As well as Home Cinema, one of my other hobbies is Personal Computers or PC’s (as in building & using them). I originally bought a PC in 1994 to write my CV on! As the years progressed, I bought three more pre-assembled PC’s and I tinkered with each one, adding bits and pieces in order to improve its performance. In that time I installed four different versions of Microsoft Windows on those computers (not four on each one!). I learned a lot about PC’s at work in 1998, when the retailer I worked for at the time decided to sell them as a trial. It went badly wrong & I spent a fair amount of time repairing them, before nearly all of them were returned broken!
The beauty of building a PC yourself, is you can choose the pieces required for the PC to do the job you want it to do (such as gaming). Also if any part of the PC goes wrong, you simply replace the duff bit instead of sending it away to be repaired! You can also tailor the PC’s specifications according to your budget.
My advice is to always set yourself a budget, the value of a computer depreciates almost as fast as the value of a car because new & improved components arrive onto the PC market all the time.
I’ve built at least two dozen PC’s since 2003, I hate to think how much I’ve spent on PC’s in that time – probably more I’ve spent on Home Cinema! I’ve also built PC’s for my family, plus a couple of other people I know who have asked me for my help.
If you do not know what pieces you require, its always a good idea to post your requirements & a budget on one of the several UK PC Component retailer discussion forums & someone more knowledgeable (someone like me!) will help you to chose what you need.
Typically the parts you need to build a PC are;
A case, a CPU, a compatible Motherboard and RAM, a Power Supply and a Hard Drive. In addition, you need a Keyboard, Mouse and Monitor. An operating system is required too, the most popular being Microsoft Windows.
Optional parts include an optical drive, a Graphics card (if the CPU does not have Integrated Graphics) cooling fans for the case and a 3rd party CPU cooler. Speakers would be required for multimedia duties.
Above is a build in progress! (this build was for my youngest Nephew in January 2016) It is always sensible to part build a PC outside its case and test it to see if it works beforehand.
Building a PC is a bit like putting together Lego (my favourite toy when I was little), a good guide to building a PC is watching the youtube video below.
I have built my own PC’s since 2003. I currently have two, both of which are housed in my AV rack & are in the same model of PC case! (Silverstone LaScala LC17 in Silver)
This is the current PC I have for everyday use. (the inside of it anyway!) It is used to surf the Internet, check email, office duties, editing this website, image editing, basic PC duties in all. I do also use it to watch Amazon Prime’s film streaming service.
The specifications are as follows:
Intel Core i5 4440 Quad core CPU (Haswell) onboard graphics. (Upgraded in February 2019).
Gigabyte GA-Z87X UD4H (Socket 1150) Motherboard.
Cryorig M9I Single Tower Heatsink.
2x Arctic F8 PWM Case Fan – 80mm & 2x Arctic F9 PWM Case Fan – 92mm.
Geil Evo Leggera 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 PC3-14900 1866MHz Dual Channel Kit.
Western Digital Blue 1 Terabyte (10EZEX) Hard Drive.
Samsung 850 Evo Basic 120GB Solid State hard Drive.
EVGA 550G2 ’80 Plus Gold’ 550 Watt fully-modular Power Supply.
Silverstone LaScala LC17 Rackmount HTPC Case – Silver.
Linux Mint 19.1 (Tessa) Mate.
This is the Linux distribution I am using on a daily basis and have done since early 2014 (the version on the line above is the latest version). I can’t see the point on having Microsoft Windows on both PCS. I will try alternatives from time to time if I have a problem with one & I want to try another! After all, Linux distributions are free to download from the internet!
A good website for links of good Linux distributions is on the right (distrowatch.com)
This is my other PC, I use it for when I need to use Microsoft Windows, as well as encoding discs and playing the odd game, though gaming only happens when my Teenage nephews come to visit & that’s not often these days! It is also my Home Theatre PC too.
I’ve named it W.O.P.R. after the Computer in a film called ‘Wargames’ (My eldest nephew suggested I gave it a name, so I humoured him!)
A summary of this Backup/Encoding/Home Theatre PC for 2016 is below.
Silverstone LC17 PC case (Yes, I said earlier, I own TWO of them!).
Intel Core i5 ‘Broadwell’ 5675c CPU .
Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H Motherboard.
Samsung 850 Evo Basic 120GB Solid State hard Drive (Yep, I have one in each PC!)
Western Digital Red 3 Terabyte (WD30EFRX) Hard Drive.
Team Group Elite Black 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 PC3-12800C11 1600MHz Dual Channel Kit
Asus NVIDIA GTX 950 2 GB Graphics Card.
2 x Pioneer DVD Writer and Blu ray Reader Optical drives (1x DVR219L & 1x BDC-207DBK)
Noctua NH-U9B SE2 CPU Cooler.
2 x 80mm & 1 x 92 Artic cooling F series PWM Case Fans. (chained together, see part 5 for photo.)
Seasonic G-Series 550w ’80 Plus Gold’ Semi-modular Power supply.
Windows 10 64 bit, Free upgrade from Windows 7 64bit retail (got fed up waiting for the confirmation update).
A Dell U2312HM 23″ LED backlit LCD IPS monitor, bought at the end of 2013 as a Xmas prezzy to myself! Along with a pair of BOSE PC speakers! (I don’t like Bose normally, but these were the right size & colour I wanted)
A 3rd Computer was added in April 2015, A Raspberry Pi 2, an upgrade to a Pi 3 was made in April 2016. I rarely use the Pi3 though.
I purchased an Acer 14″ Core i3 (Skylake) laptop in October 2017.
This is my ‘Tablet PC’, I’ve owned since Febuary 2016. A 1st generation ipad mini.
Now I’m normally adverse to all things made by ‘Apple Inc.’ I do not agree with their business ethics or the way they try to tie everyone who owns their products into their software. It works for a lot of people, but not me. The few apps I have on it are to control the AV Receiver, my telly & my Media PC over the home network. I use it mainly to surf the web (when I’m not using it as a remote control) I do put films on it to watch when I go away on holiday as well.