Build your own computer: the basic components

How to find the best memory, RAM and processor to build the best possible computer.

There has never been a better time to build your own PC. But how to start? First, determine what you want from your new computer and let that guide you through the rest of the process. If you know what you want from your computer, you also know the hardware requirements on which your computer’s performance depends. Get the maximum performance for the least amount of money by investing in the right components from the start. Then you can start building.

What do you want to build?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all sorts of variables when putting together a PC. Do you want to build a PC yourself to save money? Or aim for highest performance? The common denominator in each of these scenarios is the hardware – the motherboard, the processor (CPU), the memory (hard disk or SSD), and the random access memory (RAM). The "inner workings" of the computer have the greatest impact on the performance of your system, while the other components such as the case, operating system (OS), monitor, mouse, power supply, and keyboard have much less impact on how the computer works, although they too have some importance.

The most important components you need

Once you’ve decided what kind of PC you want to build, you can start researching and buying the necessary hardware to implement your plan. These are the basic components:


A motherboard is the first component you should select. The motherboard determines the physical form factor and size of your PC build, but it also dictates what other hardware the computer can use. For example, the motherboard determines the performance of the processor it can handle, the memory technology (DDR4, DDR3, DDR2, etc.), and the memory type (DDR4, DDR3, DDR2, etc.).) and the number of modules that can be installed as well as the storage form factor (2.5 inch, mSATA or m.2) and the storage interface (SATA or PCIe). Because you want to choose your motherboard based on other compatible components, the motherboard should be your starting point. Learn more about RAM and motherboard compatibility.

A computer's motherboard

Processor/Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The CPU is the engine of your computer and sets the performance expectations for the entire build. RAM and memory power the processor, which controls every data transaction within the PC. When deciding which CPU to install, pay attention to the gigahertz (GHz) – the higher the number, the faster the processor. But more GHz also means the CPU consumes more power, which can lead to higher system temperatures that require better airflow or heat dissipation in the computer.

Random access memory (RAM)

Adding random access memory (RAM) is one of the fastest, easiest, and least expensive ways to increase the performance of the computer you build because it gives your system more available memory for temporary data storage. Almost every computer operation – such as having multiple tabs open while surfing the web, writing and composing an email, multitasking between applications, and even moving the mouse pointer – depends on RAM. Even background services and processes, such as system updates, can take up RAM, and that’s why it’s important to have as much memory as possible. The more activities you do, the more RAM you need.

There are two things to consider when choosing the best RAM for your system: Compatibility and how much RAM your system supports. First, for compatibility purposes, determine the type of module your system uses by identifying the form factor (the physical shape of the module – typically desktops use UDIMMs, laptops use SODIMMs), and then identify the memory technology (DDR4, DDR3, DDR2 etc.) that your system supports. Second, your system can only handle a certain amount (GB) of memory – it depends on your system. If you buy 64 GB of RAM and your computer can only handle 16 GB, that means 48 GB of wasted memory that you can’t use.

There’s an easy way to find compatible upgrades: Download the Crucial ® System Scanner and let it do the work for you. It shows how much memory you currently have installed, your computer’s maximum memory capacity, and available upgrades for your specific system. Using the tool System Scanner is free of charge and guarantees the compatibility of your components if you are on Crucial.en order.


Your files and data are stored long-term on your memory drive. This data is stored on either a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid state drive (SSD). Although hard drives generally offer more storage (in GB), they are basically obsolete compared to SSDs – SSDs are on average 6x faster 1 and 90x more energy efficient 2 than hard drives.

The speed difference comes from the way the two storage devices read and write data – read and write speeds determine how quickly data is loaded (read) and stored, respectively. be transferred (written). Hard drives use small mechanical moving parts and spinning platters to do this, while SSDs use NAND flash technology. The difference leads to higher speed, efficiency and durability, as small mechanical parts and spinning disks are much more susceptible to physical damage than NAND. Because of this difference, your data is retrieved faster on SSDs and can also be retained longer.

Case, fan and power supply

Depending on the type of PC you are building, you will also need to find an appropriate case and power supply unit. If you’re building a high-performance workhorse, you’ll need a robust power supply and a case with optimal internal airflow and fans to dissipate hot air that could potentially damage the system. Cable ties are a huge help in routing cables in your device, and bundling them together helps improve airflow.

Power supply of a computer

Build a PC according to your budget

The amount you spend on computer parts can vary. If you’re building a PC to save money, you’ll probably want to at least match the performance of a store-bought desktop or laptop while spending less. If you’re looking for the best possible performance from all your PC components, expect to pay more. Faster processors cost more than slower ones, and memory and SSDs with more GBs cost more than those with fewer GBs.

Since memory and storage are a large part of the cost of a new computer, building your own PC gives you the opportunity to save on these components by adding your own modules. While the cost of RAM and SSD increases with the amount of GB offered, it is cheaper than buying pre-installed (and often inadequate) components that you will likely need to upgrade soon.

How to build your PC

When you’re putting all the pieces together, make sure you have enough space to organize the build. Watch out for static electricity when assembling – it’s one of the few ways to damage hardware – but you can easily avoid it. Ground yourself frequently by touching an unpainted metal surface or wearing an ESD electrostatic discharge wristband to protect your system’s components from the static electricity that naturally exists in your body. It’s also helpful to have a can of compressed air on hand to remove dust or fine debris from the interface while you install the processor, memory, and SSD.

Hardware installation

Instructions on how to install the processor, power supply, and how to install the motherboard into the case can be found in the instruction manual for each component. The process of installing or assembling parts is not complicated in itself, but you can make mistakes. Therefore, it’s best to follow the detailed step-by-step instructions for each individual component.

Installing the memory

No hardware is easier to install than RAM when you’re building a PC. Locate the memory slots on the motherboard. Hold your memory modules on their sides to avoid touching the chips and gold contacts. Align the module notches with the slot groove and press the module firmly into the slot until it snaps into place. As you press, note that it takes about 30 pounds of pressure to fully install a module. Learn how to install RAM on a laptop or desktop.

Installing storage in a newly built computer

Installing the hard disk or SSD

Depending on the form factor of the purchased SSD (2.5-inch, mSATA or M.2), the drive must be connected to the storage interface and then installed in the drive bay (if it is a 2.5-inch SSD). If you are looking for the largest capacity possible and have an extremely tight budget, a hard drive can be an interesting option. For instructions on how to install your hard drive, refer to the manufacturer’s user manual. Learn more about installing SSDs with our guides and videos.

Install storage media in a newly created computer

Now is the moment to boot up your new computer!

Once your system is assembled, it’s time for the big moment – hit the power switch! Make sure your monitor and keyboard are connected to the PC, and if everything is working correctly, you will see a screen where you can access the system BIOS. If you have a data disk or flash drive with an operating system, insert it into the appropriate drive and boot it to install the operating system. So the assembly is done – congratulations, you have now built your own PC! Well done!

1. Performance times are based on internal lab tests conducted in August 2015. Each task was run and the amount of time measured after the system was restarted to rule out the possibility of other factors and applications affecting load and startup times. Actual performance may vary depending on system configuration. Test environment: 1 TB Crucial MX200 SSD and 1 TB HGST Travelstar ® Z5K1000 internal hard drive, both tested on an HP ® Elitebook 8760W laptop, Intel ® Core ™ i7-2620M 2.70 GHz processor, 4 GB Crucial DDR3 1333 MT/s memory, BIOS Rev. F50 (5. August 2014) and Microsoft ® Windows ® 8.1 Pro 64-bit operating system.

2. The comparison of the actual power consumption is based on the published technical data of the 1 TB Crucial MX300 SSD and the internal 1 TB hard drive Western Digital ® Caviar Blue ™ WD10EZEX, one of the industry’s best-selling internal hard drives (as of January 2016). All other capacities of the Crucial MX300 SSD have comparable power consumption – except for the 2050 GB hard disk, whose power consumption is 0.15 W.

© 2017 Micron Technology, Inc. All rights reserved. Information, products and specifications are subject to change without notice. Neither Crucial nor Micron Technology, Inc. are responsible for omissions or errors in texts or pictures. Micron, the Micron logo, Crucial and the Crucial logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Micron Technology, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective rights holders.

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