Build a gaming PC that never dies! It’s easier than most people would have you believe. If you’re a serious gamer, you’ve entertained this idea before. Now is the time to act on it.
You’ve often thought of just buying from a retailer, but the truth is you could build a great PC by yourself. In this guide, you’ll learn how to research parts, cost, tools, and time it will take to go from a PC buyer, into a builder.
When you first think of building a gaming PC, you probably ask yourself, “what will it cost?”
How Expensive Is It To Build A Gaming PC?
Luckily, at the end of 2018, PC parts have gotten cheaper. The cryptocurrency hype of 2018 made it a bad year to buy a graphics card due to an increase in demand for mining rigs. Prices are finally back to normal, and it has never been a better time for you to build a gaming PC.
Follow this guide start to finish, and even your grandkids will be gaming on it.
Step 1: Research And Set A Budget
In the beginning, question what you want out of your PC build. Are you looking for playability or bragging rights? Do you want to be able to maintain a specific frame rate or do you want to set benchmark records? How much money do you want to spend to achieve your goals? These are questions you need to ask yourself before building a PC.
Before you look at any parts, you need to set a budget—and stick to it.
What Kind Of PC Do You Want?
Do you want to build a gaming PC for less than $1000.00? Building a cheap gaming PC in this instance doesn’t mean it can’t be the best option for you!
There is nothing wrong with buying top of the line either. However, some parts come with a premium! It’s up to you to decide whether extra frames are worth the extra cash.
After you set a budget, you get to start picking components. Making a list of different categories for PC parts is the easiest way to do this.
Compare the performance and price of similar pieces of hardware. Start scratching lesser choices off of your list until you have one item in each category. Use the following list to aid you in selecting the right parts for your PC:
Hardware Needed To Build A Gaming PC:
- Motherboard (MOBO)
- Processor (CPU)
- Graphics Card (GPU)
- Hard Drive (SSD, HDD or m.2)
- Memory Sticks (RAM)
- Power Supply (PSU)
- Computer Case (Tower)
- CPU Cooler (Liquid or Air)
- Monitor (LCD or LED)
- Operating System (OS)
You’ve created a final list of computer parts. Now it’s time to commit and select “check out” in your shopping cart.
Actually, sorry not yet!
Check For Compatability
There is one last thing you need to do before we can begin showing you how to build a gaming PC. Double check everything is compatible!
Did you know certain motherboards only work with an Intel or AMD CPU? Does your power supply unit have enough wattage to power each of the parts on your list? Is your PC case big enough to house all the things you’re trying to cram into it?
These are questions that need answers before you begin building your PC. Once you’re 110% positive, you can move onto the next step.
You may now “checkout” your parts.
Step 2: Get The Correct Tools For Building A PC
Learning how to build a great gaming PC, starts with getting the correct tools for the job. You can get an all-in-one PC toolkit when you buy your components. These kits are targeted toward people, building a computer who don’t have many tools at their disposal.
It wouldn’t be surprising if a popular website didn’t try to up-sell you one of these toolkits before checkout.
Assuming you don’t have tools at home and aren’t interested in one of these PC toolkits. You’re in luck! We made a list of required tools for you to reference!
Tools Needed To Build A Computer:
- #2 Phillips Screwdriver
- #0 Phillips Screwdriver
- Zip Ties
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Compressed Air
- Anti-Static Wrist Strap
- Extra Screws
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Thermal Paste
- A Small Container or Bowl
Why You Need The Tools On This List
Phillips screwdrivers. The #2 does most of the work, but if you’re opting to install an m.2 drive, a #0 is for the smaller screw.
Screwdrivers should also be magnet tipped. Magnets on the screwdrivers are too weak to ruin components. They keep you from dropping screws—saving many a PC builder extra time.
Zip ties become essential for cable management, and yes, you need to manage your cables.
Needle-nose pliers come in handy when inserting or removing small connectors, such as control panel wires on the motherboard. Tweezers will also suffice.
Get extra screws! Sometimes things go missing when working with computer hardware. You do not want your project to come to a screeching halt over a screw.
You should place all small parts, in a bowl or container. A small Tupperware container with a lid works wonders.
Equip an anti-static wrist strap anytime you’re working with PC components, to prevent damage from electrostatic discharge.
Compressed air in the event you need to blow something out of your PC. Do not blow using your breath because of moisture (i.e., Saliva and Condensate.) An extra can is useful for cleaning your PC later on.
Last, is thermal paste and rubbing alcohol. These will come up again when it comes time to install the CPU Heatsink.
Step 3: Prepare Your PC Building Workstation
The day is here, but before you start building your gaming PC, you need to take inventory of everything pulled from shipping boxes. Open one box at a time and check the packing list as you remove different parts from their packaging.
When it comes to being a great PC builder, patience is essential. Make sure you don’t overlook a single detail—ever.
Once you’re confident everything is present and in order, you need to set up a large and accessible work area. Do not set this area up over a carpet or rug. Static electricity will damage the sensitive parts going into your new gaming PC. Remember always to wear your anti-static wrist strap, or ground yourself by touching a piece of metal.
Get Comfortable Before You Begin
Personal comfort goes a long way when building a gaming PC. Bending or reaching in odd positions increases your chances of an accident. It’s hard to be careful with a pricey graphics card when your back is in a full blown spasm. Put yourself in a position to be able to take your time, and not be sped up by your aching body.
Also, you need to have good lighting around your PC. Unless you enjoy holding a flashlight with your teeth. Most people do not, so a small adjustable light or headlamp becomes useful when building a PC.
If your workstation is clean and ready to go, then let’s talk about installing some components.
Step 4: Install Your Gaming PC Components
With everything else in order, it’s time to show you how to build the best gaming PC possible. Take a deep breath, put on your favorite tunes and remove all other distractions. You’ll begin this process by first removing all panels from your computer case. Put them to the side and out of harms way in a safe location.
Place pieces and parts on your workstation in the order you’ll be installing them. This way everything flows during the build process. At the front of the line should be your smaller PC parts, i.e., accessories.
Install PC Case Accessories (Fans, Lights, etc.)
Accessories include case fans and LED lights because you can’t build a gaming PC without LEDs right? These will be easiest to install now because this is the only time you’ll have this much room inside of the case.
When installing case fans, you want front fans drawing air in and rear fans blowing air out, as exhaust. Make sure you do not mess this up, as it can cause heat buildup inside of your PC case.
If you’re unsure which direction your fans should be facing, there is an easy way to find out. The case fan will blow air to the same side as the sticker on the motor. If you do not have a sticker, then look for the side that has visible wiring on it.
Install The Power Supply Unit (PSU)
The power supply unit goes in much easier if you install it in the beginning because it’s a bulky piece of hardware. Laying out all of your power cables now is still going to take some time, so get busy with those zip ties!
Remember, you’re going to build a gaming PC to last for years to come! An empty chassis is your best opportunity to manage wiring correctly the first time.
By installing the power supply unit first, you’ll be able to organize your cables before other parts get in the way. Do you want the best performing PC of all time or not? Of course, you do!
Here is an excellent video for you to reference on proper cable management technique.
Looks and performance go hand in hand—think of your favorite sports car.
Install The Radiator (Liquid Cooling Only)
If you’re using an air cooler for your CPU, you can skip this step.
When using a liquid cooler, you’ll have a radiator, and it’s another heavy component. Install it into your PC, while you still have room to work.
Also, where you mount your radiator is dependent on: The layout of your PC case and size of the radiator.
If you did your research and made sure everything was compatible, your liquid cooler and PC case will go together like peas in a pod. If you didn’t, and your radiator is too big to mount anywhere inside, not all is lost.
Option one, if you overlooked this not so small detail, is to return the liquid cooler and order one that fits. The incompatible part should not stop you from continuing to build your gaming PC.
Your CPU comes with a stock air cooler you can use in the meantime. If the radiator does not fit, it’s best you do not try to force it with a saw, drill, bezel or hammer.
Welcome to the future! You get free two-day shipping now—just exchange it!
Install The Motherboard I/O Shield Into The Case
The I/O shield is a thin piece of rectangular metal that came with your motherboard. It clips into the back of your computer case from the inside out.
With it, internal parts get an extra layer of protection from outside elements, by filling in small gaps between your motherboard connectors and case.
Make sure your motherboard lines up with holes cut into the I/O shield. You can avoid repeating this step when you place the motherboard into the case.
Some slackers never connect the I/O shield when building their gaming pc. You can probably tell too just by looking at their finished product!
Helpful Hint: Don’t be lazy—install your I/O shield!
Pre-Assemble The Motherboard (MOBO)
Place your motherboard on a non-static surface such as a rubber mat, or a piece of cardboard box.
Install the RAM (memory) sticks into their slots on the right side of the motherboard. Small clips on either side grab the memory stick when pushed down. Check these clips to make sure your RAM is seated evenly.
Install the CPU (Processor) by releasing the small lever, which is on the side of the CPU Socket. Once released the latch will pop open and the cover will come out. Grab the CPU by its edges, careful not to touch any of metal pins and lower it straight down into the socket.
Look for notches on the side of the CPU, also look for a tiny arrow on the corner. If you align either one of these up with the socket on the motherboard, it will fit. Once you have the CPU seated, you can lower the socket cover and push the lever down and in to secure it.
After You Install The CPU
Next, you’ll need to perform a boot test to make sure all of your PC components work without fault before bolting them into the PC case. CPU temperature will rise rapidly the moment the system is booted. To protect your CPU from any damage, it could sustain from overheating; you’ll install the heatsink next.
Apply Thermal Paste To The CPU
If your heatsink came with thermal paste on it already, and you’ve decided to use it—skip to the next step. There are a few reasons to use your own thermal paste.
You might have lost a bit if you had to remove the heatsink once already installed. Factory compound could have rubbed off before the install. Maybe you just prefer using your own thermal paste because it’s of higher quality. Whatever the reason, you need to remove compound already on your heatsink first with rubbing alcohol.
Remove and Reapply The Thermal Paste
Dampen a lint-free cloth, extra soft paper towel or coffee filter with rubbing alcohol. Rub the heatsink until all thermal paste is off—and you can see your beautiful reflection. Make sure to get any residual compound off the CPU as well if there was a previous install.
Squeeze some thermal paste out on a napkin. In case too much comes out at once, you don’t want a mess. Next, squeeze a pea-size dot onto the CPU surface; too much can be just as bad as too little.
When it comes time to install the heatsink, smash it straight down onto the dot of thermal paste. A perfectly spread layer of thermal paste will form between CPU and cooler.
Install The Heatsink
Make sure your mounting bracket is exact for your type of heatsink and CPU combo. Refer to your manual for further details.
The motherboard has four holes around the CPU socket for backplate mounts to poke thru to the front side. Once you have the backplate on the backside of the motherboard, align screws on the bracket with the backplate mounts and tighten.
Alternate twisting each screw a little at a time. By fastening your heatsink down this way, it will sit flush against the CPU. Max surface contact is vital for heat dispersion. If you remove the heatsink from the CPU for any reason, you must reapply thermal paste.
With the heatsink in place, it’s time for an initial boot.
How To Perform A Boot Test
You can skip this step if you prefer. Before you do, if there is a problem with your build, do you want to deal with it now or later? If you answered now—let’s get started.
Perform the boot test with your pre-assembled motherboard outside of PC case and on a clean, non-static surface.
Connect your monitor to the motherboard and the board to the power supply unit. Once it’s safe to do so, plug in the power supply unit to a 12v outlet and turn on the power.
When your computer boots into BIOS, without giving off any error codes, you can power it down and check this section off as complete.
Help! My Gaming PC Didn’t Boot Up!
If you did not get into BIOS, read the error message on the screen of your monitor. Another method is to listen for any beeps you get from the motherboard as an audible indicator.
These beeps are also known as POST codes. The manual that came with your motherboard will help you pinpoint any POST codes that occur.
Save yourself time by completing this step before installing the main components into your case.
Remember you’re seeking to build your gaming PC to perfection, so do not skip this step.
Great PC builders do not skip steps!
Install The Pre-Assembled Motherboard
If you look in your case, you’ll see mounting points for the motherboard. These are small threaded holes for screwing down and securing the motherboard into the PC case.
Locate tiny nut-shaped screws called risers in the same packaging as your motherboard. You could be required to screw these into the mount points first; they may come pre-installed. Check your motherboard manual if you’re uncertain.
Earlier, you were advised to manage your cables while the motherboard was out of the PC case. If you didn’t listen, you could consider wiring your PC after this point your punishment.
Put The Screws To It!
Place the motherboard down into its final resting place. Once you have everything lined up, begin tightening the screws. Do this gently; you’re building a gaming PC—not a birdhouse.
Take extra care to not drop anything onto sensitive parts of your PC—taking your time is crucial.
It’s a great idea to take a break anytime you need to step away for a bit.
Install The Hard Drive(s)
You’ll be installing any combination of an HDD (Hard Disk Drive), SSD (Solid State Drive) or m.2 Drive into your PC. An HDD and SSD rest at the front of the chassis in drive bays. Drive bays come as fixed (attached) or removable (not attached) and accept both SSD (2.5 inches) and HDD (3.5 inches).
The m.2 drive plugs into a horizontal motherboard port and can be difficult to spot if you’ve never seen one. If you can’t locate the m.2 connector, check your motherboard manual. A manual always has a labeled schematic in it. However, we included an image of the m.2 port.
Once you have either your HDD, SDD and m.2 inserted you’ll need included screws to hold them in place. The Phillips #0 Screwdriver will come into play for the m.2 drive due to the smaller screw.
Plug In The Power Cables
Plugging everything in is the unfun part of building a gaming PC. Connecting everything will be difficult if you didn’t manage your cables earlier. If you didn’t do this, then you have your work cut out for you.
Properly wired, power connectors will be right next to components, waiting to get plugged in. You’ll also need to have modular cables plugged into your power supply unit in correct ports. Ports are shaped to accept the right power cable plugs.
The Power Supply Unit should have labels for easy cable identification.
Zip ties or velcro tie-backs will be your friend, and you should use them at every opportunity. Modern PC cases have cutouts and routes for easy cable management.
If you purchased aftermarket cables or extensions, they might have come with cable combs. These are rubber bits that separate the wires into individual strands. They aren’t necessary but use them if you like the custom look they provide.
Install The Graphics Card
You’ve been waiting for this part of the build. The graphics card gives a gaming PC its purpose for living!
Find the proper slot on the motherboard for the graphics card, referred to as the PCIe x16 slot. It’s pretty easy to match with the shape of the connector on the graphics card.
Remove two metal covers on the back of the case that line up with the PCIe slot. Modern graphics cards will always require the removal of two of these covers. This grants access to input ports for various display cable(s).
Working It In Nice And Easy
You can now gently insert the graphics card into the PCIe x16 slot on the motherboard. Once it’s entirely in, a small plastic clip on will grab the graphics card at the notch on the connector.
You’ll also need to screw down the graphics card where the metal tab meets the PC case — the same location, where you removed metal plate covers.
With the graphics card installed and bolted down, plug VGA power cable(s) into the power supply unit.
Double check all cables and connectors are in their proper locations. Replace the PC case panels that were removed and stand the case up.
Step 5: Power It Up
Nothing is scarier than first pushing the power button after long hours spent building your PC. After all, you’ve paid time, effort, and patience getting to this moment; oh and money.
Once you have the power supply unit plugged into a 12v outlet, flip the I/O rocker switch in the rear to “ON.”
Hint: I is On, and O is Off.
Then, plug in your monitor and other input devices. The goal is to boot into BIOS as you did for your initial boot test.
Push the power button and watch your PC come to life for the very first time. This feeling is exclusive to PC builders. Also, pat yourself on the back for not buying one that someone else built.
Did Your PC Build Work?
Fingers crossed that you had a successful boot. If so then congrats! You’ve just learned to build a gaming PC like a pro!
If not, it happens, and you shouldn’t panic. Read error messages and listen for beeps. To find out where the issue lies, check (POST) fault codes in your motherboard manual.
If your PC boots into BIOS, you can shut it back down and prepare to install the Operating System.
Step 6: Install The Operating System (OS)
The most common operating system for the PC is Microsoft Windows, and it’s a breeze to install. Whether it came on a USB flash drive or a DVD, insert it into your PC and power it on.
Simple Steps To Install Windows OS
First, get back into BIOS to install Windows. If your computer doesn’t load into BIOS, follow on-screen prompts to get there.
Once in BIOS, look for a “boot” option and select it. On the next page, you’ll see a list of devices, including CD/DVD-ROM and USB Flash Drive. If you see UEFI in front of a device name, select this version to boot first.
Example: Flash Drive or UEFI Flash Drive (select this one)
Next, you’ll confirm, save your choice, and exit BIOS. Windows will load the Boot Manager and begin installing. You could be prompted to install a 32 or 64-bit version of Windows; you should select 64-bit.
Windows 64-bit has been installed over 32-bit, for almost 20 years. So, every PC built today is fit with this version.
Follow the screen prompts from the Windows Boot Manager and before you know it, you’ll finally be done building your gaming pc.
Congrats! You’re A PC Building Success Story!
Finally, move your PC to its new location, where it will shine like a beacon for envious console peasants. You may need help to lift and transport it from your workstation, so call a friend.
You’re now officially a member of the gaming master race! We hope that you’ve enjoyed the experience of building a gaming PC all by yourself!