?

In This Chapter

  • Determining what type of computer you need
  • Do I need (gasp) Special Stuff?
  • Finding out where to scavenge computer components
  • Using used parts
  • Buying parts through the mail or on the Web

When you walk into a mega-huge retail electronics store these days to buy a computer, the salesperson is supposed to help you pick out the right one for your needs. If you build your own computer, however, you need to figure out for yourself what type of computer is best for you. Take it from me, you're likely to come up with the answers far better than many so-called experts who sell computers. Remember, they're primarily interested in making money for themselves, so it's in the salesperson's best interest to talk you into a more expensive model than you really need.

In this chapter, I show you how to figure out what type of computer fits your needs, and I suggest three basic configurations. I tell you what parts you need to buy -- including the special stuff. I also fill you in on the different sources for buying computer parts -- especially used parts, which can cut the cost of building your new machine even further.

Interrogating Yourself on Your Computer Needs

If every computer owner had the same needs, only a single model would be available. But because today's computers are used at home and at the office, for business and for pleasure, what works well for one person usually doesn't quite fit for another. Although most computers sold today are Pentium computers, they're about as different from each other as the thirty-some-odd flavors at your local ice cream parlor...or, at least they should be.

What makes a computer unique?

The most obvious differences between computers are usually the speed of the CPU, the amount of system RAM, and the amount of hard drive space. Hold on, though...a gaggle of other more subtle differences between machines can also affect performance.

These differences include the amount and type of secondary cache (which I discuss in Chapter 3), the amount of video memory (which you can find in Chapter 6), the speed of the CD-ROM drive (covered in Chapter 8), and many other factors.

In order to custom-build the computer you need, you have to design it around who you are and what you plan to do -- and the easiest way to determine what type of computer you need is to ask yourself a series of questions. If you really enjoy TV shows about lawyers, here's a chance to cross-examine yourself -- grab yourself a pen and a notebook and write down your answers to the questions in this checklist:

  • Primary Application: What will be the main function of your computer -- in other words, what will you be doing with it about 75 percent of the time you're using it? For example, do you plan to use the computer for word processing, drafting, or Internet surfing? Are you a big-time game player who likes to play the latest and hottest 3D game releases? Jot down the main function of your computer under the heading Primary Application.

    If you're not quite sure what your primary application will be, just write down a general term like "office work," "home use," or "very expensive paperweight."

  • Secondary Application: What will be the secondary function of your computer -- in other words, what will you typically use it for if you're not performing the main function? Do you play games during the evening, or does your family use the computer for education or Internet surfing? Write down the secondary use for your computer under this heading.
  • Family Computer: Will children be using your computer for education or games? If so, write down that use under this heading.
  • MMX: Here's an easy one: Will you use this computer to watch video CDs, or will you be playing games that use full-screen video? Along the same lines, do you plan to use this computer for capturing video images from your VCR? If so, jot down the rather cryptic phrase MMX required under this heading.
  • DOS mode: Do you have any older MS-DOS programs that you need to run at home or at work? If so, write down DOS mode required under this heading. (You'll actually use this information later, when you decide which version of the insidious Windows beast that you need to run. Appendix A discusses all the major operating systems for your PC.)
  • Hi-resolution video: Will you be staring at your computer screen for more than three or four hours a day? For example, do you run a home business or write novels on your computer? Will you be using your computer for heavy-duty graphics, such as professional desktop publishing or image editing with a program such as Photoshop? If so, write down Hi-res video required under this heading.
  • Power user: Are you going to run an entire suite of computer programs like Microsoft Office? Will you be running sophisticated, expensive applications like Adobe Photoshop or AutoCAD? If you're planning on using complex programs, write down I'm a power user.

    Some people want the fastest possible computer -- they hate waiting, and they're willing to pay the extra green to get the Cadillac of computers that's ready for anything. If you fit this description and you don't mind paying extra for many of your computer components, go ahead and write down power user. You'll spend more money than the typical person because you're buying more-powerful and expensive parts, but you'll probably end up with the nicest computer on your block.

  • Network user: Will you connect your computer to other computers over a LAN? (That's technobabble gibberish for local area network -- or, if you have a life, just the network.) If the answer to this question is Yes, write down I'm a network user (and prepare yourself for an extra headache or two later in Chapter 12, where I discuss networks).
  • One last question: Where were you on the night of the 15th? (Too bad Perry Mason didn't have a computer to keep track of all those details!)

See, that didn't hurt too badly! You've now eliminated the salesperson and built a list of your computer tasks and activities. From this list, you can build your own description of your computer needs. Pat yourself on the back and pour yourself another cup of coffee or grab another soda. In the following section, you use this list to determine what type of components you need to build into your computer.

Answering Your Computer-Needs Questions

If you were buying a computer through a retail store, the salesperson's next move after inquiring into your computer needs would be to saunter over to one particular model and say something reassuring like, "Based on what you've told me, I'd recommend this as the perfect computer for you. Will that be cash, check, or charge?"

Whoa, Nellie! Chances are that the salesperson's pick may meet your needs, but when you're building your own computer, you get to decide which parts are more important than others. Are you looking for speed? Storage space? The best sound or the best color?

In this section, you use the description of your computer needs (which you create in the preceding section) to choose between three standard computer designs. I've created each of these basic designs to fit a particular type of computer owner. Later in this chapter, you find out whether you need to add special stuff to your base model. (You may recognize this method -- it's the same one used by savvy car buyers to get exactly the car they want at the lowest possible price.)

Look through the descriptions of each of the three designs that follow, and then select one that can best serve as the base model for your computer. Of course, you can add or subtract parts, select more expensive parts for any of these designs, or just jot down extra parts you want to add after your computer is up and running. The following computer designs aren't hard-and-fast specifications, just suggestions.

I include a final entry in each of the following designs (the Optional field), which names one or more "extras" that most people find very useful for one reason or another. They're not absolutely required to run programs, but they make life a heck of a lot easier! Some optional items that I suggest may be upgrades to an existing part in that design. For example, if you're willing to spend extra for a faster processor, I recommend the type of processor you should look for.

Design #1: The Jack Benny economy class

Obviously, one of the reasons that you may want to build a computer yourself is to save money -- my first design is specifically tailored for those who want to build a basic, no-frills computer for the least amount of money. You won't be surfing the Web on this computer -- but then again, life doesn't begin and end on the Internet. I can just see Jack Benny opening his pocketbook now and asking, "Do I really need a keyboard?"

This computer is suitable if the checklist description that you compiled in the preceding section fits the following profile:

  • Both your Primary and Secondary Applications are word processing, home finance, keeping track of household records, or similar simple applications that don't require the fastest computer.
  • Your checklist description does not include Family Computer, MMX required, Hi-res video required, Power user, or Network user.

In Table 2-1, I list the appropriate details on the computer components that you need to build this basic computer design. It has no bells and only a few whistles, but it still qualifies as a Pentium PC.

Table 2-1 Requirements for a Bare-Bones Pentium-Class Computer

Computer Component

What to Look For

Case

Standard "pizza box" or desktop model, single fan

CPU/motherboard

100 to 133 MHz Pentium, ISA slots, 256K cache

System RAM

16MB (megabytes)

Hard drive

One EIDE drive with at least 1GB (gigabyte) of storage capacity

Floppy drive

One 31/2-inch, 1.44MB disk drive

Video card

Standard 512K VGA adapter

Monitor

14-inch VGA

Ports

2 serial and 1 parallel

Input

Standard 101 keyboard and mouse

Optional

4x CD-ROM drive (for software installation)

Design #2: The Cunningham standard edition

Remember Richie Cunningham and his family from Happy Days? If home computers had been around in the '50s, Richie and crew would have used this standard edition design. It's typical in every way, including the moderate amount of money you'll spend in building it. This computer has basic multimedia capabilities, and it can handle the Internet without blinking.

This computer is suitable if your checklist description fits the following profile:

  • Your Primary Application involves browsing the Web, using Internet e-mail and newsgroups, working with more-advanced office programs, such as spreadsheets and scheduling applications, using simple desktop publishing, or creating computer artwork.
  • Your Secondary Application involves computer games, multimedia, or educational software on CD-ROM.
  • Your description does not include Hi-res video required or Power user.

Table 2-2 lists the requirements on the most important parts that you need to build this mid-range design.

Table 2-2 Requirements for a Middle-Range Pentium-Class Computer

Computer Component

What to Look For

Case

Minitower model, single fan

CPU/motherboard

166 to 200 MHz Pentium, PCI and ISA slots, 256K cache

System RAM

32MB (megabytes)

Hard drive

One EIDE drive with at least 3GB (gigabytes) of storage capacity

Floppy drive

One 31/2-inch, 1.44MB disk drive

Video card

Standard 1MB SVGA adapter

Modem

33.6 Kbps internal data/fax

CD-ROM

8x internal drive

Sound card

16-bit Sound Blaster-compatible

Monitor

15-inch SVGA

Ports

2 serial and 1 parallel

Input

Standard 101 keyboard and mouse

Optional

MMX CPU, inkjet printer

Design #3: The Wayne Manor batcomputer

"Holy microchips, Batman!" Design #3 is the power user's dream -- everything is first class. This system can handle even the toughest jobs, such as creating 3D artwork, processing the largest Excel spreadsheets, and editing images with Adobe Photoshop. The batcomputer that you build can be as good as any top-of-the-line computer that you might buy at That Big Store That Sells PCs -- except, of course, that you'll spend hundreds of dollars less.

This computer is suitable if your checklist description fits the following profile:

  • Your Primary Application involves advanced or heavy computational work like computer-aided drafting, multimedia video editing, or 3D animation. If your primary application is playing the latest and greatest computer games in all their glory, you should consider the batcomputer, as well.
  • Your checklist includes Hi-res video required and Power user.
  • You simply want the best possible computer, which will last the longest time before it requires upgrading. (Speaking of upgrading, I show you how to take advantage of other people upgrading their computers in the sidebar titled "Finding bargains in so-called obsolete computers," later in this chapter.

Table 2-3 lists the requirements on the most important components that you need for this design.

Table 2-3 Requirements for a Top-of-the-Line Pentium-Class Computer

Computer Component

What to Look For

Case

Full tower model, dual fan

CPU/motherboard

200 to 233 MHz Pentium MMX, PCI and ISA slots, 512K cache

System RAM

64MB (megabytes)

Hard drive

One EIDE drive with at least 5GB (gigabytes) of storage capacity

Floppy drive

One 31/2-inch, 1.44MB disk drive

Video card

Windows-accelerated 3D SVGA adapter with at least 2MB of video memory

Modem

56 Kbps internal data/fax

CD-ROM

24x internal drive

Sound card

16-bit Sound Blaster-compatible wavetable card (32 or 64 voices)

Monitor

17-inch SVGA

Ports

2 serial and 1 parallel

Input

Standard 101 keyboard and mouse

Optional

Pentium II CPU, inkjet or laser printer, Zip or Jaz drive, SCSI adapter, ISDN adapter, network adapter

After you select the best base-model computer that meets your needs, you're ready to identify any special add-ons (or, in the language of the technowizards, peripherals) that you need to use your applications.

What Type of PC Should I Build? continued

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2014

    You dont need it

    Just make sure your parts are compatable

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Building a PC for Dummies

    My son found this book very helpful and enjoyed it very much.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2006

    good

    this book is pretty good. tells you step by step how to build a pc and what parts you should get.a pretty good book for first time pc builders

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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