Young Child's First Build

As the title suggests my 7-year-old son and I are interested in building a PC together. Due to family and work constraints I have been out of the building/hardware scene since his birth, which is practically decades under Moore’s Law. I am seeking advice on not just hardware selection, but also any recommendations or lessons learned from parents that have gone through this process. The context through which I am asking the following questions and making the following comments is that I want this to be both educational as well as fun.

I will start with the hardware. In general, I would like him to be able to experience a variety of hardware and the conversations that will naturally arise therefrom as we select, buy, and build. My thought is a single GPU, a single storage drive, a single RGB controller, etc… An important note, this system will likely run both Win10 and Linux throughout its lifecycle, so compatibility is my biggest concern when it comes to hardware selection. As a tertiary teaching goal of this project, budget is not necessarily a constraint, but I do want to spend frivolously and am value-conscious. He will be contributing to the project out of his own budget. Side note, you would be surprised by how much a 7-year-old can understand about earning, budgeting, spending, and investing when taught. He uses YNAB on his own with little oversight. In our situation, form factor is important to facilitate a small case footprint, as this system will likely spend quite a bit of time on his small bedroom desk. I am considering Micro ATX or Mini ITX, but am leaning more towards the former for future upgrades. I do not want to get into liquid cooling if it can be helped, but if necessary would certainly stick with a compact AIO. A performance target would be AAA gaming at 1080p, medium settings at most.

I am considering an AMD/Linux platform for the ‘visibility’ it offers him into the system. Though, his ThinkPad (and my ThinkCentre) run Win10 exclusively. I am certainly not a Linux sysadmin but have ‘dabbled’ with it in the past. pop_OS! seems like a logical choice should we take the Linux route, but I appreciate any other suggestions.

For additional reference, we live in the US; we may mildly OC in the future (simply for the experience); and he would like it to be Star Wars themed (which really could be a white case, red lighting, and a few empire decals).

Any advice/tips on hardware selection, OS choice, and general, shareable experiences building with kids is very much appreciated.


I think this is GREAT! I am doing the same with my 9 year old daughter. This might not be a good choice but I have personally thought Fedora with Gnome was a easy transition. (I am sure some think I am crazy). But with gaming in mind Pop_OS! is probably the best choice. I have no hardware recommendations, but one thing I have found is that I always remind people to triple check that your stand-offs are installed in the right location and tight. I often have to remind myself. Over the years I have reminded myself the hard way and ruined brand new gear. And of course the importance of always finding a screw if you drop it, it only will come back to haunt you. I know that is very simple stuff, but its surprising how often people who know better have shot themselves in the foot. Have you thought about painting (maybe spray) a case, along with some home made stencils ?

AMD/Linux FTW!

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I haven’t considered fabricating anything. In fact, I considered just the opposite by buying a pre-built, such as a System76 Thelio, tearing it down, and rebuilding it with him. Our schedule is already pretty cramped. We have a 5-month-old daughter, I recently joined a startup, and my wife is in medicine with a demanding schedule. That’s not to mention all of the other misc. activities on his schedule. I recently played around with Fedora/Gnome 3 myself and appreciated the cleanliness and simplicity of unadulterated Gnome on an upstream distro. Just curious, do you yet have any plans for your build?

The 2400G has enough power CPU wise to push mid-range GPUs later on, for the moment it has enough GPU to get you going. Not sure if a 7 year old needs a GPU yet.

With that said, my suggestion
PCPartpicker list

Part Price Note
Ryzen 2400G 170 4c/8t, out long enough to have proper linux support
ASRock B450M-HDV 64 Nothing too exciting
Team T-Force Dark Z 55 2x 8GB 3200Mhz
Crucial BX500 55 480GB Sata SSD, two of them
Cooler Master MasterBox E300L 57 mATX case
SeaSonic M12II 520W 72 Modular Bronze PSU

Edit: Not sure how the 3400G is in Linux, is cheaper though.


I don’t have a kid but I’ve always enjoyed building with family or friends. Here is a basic PC that would be a good starter with the gpu optional. mITX is great but charges a premium.

If this is too pricey then go the used market route. My first couple builds were just old computer my family had lying around plus parts I got on craig’s list.

Pop OS is stable enough, I’ve been using Fedora for the past 4 years.

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One brainstorm I had recently while planning out the same thing for my 13 year old was to turn the build into an excercise in generational upgrades to illustrate to him at a more tactile level through immediate gaming performance the differences between a console and PC over time rather relying on him comparing two black boxes in his mind. (Is that a grammatically correct sentence?)

AMD has the better upgrade path, although I do believe we are on the last generation of the AM4 socket so this option is a bit more volatile… my goal was short term and time goes slow at his age, though.

I was thinking of building either an Athlon 3000G (Oh ya. Painfull for him. That was the basis of this idea) or 1st Gen Ryzen (gives him a run through BIOS awareness). 3000G might not be supported by the new PCIe 4.0 AMD chipset, but this was moot for him as he should never hit that stage of component need for his ‘My First PC’ nor would I bank on him ditching his PS4 for it until I saw it with my own eyes.

Initial build would be simple. I’d force him to learn to economize his game settings.

WIthin days… weeks… I’d keep it on a closet… I’d let him upgrade him to a discreet GPU (best 1080p bang for the buck I found recently was the AMD RTX 590. RTX 570 is a hair cheaper, but doesn’t max 1080p as well on newer features; may be an economizable point.

Once he detected and learned via the benchmarks I’d train him on what being CPU bound was… I’d upgrade the CPU to a lower tier 3rd Gen Ryzen CPU.

The boy has ADD and a habit of not learning things abstractly… touched the hot pan on the stove 3 times and burned himself before learning not to do that. I figured this was a good excercise for tangible learning and the only ‘waste’ was the single 1st CPU. This is why I wanted the 3000G; I could re-use it in a firewall Mini-ITX appliance build later (anything I use a Raspbery Pi for but need tons more kick, maybe)… but then I read the chipset limitations and stopped my research.

Amd is getting my strong suggestion as they are both faster per dollar, offer APU’s if you don’t need dedicated graphics, and have great support on Windows and Linux both. As far as OS suggestion, even if Linux isn’t a fit, it’s worth a shot. Thanks to Valve doing some great work on Proton, most games run great under Linux these days, and it’s never been easier in my decade of linux usage. Install steam, and install game. Done.

In terms of recommendations on distros specifically, I generally have a few recommendations. PoP is great for anyone who wants a system that “Just works” generally. I really wish that I had spent the time just jumping into Linux when I first switched. I’m the type to tinker, break things, and just see what’s possible, so Arch was a fantastic switch for me to learn how the system worked from the ground up. I learned how things worked because I built the system myself, so it was much easier to fix when things didn’t work the way I wanted. I later switched to Gentoo for even more learning and control, and will never go back. It’s not about “being better as a Gentoo user”, but about having the control, and knowing how to fix things is always in my control, which I love as a tinkerer.

Your child is lucky to have someone to encourage them to learn new things. Hopefully this was helpful.

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I just built an ITX system in an Silverstone SG13 with my 11 year old niece yesterday.

I don’t think anyone has mentioned it yet, so: I gave her a notebook. From one end, the system we were slowly putting together (she installed 95% of the parts) was organized in written form. Details like manufacturer, model number, memory sizes/speeds/wattage… and any pertinent information were listed for each part she placed in the case.

Flip the book and spin it and from the other end: Internet log. Any sites she joins, passwords, addresses, etc… were logged in. Dates ofc are accompanying the information.

It often helps to write things down.


References to writing things down and tracking the build reminds me of PC Part Picker. I don’t use it anymore, unsure if anyone has an alternative… but if you’ve been out of building for 7-9 years I’m not sure how prevalent it was back then.

Buld guides, existing other use builds, ability to track parts and hunt price references down… more?

Dang. I think I’m going to use it for a potential firewall appliance buld now…

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That is a fantastic point about looking into last-gen hardware. I had my eye on Ryzen 3000 series but, as you stated, it is more logical that 2000 series is better supported. That really makes me question mobo and GPU options as well.

I can certainly appreciate this and have considered going the nuclear option and running Arch for myself as a sort of forced learning methodology, but that might a bit extreme for a 7-year-old ha ha.

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I highly recommend giving it a shot yourself. It’s honestly not nearly as hard as everything makes it out to be thanks to the fantastic docs. I have had friends switch over to Linux going directly to arch, and most have been using it for over a year now with no major issues as long as they had good Linux supported hardware, and I can personally attest to Linux support on AMD hardware, GPU’s specifically. It “just works” out of the box thanks to mesa integration.

For context, I think the last CPU I installed (other than a re-paste) was an AMD Bulldozer, back when Bulldozer was exciting…

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Linux mint. I’ll spare you my jaded opinion in distros. Its easy, its beautiful, its got the best defaults for anybody and it just works ™

Go all out on the case. Skin it with vinyl haha.

Idk what to do for HW selection. It all depends on what you want. For your build I recommend ryzen 5 3600x as its fast enough for all your games and allows you to have a decent amount of pcie for nvme and a graphics card

Do not run an AIO unless its for build aesthetic. High end air cooling is plenty enough and more reliable long term.

AMD graphics drivers on Linux are not as easy as one thinks and if I am to be honest the nvidia scene is just fine on Linux if not easier and less confusing.

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Arch for Kids? Meh. Just go straight to Gentoo and they can handle anything down the road.

Wait… maybe not. I did that with the 15 year old and he has a 1000 yard stare every time I utter “linux”…


There is some debate between the Ryzen 5 3600 vs the Ryzen 7 2600. 3600 for gaming, deffinitely though. 2600’s extra 2 cores but last gen make it ponderable for a productivity/lab builld on a budget… I’m currently wishy/washying on such a purchase.

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Ryzen _600(x) is always 6 cores. Did you mean the 2700 perhaps?

The fact the 3600(x) has double the cache of the 2600 definetly helps for gaming.

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NumberJumble. I was comparing the pricepoints in my head and mixed the numbers. Ryzen 7 2700 vs Ryzen 5 3600. Both have various deals from 150-200 with different fan combos and on different sites.

Ooops. Wait till I start referencing the 5-digit new Intel chips… I’ll really mix them up then. :smiley: Thx for the catch.

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Without much research, here are my initial thoughts. Back when I used to do this we used spreadsheets to pick parts…

For my kids build a few years back I went with an Kavari APU and a SATA 1 drive we had at the house. Over the years upgraded with a 1060, SATA 3 hd and an SSD. Also later upgraded the monitor from the 21" 900 to a 27" 1080 screen.

The GTX 1060 didn’t even exist when I first built it

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