Introduction: The Gaming PC

Picture of The Gaming PC

When it comes to gaming computers, the most versatile graphic cards, best built motherboards and speediest RAM are beat in a matter of weeks. Worse yet, they become obsolete to the gaming fanatic in a year. It's an expensive, addictive hobby, but someone's going to have the fastest computer out there, and so the competition continues.

This instructable shows the simple task of putting together a top-of-the-line gaming machine. Remember, this rig won't be top-of-the-line for long. It has, maybe, a few weeks in the spotlight as the fastest computer on my block. It arguably has the best graphics on the market today, its one of the best overall gaming rigs out there, and sits in a unique and versatile case that won't become phased-out for some time.

Step 1: Case

Picture of Case

Any case will do, as long as everything fits. Premium cases keep the computer colder with advanced airflow capabilities and have bigger interiors to keep everything neatly tucked away.

There are great products from Gigabyte (Aurora 3D 570) and Thermaltake (Kandalf Extreme Edition) but I chose Cooler Master's Stacker 830 Nvidia edition for it's cooling abilities and interesting design. The case has a side fan tray with four 120 x 25mm fans pushed it to the top of the list. It going to be loud, but cold. Plus the removable motherboard tray is an interesting bonus, making for a faster build and easier upgrade.

Step 2: Motherboard

Picture of Motherboard

For a gaming machine, expect to overclock the motherboard. Normally I use a motherboard that supports the Intel chipset like Intel's D975XBX2 which is in my other rig. This time however, Im choosing the nForce 680i chipset for an SLI configuration (with two graphic cards).

Since there are few alternative motherboards for this set up, I chose to stick with the Nvidia brand to boost compatibly and stability when overclocking. Also the layout of this board is extraordinarily well-designed. Just look at the way the power connectors, floppy /IDE/ SATA ports, and the front panel are located around the outer edge and close to the top of the board. The makes the wiring easy with shorter cable runs that can be bundled giving better airflow and a neat appearance.

To install the motherboard, first place the mounts onto the tray. Snap in the I/O shield. Place the motherboard over the tray line it up with the I/O shield and fasten it down to the chasse with the supplied screws. Be extremely careful not to over tighten.

Step 3: CPU

Picture of CPU

AMD held the title as the best CPU for a long time. Now it's Intel's turn with the introduction of the Core 2 and quad cores.

Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 Is the chip of choice for gaming. Make note that no games take advantage of the quad cores as of yet. If you want to future proof your rig and sacrifice a bit of speed, though, get yourself a quad core.

To install the chip, locate the CPU socket on the motherboard. Unclip the retention arm by pushing down then move it slightly to the right now lift it up. Remove the protective covering.
Now apply some thermal paste to the top of the chip and spread it evenly across the surface. Align the notch on the chip with the notch on the socket. Close the lid and lock the latch. Attach the heat sink over the top of the chip and secure it with the supplied screws.

Step 4: RAM

Picture of RAM

I realize that 4GBs of DDR2 RAM is overkill. For instance I'm currently playing Battefield 2142 which only requires 512 MB RAM. But remember that what's on the game's box is the minimal requirement for the game to run. If you want to max out the textures, shading and lighting, the overall graphic quality, then install as much RAM as you can afford --at least 2GB.

This rig is going to get two sets of paired ram. The first set is Kingston HyperX PC2-8000 and the second is Corsair Dominator 9136. Different brands are ok as long as the timings match. The lower the better. Both of these are noted at 5-5-5-15. I overclocked them to go 4-4-4-13 and its still stable.

Insert them by color code --in this case, one set in the blue sockets the other in the black. Align the notches on the ram to the notches on the socket; push until they "snap" into place.

Step 5: Graphics Cards

Picture of Graphics Cards

The most important component in a gaming PC is the graphic card. Last year I built a rig using dual ATI's Radeon X1900 in crossfire mode. It was a great system then. But today, Nvidia's 8800GTX is the fastest card available. For comparison, the Playstation3 is running a tweaked version of the Nvidia 7900 graphic card architecture, and the 8800 GTX is approximately twice as fast.

When deciding on a card look for the most RAM and cooling power, and make sure it's Direct X 10 ready. Currently Nvidia's the only one that's works in Direct X 10. Keep in mind, Ati is a formidable adversary and the tides can turn quickly.

This PC is getting two graphic cards running in SLi mode. SLI (Scalable Link Interface) is the term for Nvidia's proprietary way of getting two cards of the same model linked to share the graphics load. This will improve the rendering performance, making it up to twice as fast.

To install them look on the motherboard for three PCIe slots, two black and one blue. Using the two black ones, connect each graphic card by aligning the card notch with the hook/release handle on the socket. Lastly, screw it to the back of the removable motherboard tray. Attach the Sli connector spanning both cards on the top.

Step 6: Sound Card

Picture of Sound Card

Motherboards usually come with onboard sounds. But you aren't going to settle for the squeak that comes out of the motherboard. Even a generic sound card usually does better. The only other brand I 've used is M-AUDIO , not a bad performer. But Creative has made a name for themselves on sound cards. In fact this card is over a year old an still holding first place. The X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Professional(way to long of a name) allows you to hook up your computer to your stereo for surround sound that will wake up your neighbors.

Carefully place the card between the 2 graphic cards and seat it into the white pci slot. Align the notches and push down. It's a snug fit for this rig, but it does fit barely.

Step 7: Optical and Hardrives

Picture of Optical and Hardrives

This PC contains one optical and two hard drives. This is a good area to keep costs down because upgrades are easy and good components can come cheap.

For DVD drives, for example, even the cheapest component will do.

But when it comes to hard drives, you might want to be a bit more picky. The main drive, a Western Digital Raptor at 74 GB running at 10,000 rpm, is for speedy boot time. The other drive is a 500 GB Seagate that will handle all my gaming storage. This rig can handle way more storage. You could raid two drives together, which could increase both speed and storage, or just buy more harddrives. Since I'm only playing 2 or 3 games at a time, 574 GB total is all I require. Next time, however I'll be looking into measuring my storage in terabytes.

The install on these is straight foward.
For the DVD player, slide it in the front of the case, locking it in using the tool-less latch system.
the hard drives screw into the removable hard drive cage. Pop the cage back into the case.

Step 8: Power Supply

Picture of Power Supply

This rig is going to need a lot of juice to make it run. Not quite an entire Kilowatt, but, almost!
The Turbo-Cool 1KW-SR delivers 1000 watts (1 Kw) of continuous, power with a peak output of 1100 Watts. If you're not opting for this much power, still buy a bit more than you need in quality and power remember cheap power supplies burnout quickly without warning, sometimes frying other components with them.

Install by simply screwing it into the top back part of the case.

Step 9: Connect the Cables

Picture of Connect the Cables

Slide the motherboard tray back into the case and start connecting all the cables. Everything here has standard connectors, with corresponding socket that are keyed. Simply put, they only connect one way so you can't make a mistake unless you push really hard.

The real trick is to organize the wires so they are neat and out of the way. Use zip ties, double sided tape and Velcro to secure them down and maximize airflow efficiently.

With every component install and powered, connect the cases power switch to the motherboard and fire it up.


synchronous0987 (author)2015-05-14

I see no mention about ESD, kind of important with a 500 dollar chip don't you think?Intel has always made a better chip. AMD is just cheaper. Both produce multicore chips.

the_doctor7019 (author)2014-02-26

How much did the graphics cards cost

bmgp778 (author)2014-02-18

Thank you for sharing the information on this specific topic along with your viewers. I personally, for just one appreciate how much work you went to in putting all this together for building gaming pc. Thank you so very much.


Alex Mercer (author)2012-04-30

Mine is better..... I also used the i7 tech.

the_burrito_master (author)2011-12-21

You might lessen the load on your graphics cards and keep things cooler If you put that in the lowest pci slot.

darkmickey (author)2011-10-12

im still lost on the point of2 grafix cards 2moniters so u can multitask or wat

ottermanuk (author)2011-10-04

answer: chilled

trailleadr (author)2010-04-12

Those graphic cards are huge.  They remind me of the old CGA hercules cards in length.

nice Build!

zack247 (author)trailleadr2010-04-12

um... um... what were those used in? 1984... 84... i have never seen anything like that!

trailleadr (author)zack2472010-04-13

about that time frame.  Yep!

zack247 (author)trailleadr2010-07-30

wow. with all of those chips you would think you got better graphics than 1mb...

trailleadr (author)zack2472010-08-23

Late reply, I know. Considering the average pc back then was lucky if it could support 640k at max, the hercules was the pinnacle of hardware to be sure. Which could explain why it cost about $400-500 depending where you bought it.

zack247 (author)trailleadr2010-08-23

wow $500 for that... now people will pay $500 for about 640mb of memory

agent harmsy (author)zack2472011-01-30


MJTH (author)2008-07-19

Hey, I have a computer I bought off my mate, its pretty up to date geforce 8500, intel pentium Dual CPU @ 1.60 ghz, ACPI multiprocesser, and 4 gig of ram. It came with a seagate harddrive which had windows professional 64 edition installed and the guy said that you need to have that version to be able to run 4 gig of ram, is that true? and is there a way to go back to the normal version of XP with still running 4 gig of ram? Because nothing seems to install on the 64 edition.

Muscelz (author)MJTH2009-02-02

man, i run 8gb of ddr3 @ 2ghz under Windows XP, Windows XP knows its there, i have never been able to acheive a full mem bank ive streached over 3gb BUT Vista has alot more resources and so on and can allocate room for certain resources which would otherwise be placed in "PAGE" which is quite slow to be place in the RAM which gives your system a boost in performance, not intirely noticable but yea :/ my irritatingly fast beast Intel Core i7 965 @ 4ghz (45oC idle "liquid") ASUS Rampage II Extreme Motherboard (I7) Gainward Radeon 4870 X2 Rampage700 GS GLH Edition x2 OCZ DDR3 PC3-15000 Reaper 4x2gb 8gb total Thermaltake Sword Aluminium Liquid Cooled Case Thermaltake Toughpower 1.2Kw Modular

thepaul93 (author)Muscelz2009-08-22

xp 32 bit can only support 3gb of ram, xp 62 bit can support more. its better then running vista because vista likes to crash. just remember that 62 bit can not run everything.

Muscelz (author)thepaul932009-08-22

yea 64bit isn't known for its stability and compatibility, xp pro 32bit can take over 3gb of ram, my previous system had 8gb of ram running 32x xp pro and i was able to fill up around 4.6gig of that now i run win7 64x and i got eVGA X58 classified 1366 965 i7 eVGA 295 Co-Op edition x2 Corsair dominator GT 2ghz ram 6x2gb sticks 1kw corsair power supply

Callum Snowden (author)Muscelz2010-09-04

I run 2 desktop PC's with Core i7 processors and 8Gb RAM per computer... Networked together on a private network connection to create a tiny supercomputer... all running windows 7 64-bit...

thepaul93 (author)Callum Snowden2010-09-05

How do you do that?

Callum Snowden (author)thepaul932010-09-07

kinda long and comlpicated.... :)

Lance Mt. (author)Muscelz2010-02-27

 I'm sorry to intrude but it sounds like you've only read the box that your premade system came in.

 32bit Xp can only take 3.3. Windows 7 32bit can only take 3.3, however compatibility of 64bit windows 7 is much more helpful as it allows for much more tweaking (given you know what your doing) and has simple user-friendly ways to run non-compatible software

anarchysk8 (author)Muscelz2009-09-23

dude it says on the BOX for wondows xp up to 4gb ram unless you get 64bit but actually it can only use 3.3gb of that due to the 32bit limitations

Muscelz (author)Muscelz2009-04-13

got new cards, 2x XFX 295's

DamionLee (author)MJTH2010-07-04

This is an old post, but I feel it is important that the correct information is given in response to it, as this is still relevant today. To clear up the memory issue (which still confuses a lot of people): The 32-bit desktop versions of Windows XP/Vista/7 limit the amount of addressable physical memory to 4GB in total. This includes memory on graphics cards, sounds cards and CPU cache. (This is NOT a limit on 32-bit operating systems as so many people keep incorrectly pointing out - but a limitation of the processor. x86 processors which are enabled for Physical Address Extension can operate more than 4GB). If you have 4GB of RAM in your PC, then the 32-bit Windows XP/Vista/7 install that you have will take: CPU and motherboard Cache memory (that is Level-1, 2 and 3 memory), Graphics card memory and Sound card memory. That amount of memory will be removed from the 4GB upper limit and the remaining allowance will be used from the RAM. Any RAM that takes the computer over that 4GB limit will be ignored by the system. The use of PAE allows a 32-bit operating system to run much more than 4GB. Though Microsoft have reserved this for server editions of their software (for instance server 2003 has varieties which support up to 128GB on 32-bit).

 you can still run it with 4gb but windows xp 32bit will only optimize 3gb of the ram

bowmaster (author)MJTH2010-02-17

Upgrade the CPU. My Windows ME has an only slightly slower CPU then that.

Lance Mt. (author)bowmaster2010-02-27


          (6 months later)


zack247 (author)Lance Mt.2010-04-12

lol. i once had a off the shelf top-of-the-line packard bell that ran that. ( i think iwas purchased in the early 2000's, i still have it, but now it runs xp.
and one of my friends said in almost any computer joke, windows ME is the punchline.

bowmaster (author)zack2472010-04-13


zack247 (author)bowmaster2010-04-13

see? Windows ME makes people lol. proof.

bowmaster (author)Lance Mt.2010-02-27

I know. I just get what ver computer my parent's ghad when they buy a new one.

anarchysk8 (author)MJTH2009-09-23

well on xp you can only use 3.3gb of ram for the 32bit the 64bit allows up to 8gb but most motherboards wont allow it. the install issue might be not enough room on the hdd or since the cpu is way outdated compared to now it might not handle it and as a fail safe windows 64bit (being a business class os) wont allow it to install

fadeddeath (author)anarchysk82010-04-12

Don't forget that the memory of your video card counts towards this total so if your running a 1gig card you only get use of 2.3 gigs.

Yerboogieman (author)MJTH2008-07-24

everything works on Windows XP professional Enterprise.

MJTH (author)Yerboogieman2008-07-24

If enterprise is 64 edition.. No It doesnt, try installing visual basic, MADE BY MICROSOFT, doesnt install. Neither does any of the other Visual Studios, and some drivers dont. or is Enterprise a different type of xp.

Yerboogieman (author)MJTH2008-07-25

works fine over here.

emuman4evr (author)Yerboogieman2008-08-15

It'll work on XP 32 and 64bit. But you cant go over 4 gigs of ram, with vista ultimate you can go to 128gb of ram.

awang8 (author)emuman4evr2009-02-12

Why would you want 128 gigs of RAM? Isn't that like overkill?

tubanator-2.0 (author)awang82010-04-10

so you can run crysis at max settings like 50 times or even better bf 2 256 i think lol or just to have it in case you "need" that much lol.

anarchysk8 (author)awang82009-09-23

only servers can go over 12gb of ram due to space limitations and believe me they need it

Yerboogieman (author)awang82009-02-12

Thats exactly why!

Yerboogieman (author)emuman4evr2008-08-17

depends on the version of XP

emuman4evr (author)emuman4evr2008-08-15

oh and XP only reads that as 3gb anyways...

Derin (author)MJTH2008-08-30

wasnt Enterprise sold to well,enterprises?oh wait thats Vista...

SmAsH! (author)MJTH2010-04-01

To use more than 3.5gb of ram you need a 64bit operating system.
Stuff will run but you have to download the 64 bit version, make a note of this.

60829 (author)MJTH2009-05-12

i would get yourself a faster CPU

AnthonyV (author)MJTH2008-07-21

Depending on motherboard ram and bios u get around 3gb out of 4 in windows 32. The only way to go back is to start fresh and install a copy of windows 32. you might want to give MS a call to see if you can switch it for free

MJTH (author)AnthonyV2008-07-21

I already have a copy of 32, but say could I run a version of 32 on another harddrive, and then run like both?

ekulmeekul (author)MJTH2008-09-24

yes, you could read my earlier comment!

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