As lockdowns remain in place, work from home has returned for a number of people across industries. While some people get to take their work laptops home, desktop workers may have to get a new computer.
Whether you’re building your own computer or getting an assembled CPU, getting a desktop may be a harder task than buying a new laptop. However, it is also more rewarding. The desktop you can build yourself at any given price is usually more powerful than a laptop for the same price. The only catch is portability, but with the lockdown going on, we reckon that will not be an issue for most people.
Getting an assembled CPU is easier than building your own. The parts and components selected are compatible and the building process is not to worry about. All you need to do is basically plug and play.
But before we head into the CPU specifics, you will also need a decent monitor and peripherals like a mouse and keyboard. Other accessories may differ based on your work.
Any basic LCD monitor should work fine. Since you will largely be using this monitor for work and not gaming or media consumption, go for an ideal 24-inch to 27-inch monitor size and do not focus on elements like refresh rate. If you’re really in a pinch, you can maybe also try getting used or second-hand monitor for much cheaper. Also, look out for monitors which offer functions like a reading mode or multitasking features.
Keyboard and Mouse
A good keyboard and mouse will be key to your work as they’re the two most used input devices. Invest in a good wired or wireless mouse that fits your hand size just right in terms of ergonomics. For the keyboard, you can get a basic keyboard if all you’re going to be doing is basic typing and executing keyboard shortcuts. If your work is more typing intensive, consider investing in a decent mechanical keyboard, which provides a much better experience to type with.
Double-check the travel size for the keyboard, the format and the keyboard layout as well before hitting buy. Ideally, you want a keyboard with better travel (distance between the keys when they are fully resting and when completely pressed down) on the keys to ensuring a more accurate typing experience than what your laptops or ultrabooks might typically give.
Work from home: How to get the right assembled CPU
For the CPU look for a budget to mid-range processor. Also unless you’re getting a really good deal, always go for the latest generation processors or a step below. For Intel, a 10th or 11th Gen i3 or i5 should do you just fine for most scenarios. For AMD, you can choose a Ryzen 3 or Ryzen 5 CPU. If your work includes more processing and heavy computing, you may need to get an i9 series or Ryzen 7 series CPU.
Assembled CPUs will either feature processors with integrated graphics or will come with a basic graphic card, so if your work also involves a lot of graphic-heavy usages, you should be covered. 8GB RAM will be good enough for most work profiles but 16GB RAM will also future-proof your PC a little. If your work involves going through a lot of video-editing or photos, then you might even more than 8GB RAM for the computer to function smoothly.
If you are going to be using CDs or other external media types, make sure your CPU has slots for the same or at least leaves room for upgrades. Once all this is set, all you need is a good Wi-Fi connection and maybe a good headset with a reliable microphone that should be more than enough for those Teams meetings and Zoom calls.
Work from home: How to build your own CPU
Building your own PC will be largely covering the same information we covered above, but will require more technical knowledge and expertise of the workings of parts like the motherboard. While this process will give you more variety and control over your PC and the final product, you will also be spending a considerable amount of time putting the components together, and potentially making mistakes along the way.
To begin with, we will be needing the right components.
1. CPUs, APUs and motherboards
You will need to choose between either an Intel i3/i5 or an AMD Ryzen 3/ Ryzen 5. A good bet is going for an APU over a CPU. APUs are usually processors that end with a ‘G’ in the name, like the Ryzen 3 3200G and come with integrated graphics. This will eliminate the need to buy a separate graphics card later on. Most newer Intel processors are APUs and will come with built-in Intel graphics. For Ryzen processors, you should look specifically for APUs and not CPUs.
Once you select the right processor, you will need a motherboard with a socket that’s compatible with your chosen processor. For instance, an Intel i5 processor will not be compatible with an AM4 motherboard that is made for Ryzen processors.
2. CPU Case and other components
Next, you will need a CPU tower/case to fit your motherboard into. The motherboard you have chosen will most likely be a Micro-ATX sized board and you will hence need a CPU case that is compatible with this motherboard size. Again, if your work demands working with specific media like CDs, make sure your case has accommodation for the respective drives. (A gaming CPU case may not let you install a CD-Drive in it.)
Moving forward, you will be needing other components that will complete the motherboard and CPU. These include RAM chips, SATA cables, a PSU (power supply unit) and an HDD or SSD data drive.
3. The building process
You will begin by setting up the motherboard on a clean, dry flat desk and fixing your processor and the cooling fan that came with it on top. Then plug in other components like RAM chips and any other PCIe components that do not require wires.
Once all non-wired bits are in their allotted spots, proceed by fixing the motherboard inside the CPU case. The motherboard should latch onto the inside of the case using six to nine screws based on your choice of products.
Once set, begin adding your wired components like the power connections, SATA cables and the cables that lead to your external USB ports on the front and back of the CPU. Plug in all remaining external cables like the power cables, the VGA cable and the ethernet cable.
Complete the build by putting together all your components and connecting the CPU with a Monitor and other peripherals.
Note that there are plenty of PC-building guides on YouTube that will help you get all the connections right without accidentally damaging the components.
Installing an operating system (OS)
You’ve got all your parts in place, but your computer still doesn’t have an operating system to boot into. For this, you will need to purchase a Windows 10 bootable CD drive or download the Windows 10 setup and get it up on a bootable USB drive using a tool like Rufus.
You will also need to enter the motherboard’s BIOS settings to make sure your computer prioritises the boot drive over its main hard drive for the first boot, which will allow you to install the operating system. Once your operating system is installed, you can remove the bootable CD/USB drive and make your first boot.
Once you’re here, you have successfully built your own computer. Install all your work-related software and tools and you’re good to go.