How to assemble a PC ? Read for more information! #1

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How to assemble a PC ? Read for more information! #1 Empty How to assemble a PC ? Read for more information! #1

Post by PCLife on Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:23 pm

Define A Purpose And Choose A Case
Because there are so many parts and options to choose from, any good build starts with well-defined purpose. Whether you're building a high-end gaming PC, a workstation, or a sleek new home theater system, or anything in between, each build is going to have its own special set of requirements. Those requirements will eventually influence the decisions made later on in the build process, so it’s important to have them in hand before you start. Once you've hashed out the purpose behind the build, it's time to start selecting parts, starting with the case.
For seasoned builders, it may seem odd that we’re starting off by picking the case before everything else. However, the purpose for the build often dictates the type of case, and even if it doesn’t, we’ve found that it’s easier later on to choose components that will fit inside of a given case, instead of trying to find a case that will fit around a given set of components.
You can find specifications for most of the popular case sizes below. It’s worth noting that we use the term specifications loosely here and that these numbers serve as more of a guide than a standard. In previous times these categories used to be defined by how many 5.25” drive bays a case had, but as technology has changed they’ve evolved to be defined more by a case’s over all height and motherboard support.
Full towers are about as large as cases get before you start to venture off the beaten path and into the realm of super specialized applications like bitcoin mining, extreme overclocking, or tower servers. They usually come with enough room for E-ATX and ATX motherboards, anywhere from four to nine 5.25” drive bays, and plenty of room for the largest graphics cards and other components. They also come with the space required to store all of the cooling equipment necessary for a case packed full of high performance equipment.
All of that space may sound great, but the main downside to full tower cases is that they’re so large internally that most mainstream users, and even many enthusiasts, just don’t have enough gear to make efficient use of that space.
ATX mid-towers are by far the most popular choice for most mainstream and enthusiast builds, typically because they usually provide the best performance-per-dollar value ratio in terms of cost and available space. Most well-designed models will come with enough room for a full size ATX motherboard and PS/2 power supply, several hard drives and optical drives, and several expansion cards, all without occupying an inordinate amount of space. Speaking of expansion cards, most mid-towers will come with seven expansion slots, which should provide ample space for two dual-slot graphics cards, as well as some additional space for other expansion cards like WiFi, USB and more.
Notice how we said there was room for only two dual slot graphics cards? Even though many mid-tower cases do have enough room for three or even perhaps four graphics, we don’t recommend such configurations due to the heat and space issues that usually arise. If you’re dead set on a three or four-way SLI or Crossfire setup, then a full tower case is likely a much better choice.
MicroATX mini-towers are a more refined and compact version of their larger mid-tower counterparts. They are mainly used in business settings and for portable gaming rigs where all-out performance is less of a priority than having a case with a smaller footprint and that is easier to transport. Mini-towers often come with support for at least one 5.25” optical drive and several hard drives. Finally, since microATX motherboards support a maximum of four expansion slots, most mini-towers can support up to two dual-slot graphics cards, depending on the capabilities of the motherboard.
Mini-ITX cubes and towers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with their key feature being that they only support mini-ITX motherboards and therefore usually impose the most limitations on which parts can be used. The advantage is that mini-ITX cases are very space efficient and usually present a minimal footprint, which makes them popular in office environments and for ultra-portable gaming rigs. Typically, they only support SFX form factor power supplies, although an increasing number of cases support small PS/2 power supplies. Mini-ITX cases generally lack support for 5.25” optical drives, though many do have enough room to support a thin, slot-loading optical drive. Finally, mini-ITX cases have a maximum of two expansion slots, which limits them to, at most, a single, compact graphics card.
Desktop/HTPC cases represent the style of case that used to sit underneath monitors to raise them up to eye level. Nowadays they’ve mainly been relegated to use as HTPC (home theater PC, or media center PC) chassis, where they’ve flourished. They come in a variety of sizes, from something so small it needs an external power supply, to mid-size mini-ITX cases like the Raven RVZ01 (pictured bottom-center, above), to what are essentially horizontal mid-tower cases. Many of the HTPC cases available usually support a horizontally-mounted, full-size graphics card through the use of a riser card.

Select A CPU
When it comes to selecting the right CPU, there are three factors to consider: performance, price, and usually to a lesser extent, power consumption. If you already have an idea of what your needs are, but still need some help with narrowing down your selection, our Best CPUs column is an excellent place to start. It includes general performance data and CPU recommendations for several price ranges, and if that’s still not enough, additional performance data on specific workloads can be found in our CPU Performance Charts.
Picking the best CPU for a new build starts with understanding your workloads. There are two main types of workloads to be considered: single-threaded and multi-threaded. Single-threaded workloads generally involve simple tasks such as browsing the web, word processing, and listening to music and usually do better on CPUs that have a higher per-core clock speed rather than a large number of cores.
Multi-threaded workloads include tasks like photo editing, video encoding, and some gaming, and usually benefit from processors with multiple cores. Additionally, technologies like Intel’s Hyperthreading are designed to accelerate certain multi-threaded workloads like video editing and encoding by allowing two threads to be interchangeably executed on a single core. Finally, although it may seem like a good idea to keep throwing more cores at multi-threaded workloads, there is a point of diminishing returns. Almost all consumer level software, including games, isn’t designed to run on an infinite set of processing cores, which is why Intel, the largest manufacturer of desktop CPUs, doesn’t offer mainstream CPUs with more than four cores.
Another option to consider when picking a CPU is overclocking. Overclocking is the process of raising the CPU’s clock speed past its targeted maximum, which often yields a measurable performance benefit. However, not all CPUs are capable of overclocking, and the ones that are capable often need a motherboard with a special chipset, which in turn costs more money. For Intel processors, you’ll need one of the more expensive K-series CPUs, which supports overclocking, and you'll need a motherboard with a Z-series chipset in order to overclock it effectively. AMD processors, on the other hand, are a bit trickier since they can all be overclocked. Generally, the more expensive chips will overclock better than their cheaper counterparts, and you’ll still need to ensure you have a motherboard that supports overclocking. Also, keep in mind that overclocking leads to increased heat and power consumption, which leads us to our last point.
Although power consumption isn’t exactly one of the primary concerns when selecting a CPU, it still has to be taken into consideration, especially if you plan on overclocking. Typically, the faster the processor, the more power it’s going to consume and therefore the more heat it’s going to produce, which also raises concerns about cooling and noise. While the stock cooling fans (those that come from the CPU manufacturer) may work fine with stock CPU speeds, they quickly become inadequate once the processor is overclocked, which means a more expensive air or even liquid cooler is in order. That extra heat also means the cooling solution is going to have to work harder and therefore louder, which can be undesirable in certain builds like HTPCs. In that case, a low-energy solution from AMD or Intel might be a better option.
Once you’ve figured out what your needs are, be sure to check out our list of the best CPUs for the money as well as the CPU reviews section; they should help you make a final decision on which CPU is best. Finally, if you’re stuck trying to make a decision or if you need more guidance, PCLife's Forums is a great place to ask questions and get the hlep you need.

Select A Graphics Card
Workloads like gaming, watching high-definition content, video editing, and professional 3D modeling all require the use of a separate graphics processor in order to run properly and efficiently. The type of graphics processor required varies, however. If your needs are relatively simple and involve things like web browsing, streaming videos, minimal photo editing, and even light gaming, then the integrated graphics system included in your CPU is usually enough.
If your needs are more complex, you’re going to have to upgrade to a discrete GPU. Things like playing the latest blockbuster games with maxed out detail settings, intense photo and video editing workloads, or even mining crypto currencies all require the use of a separate graphics card.
Graphics cards come in one of two flavors: gaming-oriented cards, and workstation-oriented cards. Gaming cards are optimized to deliver the best frame rates from games at the most realistic detail settings, and the highest resolutions. Meanwhile, workstation cards are designed for maximum stability and precision, and are specifically optimized for 3D rendering workloads.
Typically, mainstream gaming cards today are capable of driving most games at a resolution of 1920x1080 with close to the highest detail settings, and a frame rate of around 60 frames-per-second (fps). For maximum detail at a higher resolution like 2560x1440, or higher frame rates like 120fps, you’ll have to invest in a high-end card. Finally, if you’re interested in triple monitor gaming, or gaming with just one monitor at 3840x2160, you’ll probably want at least two high-end graphics cards, which is where SLI / Crossfire comes into play.
Nvidia SLI and AMD Crossfire are two similar technologies that allow users to pair two to four graphics cards together in one system, in order to achieve higher graphics performance than what’s possible with just a single card. However, the technology has its limitations and doubling the number of graphics cards in your system won’t necessarily lead to double the performance. SLI and Crossfire also have their own specific set of requirements and need a little bit of planning in order to work properly; they also do require support at the application or game level. If you’d like more information, our community has a great guide on the subject, which can be found here.
If you want specific guidance on which gaming card is best suited to your needs, our list of the best graphics cards for the money is the best place to go. You can also check out our Graphics Card Benchmark Charts for more information, which includes GPU-specific performance data for various games and other workloads, as well as data on power consumption and noise levels. Finally, our graphics reviews also provide data on performance differences between specific card models.
Unlike their gaming counterparts, workstation graphics cards are heavily optimized for accuracy over speed, and for better performance in OpenGL based workloads. OpenGL is a widely used, multiplatform application programming interface that’s used to render 3D graphics in many professional applications such as Solidworks and Siemens NX software. These optimizations make workstation cards unsuitable for non-workstation workloads such as gaming, with low-end gaming cards often outperforming high-end workstation cards. Consequently, the lack of those same optimizations also make gaming cards unsuitable for use in many professional applications, as seen in our benchmarks. Finally, independent software vendors extensively test and certify workstation cards and the drivers to ensure maximum compatibility with their software.

Select A Motherboard
The motherboard is arguably one of the most important parts of any build because of the functionality (or sometimes lack thereof) that it brings with it. Since the motherboard is responsible for connecting and communicating between all of the other parts in the computer, picking the right motherboard is essential to the success of any build.
What form factor best matches the type of case you chose earlier? Although most builders will choose a motherboard that best fits in their case, it’s also possible to use smaller boards in larger cases.
What type of socket does your CPU use? With a few rare exceptions, the socket your CPU uses has to match the socket on the motherboard.
Has the motherboard been approved to work with your CPU? Sometimes several generations of processors will use the same socket and will work in older boards. However, most boards often require a BIOS update before they will work with newer processors. Also new boards released with a new generation of processors may require a BIOS update before they’ll work with some of the newest CPUs. The best resource for determining compatibility is usually the manufacturer’s website, which will often have a list of compatible processors for each board.
What type of chipset do you need? Motherboards come with one of several chipsets, each with their own different features that add certain capabilities to the board. If you plan to overclock your CPU, you need to make sure your choice of motherboard has a chipset that supports doing so.
How many graphics cards do you plan on using? Most graphics card use PCIe x16 slots, and many motherboards will have at least two of them. However, once the first slot is occupied, most motherboards will force the other PCIe x16 slots to run at either 8x or 4x speed. NVidia cards will only work at a minimum 8x speed, while AMD cards are capable of running at 4x speed. It’s important to read the motherboard reviews to find out how this might affect your build.
How many non-graphics cards do you plan on using? They usually fit into PCIe 8x, 4x, 1x, or sometimes even legacy PCI slots. Does the board you want have the correct number of slots? Also keep in mind that most graphics cards will occupy two or even three expansion slots, which may end up blocking some of the smaller slots on the board.
How many PCIe Lanes do you need? Motherboards only provide you with so many PCIe lanes (electrical pathways exposed by the CPU and chipset), and each motherboard can divide them up in different ways between the available slots. Nvidia GPUs need at least eight lanes each to function properly, and AMD GPUs require a minimum of four lanes each to run at maximum speed, and SATA Express ports generally require two lanes each. It's important to check the motherboard's specifications as well as our motherboard reviews to find out how this may affect your build.
If on-board graphics are used, how many display outputs are required. Some motherboard manufacturers are also starting to eliminate VGA ports from their newer boards, so take note of which type of ports you need and plan accordingly. Additionally, most on-board graphics processors only support a maximum of two or three displays, so be sure to read the board’s specifications table to ensure it meets your needs.
If on-board sound is going to be used, how many audio connections will be required? Audio over HDMI is nearly universal, but standalone surround sound systems may require optical or coaxial connections.
How many fans do you plan to use in your case? Most boards only come with a CPU fan connector and two to four case fan connectors, so splitter cables or a standalone fan controller may be required.
How many memory modules will be installed? If you plan to overclock your memory, will the board support the speeds you want?
How many network connections will be used?
How many Serial ATA, mSATA, SATA Express, or M.2 drives will be installed? Is the M.2 interface PCIe or SATA? If it’s the former, it’s probably going to have to share resources with the other PCIe slots.
What other internal or external connections might be required?
Will RAID be required? If so, what modes are needed?

Select Memory
When it comes to picking memory for your build, there are numerous options. If you find the whole process overwhelming, the easiest answer is to simply buy 1.5-volt DDR3-1600 modules with CAS 9 timings or 1.2-volt DDR4-2133 modules with CAS 15 timings, depending on your platform. The DDR3 sticks are universally supported on many motherboards and the DDR4 sticks are universally supported on Intel’s X99 and Skylake platforms. Even better, both are inexpensive and readily available as both 4 and 8GB sticks.
There are noticeable performance benefits for similarly-priced DDR3-1866 (PC3-14900), particularly if you're using a CPU's on-die graphics engine for gaming, and this speed functions normally, even with processors that are not officially designated to use it (primarily older models or low-energy platforms). Furthermore, the same easy benefits of DDR3-1866 are even available with most DDR3-2133 kits and modern performance-oriented processors.
However, the problem with recommending faster memory kits is that they often require at least some manual configuration. If you're not comfortable tooling around in your motherboard's firmware, they might actually drop you to lower performance levels.
You see, Intel’s XMP (eXtreme Memory Profiles) technology facilitates extended memory settings beyond the basic automatic-configuration technology called SPD. Although XMP originally allowed motherboards to set overclocked options like nonstandard voltages and data rates, most of today's XMP-capable modules operate at standard voltage levels and frequencies. Still, when you first boot up, they typically default to either DDR3-1333 or -1066. Going higher requires that you manually enable an XMP profile. Even some DDR3-1600 modules employ XMP (rather than SPD values) to achieve their rated performance levels, and this is particularly true of reduced-latency ( CAS 7, CAS 8 ) modules.
Memory faster than DDR3-2133 is usually expensive and not really required. Our tests have shown that DDR3-2400 is barely beneficial, and only in situations where you're leaning on integrated graphics. We've even seen data rates above 2400 MT/s hurt performance as the motherboard attempts to increase stability.
Those who like taking advantage of the latest technologies will be thrilled to hear that Intel’s latest generation Skylake CPUs officially support DDR4 memory. Better yet, the price of DDR4 has fallen to the point where it’s not really that much more expensive than a similar sized and performing DDR3 kit. Unfortunately, those loyal to AMD are either going to have to migrate to an Intel system or wait for AMD’s next generation of CPUs before they can make use of DDR4.
In terms of memory quantity, we recommend no less than 4 GB even for the cheapest of systems, though 8 GB will yield a noticeable performance boost. For those who plan on gaming, we recommend at least 8 GB of RAM if you’re on a budget, with 16 GB recommended for those who can spare the increased cost. Finally, if you plan on doing any sort of photo/video editing or heavy multitasking, we recommend you start at 16 GB and add more if you find that you need it.

Select Storage
The price per GB of storage for solid-state drives (SSDs) has been falling steadily over the past few years and has finally reached a point at which even those on tight budgets can afford one. While an SSD won’t actually make any of your processing-bound workloads run any faster, the vast reduction in the time it takes for applications to load and files to transfer provides a night and day difference in speed compared to the older mechanical hard drives (HDDs). Furthermore, now that SATA 3 drives have all but replaced their older SATA 2 counterparts, almost any cheap SATA SSD made by a reputable manufacturer will deliver superb performance.
Still, even with ever increasing capacities and with prices falling as low as they are, SSDs have yet to replace mechanical hard drives as a cheap solution for storing large amounts of data. Fortunately, 1TB mechanical disks start at around $50, which makes an SSD / HDD combo affordable for most builders unless you’re on a shoestring budget.
As far as SSD capacity goes, it depends on what you’ll be using your computer for and how much money you have. On the low end, a 120 GB SSD will offer enough room for a full Windows installation as well as enough room for handful of popular applications like Microsoft Office and Adobe’s Creative Cloud. A bit more money will get you to the 256 GB range, which should be enough room to store a modest number of games along with all of the other applications. 500 GB and 1 TB SSDs are also great options if you can afford them, and depending on your needs, may bypass the need for an extra mechanical hard drive altogether.
Interface wise, SATA is still the most popular for desktop storage, although other formats like SATA Express and various flavors of M.2 are quickly gaining in popularity and market share. Traditional SATA drives, while cheap and easy to come by are limited to SATA’s 6Gb/s maximum throughput, which has a practical transfer rate ceiling of around 550 MB/s. Meanwhile, the newer and more expensive PCIe based interfaces like SATA Express and M.2 have theoretical limits of around 16Gb/s and 32Gb/s, though in practice speeds will likely be slower as resources are shared between all PCIe devices.
Finally, those who are looking for yet another way to speed up their drives, or keep their data safe should consider the benefits of using RAID. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, a group of methods that allows data to be spread across several drives concurrently. Most enthusiast-class motherboards support at least RAID modes 0, 1, 0+1, and 5. Each array of disks appears to be a single disk to programs other than the RAID utility.
The possible use of RAID affects the number and capacity of drives selected, so a very brief description of these modes is in order:
Level 0 divides data into chunks that are spread across two or more drives at the same time, providing up to double the transfer rate (in the case of a two-drive config) and the combined capacity. Because of the way the data is divided, this mode is also referred to as "striping" by in-the-know storage gurus. The major drawback is that if a member drive fails, the array's data is lost.
Level 1 mirrors two or more drives so that if one fails, data can be recovered from the other. The major drawback is that because both drives (again, in a two-drive array) store the same data, available capacity doesn't increase.
RAID 0+1 allows four (or more) drives to be set up as a "mirrored" set of "striped" drives. In other words, it's a RAID 1 array composed of two RAID 0 arrays. If one striped set (RAID 0 array) fails, data can be retrieved from the other. Total capacity is still limited to that of one striped set.
RAID 5 creates parity bits for data recovery. Data and parity bits are distributed across all drives, increasing transfer rate, while sacrificing only the amount of space required to store the added parity bits (the capacity of one drive in the set).
Generating parity bits for RAID 5 requires processing, which means that RAID 5 enabled in software can hog resources, however this rarely poses an issue today thanks to the amount of computing power available in modern CPUs. Conversely, RAID Levels 0 and 1 generate little CPU overhead. Gamers with little regard for long-term data storage may choose RAID 0 for performance, and anyone with a significant amount of valuable data that lacks the extra drive required for RAID 5 may choose RAID 1.

Select A Power Supply
Even though it’s an afterthought for most builders, the power supply is actually one of the more important parts of a build. Picking a quality power supply can mean the difference between a well running system and one that suffers from crashes and boot failures. Worse yet, cheap generic models can literally explode into flames, taking the rest of your computer with it.
Each build is going to have its own unique power needs, but generally it all boils down to two things: overall wattage, and rail specific power. Overall wattage deals with how much overall power a system needs in order to function. There are several power supply calculators available on the web that can help in determining your needs, though some of them are updated more often than others. The most important thing to remember if you’re questioning how much power you need is that oversized units can easily power undersized systems, but not the other way around, so it’s best to aim high and overshoot. Oversize power supplies can also be useful down the road if you plan to upgrade your system, as they can avoid the need to purchase a newer, larger unit.
Rail specific power is the measure of how much power certain components in a build draw from the power supply. More often than not, this usually applies to how much power large components like graphics cards pull from the power supply’s main +12V rail. For most mainstream builds with one or two mid-range graphics cards, this usually isn’t much of a concern. However, builders with high-end graphics cards or who plan on overclocking should refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for how much power a particular card needs, and then double check that the power supply they’re interested in is up to the task.
Power supplies are also often rated in terms of their efficiency, with higher quality units certified at higher 80 PLUS rating levels. These efficiency ratings enable Tom’s Hardware readers to take a similar system configuration from one of our builds, read the wall socket power draw that we report, and then calculate the required output power by applying one of the 80 PLUS efficiency ratings. For example, a build that pulls 647 W from the wall socket and that is rated at 85% efficiency will need a 550 W-rated unit (647W x 0.85). From there, if you add a little extra capacity for USB-powered peripherals and future drive upgrades, a high quality 600W unit should do the job.
Despite common misconceptions, power supply and motherboard factors have almost nothing to do with each other. The ATX motherboard form factor refers to its size rather than how it’s wired, and the ATX standard for power supplies refers to what connections are offered and how much power they can handle. ATX-compliant power supplies come in several sizing standards that include PS/2, PS3, SFX, TFX, and other less common proprietary formats.
Often incorrectly referred to as “ATX,” the PS/2 power supply form factor is a carry over from the 1980s, long before the ATX standard came about. Its height and width, along with its mounting pattern, continues to be used today in almost all full-tower and mid-tower ATX systems, as well as many microATX and even some mini-ITX systems. One thing to keep in mind is that many of today’s high capacity units often exceed the PS/2 standard in terms of depth, and may not fit in every case designed for PS/2 power supplies. Therefore, it’s usually worth referring to the size restrictions listed on a particular case manufacturer's website, so there are no surprises.
Using the same mounting holes as standard PS/2 units, PS3 allowed Hewlett Packard to shorten the overall depth of its 1990s full ATX mini-tower cases. Confusion over PS3’s age can be attributed to the extensive time it took for Intel to add the existing standard to its power supply guidelines. Further confusion with SFX can also be blamed on Intel’s placement of its physical dimensions within SFX design guidelines.
The SFX form factor for power supplies actually refers to two different sizing standards, one that’s 5” by 4” as well as one that’s 4” by 5”. There’s also another standard defined by Intel, which is 50mm tall, although it’s much less common. Overall, the 5” by 4” size is the most common version found in most stores and is generally only used in mini-ITX cases, although there are a handful of HTPC cases that require an SFX power supply as well. SFX form factor power supplies can also be used in larger cases that are designed for PS/2 power supplies, through the use of an adapter bracket.
Even less common than its PS/2 and SFX cousins, the TFX form factor is a special format that enables manufactures to make narrower cases by trading width for depth. TFX power supplies aren’t all that common and are usually relegated to being used in small HTPC or other proprietary form factor cases.
In modern computers, the newer EPS electrical standard replaces the older ATX standard, with an 8-pin 12-volt connector delivering power directly to the CPU and a 24-pin main connector powering the rest of the board. The newer EPS connectors are backwards compatible with the older ATX standard and many manufacturers make it so the extra four pins can be separated from the main connector for an easier fit into the old 20-pin ATX and 4-pin CPU headers.
Since the PCIe slots are limited to a maximum power output of 75W, nearly all power supplies include either a 6-pin or an 8-pin connector to provide supplemental power for mid to high-end graphics cards. The 8-pin power connector is compatible with the 6-pin connector, with two pins that split away, to enable its use on less demanding cards. The PCIe connector itself is also shaped differently than the 8-pin CPU power connector in order to prevent accidental misuse.
Drive power cables include the old-fashioned 4-pin “ATA” style, a smaller “floppy” style, and the more modern “SATA.” Increasingly, power supplies lack the floppy power cable, but since some accessories still make use of it, you’ll often get an adapter for one of the ATA-style connectors. In this day of SATA-based storage, the four-pin ATA leads rarely hook up to drives, but rather power cheap fans, fan controllers, and other accessories.
In total, builders must find a power supply that’s quality-made, fits their case, has enough capacity, and has all the required cable ends. If that last measure isn’t met, adapters are usually available.

Select The Finishing Components
At this point, it’s now possible to get your new build up and running with nothing more than the components gathered from the previous pages. However, there are a final few parts, which can transform a merely good build into a great build, all while adding extra functionality.
Although most retail-boxed CPUs come with their own heat sink and fan, they tend to be noisy and inefficient, and are often tossed in favor of something more effective. Those looking to build the ultimate HTPC will mostly benefit from a small, aftermarket mini-ITX air cooler. Meanwhile, those looking to squeeze every last bit of performance out of their build will likely see the most benefit from a big air cooler or closed-loop liquid cooling system. We review the entire range, and our Best Cooling column has pricing and performance data for some of the best coolers on the market.
The ever increasing number of downloadable programs, coupled with the fact that most modern operating systems can now be installed via a flash drive, means that most of our readers may never have a need for an optical drive. For other enthusiasts, the ability to run old programs or play media is still very much a requirement. With online prices for popular models ranging from $20 to $40, even the most tight-fisted builder should be able to afford one.
Professionals who work with photos or videos on a daily basis may opt for a card reader. Meanwhile, other power users may prefer additions like premium sound cards or TV tuners, although integrated sound is quite good nowadays and Internet-based streaming services have rendered TV cards largely unnecessary. Then again, that's what makes the PC so great. You have the freedom to swap parts in and out as your needs change.
These items are typically optional for most builds, so let’s get back to the mandatory steps.

Choose Your Vendor
Online merchants take advantage of lower operating expenses in order to price products far below what’s needed to keep the doors open at brick and mortar shops. However, the shipping costs can still kill your hopes for big savings, particularly if you shop across multiple storefronts. Per-item shipping often improves as more items are added to the order, so the savings attributed to buying online are maximized by purchasing from the fewest possible sources.
A difficult cascade of questions may consume you if you consider many sellers, various components at different prices, and a range of shipping rates. The easiest solution is pick a single vendor that’s able to give you the best deal on your complete list. To that end, there are several online shopping engines that allow you to source prices from several vendors at once. Keep in mind that single-item shipping rates quoted through shopping engines should drop significantly as order size increases, and if this doesn't happen, then it's time to check the next vendor on your list.
Local stores must increase prices to cover their higher operating expenses, but many receive items in large enough quantities to save you some of the money you'd otherwise spend on shipping. Consider the example of buying a single motherboard: online pricing might be $150 plus $10 shipping, totaling $160. If a local store bought 100 boards at a 10 percent discount and squandered that 10 percent savings on bulk shipping, it'd still be able to sell them for about the same cost, thus saving you $10 and several days of waiting.
"Loss leaders" are another way for you to save when shopping locally. These are items that larger stores like Best Buy or Fry's Electronics sell at a loss in order to lure you in, hoping their sales staff or flashy displays will get you to pick up a few more things on the way out.

Level Of Service
It's often said that you get what you pay for, and service is one area where local stores have the ability to outperform their online rivals (though not all of them do). Because small shops are constantly trying to build their reputations, and because they deal in lower volume, they're usually willing to go the extra mile to answer questions and earn your business. Larger electronics chains, on the other hand, focus on volume instead and would rather sell you another part than figure out why the one you have isn't working. Meanwhile, online merchants expect you to have enough knowledge to figure things out on your own.

Consider the situation of dealing with a compatibility issue:
Smaller, locally-owned shops will usually offer advice, inspect the item for free if you believe it's defective, or diagnose it in your system for a reasonable fee (again, that's not to say all of them will). On the other hand, they probably won’t be willing to provide a refund if you try to return a new component in used condition.
Most online merchants don't provide adequate tech support, instead going directly to the return process while charging a 15% "restocking fee" for any returned item. You'll end up paying for shipping both on the delivery and the return, and your 15% fee will go towards someone else's "open box" price reduction.
Favoring irresponsible buyers, "big box" retailers might give you all your money back if you come up with a good enough reason (or plausible excuse) for the return.

Seller Integrity
Local stores live and die by word of mouth, and will normally try to settle disputes amicably. Larger chain stores will generally try to dodge the bullet, though it might take a while for you to reach a satisfactory outcome.
Online merchants need to keep the majority of customers happy, but a minority can fall through the cracks. Many price comparison engines such as Google Shopping and Amazon have rating systems, which link to buyer reviews.
Auction sites are a great place to find discontinued hardware, but final selling prices on newer parts often exceed those of larger discount sites. Manufacturer warranties may not apply (especially to gray-market parts) and seller warranties are only as good as the seller's word. Be careful, though, and learn from one of our editors’ personal experience. He found a seller who had spent more than three years building his reputation as a power seller, and had a favorable rating of over 99%. This individual’s "retirement" plan, apparently, was to advertise items he didn't own during his final month of sales, and he was able to abscond with a six-figure salary of ill-gotten gains, including a few hundred dollars of our editors’ hard-earned cash. Thankfully, it has become more difficult to succeed at these scams, and payment companies with buyer protection policies will now track down criminals who've cost them insurance money.

Purchasing Summary
Online merchants offer the lowest price, but most vendor’s shipping policies favor large purchases. If you can get most items from one site, your savings could be significant. Inexpensive orders are often best-sourced locally due to shipping fees.
Furthermore, peripherals such as keyboards, mice, and game controllers are so dependent on individual ergonomics that it's usually best to try a few before making a purchase. Large retail chains may provide an adequate selection of parts to try out, but many buyers use these stores to "window shop" before placing an online order.

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