Building your own computer is the best way to get the perfect PC for your needs. Want to take your custom build even further? Beef it up with these 10 projects.
10. Get Your Money's Worth
Most of this list assumes you've already built your PC, but if you haven't, make sure you get the best bang for your buck. The most important thing you can do is get the right parts for your needs: that means not going overboard with parts you won't use to their full potential. Check out our recommended builds for a good starting point, and know when brand does and doesn't make a difference. Lastly, put those deal-hunting skills to good usefor a killer PC that costs less. Image remixed from Tele52 (Shutterstock) and Logan Ingalls.
9. Turn It Into A Hackintosh
Whether you're a diehard Apple fan or you begrudgingly use its software for work, it's easy to get OS X without shelling out for an expensive Mac. As long as you have compatible hardware, you can turn your custom-built PC into a hackintosh that runs OS X, or even triple boot it with Windows and Linux for the best of all worlds. Be sure to check out our guide to updating your hackintosh in case you ever want to upgrade your hardware — it's a bit more work than it is on Windows PCs.
8. Clean It Regularly
All it takes is a can of compressed air to blow out most of the dust. If you have any hard-to-reach spots, you can usually get to them with a cotton swab or some dryer sheets. If you want to avoid dust build-up in the future, invest in a few air filters for your intake fans, and read up on positive air pressure.
7. Upgrade Your Peripherals
You put a lot of thought into the guts of your computer, but what about the peripherals? If you're still using the same mouse and keyboard you used in 1995, it's time to check out what else is out there. We've done guides on choosing the best peripherals, but a good starting point would be our Hive Five series. See what people consider the best speakers, keyboards abd mice and monitors, and you'll be well on your way to a better computing experience. Photo by Barney Livingston.
6. Fill Those Unused Drive Bays
When you first build your computer, chances are you didn't put a lot into those drive bays at the front — maybe a CD drive, and an SD card slot if you needed it. But you can do a lot more with those slots, such as controlling your fans or adding a hot swap bay for extra hard drives. If you end up going overboard and don't have room for the CD drive, that's okay — you can easily get by without one.
5. Overclock It For More Power
If you really want to get the most bang for your buck, you can push your hardware past its sanctioned limits for an extra boost. This is called overclocking, and it's a great way to eke more power out of your CPU for those processor-intensive tasks, or boost your GPU's gaming performance. Our guides should help you get started, but every family of CPU and GPU is different, so you may need to look up information specific to your processor and video card elsewhere on the net for the nitty-gritty.
4. Keep Your Fans Quiet
Your computer needs to stay cool, but that often means lots of fan noise. With a bit of work, you can keep it quiet as a mouse and cool as a cucumber. That means having a quality heatsink and set of fans, setting them up for optimal airflow (as we mentioned in #7 above), and controlling your fan speeds to keep them quiet when you don't need them. If it's just one fan being really loud, there are ways to troubleshoot that too. Photo remixed from Jon Ross.
3. Cool It With Water
Water cooling is a clever way to cool your high-performance box. Learn the details in our beginner's guide to water cooling, or if you want something a little lower-maintenance, check out an all-in-one unit such as the Corsair Hydro series.
2. Repurpose Its Parts When You're Done
When it comes time to upgrade your computer (See #1 below), you're probably wondering what you can do with all those old parts. Obviously you could recycle them, but that's no fun, right? If you have enough parts for an entire PC you could build a low-powered home server, or repurpose individual parts for other PCs around your house. Of course, selling them might be ideal, but it isn't quite as easy as selling an old mobile phone. You'll have to do a little work to fetch a good price.
1. Know When (and What) To Upgrade
No matter how much of a beast your custom PC is, nothing lasts forever. Eventually, it will be time to upgrade one or all of the parts inside. But how do you know when upgrading is really necessary, and what parts will give you the biggest boost? Be sure to take into account bottlenecks: If your computer isn't playing the latest games, buying a new graphics card can help, but it can also be a waste of money. If you're just looking for general computing speed, an SSD is by far the best upgrade you can make (and you can migrate your data without too much trouble). Lastly, be careful not to fall into the futureproofing trap: more money spent doesn't always mean a longer-lasting computer. Learn where you need upgrades the most, and spend your money there — you'll be much happier if you do.