You can quickly build a PC and load Windows in about one hour without any prior computer building experience. You needn't be fearful of handling and installing PC parts including motherboards, PC cards, a CPU, coolant systems and even the power supply unit.
While handling an electrical device like a computer does appear to be somewhat intimidating to the non-technical, today’s computer parts are so plug-and-play friendly that anyone can create a custom PC so long as they can read basic directions.
Benefits of Building a Custom PC
You can save a lot of money building a custom PC as opposed to buying a predesigned PC that is optimized for audio record and production.
Most standard consumer PCs are not made specifically for audio production, however there are several companies that create customized systems that you can easily mimic by purhcasing the same parts to recreate the same system yourself, which can save at least 25% or more when you build a production PC.
You can build a system with more capacity and speed than you could buy preassembled.
For example, you can create a computer that has four or more monitor connections, or a multiple firewire ports, all of which are not a standard on most custom pre-assembled machines let alone consumer-based machines in electronics stores.
Many consumer-based computers come with extra software you don’t want or need, which this type of software has been coined as bloatware.
Another benefit to building a system is that you can customize the programs and don’t have to worry about clogging up the hard drive with unnecessary applications.
Additionally you will also have your own Windows installation CD in hand, meaning if you get malware or a virus you can save time by simply reloading the operating system directly from the CD, which is something you don’t receive anymore when buying a pre-assembled PC.
The Computer Parts You Need
You need specific cards and hardware to make the PC run. Most of the cables, screws, and other parts will come with the motherboard and cards that you buy. Here’s a checklist for you to follow:
- Power Supply
- CPU (Quad core preferred)
- Coolant system (Water-cooled preferred)
- Audio Interface (Firewire compatible preferred)
- PC Case
- DVD Drive
- Video Card
- USB Card (optional, some will come on the motherboard)
- Ethernet Card
- FireWire Card
How to Determine the Computing Parts Required
You will need to purchase certain items such as RAM, the Hard Drive and the motherboard in sizes that have enough capacity to run system-taxing software like a DAW or other sound production application.
You have a couple of ways to determine how much RAM you need, how large a hard drive, and other minimums you need to have in order to make your applications run successfully.
Check Software Requirements
The applications you use for the DAW, or other sound production software, will list the minimum requirement you need for the size of RAM it uses, how much hard drive space you need to set aside for the application and other requirements.
Consider if you're going to use more than one application at once, even if they require the same amount of hardware, you will need more since you are running multiple applications.
Another way to get an idea of what hardware you need is to study the specification of predesigned production PCs.
Many companies that build PC desktops for audio producers will list the exact parts they used to build the PC on the page where they are selling it on their website, so you can simply find a PC that has the specs you want and then make your shopping list based on their list of specs.
To find some PCs right now, search for music production pc in any search engine to find some for sale, then go to their pages and look at the specs to begin a list of parts.
The Software Required
You'll need some basic software to get your computer up and running. The most essential software they will need to create a working computer including Windows.
Additionally the cards and hardware devices you buy for your computer may come with driver on CDs that you will need to have on hand to install before you complete the Windows installation.
Here’s a list of commonly installed software that you can use as a checklist:
- Operating system
- BIOS disk
- Video Card drivers
- Sound Card drivers
- Ethernet Card drivers
- USB Card drivers
Once you have your system running you can then plan to install the DAW(s) and applications like Cubase, Reason, Native Instruments and other VST technologies, etc.
Where to Buy Parts
Shopping for computer parts can be done online or in-store. Two of my favorite online sources for computer parts include NewEgg and Tiger Direct. In my experience I’ve found all the parts I needed on their sites, so I didn't have to buy from from multiple vendors.
Local stores like Frye’s and Best Buy will carry some of the items you need, however their selections will likely be limited.
Chain stores like these are better for essentials like cables and drives, and are less reliable sources of the types of motherboards, cases, and cards you'll be shopping for to build a music production PC.
Planning a production PC is quick and painless when you know what you need. There’s no worry about doing it yourself because when you know what you are doing, you know that building and maintaining a PC is safe and easy even for the non-technical.
You will save even more time by finding production PCs for sale on the internet, looking at their specs, and recreating a system using the same hardware and software by simply shopping online from reputable computer parts suppliers for the exact same pc cards, motherboards, cases, and so forth.
In the long run not only do you save money, you also have more control over the PCs maintenance and can reinstall the OS from CD if the system becomes buggy rather than spending time and/or money troubleshooting.