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A personal computer, PC, has many uses, including surfing the web, making spreadsheets, writing essays and playing the latest video games.  Most consumers buy boring, pre-assembled computers, but it is becoming more popular for people to build their own. This allows the computer to be more personal and stylish, which is generally less expensive than a pre-assembled one with the same parts.

A modern computer consists of eight main parts. The Central Processing Unit, CPU, which carries out the instruction of a computer program and does all of the calculations required for a computer to work. It is the most vital part of the computer.

The CPU gets very hot so it needs a cooler. In most desktop computers, the coolers are large pieces of aluminum cut to maximize surface area that act as a heat sink. In laptops, they are usually copper pipes that channel the heat to ventilation areas.

The motherboard is used to connect the components of a computer and consists of complicated circuits. It also contains most of the ports used for accessories, such as the mouse and keyboard.

The Random Access Memory, RAM, is used to quickly access information vital to system operations, and can be thought of as a cache of storage for the information most prevalent to the function the computer is performing.

All programs are stored on either a Hard Disc Drive, or a Solid State Drive. A Hard Disk Drive uses a read and write system with a mechanical arm and storage platter, while a Solid State Drive stores info on a series of microchips and has no moving parts.

A video card, or graphics card, contains its own processor, the Graphics Processing Unit, and its own set of Random Access Memory, known as Video Random Access Memory. The graphics card essentially serves as a secondary system that processes all of the video information. It turns the pixels the right color and place at the right time and it can perform this function at varying speeds and resolutions depending on the power of the graphics card.

All of these parts need power, which is where the Power Supply Unit performs the simple task of delivering power to all of the components.

A case is used to provide a good-looking place to hold the parts. All computer parts are standardized to fit perfectly in cases.

Both the CPU and graphics card require cooling. This is usually done by large aluminum radiators that attach to the CPU, but some people use liquid cooling for their computers. Liquid cooling uses a series of tubes with liquid in them that run across metal contacts on the parts and then through radiators with fans attached which cools it. This runs in a loop around two hundred times per hour or faster if the parts are hotter.

This causes the parts to stay cooler and the system to be quieter. The tubes used for liquid cooling can either be soft flexible tubes or hard tubes that have to be shaped by hand with a heat gun, which allows someone building a computer some creative license in how they mold them.

There is also a lot customizability in the color of the coolant used; any color of the rainbow can be used, as well as liquids that

look like pastels– some that have a shampoo-like effect. However, this can affect the liquid’s ability to carry heat.

Some people take things to the next level, by doing it for a living. “Modders,” as they are affectionately called, create PCs with a theme in mind. They keep this theme in mind for the entire process. They are called “Modders” because they modify nearly every part in some way, it can be anything from cutting and painting an acrylic sheet, to adding a design to a part to completely disassembling the case and painting or replacing half of the parts. They may also add on to the case by attaching sculpture to it.

Corey Gregory is a Modder who goes by “Designs by ifr” on YouTube, and does this as a  second job. He documents all of his creations on his YouTube channel and displays the truly amazing PCs he has made. One PC with a Pirates of the Caribbean theme had a skull and crossbones from the Pirates of the Caribbean logo sculpted on top of the case as well as covering the whole PC in faux stone and moss to model the scenery of the movie.

“A normal water cooled PC built with custom panels, etc… would take me about a month,” Gregory says.

This is mostly due to the difficulty of working with the materials they use. “There are always materials which can do the job, it just depends whether you are willing to put in the extra work to achieve the results you are after.”, Gregory said.

Gregory also works with a lot of large hardware manufacturers; companies pay him to use their parts in his builds the computers are then showcased at trade shows such as Computex and the Consumer Electronic Show.

The YouTube videos that Modders and tech-focused YouTubers make give great insight into the art and creativity of building a PC and how the devices you use every day work.

Photo by Ryan Gwyn