How to choose components for a PC.

ATX Form Factor

So it only seems natural too begin with the basics. (In this how to guide I am not going too assume you have a working understanding of the internal PC.) In his how to guide I am going too discuss the basic components that make up a Windows based PC and how too identify each component of a PC, how to tell which are compatible with each other for installation during a PC build.

Components, Models, and Basic Configuration.



Commonly referred to as Mobo’s / mainboard, are the backbone and drive train of the entire PC. It is one of the most crucial components, as it will be responsible for transferring all data both raw and processed,  by and too every component attached too it. Thus it is Motherboard the choice of Motherboard that will determine all other hardware components transfer speeds, and compatibility as you will soon discover. The format and type of motherboard is determined by the primary use of your PC, if it is simply an accounting computer, going to be used for crunching numbers, office tasks, and surfing then it need not be the newest most powerful on the market.

What is a form factor?

A form factor commonly denotes the size of a motherboard, and the proper mounting placement inside a PC chassis. This must be considered when choosing a chassis, CPU, and Motherboard. The form factor also determines power ratings and requirements, which will in turn give the specifications for PSU (Power Supply Unit).

ATX Form Factor
ATX Form Factor.

Common form factors are as follows:

mATX, baby-AT, AT, ATX

Something to consider is the size and placement of the chassis, as well as the primary use, if you are going too create a small office computer an mATX motherboard would be ideal as they are smaller, cheaper and efficient enough for work places. They also require less cooling, yet are powerful enough in some case too be used a media center. Most PC Gaming computers and graphics design computers, often require far more in the way of computational power, thus an ATX style chassis and motherboard would be a better alternative, as well as providing a bigger platform for upgrading in the future.

Some of the most common models of motherboards on the market are as follows:

  • IntelLGA775, 1150, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011
  • AMDAM2 / AM2+, AM3 / AM3+, FM2

There is constant debate over Intel vs AMD CPU Processing, they are different architectural designs yet both hold pro’s and con’s. I could go on at quite a length about the difference between them and list the reasons, but it comes down too user discretion. What I will say is I have always preferred AMD from the beginning of their releases. (It is worth noting that in my 15 or so years of building, fixing, and repairing windows based PC’s, Intel CPU’s have always had a higher failure rate, yet a slightly faster clock rate.)



The Central Processing Unit, is the heart of the entire system, all roads lead through Rome, so to speak. This crucial component is primarily for interpreting, regulating and enacting all commands that it receives. The Frequency (Ghz) and the L1, L2, L3, Cache determine how many commands, threads, process’s, and requests for resources it can respond to, and how quickly it can react. Choosing one that is best suited for your needs is important, the form factor and model of the motherboard  determine which will be compatible for your build.

When checking the specification of the motherboard model make sure too note which version you are using or purchasing. For example Socket AM3+ mobo’s do not support compatibility with AMD APU’s. Further more AMD CPU’s cannot be installed on Intel motherboard’s and vice-a-versa. Generally this information can be found on the manufacturer or re-sellers website under specifications or in the manual. Always Double Check Before Purchasing or Installing, Incompatible Components being installed can result in damage!!


Memory (RAM)
Memory (RAM)

Or RAM as it is commonly referred too is the torque of this particular engine, it acts as a buffer for commonly used or open programs and is process data the CPU can access at the fastest speeds. The more RAM the more temporary data can be stored, thus the Frequency(Mhz) and Amount / Size (GB’s or MB’s) determine the efficiency and speed of the data being processed.

Some of the most common modules of Desktop Memory are as follows:

  • 168PIN – SDRAM266, SDRAM320, SDRAM400
  • 184PIN – DDR200, DDR266, DDR333, DDR400
  • 240PIN  DDR2-400, DDR2-533, DDR2-667, DDR2-800, DDR2-1066
  • 240PIN – DDR3-800, DDR3-1066, DDR3-1333, DDR3-1600
  • 288PIN – DDR4-2133, DDR4-2400, DDR4-2666, DDR4-2800, DDR4-3000, DDR4-3200

It is important when choosing Memory Modules, too check the motherboard specifications for frequency and total size, your motherboard supports.

Video Card

Video Card (AGP)
Video Card (AGP)

This is main display adapter for the computer responsible for all the video processing and graphics output. Some motherboards come with built in graphic adapters, these are usually best for office or accounting systems, as the require less video processing power, and it has little impact on the computer performance. However with builds meant for gaming, 2d / 3d graphical design, and video editing, it is extremely important as it will determine your highest and lowest resolution, as well the FPS (Frames per second) for anything that is displayed on screen. The quickest response times are often what PC gamers require for the latest tittles, and a video card that shares resources such as an on-board adapter will significantly reduce the performance of your CPU, and memory.

Common models of Video adapter Cards:

  • PCI, AGP, PCI-Express

All video cards come with a GPU, and Memory with the exception of on-board adapters. Check your motherboard specifications too make certain the adapter card is supported, and plan your purchase or install accordingly.

Hard Drive 

Hard Drive
Hard Drive

Also referred to as the Disk Drive it contains all the data and information stored on your computer, they come in a variety of sizes, types, and speeds.

Common types of Hard Drives:


As with most components the type of data connection determines whether a drive is compatible, so check your motherboard specifications in your manual or online at your re-sellers website or manufacture site if your unsure. Sizes of the drives are measured in Gigabytes (GB’s) or Terabytes (TB’s), speed is determined by RPM’s (Revolutions Per Minute) and Cache size. The faster the disk spins and the bigger the cache the less the seek time, which increases speed of reading and writing data too the drive. The other factor in drive speed is the connection to the motherboard. IDE Drives are significantly slower then SATA drives, using larger ribbon cables where as Sata cables are smaller and transfer at higher data rates.

A foot note here SSDSolid State Drives are some of the newest drives on the market, they use cells and operate like large amounts of Ram, making them far faster then SAS, Sata, IDE drives but at the cost of size. These drives are far more efficient at running process’s, applications, operating systems, then storing large amounts of data such as movies or music. If you decide too run a SSD drive you should consider having a traditional internal Sata drive or a USB / Firewire external drive for storage space.

(CD/DVD drives operate under the same principles.)


Power Supply Unit (PSU)
Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Power Supply Unit supplies power too all the components of the computer, including anything plugged in via USB, Firewire, Etc. Determining your power usage for the computer will allow you to purchase an adequate PSU for your needs. The best idea is too check each components power consumption rate in the manual or on the manufacture website, however there are free alternatives online that can calculate this for you. Like Here, and Here.

Common types of PSU’s:

  • AT, ATX, EPS12V

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