Before you start to build a PC, you’re going to need the parts. The first thing you need to decide on is how powerful of a system to build and how much you plan on spending. As a rule of thumb I usually spend about 300$ for the video card and CPU each. Remember, computers are like snowflakes, everyone builds with different brands or parts they like, so let’s begin.
What Core Components Will You Need to Build a System?
The processor, or CPU, is the brain of the PC.
The motherboard is a large circuit board which everything connects through. Those looking to push their system to the limits will want to look for motherboards with lots of overclocking features.
Memory is needed for programs to run. The more the merrier, but I recommend 8GB x2 for starters.
This is the box all the parts are installed into. I usually go with a nice large case with decent fans inside. Bigger fans are generally better as they don’t need to rotate as much which means more air less noise.
The power supply unit provides power for all your devices. It also determines how many video cards and storage devices you can sustain.
Storage is needed for files, games and the operating system. In the past storage was only in the form of a hard disk drive (HDD), but it now includes solid state drives (SSD) which offer faster boot and load times and are equally more expensive per gig.
This is the basic software to run all your games and other applications. If this is going to be your first system, Windows 7 or 10 is a good starting point.
The video card is your link from Monitor to Motherboard. Video cards will have the greatest effect on your gaming performance. So don’t skimp here.
This required add-on cools your processor. Check your processor to confirm if one is already included. Third party heatsinks and fans often perform better, but you may run into space limitations inside your case.
Picking the right monitor for gaming usually means looking for a fast refresh rate, and the resolution you like to see your games in. If your video card has FreeSync or Gsync, try to match them up with a supporting monitor. The hot setup right now is 2560×1440 Resolution with 144 Hz refresh rate, but these numbers are always growing.
I recommend finding a comfortable mouse for your hand with buttons you can press without having to think about it. I like Logitech for mice, but Razer and Corsair make fine mice too.
The keyboard is also about comfort and feel. A lot of people go with mechanical keys and LED lights to type in the dark.
Matching Up Components
The best way to match up parts is to play the game of match up. You just need to match them up, like processors to right motherboards or memory to motherboards. Check the speed. Chances are it will be listed in the description. When it comes to CPU fans the same rule applies. This time it’s the socket type which matters most. While matching socket types should work 95% of the time, there are still some incompatible products out there. So it doesn’t hurt to check the reviews and look at other peoples systems before committing to a build.
Here are some simple connections to look out for:
- Processor —-> LGA 1150 <—- Motherboard
- Motherboard DDR3 —-> 1866 <—- Memory
- Processor —-> LGA 1150 <—- CPU Heatsink/Fan
- Motherboard —-> PCIe 3.0 <—- Video card
- Case —-> ATX <—- Motherboard
Building Your PC
Once you have all the parts in hand, it’s time to get to building. Usually the first thing I do is test the system outside of the case to make sure all the parts are working together. I set it up on the motherboard box along with the static bag and foam to place the motherboard on. Then add your memory, CPU, CPU heatsink and video card. Attach the wires from the PSU. I usually fire it up one time to make sure I don’t see any errors. I then remove the video card and get ready to place the whole thing into the case.
Memory is one of the easiest parts to install. Start by pushing open the two tabs on either side of the slot. Look to the memory guide to check if it’s in the right direction. Push down until you hear a click and make sure the tabs close. Once it’s in, repeat the steps for any additional memory.
Installing the CPU
Most CPUs today don’t have pins. In fact the connector pins are now often located on the motherboard itself. Always check the directions provided by both the motherboard and CPU to be accurate. For the most part you unlock the CPU bar, open the CPU door, place the CPU in the right direction (arrows marked on both will help you line it up), close the door and lock the bar down. Mounting the heatsink is also dependent of your hardware, but it generally connects through the 4 holes closest to the CPU socket. Usually this is done through screws or locking/twisting plastic pins. Remember to plug the CPU fan into the motherboard. There should be a CPU fan connector near the CPU.
Preparing Your Case
You need to mount some standoffs inside your case. Standoffs are small brass spacers to match up accordingly with the screw holes on your motherboard. Make sure to only add them where screw holes are present. Some PC cases also include pinouts for the small wires to attach to the front. These are simple LEDs and switches which allow you to turn your machine on from the outside. Your motherboard box will also have an expansion cover. The cover is what your motherboard ports stick out through on the back of the case. It just snaps into place. Make sure it’s facing the right direction and right side up.
Installing the Motherboard
Remember, your motherboard is a huge circuit board which hates to be scratched by metal, and there’s plenty of metal inside your case. So it’s important you lower it down inside with the utmost care, lining it up with the screw holes beneath. Add screws to all of the standoffs you placed inside. You may need to push the motherboard slightly back towards the expansion slot cover before screwing it in.
Install Everything Else
Once your motherboard is mounted everything else is easy. To install your video card make sure to remove any expansion slot covers on the back to make room. Then push it in and put in a screw or screws to hold it in place. You can add hard drives or a SSD in their locations inside your case. Most modern cases have places for these. Just line them up and screw them down.
Wire It Up
Your video card will need power from the power supply. The proper cables should already be on your PSU, if not use the adapter provided with the video card box. Your hard drive or SSD will need a power cable as well as a SATA or data cable. You will need to hook up your drive to get power from the power supply and data from the motherboard. The cable will be in your motherboard box. Your motherboard will also need a power cable. It will be the largest set of wires from the power supply. Make a note for the notches as these snap in. Check your motherboard manual if you need more power. Some need an additional cable. It’s also a good time to plug in any remaining fans or LEDs.
Fire It Up
Once everything is plugged in and tied down, go ahead and hit the power button. Install your OS CD and follow the directions on the screen to install it. Since you’re at the desktop, install some games to celebrate because you just built yourself an awesome PC!
Use the Force
Items should all plug in quite easy. If something isn’t going together take a closer look at it. Maybe it’s backwards. Remember, you shouldn’t have to use more force than it takes to put a cartridge into an old console. Still unsure about the parts fitting? Then ask a friend to check it out. Two sets of eyes are better than one.
Your computer will often tell you if something is unplugged, like your hard drive or keyboard. So watch for messages or check your motherboard manual in case your board has LED warning lights or a beep pattern associated with the missing item. Most of the time you just need to turn it off, re-seat the item and turn it back on.
If you enjoyed reading about building PCs, then why not start making a wishlist for your dream build? What are some of your PC building experiences? If you’ve never built a PC before let us know if what you read was helpful and what you plan on making.