First of all, I’m an Apple ($AAPL) guy. Not quite a fanboy, but pretty damn close. My entire house is littered with products from the fruit. And while I consider myself tech-savvy for my age, up until the build I considered myself PC illiterate. Early in my trading career, I was even trading on a Mac. Then in 2013, E*Trade suddenly start having issues. It was something about all the JAVA updates or some crap totally beyond my computer and programming knowledge. The issues were impacting Mac users significantly more than PC users. I was ready to bail on E*Trade but since they had one of the few platforms able to run on a Mac, I was kind of screwed.
So, I finally threw in the towel and got a PC. I had one of those “trading PCs” (just google it) custom built. Sans a few issues here and there and a hard drive swap, that PC was loyal, friendly and worked great until last year. Then everything started to slow down, everything started to lag. It just did weird stuff from time to time, like shut itself off in the middle of the day. It became so bad I couldn’t run screen capture software while trading. And I hate not having game tape of my trades! It was time for an upgrade. I almost just bought another one from the same company who built the one for me in 2013.
After doing a little research, I realized I could save a ton of money if I built my own. Since I’m a Mac guy the thought of building a PC seemed way outside my comfort zone and was even a little intimidating. I went directly to YouTube and started watching a few videos on it. I said to myself, if some of these yahoos can build a PC, surely, I can too. I love building stuff anyway. As a kid, I was a Lincoln Logs AND a Lego master. Not to mention I live by the philosophy why pay someone else to do something you can easily do yourself. So, the journey began.
By far, the most intimidating part of the process was picking out all the components. There are just WAY TOO MANY DAMN CHOICES for almost every part. Video cards? They are the worst in my opinion. OMG! You have to pick the manufacturer, the chipset, the memory, the memory type, the core clock, the boost clock, the interface, the ports, the cooler, the power, the frame synch, not to mention the damn size! It has to fit in your case! Then on top of that, you have to worry about ALL the different components fitting and actually working together. When I first realized just how overwhelming this was, I almost threw in the towel again and just ordered one built. But I love a challenge, so I kept after it.
Oddly enough, at least to me, I started with the case. I, of course, wanted a PC that would work exceptionally well for my needs, but it needed to look good too. Like really good. Sexy good. My old PC was this big black ugly box that just looked and sounded horrible. Since it’s THE tool I use and rely on every day, I wanted something that looked cool and matched my office décor. At the same time, it had to be quiet. I spend every day from ~6:30am to ~5pm with this thing next to me. I don’t want to hear it or even realize it’s there, except when I want to admire it. As anyone in chat knows, my dogs make enough distracting noises, I didn’t need a PC adding to the pollution.
Luckily, I came across this website: https://pcpartpicker.com. This site was THE lifesaver. Its “system builder” allows you to put all the parts you want into a list and then it will tell you if there any issues or incompatibilities found. Let’s just say in the beginning I had several. But using this site’s tools, I was able to make some adjustments and figure out everything I needed. It even gives you suggestions on where you can get your parts for the best prices. It took me a while, but eventually, I got to this point:
I ordered all the parts over the course of a few weeks as I found them on sale around Black Friday. Finally, by Saturday, December 7th all the parts had arrived, and it was time to build!
In just a couple of hours, I had everything together and was ready to boot it up and install Windows 10. Turning it on for the first time was the most intimidating part of the process. I had double checked everything multiple times but was still expecting to see sparks flying out of the machine IF it even turned on at all.
Luckily everything started right up. I then simply followed the instructions for installing Windows10 from a thumb drive. About 5 minutes later, I had a brand-new functioning PC. I shouted out something like “I’m a genius” and threw my hands in the air. After that, I turned it off and spent about ½ hour working on cable management. Finally, I carried it up to my office, plugged in my monitors and back on she went.
Well, it’s been ~2 months since that Saturday and I’m happy to report the machine works GREAT. Not a single issue. Knock on wood. I waited to write and publish this blog for a couple months in case something did go wrong. How embarrassing would it have been to publish a blog about a PC build only for the PC not to work shortly after!? I’m not only thrilled with its performance, but I’m thrilled I built it, not to mention all the $ I saved.
Briefly about its performance related to Day Trading. It runs circles around my old computer and everything I’ve ever used, including my iMac. My pipes are FAR LESS FULL than they used to be. When they are, I know it's my broker and not my computer. Here’s an example of this from late Friday:
It seemed most everyone else in chat had “full pipes” on this trigger and their orders were jumped, even some other E*Trade Pro users. I saw virtually every print and nailed the entry reading the tape. By the way, use those stop limit on quote orders if you’re constantly having the “pipes are full” issue and/or being jumped on your entries.
My point: having the right tools matters and matters A LOT. I wish I would have upgraded about a year or earlier now that I see the difference daily. I hope this machine lasts for years but the minute I feel like it’s slowing down, it’s being upgraded and/or replaced. It’s made that big of a difference for me. Please keep in mind, it’s actually probably overbuilt for what I really need, but I would rather have over performance than under. That’s what she said…
I wrote this blog for anyone who’s considering building a PC. If I can do it, you can do it. I’m a mac guy and I built a PC! I know some of you techies out there are probably rolling your eyes and laughing at some of this. I didn’t write this for you so please don’t @ me. I don't care if you think I used the wrong GPU, or the CAM software sucks, or I should have gone with AMD, or... I wrote this for the average guy/gal/it/they who’s thinking about saving some bucks and building their own. My advice? Do it. It’s not that hard and was actually fun, like Lego fun.
Finally, for those asking about or wondering which components I used, here’s the list:
Thanks for reading! Questions or Comments? Reach out and/or drop one below.