The Ultimate Guide to Building a Gaming PC

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Pre-assembled PCs are preferred by many gamers because they come complete and ready to plug and play. However, with some time, a little expertise and a knack for research, you can acquire the parts you want and assemble them into your very own custom-made gaming machine, with an insane Case MOD to boot.

Why is building your own Gaming PC a good idea?

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A while back, the main reason that justified assembling a PC was to save money. With the influx of cheap pre-built gaming desktops available on the market, however, this argument holds little water today. So why else would you undertake such a time demanding and mind-involving task?

Well, for starters, building, rather than buying, a high-end gaming rig gives you the chance to pick exactly what goes into the system. With a custom job, you get to choose the bits you want, according to your needs. A gamer’s top priority is the GPU, which means that, when building, they can compromise on other things for the best graphics card around.

Additionally, building a PC from scratch can give a gamer valuable computer knowledge, which they may employ during simple troubleshooting or system upgrades. Nobody wants to have to call customer support every time they accidentally step on a cable and lose power. Understanding how the different parts work can help to save valuable time by quickly finding solutions to small, frequent issues.

And if that’s not reason enough to get your hands dirty, think about the satisfaction that’ll come with owning a gaming rig that you’ve put together yourself!

The Parts You’ll Need

Building a gaming PC demands a clear comprehension of the components to buy. The main ones include:

1. Case

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The case decides the components you can fit into your system, how easy your PC will be to build, and how much space you’ll need to reserve for it in your gaming setup. When picking out a case, your checklist should include the size, the layout and the appearance.

Size

Bigger cases might be more space-demanding, but they have enough room for multiple optical and hard drives, as well as larger GPUs. They’re also easier to work in because they provide sufficient space to move things around.

Layout

It’s crucial to make sure the case you get matches the motherboard, without leaving things so tightly packed that expansion slots can hardly be accessed from the outside.

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Another essential aspect of the layout is the cooling system. The more powerful the hardware, the more fans your case will need. A proper case should already have a few out of the box, with sufficient provisions to add more, later.

Appearance

Because the case will represent how you present your newly built gaming computer to the world, it’s advisable to consider its outward look. Gamers tend to lean towards the bold ones, which have striking colors and sharp, aggressive edges.

The most rewarding part of building your PC is that you get to pick out the appearance that best complements your system and suits your personality. You should, therefore, be extra keen when choosing the case.

2. Motherboard

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As the name loosely suggests, the motherboard is the body of a computer, into which all other parts fit. It directly dictates the compatibility of your current and future components, and how well they’ll work together.

When choosing a motherboard, consider three things: form factor, layout, and longevity.

Form Factor

The most common motherboard forms are EATX, ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX. Each of them has a different surface area, which determines the number of expansion slots into which cards like display adapters, tuner cards, and wireless NICs can be inserted.

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The bigger the motherboard, the more slots it’ll offer. A gaming computer should, therefore, be built with an EATX or ATX motherboard, which has enough space for a graphics card, a premium-grade sound card, more RAM slots, so on.

Layout

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The layout of your prospective motherboard will depend on your intended hardware, primarily the CPU you want to use. Intel processors use Land Grid Array (LGA) sockets, where the pins are on the motherboard, and pads under the CPU rest on them. On the contrary, AMD chips have pins on their underside, which fit into pads on the motherboard.

Both systems have their pros and cons but are easy to work with and provide enough security for the processor when in place. However, an AMD chip can’t work with an Intel-based board and vice versa.

Longevity

Your motherboard’s ability to be future-proof is determined by its ability to keep up with newer processors, GPUs, RAM, etc. When buying a motherboard, pay attention to the chipset specifications, and the sockets onboard.

The most future-proof gaming boards have multiple GPU slots for 3-way Crossfire, as many as eight RAM slots with DDR4 support, robust voltage regulator modules (VRMs) for overclocking, and the latest PCI-E, SATA, USB 3 and USB-C technologies.

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3. Graphics Card

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A gaming PC requires a discrete GPU to handle graphics processing, instead of the CPU. Graphics cards meant for gaming are designed to deliver excellent frame rates at high resolutions and the realistic detail settings and come from either AMD or Nvidia.

Modern GPUs come in all forms and price tags, and are classified into mid-range, high-end and premium-grade.

Mid-range

Modern GPUs come in all forms and price tags. However, if you want a visual experience that’s acceptable in the gaming world, consider a card that can drive even the most demanding games at Full-HD resolution, close to maximum detail settings, and achieve a minimum of 60 frames per second (fps).

High-end

Raising the bar higher will necessitate a high-end GPU. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080, for example, can accommodate QXGA resolution, 120fps and the highest graphics settings in some of the most demanding PC games, and will set you back as much as $700.

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Premium-grade

Even high-end cards are not enough to offer the best gaming performance possible. For 4K triple monitor gaming and virtual-reality rendering, you’ll probably want the insanely powerful GeForce Titan X Pascal, or a multi-GPU arrangement with SLI.

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The graphics card will be the most power-hungry component of your PC and will produce the most heat. High-end and premium-grade cards need their separate power supply and cooling systems.

4. CPU and RAM

Because the GPU does most of the processing in gaming, and typically comes with VRAM, you can dial down a bit on your CPU and RAM specifications if you need more money for a better graphics card. That said, both the processor and primary memory are necessary components in a gaming rig.

Processor choices

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Regarding the CPU, you only have two choices; Intel and AMD. Intel’s latest 7th generation processors are now readily available and are currently the clear option for a gaming PC. With a good GPU, however, you can opt for an older 6000-series chip and bag a bargain.

AMD, on the other hand, has a new chip called the Ryzen around the corner. If the rumors are true, the Texan company might finally give Intel a run for its money, after years of the latter’s unwavering domination.

Processor Performance

CPU performance is primarily determined by the clock frequency and the number of clocks. Your gaming rig will need a quad-core processor that’s capable of overclocking. For Intel, look for the K-series processors. AMD chips can all be overclocked, but the more expensive, newer chips will overclock better than their cheaper, older counterparts.

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With both brands, you still need to ensure your motherboard supports overclocking. Your PC should also be able to handle the increased power consumption and heat dissipation.

RAM: Size and Frequency

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Gaming rigs with fast CPUs and GPUs often do well with just 8GB RAM, which is the accepted baseline. Unless you’re planning early for the future, anything more than 16GB is overkill.

The same goes for RAM frequency. Getting RAM that’s faster than 1600MHz will have little impact on your gaming experience. In fact, higher frequencies often require at least some manual configurations, and unless you’re willing to tool around the BIOS, they might actually result to lower performance levels.

5. Extras

The above count as the essential parts of your gaming machine, but there are still additional things worth considering.

Power supply Unit

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For instance, although an afterthought for most builders, the power supply unit is crucial. The quality of the power supply you choose will make the difference between a well-functioning system and one that always crashes and reboots during a game. Ensure you pick the PSU whose overall wattage and rail power specifications suit your system.

Storage Drive

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Solid-state drives are the preferred choice for a gaming PC because they’re much faster and quieter than traditional hard drives. However, an SSD alone won’t satisfy your space requirements. Complement it with a larger HDD, and leave the SSD for the most demanding games.

Peripheral Devices

You’ll also need to set aside some more money for all the peripherals you’ll be using to interact with your new PC. These include a monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, gaming headsets, gamepads, a VR-kit and so on.

Software

Finally, your gaming PC will require an operating system to get up and running. For gaming, there’s really no alternative to Windows. So, as you order your parts, don’t forget to place an order for Windows 10 as well.

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Bringing It All Together

Now that you’ve purchased every hardware and software component you need, it’s time for the real fun to begin. Despite how complicated it may seem, assembling a PC from scratch is not that hard.

Tools

Because most of the parts are designed to fit into place easily, you’ll mostly just need your fingers.

Regardless, get a few things like a decent screwdriver with a long shaft that can reach even the deepest screws in your case, a good set of fine pliers to thread cables through tight gaps, a soft surface to rest your case on, and something to hold all your screws.

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Building the PC

The assembling process is more mental than physical. It’ll demand that you understand how each part works, and how it relates to the whole system.

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Start by installing the CPU and heatsink into the motherboard, and then lowering it to the case. If you made the appropriate choices for both, everything should fit perfectly into place. After that, install your RAM sticks, and the storage drive.

Plug in the core peripheral devices, connect your motherboard to the PSU and switch on your PC. If the system starts up with no hiccups or beeps, everything is going well. Power it off and proceed to install your GPU, optical drive, cables, and any other piece that’s left lying around.

Troubleshooting

When the machine doesn’t power on with the basic parts in place, take a deep breath and unplug it from the power supply. Check your connections carefully, and examine the integrity of every part. Scour the user manual of each component to make sure you’ve not overlooked a thing.

When all else fails, reach out to an expert builder, and if you’ve identified a suspicious part, contact its manufacturer. Building a PC requires great patience but, sometimes, asking for help could save you a lot of time and avoid further problems.

Wrap Up

Computers might have been complicated a few years back but today, building one is not really a professional’s job. The real task is researching to acquire the parts that are right for your intended system. Thereafter, all you need is time, patience, and willpower

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