I think it’s safe to say that nobody does it completely right the first time. Whether it’s trying to plug in a USB drive, putting a key into a lock the wrong way, pulling on a door that’s push only (or vice versa), or creating a character in an RPG, you always look back and think to yourself “I could’ve done this so much better”.
That’s how I feel about having built my first PC. I did a ton of research into what I wanted it to do, but I definitely made some serious missteps along the way. Don’t get me wrong, my first parts list and original configuration wasn’t bad really, just not quite right. I’ve since made changes that fixed some of the mistakes I feel I made, but I’m still not completely there yet.
There are a few reasons I why I ended up coming to the conclusion that I messed up, but let’s start with where I feel I went wrong.
Coming from a little laptop sporting a 7200 RPM HDD, I figured that a 2 TB HDD for my next PC was the way to go, with a smaller SSD for the OS and various applications and games that benefit from faster read and write speeds. I never really knew the incredible difference that having higher data transfer speeds would make, because I’ve never used an SSD prior to my current setup, but if I knew what I knew now, I would’ve done away with the HDD entirely and gone for two SSDs totaling up to 3 TB of storage instead.
Sure, having a large amount of cheap, mass storage is kinda nice, but I’ve felt like supplementing the HDD and small SSD I have with 1TB of NVMe storage was borderline necessary.
Knowing what I know now, I probably should’ve waited until SSD prices dropped. Thankfully, I only paid about $50 for the HDD I have, so there’s a small concession at least.
Going into the process of building a computer, I managed to neglect something rather important. A great tower filled with high-end components isn’t all that great if you’re stuck with inferior methods of interacting with it. When I first built my PC, I didn’t account for the massive quality of life improvement of getting a good display, along with a nice mouse and keyboard setup. My first days using my PC, I had it hooked up to my TV, along with an adequate wireless Logitech mouse and keyboard combo.
The TV itself is great for playing console games, considering it’s a 4K display with HDR10 support. My only issues with using the TV are that I have to sit on the couch, and even moderately priced TVs lack many major features for PC gaming, like variable refresh rate and G-Sync compatibility (not available for my size of TV for some reason).
Having to sit on the couch isn’t such a big deal I suppose, but it makes using a mouse and keyboard very difficult since I don’t have a fixed surface to use either on, or I have to use a controller for any games that support it. My original wireless KB+M wasn’t great for gaming either. Not to sound snobby, but the membrane keyboard was a total mess trying to use in games with it creaking constantly and not being able to predict when the keys would actually activate. The mouse was better though, so I least I didn’t need to worry too much about that
Still, our game room setup made gaming rather inconvenient. This meant basically sitting in the middle of the room, where I had to place the mouse on a small cart I put the PC in, and have the keyboard in my lap, to ensure my KB+M wouldn’t randomly lose signal (a particular problem when playing games). Once I bought a long HDMI cord, I could sit on the couch, but unless my KB+M had a relatively full charge, I was gambling with input lag and signal loss.
Had I known what I know now, I would’ve sprung for a good mechanical keyboard and mouse earlier, along with a good display like I own now. Believe me when I say that the difference is like night and day.
I picked my case based on many user reviews, but there were some things I didn’t anticipate to be an issue.
First, the Cooler Master TD500 I have has two major flaws right out of the box: the transparent panels are acrylic instead of glass, and the airflow is abysmal. There are two additional smaller flaws if you count the four incredibly loud fans the case comes with, and the way the RGB is set up.
The acrylic is so easy to scratch, that unless you use an extremely soft cloth to clean off any fingerprints or dust, you’re going to end up with scuff marks everywhere. Cooler Master has since addressed this with a product refresh, which not only replaces the acrylic side panel with tempered glass, but also addresses the case’s terrible airflow by ditching the acrylic panel on the front with a mesh front panel. They’ve also updated the top of the case by adding room for three fans instead of the two that the older model supports, making it possible to mount seven fans in the case, instead of just six (which means you can have two 360mm radiators if you so please).
Speaking of cooling, the front of the original case is almost completely closed off thanks to the acrylic panel that leaves barely any room for the fans to pull in air. I’ve since had to make some minor alterations to the case by purchasing some wire mesh dust filters and removing the acrylic entirely. While this has made the computer a little louder, the cooler on my PC doesn’t have to struggle nearly as much to keep the heat under control, so it kinda evens out.
I replaces all the original case fans with some much nicer, and quieter, ML120 fans. Some case manufactures like Be Quiet!, Phanteks, Fractal Design, and Corsair include much quieter fans in their cases, though I didn’t take this into consideration at all unfortunately. Likewise, the way that Cooler Master designed the original TD500 case to handle the case’s RGB lighting left a lot to be desired, making changing the fan colors a bit of a pain in the ass.
Last but not least, I spent far too little on the graphics card compared to the rest of the system. Granted, I got my current EVGA RTX 2060 for a steal relative to what they were going for originally, and it’s one of the better models on the market to be honest. Still, I probably could’ve stood to shell out a little extra to snatch up a 2080 instead.
Don’t get me wrong, considering that the original 2060 is more than enough to get good performance in most games, even on high settings. However, enabling the RTX features on the lowest end card is marginally useful at best, considering the severe performance hit the card takes to accomplish this.
It would’ve been a much harder sell to Jennifer to let me shell out close to $750 for one piece of my computer though…
For the most part, I feel like I did a pretty damn good job. I watched a ton of videos by people far more tech-savvy than I (I’ll link some of their content below) to get the courage and knowledge necessary to get as far as I did with building a computer, which thankfully resulted in me assembling a PC that worked on the first try.
Even if I ended up scaring the hell out of myself later down the line with a simple mistake.
What I want for you, dear reader, is to learn from my mistakes though, so here is the quick and dirty summary of what you should learn from me:
- SSDs are your friend. Don’t be put off by the price of an SSD compared to an HDD. The price difference is worth it, but still do your research. Also, don’t bother with SSHDs.
- Don’t skimp on peripherals. While computers can look pretty cool with flashing lights, none of that is going to matter if using it is like using a cheese grater on your eyes and fingers. One of the biggest bottlenecks for a PC can be the display, considering you can pair an AMD 3950X with an RTX 2080ti, and it’ll still look like garbage on a terrible screen. The same goes for a mouse and keyboard, as you’ll be surprised how much influence the tactile experience has on your gaming and productivity.
- Make sure your case makes a case for itself. Even the neatest case can be a huge pain if it doesn’t allow the PC to breathe, is extremely noisy, or makes cable management a nightmare.
- Be prepared to spend between 33% to 50% of your PC budget on the graphics card. I can’t take credit for this, as it’s a tip from Kyle (aka Bitwit), but that should lend a little more credence to it as he knows far more than I do about PCs.
With those lessons in mind, I know you’ll be on the right track to avoiding my mistakes. As I mentioned earlier though, I’ve included some links to various content creators who I’ve used to help me with building my computer.
What are some things you wish you would’ve done differently when building/buying your computer? If you haven’t done either, what are some of the mistakes you’re afraid you’d make?
JayzTwoCents – Watercooling and custom build expert who’s a bit of a dork
Paul’s Hardware – One of the nicest folks on YouTube who builds computers in his garage
Bitwit – The weirdest person I’ve ever seen, building computers and slowly driving his wife insane
Gamers Nexus – The hub for incredibly in-depth analysis of PC components, brought to you by Tech Jesus