PURCHASING A PC OR BUILDING YOUR OWN
In this chapter, you will learn:
- Some guidelines to use when purchasing a PC
- Reasons why you might choose to assemble a PC yourself
- How to assemble a PC from separately purchased parts
This chapter present guidelines to follow when purchasing a new PC and also present detailed, step-by-step procedures for building a PC from parts. If you need a computer for your own personal use, consider assembling it yourself, not necessarily to save money, but to benefit in other ways. If you don’t want to build a PC, you will have to choose between purchasing a brand-name PC or a clone.
After-sales service and support are probably the most important criteria to consider when purchasing a PC. In general, a brand-name PC (such as IBM or Compaq) may cost more but will provide better service and support than a PC built with parts manufactured by companies whose names you don’t recognize. Important reasons for choosing to build your
computer more proprietary are to put components directly on the system board rather than use more generic expansion cards. Remember from earlier chapters that an easy way to tell if ports are coming directly off a system board is to look at the back of the PC. If ports are aligned horizontally on the bottom of a desktop PC or vertically down the side of the tower-case PC, these ports most likely come directly off the system board, and it is more likely to be a propriety-type board.
For example, a brand-name system may include video, sound, or network logic on the system board rather than on an expansion card. Or, rather than being updated by a setup program in BIOS, the CMOS setup program may be stored on the hard drive. The shape and size of the computer case may be such that a standard system board does not fit; only the brand-name board will do. These practices can make upgrading and repairing brand-name PCs more difficult because you are forced to use the brand-name parts and brand-name service. Also, in some areas of the country, it might be difficult to find authorized dealers and service centers for brand-name PCs.
When selecting software, review the required functionality you identified, which drives your decisions about software selection. Choose the operating system first, according to guidelines presented in Chapter 2. Then, when choosing applications software consider these questions:
- What do you want the software to do? (This will be defined by your answer to the functionality question above)
- Is compatibility with other software or data required?
- Is training available, if you do not already have the skills needed to use the software?
- How good is the program’s documentation?
- What are the company’s upgrade policies?
- How well-known or popular is the software? (The more popular, the more likely you will find good training materials, previously trained people, technical support, and other compatible software and hardware)
- Clone PCs have been tested to assure that individual component are compatible. When building your own PC, it is possible you might select components that are incompatible. For these reasons, buy quality mainstream components to best assure compatibility.
- Don’t plan to assemble a PC for the first time unless you have access to an experienced technician or some technical service center you can consult if you encounter a problem you cannot resolve. For example, you may buy all the parts from a store that has a service center. The store may offer to assemble the PC for you for a charge ($50.00 to $75.00 is about right). If you find you cannot resolve a problem, you can always go back to the store for this service.
- Remember, don’t assemble the PC to save money, because you probably won’t.
Getting Ready for Assembly: Selecting Parts
If you have decided to buy parts and assemble a PC, expect the process to take some time. The system board and expansion cards are full of jumper switches, connections, and ports and the documentation must be carefully read to determine just how to configure the system board and all components to work together. Technicians in service centers can assemble a PC in less than an hour, but they have already assembled the same group of parts many times.
Planning the assembly of a PC is like packing for a camping trip to a remote location. You must plan for everything you will need before you begin. As you select and purchase each part, two things are important: part functionality and compatibility with other parts.
Almost every computer needs these essentials: system board, CPU, RAM, hard drive, CD-ROM drive (or you can substitute a DVD drive for added functionality), floppy drive, case, power supply, video card, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. And, most likely, you will also want a sound card and modem. Make careful and informed decisions about every part you buy. Selecting each component requires reviewing your functionality, compatibility, and budget needs and determining what parts meet your criteria. Select the system board first, and then select the rest of the parts around this one most important component. Remember that the Intel chipset is preferable to other brands of chipsets
- This section describes how to set jumpers on the system board to configure hardware; the jumpers and their functions are listed below. When doing an installation, read the system-board documentation carefully, looking for the type of information in the table, and set the jumpers according to the hardware you will be installing, which may differ from what appears here.