When Man Maketh Machine
Matt Morais, an unabashed geek, clues us in on the financial and personal value of building his own computer.
What inspired you to build your own computer?
Ever since my friend built his own computer back in November of last year, I’ve wanted to do it. That March, I had attempted to repair my PS3 and, after successfully dismantling the system, replacing a few parts, and putting it back together, the same error message appeared. I didn’t see this as me failing at a repair. I saw it as me dismantling and reassembling my first legit electronic system, without breaking it any further. That was all the confidence I needed to start building my own.
How did you start building it?
I started by using PCPartPicker.com, a site that allows you to select all the core components of a computer in one location. I knew I wanted an upgrade from my old laptop so I began with an upgraded graphics card and better processor. I also used NewEgg, GPUBoss, and CPUBoss to compare certain components and check reviews for product reliability and functionality.
Did you think about future proofing and upgrading your system later?
I did think about future proofing, but the problem is nothing will ever be future proof. This build should last me about two to three years before I need to buy an upgrade. I got a top-of-the-line motherboard and graphics card for my chosen chipset, and the most modern memory. My motherboard allots space for me to double my current memory and install an additional two graphics cards if I so choose. If I do end up upgrading, I will need to upgrade my power supply as well. The toughest part is bottlenecking. Since I went with top-of-the-line components, if I choose to upgrade one, I’ll have to upgrade them all.
What are some key parts that you chose?
I chose a hexa-core processor, which allows me to edit photos and watch a YouTube tutorial at the same time. I can also listen to music and work on a Word document without any reduction in computer performance, and I can game at 1440p at around 45fps. Any 1080p games will run at an easy 60fps with no drop in frame rate.
How would someone recreate your customized computer? Give me a shopping list.
You need a case, power supply, motherboard, CPU, GPU, CPU cooler, memory, and a hard drive. I would recommend using a SSD for a boot drive and an HDD for all other processes. The SSD will let your computer start up considerably faster. My pro tip is to watch YouTube tutorials. You will learn all you need to know about building a computer. Yes, they’re all one or two hours long, but you need to watch each one through or else you risk damaging your components.
How long did the process, from research to building to setup, take?
It took me about eight months to feel confident enough to buy the parts, a week and a half for the parts to come in, one day to put it all together, and about four hours to install the operating system.
Do you think building your own computer is geeky, or is it something else?
It absolutely is geeky. I guess anything with electronics is considered geeky nowadays, but that shouldn’t put people off from doing it. You can build a PC varying in price from a $75 Raspberry Pi to a $24,000 power house. Anyone can do it, you just need to be willing to put the time in. While picking the right components and being wary of ESD require a fair amount of electrical background, any other gaps in knowledge can be filled in by YouTube tutorials.
What are the benefits of building your own computer?
For me, it was a way to spend money and time on something really personal. For entire afternoons, I researched and compared computer parts, wrestled with manuals, and took countless cool-down breaks to construct an incredible machine that does everything I need. The customization is truly unparalleled, so it’s worth all the frustration of putting it together. I could not have bought it off the shelf, and, if I had bought something, I would have spent an additional $600 to get more than what I needed. Building my own also gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment. I hadn’t felt that proud since getting accepted into college.
Interview by Clay Anderson