Udemy Class Review: How To (Incorrectly) Build a Computer From Scratch, Circa 1999

For people that work in tech like myself, building a computer is second nature. I often build and tear down two full desktops a week, and others that work in PC repair shops or build custom systems for clients may create a dozen or more computers in the same time period. If you have never built a computer before, however, the task can be quite daunting as the task appears far more complex than it really is.

If you would like to learn how to build a computer, however, a class from Udemy entitled “How To Build A Computer From Scratch” aims to teach you how to do this on your own. Unfortunately, it fails so utterly and completely that this class is nothing short of torture for anyone that actually knows how to build a custom PC already.

Course Overview

The lectures get off to a bumpy start with the lecturer feeding you half truths about the advantages of building a custom PC vs. buying a pre-built system. First, the lecture states that building a custom system will give you the ability to perform more upgrades and change parts over time. The lecturer goes on to say that the upgrade possibilities are endless and the system will have more advanced features. The lecturer insists that pre-built systems lack these attributes with extremely limited upgrade options and a more expensive price tag.

This is only partially true. Many pre-built systems can realistically be upgraded in exactly the same manner as a custom built system. Each motherboard does have its limitations in terms of what CPUs they can support and what type of RAM they are compatible with, but this is true for all computers not just pre-built PCs. Most of the time pre-built systems cost more in the end to upgrade, though certainly not always. An example of when it may be less expensive to buy a pre-built system is the OverPowererd DTW2 from Walmart, which is a fully built system that is frequently available with a price tag that’s lower than what the individual parts would cost.

The lecturer then proceeds to say that you can’t alter any settings on a pre-built system’s BIOS without causing problems, but any custom built PC can have its BIOS modified to make it better. Although I personally feel it’s a better option to build a custom system, I find it highly unnerving the amount of false information presented in the beginning of this course.

In section 3 the lecturer begins to teach you about the different parts inside of a computer. This entire section is rather poorly done. The system used as an example has absolutely no cable management system in use. Parts like the RAM are entirely hidden from view. The CPU is referred to, but not shown as it is under a heatsink, and just the edge of the hard drive in the system can be seen. From this, I don’t know how any beginners would know what a hard drive, CPU or RAM are.

The remaining lectures in section 3 focus on the components one at a time and will actually show you what a CPU and RAM sticks look like. These lectures have serious problems as well though. For example, the lecture dedicated to the motherboard uses an ancient example that is from roughly 1998. Almost none of the components shown in this example are still used today including the Slot 1 connector, ISA and AGP slots, the Intel 440BX chipset, SCSI data connectors, and so much more. He shows a real AM3 motherboard afterwards, but then returns to the 1999 board diagram for reasons I can’t explain or understand.

There is so much wrong with this. – Ed

The CPU lecture is informative enough without any real issues, but the lecturer returns to showing outdated hardware in the RAM course. SDRAM, which went out of use around the turn of the millenium, looks more or less the same as modern RAM so this isn’t an all that serious issue, but it is a strange choice when there are images of modern RAM sticks available. This lecture is exceedingly simple without any discussion of the different types of RAM or RAM settings. Clocks? Latency? Slot compatibility? Irrelevant.

The PSU lecturer is similar to the RAM lecture in that it is exceedingly simple. The lecturer says that the unit just needs to have enough power to run the system without any consideration of the quality of the PSU or its efficiency. There is no discussion of 12V rails or how to calculate whether or not a PSU provides enough amperage for a given high-end card.

Section 4 of this course gets into the details of selecting your components, and starting off we have another motherboard lecture. Did you know that Micro-ATX motherboards have almost the same performance as ATX motherboards? I sure didn’t. The form factor of a motherboard in no way alters its performance. It’s possible to have an ATX board and a micro-ATX board with identical performance, and it’s possible for the micro-ATX board to perform better than the ATX board. Size is not a factor when determining performance, but the lecturer states it is.

The CPU section of this course is both inaccurate and too outdated to be of any use. The lecture doesn’t really appear to have any idea what he is talking about. He discusses Intel’s Broadwell processor architecture as an interesting technology that offers better multicore performance and the ability to “power much more potent graphics”. He also refers to Intel’s Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 products as having been out for a long time without any indication that he understands that these products change over time as new processors are introduced. At the time these lectures were made Ryzen hadn’t been released yet, and the discussion of AMD just focuses on the company’s APUs and low price point.

At this point I skipped ahead to the part of these lectures that actually shows you how to build the system. There are more problems here, but in general you will actually learn how to connect the parts together. This is already the longest Udemy class review I’ve ever written, and by now I think you get the point that this course is awful.

Conclusion

I suppose this technically would show you how to build a computer, but you would be horribly prepared to select the appropriate parts to build a system. Even if you did manage to get the correct parts, following these building instructions would leave the system poorly built with numerous potential issues over the years.

You might think that perhaps I simply picked a bad course to review, as there are several Udemy courses that teach you how to build a PC, but I specifically selected this one because it actually has a high user review rating on Udemy of 4.6/5. This is incredibly shocking to me, and I can’t help but wonder if many of these reviews were faked with the purpose of improving this course’s sales.

I can’t express enough how absolutely terrible this course is. I’d consider it dangerous and costly to approach building a modern system with the information in these lectures as your guide. You couldn’t possibly find a worse source of information, and it would be far better to buy a pre-built system than to attempt to build one yourself after taking this course. If you really want to learn how to build a PC, look elsewhere.

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