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Building your own PC ... STEP 1: Purchase/Collect the Components ( Part 1)

In my last article I started discussing how to negotiate debts. In this article I'll cover the remainder of what you can and cannot do when addressing old debt.

Old debt doesn't go away unless you pay it off. It's that simple. The original creditor might have charged it off. It might be very close to the Statute of Limitations. When you have this knowledge, and some money to pay your old debt, you are in a position to negotiate terms. Remember in the last article when I stated to not talk to collectors on the telephone? That person most probably does NOT have any authority regarding your account. You have every right under the law to seek PROOF OF THE DEBT.

You might want to offer a "settlement offer". That means that in consideration for the creditor/collector accepting agreed upon funds, they have to agree to accept your offer as "paid in full". There have been a great number of letters written regarding paying off "charged off accounts". Present FICO scoring methodology works in this fashion. If an account is reported as "paid charged off account", this action LOWERS your credit score. Today many creditors/collectors are being more and more aware of this failure in the system and have agreed to report the account as "Paid As Agreed" or have "DELETED" the paying history entirely.

Let’s get down to business. The first thing you’re going to have to do is open the wallet / purse / credit card to make some purchases. Then get ready, brew some coffee and let’s get started.

Building your own PC
STEP 1: Purchase/Collect the Components – Part 1

Often this is the one step that takes the most time and consideration. Which parts do I buy? Which are best?

There are many good places to buy computer parts. You can go to a computer retail store in your area. Although they often provide good warranties, the trade off may be that you will pay a little more than you would in other places. Sometimes you pay a lot more. Also, due to the sheer volume of people they see every day, some of the "support specialists" don't always listen to your concerns and start jumping to conclusions on what you need or what the problem is. Some of them take pride that they can give you a technical answer in two seconds and make themselves look smart, even though what they just said is probably wrong. If you walk in and say your computer keeps crashing and he insists you need a new motherboard and CPU to fix it, start running to the door.

Most towns have smaller stores that sell and repair computer equipment. These may be an office suite in a strip mall. Regardless of location, such stores are often cheaper and can provide individual attention. The hardware they sell is often retail packaged from the manufacturer. They may also sell OEM hardware, which usually comes wrapped in nothing but a static bag and is accompanied with very little documentation. You will need to be the judge on this type of hardware. If you feel you need the documentation, you should not buy OEM hardware. Also, not to stereotype certain businesses, but I have to tell you this so you'll be informed: the smaller mom-and-pop computer stores are sometimes a little more questionable as to their knowledge base. This is not always the case, but since they are a smaller business and don't have the large sale volumes of the larger retail stores, they are often under more pressure to make the sale just to stay solvent. Be aware of this when you walk in. Do your research.

The bottom line here is to know your stuff. The PC sales industry is occupied by many who WILL take advantage of your lack of knowledge to make a sale.

Now, let us go through each type of hardware:

Case: Make sure you buy a case which will fit into the space you intend to place it. This is where you decide between a desktop or a tower case. Allow room for expandability; spare drive bays, ample room to work inside. Make sure it has a power supply. Is the case clean? Pay attention to the form factor: AT or ATX. All newer motherboards are using the ATX form factor, so if you have an old case lying around, chances are a new board won't fit in it. If you do a lot of upgrading, you should get a case that is designed with this in mind, such as easily removed motherboard mounting plates, drive racks, etc. Things like the turbo switch and key lock are ancient technology, so pay no mind to having them. Try to have the buttons such as power and reset recessed, so that if you keep the case under the desk you won't accidentally kick the thing and reset it. Also, check the sturdiness of the case. Some cheaper cases are actually quite flimsy inside. Pay attention to how the case comes apart. Depending on the design, the screw less type is very user friendly. It's easier to work with a case that does not come apart in multiple pieces.

If you will be running a high-end processor in the case; then pay attention to the cooling aspects of the box. It’s nice when cases come with case fans included, but if they do not, you should make sure the case is designed to allow them. You should have an unobstructed air hole in the front of the case for a front-mounted case fan, with some method of air flow from the rear of the case as well. Many power supplies also aid in cooling by having bottom-mounted fans that suck air from the inside of the case and blow it out the back through the power unit. Don’t go cheap on your fans either. Fans are your best friend fighting heat. You get what you pay for. And, along this line, pay attention to the wattage rating of the power supply included with the case. If you will be running either a large amount of hardware or fairly high-end hardware in this case, get a good strong power supply with good wattage ratings.

As far as brands go, there are many good manufacturers out there. All aluminum cases are now started to catch on. If you don't mind spending a little more, you may want to take a look at the quality cases made by Antec. If you’re into modified cases, you can get them pre-modified with viewing holes and everything. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can grab a nice case and do your own mods to it. For some reason, though, I’ve never been keen on tearing huge holes into my PCs, but maybe it’s just me.

Motherboard: Almost everyone knows that the motherboard is the most important component of your computer. At one point or another, every other component connects to the motherboard. Keep in mind that your motherboard choice controls your future upgrade paths. Want to upgrade you RAM? You first have to check and see what type your motherboard will take, and how much it will support. Want that new video card? Your motherboard will need a PCI express slot. Get the point? If you choose the wrong motherboard in the beginning, you may find yourself having to buy a different one down the road to support some other upgrade. Today's motherboards are a lot more sophisticated than the one's in the 486 days. If you are used to these older systems, you will need to come up to speed on the latest boards. Where you once needed an IDE controller card, the connectors are now built right on the motherboard. USB was once an option - now it is integrated on every board. Some boards go all the way, offering built on SCSI or Sata controllers, 10/100/1000 Ethernet support, onboard video and sound, etc. Buying a motherboard is a tradeoff - you need to know what you want and then pick that board which has the best combination of features for you. Bear in mind the old adage - sometimes it is better to buy what you will eventually end up with anyway.

There are really three levels of motherboards. Of course this is a generalization, but it’s accurate enough.
• Bare-bone boards. These are the types of boards you usually get if you are not into PC hardware and don't want to deal with frustrations. You just want to build it and turn it on. These boards have built in sound and video, and sometimes other features too. They don't usually over clock well and don't have a wide range of CPU support. These boards are comparatively inexpensive. Many times, pre-built PCs come with these types of boards, and this is one of the reasons you should be following this tutorial. If you’re going to bother building your own PC, get a board that’s worth your time. This isn’t it.
• Secondly, we have the level of board most commonly used. These boards come with a single CPU slot, EIDE or Sata controller, etc. Most don't have built in video, although more of them have built-in sound. This is fine, as long as it is easily disabled. They support a wide range of processors, and with more voltage and multiplier settings, they are more over clocking friendly. Some of these boards offer RAID capability. With the proper amount of PCI slots, these boards are great.
• Thirdly, you have the best which most of us cannot afford. These are the dual processor boards, often with built on NIC, Sata, SCSI, a bunch load of PCI slots. PCI slots are a necessity because if you add additional cards to your system most of them will be PCI cards.
Some things you want to bear in mind:
• Board Layout: A lot of people don't consider where everything is placed on the motherboard, but it is important. Is there a big capacitor right near the CPU slot, blocking where your CPU fan will go? Is there a bunch of crap that will block your full-length PCI card from fitting? Are the memory slows in a position where you’d need to remove the floppy drive to get at I them? You need to know roughly what you will be plugging into this board and know if anything will get in the way. This also depends to a degree on the size of the case you are using. Trying to cram a larger board, like an Asus or Gigabyte board, into a mini-tower is asking for trouble.
• Slots - If we had our way, we'd have a motherboard with 20 PCI slots so we could run everything in the world. Unfortunately, this doesn't exist. So, you need to pay attention to how many PCI slots a motherboard has. For most of us the standard 3 to 5 PCI slots will be fine. Be careful, you can easily fill all your slots. Make sure the board has an AGP or PCI Express slot for video card upgrades.

Due to the length of this particle article I thought it best to split it up into manageable chunks. My following article will complete your PC shopping list.

About the Author: Chuck Lunsford is an owner and developer of He offers advice on how to get design and build your own personal computer. Visit his website and learn more about designing a computer .

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