When building a PC, most people focus their attention on the core hardware: the motherboard, CPU, graphics card, and so on. But once your build is up and running, you can still make improvements. Here are five cheap accessories that make every home-built PC better.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If you want to keep your computer as dust-free as possible, you need two things: positive air pressure (that is, more intake fans than exhaust fans) and dust filters on all your intake fans. You’ll still need to clean your case occasionally, but you’ll have a lot less dust buildup over time.
Some cases may come with filters pre-installed, but if yours doesn’t—or it doesn’t come with enough of them—you should grab some magnetic fan filters and slap them on. I’ve used these Silverstone ones in the past with good results, and they come with holes in case you need to attach them using screws. They are on the pricey side, though, so if you have a tighter budget, these off-brand models are highly rated alternatives.
I’m of the opinion that everyone should encrypt their PC’s hard drives, even on a desktop. That way, if your house gets robbed or you lose track of your computer at a LAN party, you haven’t also lost all your personal information to data thieves.
If you go to enable BitLocker on a home-built PC, though, you’ll probably be greeted with a message saying that you don’t have a Trusted Platform Module, or TPM. This is a security chip that Windows requires for encryption by default—technically, you can use BitLocker without one, but it’s a bit clunkier to set up and use. (You can check if your PC has a TPM chip already by going to Start > Run and typing tpm.msc.)
Thankfully, TPMs are pretty cheap and easy to install, provided your motherboard has a TPM header. (Check the manual if you aren’t sure.) I’m using this MSI TPM on my MSI motherboard, but there are models for ASRock, ASUS, and other boards if you look around. You may need to do some digging to find the right one for your motherboard, but in my case, the MSI TPM has worked on three separate MSI boards without issue.
This is, arguably, more of an aesthetic upgrade—while some folks worry that a heavy, sagging GPU can damage the PCIe slot on your motherboard, I’ve yet to experience long-term issues, and I haven’t seen much evidence that other people have. Still, it’d be nice to look over at my computer and not cringe at the sight of my graphics card going limp, and there’s some peace of mind that comes from knowing my motherboard is safe.
GPU supports come in a few different shapes and sizes. I’ve used this one from CloverTale to good effect, though there’s also a carbon fiber version, a thicker model from Fourth Level, and—yes—even some RGB models. You could also try a little stand like this that holds it up from the bottom of the case, if you have empty space there.
You know, I haven’t ruffled a lot of feathers this month, so let’s do this: I don’t like zip ties for cable management.
Yes, they’re insanely cheap, and yes, a pack of 100 will last you a long-ass time. But I still hate having to cut them off when I upgrade a component, or rearrange something in my PC. Velcro cable ties (ahem, I mean, “hook and loop” cable ties) like these are so much better. If you ever want to run a new cable up the back of your case, you can just unhook it, re-bundle your cables, and stick it back together. It’s well worth the extra few bucks. Come at me, zip tie brigade.
I have a very large desk. Large enough that my tower sits just out of arm’s reach of my chair—a first-world problem, sure, but not one I’m going to sit here and let slide.
There are a host of external power button mods out there that allow you to bring your power button, USB ports, and audio jacks anywhere you want on your desk (might I suggest mounted on the underside with a Command Strip?). You just need to route the cable under your desk, behind your PC, and over to the front panel headers where your case is currently plugged in. (Some large desks will be too big for the cable, so you may need to get creative—and the audio may only work on certain PCs, according to reviews.) You can even stick a USB fingerprint reader there for maximum convenience. This listing is the one I used in the past, though it seems to have changed, while this listing looks more similar to my model. There are plenty of options floating around Amazon.
Alternatively, if you want to get really fancy, this wireless remote can turn your PC on from 60 feet away—I haven’t used it myself, but when I’m feeling so lazy I want to remote into my computer from the couch, it seems like a useful add-on.