When your computer can’t meet the demands of your game, it might be time to research and find out how to build your own gaming PC. If you’re interested in taking your game to an entirely new level of customization, here’s a guide on how to build a gaming computer and create a killer rig. If you really don’t know where to start, our best specs for a gaming PC should help.
Performance and costs are directly related
The most important consideration to make is the level of performance you expect to get out of the gaming computer you’re about to build. Building a gaming PC that is still a powerful machine on a tight budget is completely practical – you don’t need to pay a premium to get solid gaming performance. However, if you are looking to push the threshold of gaming performance with cutting-edge hardware and accessories, it will cost more. No matter which route you take, you’ll need to build a gaming PC from the inside out.
How to build a gaming PC on a budget
When you build a gaming PC to save money, make sure you at least match the minimum system requirements of the games you want to play. But if your budget has room, it’s wise to account for the rising system requirements of games you will want in the future. Completing a build only to run out of space a few months later will likely be more frustrating than being killed over and over by someone camped out in your favorite first person shooter game.
Gaming PC parts
So, what do you need to build a gaming PC? Hardware is the engine of your gaming rig. It accounts for almost all the performance available– that includes the speed, responsiveness, frame rates, and running multiple apps at one time (for example, gaming while recording your gameplay on video) – other accessories and software can help and are still important, but they’re complementary and their impact is dictated by the capabilities of the hardware.
Assembly time: How to build a gaming computer
When you put all the parts and tools together, make sure you have plenty of room to keep your build organized. Be aware of static electricity as you build – it’s one of the few ways the hardware can be damaged but it’s easy to avoid. Frequently ground yourself by touching an unpainted metal surface or wear an electrostatic discharge (ESD) wrist strap to protect your system’s components from the static electricity that’s naturally present in your body. It’s also helpful to keep a can of compressed air to remove any dust or fine debris from the interface as you’re installing the processor, memory, and SSD.
For instructions on installing the processor, power supply, and putting the motherboard in the case, consult each component’s owner’s manual. The act of installation or assembling parts isn’t complicated, but there is the potential for errors. That’s why it’s best to follow the more detailed step-by-step instructions for each specific part
Step 1: Motherboard
Lay your motherboard out at your workstation.
The motherboard is the foundational hardware for any system. As such, should be the first item on your spec list. The motherboard dictates the physical dimensions and size of your PC build, and it also determines what other pieces of hardware the computer can use – a critical point because your motherboard must support the amount of performance you’d like to get out of the rig. It will further indicate what kind of storage (drives) can be installed; both the size of the drive (2.5-inch, mSATA, or m.2) and the type of interface (SATA or PCle).
Step 2: Install the CPU
Remove the CPU from its packaging, do not touch the gold pins on the bottom. Install your processor onto the motherboard by pressing firmly and following the manufacturers recommendations. Apply a pea sized amount of thermal paste if installing a heatsink. Secure the heatsink over the CPU with the 4 screws.
The processor might be the single most important component you choose for your build. Memory and storage fuel the processor which controls every data transaction within the PC. When you’re determining which CPU to install, pay attention to the gigahertz (GHz) – the higher the GHz, the faster the processor. This is important if you’re overclocking because the amount of GHz you use will rise. Overclocking is speeding up the clock cycles of the CPU to process more data transactions faster than certified by the manufacturer. It also puts an added importance on finding a proper heatsink for the processor so the higher temperatures don’t affect system health.
Step 3: Install the RAM
RAM is the easiest hardware to install when you’re building a PC. Locate the memory slots on the motherboard. Hold your memory modules on the side to avoid touching the gold pins. If your memory doesn’t have a heat spreader, also avoid touching the chips on the module. Align the notches on the module with the ridge in the slot then firmly press the module in until it clicks. As you’re pressing, note that it takes about 30 pounds of pressure to fully install a module.
Memory, or RAM, gives your processor and graphics processing unit the resources they need to perform. More gigabytes of memory equal more assets they can turn into faster system speed, seamless responsiveness, and higher framerates. Adding memory is one of the fastest, easiest, and most affordable ways to amplify the performance of any gaming rig. No matter the size of your budget, maxing out the RAM is an essential part of building a gaming PC. If you don’t already have your memory, see how much RAM you’ll need to hit your performance objectives.
Step 4: Install the motherboard in the case
Install the I/O shield into the rectangular opening of the case. Next, slide the motherboard into the case until the ports fit through the I/O shield. Once installed, secure the motherboard with the included screws into the case. Do not overtighten, this can lead to cracking on the motherboard.
The case is important in the look of your rig, but also influences the performance. If you’re planning on overclocking, it’s likely that the system temperatures will be higher than normal. As a result, a case with efficient airflow and room for adequate case fans will help extend the life of the internal components.
Step 5: Install the GPU
Slide your GPU into its slot and press until it clicks, secure with any included screws.
Video card/Graphics card/Graphics processing unit (GPU) explained
When you expect more output from your computer, you need to reinforce your system with the resources it needs to realize those expectations. Creating ultra-sharp graphics requires more memory to process all the fine details that jump off the screen –more GBs of RAM equals more graphical horsepower.
GPUs have an extremely wide price range, which could seriously inflate your expenses for the build. If you crave razor-sharp visuals that a high-priced GPU offers, be sure to give it the assets it needs to do its job: a powerful processor and plenty of RAM.
Step 6: Install the SSD
Depending on the form factor of the SSD you’ve purchased (2.5-inch, mSATA, or M.2), installation requires attaching the drive to the storage interface, then fitting it into the drive bay (if it’s a 2.5-inch SSD).
Storage drives explained
There are two choices for gaming PC storage, either a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD). HDDs use spinning platters and small mechanical parts to read and write data. HDDs generally give you more storage space (in GB), but as NAND flash technology advances, SSD capacities continue to grow.
SSDs use electrical cells to receive and send data, which allows for a more efficient boot up, better save and file transfer times, and can be up to 90% more energy efficient. A lack of small moving parts also makes SSDs more durable. Find out more about our range of solid state drives (SSDs).
Step 7: Install the fans
Install your cooling fan with any included mounting brackets. For CPU fans, ensure constant downward pressure is made with the CPU when the cam lever engages with the mounting bracket. Plug the fans into the motherboard.
Airflow is a vital consideration when building a gaming computer. If your rig is built for performance, higher power usage can create higher temperatures within the computer, and that hot air needs to be expelled from inside the machine. Many gamers add two case fans: one to add cool air into the PC, another to move warm air out of it. That’s not the only way to cool your system – add a CPU fan, a memory cooling fan, or even consider installing a water cooling kit.
Step 8: Install the power supply
Remove the power supply retaining bracket. Attach the bracket to the power supply, slide the power supply into the case until it is flush with the case.
Power supply explained
The most important part of selecting a power supply is to confirm that it provides the energy your rig needs to run. This is especially critical if you’re building a high-performance workhorse, which means you’ll need a robust power supply to make it all run. But don’t forget, higher voltages create more heat. You may need to adjust your system cooling or internal airflow.
Step 9: Attach the appropriate cables
Attach all USB, audio, GPU, CPU, drives, power supply, heatsink, and cooling cables per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 10: Plug in your peripherals
Plug in your mouse, keyboard, monitor, and headset if you have one.
If you’ve purchased a high-quality graphics card with the hardware to power it, get a monitor that’s able to produce the visuals you’re going for. A gaming mouse, keyboard, and headset add to your game by increasing the precision of your gaming dexterity with ergonomic designs. Gaming peripherals are one of the many reasons why so many gamers prefer to play on a PC.
Step 11: Flip the switch!
When your system is assembled, it’s time to hit the power button! Hopefully, everything should turn on.
Step 12: Time to Boot up!
If everything worked correctly, a screen will appear where you can enter the system BIOS. If you have a disc or flash drive with an OS, put it into the appropriate drive, boot up, and install the OS.
Operating system explained
Microsoft® Windows® is the overwhelming favorite OS for gamers, but you don’t have to be restricted to one choice. Windows 10 is great for gaming, but if your game doesn’t need to be on a Windows platform, you’re free to choose another one. It’s important to remember that you’re likely to use this computer, including the OS, for other everyday tasks, so take that into consideration when you choose an OS.
Congratulations, you learned how to build your own gaming PC! What may have seemed daunting at first — building a gaming PC— is actually so easy, even kids can do it. Get in your game, try out your new rig, and start climbing those leaderboards.