You might be thinking about getting into PC gaming, but you have no idea how to build a gaming PC. Maybe you’re just tired of lag, poor graphics, and choppy gameplay on your current machine. Perhaps you’re looking to save some money on games. Or maybe you just want the satisfaction of knowing that you built your own PC from scratch.
No matter your reasons, building a PC for gaming by yourself is a rewarding experience. Not only will you end up with a machine that’s perfectly tailored to your needs, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you built it yourself. That experience is not something you will get with a pre-built gaming PC or a console.
Building a gaming PC can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t know much about computers. That’s why we will be walking you through the entire process step by step. We’ll explain what to look for when choosing components to what OS to choose. By the end of this article, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to set up your perfect PC gaming rig.
Step 1: Tools of the Trade
Having the right tools and enough space when building a computer is essential. If you don’t have the necessary tools, you may not be able to complete the build or could end up damaging your components. Likewise, if you don’t have enough space, you’ll get a cluttered work area that makes the build process more difficult.
Don’t even start assembling your PC if you don’t have suitable screwdrivers. Most often, the ones you need are for Philips head and slot-headed screws. Make sure to have a selection of smaller-sized screwdrivers and some medium-sized ones, as you will have to work with screws of different sizes.
If you need a more specialized screwdriver like the Allen wrench or hex key, you should get the appropriate tool with the component requiring it. Mostly it will depend on the design of your case.
Use a Desk Lamp
Make sure to build a gaming PC in a well-lit area. This will be essential when trying to locate various ports and connect cables. If you don’t have a suitable space, a desk lamp can also help provide extra light to work by.
Anti-Static Wrist Strap
You will need an anti-static wrist strap when building a PC. This is to prevent static electricity produced by your body from damaging your components. It is best to use one with alligator clips to ground it easily. You can also use an anti-static mat if you don’t have a wrist strap.
If you don’t have an anti-static wrist strap or mat, you can still build your own gaming PC by taking the necessary precautions. These include not wearing any synthetic clothing and touching a metal object to discharge any static electricity on your body before handling any components.
Zip Ties and Cable Snips
After you’ve installed and connected all the components, you will need to tie any excess cables. This is to avoid having a messy-looking gaming rig and also to improve airflow inside the case by clearing the clutter.
You will also need cable snips to cut off the excess length of the zip ties.
You’ll need to use thermal paste when installing the CPU. This is to help improve heat transfer between the processor and the cooler and prevent the overheating of your components. The thermal paste increases the surface area in contact by filling any irregularities and provides increased temperature conductivity, lowering temperatures under load.
Some coolers come with pre-applied thermal paste. If you choose to apply your own, make sure to use a pea-sized amount in the center of the CPU and remove the pre-applied paste with paper towels, cleaning the surface afterward with alcohol and a piece of cotton.
A Tidy Working Surface
So how to build a computer without making a mess? You will need to have a clean work area with a flat surface. This is to avoid losing any small screws or damaging your components.
It is also helpful to have a place to store all the manuals and driver discs that come with your components. This way, you can easily reference them when needed.
Step 2: Choosing the Right PC Components
So, what parts do you need to build a computer, and how to know you’re buying the right ones?
When choosing PC hardware, it is important to select parts that will give you the best value for your money. You don’t want to spend too much on high-end parts and then skimp on essential ones that will affect the performance of your gaming PC. Some components can bottleneck others, so it is crucial to choose the right ones that will complement each other.
You also need to ensure that your selected components are compatible and can fit your case. Your motherboard’s manual will have all the necessary information on what hardware it supports.
Component size can influence what case you will get and vice versa. Some PC building enthusiasts like making tiny builds but not skimping on performance, while others like having enough room to make a well-cooled or visually stunning build with a glass case cover and RGB lighting.
Whatever you decide, we will cover all of the essential components to build a gaming PC.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The processor is the brain of your gaming computer build. It handles all the calculations and processes needed to run your games and other applications. When choosing a CPU, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Clock speed: This is measured in GHz and denotes how many calculations per second the processor can perform. The higher the frequency, the better the performance of your CPU.
- Cores: This is the number of physical cores that the processor has. More cores can handle more tasks at once, which can be helpful for multitasking and running demanding programs.
- Threads: These are like virtual cores that share resources with the physical cores. Having more threads can improve performance in certain programs.
- Cache: This is a small amount of super-fast memory that the processor uses to store frequently used data. A larger cache can help improve performance.
- TDP: This stands for Thermal Design Power and is the maximum power that the processor can consume. It is important to choose a cooler that can handle the TDP of your processor.
- Socket: When choosing a CPU, you must pay attention to what socket type the processor uses, as that will determine what kind of motherboard you’ll need to get for it.
The motherboard is the backbone of your computer and one of the more important gaming PC parts on our list. It connects all the components together and lets them communicate with each other. When choosing a motherboard, you have several factors to consider:
- Socket type/Chipset: This determines what generation of processors the motherboard is compatible with. Intel processors have typically needed a new socket more often than AMD in recent years, so as an AMD user, you may be able to get more mileage out of an older motherboard with BIOS updates.
- Form factor: This is the size of the motherboard and can influence what case you get. The most common form factors are ATX, mATX, and mini-ITX.
- Memory slots: Typically, motherboards have four RAM slots, but they can go up to eight for high-end or server-focused models.
- Expansion slots: These are used to install graphics cards, sound cards, and other expansion cards.
- Ports: You will need enough USB ports for all your devices and peripherals, and most motherboards will have more than enough. The motherboard also has a video port. DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI are the most common types you will find, but since your PC build will include a graphics card, you likely won’t use it much.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
To have the best computer build, you will need a powerful GPU. The graphics card is responsible for generating the image on your screen. It’s an essential piece of gaming hardware needed for graphically demanding programs such as games. When choosing a GPU, you need to consider the following:
- Clock speed: Measured in MHz and denotes how fast the GPU can render the graphics onscreen. The higher the clock speed, the smoother your gaming framerate will be.
- Memory: This is measured in GB and is used by the GPU to store shadows, textures, and depth buffers. A larger memory can help improve performance with high-resolution textures as it can store more graphics data. This leads to better-looking graphics, but be aware that running out of VRAM can cause severe throttling. At least 4GB is recommended, but you’ll be better off with 8GB these days, especially in higher resolutions.
- Video Ports: The number and type of ports on the graphics card. The most common port is HDMI, but you will also find DisplayPort and even DVI ports at the back of most modern video cards.
- Size: Just like with the motherboard, you’ll need to consider the size of your graphics cards. Some triple-fan GPUs are total space hogs and will require a sizeable motherboard and computer case to fit comfortably.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
RAM is a type of memory used by applications to store data in use. It’s among the essential parts needed to build a gaming PC, and it’s important for gaming and other demanding programs. When choosing RAM, you need to consider the following:
- Speed and Latency: This is measured in MHz or GHz and denotes how fast the RAM can send data to the processor. The higher the clock speed, the faster the RAM will be able to process read and write data requests from the CPU. Your motherboard user manual will have the information on the highest supported speed.
Be aware that there is also Column Address Strobe latency or CAS, which tends to have an inversely proportional relationship with memory speed. It represents the delay in clock cycles between the READ command and when the data becomes available. This is why some super-fast DDR5 memory is not really any faster than solid DDR4 RAM with lower CAS latencies.
- Capacity: This is measured in GB and denotes how much data the RAM can store. You will need at least 8 GB of RAM to run Windows 10 without issues; go for 16 GB or more for gaming.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
As its name implies, the power supply unit supplies power to all parts of a PC. When choosing a PSU, you need to consider the following:
- Wattage: This is the maximum amount of power that the PSU can supply. It is crucial to choose a PSU that can handle the power requirements of all the components in your gaming PC, especially if you have a power-hungry GPU.
- Modularity: This denotes whether the PSU is modular or not, meaning that you can attach power cables separately and not clutter your case with surplus cables. Modular power supplies help improve airflow in the case and make cable management easier.
- PSU Certification: This is a voluntary certification program that power supply manufacturers can choose to go through. It tests the PSU to see if it meets certain standards, such as energy efficiency, and how it will perform under certain conditions. Considering how much is on the line if something goes wrong with your PSU, you’ll definitely want a certified PSU.
Your storage drive is where you will install all your games, programs, and other data. When choosing a drive, you need to consider its read and write speed. M.2 SSDs are the fastest type of solid-state drive; when looking for parts to build a gaming PC that will make you proud, M.2 drives should be the go-to choice.
Using an SSD will help your system boot up faster and load games more quickly. However, remember that SSDs are more expensive than HDDs (hard disk drives). If you want to save some money on the storage capacity of your PC, adding an HDD (for storage, at least) could be a good solution. Having at least one SSD for your operating system and games is the way to go, though.
Your case is what will hold all your components together and protect them from dust and other environmental hazards. Before you build a computer and choose your case, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Size: This refers to the case’s form factor and needs to match your motherboard. The most common size for a gaming PC is ATX, but you will also find smaller or larger cases.
- Material: The most common materials are steel and plastic, but there are also cases with glass side panels.
- Cooling: This part is about the number of fans the case can accommodate and how good the airflow is. Good cooling is important for a gaming PC as it can help prevent components from overheating.
Operating System (OS)
The operating system is the software that runs on your gaming PC and allows you to interact with all your other software and hardware. The most common operating system for gaming PCs is Windows 10, but you can also find Linux-based operating systems.
Our recommendation is to install Windows 10 or 11 rather than installing Linux. It’s much simpler for beginners, and you don’t have to be as tech-savvy. Linux is definitely a potential future of PC gaming, but for now, stick with the present.
Assemble and Prepare the PC Case
One of the most important steps when building a gaming computer is assembling the PC case. This involves putting all the components together and ensuring that they are properly secured. It is important to do this before installing the OS, as any errors during the assembly process can cause problems later on and waste your time trying to correct the issue. Here we cover some of the things you should look out for when assembling the PC case.
The motherboard standoffs are what hold it in place inside the case. Make sure that you install the correct number of standoffs for your motherboard and in the right places. If you install too many, the excess standoffs can short circuit your motherboard and cause damage. If you install too few, the motherboard will not be properly secured and can wobble around inside the case, which can also cause damage.
If you are not sure where to place standoffs when you build a gaming computer, place the motherboard over the area where they should be installed and mark their location with a pencil. Then remove the motherboard and screw in the standoffs. Be careful not to overtighten the standoffs, as this can strip the threads and make it difficult to remove them later.
Case Cable Management
How to build a gaming PC and avoid the jumble of cables making it look messy? With good cable management, of course. It’s an important part of building a gaming PC. Not only does it make your PC look tidier, but it can also improve airflow and prevent damage to your components.
When routing cables inside the case, be sure to route them away from any areas where they could be pinched or cut. Also, try to avoid routing cables over sharp edges as this can damage the insulation. If possible, use zip ties or velcro straps to secure cables in place. This will help prevent them from moving around and causing damage.
Install Additional Cooling Fans
If your case did not come with any pre-installed fans, or if you want to add more of them for better cooling, this is a relatively easy task. Most cases will have mounting points for additional fans, so be sure to check where these are before making a purchase.
When installing the fans, be sure to pay attention to the direction of the airflow. Also, make sure to connect the fans to the correct type of header on the motherboard when you finish setting up the rest of the hardware. Some headers are for 12V DC fans, while others are for 5V DC fans.
Motherboard and CPU Installation
The motherboard and CPU are two of the most important parts needed to build a gaming PC, and this step is one of the most sensitive ones. If they are not installed correctly, it may damage the components.
Securing the Motherboard
When installing the motherboard, be sure to check the orientation of the CPU socket and align the component properly with the standoffs on the case. Once you find the appropriate position, gently lower the motherboard down and use the screws that came with it to fasten it in place. Be careful not to overtighten the screws, as you can damage the motherboard or make it harder to remove afterward.
You also need to place the motherboard’s I/O shield. This will reduce the amount of dust that will accumulate in your case and also help to protect the ports on the back of the motherboard.
Installing the CPU
To install the CPU, first remove the plastic cover from the CPU socket. Then, align the processor with the socket and gently lower it down into place. Make sure that all of the pins are properly aligned. If they are not, do not force them down, as this can damage both the processor and the CPU socket.
You will see a small triangle in the corner of the CPU that notes what corner of the processor should be placed on the similarly marked corner of the motherboard socket. When handling the CPU, make sure to hold it by its side and don’t touch the pins. If you do, you can misalign them and make it impossible to properly install them in place.
Once the CPU is in place, you need to lock it in place with the metal lever on the side of the socket. The lever should snap into place when it is in the locked position.
How to build a computer without damaging the CPU? If you’ve followed our guide above, congratulations – you’ve just done it.
CPU Cooler Installation
The installation process for the CPU cooler will vary depending on the model, so be sure to consult the instructions that came with it. However, if you are installing the cooler that came bundled with the processor, the installation process is usually pretty straightforward.
If you are applying the thermal paste yourself, place a small pea-shaped amount on the top of the CPU. Most often, you don’t have to spread it perfectly, as the pressure of the installed cooler will do the job and ensure an even spread anyway.
Once you have applied the paste, you can install the cooler’s fan and clip it into place. Make sure to connect the power cable to the CPU cooler power outlet located close to the socket.
If you’ve applied too much, you will need to clean it up since it may spill over and cause a short circuit. A thin coat between the cooler and the CPU is all you need.
Remember that most stock CPU coolers will come with a layer of thermal paste pre-applied. This will provide enough heat conductivity for your processor.
To install the stock cooler, remove the plastic cover from the CPU. Next, align the cooler with the socket and gently lower it into place. Make sure that all four corners are properly secured before moving on.
RAM is among the easiest gaming PC parts to install, but you should still take the time to do it properly. Unlock two small clips on either side of the motherboard’s DIMM slot. Align the notch in the bottom edge of the RAM with the one in the slot, and then insert it at a 90-degree angle.
Once you have inserted the stick into the slot, push down on it until you hear a clicking sound. This indicates that the clips have locked into place and secured the RAM module.
To get the most out of your RAM, install it in dual-channel mode, meaning that you will use the first and the third slot or the second and the fourth slot. To do this, you need to put the same amount and type of RAM in each of these slots.
Install Storage Drives
M2.NVMe storage drives are installed at the back of the motherboard. Depending on your case, you will be able to attach them after you’ve fastened your motherboard in place. Check if your case is built that way before proceeding with the installation.
Once you’ve done that, find the M2.NVMe slot and use a screwdriver to loosen the screw that will hold the storage device in place. Align the drive with the slot and insert it at a 30-degree angle. Push down the disk and use the screw to secure it in place.
If you have other storage drives, you need to connect them to SATA ports on the motherboard. The process is even more straightforward as you just need to connect the SSDs with the SATA cable that you got with the motherboard to the appropriate ports.
Your case will have dedicated slots for securing your storage dives, and all you need is to lock them in place or slide them into the appropriate slot.
Add the GPU
Adding a GPU is one of the simplest steps of the DIY PC build process. Start by placing your card over the PCIe slot to see where it will line up with the case and the other components. That’s a horizontal slot that’s beneath the CPU. Then remove the back cover from the case where GPU’s video outputs will be located.
Once you’ve done that, align your GPU with the slot and gently insert it at a 90-degree angle. Once you feel that it is adequately in place, push down on it until you hear a click. To secure it further, use the screws that came with the case or the graphics card. Especially with bigger and heavier models, it’s important to use these screws to avoid damaging the PCIe slot or your graphics card over time.
Connect the Power Supply
Properly connecting the power supply is essential when you build a gaming PC, as doing so poorly can seriously damage your components. Be sure to use the cables that came with your PSU. There should be a set of cables for each of the components, and here is the list of the ones you’ll need to connect:
- Graphics Card
- Storage Drives
Most power supplies have marked cables for each component they are intended to be used with. Note that the CPU’s power supply is provided through the motherboard, and the power input will be there, too.
Keep in mind that depending on the power requirement of your GPU, you may need to connect multiple cables to it. You will notice among your power cables that there are different ones marked VGA (video graphics adapter) that have six and eight pins. A combination of these cables will be needed, and the exact configuration will depend on the wattage of your GPU.
As for the storage drives, they will need to be powered through SATA cables that came with your power supply (or the power is provided directly by the motherboard in the case of M.2 disks). These cables are easy to connect as they only fit in one way.
Now that all of your components are properly powered, you can go ahead and connect the 24-pin power connector from your power supply to the motherboard: it is typically located near the top left corner of the motherboard.
Now you’ve done everything you need to build a PC internally, but your job is not quite done yet.
The next thing you need to do is connect your peripherals. This includes your keyboard, mouse, monitor, and any other devices you may want to use with your PC.
To connect your keyboard, mouse, and a PC controller, you will need to use USB ports located on the back of the case. If you have a wireless keyboard and mouse, you will need to connect the wireless receiver to one of these USB ports.
As for your monitor, you will need to connect it to the graphics card using an HDMI or DisplayPort cable. If your monitor does not have these inputs, you may need to use a converter or change the cable you are using.
Speakers or quality gaming headphones are also an essential part of a great gaming experience, and you will need to connect them to the appropriate audio port. Depending on what speakers or headphones you have, you will need to use the green 3.5mm jack or a USB port.
The final thing that’s left is to connect your PSU and monitor to a power outlet.
Install the Operating System and Software
Once everything is connected, you’ll need to install the operating system and software. The process of installing the OS will vary depending on what you are using. For example, if it is Windows 10, you can use a USB drive to install it. If the Windows installation USB isn’t booting up, you’ll need to change the boot drive priority in BIOS.
After the operating system is installed, you need to install drivers for all of your components. This includes the motherboard, CPU, graphics card, and other devices. These drivers can be found on the manufacturer’s website or on the included CD.
Once the drivers are installed, you can install any other software you’ll need. This may include anti-virus protection, game clients, and other programs.
Congratulations! Now you know how to build a PC for gaming, and you need to test it out!
Test Your New Gaming PC Build
The best way to test your machine is by playing a variety of different games and seeing how it performs. If you find that some games are lagging or not performing as well as you’d like, you can try adjusting in-game settings or check if there are newer drivers online for your GPU.
You can also overclock your CPU and GPU if they support it, which can give you a performance boost. Just be sure to stay within safety limits to avoid damaging your components.
And that’s it! You now have a fully functioning gaming PC that you’ve built yourself. With a little bit of practice and patience, you’ll be an expert at building PCs in no time!
Is it hard to build your own gaming PC?
Getting to build your own computer for the first time can seem overwhelming. However, as long as you take your time and follow the instructions carefully, it’s not as difficult as it may seem. Most components have comprehensive instructions.
Your motherboard’s manual is a great spot to start. Plus, there are plenty of resources available online if you get stuck or need help along the way.
How much does it cost to build an okay gaming PC?
It will depend on what kind of gaming performance you are looking for from your own rig. A top gaming rig can easily cost you over $2,000 and more. Some parts for a gaming PC are pretty expensive, especially if you want to buy some of the best graphics cards on the market.
A more balanced solution may be more affordable (sub-$1,000), but due to the current chip shortages, even the best value-for-money cards from the latest generation of GPUs are still selling for way over MSRP.
That said, an Xbox Series S or a great handheld console such as a Nintendo Switch will be a far more affordable solution until things settle down a bit.
What do you need to build a gaming PC?
You’ll need hardware components such as CPU, GPU, motherboard, RAM, storage, power supply, a CPU cooler, and a case. You will also want a copy of the Windows operating system and drivers for all of your components.
Once you have all of these things, you can start putting your PC together! Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully and take your time. Rushing through the process can damage or even destroy your components.
How do you build a gaming PC step by step?
In our guide, we explain in detail how to build a gaming PC step by step. It’s important to be patient and take your time, as rushing may lead to costly mistakes.
First, you’ll need to gather all of the necessary hardware components. This includes a CPU, GPU, motherboard, RAM, storage, power supply, case, and cooling system. You will also need a copy of the Windows operating system and the right tools for the job.
Make sure to check the motherboard’s user manual to see if the rest of the components are compatible with it and for details on how to install each part.