Author: Gary Marshall
Publisher: Haynes, 2007
Aimed at: Beginners want to build a computer from components
Pros: Well illustrated with clear photographs
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
Building your own computer may sound risky - you might end up spending more money than on an off-the-shelf model and discover after a lot of frustrating effort that it just doesn't work. This book sets out to avoid this scenario and help you make the right decisions at each stage to ensure a successful outcome. It starts by outlining four reasons for wanting to build your own PC - the satisfaction that comes from completing such a project, the knowledge you'll acquire along the way, the fact that you'll be able to upgrade it to keep it going and saving money. The only one I'd argue against is the saving money aspect. It's true that you probably can build yourself a bargain in terms of the specification you'll get for the price - but the temptation will often be to try to future-proof your custom-built PC by choosing the fastest/biggest/best components.
This is the third edition of this book, published in 2007. There are a few clues to its original age - for example a boxshot of Microsoft Money 2005 but on the whole it has been well updated. It may be that a desire to make it seem current is one of its weak points. The chosen OS is Windows Vista Home and there's no mention made of using Linux as an alternative. It is also worth noting that the book is oriented towards the UK and gives links to UK suppliers for the hardware. This isn't a big problem if you simply do your own research to discover the cheapest prices in your area. It is also inevitable that any recommendation that the book makes is going to date fairly quickly and what was the very best soon becomes second best. It does give you a starting point however.
When it comes to components the alternatives are evaluated and the section on Choosing your hardware, covering motherboard, processor, memory, case, power supply, hard disk, CD and DVD, video card and sound card takes 50 pages. This is followed by two complete build projects - a dual-core desktop PC in a capacious tower case designed as an all-purpose workhorse and a smaller media PC in a sleek aluminium case destined for pride of place in the living room.
The highpoint of the book is its photographs. There are plenty of them to explain points of detail and they are very clear. I really do think that a complete novice could build their own machine with the help of this book.