Without further ado, these are my tips for first time PC builders:
First thing I would do is research research research. First decide what kind of system you're building and set a budget. Will it be a gaming system? Graphic design? Home Theatre PC? Do you want to be able to upgrade it in the future, or are you fine with older parts? Questions like these can help you define what parts you should be getting.
Setting a goal, a budget, and a timeline is important as it will help define why you need this computer and what will be financially feasible for you. Those top tier parts may make your mouth water, but consider that in as short of a period as a couple months there may be something out that can match the speed for hundreds of dollars less. Of course there will always be something else better coming out, so try and set a firm date of when you want your PC to be up and running by.
I've seen mentioned by many people that you shouldn't get the latest parts. I partially disagree with this. While I agree that when a brand new technology (such as with solid state drives and the Sandforce II incident) first comes out it may be better to stick with older tech, with more proven technologies it pays to stay ahead of the curve. A great example of this was when Sandy Bridge was released. When it was initially released, many of the Sandy CPUs could outperform the mid-ranged Enthusiast Core i7 CPUs all at a better price point. Bulldozer is an example where the advantages of new technology may be situational. AMD's latest chipset is great for multi-threaded workloads, but if you aren't planning on taking advantage of all of the cores in a CPU, an older Phenom II dual or quad core is still their best offer in most cases.
The best advice I can give is to always know what's coming and what will be supported. Intel is seemingly going with a new motherboard chipset every CPU now, so you'll have to make sure to buy these in combination, AMD on the other hand will be supporting AM3 CPUs for the forseeable future. If triple-channel RAM comes back on Intel's new 2011 socket then you need to know that not all memory supports the voltages used by tri-channel boards. Cases can last for years on the market, and will support any upcoming mobo, so waiting for a deal on that case you really like can be a good idea. As in the AMD example above, keep in mind what you're buying and why you're buying it.
Last word of advice is to plan on upgrades. If you want to have that sweet decked out system, maybe spend more on a high-end board and CPU and then upgrade over the coming years. Eg: buy that GT 560 on sale for 80 bucks right now with a $600 motherboard combo, then next year when you have more cash get that triple SLI setup you've always wanted. Research is always the key to a good system build.
Edited by Insomnia, 07 December 2011 - 03:32 PM.