PC Build Advice for Idiots

Hi all,

I have decided that it is time to finally take the linux plunge, as well as attempt to build a PC (for work use).

Having neither built a PC nor used a Linux, I obviously need advice!

The PC will be mainly used for word processing, web browsing, e-mails and some video editing. Presumably the routine office stuff has no real requirements to worry about, but the video editing might, and this might be something that becomes more important later on.

My two days of research have led me to this design:

Motherboard: GIGABYTE Z390 UD
CPU: Intel CORE I5-9600K 3.7 GHZ SKT1151
GPU: The Intel will do fine for now from what I can tell, though I may with to add one later.
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4 3200 MHz
SSD: Samsung 860 EVO 500GB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD
Power: EVGA 500 80+
Fan: Noctua NH-U12A
Case: I don’t know what to pick - the smallest and cheapest possible!

First of all - will all of these pieces fit? Secondly, have I missed anything essential (like thermal paste or something)?

Thirdly, is there anything above that I can go cheap on? For the film editing it seems that the processor and RAM are the major requirements, so they seem to be where the money should go. I’d like an SSD for the speed, but the space might not be such an issue with cloud storage possibilities and so on - I doubt I will need to keep many large video files, and if I get to that point I suppose it would be easy enough to add another storage drive! The estimated cost for the above seems to be about £600 - which is maybe a touch more than I’d like to spend - ideally as cheap as possibly whilst keeping good speed.

The other question is with ‘distro’ (did I get that right?) would be the best choice. Once again, I assume for the office basics anything will do, but is there anything that would aid with the video editing stuff?

I’d like a very streamlined OS (and one that is nothing like a mac!), and Arch Linux sounds great on paper, but might be a bit much for me at the moment. The other options seem to be Manjaro, or KDE Neon, but to be frank, I haven’t quite got a handle on all of this yet. Ubuntu is the one everyone uses, so naturally I’d like to use something else!

Thanks for your help,


Hi Andriko, I’ve built a couple this year based on this basic spec;

  • ASUS ROG Strix B450-F Gaming ATX Motherboard, AMD Socket AM4, Ryzen 3000 Ready (£109)

    • AMD Ryzen 5 2600 Processor with Wraith Stealth Cooler (£109)
    • Corsair CMK16GX4M2B3200C16 Vengeance LPX 16 GB (£75)
    • Kingston A400 SSD SA400M8/120G - Internal Solid State Drive M.2 (£28)
      In general you should find AMD is cheaper than Intel, these prices are probably 5-6 months out of date … and I switched the M.2 module to;
  • WD Blue SN550 500Gb M.2 (£67) … 4x the performance and 4x the storage
    Your case should come with fans, as should your CPU (or at least AMD CPU’s come with fans) and a thermal heat pad attached, typically you’ll need paste (and cleaning fluid) if you’re replacing a fan or CPU … I’ve never found an on-board graphics chip I was happy with, I tend to use GEFORCE GT 710’s everywhere, they support 2x4k screens, are fanless (silent) and handle good Netflix playback at hi-res. (for about £30-£40)

Only thing you might be missing is a mounting tray for your SSD if you opt for that rather than an M.2. Some SSD’s come with trays, some don’t … many cases don’t provide an SSD mount, although some do … :slight_smile:

If you’ve not built one before, it might be worth thinking about using a firm who do builds, it’ll cost you a little more, but not too much, and it removes the risk. Also, the stress, there’s nothing worse than laying out a few hundred quid, building a machine thinking you’ve done the perfect job, then applying the power to find nothing happens … :-X

There’s a first time for everything, Mad Penguin. And there’s nothing like building your own computer and seeing it boot up perfectly! I haven’t built many, but I’ve yet to have one fail.

One suggstion though. Try to buy everything from the same supplier. That way, if anything is faulty they can’t all blame each other.

Good luck, and welcome to Linux!

By the way, it’s not a bad idea to go with a mainstream distro. I tried a few distros when I switched to Linux and found Ubuntu the most reliable. I now use Xubuntu which I’m very happy with. I always found the default Ubuntu desktop seriously ugly but Xubuntu makes it extremely easy to change that. You don’t even have to install another desktop. With two or three clicks you can make it resemble anything from Windows XP to Mac OS.

I should have made clear that the resemblance to XP or Mac OS is purely aesthetic. It’s still 100% Linux…


The default Ubuntu desktop is “Unity” and I don’t know anyone who likes it! But one can change it easily to “Classic View” which is nice and clean and very intuitive - worth a try.
If you want to try it, just give a shout and we can show you how to install it.


Thanks Keith,

But I remember the ‘classic’ desktop as being all brownish colours too. I thought Unity had been dropped, as it should be. It certainly united everyone - against it.

But I’m happy with Xubuntu. It’s lighter and better and looks good with just a few clicks. What’s not to like?


Well, the colours can be changed, of course, and my desktop is flowers from my garden.
As for Xubuntu: I tried it recently and like it very much. I might even change to it.


Yay. a potential convert!

I haven’t looked back since I found Xubuntu. I’m tempted to try other distros whenever I read a glowing review, but I remind myself - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…

Thanks Mad P -

I don’t know anything about AMD processors, and so was planning on avoiding them, but if they are more cost effective I will definitely look into them. I don’t mind spending a bit extra on the processor, as it seems it will be the piece doing the most work. And I have an old PC that has a more or less unused graphics card (from 6 years ago) - so I could maybe throw that in there and see what happens!

The WD looks perfect, though! I presume that would work on it’s own as the sole storage drive for most set ups?

One final question, how upgradable would this set up be? I am thinking that in the future I may need to do more intensive video editing, or sound recording - so would adding an audio interface be quite straightforward?

I am assuming that upgrading things like RAM and the graphics card should be a matter of plugging it in and then downloading the drivers?

And thanks for the notes everyone else about the distros - I will probably need to start a new thread on that nearer the time I am about to install it. I think for me, the essential things are to have one that is as ascetic and minimalist as possible, I’m fend up of bloat and mystery files running the the background!



I have just done a pc build parts selection readying myself to replace my 7 year old self build pc. using this site https://pcpartpicker.com it will tell you if it’s compatible .Then went online in uk and found cheapest place to get various parts CCL normally worked out the cheapest with a couple of bits from Ebuyer who have excellent service.I went for an AMD Rayzen 5 2600 cpu which is plenty for what I want.

Yeah, +1 for EBuyer, I’ve used them many times, good prices and good service. Typically this is where I buy my screens … :slight_smile:

I like ebuyer too. Always my first port of call.

But don’t pay extra for delivery on a special day. Typically they’ll deliver earlier and think it’s an upgrade. I’ve tried to explain to them that delivering on a day when I’m out instead of on the day I actually paid extra for isn’t helpful but they don’t get it.

Anyway, delivery is usually pretty quick. I always go for the cheapest option.

I’ve always been happy with AMD and I’ve heard that the graphics is rather better. These days you don’t need a graphics card unless you are a games player or otherwise need to do very intensive floating-point calculations. If you do want a graphics card, steer clear of Nvidia — those cards have often been a problem and the latest Linux kernel doesn’t like them.

David, what graphic card would you recommend?

It would depend what you want the graphics card for before a recommendation could be made.

Getting and AMD graphics card is probably not an option for me at the moment, as to save money I might use an old Nvidia one I have (old, but hardly used anyway). When you say it ‘doesn’t like them’, is that simply a matter of having to go the extra mile to get the drivers? My distro research so far means I am leaning towards Debian, or MX Linux (which I think is based off Debian) - would they have serious issues with Nvidia?

As I said above - I need a graphics card that will handle web streaming and some limited amount of video editing (that said, Mad Penguin’s build suggestion above would be an upgrade on my home PC, so I am happy to take suggestions on a good low budget graphics card).

Thanks again

Mm, I guess mileage varies, I’ve not used anything other than NVidia for the the last 10 years, typically I don’t have driver issues, certainly not in recent years.
“lspci” tells me;

09:00.0 VGA compatible controller: NVIDIA Corporation GK208B [GeForce GT 710] (rev a1)

So this is a low-end fan-less affair which typically costs between £30-£40 which I currently use in all my machines.
For a driver, I’m using the nvidia driver rather then the kernel included version, this gives better support for dual screens and the nvidia-settings utility.
Uptime on this (my main) box is currently 85 days, so I reckon that qualifies as relatively stable for a desktop machine … and I run dual 28" 4k screens … don’t seem to have any performance issues and video playback in full-screen mode looks fine … :slight_smile:

Thanks again, Mad Penguin!

I can’t recommend a graphics card as I’ve never wanted one. On the question of Nvidia,

This is, of course, one of the endless series of problems with that manufacturer.

Sounds like you don’t need a dedicated graphics card have a look at the AMD ryzen APUs they are a cpu with integrated vega graphics.

David; yes, however this is a generic issue. When ever a new kernel comes out, there is a chance it’s going to break third party drivers. The generic danger is that the manufacturer concerned won’t maintain the drivers they have, meaning you will be stuck on a particular kernel version. With NVidia in particular, they were one of the first companies to explicitly support Linux and to produce native Linux drivers for their graphics cards, and in that context I have a lot of respect for NVidia as a company. Whereas there is always a chance that in the future they might not continue to produce new drivers, the open source Nvidia driver supplied with the Linux Kernel does work Ok and in recent years has become pretty good - it’s just not “as” good as the NVidia driver. So whereas I might be wary of expensive gaming cards (in general), I don’t think there is any significant risk re; drivers when it comes to deploying low-end NVidia kit.

Zorba61; I have a new Ryzen, but I have a CPU (and motherboard) without the integrated VEGA feature. From memory I looked at this and worked out the chip with a motherboard that presents a HDMI was more expensive than the add-in board, and I could find nothing to show it would support dual monitors … which is a requirement for me. In terms of ease of use, if you just want a “something” in terms of display and aren’t too worried about the specification, an integrated solution is probably a lot easier to work with … :slight_smile: