The Essential Guide on How to Build a Gaming PC
Updated: November 22,2022
According to statistics, there are currently more than 2.5 billion gamers in the world. If you are one and would like to take it up a notch and have a powerful PC for the most demanding of games, read on.
Regardless of whether you have just recently stepped into the world of gaming or have been an avid gamer for years, we’d always recommend building a PC instead of buying a pre-built one. If you’re wondering how to build a gaming PC, you have come to the right place.
In this article, we will go through the basics of creating a good gaming PC setup and tell you everything you’ll need to know. Let’s get started.
The Essential PC Components You’ll Need
As you know, to build a PC, you’ll need to get specific components. Here is an essential gaming PC parts list:
- Computer Case
- Processor (CPU)
- Random Access Memory (RAM)
- Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD)
- Graphics Card
- Power Supply Unit (PSU)
- CPU Cooler
How much does it cost to build a gaming PC? The price can vary a lot, as can the performance, depending on how much money you have to spare for each of your gaming PC’s parts. In this section, we will briefly explain the purpose of each component so that you know which ones to prioritize when building a gaming computer. We’ll also give some suggestions and explain what you should pay attention to when picking the various PC parts you’ll need.
You may approach choosing the gaming PC components in two ways:
- Pick the motherboard first, and then find the remaining hardware compatible with it,
- Select some of the parts, such as the CPU and the graphics card, and then find an adequate motherboard for them.
The computer case is essentially the “home” where all the parts for a PC are located. In other words, it’s a box where you put components of a gaming PC, including the motherboard, processor, and all of the other things on our list. While you could technically do without a case or an open test bench-style setup, it’s better to have something to shield the components.
When picking a case, you should take into account how much space you have for it. You may choose between the three usual sizes - mini-tower, mid-tower, and full-tower. If you’re on a tight budget, you can save up by selecting a cheaper case so that you have more money for the components that will directly impact your gaming experience, such as the processor and the graphics card.
The motherboard, also known as the mainboard, is an essential part that houses the other components within your case. It contains sockets, slots, and cable connectors needed to attach the other pieces of hardware.
As most computer geeks will tell you, the processor or CPU is the “brain” of any computer-based device. CPU is an acronym that stands for Central Processing Unit. The processor receives instructions from RAM, decodes the instructions, and finally executes them.
The data is temporarily stored on the processor. However, once you shut down your computer, that data is lost.
Generally speaking, the more cores a processor has, the better. For an optimal gaming experience, you should look for a CPU with at least four cores, but six or more would be ideal. That said, in workloads not optimized for multi-core work, there’s minimal benefit to be gained, but such games and apps are increasingly rare these days.
Random Access Memory
What does RAM do, and what is RAM’s role in gaming? RAM is a type of memory that allows you to run applications. Data is stored on it for a short period to enable fast access to them. Computer games typically use a lot of RAM. Just like with the processor, the information stored on RAM disappears after powering off the computer.
Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD)
When building a PC, you’ll need to make a choice between an HDD and an SSD. HDDs have existed for longer, but SSDs are becoming an increasingly popular choice due to their superior speed. As opposed to RAM, HDD and SSDs store data permanently.
The graphics card is responsible for the visual appearance of what you see on the screen. It enables you to view your game in vivid colors. This component contains a graphical processing unit (GPU) and its own RAM.
As a gamer, you should focus on purchasing a good graphics card. How much you’ll need to invest in a graphics card depends on the kind of games you play. Games such as Cyberpunk 2077 are very GPU-intensive, so if you’re interested in playing demanding games, you’ll need to look at some of the higher-end graphics cards.
Apart from your game choices, you should also consider your monitor's refresh rate and screen resolution.
Even for a simple gaming PC setup, a CPU cooler is necessary. This type of cooler is a fan that prevents your CPU from overheating. There are two types of coolers: air and liquid. The former dissipates heat into the computer case, while the latter has radiators that move the heat into the air, away from the other components.
Air coolers are generally cheaper, but liquid cooling is a better choice for enthusiast builds. You may get a cooler bundled with your processor, but they are less efficient. They will probably need to be replaced if you want to do any overclocking or intense gaming.
How to Install the Parts
Once you’ve acquired all of the essential computer parts, it’s time to install them. The steps to building a gaming PC are as follows:
Step 1: Attach the CPU To the Motherboard
Once you’ve unpacked the motherboard and the processor, you’ll need to find the socket on the motherboard where the processor goes. If you’re having trouble locating the correct spot, you should read the instructions that came with the motherboard.
There should be a metal lever that you need to pull up before installing the processor. After putting the CPU in place, you should push the lever down.
Step 2: Install the Cooler
The air cooler is a bit easier to install than a liquid cooler. If you opt for an air cooler, the first thing to do is apply a thermal paste if it wasn’t pre-applied. Then you should place the cooler onto the CPU, line up the screws, and screw it in. Lastly, you should connect the power connector to the motherboard.
Step 3: Put the RAM in Place
When installing RAM, the first thing you need to do is find an adequate slot. The motherboard can have two, three, or four slots for RAM. In the case of a motherboard with four slots, there should be two sets of two slots, and each set is typically of a different color. This is for running memory in the so-called dual-channel mode. If, for example, you have two RAM sticks, you need to put them into the same-colored slots.
Make sure that you install the RAM in the correct direction. If you try to put it backward, you can damage your RAM and the slot.
Step 4: Attach the Graphics Card
To install the graphics card, you should find an adequate PCIe slot on your motherboard. Before you attach the card, you should push the plastic notch down. Then, you need to push down the graphics card until you hear a click. After that, you need to use a screwdriver to secure the graphics card into the computer case.
Step 5: Install the Motherboard Into the Case
When you buy a motherboard, you may get an IO shield along with it. While this isn’t a necessary component, it’s certainly useful. Remember that it’s easier to put the IO shield in place first before installing the mainboard. To install the motherboard, you’ll need a screwdriver.
Step 6: Mount the HDD or SSD
Installing the storage, be that HDD or SSD, is relatively straightforward. All you need to do is screw it into the slot reserved for storage in your computer case and connect the cables to the motherboard.
Step 7: Install the Power Supply
When installing the power supply, you need to find a dedicated space for it in your case. Figuring out which cable goes where can be a bit tricky, but it’s certainly doable. You’ll have cables for each component that needs power.
Once you have built your PC, you can start buying other hardware, including a monitor, and choosing some killer speakers for your rig.
On a Final Note
In this guide to building a gaming PC, we covered the essential components, their purpose, how to choose them, and explained the installation process. Keep in mind that there might be differences in hardware according to the models you choose, so it’s always advisable to read the guides that come with each PC component or seek help from tech forums online.
Frequently Asked Questions
Initially, building a PC is more expensive than buying a pre-built one. However, building a PC is more economical in the long term. That’s because the quality of the components you buy individually will generally be better than what is inside a pre-built PC. Therefore, if you build your own gaming computer, you won’t have to buy new parts as frequently.
No, building your own PC isn’t hard. Anyone can do it. All you need to do is follow the guidelines and carefully pick the parts so that you can create the best gaming PC that you possibly can.
Yes, building your own gaming PC is worth it. That’s because you have more options for the specs of your PC since you get to choose the parts yourself.
Yes, it’s entirely possible to build a decent gaming PC for $700, but that will only get you 1080p gaming at the current market prices. You can refer back to The Essential Components You’ll Need section of this article to see what parts you should prioritize and what to pay attention to when purchasing components.
A good budget for a gaming PC is anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on what you want. The current GPU prices are seriously driving up the costs of enthusiast builds, but you should be able to get a good PC for around $1,000.
Yes, a novice can build a gaming PC. Our article explains how to build a gaming PC in a beginner-friendly way.
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A true tech and gaming savant, Ivan has been fascinated by the digital world since the early days of gaming on antiques such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore’s beloved Amiga. Whether you’re interested in the latest PC and console gaming news, antivirus software, or smartphone reviews, or simply want to learn about the newest geeky gadgets around, we at KT have you covered, and Ivan’s likely the one we’ll ask.