back to article Haynes Build Your Own Computer book review

As a journalist, engineer and car nut enthusiast, I can easily find myself spending hours upon hours poring over technical documents and workshop manuals, among them tomes published by Haynes. This time, however, I’m looking at something less mechanical and more digital: the latest in Haynes’ Build Your Own Computer series, …


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  1. Silverburn

    Pfft. Amateurs!

    Look at if anyone actually uses a anti-static strap anymore...

    And there's no mention at all of the most important tool you need - swearing. Nor the answer to the important question of: "is the motherboard supposed to bend like that?". The answer is YES btw. In my mind.

    1. ElNumbre

      Re: Pfft. Amateurs!

      I wonder if there is anything about shredding fingers on badly finished cases, or on the bottom of a PCB?

      Im amazed system engineers still have fingers left.

      1. GitMeMyShootinIrons
        Thumb Up

        Re: Pfft. Amateurs!

        Badly finished cases are by design - after all, how else is one to make the necessary blood sacrifice in order to make the damn thing work?

      2. Long John Brass

        Re: Pfft. Amateurs!

        All computers require a small blood sacrifice to work properly

      3. N13L5

        shredding fingers like slaughterhouse workers, but with somewhat less risk of infection

        Well, After years and years of Lian Li cases, my hands are completely healed,

        so I'm tempting fate now:

        I have a bunch of cheesy SG08 Steel cases from Silverstone arrive today...

        On another note, I can't figure out why people would need a "book" to build a computer... I guess its for those with no functioning system in the entire family, so they can't access youtube or one of a zillion forums, where you get real up to date info on setting up the exact hardware you just googled a great review on a few minutes prior..?

      4. Pahhh

        Re: Pfft. Amateurs!

        Ah yeah....

        Remember one time struggling with one case and wondering why everything seem a bit slippery in the case. Perplexed how a liquid got in until i realised I've been bleeding like a stuffed pig and inside of the case looked a set from Dexter.

        At that point I decided I wont by super cheap cases anymore.

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Pfft. Amateurs!

      Where are the health and safety warnings!

      I.e Pressing buttons may lead to excessive wear on your fingers!

      May contain plastic!

    3. Annihilator

      Re: Pfft. Amateurs!

      "Look at if anyone actually uses a anti-static strap anymore..."

      Indeed. And even if someone *did* choose to use one, the best bet would be leaving the power cord plugged in (switched off at mains) and attaching the wrist-strap to that. Or at least that's what I was told to do on the one occasion I bothered, earth the case and earth yourself through that. Then I decided to just not wear a nylon tracksuit while scuffing up and down the carpet and not grabbing the PCB connectors.

      1. Robin

        Re: Pfft. Amateurs! @ Annihilator

        "Then I decided to just not wear a nylon tracksuit while scuffing up and down the carpet"

        Upvoted for the mental image of a sysadmin looking like a member of Goldie Lookin' Chain. You knows it!

        1. efinlay

          Re: Pfft. Amateurs! @ Annihilator

          Well known for their hit singles "Your Mother's Got A PCI Bus" and "Guns Don't Kill People (BOFHs Do)".

        2. Martin Huizing

          I'd upvote the both of you, but....

          The Reg still uses outdated html that takes you away from a post just to say I "liked" the comment (or didn't like for that matter...)

          Reg, for fuck's sake pls let me up~down- vote without leaving the page!

          (ps you can edit my comment to censor the word 'fuck'.)

          1. Nuke

            @ Martin Huizing - Re: I'd upvote the both of you, but....

            It isn't old-fashioned, it is just incompetent.

          2. Kubla Cant

            Re: I'd upvote the both of you, but....

            And can we have some sort of SSO while you're at it? I've already logged in to Reg.

            I've upvoted one or two posts and posted one of my own, so no question that I'm logged in.

            I click the upvote button in Reg Hardware and I have to log in again. Then I get the upvote page, but I have to click a link to upvote the post (I thought I already indicated that I wanted to upvote). Then I have to click another link to return to the forum. That's four or five unnecessary page refreshes.

        3. P. Lee

          Re: Pfft. Amateurs! @ Annihilator

          Shouts to the Silicon Valley Massiff

    4. Ramazan

      Re: as if anyone actually uses a anti-static strap

  2. Gaius

    Not really building a computer, is it?

    Anyone can slot together generic components to make a generic Wintel PC. Like making an Airfix model is "building your own plane".

    1. Thomas Whipp

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      I take it you design and etch your own IC packages then?

    2. FartingHippo

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      I assume you'd only count it as "really building a computer" if you had to go and mine the ore, drill the oil, smelt the aluminium, etc, etc, etc. My beard's longer than your beard, nah-nah-nah-nah.

      It makes computers more accessible to non-experts, and educates on what all the various bits are actually for. So I think, even if it's a 'silicon airfix model', it's worth doing.

      1. Swarthy

        Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

        Smelt the aluminium?! Hell, I create the aluminium by fusing hydrogen gas that I get from electrolyzing my own urine. That's how you make a computer!

        1. Nuke

          @ Swarthy - Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

          Wrote :- "I create the aluminium by fusing hydrogen gas"

          What a cissy. I start with a small version of the Big Bang in the middle of my workshop, scoop up the sub-sub-atomic particles created in the first jiffy, and go from there.

          Big Bang Icon

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

          You fancy guys sticking probes in your genitals and pissing out computers by electrolyzing your urine. You have no idea. When I was a kid, a whole family sat in the middle of the road breaking up stones until we had wafers. We used to dream of shifting to customer support: at least they had a gutter to sit in.

    3. Clive Galway

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      Something tells me this guy is just trolling, but OK, I'll bite.

      So what does constitute "Building a computer" in your book?

      Designing a motherboard chipset?

      Fabricating your own RAM?

      There is not a single component in a PC that could be built from base materials by an end user - except maybe the case.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      "Anyone can slot together generic components..."

      As all manufacturers do.

    5. Annihilator
      Thumb Down

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      "Anyone can slot together generic components to make a generic Wintel PC"

      So it's not "building" but it's "making"? Feel free to argue with yourself, but I'll point you in the direction of "building" or "making" a jigsaw. Or even a house. You build things (a PC) from component parts, and there's always a lower layer of components.

      1. Silverburn

        Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

        Building or "assembling" a PC isn't about slotting any old components together and booting it up...we can buy an off the shelve item for that.

        It's more about the attention to detail, from choosing the components you have researched to death to provide the optimal performance (for your chosen budget) to the quality of the fitting and routing of the cabling/piping, to the build and optimisation of the OS and drivers.

        You don't finish a proper PC thinking "ok, it's done". A properly built machine will be a work of art. In your eyes at least, because you know what went into it.

        1. Ramazan

          Re: attention to detail, from choosing the components to ...

          > Most boxes are assembled from standard components.

          > Only by building it yourself can you be sure that every component is l33t. W34k components will cripple your machine.

          > Also, it is not enough to just buy l33t components. You must select them with a skill and assemble them with care.

    6. Valerion

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      I once paid a builder to build me a house. He really took the piss - I didn't seem him actually make a single brick or tile! And he just bought these "generic components" such as joists and radiators. What a con - should've done it myself. It's just assembly, really.

    7. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      Oh be quiet!

      When I see the state that computer lessons have got into in schools, rows of kids all learning Word and Excel as the be all and end of computer training, if this means just one person has a bash at building their own box then it makes it completely worthwhile!

      Me and my old man have always built our own boxes since about 1991. He's now in his mid 70's and builds his own Hackintosh boxes for his own amusement and he helps his mates to maintain their home-built boxes too.

    8. Andy Fletcher

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      "Anyone can slot together generic components to make a generic Wintel PC". Well, almost. I wouldn't count Acer.

    9. Christian Berger


      Particulary since there always have been computer kits for consumers. Just think of the Altair or the Apple. Of course you cannot build your own integrated circuits, but soldering chips into a board is doable.

      FM stereo receivers did have a lot more parts inside of them than your average computer, yet that untrained housewife was able to build one.

      I mean I'm not claiming that I have built my own TV-set just because I have connected a satellite receiver to a monitor, yet that's exactly what people "building" computers do.

    10. Kubla Cant

      Re: Not really building a computer, is it?

      Like making an Airfix model is "building your own plane".

      No, not like that at all. You can't get into an Airfix model and fly. When you've built your computer you can use it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IT departments

    Do they do one for servers yet?

    1. Mr_Pitiful

      Re: IT departments

      I would worry if they did

      Can you imagine the damage it could cause!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Apart from a few enthusiasts, does anyone even do their own home builds anymore?

    1. toxicdragon

      Re: Huh?

      I do, I like knowing what goes into my machine. And its probably just psychological but I swear home builds behave themselves better, fewer errors and so on.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Huh?

        I don't think it's all psychological.

        Example: Motherboard. Retail boards will extol the virtue of their componentry and you'll probably buy one with solid state caps and sufficient onboard power handling to cope with expansion. Your off-the-shelf machine will be using whatever's cheapest, just up to specification and likely to outlast the warranty period.

        1. P. Lee

          Re: Huh?

          Plus, get a motherboard from gigabyte and you have the option of, er, thinking different.

          1. unitron

            Re: Huh?

            "Plus, get a motherboard from gigabyte and you have the option of, er, thinking different."

            Not to mention learning, the hard way, what an HPA is.

            (what I really need here is an enraged face smiley)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Huh?

      No, that's why it's so damn difficult to buy CPU's, MoBo's, HDD's, RAM etc. I mean they are just impossible to find as no one builds them these days.

      I mean where on earth could I buy a motherboard from?

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Huh?

        I can think of about half-a-dozen webshops that do stuff like that that I buy from without even trying. There are a few "bricks 'n mortar" places around, but they all have a web presence too.

        Start with the manufacturers and review sites, decide what you want and then hit Google with the product numbers.

        Sheesh. Do we really have to teach people how to shop these days?

        1. Annihilator

          Re: Huh?

          @TeeCee - think you might have missed the sarcasm there much?... ;-)

      2. Nuke

        @AC - Re: Huh?

        Wrote :- "where on earth could I buy a motherboard from?"

        I am in two minds whether you are trying to be funny or this is a serious question. Just in case you are actually serious, try :-

    3. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      I start with a cheap ex-corporate IBM box from eBay, then tweak it to my satisfaction - normally adding RAM, replacing the HD and putting in video and wifi cards. So less, I build mine, sort of.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Huh?

        <quote>I start with a cheap ex-corporate IBM box from eBay, then tweak it to my satisfaction </quote>

        Hmm... our facilities director bought a job lot of Dells from a broker. They'd been pulled out of the sweat room of a Dutch investment bank. We benched them all out, each of our new classrooms held 64 of them, powered them on by WoL ready for Ghost-casting and within 30 seconds had to abandon floor as the air filled with the fug the PSU fans pumped out. Apparently smoking was still allowed in the trading rooms, smoking of dubious substances too by the stink. It took use a week of 24/7 running, a case of air freshener and the aircon set to full speed before a novel nose couldn't detect the pong anymore. Couldn't risk the students either complaining of or enjoying the smell.

    4. mfraz

      Re: Huh?

      It is the easiest way of getting a computer without paying the Windows tax.

    5. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      Yes, it is cheaper and less restrictive than buying a ready made.

      I wanted multiple terabytes of HDD. Not bothered with absolute speed so got Samsung drives

      I wanted a hot processor in my case a quad

      I wanted XP Pro - still have to run some older packages

      I wanted a BD Burner - video editing

      Then bought suitable components.

  5. I think so I am?
    Thumb Down

    who's going to spend £22 when you can find more information with a quick Google search

    1. Martipar

      And how do they do that.......

      ...before they've built their computer? hmmm.

    2. Clive Galway

      "who's going to spend £22 when you can find more information with a quick Google search"

      Hmm, there are plenty of sites with information, but I think this book is a good idea as it collates all the info you need into one place.

      If someone needs to build a computer, chances are they do not already have a computer, or theirs is broken.

      What exactly are you going to view this information on while you build your PC? Sure you could print web pages, but you would probably spend more on ink and paper by the time you had all you needed, plus it would not be organised as well and probably would be contradictory in places or have gaps.

      No, I think this is a great subject for a book, if done well. IMHO, everyone should build their first computer - I had a mate teach me how to build my first PC and it totally demystified the subject and ultimately started me on my career.

    3. Elmer Phud


      It's where books come in very handy.

      Simple search facilities, can accidentally kneel/tread on it, avoids the need to keep looking up to a screen, easy bookmarking with Post-its, swat flies with it, hit the recalcitrant PC with it .

      But being a Haynes manual it will need the obligatory oily fingermarks, vehicle book or not.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Books

        googling is all well and good but as other people have said, you dont know the quality of the information you find, it might only have a "bit" leading you to a trail of tabs being opened. One concise book that has a pedigree for showing how to do things is a good idea.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Books

        Blood fingerprints, surely?

    4. Michael Habel

      Re I think so I am?

      >Implying that someone could Google something with no means of an connected Internet Device. e.g. a Home PC.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ahem! Don't you have to have a computer or some such to do a Google search? If you don't then this tome might help. Then once you've built your computer you can then do a Google search to see if you got it right (or not)

  6. FartingHippo

    £15.39 on Amazon

    Which is a little more palatable.

    1. AlbertH

      Re: £15.39 on Amazon

      ... but it's only actually worth £1.54. The review fails to notice the copious mistakes, the ineptitude with which components are handled and tools used. I'm very surprised that "Haynes" put their name to this turkey!

      The problems with a book of this sort include the fact that it's out of date before it's even published.

      I think it's time for a really good "Build Your Own Computer" website, including reviews of components, suggested modifications and improvements, a one-stop-shop for drivers for the hardware reviewed and plenty of links to suppliers....

      Done right, it would be a fabulous resource and could easily be self-financing!

  7. adam payne

    Wow an anti-static strap!

    How come the person on the front isn't wearing a pink shirt?

    1. Ramazan

      Re: Wow an anti-static strap!

      "isn't wearing a pink shirt?" - I've read this as "isn't wearing a pink skirt"

  8. adnim


    was a noob at sometime.

    My first PC was an Epson PCe, my second was a 386SX33. Through various upgrades over many years that 386 is now an i5 2500k. Every component has changed several times so that nothing of the original remains, but in essence it is still that old 486. I was a mobile engineer at one time, I wonder which is the greater, the number of miles I drove or the number of machines I built or setup.

    1. johnnytruant

      Re: Everyone...

      Ah, the old "PC of Theseus". Rule I use is "new CPU = new computer", at least when it comes to naming the thing.

      New disks, gfx, other cards - not new computer. I rarely upgrade so often that swapping a CPU out doesnt involve a new m/b and ram as sockets/architectures and so on have generally changed since my last upgrade.

      1. Wokstation

        Re: Everyone...

        For me it's the motherboard. That's the backbone to the thing, in my mind.

    2. Swarthy

      Re: Everyone...

      That is genuinely creepy... My first computer was an Epson QX-10, second was a 386DX, which is now an AMD Phenom quad-core. The last (semi-) original component was the 5 1/4 drive that got pitched in 2004. (Semi- because it got replaced in '95, but only the once).

      My definition of a "new" build is if you swap out more than 50% of the parts.

    3. Annihilator

      Re: Everyone...

      Ah yes, the "Trigger's broom" of the PC world. Mine started as a P100, changed case 3x, CPU/motherboard countless times (but switched from Intel to AMD and back again at least once). It's definitely still the same "upgraded" PC though in my head :-)

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Everyone...

        sheesh. I remember when a ram upgrade involved chipping resistors off the back. Yes im looking at you mac plus.

    4. Anonymous John

      Re: Everyone...

      I'm still using the 386 I built in about 1995. With everything replaced at least twice. Apart from the mains lead kept for continuity. So it's still the same PC. Right?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be just the ticket for my dad.

    I built him a machine, he looked on in amazement.

    Though I look on in amazement when he can change a clutch or a timing belt in an afternoon.

    The motoring Haynes manuals are full of unhelpful text, obscure pictures and overly optimistic ratings.

    1. Martin

      My favourite Haynes text....

      35 steps to do a procedure....

      36. Reassembly is the reverse of the procedure.

      Happy days. Glad I don't do my own car servicing any more.

      1. some vaguely opinionated bloke

        Re: My favourite Haynes text....

        Just as well you don't.

        The last Haynes manual for the classic Mini had less than 1/8 of the information covering the gearbox than the edition released 15 years beforehand, yet the gearbox hadn't changed.

        Most of the gearbox section said "you might be able to work out what's up with it, but just in case, take it to a Rover dealer", rather than still giving enough information to do a complete strip down and rebuild for less than a 1/4 of the price of a garage fitting an allegedly reconditioned gearbox.

        <- pint of brewed beverage for the good ol' light blue 646, pint of poisoned acid for the dark blue pretender

        1. Nuke

          @some vaguely opinionated bloke - Re: My favourite Haynes text....

          Agreed, Haynes car manuals have gone downhill. Much of them is now boilerplate text on 'Elf and Safety and how to change a wheel at the roadside. The electrical section of the manual for my car shows an incomplete random selection of sub-circuits.

          It drones on about asbestos precautions (where would you find asbestos on a modern car anyway?), but when it comes to raising the vehicle for a major job (a far greater potential danger) it merely says "raise the vehicle and place it securely on jackstands" - but where would I put those jackstands given that I am using the jacking points for, er, jacking?

          And when it comes to the gearbox, it just says take it to a dealer.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Some of us can do both.

      Not at the same time though. Computer components tend to react badly to greasy fingers, swarf and being repeatedly belted with a hammer........

      1. Annihilator

        "Not at the same time though. Computer components tend to react badly to greasy fingers, swarf and being repeatedly belted with a hammer........"

        Whereas you just look like a bit of a bell end when under the hood of a car with an anti-static wrist band attached :-)

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Am I superman then?

      Built our last home PC

      Rebuilt old components into a childrens PC

      Changed a timing belt on my car 3 years ago, and doing again soon, and it is a quad cam engine and has multiple points of adjustment.

  10. AndrueC Silver badge

    Bit late to the party aren't they? About the only people still using desktops and wanting to build there own would be geeks, IT admins and games players. I doubt any of those need a 'manual'. For everyone else an off-the shelf laptop or tablet will suffice.

    1. Flugal

      ", there own?"


      1. Anonymous Coward


        your never satisfied

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: your never satisfied

          To right

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AT Powerswitches

    Any else ever succeed in electrocuting themselves by touching the bottom of a badly insulated in-line power switch coming off the old AT PSU's?

    Back then there really was a reason not to have it turned on at the wall :)

    1. handle

      Re: AT Powerswitches

      The answer is no, unless there is an internet connection to The Register's forums from beyond the grave.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: AT Powerswitches

        "The answer is no, unless there is an internet connection to The Register's forums from beyond the grave."

        Well it definitely gave me quite a buzz, but 15 years or so on I'm still going! I can't be the only one.

        The ATX style digi switch is definitely a big improvement.

    2. johnnytruant

      Re: AT Powerswitches

      Not that one, but I've fried my fair share of boards by plugging the power connector in the wrong way around.

      Polarised connectors? Kids of today don't know they're born.

    3. ElNumbre
      Thumb Up

      Re: AT Powerswitches

      Yes, and not because it was badly insulated, but because the wiring and the case front switch arrived 'unconnected' and the only guide to the correct pin-out was written in Chinese.

      These days, the most you have to do is get the HDD LED cable the right way round on the motherboard, but back in the 90's, you'd have to wire up the LCD 'speed' display correctly so that it showed both the correct 'standard' and 'turbo' speeds. Otherwise you were nothing!

      Oh, it was all ships and giggles back in them days.

      1. P. Lee

        Re: AT Powerswitches

        +1 for NEC V10 Turbo!

    4. Long John Brass

      Re: AT Powerswitches

      I remember years ago showing my GF at the time how to build her very own PC

      She looked me in the eyes & asked "there's nothing in here that can hurt me?"

      I said no; Cue a very LOUD Zzzzattt and one very unhappy GF

      She had managed to short the PWS switch in the front of the case to the case itself

      The screwdriver took most of the damage

      I took the rest as she tried to beat the living daylights outa me while was laughing my arse off

      Ahhh, the good old days


  12. handle

    "Finally, there’s a short guide on free software"

    Would be keen to know that this consists of. The type of person who is interested enough to build their own computer is also likely the type of person who is interested and open-minded enough to want to install something other than Windows on it.

    1. Nuke
      Thumb Up

      @handle - Re: "Finally, there’s a short guide on free software"

      Wrote :- "The type of person .. to build their own computer is also likely .. to want to install something other than Windows on it."

      Indeed. One good reason for building your own is to avoid sending more money to Microsoft.

  13. Miami Mike

    Roll your own, keep your sanity and your checkbook safe (maybe)

    Considering the crucial role computers play in most of our lives (sample limited to Register readers), do you REALLY want to trust your on-line presence and digital life to wankers like the Geek Squad et. al.? These "service facilities" in the big box stores are parts changers, nothing more. Good friend of mine just got back from the Apple joint, his hard drive failed and they replaced it. What about all the data on it? His entire business? All his e-mail contacts? "Oh, your old drive has been recycled already." (No, he didn't know enough to back things up. Betcha he does now.)

    I *insist* on being able to do my own maintenance on my computers (and cars, and airplane, and boat, and motorcycles, and most of the items in my home as well as the home itself) because I *refuse* to be at the mercy of incompetent, avaricious, ignorant parts changers who will gleefully charge me out the wazoo for making things worse and then I have to go back and fix it myself anyway. About the only thing I won't do is medicine, and we see how well THAT works - in the US, we *waste* $750 billion on fraud, duplicated tests, unneeded treatments and procedures, etc. EVERY YEAR. That is ten times what we spend (or waste) in Afghanistan in the same time.

    If you own ANYTHING, you must a) learn how to fix it yourself, or b) bend over and pay handsomely for others to screw it up for you, then you'll just have to learn "a" anyway, so you might as well cut out the middleman and learn to do it yourself in the first place.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Roll your own, keep your sanity and your checkbook safe (maybe)

      Sing it, brother! I was raised in a family that had a total fear of anything as complex as a screwdriver. There was no getting anything fixed, it was break it and buy a new one. My folks' notion of "teaching me money" was to give me $100, put it in a savings account, then deny me access to it.

      So I was a right mess when I went off to college. I had no idea how to even shop for a car mechanic, so I got screwings that would make a New Orleans hooker proud. I couldn't afford to keep the car running, so I bought a bike, and when it died, I couldn't afford to have it fixed, so I got a Clymers (cheap US ripoff of Haynes) and fixed it myself. When I put it back together and it fired up, I was on cloud 9 for a week.

      Hell, I took a front tire to the bike shop a couple years ago, and they couldn't even line up the arrows on the rim & the tire to fit the damn thing on in the proper direction. How can you mess that up?

      My ex-roommate just spent $1600 to have the local car shop swap parts out until they discovered the $20 power supply wire to the ECU was bad. Does he get a refund on all the extra parts he now owns? No.

      A neighbor just bit the asphalt because that intermittent ignition coil the bike shop "fixed" killed the engine while he was leaned over in a corner. That's what he gets for buying a Harley.

      Back to the book however, this is useful as something to give a noob. He'll at least look at the pretty pictures, and if he doesn't have halfway intelligent questions afterwards, then I know not to waste my time with him.

      And speaking of building PCs: I just built one, and which part was bad out of the box? The only American-made part, the CPU.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Roll your own, keep your sanity and your checkbook safe (maybe)

        I've been swapping bits in and out of PCs for a couple of decades, and I've been inside things slightly larger too.

        However, when my machine failed recently, I decided to call in a pro. The cool, quite, methodical way that we went through the machine, plugging, unplugging, isolating, testing, until within not very minutes he held up on hard disk and said, "that's it" put me to shame. My mistake? I'd already decided it was a dead motherboard. He didn't decide, he checked, and it wasn't. I should have known better.

        Old, but not too old to learn, I hope.

        1. mark 63 Silver badge

          Re: Roll your own, keep your sanity and your checkbook safe (maybe)

          Your first step with that problem would be to unlpug the hard drive. ( and cd, and video card , and anything else the pc could possibly boot up without )

          That would narrow it down for you - no need to get the expert in - no need to test the hard drive

          Just boot with the minimum MB,mem,CPU,psu - and if that dosent work swap those bits out in this order:

          psu,mem, (cpu & mb whichever you got)

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Roll your own, keep your sanity and your checkbook safe (maybe)

      I do as much as I can,

      Strip a quad cam V6 to change valve seals - check

      FIt LPG to a car - check

      Build a PC - check

      I used to run an old car and I knew it inside out, replaced lots of bits, bigger engine, forest suspension ect.

      Now I would not trust a mechanic to do the cam belt - one said to me do not need the locking kit - so why is it adjustable to fractions of degree?

      LPG - seen professional systems mess up, my DIY install didn't

  14. Tim #3


    Although I can’t really see many people buying this book, the volume of information that is available on the web, and it’s variable quality, does make things difficult for people to use. I think this is particularly true for upgrades. Even if, like myself, you’re just trying to upgrade a pc graphics card to cope with a change from 17” to 23” monitor (very new fangled here), clear sources of up to date accurate info are hard to find and it’s not as if you can even rely on finding a PC shop with knowledgeable staff either. Where are people going nowadays for such advice?

  15. Prof Denzil Dexter

    Anything to keep the un-initiated out of PC world

    Don't understand the nay sayers. I'd guess most reg readers are already at the level of being able to build their own, or at least knowing where to look.

    There's a whole mob of people out there with a base level of knowledge, at least to the point of know what the individual components do, but don't have the confidence to do it themselves. if books like this teach them how to build or repair their own, then great.

    My old man is at a level where he could change a RAM DIMM but wouldn't want to mess with anything else. He finally plucked the courage at PC world (Fool) to ask what motherboards they do. The guy showed him to a selection of creative sound cards and said they were motherboards.

    In 10 years when the level of tech aptitude among the general public will invariably step up, i'm looking forward to the demise of PC World. Knobs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anything to keep the un-initiated out of PC world


      It is PC World that is putting local independent computer parts companies out of business.

      "A Mini ITX i5 board? Don't know what you mean, but I can sell you a Packard Bell Celeron! Would you like covercare with that? Hmmm? What if it goes wrong? Covercare, ey? Covercare."

      A warranty company with a sideline in selling packard bells.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easier than Lego

    No need for a book on how to build computers, it's easy.

    Also, books are best for information of the reference kind that doesn't become out of date in a year or three.

  17. DiViDeD

    <trigger>I used the same broom for over 25 years. It's had 12 new broomheads and 8 new handles, but I never needed a new broom</trigger>

  18. Kubla Cant


    I hope this book contains a warning about the real hazard of building your own computers.

    In a few years your house will be filled with bits of obsolescent yet perfectly functional hardware. I recently spent a weekend pulling stuff out of a cupboard and sorrowfully consigning it to the bin. IDE disks, some with capacities up to 500Mb. AGP video cards, and PCI video cards, too. Ethernet cards, some old enough to have coax connectors (when did I last use a motherboard without its own network interface?). CD-ROM drives, usually boasting speeds of 8x and 16x. Fans that fit no known processor. Power supplies that would barely light the LEDs on a modern motherboard. And drifts of motherboards, each with its little tin thing to fit round the ports.

    I must resolve not to hoard.

    It's not that I'm a bleeding-edge enthusiast. If you build PCs for kids, then sooner or later you succumb to the complaints that the current one won't run any decent games. And now and again I find that I just can't do serious development on a Pentium 4 with 256Mb, so I have to upgrade my own.

    Cue replies saying things like "you could install Microbe Linux on that and run your own nuclear power station", or "I develop software using edlin on an IBM PC-XT, and it's never done me any harm".

    1. Prof Denzil Dexter
      Thumb Up

      Re: Warning!

      this. seriously. spot on

      so much i have so much cack that might one day hgave a need., IDE cables, SD Ram. a floppy drive (just in case dad / old person / luddite girlfriend) wants an old file recovered. A loud crappy PSU. just in case my current one blows and i need a short term stopgap. A DX486 66 chip just for the happy memories of my first upgrade.

      most can probably go, but will probably stay, just in case. I'll just keep slowly expanding the box of "dad's spare stuff".

  19. big_Jim

    Most important instruction?

    Do not tell anyone what you are doing.

    I built my first PC a poor student from a very similar book back in the mid-90's and made the rookie error of telling people. To this day I still get calls and emails from family and friends asking for help on their various broken bits of misery.

    I'm a VP for a large investment manager in the City managing multiple IT projects and teams.

    1. Robin

      Re: Most important instruction?

      "Do not tell anyone what you are doing."

      "I'm a VP for a large investment manager in the City managing multiple IT projects and teams."

      You've contradicted your own advice.

      1. big_Jim

        Re: Most important instruction?

        I never learn

  20. Kit-Fox

    Shameful, not one mention of Upgrading & Repairing PCs by anyone!

    I cannot believe on this site of 'IT pros' than no one has mentioned that 'Upgrading & Repairing PCs' by Scott Mueller is the bible to swear by.

    Much better than a waste of space by haynes that will no doubt tell you to take it to a qualified sevice technician for something as 'difficult' as partitioning a hard drive.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Blood, sweat and kitchen knives

    I've built - oh, maybe 30 odd computers, some rebuilds, some brand spanking new, others cobbled together from odd parts.

    I've never applied *any* of the care and caution as depicted by 'the pro's' - and to date, I've never lost a component due to my slapdash approach.

    I've lost a fair bit of blood and sweated over seating a CPU, clamping down a ruddy big chunk of metal onto a tiny die whilst watching the motherboard bow under the pressure.

    I've used kitchen knives when I can't find a screwdriver.

    I've never owned nor used a wrist strap - but then, I don't wear cheap plastic shoes and expensive wool knitwear either, so I figure I'm safe - Jeans, a t-shirt and converse are a certain protection against static, which is exactly why geeks wear such clobber.

    A manual?

    Where's the fun in that?

    And really, how hard is it to build a PC from components?

    You may as well produce a manual on how to fit a lightbulb.

  22. mark 63 Silver badge


    swearing? cutting your fingers on a burr?

    Having spent time professionally in both ioccupations the author mentions I can say without doubt that 'mechanic' is far far harder, so much so that the term 'mechanic' really belittles the wealth of knowledge required . should be at least "engineer" - a term stolen by you indoor clean fingernalied "network engineers" :)

    compared to building PCs - and i mean single pcs not Facebook size enterprises

    Working on cars is:

    -physcally harder - those are bolts are tight!

    -physicaly more uncomfortable - lying on you back on concrete, indoors if you're lucky

    -more dangerous - obviously

    -higher stakes - the components in a high performance job are worth far more.

    -the tools required cost more, and are more difficult to use - both the mechanical and the electrical.

    -diagnostic skills have to be better as components cannot just be removed or swapped to test due to expense and rarity.

    -Components *do* have to be repaired sometimes not just replaced.

    -things are harder to get at.

    -a great knowledge of electrics is required

    -a basic knowkledge of electronics is required - unlike pc building

    I could go on but i dont know if anyones gonna read this

    suffice it to say I could write a "build your PC" guide shorter than this post.

    ok! hit me with the downvotes!

  23. raving angry loony

    Why buy?

    There's always the problem that if you're (re)building your FIRST computer, you won't have internet access until AFTER you've built the damn thing. So having a graphic reference might come in handy for some.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "My one and only particular gripe with this book is the way in which older technologies are discussed in the technical examples before they are introduced in a historical context. For instance, PCI-e is explained to be the de-facto standard for graphics interfaces, but a few pages on AGP is introduced in an example dealing with bus speeds."

    I've been reading revision 4 and it doesn't suffer from this problem. From the start of the book, when AGP pops up, they include the functional reference to PCI-E

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