Building a gaming PC yourself from the ground up is the only way to make sure you have a system that meets all your preferences: By choosing everything from the power supply to the components of your PC, you can play the games you love at the frame rates you love. Plus, a home-built PC can pave the way for upgrades as technology changes, as your gaming tastes and needs change, or as your budget allows.
Assembling a PC can seem daunting, but if you break it down into manageable steps, it may be easier than you think. That’s why we’ve put together a complete step-by-step guide to building your first gaming PC, with tips and tricks from experienced developers.
Preparation 1: PC building tools
The first thing you need to do to get ready is to get the tools you need to complete your build. Preparing the following materials ahead of time will help the building process run smoothly
- Work surface You will need a large work surface, such as a table. Be sure to stand on a carpet-free surface to avoid static discharges (which can damage delicate components).
- A Phillips screwdriver (#2) is needed for almost all tasks; if M.2 devices are installed, a Phillips screwdriver (#0) is also needed.
Preparation 2: Gaming PC case
Before you start choosing components, you need to decide on the case, or at least the size of the case.
When choosing a case, it is important to consider where the PC will be placed: The final location of the PC will determine the size of the case that can be used (or not), and whether or not the various premium case features are expensive.
Cases usually come in three sizes. There are full-tower, mid-tower, and mini-tower. These are very general categories (case sizes are not standardized between manufacturers), but they are based on the size of the motherboard.
Preparation 3: Gaming PC parts
Now it’s time for the parts phase. This step can be done by building a custom design from scratch, researching each part thoroughly, or by finding a pre-built design on the Internet and customizing it to fit your own budget and needs.
It is advisable to set a budget before you start selecting components (buying parts can get out of hand). Besides, individual components can always be upgraded at a later stage.
Step 1: CPU installation
Parts/Tools: Motherboard, CPU
Remove the motherboard from its anti-static packaging and place it on a workbench. Locate the CPU socket, which is protected by a plastic cover. Look for the small arrow marked on one corner of the plastic cover or on the socket itself.
Next to the CPU socket, you will find a small metal lever. Squeeze this lever and gently pull it away from the socket to open the socket box.
Unpack the CPU and take it out of the packaging. The CPU and CPU socket are susceptible to physical damage, so be very careful when handling the CPU. Hold the CPU by the edges and never touch the pins on the bottom of the chip. If you touch them with your fingers, they may stick to dust or oil.
There is an arrow at one corner of the CPU. Align this arrow with the arrow on the socket and carefully insert the CPU into the socket; once the CPU is securely attached, lower the retaining lever and push it into position. Some force is required to lower the lever, but no force is required to snap the CPU into place.
STEP 2: (Optional) Install an M.2 SSD
If you want to install an M.2 SSD, now is a good time to do it. First, locate the M.2 slot on the motherboard. It is a small horizontal slot with a small screw in front of it. If you can’t find it, if you have more than one M.2 slot, or if you plan to install more than one M.2 SSD, refer to the user manual that came with your motherboard.
Remove the small screws with a #0 Phillips screwdriver; do not lose them.
Carefully slide the M.2 SSD into the slot. When fully installed, it will be at about a 35° angle to the motherboard; push the SSD down and loosen the small screw to secure it in place.
Step 3: Installing the CPU cooler
There are different types of CPU coolers. It is recommended to refer to the manual provided with the CPU cooler for detailed installation instructions.
Mounting brackets are required for some coolers. The bracket may be pre-installed on the motherboard. If your cooler does not require a bracket, you may need to remove and replace this bracket if another bracket is used. This must be done before the motherboard is inserted into the case.
Step 4: Installing the Memory (RAM)
Check the number of RAM slots on the motherboard (most have two or four); if all RAM slots are used, install the RAM; if not all RAM slots are used, refer to the user manual for the correct configuration and install the RAM accordingly. adjust the RAM slots accordingly.
Step 5: (Optional) Perform out-of-case tests
Once the CPU and CPU cooler are installed, you should run a simple test to make sure all components are working. This test is more difficult to perform (and troubleshoot) when everything is installed in the case. To do this, install the GPU and connect everything to the power supply (see next section if you’re not sure how to install the GPU). Make sure the power supply is connected to the motherboard (both the 8-pin power supply and the 24-pin power supply for the CPU) and the GPU, plug it in, and turn it on.
Step 6: Installing the power supply
Unpack the PSU (or disconnect it from its components if you decided to test it) and set the cables aside (if possible).
Look closely at the case to determine where the PSU should be installed (perhaps near the bottom or back) and in what orientation. Ideally, the PSU’s fans should face the outside of the case (toward the vents). If there are vents on the bottom of the case, the PSU can be installed upside down as long as the vents on the bottom allow adequate airflow when the PC is finished.
Step 7: Installing the motherboard
If your motherboard does not come with an I/O shield (a rectangular metal plate cut out for the motherboard connectors), attach it to the back of the case first (make sure it is oriented correctly); the I/O shield often has sharp corners, so be careful with your fingers.
Step 8: Install the GPU
Locate the PCIe* x16 slot on the motherboard. This is the longest PCIe* slot and may be a different color than the other slots. If your motherboard has more than one PCIe* x16 slot, refer to the user manual to determine if you should give priority to one slot. If any slot can be used, you should consider the placement of the other components to decide which slot to use.
Step 9: Installing the memory
First, check the enclosure. Every case is a little different when it comes to drive bays.
Somewhere inside the case, you should find a stack of different sized bays. Small plastic ones may be tool-less bays, or they may look like metal clips.
Step 10: Installing the operating system
If you haven’t prepared an operating system on your USB flash drive yet, now is the time to do so.