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How do I know what hardware to buy to meet my needs?

I am looking into building a gaming computer from scratch. I have a certain knowledge of what I will need, but I want to get a better understanding of what is really necessary for as flawless a gaming rig as possible on a budget.

What I know is that I need a powerful graphics card and CPU, and for the most part, not much else, as games dont require a ton of RAM, Hard Drive space, etc. What I don't know is what constitutes a "powerful" graphics card and CPU.

Basically what I need is for someone to explain what the different specs of computer components (mostly CPU, graphics card, and motherboard) mean, and which ones are important to a good gaming computer.

Also, on a similar note, I am not sure how to choose a power supply that will support all the components that I ultimately buy. Is there a tool out there that I can use for this?

  • Whatever happens to be most expensive at the time of purchase. – Daniel Beck Nov 17 '11 at 19:37
  • It's not a particularly bad question – given a good answer, that is. Isn't that what we encourage? Questions that help people help themselves (like: How do I find out what constitutes a good graphics card? How do I choose a power supply that supports all components?). It's not even a specific buying recommendation. – slhck Nov 17 '11 at 19:41
  • This is what I had in mind when asking the question. a few months ago I asked a question regarding a specific build and whether or not it was a good one, which in retrospect I realize is not a constructive question. This I thought would be able to help people in the future, as 'what makes a graphics card good' will still be true in a few years, whereas 'is this a good graphics card' will not. – ewok Nov 17 '11 at 19:44
  • I think that the question is overly broad as it is and there would be too much wiggle room for a long protracted discussion. – EBGreen Nov 17 '11 at 19:45
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