A quick guide on PC's

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As many VEX people do robotics, it suprises me very much on how many do not know much about PC’s and desktops. So, I will be allocating this thread on providing a bit of edumucation on PC’s and what to get if you are considering buying a PC in the future.

There will be cases where some of the information here does not hold true (especially in the enterprise/datacenter world). However, for the average user, this should be just about all the information you need.

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General Information

    Units of digital information

    1 byte (B) 8 bits (b)
    1 kilobyte (kB) 8 kilobits (kb) 1000 bytes (B)
    1 megabyte (MB) 8 megabits (Mb) 1000 kilobytes (kB)
    1 gigabyte (GB) 8 gigabits (Gb) 1000 megabytes (MB)
    1 terabyte (TB) 1000 gigabytes (GB)

    Note the capitalization.

    Read more

    In some contexts, the relevant multiplier should actually be 1024, not 1000, based on which we derive the kebibyte (KiB), mebibyte (MiB), gibibyte (GiB), etc. Even though these units are all part of the SI standard, the two sets of units are often conflated with each other and used synonymously. An example is in Windows, which uses the names and symbols for decimal multiples to refer to binary multiples. This might cause a hard drive to appear smaller than advertised.

    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilobyte

    The International System of Units (SI) defines the prefix kilo as 1000 (103); per this definition, one kilobyte is 1000 bytes.[1] The internationally recommended unit symbol for the kilobyte is kB .[1]

    In some areas of information technology, particularly in reference to digital memory capacity, kilobyte instead denotes 1024 (210) bytes. This arises from the powers-of-two sizing common to memory circuit design. In this context, the symbols KB and K are often used.



    It is important to differentiate between physical connector and connection speed (determined by USB version). One does not imply the other.

    Most modern devices will have one or multiple of the following connectors: USB Type A, USB Type B, USB Type Micro-B (often called Micro-USB), or USB Type C. Except for recent-model MacBooks, almost all computers have one or more Type A ports. Printers have Type B. Type Micro-B and Type C are found on smartphones and many peripherals. Type C is also found on an increasing number of new computers.

    USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 are the most common standards in use today. USB 3.0 is significantly faster than USB 2.0, but only certain use cases warrant that extra speed (such as flash drives). Also, you will only get USB 3.0 speeds if both the peripheral device and the port it is plugged into on the computer both support USB 3.0.

    Some new computers and devices (especially laptops and phones) also support USB Power Delivery, which allows the Type C connector to supply or receive significant amounts of power.

    USB 3.1 Gen 2

    USB 3.1 Gen 2 (pardon the horrible naming scheme), found on some high-end computers, is even faster than USB 3.0. However, not many peripherals support it, so it is probably not worth going out of your way to have USB 3.1 Gen 2 support.

    USB 3.2 Gen 2×2

    For even more naming confusion, look no further than the latest USB revision, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. It doubles the speed of 3.1 Gen 2, and is also absolutely pointless, since almost nothing supports it. It is worth noting that all USB type A connectors are backwards compatible with others, so there is no need to worry about having 3.2; it won’t break anything except in extreme cases.

    Thunderbolt 3 (USB4)

    Thunderbolt 3 is becoming increasingly common on new high-end computers, especially since it is no longer proprietary to Intel and now part of the USB4 (no, it is not “USB 4.0”) standard. It is essentially a PCIe slot (a motherboard connector that provides a direct, ultra-fast connection to the CPU) taken outside the computer over a cable. Thunderbolt 3 always uses Type C connectors, though not all Type C ports support Thunderbolt 3 (even on computers that support Thunderbolt 3).

    USB4, when used in the classical USB mode rather than for Thunderbolt 3, again doubles the speed of its predecessor, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. But, more than likely, again very few devices will bother with a 40-Gbps USB connection, since Thunderbolt 3 will almost always make more sense at those speeds.


Desktop computer with components labeled

\large \color{#0070c0} \textbf{Processor (CPU)}

    The CPU is the “brain” of the computer. As the name suggests, it does the processing needed to do the tasks you would expect your computer to do.

    The two integral specifications of a processor are the (1) number of cores and (2) clock speed. Disregarding the previous analogy, think of a core as an actual “brain,” with the processor as a whole being just a shell housing multiple “brains.” Clock speed is how fast each of the cores can operate. In general, there is a trade-off between more cores and faster clock speed — you cannot simply have the best of both worlds.

    Intel and AMD are currently the only relevant processor manufacturers in the mainstream and enthusiast space, though ARM- and RISC-based CPUs are certainly making headway. For both Intel and AMD, higher numbers generally mean “more better,” but you should always check Intel’s specifications/AMD’s specifications rather than making assumptions.

    Building or upgrading a desktop

    Don’t know where to start? Look for “buyer’s guide”-type content from respected computer hardware reviewers.

    Have some idea of what you want? Consult multiple trustworthy reviews of the processor(s) you are considering. Usually these will include comparisons with similar CPUs, including relative performance, which you can use to judge value for money. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of a compatible motherboard that meets your requirements.

    Choosing a laptop

    Well you certainly can’t choose just any CPU for a laptop. You should first narrow-down your choices by more clear-cut factors, like IO (ports), display resolution, weight, etc. Then look for reviews of the exact laptop models you are interested in, even if the reviews may not be for the exact same configuration you want. There’s usually not much point in heavily weighting your laptop purchasing decision based on CPU alone, since the same CPU can perform significantly better in one model over another due to design by the laptop manufacturer.

    All of that was wrong. While cooling capabilities can severely effect the performance of a processor, most manufacturers cool it adequately enough to work anyway. As of early 2021, the generally preferred laptop CPU is the Intel Core i7-10750H. Most manufacturers even offer models you can customize to some extent, so you will almost certainly be able to find a laptop that has exactly what you want.

\large \color{#7030a0} \textbf{Computer Cooling}

    Nearly all components in a computer need to be kept cool and within a certain operating temperature to properly function. The main components that produce most heat are the CPU, GPU (Graphics card), and Power Supply. However the GPU and Power Supply almost always come with built-in cooling. Thus, for beginners it is only really necessary to install a cooler on the CPU and on the case.

    Continue Reading (valuable information)

    There are two main types of pc cooling solutions: air cooling and liquid cooling (also called water cooling). Air cooling pushes heat out through the medium of air, while liquid cooling uses water or coolant. Liquid cooling typically delivers better thermal performance, but is harder to use due requiring tubing, a pump, reservoir, and radiator, in addition to the risk of leaks if not assembled correctly, though much simpler AIO (all-in-one) liquid cooling solutions can be used. The way both cool the computer is through dumping the heat into the surrounding air, by using metal parts with large surface areas and push air past them.

    This is an example of a CPU cooler and a water cooling radiator. They come in many different shapes and sizes depending on how much heat needs to be removed…


    For air cooling the case is important for good air flow (Note: this does not mean you need an expensive case, as a card board box could achieve the same, though obviously a case does a lot more than just add walls). Because of this the case is typically set up with fans pulling air in through the front and pushing it out at the back, or another similar configuration.

    Liquid cooling comes in both AIO (all-in-one) and custom flavors, though building a custom loop is not a sensible prospect for a beginner. Good air cooling throughout the case should still be used with an AIO liquid cooler for both the GPU and other minor components. Additionally while GPU’s already come with built in air cooling, advanced water cooling builds will often replace that with liquid cooling for better thermal performance. If you’re interested in learning more, this video from Gamers Nexus provides a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of both cooling options.

    When mounting either heat sinks or liquid cooling blocks thermal paste needs to be used for a good thermal connection between the two surfaces. Make sure to apply it correctly, here is a video on how to do it correctly and what not to do.

    In addition to the obvious — thermal performance — you also want to consider noise levels. In addition to the aforementioned video, Gamers Nexus publishes very detailed reviews of both air and water coolers in which they test a whole host of relevant metrics in highly controlled situations (while explaining the significance of each). Other reviewers also provide good data, but most are not as thorough or controlled in their procedures. Reading user reviews (on sites like Amazon or Newegg) is also a good idea, as doing so can sometimes reveal unusually high failure rates or, especially in the case of liquid coolers, a propensity for a catastrophic failure mode.

\large \color{#f0f} \textbf{Motherboard}

    *The motherboard is the massive board that connects and reroutes the components and its information*

    Generally speaking, a motherboard does not offer any performance improvements regardless of cost, This is untrue, for example, the chipset and VRMs affect overclocking ability but you NEED to keep an eye on the slots. In addition, you will need to check if the motherboard is compatible with your type of CPU. Essentially, this means checking that it has the right CPU socket. AMD usually has pins on the processor, while Intel pins are on the motherboard.

    To simplify:

  1. Motherboards reroute data connected to it
  2. Make sure motherboard is compatible with the DDR of the system
  3. Motherboards are the backbone of your PC and, while they don’t make a massive difference, choosing the right one is essential to getting the most out of your PC.

\large \color{#92d050} \textbf{Memory (RAM)}

    RAM is basically the “working memory” for the CPU. Whenever you load something on your computer, including the operating system, programs, or just pages in your web browser, they are stored in RAM, making the data readily accessible as it is needed.

    Generally, it is recommended to have 8 GB or more of RAM nowadays. However, if you are not going to use any RAM-intensive software (video editing, complex CAD, etc.), you can get away with 4 or 6 GB if you use a fairly optimized OS (such as many Linux distributions — the experience will be pretty bad on Windows 10).

    In modern systems, RAM is either DDR4 (faster, for newer computers) or DDR3 (now nearing obsolescence) and comes in either DIMM (desktop) or SO-DIMM (laptop) form factor.

    In addition to the RAM’s type, there is a clock rate, shown as DDR#-XXXX, where XXXX is the clock rate in megahertz. In addition to this, you need to keep an eye on CAS latency. Generally, CAS16 or lower is recommended. In general, for systems running on an AMD CPU, you will probably want to pay the premium for a higher clock rate and CAS16, though for Intel, slightly slower RAM is acceptable.

    Building or upgrading a deskop

    You should consult your motherboard documentation to determine how many RAM channels are available (i.e. dual-channel or quad-channel). For the fastest possible speeds, you should have one RAM stick per channel. It is even more important, though, to populate the RAM slots recommended by your motherboard documentation for the number of sticks you have (i.e. for 2 sticks on a 4-slot board, you should populate slots ‘A1’ and ‘B1’).

    Upgrading a laptop

    Yes, you can upgrade the amount of RAM in a lot of laptops. However, that upgradeability is unfortunately becoming increasingly uncommon in modern laptops, with the thin-and-light craze driving laptop manufacturers to solder RAM directly onto the motherboard. Search the internet to determine if (and, if so, how) you can upgrade the RAM in your laptop.

\large \color{#ff0} \textbf{Graphics Card (GPU)}

    *A graphics card is a card or chip that performs graphical calculations for monitors and screens*

    Most gaming computers and workstations have a dedicated graphics card, though some computers, mainly laptops, use the CPU’s integrated graphics. The GPU is responsible for rendering images for display on a screen, as well as other computations delegated to it, such as in cryptocurrency mining. All dedicated graphics cards have their own RAM (called VRAM), to store pixel equations separate to the computer’s RAM to free up RAM as well. Generally, if you look at GTX cards, the higher number equates to more power. But, as always, it’s better to go onto a benchmark website to double check. For the most part, the graphics cards you will get will fit almost every computer, but occasionally there are compatibility issues. So do research!

    To simplify:

  1. Graphics cards process computer graphics, allowing for higher framerates and resolutions, more complex renders, and an overall better experience
  2. Do research and look at graphics card benchmarks to get more precise information about the card

\large \color{#00b0f0} \textbf{Storage (SSD/HDD)}

    SSD = Solid state drive
    HDD = Hard disk drive
    Both are storage devices

    *SSD's and HDD's are two types of permanent existing storage. SSD's are a chip (like USB sticks), while HDD's are like a disc (like CD's, in simple terms).*

    SSD’s are generally more expensive, which means that you will likely get less capacity, but in turn you get accessing data to be much faster, especially over time. Hard drives are a spinning disk, so they are generally heavier, bulkier, and have more moving parts (so easier to break), but they generally have a higher capacity for their price. One thing people are not aware of is that when you delete a file on the SSD or HDD, it isn’t deleted; it is just marked for overwriting. Both are a bit of a security risk, as anyone could access the data regardless if your PC says the data is “deleted”. Hard drives can be written to many more times than most SSDs, though Intel Optane is an exception. SSD’s are faster and more reliable, though they do have a limited lifetime, so I would suggest they be used as the boot drive and for frequently read, but not frequently written, files. If you are building a PC, I would suggest having an SSD with windows on the SSD, and connect next to it a hard drive to store the big game files. (The SSD + HDD is the best combination, if you’d ask me or anyone out there with experience)

    To simplify:

  1. SSD’s have less moving parts and is more robust, but has less capacity per price.
  2. The pairing of 1 SSD and 1 HDD tends to work best.
  3. Large files you access frequently, such as your Operating System and games, as well as CAD files, benefit massively from being stored on an SSD.

\large \color{#ffc000} \textbf{Power Supply (PSU)}

    The power supply is the piece that provides power for all of the components in the computer.

    It does not matter what power supply you get It very much does matter what PSU you get, for safety reasons. This will be edited to be more comprehensive. , provided that the Wattage is above the amount all of the components consume.
    I recommend using the PSU Tier List found at the Linus Tech Tips Forum, since it is curated by some of the most experienced members of their forum and is an amazing resource. You can use the PSU Calculator to calculate the wattage of your build, but I’d recommend using a 500w+ unit with at least an 80+ Bronze certification. You can use just an 80+ certified unit, but it won’t be as efficient, and 80+ or non rated units usually signify a low quality PSU that you probably shouldn’t trust.

\large \color{#00b050} \textbf{WiFi Card} (Optional)

    A WiFi card (with a compatible antenna, of course) allows a computer to connect to a WiFi network (usually for internet access) rather than needing an Ethernet cable.

    Virtually all modern laptops and some desktops have WiFi support built-in. However, it is also possible to add a WiFi card to a desktop through a PCIe slot.

    If you are buying a new computer or new WiFi hardware, you will probably want to buy something that supports 802.11ax (the latest WiFi standard with widespread adoption). 802.11ac is also very recent, but will not give you Wifi 6 support.

\large \color{#f00} \textbf{Optical Disc Drive (ODD)} (Optional)

    Often also called optical drive, disc drive, or CD drive.

    An optical drive is essentially a CD/DVD/Blu-Ray player connected to the PC. Optical drives are rarely used nowadays, with most devices being plug-and-play or having downloadable drivers.

    If you know you need an optical drive, you may be better off getting an external (USB) optical drive rather than an internal one.


**SO, depending on what I do, what should I be looking for?**
  1. I do a lot of gaming
  • Focus more on a 4-6 core CPU but aiming at high performance (DDR4 compatibility)
  • Have a 256GB SSD running windows to store the essentials, and have a 2 TB HDD to store games
  • (Maybe 8gb) or 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • Graphics card that is rated well for gaming
  1. I do a lot of working/multitasking
  • Focus on a 6+ core CPU with medium/high performance (AMD Ryzen 3000 series, specifically Ryzen 5 and 7 chips)
  • 1 TB SSD or 512gb SSD with hard drive
  • (optional) 2tb HDD 7200RPM
  • 16GB+ DDR4 RAM
  • At least a graphics card that works well

Part lists for general price points:
$500 gaming
$1000 gaming
$1000 workstation
$2000 gaming
$2000 workstation

If I made any mistake with the information said, corrections are appreciated :slight_smile:


Side note: you have a lot of info that should be collapsed per sub heading to condense the size of the post


Well also…

1 Megabyte(MB) = 1024 Kilobytes(KB)
1 Gigabyte(GB) = 1024 Megabytes(MB)
1 Terabyte(TB) = 1024 Gigabytes(GB)

Learn More



forgot about that, thank you. It’s fixed now.


This is awesome! Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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I think it’s great that you started this thread, but I think some clarifications are warranted:


I think you mean 2.4 GHz (802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n) and 5 GHz (802.11a, 802.11n, 802.11ac) frequency band support. A better way to look for WiFi hardware is to limit yourself to that which supports 802.11ac, since that automatically implies dual-band support (I don’t believe there is any 5 GHz-only WiFi hardware in current production) and will probably be good enough for most people who are not already somewhat familiar with networking.

There are still laptops being produced with 100-Megabit (“Fast”) Ethernet? If so, I would imagine corners were cut on the WiFi card too, and thus WiFi would not be likely to outperform Ethernet even in that case.
Also, this has nothing to do with desktops versus laptops but rather the specific hardware in the devices being compared.

I think you meant to say network speed should be greater than internet speed


I said this because I have two laptops and found this to happen for us. Now that I realize it, I should’ve had more support/research before making a blanket statement about that. Thank you.
Btw, I am very grateful for these corrections, as it helps me with my errors (Since what I posted was unofficial, it can always contain imperfect information until there is support that backs it all up).

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This is only partially true. In a system that only supports dual-channel memory (most consumer systems), two memory sticks (installed in the correct slots) will generally be the fastest configuration.
However, with quad-channel memory support, the fastest configuration will have all four channels populated by matched RAM sticks (i.e. 4 RAM sticks).

6 GB sticks do not exist. RAM stick capacities are always powers of 2.
Also, most people really don’t need more than 8 GB of RAM (most people don’t even need more than 4 GB, despite what some tech reviewers say, but we won’t go there…). More than 8 GB of RAM really only makes sense for things like animation (Blender), video editing, and complex CAD models — even gaming does not usually benefit meaningfully more than 8 GB of RAM.


I am learning so much as well xD
Thank you, fixed. I have also changed OP to a wiki in case there’s any changes/clarifications you believe are too vague/misinformed.


I appreciate the desire to educate people on PC stuff and most of this post is good information, however a good number of these facts are wrong.

Not a major one, but technically 1 Megabyte (MB) = 1000 Kilobytes (KB) = 1024 Kibibytes (KiB), and so on.
See this for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Quantities_of_bytes

MBps =/= Mbps
There are 8 bits (b) in one byte (B). Hence, the transfer rate of USB 2.0 is indeed 60MBps, but is also 480Mbps.

Most of these devices are USB 2.0, which (assuming both are type A ports) is electrically compatible with USB 3.0. In such a circumstance, the USB 3.0 capable port will operate in 2.0 mode I have never heard of a compatibility issue arising from using a 2.0 device in a 3.0 capable port.

These are called PCIe, or PCI express slots.

These terms are meaningless when it comes to WiFi. With wifi, there are several specifications to be aware of. In brief: There are two frequency spectrums that wifi devices operate with, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The G does not stand for “Generation”, instead it means “Giga”, referring to billions of hertz, the frequency of the wireless signals being sent. The next specification that should be noted is the version of the wifi communication standard that the chip supports. This is rather complicated, so I’ll link some videos that explain it well:

Technically not. Wifi merely is a wireless communication standard that usually allows access to a network. This network may not necessarily have access to the internet.

You should have at least as many DIMMs as your processor has memory channels. Most consumer chips have two memory channels, so the guidance to have two sticks is correct (as long as they are distributed according to the motherboard manual’s instructions). However, having 4 DIMMs on a two memory channel CPU, meaning 2 DIMMs per channel, has no appreciable detriment on memory bandwidth. The only effect would be a slight decrease in the maximum memory overclock that can be achieved, however this is not relevant for 90% of users.

This is not true. If you balance the memory channels properly, for example a 4GB + 8GB stick on each of two channels, there will be no problems at all. Even if you misbalance memory channels, for example one channel with 4GB + 4GB and another with 8GB +8GB, then your computer will not break. Instead, it will run the extra 8GB in the second channel in single channel mode, halving your bandwidth to that part of memory.

This depends entirely on what your CPU and motherboard support. If your CPU and motherboard support DDR3, then you cannot use DDR4. If your CPU and motherboard support DDR4, then you cannot use DDR3 (except in some really rare edge cases that aren’t relevant here).

Ok there is a bit more wrong with this one. Instead of trying to explain this in words, I recommend these videos:

(Note that since this video was made AMD has since released Ryzen 9 processors to mirror the Intel i9 naming scheme)

Ok this is a little more misleading than you realize. I strongly recommend that you remove that link to userbenchmark. They have been lately caught doing shady things iwth their benchmarks, and can no longer be trusted. Here’s some articles:

I’m really not sure what you’re getting at here. You really shouldn’t be buying a CPU based on memory compatibility, as the motherboard compatibility is going to be an issue long before you get to different types of RAM.

Motherboard compatibility varies wildly on both sides. Intel makes every other generation (or so) of CPUs incompatible with all previous motherboards. If you are upgrading your Intel CPU, it is unlikely that your motherboard will be compatible. AMD is better on this with Ryzen CPUs and compatible motherboards, but some research would be good to do.
Here’s a good video that covers some of this topic:

Water coolers also use fans. The accepted name for the first type of cooler is “Air cooler”

This isn’t really true, as there can be significant performance ramifications that come as a result of motherboard choice, especially for intel platforms. See this video for more details:

It goes much deeper than this. There aren’t just “AMD motherboards” and “Intel motherboards”. In addition to the CPU vendor, there are a number of other things to keep in mind, including socket and BIOS revision.

This is false. DDR revision has no bearing on the shape or features of the CPU socket.

This isn’t quite true. the iGPU on a CPU does not help out with normal non graphical tasks, and not using it will not improve general CPU performance (expect in rare cases that the CPU is extremely power limited)

Within a given generation (the first number), yes. However, this does not hold true for cross-generation comparisons. For example, a GTX 980 blows a GT 1030 out of the water. At the same time, a GTX 1070 will beat a GTX 980.

This is not correct. CPU RAM DDR version has no direct bearing on graphics card compatibility.

This is not correct. ROM by definition is Read-Only, meaning it cannot be written to. The entire purpose of SSDs and HDDs is to be written to and read from.

This is only true if TRIM is enabled (I have successfully recovered deleted data from SSDs before).

This is not true. when you (normally) delete data on an HDD, the area is simply freed up for future writes, meaning that it is not immediately deleted. however, eventually this data will be overwritten, leading to the loss of the data that was deleted.

Okay, This is incorrect on safety grounds! Some budget power supplies can catch fire and/or damage computer hardware. Please consult a PSU tier list when buying a PSU, such as this one:
I recommend putting your build in pcpartpicker.com’s build tool to calculate wattage. You’ll want to take that number then add about 100W.

For today’s games I suggest no less than a 6 core. Theya re fairly cheap now and 4 cores have started to struggle in recent games.

For multitasking, you’ll want 16GB or more (if doing heavy CAD you’ll want to consider at least 24GB)


The word you’re looking for here is compatible. All motherboards have a chipset which supports a CPU (and that chipset is what allows the different components of the PC to talk to each other).

Also Intel’s Core lineup can be deceiving. A Core i3 can have 4 cores and number of cores varies between desktop and laptop processors.
I find AMDs labeling to be straightforward: the first number is the generation, the second (and sometimes third) is the number of cores, and an “x” at the end means it is binned or categorized and deemed faster.
AMD’s desktop lineup ranges between the 1000, 2000, and 3000 series for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation.
And examples of the number of cores is determined as follows:
6 core: R5 1600, 1600x, 2600, 2600x, 3600, 3600x
8 core: R7 1700, 1700x, 1800, 2700, 2700x, 3700x

Although this is mostly true I would like to point out that motherboards can determine performance if you overclock your CPU, as most of this is dependent on good VRMs (voltage regualtor modules) which would supply more power to your CPU and preinstalled in the motherboard.
Another reason why a good motherboard is correlated to performance is better RAM frequency support, and more/faster PCIe lanes.

The reason why you should buy two sticks of 4/8GB is because it will run the memory in dual-channel which doubles the bandwidth of your memory.

Sorry I didn’t understand these points. You might have DDR confused because you also mention it in your Motherboard point but it doesn’t make sense there. But yes go team red.

Not all computers have dedicated graphics cards (think about all the smartphones, laptops, etc). Most modern CPUs have integrated graphics which are great for doing basic tasks like browsing the web, streaming videos, and sending emails. Dedicated graphics cards are mostly used by people who CAD, video edit, play video games, run simulations, process machine learning, mine cryptocurrency, and produce music.

Probably the biggest advantage over HDDs that hasn’t been mentioned is that SSDs are much faster than HDDs (and you would want to store your Operating System on them). Also they have become crazy cheap in the past few years.

Also for those who are building a computer, it does matter what PSU you buy as you would want to buy from a reputable brand as a poor PSU could compromise all your expensive components.

For the recommendations on what parts to choose, typically gaming desktops have a 6 core CPU (and ideally 12 threads) since one can run background applications and many modern games use multiple cores/threads.
12 GB of RAM loses the ability to run in dual-channel and I haven’t seen that many kits to buy 12 GB. I would recommend 16 GB unless you’re on a budget.
In a gaming computer the graphics card is typically the most expensive component.

For work stations 6+ cores is very common.
I would recommend at least 16 GB of RAM for a workstation and that is often the minimum requirement on many workstation programs.
Also workstations tend to have high end graphics cards so maybe one that works more than just well.
Especially for power users, I would recommend doing your own research on what your program(s) require as some prefer NVIDIA over AMD and AMD over Intel and would list any memory/CPU requirements.

Overall I enjoy this post. Teaching PC components and hopefully inspire is a great way to immerse the robotics community.


For the PSU, you are so so so very wrong. Power supply matters a lot. You generally want it to be rated for at least 30% more than the load you plan to put on it, but nothing ridiculous. You also ideally want an 80+ rating on it, with, in ascending order, 80+, 80+ Bronze, 80+ Silver, 80+ Gold, 80+ Platinum, and 80+ Titanium being the different 80+ ratings by how good they are at delivering the advertised power. Then, there is the fire hazard factor. A good reviewer of power supplies and their tendency to fail is JonnyGuru, who opens them up and tries to identify weak points. koLUPLh

This tier list that I stole from reddit shows roughly how good power supplies from different brands and models are. In general, avoid the lowest bidder or risk losing your parts or, in exteme cases, your house.


@DrewWHOOP Let’s try to keep this somewhat digestible for people not familiar with computers :slight_smile:

I don’t think this is really the right context for telling people about the horrible names currently assigned by the USB-IF or phase-change cooling :slightly_smiling_face:

I tried to limit my edits to only what is relevant to the mainstream, which unfortunately means we computer enthusiasts have to give way to marketing-speak over standardized terminology sometimes :slight_smile:


I guess you’re right. I just wanted to be as thorough as possible.

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This config actually wouldn’t work. You would need a motherboard with a TRX4 socket, not TR4 :slight_smile:

Also, no one in their right mind would put a 16 TB hard drive in their PC with that kind of money. They would have a NAS with 48 of them in a RAIDZ array, and a 10-Gigabit or faster network connection :slight_smile:

And, actually, the case will start to matter a lot with that kind of hardware. If you don’t have really good airflow, you will be screwed.

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Its TRX4 now? I had no idea. And you’re right about the storage lol.

Given that many in the VEX community are using (or planning to use) CAD software now or in the future, it is good to consult the minimum requirements for the leading software packages that are free for educational use. Below are some links to the software requirements. Some notes:
• Solidworks runs only on a PC. It has the highest performance requirements, especially in terms of a graphics card; however, it will run ok on many non-certified graphics cards if assemblies stay below about 10,000 parts.
• Onshape is cloud based: it requires the least local computer power, thus it will run on most any computer, Mac, PC, even a Chromebook, that has a browser, but still give the high-end experience similar to Solidworks.
• Autodesk Fusion 360 has both PC and Mac versions available.
• Autodesk Inventor will run on a Mac with a Windows partition.

Solidworks system requirements:

Onshape system requirements:

Autodesk Fusion 360 system requirements:

Autodesk Inventor system requirements:


For people who have CADded before and continue do it frequently with success, it would probably be a good idea to post your own computer specs here. This will hopefully give others a look into entry and upper level requirements for running such software, through builds that actually work.

As for me:
CPU: Intel i7 860 (4 cores/2.93Hz)
Motherboard: Hewlett-Packard 304Bh (old board with bad support, not advised)
GPU: Nvidia 1050 TI
RAM: 16gb DDR3 1333MHz (dont get DDR3 :slight_smile: )
Storage: 1T Hardrive, 256gb SSD

I manage to run Autodesk Inventor 2018 quite fine and have cadded full robots off of it, but I opt to not model in screws in order to save performance. In addition moving a large jointed assembly can freeze up the model for a second, but other than that it is fine.

This is definitely a low-spec system, and if you can afford better parts then you ought to get them. However, if you are just looking for an entry level computer to do general work, even some gaming, a setup like this works just fine.

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I don’t have the most amazing specs, but I can easily CAD large models without any problems.
CPU: intel i7-7700 (4 cores/3.6 GHz)
GPU: Nvidia Quadro p400
RAM: 8gb
Storage: 1T SSD

its a decent pc, and it runs inventor very well.

That graphics card explains it. Its not an amazing card or anything, but it is a quadro, and quadros are generally good for that.