Video games are one of the most popular leisure activities for many, and their popularity is continuously on the rise. Today, it is estimated that there are more than 3.1 billion gamers, which is nearly half the entire world’s population.
Gamers can be split into three main categories — PC, console, and mobile phone gamers. Out of the three, PC gamers are the most widespread group, mainly because a PC can be used for much more than just gaming. However, even though there are numerous advantages to gaming on a PC, PC gamers have their work cut out for them.
Unlike console and mobile phone gamers, serious PC gamers have to build their gaming rig before getting to the fun part. Granted, while you can always buy a prebuilt PC, we strongly advise against it.
Carefully selecting the parts for your PC from well-known and reputable manufacturers is likely to cost you a lot less money than buying a prebuilt PC would. Not only that, but it also allows you to build a PC that fits your needs perfectly.
Even though the thought of building a PC may seem overwhelming, the majority of the process is extremely straightforward. In most cases, there will be only one way to insert a part onto a motherboard, so unless you are forcefully trying to jam something into place, you will do just fine.
Here’s what you will need to build a PC:
- PC case
- Power supply unit (PSU)
- Central processing unit (CPU)
- CPU cooler
- Graphics processing unit (GPU)
- RAM module
- Storage (SSD or HDD)
Before we get to the building part, let’s quickly go over the different PC components you’ll need. The exact specifications of each component are entirely up to you and your budget. Of course, if you already have all the parts at the ready, you can skip this section of our guide.
PC case – Technically, you don’t really need a PC case. However, a PC case prevents dust from piling up on your components and helps with better airflow, ensuring your PC stays cool when gaming.
When buying a PC case, make sure that all your components can fit inside, especially when it comes to motherboards. This is when you should remember that motherboards come in three sizes, such as ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX.
Motherboard – When buying a motherboard, make sure that you can install RAM and CPU onto it. Motherboards have different chipsets, so check the exact specifications of a CPU, and see if its socket fits the motherboard.
Additionally, check what type of RAM your motherboard uses. The most common RAM types are DDR3 and DDR4.
CPU cooler – When you buy a CPU, you will also get a stock cooler that goes with it. In most cases, your stock cooler will do just fine. However, if you have a more powerful CPU, or if you are planning to overclock it, you should consider buying a more powerful cooler.
PSU – As the name suggests, a PSU powers your entire PC. So, the stronger your PC is, the more power it will need to run. Therefore, buy a PSU only after you calculate how much power your PC rig will need based on the other components you plan to buy.
Storage – Even though you have all the liberty when buying a storage drive for your PC, we advise you to get an SSD (an NVMe drive, preferably). SSD drives are considerably faster than HDD drivers, and they will make your life a lot more enjoyable.
If you have some money to spare, you can go for a full SSD setup. However, if you wish to save a few bucks, you can pair your SSD with an HDD.
Finally, before you buy anything, you should decide what you want to use your PC for. For example, if you prefer playing retro games or older titles, there is no need to spend $3,000 on a GPU alone if you are not going to use even 10% of its potential.
Building the PC
Once you have your PC parts ready, you can begin building your PC. To do that, here’s what we recommend having:
- Phillips crosshead screwdriver
- Antistatic bracelet
- Thermal paste
- Zip ties
As far as the antistatic bracelet goes, this tool is more optional than the other three. However, don’t stand on a carpeted surface while building your PC, and generally avoid touching anything that can build up a static charge.
Additionally, you can always touch a metal surface before touching a PC component in order to discharge any static electricity.
Before you begin building a PC, unbox the motherboard and use the box as your work surface. Place the motherboard on top, and get ready to install all the essential parts onto it.
1. Installing the CPU
First things first, you should locate the small metal lever located right next to the CPU socket. Pull it to the side and lift it. After that, unbox the CPU, and get it ready for installation.
Be very careful when handling the CPU, since it’s the part that is most susceptible to damage. The best way to handle it is to hold it by the edges without touching any of the pins located at the bottom of the CPU.
Once you lift the protective bracket, you can gently set the CPU into place. You will notice a tiny arrow on the CPU, which you can use to line it up with the CPU socket.
Keep in mind that installing a CPU doesn’t require any force, so you should be able to gently put it into its designated spot and lower the lever easily.
2. Installing storage drives
If you have an NVMe drive, you should install it right after your CPU. In case you don’t, you can skip this step for now and install your storage drives later on.
When it comes to installing the NVMe drive, you will generally install it in a slot located on your motherboard. You can usually see it underneath your CPU and above your GPU slot. If you cannot find it, check your motherboard’s user manual.
To mount the drive, you will need to first remove the screw where the drive goes in. After that, gently slide the drive into place. It will stand at a 35-degrees angle, so gently push it down to the motherboard. Then, put the screw back in — it will secure the NVMe drive.
If you have additional SSDs or HDDs, you should plan ahead and decide when you want to install them. This depends on the type of PC case you have. Most modern-day cases have special brackets for your storage drives. If that is your case, you can install them onto the brackets, but don’t connect the cables just yet.
3. Installing the cooler
Installing the cooler is probably the most difficult part of building a PC. There’s a lot of debate over whether you should use air coolers or water coolers. Ultimately, the decision is entirely up to you. The only thing we can tell you is that air coolers are much easier to mount than water coolers.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to help you much here, since the exact details of installation vary from one cooler to another. For that reason, the best course of action is to consult the manual that came with your cooler.
Some coolers have thermal paste pre-applied to them. If your cooler does not have any thermal paste on it, squeeze out the size of a pea grain onto the top of your CPU, and mount the cooler. The pressure will spread the thermal paste evenly.
Additionally, some water coolers have special brackets that you will have to use depending on whether you bought a Ryzen or Intel CPU, so make sure you have the correct set of screws and plates before attempting to mount the cooler.
Lastly, make sure to install the cooler before mounting the motherboard into the PC. This is important because most coolers use backplates that connect to the back of your motherboard. In other words, you will have to remove the motherboard to install it anyway.
4. Installing RAM
Installing RAM is as easy as it gets. Simply unbox it, and snap it into place. Most modern-day motherboards have two, four, or eight RAM slots. If your motherboard has four, and you bought four RAM sticks, you don’t have to think about which RAM module goes into which slot.
However, if your motherboard has four slots and you only have two RAM sticks, you should consult your motherboard’s manual to see which slots you should use to ensure that your sticks work in dual channel, for the best performance.
The only thing you should be careful about when installing RAM is lining it up correctly. Once you do, press down, and the RAM module will fall into place. The tiny plastic locks on either side of RAM slots will automatically lock in and secure the RAM stick.
5. Installing the PSU
The first thing you should do when installing a PSU is figure out where you are supposed to install it. A lot of modern-day cases require you to install the PSU at the bottom. If your PC case has a vent at the bottom, you can install the PSU upside down, so that the PSU’s fan is facing outward.
Of course, only do this if your PC case will stand at least a few inches off the ground, to allow decent airflow into your case.
However, if your PC case does not have a vent at the bottom, face the PSU upward, to push the air inside the case.
6. Installing the motherboard
Before you install the motherboard, make sure to install an I/O shield, which is a protective plate that goes onto your PC case. Position it properly, and plop it into place.
Additionally, you should plan ahead and route all the necessary cables from your PSU towards your motherboard before you install the motherboard. Don’t connect any cables just yet, but make sure your cables are ready to be plugged in onto your motherboard as soon as you install it.
This is also where zip ties will come in handy. You can use them to tie the cables together and make sure everything is neat and secured. Of course, cable management is not a must, but it is aesthetically pleasing, especially if you have a PC case with a tempered glass side panel. It can also be useful in the future if you ever need to replace a component or two.
As far as installing the motherboard goes, line up the motherboard with the screw holes on your PC case, hold it in place, and secure the motherboard with screws.
7. Installing the GPU
To install a GPU, you will first have to locate the PCIe x16 slot on your motherboard. If your motherboard has multiple slots, consult the manual to see where you should install the GPU for best performance.
Once you do, remove the backplates from the back of your PC case, and slide the GPU down into the correct slot. After that, secure the GPU with the screws you removed earlier with the backplates.
The Bottom Line
Even though building a PC from scratch might seem scary to some, think of it as solving a child’s puzzle. As we mentioned earlier, there’s usually just one way to mount a PC component, so unless you are forcefully trying to install a part in, you will have nothing to worry about.
PC building is all about trial and error. Apart from breaking something, the biggest mistake you can actually make is installing something and finding yourself unable to route cables to it. If that happens, simply unmount any parts blocking the way, and try again.
Even though it may take some time to build a PC, the entire process is extremely rewarding. Moreover, you are guaranteed to feel accomplished at the end — so leave all your worries aside, and have fun building your first gaming rig!