For the longest time, I’ve loved playing video games and messing around on YouTube, as most teenage boys do, but that doesn’t really get you too far by itself. This past summer, I got a lot more into computers. I got hooked by some YouTube channels (Techsource and LinusTechTips mostly) that made this hobby seem very interesting. At the time, many of the terms I heard made little to no sense. For example, I didn’t really know what kind of graphics card was good or not, but I was willing to learn. So, partly influenced by the fact that I wanted a better PC that could play bigger-resource games, and partly because of the many tech videos on YouTube that I had been watching, I decided to upgrade my own PC.
A couple decades ago, building a custom home PC was something that only hobbyists/enthusiasts would do. It required a lot more knowledge of what you were doing back then. You might find yourself manually wiring components or soldering parts together. But with so many guides and this cool thing called the Internet, this task has become far less daunting in the 21st century.
At first, I wasn’t ready to drop several hundred dollars to boost my PC’s performance. Of course, this means that the first logical upgrade was a new mouse. Hey, it looked cool, and it’s wireless! Anyway, I next decided to replace the graphics card that my brother had managed to retrieve from MIT, where he’s going to college. (A couple years ago, my brother had built himself a custom PC, which at the time was super cool to me, as I was several years younger. He ended up helping me a ton with this project.)
After some research, I decided on getting a GT740sc graphics card. By no means is this thing top of the line, but for the budget I had, it works, and is still working. Since I was aiming to make a PC that was better for gaming, watching videos, and video editing, I wanted to make sure my graphics card was something I put a good deal of my budget into. Something nice to remember is that GPU technology has improved so much over such a short period of time that even lower-end graphics cards nowadays can run nice looking, modern games at decent framerates (depending on settings). Honestly, the amount of choice was kind of overwhelming. My recommendation for anyone looking for a new graphics card? Literally just search for the best cards within the budget you have available to you. Unless you know a ton about this topic, you’re probably better off trusting the Internet on this (for once!). Although it can be good to calculate the performance per dollar you get for specific cards when you’re more experienced with this, it’s hard to make a “bad decision” here (unless the card straight up doesn’t fit into your case or motherboard). As long as you know that it’s better than what you have, it’s compatible with the rest of your build, and it’s a fair price, don’t worry too much about the nitty-gritty your first time around. And finally, don’t cheap out on your choice thinking that it doesn’t matter. Unless you’re aiming to use your PC for word processing, Web browsing, and maybe some simple games, the integrated graphics of your CPU will not be happy with heavy loads.
So the card arrived in the mail a few days later and I quickly plugged it into my weak PC, hoping to finally achieve some better performance. PC turns on. Fans spin. Aaaand . . . it shuts off. After some frustrating fiddling and texting my brother, I learned of a possible source for the problem: my power supply wasn’t supplying enough power for the card to run. Well, that was fun. I ordered a PSU, and it arrived several days later. Keep in mind that, all this time, I had a nice graphics card just sitting on my desk unused . . . painful.
The joys of making your first PC: the power supply didn’t fix the issue. At this point I had to tell myself, “Look, you can just keep ordering parts until the thing works, or just do a complete upgrade.” So I decided on the latter.
Next article, I’ll cover the more interesting part of the story: the building of my PC and the finished product!