Spec your new PC

If you’ve de­cided to bite the bul­let and buy a new PC, these are the key things that you should look out for

Windows Help & Advice - - WINDOWS 10 GET A NEW PC FOR XMAS -

The time has come. After years of faith­ful ser­vice, your old PC is no longer up to the task. It’s time to up­grade to a new one. You might want to choose an off-the-shelf model for sim­plic­ity’s sake, but why not build your own? The self-build route not only saves you money – par­tic­u­larly if you’re able to scav­enge com­po­nents from your ex­ist­ing PC – but also en­ables you to craft the per­fect PC for your needs.

Start by work­ing out what you can keep from your ex­ist­ing PC. Mon­i­tor, key­board and mouse for starters, but also con­sider the case. If it’s a stan­dard ATX case then you should be able to re-use that, too, al­though check the vents are clear and any case-mounted fans are in good work­ing or­der. Also make sure the power sup­ply unit (PSU) is 500 watts or greater; other­wise you’ll need to up­grade that, too. PSUs can be bought cheaply, but check to see what con­nec­tions are pro­vided (are there enough SATA power con­nec­tors, for ex­am­ple?) and look for other premium fea­tures such as mo­du­lar ca­bles, which can be plugged and un­plugged from the PSU as re­quired to free up space in the case.

If you do need to buy a new case, make sure it’s got enough room for your needs. Mi­croATX cases may take up less space than a midi ATX case, but they’re in­cred­i­bly cramped to work in and your ex­pan­sion op­tions in terms of ad­di­tional stor­age de­vices and so on will be re­stricted. In most case, midi ATX tower cases are the best choice.

Core com­po­nents

Your new PC’s moth­er­board and pro­ces­sor are the two most crit­i­cal choices you will make. It’s a choice be­tween AMD and In­tel, and while In­tel has the raw speed, AMD op­tions – par­tic­u­larly when com­par­ing moth­er­boards – tend to be bet­ter value.

All In­tel Core pro­ces­sors come with graph­ics on­board, while only a sub­set of AMD pro­ces­sors of­fer this – look for the ‘G’ in the model num­ber, such as the AMD Ryzen 5 2400G. If you’re plan­ning to buy a sep­a­rate graph­ics card any­way, on­board graph­ics aren’t im­por­tant, but do bear it in mind.

The moth­er­board it­self should be a mi­croATX or midi ATX model, but you should check to see whether it sup­ports the pro­ces­sor you plan to pair it with. Other crit­i­cal fac­tors in­clude the num­ber of ex­pan­sion ports – whether in­ter­nal PCI-E for plug-in cards like graph­ics, or ex­ter­nal USB ports – plus the num­ber of slots for RAM. Aim for a model that sup­ports four slots, mak­ing it eas­ier to add ex­tra mem­ory later if re­quired. All these ex­tra fea­tures shouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily cost you a premium – we’ve seen them on AMD moth­er­boards cost­ing around £50.

Your fi­nal con­sid­er­a­tion is RAM – fol­low the ad­vice on the pre­vi­ous page, re­mem­ber­ing to pair the cor­rect type with your new pur­chase. It’s ex­tremely un­likely you’ll be able to re-use RAM from your old PC, and ex­pect to pay a hefty premium for the new DDR4 stan­dard: around £70 per 8GB of RAM.

Stor­age space and other con­sid­er­a­tions

You should be able to re­use any ex­ist­ing DVD writer from your cur­rent PC, or you might want to up­grade to a Blu-ray writer – ex­pect to pay around £55-65. When it comes to hard drives, again you may be able to can­ni­balise some from your old PC, but now is the time – if you’ve not al­ready done so – to make sure you in­vest in a solid-state drive (SSD) for Win­dows and your pro­grams to re­side on. If your new moth­er­board has an M.2 slot, you might want to in­ves­ti­gate M.2 SSD stor­age – these re­sem­ble a chunky RAM chip and prices have fallen to com­pete with tra­di­tional SSDs (al­though the newer, faster PCI-E drives still com­mand a premium). M.2 drives take up less space, con­sume less power, and of­fer su­pe­rior per­for­mance. There are some con­sid­er­a­tions, how­ever – see the box­out be­low.

One last thing: you won’t be able to mi­grate Win­dows 10 across to your new PC un­less you bought it as a re­tail copy. Ex­pect to pay around £120 for a copy of Win­dows 10 Home – make sure you choose the 64-bit ver­sion if it’s of­fered. Cheaper edi­tions may ap­pear on­line, but be­ware their verac­ity. OEM copies of Win­dows are le­git­i­mately cheaper, but they’re lim­ited in that they’ll be tied to your new PC – you’ll dis­cover that when you come to build your next com­puter, you’ll have to pur­chase a new copy whereas a full re­tail copy can be trans­ferred to an­other PC.

MSI’s bud­get B350M PRO-VDH board ticks all the boxes for price-con­scious AMD buy­ers.

If you’re in the mar­ket for a new case, they come in a be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of de­signs and colours.

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