Intro: PC Build Guide
Building your own pc has an easier process with compact components better computer architecture. For about the same price as a gaming console, one can assemble their own gaming computer. There are many resources on the internet with guides on how to build your own gaming pc. I will consolidate all of my computer building knowledge and experience and guide readers through the entire process from planning to execution.
Step 1: Determine What Kind of PC You Want to Build
Computers are versatile and can be constructed and used for many purposes. Computers can be used as a home theatre with all of your movies, gaming machines to run the latest triple-A titles, or video editing computers to perform video processing. Gaming and video processing will require the most power and will be able to run movies and other word processing software with ease. Therefore my guide will mainly focus on helping new pc gamers or people who are interested in pc gaming construct a pc.
Step 2: Plan Your PC Build
Planning is the most important part of the entire process and we will discuss this topic carefully. My computer build guide will involve building the tower of the pc and assumes you already have peripherals such as a computer monitor, mouse, and keyboard. First, we must set a budget. Having a set budget incentivize you to look for deals and make sure you are purchasing the best bang for your buck. For gaming, a destitute-level gaming pc will be around $400 to $500. A budget pc will be between $500 and $700 and mid-level gaming pc will be around $700 to $1,000. If you do not already have the peripherals and are going for a budget build, local thrift-shops can be an excellent source for mice and keyboards. Mid-level gaming pc’s tend to offer the best price to performance ratio and is the general area I will use in this build. Gaming pc’s over $1000 offer the best performance with the latest top of the line products. That being said, as you pay more, price to performance will gradually fall off.
From my experience, a mid-level gaming pc will offer plenty of performance to max out most games at the current gaming standard resolution of 1080p. A key step to planning your pc will be to determine what kind of monitor you will be gaming on. A 1920x1080p monitor will not be as demanding as a 4K monitor so this part will be important.
Choosing your graphics card also complements your graphics performance. For 1080p gaming an Nvidia GTX 960 will be more than plenty to max most modern games and older games for sure. As discussed earlier, there is a curve for price to performance and I believe that it reaches its peak around the $200-$300 range. In the past, I have picked up a EVGA GTX 960 FTW edition for only $180 on amazon.com which is a complete steal. If you want to look a little more towards the future or you have a 2560x1440p monitor I would consider the GTX 970 if it stays within your budget. If you would like to explore AMD’s graphics cards, I would consider the R9 280, R9 380, and the R9 390. Different games are designed to work better for Nvidia or AMD so be sure to check which games you would like to play. AMD graphics cards generally have more video ram than Nvidia cards also. For example the GTX 970 only has 3.5GB of video ram while the R9 390, which is sometimes cheaper, has 8GB of video ram. In my experience 3.5GB has been enough to max out all of my games but there is always the option to have more. These two companies have competed heavily against each other to win over customers for years. In a competing market, the customer always benefits. This is a good thing since most of your budget will go towards your graphics card.
Your processor will be the next most important part of your build. Your processor handles all calculations and instructions handled during gameplay and general computer use. Most games these days are designed to perform optimally with a quad-core processor. Most users believe the best processor will be the most expensive processor. I would recommend checking your games specifications for the processor usage. The last thing you want is an expensive 8-core CPU and not have your games fully utilizing it. Again, AMD is competing with Intel for the best processors and I would recommend quad-core cpu’s in the $100-$200 range. Although my build has older hardware, I would recommend buying a skylake processor if you want to buy an Intel CPU. The skylake architecture provides great performance boosts over their 3-year old predecessors at just about the same cost. I will not cover overclocking processors since I have yet to experience the greatness overclocking.
Memory is probably the easiest part of the build. For budget gaming, 8GB is enough to handle all games and more. This includes Star Wars battlefront which is recommended for 16GB. Hard drives are also easy to plan. If you have a lot of spending capital, buy a solid state drive big enough to hold all of your content. Solid state drives offer great speeds by using flash memory as opposed to mechanical platter drives. If you need a lot of storage but would still like the speed I would not recommend a hybrid drive. Instead, buy a smaller SSD to boot your operating system and smaller programs like google chrome and office. Next buy a mechanical hard drive since they offer more storage for way cheaper than solid state drives. Figure out if you want to be able to host multiple operating systems or if you would like backup hard drives as well.
Your motherboard connects all of your components and makes sure they communicate properly. It has your BIOS or UEFI which allows you to change hardware configurations outside of your operating system. When choosing a motherboard be sure that your ram type and speed match your motherboard. For example if you are using Intel’s skylake processor, you will need to be sure to purchase DDR4 ram. They do not support DDR3 Memory. The only exception is this very expensive power saving DDR3 ram. Additionally be sure that your motherboard supports your ram speed. This is usually going to look like 2133 or 2240. You must also be sure to select a motherboard that supports your processor. The newest intel processors have an LGA 1151 socket and AMD’s latest is FM3+. Again, if you plan on overclocking be sure you have a motherboard that enables you to do so. This will be noted by the letter Z at the end of the name. Lastly, be sure that your motherboard will have enough sata ports to connect all of your hard drives and DVD drives.
Technology is advancing at a great rate and some parts on this list will need to be replaced sooner than others. For example your graphics card and CPU will age quickly since manufacturers release new models about every 2 years. A high quality power supply will stand the test of time and save you energy as well. There are many PSU calculators online that can give you an estimate of how much wattage you will need to power your system. I would recommend using about 5 different ones and then purchasing a power supply that comfortably fits the needs of your estimated usage. Power supplies come in 3 different varieties, modular, non-modular and semi modular. Modular power supplies have cables that detach from the main unit. This allows for a cleaner setup and color customization for cables. This option is usually more expensive. Non-modular power supplies have all of the cables sprouting from the main unit but can easily be tucked away with good cable management.
Lastly, the case. There are many factors aside from aesthetics to take into consideration when purchasing a case. Firstly, be sure that your case will be able to house your motherboard’s form factor. The standard size motherboard is called ATX. The next size down is mATX and the smallest being mini-ITX. Be sure that these match your computer case’s specifications. Also, be sure to look out for fan and water cooling options in your case. Choose what fits best for you. If you plan on using a dvd drive, make sure there is a 5.25” bay to support it. After you have chosen the amount of hard drives, ensure the case has sufficient mounting options for them.
Step 3: Build Your PC :Install CPU & RAM
Once you have ordered all of your parts, it is time to put them together. Before you begin, be mindful of electrostatic charges as they pose a threat to your computer parts. Be sure to ground yourself and to work on a table or bench.
For the first part of your build, install your process and ram. The processor is extremely fragile and must be handled by the edges. Never touch the gold pins on the bottom. There is a triangle on one corner of the processor and a similar triangle on the motherboard socket. Match these corners to ensure you place the processor correctly in the socket. Next, pull down the lever and lock it in place. The black place holder will pop out of place. Do not be alarmed! This is normal. Next plug in the cpu heatsink and fan combination that was included with the processor. This should already have thermal paste pre-applied. Simply line up the four corners and firmly press them into their holes until you hear a click. That should be the only strenuous part of the build. Next install the ram to the motherboard. Ram modules have a notch or a key in the middle to help you install them in the correct orientation. These should also click on both ends when installed properly.
Step 4: Install Motherboard & Fans
Next install your I/O shield into your computer case. Then guide your motherboard into its ports. Screw down the motherboard with the correct screws provided in your case accessories box. This is a great time to plan the orientation of your fans since you still have space to maneuver in your case.
Step 5: Install Power Supply & Hard Drives
Carefully place your hard drives into their corresponding sleds and install your power supply unit.
Step 6: Cable Management
Be sure the power supply connects to all fans and hard drives. There is also a 24-pin connector that plugs in directly to the motherboard as well as an 8-pin connector next to the CPU. This is a good time to make sure that all of your cables are tucked away neatly and do not block any air ventilation.
Step 7: Install the Graphics Card
Installing the graphics card is similar to installing RAM. Be sure to plug in the appropriate power supply connectors to power it. These cables are usually labeled with PCIe on them.
Step 8: Boot Up and Install Windows
Create a bootable USB drive for your windows installation. This step has become really easy with Microsoft’s media creation tool. This can be found at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10. Start up your pc, select boot options or boot menu. This is usually F11 or F2 depending on your motherboard. Simply select your USB and run it. Next through the setup and select “Custom Installation”. If you are using a clean drive, your hard drive will be ready for install. Simply format and hit next to start the installation process.
Step 9: Tools & Resources
Once your installation is complete, activate your license and you are ready to install your games and play! The only tool you really need is a standard sized screw driver. A Philips size 1 should be fine. I would recommend waiting for sales for all of your parts if you have the patience. All components usually drop in price at least once a month. Check out amazon.com and newegg.com computer parts. Also, be sure to find sales posted on reddit/buildapc and pcpartpicker.com. PC Part picker will allow you to see other completed builds and give you an idea on how to shape your own! Probably the biggest resource you can use if you get stuck is youtube.com. Visual aid usually helps when building things! Happy Building!