So, PC building and repairs – sounds fun right? In this article, I will discuss how I started my career with PCs. The article features tips, advice with real examples and how I learned from my mistakes.

I’m starting with a repair. When I was starting Year 7 in secondary school, I was given a brand new Zoostorm computer setup, including a base unit, a CRT monitor, printer, mouse, keyboard and speakers. It was the happiest day in my life!

Whilst, I can’t remember the exact specs of the machine, I can tell you that it was running on Windows XP Home Edition, that it had 512 MB of RAM and a 20GB Hard Drive.

One day, the PC just stopped booting into Windows. The hard Drive was corrupt. So what did I do? Well I decided to repair it! Being a newbie, I read a couple articles online and found a spare Windows XP disk. I just followed the instructions and before I knew it, my PC was back in action again! I can remember my parent’s being shocked!

Whilst this was only a small achievement, at the time I didn’t care I was over the moon again and because I fixed my own PC!

My First New Computer setup, still without a desk. I had a small TV unit at the time which the telly sat on. Eventually I got a desk!

My first experience with hardware

As time moved on, I needed something that will offer me more performance and flexibility. I decided to purchase a second hand Dell Optiplex GX280. Not only did the PC have double the RAM but it had more storage space and a better processor.

Tip!

If you’re new to PC building, get an old cheap computer to play around with. If it breaks don’t worry about it and get a new one! This is the reason I decided to go second-hand. I had many fun times upgrading the hardware and checking out new operating systems such as Linux!

The PC only cost me £40 including postage.

My Second more powerful PC setup – The Dell Optiplex GX280

As you can see I was able to get rid of the CRT monitor. I managed to buy a 15 inch Dell monitor for around £20 and a new printer for around £40, not that I used it much.

This PC is where my true adventure with PC’s began! At the time the above photo was taken, the specs were as follows:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • Storage: 40 GB Hard Drive
  • System: Windows XP Professional 32 Bit
  • Other Stuff:
    • CD-ROM Drive
    • USB Wifi Dongle

As you can see, the specs were low, most smartphones of today are probably more powerful than this! I decided to make some changes.

Tip!

Before purchasing any new systems or hardware components, make sure that you research the compatibility with your build. I can’t stress this enough!

The first thing I changed was the hard drive, I upgraded it to an 80 GB drive, I picked up on eBay. I later installed Windows 7 on it. The system installed and was usable but I stumbled upon an issue. The built-in graphics couldn’t handle the system as well as Windows XP did. In fact, I was unable to play games and the Aero theme stopped working.

Suggestion:

If your PC is old or used for Education purposes, it’s not always a good idea to purchase brand new parts. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of money on something that might break. There are occasions when new parts are cheap enougth such as the Graphics Card I purchased below…

I fixed this by purchasing a small graphics card. It was only the EVGA Nvidia GF GT 210 with only 1GB. It only cost me about £20 and at the time it was the only one I could afford. But it fixed the problem! I was able to play games and the Aero theme worked.

I’m not going to tell you the entire history of this PC as that will be ridiculously long and you’re likely to fall asleep! But the last thing I used this PC for before I put it into retirement was to test Windows 10 Insider Preview on. That too, had it’s chalenges as the video shows…

Video showing the last thing I used the Dell Optiplex GX280 for

So what did I gain from this learning experience?

To summarise I learned, how to upgrade RAM, how to dissemble and put together a PC, why SSD’s are so much better. Most importantly of all, I learned how to diagnose computer faults, even if it includes testing each part individually. I gained a lot of experience, especially in how to keep an ancient PC working.

I also had a lot of fun with this PC, I made it into a NAS server, tested Windows 10 and 8.1 before they were released.

Overall, what started off a school work PC ended up being the start of my career in IT. How you may ask? I kept a log with photos, videos of, most of the upgrades and projects I used this PC for. There are tons of projects. I even started writing a blog on Blogger. The best thing I ever heard was the words of an interviewer for my first ever job in IT was I like your blog, and I got the job!

Tip!

Keep a log with photos and evidence of work that you have been doing on your computer. The log could include upgrades, experiments and even projects. If the projects fail, explain why it failed in your log. This will show your skills and willingness to learn and improve. Employers seem to like that. Or even better write a blog!

Although my first blog is now closed, it was popular enough to gain many subscribers and this is one of the reasons I got my first job in IT.

When I restarted blogging a couple months ago, I took a free online course by John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com. The course tought me what to do and how to do it. I highly recommend it!

Tip:

Before building your very first PC watch some YouTube videos showing how others build them. You can pick up loads of useful facts and techniques. I did this with the YouTube channel mentioned below.

The last thing I will talk about in this article is the big moment! After retiring my Dell Optiplex GX280, I decided it was time to build my very own Gaming PC, this decision wasn’t one I took lightly but I was very inspired by a person in the industry. This person was Dawid Nowak from wavepc.pl. Dawid is a Polish YouTuber, who is quite famous in Poland. He owns his own PC repair centre where apart from fixing PC’s he builds them. It was his amazing videos that got me into building my very own PC.

My First PC build

Pictured above is my first PC build. The specs included:

  • CPU: Intel i5 4690K
  • Motherboard: MSI B85-G41
  • RAM: HyperX FURY 8GB DDR3 1600MHz
  • PSU: Corsair CXM 600W
  • GPU: Asus Invidia GTX 750TI
  • Storage: SSD: SanDisk Plus 120 GB | WD Blue 1 TB Hard Drive
  • Optical drive: Samsung SH-224FB
  • Case: Corsair CC-9011058-WW Carbide Series SPEC-03
  • OS: Windows 8.1, later Windows 10

Suggestion:

Find a role model, who you can learn from and don’t put the thing you learn to waste! It’s supprising what you can learn. Have a go!

Other useful tips and advice

Invest in a good tool-kit including a magnetic screwdriver!

PC’s cases have some real tight spots, if you drop a screw or even putting a screw in can sometimes be challenging. Magnetic screwdrivers can be a life saver!

Don’t put the motherboard in straight away!

There are many tight spots inside the case. Putting the CPU, Thermal compound and RAM in first will be a lot easier. I personally start building on top of the motherboard box.

Research comparability

This is an important one! Especially when selecting a CPU and motherboard as buying a processor with the incorrect pins, later attaching it into your motherboard can damage your PC.

Consider what you will be using your PC for

If your needs are basic such as browsing the internet, school work and writing the odd document, you don’t need to buy the latest and most powerful components. On the other hand, if you are planning to game, set aside a budget and see what parts you can afford.

Get an SSD

Solid State Drives (SSD’s) are the devices you will be storing your system and files on. SSD’s offer more performance compared to standard hard drives because there are no moving components inside. The inside of a hard drive is like a record player, you have a spinning disk and a handle that reads the data.

If you don’t use CD’s don’t get an Optical Drive

Most software is now downloadable, to be honest I can’t remember the last time I purchased a program on a DVD. I mean even my current PC doesn’t even have a bay for a CD drive!

If you can’t afford to buy all the part’s at the same time, buy them separately

This something that I did with my first build. On my first go, I started with the case. This was a big mistake as I had nowhere to store it at the time.