Desktop PC Parts Checklist

August 24, 2007

List of Components That Make Up A Desktop PC

Before embarking on building your first computer system, it is important to make sure that you have obtained all of the necessary components to make a functional home computer. Below are a list of the key components that will be necessary for building a complete system. Some items are not mentioned on the list such as internal cables as they are generally included with other components such as the motherboard. Similarly, peripherals such as a mouse, keyboard and monitor are also not listed. It is best to check and make sure you also have them as well.

Case – This is the basis of a desktop computer system. All the other parts of the computer will reside within it. The choice of a case size may impact what other components will be able to fit inside of it.

  • This is also the visible portion of the system, so selection should be based on functionality and aesthetics.
  • Power Supply – Some computer cases will come with a power supply pre-installed inside them, but most do not. As a result, it is necessary to get a power supply that works with your components and has sufficient power. Newer features such as modular cabling and efficiency ratings are also something to consider.
  • Motherboard – The motherboard is the backbone of the system. It determines the type of components that can be used with the system and the number of internal peripherals the system can support. It will directly impact the processor used and total amount of memory that can be supported.
  • Processor – The brain of the computer system. This will be the primary factor in how fast the system is. Choices were fairly simple before but with the advent of dual core and 64-bit, there is a lot more to think about then before.
  • Heatsink – If the processor was purchased via the retail packaging, it will include the manufacturer heatsink. But for those who purchased an OEM processor, it will also be necessary to have a CPU cooler. Without it, your CPU will quickly burn itself out. Make sure that any heatsink you use is properly rated for your processor as well.
  • Memory – Without memory, the computer will not be able to function. The CPU needs it to store the code to tell it how to properly process data. You will need to know the type that your motherboard uses and also determine how much as it directly impacts performance.
  • Hard Drive – The primary method of storage in all desktop computer system. Typically it will be a 3.5″ hard drive with either a Serial ATA interface or possibly the rapidly aging IDE standard.
  • CD/DVD Drive – Optical drives are the component used to install 99% of all software now on a computer system. Without one, it will be hard to even get an operating system installed. Most drives these days are DVD burners that can also playback and record CDs as well.
  • Floppy (Optional) – Once the primary means of removable storage and installing software, floppies have all but vanished from desktop computers. They still have their uses at times, but are no longer required.
  • Video Card – Unless the motherboard comes with a video connector, it will be necessary to install a video card into the computer system. Most graphics cards use the new PCI Express interface, but you may still find some motherboards that still use the older AGP interface that is rapidly being discontinued.
  • Sound Card (Optional) – Most motherboards now feature some form of built-in sound controller on them. As a result, sound cards are not required unless you want higher fidelity computer audio or less reliance upon the CPU to assist with the computer audio.
  • Network Card (Optional) – Ethernet has become so common a media for networking computers that this should be a standard feature on all motherboards. Some motherboards even feature wireless network adapters built in. If your motherboard does not have an Ethernet connector, it may be necessary to install a PCI Ethernet board or maybe a 802.11 wireless card.
  • Modem (Optional) – Broadband has become more and more popular, but there are still a number of people who can only get connected to the net through a dial-up modem. Be sure to get a PCI based card as few motherboards now feature any of the old ISA clots.

While this is a focus on the hardware of the computer system, it is important to also remember that the computer needs to have an operating system. In terms of the Microsoft software, it is generally possible to purchase an OEM version of the Windows Vista operating system at a significantly reduced cost if it is purchased at the same time as hardware components such as the CPU, motherboard and memory. Of course, there are also free options such as Linux as well.

By Mark Kyrnin

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