How to Choose Compatible Parts for Building PC?


choose compatible parts for building pc

So, you have grown tired of slow frame rates on your gaming console. Maybe you want to ride the horse of 4k gaming. Or you want to give yourself a little treat and want to build a custom and budget entertainment machine.

Or maybe you want to replace your old and slow junk PC. Whatever your needs may be, this article is going to help you on the journey.

But, before taking any steps in your journey, you are gonna need a map and a suitable plan. The first and foremost important step in building custom parts is to choose the right parts and to make sure they are all compatible with each other.

So, this entire article is about selecting the right parts with the right budget and what you want to achieve before spending any money.

Why Build Your Own PC?

The pros of building your PC are many, but it’s a good idea to make sure it’s right for you. You don’t want to get in too deep and regret your decision.

Building your own custom PC can be cheaper than purchasing a pre-built one. But, this isn’t always the case. If you are just gonna use your PC for day-to-day tasks like browsing, movies, emails, and some office stuff, buying a prebuilt PC like Dell is not a bad idea and it can also save a lot of bucks from your pocket. You can’t compete with the pricing they get on bulk parts.

Also, they come with warranties which you won’t have on your custom PC. If you are a person who doesn’t much about computers and needs outside help if something goes wrong, you are better off with pre-built PCs.

However, if you are moderately or expert in knowledge about computer and want to build high-end gaming PC or a high power video editing machine or a high-end workstation, you will save much more bucks in building your own PC.

Along with saving money, building your own PC have other advantages, too.  You can upgrade it or any part of it anytime you want because there will be no chance of any soldered-on parts or overclock it to boost some extra juice.

But the main reason many love doing it is that there a satisfaction in personally picking and handling each individual parts themselves, plus, you don’t need years of experience to do that, it is super easy.

The length of this article or the complexity may feel overwhelming, but I promise by the time you get to the end of this article, every piece would have fallen into right place.

Choosing the Components

There are tons of parts/components that may go into your PC, but there are 6 main components that you must have in order to build a working PC.

  1. Case: Also known as chassis, the case holds all the components together in a structure.
  2. Processor (CPU): Processor or CPU stands for central processing unit is a brain of your PC. CPU mainly determines the speed of your computer. You have to choose CPU and motherboard that is compatible with each other both in terms of a manufacturer (Intel and AMD) and CPU Socket.
  3. Motherboard: If CPU is the brain of the computer then the motherboard is neurons. Every component will be attached to or plugged into the motherboard in some fashion.
  4. Memory (RAM): RAM stands for random access memory. It holds the data for temporary use, it is crucial to run software and apps smoothly. You need to choose the RAM that is compatible with your motherboard’s RAM slots.
  5. Storage: The storage, HDD (hard disk drive) or SSD (solid state drive) holds your OS and all other files. SSDs are a lot faster and more popular these days but HDDs are cheaper and provide more storage space.
  6. Power Supply Unit (PSU): The power supply unit controls the flow of electricity into your PC. The power supply directly connects to the motherboard and other components as necessary.

These are just the necessary components to get your PC started, without even one of these components, you won’t be able to get past the BIOS menu.

For more features and complex build, you can add these extra components.

  • MonitorMouseand Keyboard: Many of you might have it already. If not, be sure to buy some or your computer will be of no use. If you want high-resolution home theater, or want to play ultra-high definition 4k games, you can buy 4k monitors.
  • Graphics Card: Many of CPU comes with onboard graphics cards, these cards are usually weak. But, if you just want to perform day-to-day tasks and want to play low graphics 2D games, it will be just fine. On the other hand, if you want to perform video editing, play high-end games, you will be needing a separate graphics card that goes into the PCI express ports of the motherboard.
  • CPU Cooler: Not all, but many of the expensive CPUs comes with heatsink and fan inside the box. This is essential to keep it from overheating. But, if you want to use your computer for high-intensity tasks, or you want to overclock it at some point, you will be needing a bigger and separate CPU cooler. CPU coolers come in two variants – water-cooled and air-cooled. Note: You may also want to buy thermal paste tube with separate CPU coolers. Many come with free or pre-applied thermal paste, but make sure if you need it to purchase separately.
  • DVD Trays: Most people hardly or never even use the DVD anymore. The only use of DVD is to install an OS, but many of us do it by loading installation files on USB drives. But, if you are old school or you may have lots of your data on discs, disk drives can be useful.
  • Extra Memory and Storage: You can add as many memory (RAM) sticks you want as motherboard can handle and as long as they are of same size variant. For storage, you can add HDDs, SSDs drives as many as your motherboard can handle up to its maximum number of SATA ports.
  • Case Fans: Most cases come with one or two fans for basic cooling, but if you are more serious about cooling, you can use all mounting points, or you want to third-party fans that aren’t as loud and comes in many colors. Just make sure to get correct size fans for your case. Most fans come with 120mm in diameter, but some have 80mm or 140mm fan mounts.
  • Add-ons: There are tons of room to add more to your build, thanks to PCI-E, SATA, and M2 ports on the motherboard, plus open slots for CD drives, SD card readers, or even older floppy disk drives. You can add extra USB ports, a sound card, a fan manager – your options are only limited by your build. Just make sure your add-ons can work with your case and your motherboard.

These aren’t all the components you can add to your PC, there are tons of other stuff you can do with your custom pc like super cool looks using lights and cables. Also for assembling your custom PC, you will need – a screwdriver, USB drive (at least of 8GB) for installing Windows, and if possible another Windows computer.

Where to Buy PC Parts?

PC Parts

If you are trying to buy your parts at a retail store, there is a high chance that you might get all the parts. There aren’t many places where you can buy all parts at the same store.

If you want all the PC parts at the same time, the best place to look for is online. The online stores like Amazon and Newegg have millions of parts in stocks, they are the great place to buy any of computer parts you may need. Also, with millions of parts, they have best prices for your PC parts.

The best way to shop for your compatible PC parts is to use the following process:

  • Plan your rig by looking at sites in Logical Increments. It has a list of many different builds at different price points. It will give you a good idea of what a balanced build looks like and it will help you make the later process easier.
  • Now, start finding your parts on sites like Amazon and Newegg. Mostly, we would recommend Newegg; even if you are not planning to buy parts from there, Newegg has fantastic filters that will help you find and search for PC parts you want easily.
  • Once you have selected all your parts, go to PCPartPicker and plug them into their tool. It is a great site to check your PC parts compatibility so you wouldn’t be money on incompatible PC parts. It also shows you which online retailer has the best price for each part so you would get a best possible price on your total build.

So as you know the basics of what goes into your computer and where you shop your products. Let’s get into how to choose right and compatible parts for building PC.

How to Chose Compatible PC Parts?

This might be the trickiest part of PC build. Lots of people get confused about which parts to use? How much powerful a desktop should be? Whether to buy Intel CPU or AMD? Whether you need a graphics card or not? How many watts in power supply?

This and many questions are easy to get any newbie tripped. So let’s break it down. You may want to buy products that have been released in last year or two, going back any further than that and you will be trapped with low-efficiency.

CPU

Many of tutorials or YouTube videos might tell you to start from cases or motherboards. But, I am here to simplify the things for you. CPU is the primary part of a PC, it is the brain of the computer. CPU determines the speed of the PC. Choosing CPU will determine the compatibility of other parts, so it is a good place to start.

AMD or Intel?

CPU

This is the first question you would have to answer while buying CPU? These are the two major players in CPU market battling each other for decades. Intel sells more CPU and has more raw power in the high-end market while AMD competes it with price and power efficiency.

Generally speaking, Intel CPUs are better for gaming and other high-intensity tasks due to their power and popularity. But, if you are on a budget, AMD can be a good option for you.

AMD also offers designs which have much more powerful integrated GPU than Intel lineups, generally called APU models. These designs can handle light 3D gaming, whereas Intel’s integrated graphics aren’t generally enough to hack it.

Which Model?

Once you have decided which brand to chose from, now is the time to chose the right model. As you might know, every computer today is advertised using their processing power (expressed in MHz or GHz). While it can be a good measure to compute CPU power but due to latest designs and architecture, it’s hard to tell CPU power just by looking at their clock speed.

There are other factors which affect performance like – transistor size, architecture, no. of cores, power consumption, cache. In simple terms: more the number of core and cache, better the multitasking performance, more speed in individual cores means better performance in the single tasks.

Intel current lineups include 4 CPU varients – Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9. There are multiple processors in each line which varies in clock speed, cores, and cache. Generally, Core i5 is powerful than Core i3, Core i7 is powerful than Core i5, Core i9 is powerful than Core i7. Again due to architecture, size, generation, and core variations it may not be true in every single case.

Intel release new generation model on yearly basis. If you want to build a gaming PC, Core i5 with quad cores is an ideal deal to buy instead of pricier Core i7 and i9. Also, with quad cores, you can get optimal speed for all your day-to-day tasks and some heavy tasks like video editing.

AMD’s lineup for desktops is more separated. The latest popular designs are called the “Ryzen,” available in 3, 5, and 7 models. Processor cores increase as you go up the line and get more expensive CPUs. The top-of-the-line AMD chips are called Ryzen Threadripper, which has up to 32 cores. The sweet spot for AMD is in Ryzen 5, either the 4- or 6-core chips.

AMD’s APU models which are not so powerful provides decent onboard graphics as well. AMD releases new socket designs and CPUs at less frequent intervals. AMD’s main lineup Ryzen, Ryzen Threadripper, and APU chips all use different processor sockets.

If you are still confused with which CPU to buy and which is faster? The great way to check their performance is by benchmarks, cpubenchmark.net have a great database of benchmark tests of current and older processors ranked with their speed and price info.

Motherboard

Motherboard

Now, it’s time to select the motherboard. It’s the piece where all other pieces will plug into. There are three main things to consider before buying a motherboard, that is – socket, size, and features.

Socket

Now, as you have already chosen your CPU, you need to choose the motherboard which supports your CPU socket. Both Intel and AMD have released tons of CPUs with various socket designs over the years. You can quickly narrow down your search parameter by looking at motherboards which are compatible with your CPU.

Size

There are basically 3 types of motherboard sizes – ATX, microATX, Mini-ITX. The motherboard you choose must be compatible with the case you are using. We will talk more about it below. ATX is standard size computer tower, microATX boards are for slightly smaller towers, and Mini-ITX boards are for more compact builds. These sizes don’t correspond to power, you can build a powerful machine even by using Mini-ITX boards. The main difference here is about expansion options. Smaller motherboards have limited expansion options and are relatively tough to build because of their smaller size.

Features

Now it’s the time to narrow down our search parameters even more with the features we want. It generally means PCI-Express slots for graphics cards, enough SATA ports for you HDDs, support amount of RAM you want.

Make sure to check the back panel, the part of the motherboard where most of your accessories will plug in. If you already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, you want to make sure that the motherboard supports them. Almost all of them does, but if suppose you have an older monitor without an HDMI port and you don’t plan on adding a graphics card, you’ll either need a motherboard with a DVI or VGA video port or an adapter.

Now, the final part, the basic motherboard should support graphics card, sound processing (little headphone jack you plug your speakers into) and an Ethernet port for networking (LANs and Internet and stuff). Advanced motherboards should support a large number of USB 3.0 ports, surround sound output, onboard Wi-Fi and any extra features you want them into.

At last, the cables for power input on the motherboard should match the cables on the power supply, for both CPU power supply on the top and main power connector on the side. You can check these values in pins; if your power supply has 12-pin rail and your motherboard also has 12-pin connector, they are compatible.

Depending on the CPU Socket, the CPU power connector may have 4, 6, or 8 pins, so make sure power supply has one of these rails available.

RAM

RAM

Memory or RAM, which is an important part of PC is the easiest way to turn your slow PC into the fast one. Not having enough RAM may cause you problems in running your PC optimally so make sure you get enough.

For basic and day-to-day tasks, I would suggest getting 8GB, two sticks of 4GBs, you can get it very cheaply (under $100). Now, for media creator, gamers, and editors, I would suggest 16GB. If you are setting up the state-of-the-art workstation, video editing, for 4K gaming, and massive multitasking you will be needing all available RAM that your motherboard can support (usually 32GB or 64GB on high-end motherboards).

Also, before you purchase your RAM, you need to check which generation of RAM your motherboard support. DDR3 and DDR4 are two popular standards available right now and RAM is not backward compatible. If you are buying multiple RAM sticks, make sure they are of the same standard. For example, you cannot buy one DDR3 RAM stick and one DDR4 RAM stick. Also, you shouldn’t buy the two RAM sticks of different sizes & frequency.

Mixing different sizes of RAM sticks makes the CPU cycle asymmetric, which can cause a delay in CPU’s data fetching that could become a bottleneck and therefore is not recommended. Also, if possible, buy all your RAM sticks which runs at the same frequency and which does not exceed maximum supported frequency by the Motherboard. In case, you buy one RAM with 1200MHz and one with 1400MHz, the BIOS will make it both run at 1200MHz. Also, make sure to check the number of slots for RAM on the motherboard and their maximum capacity.

Another thing to consider while purchasing RAM is speed. While it does not make any noticeable difference in performance. But you might as well purchase RAM modules that are as fast as your motherboard can handle.

Storage

Solid State Drive

The storage is an important part of any PC, this is where our OS and all other digital files are stored. For building custom PC, here’s the tip – get an SSD. In the past, SSD was some kind of a luxurious thing, they were expensive and limited on storage. Now, SSDs are cheap enough that they are becoming a standard.

If you wanna store big games, huge data, movies, I would recommend buying smaller SSD just for your OS and you can use a hard drive to store your big files.

Every motherboard and power supply comes with support for SSDs and HDDs. They all use same SATA cables and data ports for their function. Until you buy storage drives than you have SATA ports, you are fine. These drives also use SATA power rails from the power supply, so make sure it includes enough plugs for at least two drives.

Cases

PC Cases

Cases are the outer layer of CPU which protects inner circuitry, basically, we put everything we have in the case. There are lots of varieties in cases.

Size

PC cases generally come in and referred to as a “full tower” and “mid tower”, and as from name, you can tell the size and shape of the case. When you think of normal desktop PC, it is “mid-tower”. But, PCs also comes with bigger and smaller cases, like cubes or compact to fit into your cabinet.

When choosing cases, you have to take motherboard size into account. As we have seen earlier, motherboards come in different sizes like full-sized ATX, the smaller Mini-ATX and Micro-ATX, and the tiny Mini-ITX. The larger sized cases will include an option to mount smaller motherboards, like ATX sized case can mount mini-ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX, but a Mini-ITX sized case cannot mount or fit ATX sized motherboard.

Everything Else

Ther are also other things to consider while buying a case, there is material (aluminum, steel, plastic), the number of storage and RAM expansion arrays, mounts for fan and cooling system. Many of the cases come with lots of integrated LEDs and side panel windows so the people or you can see the view of your masterpiece.

Cases also have their standard mounting point for power supply, most cases can fit standard ATX power supply. But, for some small mini-ITX cases, you will need a Mini-ITX power supply. Also, many smaller cases come with their own power supply to avoid this hassle.

The other factor you might wanna consider before purchasing your case to check the cable management holes, USB 3.0 arrays, headphone jack, power supply and fan placement for optimal airflow. Also, the design and looks of Case as you might wanna show off your masterpiece to friends.

On the last, you might wanna add an extra graphics card or a CPU cooler to your build, in that case, you should make sure that they can fit in the physical dimension of your case. Some high-end CPU coolers and power supply might need an extra room. So make sure to check the specification of GPU and CPU cooler (dimensions in inches or millimeters) to make sure they are compatible with your case. If you are buying the liquid cooling system with radiator, make sure you have adequate space around fan mounts too.

Power Supply Unit

Power Supply Unit

This is where many people make mistakes. The power supply unit might not look an important part from the surface but it is! Power supply unit provides electricity to every component of your PC, so you wanna make sure it can provide sufficient amount of power to each component.

How Many Watts?

This is the trickiest and hardest question people face while shopping for PSU. Obviously, you don’t want the total electricity used by all your PC components to be more than power supply unit can provide/convert. The biggest power draws will be from motherboard, CPU, and GPU. All the other components like storage drives, fans use a very tiny amount of power.

The sum of amounts of power used by all your PC components determines how much of capacity your power supply needs. For example – Nvidia Titan X, a high-end graphics card needs a power supply of at least 250 Watts in its specification.

If you are unsure of how much power you exactly need, use this calculator. Just put in specifications of your selected components and it will tell you how many watts your power supply will need. Again, you need to make sure the power supply rails match the sockets on your motherboard, SATA drives, graphics card, and other stuff.

Fixed, Modular, or Semi-Modular

Some power supply has their cables permanently attached so you just have to stuff remaining wherever you can even if you are not using them at all. A modular and semi-modular power supply, on the other hand, allows all or some of the power rails to be unplugged from the supply itself so don’t necessarily have to use or stuff them. This is especially useful when you are working with the smaller case with little space.

Quality and Efficiency

If you have ever gone for shopping of power supply, you might have seen little badges say something like 80 Plus, 80 Plus Bronze, 80 Plus Silver, 80 Plus Gold, or 80 Plus Platinum, these badges indicate how efficient a power supply is.

The higher the badge higher efficiency it has, and higher efficiency means low electricity use and low noise.

Now, you are dealing with electricity here, so I suggest you get the safe, quality, branded, and well-built power supply. If you get a cheap power supply, you start giving problems like – failing early, or shortage of power, or unable to supply power at all, it can even harm your other PC components as well. To make sure you are getting the right and quality power supply, you can search the Internet, read the reviews from reputable sites, and watch reviews on YouTube.

Graphics Card

Graphics Card

This is probably the most controversial and complicated choice for normal users. If you are thinking of doing some gaming on your PC, a graphics card is the most important choice you have to make while choosing PC parts.

NVIDIA or AMD

Just like the processors, graphics cards come in two flavors, NVIDIA and AMD. Nvidia leads in power and performance and AMD competes in value. Along with technical power, Nvidia also has technologies like GameStream that may be worth considering to you.

Manufacturer

Another type of complication here is – Nvidia and AMD don’t manufacturer their own graphics card, instead, they license their product to other companies who construct and sell the cards under their own brand. So, you can buy the Nvidia GTX 1060 from companies like Zotac, Asus, and EVGA, all using same Nvidia graphics processor with a slight difference in VRAM, cooler, circuit board, and connections. To make things easy, you can start with which model of graphics card you want and then you can choose from the manufacturer which provides the features you need.

Power

Depending on what you wanna do decides what card you want to get. Even for high-end gaming, you don’t require to spend as much money as you think.

Depending on the usage, I break down the price points as below:

  • No gaming or very light gaming: If you are not a fan of games or you play some old 2D games, there is no need of an extra graphics card, you can use the integrated graphics card.
  • Basic 3D games like League of Legends: Spend $100 or less.
  • For games like Overwatch: Spend $100 to $200.
  • For games like Battlefield 4, Witcher 3, Call of Duty: Spend $200 to $300.
  • New AAA games with high settings and resolution like Crysis 3: Spend $300 to $400.
  • For super high-end and graphics intensive games and 4K resolution gaming: Spend $400 and more.

Best way to check the performance of graphics card is to check the benchmarks for the games you want to play.

On the last note, most mid-range and high-end graphics cards need dedicated power supply connection in addition to being mounted on the motherboard. Make sure your power supply has enough wattage, rails, and right connection to support it. Most graphics card require either 6-pin or 8-pin rail or multiple of both. Alos make sure that the GPU doesn’t draw electrical power that exceeds the capacity of the power supply.

GPU Pin Rail

CPU Coolers

CPU Cooler

If you to add an extra or third party cooler to your CPU (in case you want to overclock it). We recommend cooler master, Noctua, or Corsair (if you want a liquid cooler). To check compatibility, make sure it supports your CPU’s socket and that it can fit or mount into dimensions of your case – check the specifications, it will list its height from the motherboard up.

Other Stuff

Most of the other stuff you buy for your custom PC build will draw power from the motherboard. For example – the drive trays, PCI-E expansion slots. If you make sure the power supply has enough capacity and connections and you are fine. The only exception here is case fans which can directly be plugged into the power supply or the motherboard.

Check Your PC Parts Compatibility Multiple Times

Building a custom computer can be expensive but it is worth every penny you spend. You just want to make sure that you have purchased the right parts and they are all compatible with each other.

So, before you go shopping for PC parts, just double check their compatibility against one another.

  • Processor: Processor needs to match the motherboard CPU socket.
  • Motherboard: Should be compatible with your CPU, RAM, and power supply (correct number of pins for motherboard, CPU, and other components as necessary).
  • RAM: Should match the slots and support type of slots on the motherboard (DDR3 and DDR4).
  • Storage: Must fit into your case, enough storage bays on the motherboard, and enough SATA ports on the motherboard.
  • Case: Must be able to fit your Motherboard, Power Supply, CPU Coolers, Graphics card, and Extra storage drives.
  • Graphics Card: Motherboard needs the right type of PCI-E slot to fit it and it needs to fit into the size of the case and needs the right connector on your power supply.
  • CPU Cooler: Must fit into your case and Motherboard/CPU socket.
  • Power Supply: Must provide enough power that is sufficient for all components to work in optimal condition. Must have the correct number of pins on motherboard and CPU rail, and extra rails for graphics cards, storage, and other power drawing components.

It may seem overwhelming but you can always check on sites buildpc.in for PC parts compatibility and then you can double check specifications make sure everything matches up.

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Akshay Bhor

Akshay Bhor is a techie, webmaster, tech reviewer, cyber security enthusiast and part time blogger from Pune, India.

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