Believe it or not, you can build your own gaming PC that plays the latest games.
For a beginner, building a gaming PC can seem like a daunting process. And the truth is, yes, it is hard work. The main questions you might have could include:
- what parts do you need to build a PC?
- What tools do I need;
- What are the main benefits of building your own PC?
- And what is the actual building process?
This Ultimate gaming PC build guide will answer most of the questions you might have.
Why build your own gaming PC?
If you are a true gamer or simply a computer enthusiast, then I assure you that nothing compares to the satisfaction of completely building your own fully functional PC. There are many reasons why you might want to assemble your own PC, and here are a few of them:
Building your own PC allows you to improve its performance at a lower cost
By mounting your own PC, you get significantly more performance per Dollars spent than by buying a ready-made PC. You can assemble a PC equivalent to those already assembled in the shops for two-thirds of the price!
By building your own gamer PC, you can make it unique and tailored to your taste and performance expectations by selecting from an infinite number of component combinations.
Gamers know that customization is very important. By building your own PC, you can choose what you put in it and how you want it to look.
Nothing will make you appreciate the machine on which you play games, stream, listen to music, and do just about everything else you do on it, more than building it yourself.
Building your own PC will allow you to learn more about the hardware you’re using and understand each component better. And it’s definitely more satisfying than going to your local computer store and buying a pre-assembled PC with no flavor.
Putting together your own gaming PC requires a bit of research to find the exact components you want, and for that, you’re going to have to look at or read hardware reviews and ask others for advice.
It might sound like a lot of work, but you’ll have fun talking to other people, learning things, being able to fully embrace your geeky side, and getting to know all the details of what makes up your gaming PC.
What do you need to build a gaming PC?
Choosing the right parts is essential before building a gaming PC. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying the most expensive core components, such as the CPU or GPU – at the cost of neglecting components like the RAM or the PSU (“Power Supply Unit”).
To make the process easier, here’s a list of basic components and how to choose the right options for your needs.
As its name suggests, the motherboard is the nerve center not only of a good PC but also of any computer in general. It is a key part that must be chosen with great care, bearing in mind that it should allow you to upgrade your machine when it is no longer able to run the next games, when your graphics card is no longer powerful enough, for example.
The choice of motherboard is conditioned by:
- its format (mini-ITX, micro-ATX, ATX, and e-ATX),
- its socket, i.e., the brand of processor it will house (Intel or AMD),
- its chipset as well as its slots,
- the connectors and expansion ports which are used respectively to connect the RAM memory bars, the hard disk(s)
- And finally, the graphics card(s) as well as other secondary components such as the sound card or the network card.
As we mentioned earlier, it is crucial to take into account the evolutionary potential of your future motherboard in order to avoid having to start on a new configuration in 6 months. Unless you have an unlimited budget, and even then…
The processor is the brain of a computer. Its impact on performance in games is not as important as it used to be, but it remains an important choice to make, which will also influence other parts, like your cooling system and your motherboard.
While Intel has long dominated the market, in 2021, it is clear that AMD is the one with the most momentum with its Zen 3 architecture. Both brands offer good options; however, if you buy the best model available or if you opt for a more affordable one; Note that this is a part that doesn’t really degrade over time.
The Graphics Card
The graphics card is the part that will have the biggest impact on the performance of your games. It dictates the resolution you can play at, the smoothness of your games, and the quality of the graphics. It’s also the hardest to get right these days. Here again, there are two main families: NVIDIA cards and AMD (RX 6000 series).
The world has been experiencing a shortage of graphics cards for months, so this component will be the hardest to find at the moment. To choose the right graphics card for you, you need to consider your budget, the resolution of your screen, the quality of the graphics you expect, and the refresh rate you want to play at.
RAM (Random Access Memory)
RAM is the element that allows the processor to store data temporarily so it can be accessed quickly. The higher the number of RAM you have, the faster the software will run. The current generation of processors must be equipped with DDR4 memory, a technology that came on the market a few years ago and whose price has nevertheless dropped considerably.
Some people claim that 8 GB is enough, but the whole point of building a PC is not to have to close Chrome every time you start a game. Go for at least 16 GB, ideally 32 GB or more.
Note: it is better to have 2 x 16 GB memory sticks than 4 x 8 GB sticks since you can more easily add memory later, and their resale value will be higher.
RAM for video games is mainly sold with a speed of 3200 MHz to 3600 MHz.
Going to Buy RAM? Learn more about How to choose the right RAM for your desktop or laptop PC
Storage disk (Hard drive)
For storage, avoid hard drives, which will slow down your computer considerably. Instead, you have two choices: an SSD, or an NVMe array, a small memory chip that installs directly on the motherboard in an M2 port, without having to be connected to a SATA port and your power supply like an SSD.
An NVMe array is – by far – the preferred option for storage in 2021. It’s easier to plug in, cleaner to install (since you don’t have to deal with cables), and the fastest solution on the market. The only downside is that motherboards have few compatible ports (from 1 to 4 on average), so you won’t be able to constantly add more over time as was possible with SSDs. As for capacity, if you plan to play games, 1TB seems to me to be the minimum since some games can reach 150GB. A 500 GB drive is too quickly filled.
Power Supply box (Power supply unit)
The power supply is what provides the electrical current to the different parts of your computer.
The main feature of a power pack is its power. Your needs can be estimated with various online calculators, but graphics card manufacturers also have minimum suggestions, which are usually higher. You will also need to choose its efficiency, identified with the help of the 80 Plus program. In short, an 80 PLUS Titanium case will be more efficient than a Gold, which in turn will be more efficient than a Silver, then a Bronze. The more efficient the PSU, the less power you will lose, but the more you will pay for it.
The cooling system (ventirad)
Your processor will need cooling; Without cooling, it will overheat at the first opportunity. Note that while processors used to come with their own heat sinks and fans, this is no longer generally the case. You will therefore need to buy one.
Two main cooling systems exist for computers:
- Air cooling;
- or water cooling.
If a liquid cooling system used to be complex to install, this is no longer the case in recent years, thanks to all-in-one systems. These are not very expensive (at least, considering your overall budget), and they offer maximum cooling. This means that your processor will be able to run at its peak performance for a long time.
When buying one, make sure you get a model whose size is compatible with your case. This one must also be compatible with the format of your processor.
The case needs no introduction: it’s the room where your components will be housed. Obviously, choose a case with a design you like, especially if you plan to have your computer in view. Ideally, choose a model with easily accessible ports on the front and that is compatible with the components you want to use.
Also, make sure that its size is compatible with your motherboard’s form and that it’s big enough for your graphics card. Personally, I also like cases that make it easy to place cables under the motherboard, which means that both sides of the case are removable, which makes for a cleaner case with better ventilation.
The tools needed for PC building.
If you don’t have these tools on hand, don’t worry. There are many suppliers of electrical/electronic tools, and they can be purchased at a relatively low cost in supermarkets or home improvement stores.
- Anti-static wrist strap: This will help disperse static electricity that may build up.
- Screwdriver: This is the most commonly used tool in PC assembly and repair.
- Cable ties: If necessary, to keep things in order, it is advisable to tie the cables inside the PC case.
- Mini cutter: Useful for all sorts of things, the cutter is especially handy when you are using cable ties, which need to be cut off cleanly.
- Flashlight, torch, or headlamp: It can get dark inside a PC case, especially once everything is set up.
- Pencil and paper: It will be easier for you to take notes of important settings and options when assembling or disassembling your machine.
- Plenty of time, take your time: When assembling a PC, you should always take your time.
How to build a PC: Complete and detailed step by step guide
Here are some important things to know before you start:
- Make sure you have a tidy flat space (desk) to start with and get organized.
- Keep all papers, cables, and screws from the same component together but don’t mix them up.
- Don’t hesitate to look at the explanation manuals that are given with the components if you have any doubts.
Step 1: Mount the processor in the motherboard
To begin, you must mount the processor in the motherboard. To do this, uncheck and lift the small iron rod next to the processor and pass it to the other side to open the protection.
Then place the processor in the reserved slot and close the cover by folding back the iron rod to its original position.
Step 2: Place the fan tray (ventirad)
Once the processor is in place, you will have to place the ventirad. The method of attachment can vary from one ventirad to another, there may be a bracket to aim at, or it is sometimes possible to clip it.
Step 3: Install the RAM on the motherboard.
Installing the RAM should not be a problem for you. If the installation of the memory sticks is not very complicated, we strongly recommend that you refer to your manual.
Step 4: Fix the motherboard in the case
The motherboard is almost ready, and we will finish filling it with the graphics card after the PC assembly.
- Open the case and lay it down; it will be easier to work with.
- Remove the original cover (protections) on the motherboard connectors if present.
- Check the presence of the positioning (fixing) spacers on the motherboard slot.
- Now, Insert it so that the external connectors fit properly.
Step 5: Place the graphics card
Now it’s time to finish mounting the components on the motherboard and insert the graphics card. Start by removing the plastic pieces that are on the graphics card.
To install the graphics card:
- Locate the PCI slot closest to the processor where the graphics card will be installed.
- Remove the covers (protections).
- Insert your graphic card (do it until you hear a clip indicating that the lock is engaged).
- Screw it down for a secure fit.
Step 6: Place the power supply
We can now continue assembling the PC and move on to placing the power supply, which we will connect next.
- Take the PSU, and place it in its slot located generally at the bottom or top of the case.
- The power supply is generally delivered with 4 cross-headed screws for its fixing at the back of the case.
Step 7: Connecting the different cables
The order in which the different connectors are attached does not really matter. For a clean result, you just have to be logical and avoid crossing the cables.
Step 8: Connecting the case fans and the front panel
We will take this opportunity to connect the external fans of the PC to the motherboard. Locate the cables that are connected to the case fans. The fan connectors are 3-pin connectors that you will connect to the “sys-fan” ports on the motherboard.
Let’s move on to the front panel connections. These are all the cables with small tips coming out of the front of the case. To connect them, refer to the diagram in the manual of your case; the connections may vary from one case to another.
Finally, we finish this PC assembly by connecting the hard disk(s) or SSD to the motherboard. To do this, you simply use the SATA power cords and the SATA data cables.
Step 9 (Final Step): Check that everything works.
Now we have finished installing everything on our PC (unless you have additional components like a wi-fi card.), and we are going to make sure that everything works. Don’t close the case yet.
Connect the external power cable to the mains and press the power switch. Normally, if you have everything connected properly, the PC should turn on, and all the fans should be running.
The great thing about a gamer setup is that it’s synonymous with “good components, well cooled.” It’s a perfect mix to look ahead and plan for a 5-to-10-year expense. If you start with a high-end graphics card today, you won’t see the limits of it for another 4-6 years – and even then, under extreme conditions, which will have made you change everything else in your setup anyway (an 8K display?).