RAM chips

RAM chips

RAM is fast, temporary and volatile memory that the PC uses to store data being processed by the processor. RAM usually comes in modules or sticks. RAM sizes are usually a multiple of 2, i.e., 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, etc., though there are exceptions to this rule.

Data stored in RAM is lost if there is a power cut, that is why data needs to be transferred to permanent memory, in this case, the hard drive or external storage devices.

RAM types differ, but the most popular is DDR (Double Data Rate) Memory, which is numbered according to its generations, like DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, etc. Each iteration is faster and features higher frequencies and larger capacities than the previous generation.

If you are building your own PC, you need to buy matching RAM for the motherboard, because each motherboard is limited to a certain quantity of RAM and also the type of RAM, whether DDR3 or DDR4.

Some manufacturers of memory modules include Corsair, Kingston, G.Skill, OCZ, Hynix, Transcend, and Mushkin.

Additionally, you need a specific minimum size of RAM for the particular purpose of building a PC, such as for gaming, 3D rendering, Video Editing, etc. We’ll cover these aspects as we proceed.


Graphics Card

A desktop Graphics Card

Also known as the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), this is responsible for processing graphics and image data, and relaying the same to an output device, such as a monitor. The graphics card has become a specialized piece of equipment for the PC and has spawned a whole new industry that is a sub-set of the PC industry.

The memory on a graphics card is a special type of memory called GDDR RAM (Graphics Double Data Rate Random Access Memory), and it comes in various sizes. It is designed to handle graphics data being processed by the GPU processor. Just like PC RAM, it also comes in multiples of 2, e.g., 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, etc., though there are instances of exceptions in some brands.

Graphics RAM usually comes in generations like GDDR3, GDDR5, and GDDR6. As with PC RAM, each succeeding generation is much faster, with higher bandwidth and memory, than the previous ones. Recently, HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) was launched, which featured cards with much higher bandwidth than GDDR5.

Graphics cards come in various sizes, brands, memory configurations, purposes, and prices. Nowadays, we have specialized graphics cards for running heavy computations that a PC processor is not capable of running alone, such as simulations, image rendering, and even Artificial Intelligence (AI) for self-driving cars.

The two major GPU giants are Nvidia and AMD, and their cards are marketed by brands such as EVGA, Gigabyte, XFX, ASUS, Zotac, PNY, MSI, Palit, and others. Lately, there have been rumors that Intel is launching into the GPU market, but time will tell if this is true.

When buying a graphics card, you must take into account your needs, such as the main purpose of the PC and your budget. You may not even need to buy a dedicated graphics card in some scenarios, which you’ll find out shortly. That means you can either rely on the integrated graphics on the processor or get one of the best budget graphics cards.

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Desktop Hard Drives

Desktop Hard Drives

This is the main storage device of the PC. It features permanent, non-volatile memory. It’s not as fast as RAM, but it holds data permanently.

Hard drives are mechanical storage devices, unlike RAM, which manipulates data electronically. This is the main reason for RAM volatility. Mechanical hard drives are simply a collection of constantly spinning electromagnetic disks and platters which are used to access the stored data.

Hard drives or disks come in various sizes, which range from gigabytes to terabytes. A few years ago, hard drives used the IDE interface to connect to the motherboard using, but today, SATA is the preferred interface connector.

There are new technologies such as SSDs (Solid State Drives) and M.2 drives. Both utilize solid-state technology in storing and accessing the data. They are much faster and more reliable, and consume less energy than traditional mechanical hard drives. The only downside is the cost, which is much higher (SSD prices have been on a downward spin in recent years).

SSD Drive

An SSD Drive

An M.2 NVme drive

An M.2 NVme drive

Ideally, it is advisable to use an SSD drive as the operating system drive (Boot Drive), which also holds your applications, and a traditional mechanical hard drive as permanent storage for your files.

The major manufacturers of mechanical hard drives include Seagate, Western Digital, HSGT, and Toshiba. For SSDs, major brands among others include Samsung, Crucial, OCZ, Corsair, ADATA, Kingston, Silicon Power, Mushkin, and Western Digital.


CPU Cooler

This is a special cooling device for the processor. The cooler is important because it does the task of cooling the CPU, which releases copious amounts of heat due to its operation.

CPU coolers come in two forms, air coolers, and liquid coolers. Again, you need to determine the type of cooler you need, whether liquid or air. You should use a liquid cooler only if your processor is going to be seriously overclocked (more on overclocking shortly).

Major brands include NZXT, Noctua, EVGA, Corsair, Thermaltake, Cooler Master, and Enermax.


ultimate guides to build a PC step by step

The Power Supply, or PSU, is responsible for distributing power to all the components attached to the motherboard.

Power Supply technology has improved tremendously in recent years, with improvements in design and efficiency. Today, we have modular power supply units that allow you to attach only the cables you need, thereby reducing clutter and improving airflow.

As with other components, there are scores of brands including EVGA, Seasonic, NZXT, XFX, Thermaltake, Antec, Corsair, and others.

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