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All the Components Needed for a Desktop Computer - The Ultimate Guide


Want to know every part that goes into your desktop computer? This guide is for you.


Custom Gaming PC Options
There's a desktop PC out there for everyone.

Whether you're getting ready to build your own desktop computer, or you're buying a custom-made one and want to understand where your money's going, this guide is exactly what you're looking for.


We'll go through the components necessary to make a computer run, as well as some extra parts that won't feature in every PC.




Parts list:



Motherboard


CPU socket on an ASUS gaming motherboard

An essential component that acts as the core of the computer, holding components and allowing them to communicate with each other.


Motherboards include connectors and slots for other parts like the CPU, GPU, and RAM, and they distribute power from the PSU to these components.


Different motherboards will include sockets for different CPUs; typically, either AMD (e.g., AM5) or Intel (e.g., LGA 1700) sockets.


The price of motherboards can range from under £175 to over £500, but what's the difference between budget and high-end motherboards? Is it worth going for a more expensive one?


One of the main benefits of a more expensive motherboard is its greater reliability and build quality. Especially when paired with high end components, you want to avoid cheap motherboards which can contribute to an unstable system.


Another major benefit of higher end motherboards is the higher number of features that come with them. Some of these are more for aesthetics, like RGB lighting and diagnostic displays, but others provide potential for greater customisation and system performance:

Samsung 980 PRO SSD in an MSI gaming plus motherboard

  • Additional USB Ports

  • More PCIe and RAM Slots

  • Overclocking Support

  • Integrated Wi-Fi


Overall, the motherboard is a component that you don't need to overspend on, unless you're going for a high-end computer build or if you require specific features.


In most cases, it's best to stick with a reasonably priced motherboard so you can put more towards upgrading other, more important components instead.





CPU (Central Processing Unit)


An Intel Core i5 10600K CPU mounted on a motherboard


The CPU processes the operations of the computer, and is frequently called the brain of the computer. The CPU is essential and one of the most important components of any PC.


Performing tasks like running programs, playing games, and web browsing all use the CPU.


In the desktop PC industry, AMD and Intel are the two main competitors. Each company produces CPUs with their own advantages, including performance, price, and power efficiency.


AMD has their latest Ryzen 7000 series processors, which are more power-efficient than Intel's, and feature additional benefits when paired with an AMD GPU.


Intel has their most recent 13th Generation 'Raptor Lake' processors, which feature both Performance-cores and Efficient-cores for extremely high performance in both gaming and work scenarios.


Some CPUs feature built in graphics - integrated graphics, as opposed to a discrete graphics card.


An AMD Ryzen CPU mounted on a motherboard.

These integrated graphics are typically less powerful than a standalone GPU but are the perfect option for budget gaming builds, able to run casual games with great performance while allowing for easy upgrades in the future by adding a GPU. Integrated graphics are also ideal for lower-end workstation PCs, providing enough power for most Adobe programs and photo/video editing.





GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)


A Windforce Gigabyte Graphics Card

For many modern and high-end games, as well as intensive 3D rendering and video editing, a dedicated graphics card is crucial.


GPUs are used for graphics rendering, producing things like shadows, lighting effects, and other visual elements.


Modern graphics cards are capable of running games with high graphical fidelity, higher resolutions (like 1440p and 4K), and higher frame rates - the higher the frame rate (measured in frames per second - FPS), the smoother the result; 60 FPS is typically the baseline for gaming, with over 200 FPS being possible depending on the components and game being played.


Virtual reality headsets require powerful GPUs due to needing a high resolution and high frame rates for a realistic experience; you should consider this if your primary focus is VR.


A Geforce RTX 3070 Graphics Card Founder's Edition

When considering which GPU to purchase, you should think about factors including:


  • How well it fits into your budget

  • The price to performance ratio

  • Expected performance in your favourite games/most used programs

  • Additional features




If you're planning on playing newer games at high resolution (1440p+) with maxed out settings, you'll need a high-end GPU. The same is true if you need it for intensive work loads. It can be tough to choose between the main competitors, so we'll go through the main benefits and drawbacks of each one.


AMD is one of the major manufacturers of GPUs, alongside Nvidia. Intel, who are best known for their processors, have recently entered the GPU market.


One if the main benefits of AMD GPUs is their affordability; their GPUs are typically cheaper than the competition, particularly in the budget to mid-tier price range. AMD's RX 6600, priced at around £200, offers similar performance to Nvidia's RTX 3050, which is priced at around £230. Even looking at recent high-end GPUs, AMD's 7900 XTX is priced significantly lower than Nvidia's RTX 4080, with the 7900 XTX being slightly better in performance.


Overall, AMD takes the lead in terms of price to performance, however, if you're looking for the best GPU available to buy then Nvidia's RTX 4090 is the best option. For specific games and programs, AMD and Nvidia GPUs can perform differently, so it might be worth checking for each use case.

Minecraft with NVIDIA's RTX Ray Tracing turned on
Minecraft with RTX Raytracing

In terms of features, Nvidia has some exclusive ones like DLSS (upscaling technology for improved performance) and RTX raytracing (improved lighting). AMD has their own upscaling technology - FSR, though this is available with Nvidia GPUs as well.






Intel have attempted to gain market share by entering the market with very low prices; in this regard, their value is very high. Though their GPUs show inconsistent performance, and their drivers are unstable, so for now at least, they should be avoided.


To summarise, neither brand is better than the other; if there are certain features that you need/want, then you should go for the brand that offers them, and if you're restricted to a budget then it's worth finding out what the best GPU is that you can get within that price range.





RAM (Random Access Memory)


TridentZ neo RAM modules x4 mounted in a motherboard

The purpose of RAM is to store short-term information for the computer, so the data can be rapidly retrieved and used for completing tasks and running programs.


There are three main factors to consider when buying RAM:

  • RAM Capacity

  • RAM Frequency

  • Type of RAM


Capacity: Having a higher capacity of RAM in your system can lead to improved performance in games and for your overall system, but only if RAM is a limiting factor. 16GB is plenty for most people, with less RAM (4GB, 8GB) being recommended only for budget and general use computers, and more RAM (32GB, 64GB+) for high-end gaming computer builds and workstation PCs. Having multiple RAM sticks gives improved performance over single sticks; two 8GB sticks is better than a single 16GB stick - however, compatibility will depend on the motherboard.


Frequency: This refers to the speed of the RAM, measured in MHz (Megahertz). Generally, it is best to look in the range of 3000 to 3600 MHz, with higher speeds giving diminishing returns for a higher cost.


Type of RAM: Newer generations of RAM are of course improvements over the previous generations. DDR4 (Double Data Rate 4th Generation) is the current most popular generation, with DDR3 being outdated for modern builds, and DDR5 being relatively new; though it is seeing an increase in popularity amongst high-end computer builds. DDR5 RAM comes with increased speed and bandwidth, and overall improved performance, though for a much higher price and the need for a compatible motherboard, which can also be fairly expensive.

HyperX RGB RAM mounted in a gaming PC with blue LEDs

The brand of RAM used in a computer doesn't matter as much as with other components; RAM from different brands with the same specifications will have very little difference, aside from visuals. Even still, it is worth sticking with some reliable brands (like, Corsair, Kingston, Samsung, and Crucial) to ensure quality with things like the RAM's heatsink and RGB lighting.







Storage


All of your pictures, games, programs, and other files are kept on a storage device. There are different types of storage devices, and you can have multiple of them in a computer, depending on how many slots your motherboard has for them.


The two main types of storage devices are:

  • HDDs (Hard Disk Drives)

  • SSDs (Solid-state Drives)


Seagate Barracuda Hard Drive 4TB HDDs x4

HDDs: These have the advantage of being cheaper than SSDs, so you'll be able to get more storage for the same price. If you plan on storing a large amount of infrequently used files, like pictures, then HDDs are a great option.


The downside is the slower speed, which can be very noticeable when loading modern games and programs.


The speed of a storage device refers to the reading and writing speeds, measured in MB/s. Reading speed is how fast data is read from the device, and writing speed is how fast data is written onto the device; so, higher is better.


HDDs have a speed of around 80 to 160 MB/s.


SSDs: The two most common types of SSDs are 2.5-inch SATA SSDs and M.2 NVMe SSDs.


SATA SSDs are compatible with almost all PC builds, as they use the same connectors and HDDs. They are much faster than HDDs, with speeds of up to 600 MB/s. They are also more expensive though, with prices typically being 50-100% higher than HDDs for the same amount of storage.


M.2 NVMe SSDs are newer and faster than the other options. M.2 refers to the form factor, with the SSD being installed directly into the motherboard (the number of available slots will differ between motherboards), and NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) referring to the method of data transfer - through a PCIe interface. M.2 NVMe SSDs are significantly faster than the other options, with speeds from 3500 MB/s, all the way up to 7000 MB/s with newer, high-end SSDs. They are of course more expensive, though recently the prices have come closer to that of SATA SSDs, sometimes being found for the same price for the same amount of storage.


Samsung 990 PRO SSD mounted in a PC

The best option overall is an M.2 NVMe SSD, as they provide the fastest speeds of all the options. Your motherboard will need to provide compatibility for it, though. SSDs overall are faster, more reliable, less noisy, and longer lasting than HDDs.


HDDs could be a better option for you, if you are looking to get as much storage as possible for a lower price, and6 if you aren't too concerned about their speed.





PSU (Power Supply Unit)


A Corsair CV750 750 watt power supply

The PSU provides power to your whole system, which is why it's recommended to buy from a reliable supplier, as going for the cheapest option can harm your other (more important and expensive) components by reducing their lifespan and performance.


Corsair is one of the best brands for PSUs, with an excellent reputation for long-lasting, efficient, and quiet power supplies. Other top brands include EVGA, Seasonic, and Cooler Master; as long as the PSU provides enough wattage for your system, and has a high efficiency rating, you can't go wrong with these brands.


When trying to determine the wattage needed for your whole computer, you should aim to go slightly higher than your exact needs. For example, if your system requires 450W, you should try to go for a 550W (or higher) PSU to give your PC some extra breathing room, while making it simpler to upgrade your PC in the future. Keep in mind that higher wattage PSUs won't use more power than your system demands, they just have the ability to provide more if needed. An entry-level gaming PC may only need 450W, whereas higher-end gaming and workstation PCs could require as much as 1000W.

The 80 PLUS Gold rating symbol for power suppply efficiency

Power efficiency is another important factor to consider when buying a PSU. Power supply manufacturers use an 80 PLUS rating to show the efficiency of their PSUs. This means that the PSU has an efficiency of 80% or more, with the remaining power wasted as heat. The 80 PLUS rating has 6 tiers (80 PLUS, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Titanium), with efficiency increasing every tier. 80 PLUS Titanium PSUs have an efficiency of 96% at 50% load.


Power supplies have a few different variants; non-modular, semi-modular, and fully modular. Non-modular PSUs have their cables soldered in place, so they can't be removed. This means you'll need to find space for all of the cables in your PC case, even if you aren't using them all. Semi-modular have the main cables attached to the PSU, with some extra ones having the ability to be removed. Modular PSUs don't have any cables permanently attached; the benefits of this being less mess inside of your PC case, freeing up space and improving airflow.


As with other components, you will need to check if your PSU is compatible with your case.





Case


The case houses all of the components of your PC. There are four main considerations when choosing a case:

A Gamemax Abyss gaming case with RGB lights and fan

  • Compatibility

  • Airflow

  • Features

  • Aesthetics






Compatibility: This is the most important factor, as a case is useless if it doesn't have enough space for your components.


You will want your case to be big enough for your motherboard, which can come in different sizes including Mini-ATX, Micro-ATX, and ATX.


PSUs also come in a variety of sizes, some of which are too big for certain cases.


If you have a GPU in your PC, make sure it isn't too wide/long for your case, and the same for CPU coolers.


Make sure that your case has enough drive bays for your storage drives, like SSDs and HDDs. If you plan on using a DVD/Blu-ray drive, make sure your case has space for one.


As well as ensuring everything fits inside of your PC, it's worth checking if your chosen case will fit in/on/under your desk, or wherever else your computer will be placed.


Airflow: A well designed case will do a good job of circulate air through your PC, keeping your components cool to prevent overheating. A cooler PC also means your fans don't have to spin as fast, keeping noise levels down.


A gaming computer built by UGPCs with a white NZXT H10 Flow gaming case

Especially for gaming and workstation PCs, you will want spaces to mount intake and outtake fans; almost all cases will have these, but some will have more than others, and depending on the case, only certain fan sizes will fit.



Cases with a mesh front panel can help significantly with airflow, so these types of cases are usually preferred.




Features: Cases can offer a variety of features, with some common ones including USB-C ports, RGB and fan speed adjustment buttons, hinged side panels, cable-management slots and straps, detachable panels for easy cleaning, wall-mounting capabilities, and the ability to change the motherboard's mounting orientation.


Aesthetics: Having a case that looks stylish and modern is especially important if you're going to see it every day, even more so if it's on your desk.

A ThermalTake P1 gaming Case

Cases usually come in either black or white, but there are some exceptions.


Many cases will include their own fans, either with LEDs or plain - these can be swapped out so don't be put off if you don't like a cases' fans.




Tempered glass side panels are fairly common in cases, and give you a view into your PC and of all your parts. Some cases have acrylic panels, which give the same benefit but are more prone to scratches and are overall less durable.



Some brands are better than others for their better reputation and use of higher quality materials, but overall, as long as your case looks good, and fits all of your components in while keeping them cool, the brand isn't too important.





Cooling


Aside from the case, to keep your system cool, you will need fans and a CPU cooler. There are variations of both, and your best options will depend on your budget and usage needs.



A gaming PC from UGPCs with RGB fans, CPU cooler, and RAM

Fans: If your chosen case doesn't include preinstalled fans, or they're low quality, you'll need to buy some additional ones.


The most common sizes for fans are 120mm and 140mm, with some larger ones like 180mm being available as well. Larger ones are typically quieter, due to not having to spin as fast to move the same amount of air.


When looking for the best fans you will compare the RPM (Rotations Per Minute) and the noise level (decibels - dB). Fans with a higher RPM will perform better but create more noise; so it's best to balance the two factors.


Higher-end fans from reputable brands like Be Quiet! and Noctua will perform extremely well while keeping a low noise level, so it can be worth spending extra on them if you want to keep the volume of your system to low levels, especially when under load. Better quality fans will have a longer lifespan as well, to keep your PC running quietly for years.


RGB fans are almost always more expensive than regular ones, but good RGB fans can enhance your computer build unlike any other components can.


Different fans will use different connectors, like 3-pin and 4-pin connectors, or MOLEX connectors. 4-pin connectors are recommended to allow your PC to adjust the fan speed dynamically. Most motherboards will feature headers for 3-pin/4-pin connectors, though the number of headers will vary per motherboard.


CPU Coolers: CPUs sometimes come with their own cooler out of the box, as without a cooler your CPU's performance can be affected and the CPU can even be damaged if it overheats.


The main types of CPU coolers are air coolers and liquid coolers. Liquid coolers are split into AIO (All In One) coolers and custom/open-loop coolers.


Air coolers are the most common option, as air cooling is usually enough to maintain low temperatures for low-mid range CPUs, particularly in computers that aren't used for gaming or other intense workloads. Even for gaming PCs, air coolers are a great option, as they are simple to install and usually cost less than other options. The disadvantage is that they can be quite bulky, and can generate more sound due to requiring another fan (or more).


An all-in-one liquid CPU cooler's cooling loop, with purple RGB lighting

AIO liquid coolers are a great option for high-end gaming PCs/workstation PCs, though they are typically more expensive than air coolers. They are more complicated to install than air coolers, and you'll need to think about the cooler's orientation and positioning of the radiator, tubes, and waterblock.


AIO coolers run quieter than air coolers due to the fans not needing to run at a higher RPM. The main advantage of liquid cooling is their cooling effectiveness, and a high quality AIO cooler will maintain lower temperatures than air coolers are able to; this is especially important in high-end gaming PCs/workstation PCs where the computer's temperatures can run very high when under stress, and so more efficient cooling is needed.


Custom loop coolers are even more complex than AIO coolers, as each part is separate and must be configured and put together yourself - because of this, custom loops are more expensive. Custom loops usually provide even better cooling performance than AIOs, and can be configured to cool GPUs and well as the CPU. However, custom loops require much more maintenance, for example the coolant needing to be replaced a couple times every year. A major appeal of custom loops is the aesthetic value, as they are significantly more customisable and can be modified to suit any build or theme.


A custom cooling loop inside a gaming PC, with RGB lighting

Overall, air coolers provide the best value for many for most people, with AIO coolers being worth it for higher-end PC builds, and custom cooling loops only being worth it if you are prepared for the extra hassle of installing and maintaining it.





Summary


So that covers all of the major parts that make up a desktop PC, from basic home computers up to premium gaming machines.

A vinyl wrapped gaming case from UGPCs with a dragon

As well as the main components there are also optional aesthetic upgrades, like custom braided cables and vinyl wraps for cases (exclusive to UG PCs!), to enhance your build and create a computer unlike any other.





Building your own desktop computer can be a daunting task. It requires a lot of research and technical knowledge. If you don't have the time or expertise to build your own computer, we can do it for you. We will work with you to understand your needs and then build a custom PC that meets your exact specifications.


Here are some of the benefits of letting us build your desktop computer for you:

  • You don't have to worry about the technical details. We will take care of everything for you.

  • You can be sure that your computer will be built with high-quality components. We use only brand-new, premium parts from reputable brands, and test everything thoroughly before you receive it.

  • You will get a great price. We offer competitive prices on all of our custom computers.

  • You'll get a better computer. We have years of experience building desktop computers. We know what components work well together and we can make sure that you get a computer that meets your needs.

  • You'll get a warranty. We offer a warranty on all of our custom-built computers. This means that you can be confident that your computer will be covered if something goes wrong.

  • We offer lifetime support for repairs, upgrades, and general questions about making the most out of your PC.


Contact us today to get a quote on your custom-built desktop PC. We'll be happy to answer any questions you have and help you choose the perfect components for your needs. Or use our live chat to get an instant response.




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1 Comment


Unknown member
Jul 23, 2023

good blog

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