If you’re a gamer, chances are you’ve thought about building a computer. This is especially true if you’ve thought about streaming; after all, in a world where gamers are signing multi-million dollar contracts to stream themselves playing computer games, who wouldn’t want a piece of the action?
And as it turns out, building a gaming PC is pretty easy! While building a gaming PC might seem intimidating at first, it’s a lot like playing with Legos: so long as you have a bit of patience and have done your homework, all you need to do is snap all the pieces together in the correct order and voila, your computer is finished!
That said, researching how to build a gaming PC can be exhausting, especially when it comes to finding the right parts—but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
This guide has everything you need to get started with your new project, including recommendations for components!
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
- Why Build Your Own PC?
- PC Build Guide
- 1. Prepping Your Motherboard
- 2. Installing the CPU
- 3. Installing the CPU Cooler
- 4. Installing Memory
- 5. Installing the Motherboard
- 6. Installing the Power Supply
- 7. Installing SATA & M.2 Drives
- 8. Connecting Motherboard Headers & Power
- 9. Post!
- Component Recommendations
- Graphics Cards
- PC Cases
- CPU Coolers
- Power Supplies
- Learn More at All Report!
Why Build Your Own PC?
Building a PC has many important advantages, including price, performance, quality of components, and aesthetics. Plus, you’ll know how to make a computer – no small feat!
Price & Performance
Even though pre-built computers have become more competitive in recent years thanks to bundles and sales, building a computer from scratch is still one of the best ways to reduce costs and ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
For example, if you’re a gamer and your goal is to run Fortnite or the newest Call of Duty at the highest possible frames, the bulk of your budget should be spent on a powerful graphics card.
However, certain brands (looking at you Dell), force some odd configurations on consumers—seriously, why can’t I customize my Alienware Aurora Gaming Desktop to include a single 500GB SATA SSD? Why doesn’t this prebuilt offer ANY SATA SSDs? Why is NVMe the only solid state offering? Has Dell not seen these benchmarks?
Also, the Alienware Aurora Gaming Desktop, in its base configuration, only offers 8GB of HyperX Fury DDR4 memory, with an XMP profile of 2666MHz. For those of you who don’t understand XMP profiles, 2666MHz is pretty slow for DDR4, and upgrading doesn’t improve the situation, as even the most “premium” option still runs at a meager 2933MHz. What’s more, Dell doesn’t list the latency or timings of their memory kits—both of which can impact how many frames your computer will be able to push.
For comparison’s sake, check out this HyperX Fury 16GB 3200MHz kit on Amazon. This kit offers twice the capacity and is clocked much faster than Dell’s base offering—and it’s pretty darn cheap!
By building a PC step by step, you can ensure that you’re only spending money on what you need without getting caught up in nonsensical configurations that cap your computer’s potential.
Quality of Components
Component quality is always a concern when buying a prebuilt, as there’s often no way to know what you’re getting inside your new machine.
We don’t mean to keep rapping on Dell (actually we do), but what kind of motherboard does their Alienware Aurora Gaming Desktop come with? What features does it have? How many SATA connectors does it have? Does it have any VRM issues? Is it standard ATX? The list of questions goes on and on. While these might not matter to some, the answers to these questions will affect future upgradeability and potential reliability.
Another example would be the graphics card: Dell’s configurator says “NVIDIA Geforce GTX”, but are all their offerings reference cards? If they are, then they are probably going to run hotter than an NVIDIA card offered by a 3rd party OEM like EVGA or ASUS. And if the included tower is not thermally efficient, these cards might be running close to their thermal threshold, which would hamper performance.
Computers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, etc., and by building your own, your customizations options are nearly endless.
However, buying a prebuilt computer limits the looks of your computer to whatever the manufacturer is offering, which in some cases, means your computer is going to look like some kind of dilapidated alien spacecraft stolen from Area 51.
Also, picking your case ensures that it fits your specific use-case: perhaps you don’t have the floor space and you want a compact build that fits on your desk, or, you want a gaming computer that also doubles as a home server—building a computer gives you tons of options for accomplishing your goals!
PC Build Guide
With that out of the way, let’s learn how to assemble a gaming PC!
1. Prepping Your Motherboard
The first step to building a computer is prepping the motherboard.
To get started, remove your motherboard from its cardboard box and then close it. Most motherboards will come in some kind of secondary plastic box or static bag, and you’ll need to remove it from this packaging to begin. Once removed, place the motherboard on top of the box it came in as it makes for a great, static-free platform for building!
Pro Top: For additional static electricity protection, we recommend purchasing an anti-static wrist wrap. To use it, we suggest plugging in (but not turning on) your PSU and then attaching your anti-static wrist wrap to a metal portion of the unit. This effectively grounds you and removes the threat of accidentally frying sensitive components.
The first component that most pc builders will install is the CPU, but before that can be done, the plastic CPU socket cover will need to be removed. This cover can be removed by swinging the socket’s metal arm to the “open” position (refer to your mobo’s manual), which will release it from the socket.
After removing this plastic cover, place it somewhere SAFE! In the case of an RMA, most motherboard manufacturers will require that the socket cover be reinstalled; otherwise, they may not accept your motherboard for repair.
2. Installing the CPU
The next step in our gaming PC build guide is installing the CPU.
To install a CPU, remove it from its box—like the motherboard, the CPU will be in another plastic container of some sort, but don’t remove it from this container just yet!
Before installing the CPU, take a close look at the top of it: CPUs can only be installed in a single orientation, and there are guide marks that show you how it should be lined up. Take a close look at these guide marks, and once you know the orientation, unlock the CPU socket following the same steps above, place the CPU into the socket (gently!), and close the arm.
After installing the CPU into the socket, it’s time to get the CPU cooler installed!
3. Installing the CPU Cooler
CPU coolers, like everything else, come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and configurations, and they can affect the order of the build.
If your CPU came with a cooler, then it can be installed at this stage of the build, as most stock coolers are relatively low profile and space-efficient. However, if you decided to go with a ginormous aftermarket cooler or an AIO, you’ll need to pay close attention to certain clearances.
For example, when installing a cooler like the Noctua DH15, you will need to install the ram first, as the DIMM slots will be inaccessible once the cooler is installed. In that case, you’ll need to install the ram first before installing the cooler (see step 4).
If you decided to go with an AIO that has a beefy radiator, ram clearance still might be an issue, especially if you’re mounting the cooler to the top of the case. If there’s not enough clearance due to the thickness of the radiator, you’ll need to mount the radiator in a different location, such as the front of the case. As mentioned, if you’re planning on using an AIO, then you’ll need to ensure that your chosen case has a variety of different mounting options; otherwise, you might find yourself in a situation where you don’t have enough clearance to install different components of your computer.
Please note that if you’re using an AIO, the radiator will need to be installed AFTER you install the motherboard.
With that out of the way, let’s go through the process of installing a typical CPU cooler. First, grab your hand dandy thermal paste and a paper towel. Thermal paste comes in a variety of viscosities, so you’ll want to test how it flows before applying it to your CPU. Once you have a good idea of how it will flow, it’s time to apply some paste to the CPU! And when we say SOME, we really mean a little bit; in fact, all you’ll need is about a pea drop amount of thermal paste applied directly to the center of the integrated heat spreader (IHS). This is because the force of the heatsink will cause the paste to spread out, so it’s important to not use too much; otherwise, the paste will spill out the sides.
Once applied, you’ll need to follow the instructions of your specific CPU cooler to finish the installation. To help you get started, below are some pro tips:
- When mounting the heatsink to the CPU, tighten each screw evenly to ensure proper contact with the IHS
- While most AIOs come with pre-applied thermal paste, it’s a good idea to clean off this paste with some rubbing alcohol and apply your own, as there’s no telling how long it’s been sitting on the heatsink or if it’s quality paste
- When handling your heatsink, do not remove the heatsink cover until your paste is applied and you’re ready to install it, as any kind of dirt, grease, or residue can negatively affect thermal performance
- All CPU coolers (unless it’s a passive cooler) will need to have their fan or fans plugged into the motherboard’s CPU fan header, which is typically located either directly above or adjacent to the CPU socket (refer once again to your mobo’s manual)
4. Installing Memory
Memory is one of the easiest components to install; however, it’s also the most sensitive to static electricity. Therefore, we recommend grounding yourself before handling memory to ensure a safe installation.
Also, please remember to refer to your motherboard’s manual to learn about which DIMM slots to use. Most memory kits are dual-channel, but to utilize this feature, the ram must be installed in certain DIMM slots. Once you know which DIMM slots to use, take a close look at their ends: one or both sides of the DIMM will have a plastic clip that needs to be opened up for the ram to be installed. Open these clips, line up the memory with the DIMM (it will only go in one way), and gently push down on the memory until it locks into place.
5. Installing the Motherboard
With the ram and CPU cooler installed, it’s time to install the motherboard into your case!
Most PC cases come with mounting screws and standoffs, so you’ll need to refer to your case’s manual to see which is which. In some cases, the case will already have the standoffs preinstalled, but sometimes, you’ll have to do it yourself.
If the case doesn’t have the standoffs preinstalled, place your motherboard into the case, ensuring that the I/O panel is flush against the back where the cutout is located. Look at where the holes will line up, and install the standoffs accordingly. If the standoffs are preinstalled, place your motherboard into the case and screw it in with the appropriate mounting screws.
As mentioned above, it’s important to tighten each screw evenly, as fully tightening one screw might before the others make the installation more difficult.
Once the motherboard is installed, feel free to finish the installation of your AIO’s radiator.
6. Installing the Power Supply
Now that the motherboard is installed, it’s time to install the power supply. In a typical ATX case, the power supply will be installed somewhere near the bottom; however, this isn’t always the case. In some more non-traditional cases, the power supply could be installed at the bottom, top, or even the front of the case. If your case happens to utilize this kind of setup, we recommend reading the case’s manual for additional instructions.
To install the power supply, unpack it from its box and find the mounting screws. If your power supply happens to be modular, take a second to examine just how many cables you’ll need, as fewer cables will make cable management much easier.
For a simple 1 storage device, 1 graphics card kind of set up, you might only need a total of 5 cables (2 CPU, 1 MOBO, 1 PCI-E, 1 SATA). A beefier graphics card might need a second 8 pin connector, and if so, we recommend utilizing the 2nd PCI-E rail, which would up the total cable count to 6.
Next, install the power supply through the back of the case. In some cases, the power supply will simply slide right in; however, some cases will have a power supply mounting bracket which will need to be installed directly onto the power supply before it goes into the case.
Please note that the power supply fan mustn’t be blocked or impeded in any way, as this can cause catastrophic damage to the unit. The area where the PSU will be installed will feature ventilation holes, and the PSU’s fan should be oriented towards these holes to ensure that the unit gets enough air.
7. Installing SATA & M.2 Drives
The next step is to install your SATA and M.2 drives. Most computer cases have several dedicated locations as to where SATA drives can be installed. For example, Fractal Designs’ Define R6 has 3 dedicated trays for installing 2.5’’ SSDs and 11 trays for 3.5’’ HDDs. To utilize these built-in trays, please refer to your case’s manual.
Please note that most PC cases come with m3 mounting screws for your SATA drives; however, if it doesn’t, they can be purchased here.
On the other hand, M.2 drives are installed directly onto the motherboard. Please note that most motherboards will come with a standoff screw for mounting M.2 drives, so be sure to not lose your motherboard’s box! To install an M.2 drive, please refer to your motherboard’s manual.
If you’re installing a 5.25’’ DVD/Blu-ray drive, make sure your case has a dedicated slot for it. For example, Fractal Designs’ Meshify C, which we recommend down below, doesn’t have one of these slots, so you’ll need to purchase another case.
8. Connecting Motherboard Headers & Power
Once everything is installed into the case, it’s time to connecting various power, fan, SATA, and other cables. Please note that this guide covers the basics of building a computer, and is not a complete guide to cable management. For now, be sure to consult your mobo’s manual to understand where exactly to plug everything in. Also, take great care as to where you run your cables, ensuring that they never cross over the length of the motherboard and that they don’t block airflow from the case fans.
To help you get started, here are some quick tips:
- If you haven’t built a PC in a while, don’t
forget to plug in the 8-pin CPU power connector, which is normally located at
the top left of the board
- This connector can be a pain to reach, and depending on the size of your CPU cooler, you might want to plug in this cable BEFORE installing the CPU cooler
- Modern case fans don’t need to be powered by the
PSU; instead, they simply need to be plugged into your mobo’s fan headers to
- If your pc case comes with a fan hub, make sure to identify the connector (normally colored white) that needs to be plugged into the mobo—all other fans will be plugged into the hub
- Plug your SATA drives in last, as the plastic power connector is fragile and can be easily broken
- Your PC case headers are typically located at the bottom right of the mobo, and most mobos come with an adapter to help make the installation easier, so use it!
Believe it or not, it’s time to see if your computer POSTs!
While some motherboards can communicate a proper POST (Power On Self-Test) with beeps and various LCD/LED screens, we prefer the old fashion approach of hooking up a monitor to see if the POST screen appears. This screen normally consists of an Energy Saver screen or an image from the motherboard, and if your computer displays these items, great! You now have a computer that’s ready for an operating system.
If your computer doesn’t POST, don’t fret, you probably just have a loose power connector somewhere. Be sure to double check all of your motherboard’s headers to ensure everything is fully connected. If you’re still unable to achieve the POST screen, then you may need to reseat your CPU and memory.
And that’s it! We hope you’ve enjoyed our computer build guide. For those curious, we have further recommendations about which components to use.
You’ve learned how to make a gaming PC, but what exactly should you put inside? Researching the right components to buy can be a taxing endeavor, but don’t worry, this guide also includes a parts list to help you get started!
The motherboard is perhaps the most important component of your computer, as it affects everything from what kind of processor you can use to future upgradeability.
Below are our top 3 picks for motherboards:
MSI B450 Tomahawk
The MSI B450 Tomahawk is a popular board for processors like the Ryzen 2700x because of its low cost and excellent performance.
This board supports up to 64GB of dual-channel memory (up to 3466 MHz), 2-way AMD Crossfire, and features high-quality audio capacitors for added reliability.
And like other mobos in this guide, the MSI B450 Tomahawk also features addressable RGB, allowing users to sync RGB strips and other RGB components.
ASUS ROG Strix X470-F
If you’re looking to build a rig using one of AMD’s fancy new CPUs, the ASUS ROG Strix X470-F is more than up to the task.
This motherboard features one-click overclocking and cooling and provides control over case fans, water pumps, and AIOs via ASUS’ award-winning UEFI.
What’s more, this motherboard allows you to synchronize its lighting effects with Phillips Hue light bulbs, strips, and lamps, helping you create an immersive computing experience unlike anything else on the market!
ASUS Maximus XI HERO Wi-Fi
The ASUS Maximus XI HERO Wi-Fi is a full-featured motherboard with all the bells and whistles you could want. This motherboard was designed for 9th and 8th general Intel Core processors and features dual M.2 slots, USB 3.1 and Gen 2, onboard 802.11AC Wi-Fi, and tons of overclocking features.
This mobo also includes Aura Sync RGB lighting with addressable headers, allowing users to sync the RGB on their case fans, memory, SSDs, and any other compatible RGB accessory.
Finally, this mobo also features great onboard sound in the form of SupremeFX. Using the S1220 codec, this mobo’s integrated audio solution provides a flat frequency response for a neutral sound and is powerful enough to drive demanding headphones.
After deciding on a motherboard, the next step is to pick a CPU. However, before picking a CPU, take a step back and ask yourself, “Why am I building a computer?”
If you’re primarily a gamer, something like the Intel Core i5-9400F will work just fine for you; however, if you do a mix of gaming and productivity tasks like word processing, web browsing, email, video editing, etc., you’ll probably want a CPU with a higher core count and more threads.
Below are 3 of our top picks for CPUs:
When it comes to desktop computing, Intel has reigned supreme for quite some time, but this is no longer the case.
With the launch of AMD’s Ryzen series of CPUs, high core count processors have hit the mainstream, which is great for users who use their computer for gaming and productivity tasks like video editing.
This leads us to the Ryzen 7 2700: at this price point, it might just be the best bang for your buck processor on the market!
With 8 cores (16 threads) and a max turbo boost of 4.1 GHz, the Ryzen 7 2700 is more than capable of handling intense, multi-threaded workloads, in addition to gaming at high frame rates.
For gamers, our pick is the Intel Core i5-9400F. Sure, there are faster CPUs out there, like the 9700K, 9900K, and the 9900KS, but at this price point, it’s hard to be the 9400F’s 6 cores and 4.1 GHz turbo.
This chip is more than capable of pushing 100+ frames in demanding, AAA titles. Granted, you’ll need to game at 1080p to achieve this framerate. However, please note that if you do choose to go with this CPU, you’ll need a dedicated GPU as this chip to POST as this CPU does not include integrated graphics.
If you want the absolute best of both gaming and productivity, the Ryzen 3900X is sure to fit the bill. This 12 core, 24 thread monster comes with a cooler and can boost as high as 4.6 GHz.
There is, of course, the 3950X, but the 3950X is not only more expensive but it’s also impossible to find. So, unless you absolutely need 16 cores and 32 threads (or you just want to brag), the 3900X should be more than enough!
If you’re a gamer, the bulk of your budget should be spent on your graphics card, as it will provide the best performance gains compared to other components.
To help you get started, below are 3 excellent graphics cards that excel in gaming:
EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Super
Our first GPU recommendation is the EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 Super. This card is more than capable of pushing 60+ FPS at medium to high settings at 1080p, and is pretty quiet to boot.
However, if graphic quality isn’t that big of a concern, users can achieve far more than 60 FPS with this card at 1080p by lowering their in-game settings.
Please note that the GTX 1660 Super is a different card than the GTX 1660, as the 1660 Super is almost 15% faster!
PowerColor Red Dragon Radeon 5700
For a bit more oomph, the PowerColor Red Dragon Radeon 5700 is great for gaming at higher resolutions. Although this card is missing ray tracing, it’s still about 9-11% faster than Nvidia’s 2060, which happens to be sold at a similar price point.
While ray tracing is cool, you’ll need a much beefier GPU to appreciate what ray tracing has to offer. Which leads us to…
EVGA GeForce RTX 2080Ti FTW3
If your wallet can handle it, we recommend the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080Ti FTW3. This card is an absolute beast and can achieve 100+ FPS in most games at 4k resolution and max settings. Lower the resolution to 1440p or 1080p, and you’ll be gaming at 200+ FPS!
What’s more, the EVGA GeForce RTX 2080Ti FTW3 features plenty of high-tech add-ons from EVGA that help keep this card running cool and quiet.
This card is also more than capable of pushing 60+ FPS in games that support ray tracing; so, if you’re into that, this is the card you’ll want!
As mentioned, computer cases come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, etc., and it’s important to find the right one for your use case.
Below are our top picks for gaming PC cases:
Rosewill Micro ATX Mini Tower
The Rosewill Micro ATX Mini Tower is an affordable, micro ATX computer case that offers great airflow and enough room for a 300 mm GPU and 2 3.5’’ or 2.5’’ storage drives.
This case also features 4 PCI-E expansion slots for future upgrades and a fan slot in the front that can accommodate a single 120 mm fan (a single 80 mm exhaust fan comes preinstalled).
For the price, the Rosewill Micro ATX Mini Tower can’t be beaten!
Fractal Designs Meshify C
The Meshify C has been a community favorite for a while now, and for good reason! This compact computer tower has enough room for a full-sized ATX motherboard and features excellent airflow through the front mesh panel.
What’s more, this case comes in several varieties, including one with a tempered glass side panel, an mATX version, and several others.
This case also comes with 2 preinstalled 120 mm fans (1 intake, 1 exhaust), and features easy-to-clean dust filters at the top, front, and bottom.
Please note that because of the compact nature of this case, there are some clearances to be considered. For example, this case can only accept a cooler with a max height of 170 mm and a GPU length of 315 mm.
For a full breakdown, please refer to the case manual or the Meshify C website.
Fractal Designs Define R6
The Define R6 is a great case for those who want a premium, full-sized computer tower with tons of flexibility and expandability. This case is also perfect for water-cooling builds and can support up to 11 3.5 HDDs, making an ideal choice for those who want to build a home server.
Other key features of this case are the tempered glass side panel and high-density industrial dampening on the side, top, and front panels, making this case one of the quieter cases on the market. This case also comes with 3 preinstalled 140 mm case fans to help keep your components running cool.
Overall, the Define R6 is one of the best full-sized PC cases on the market, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another case with this much flexibility.
A well-built CPU cooler can make all the difference: besides keeping your CPU nice and cool, a quality CPU cooler will also reduce your total system noise. This is because a quality CPU cooler can run its fan at a much lower RPM while still keeping temperatures in check, whereas with a cheap CPU cooler, the fan will need to run at max RPM to keep the CPU from reaching its thermal threshold.
Below are our top 3 recommendations for CPU coolers:
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition
Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 has been a popular cooler for a long time, and now with the Black Edition, it’s even better! Not only has the mounting kit been completely redone but it’s also finished in a matte black texture that looks great!
And at this price point, the Hyper 212 Black Edition is easily the best performing and best-looking cooler for supported socket types.
The newest cooler from Noctua is pricey but well worth it! Not only does the Noctua NH-U12A perform almost as well as its bigger brother, the NH-D15, it’s also far more compact!
What’s more, this cooler comes with a pair of Noctua’s state of the art 120 mm fans that perform about as well as a 140 mm fan at a far lower noise level.
Corsair H115i PRO RGB AIO
Finally, if water cooling and RGB is your thing, we recommend the Corsair H115i PRO RGB AIO. Not only does this cooler perform well but it also looks amazing! And because it’s an all-in-one cooler (AIO), there’s no need to worry about maintenance and Corsair’s warranty is top-notch.
Because memory is mostly plug-and-play and doesn’t play a huge role in gaming or productivity performance, we’ll keep this section nice and short.
For a basic build, the Corsair Vengeance 8GB kit should suffice; however, if you’re looking for a bit more future proofing, or your tasks include 4k video editing, then you’ll want at least 16GB of memory.
If you love RGB, there’s the Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro. This memory kit can be synced with other RGB components (e.g., motherboard, fans, etc.) and is plenty bright!
Please note that if you’re building a computer using AMD’s new Ryzen CPUs, you’ll want a faster kit (3000+ MHz), as Ryzen chips benefit greatly from faster memory.
- Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR4 2400 MHz CL 16
- G.SKILL Ripjaws 16GB DDR4 3000 MHz CL 16
- Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB DDR4 3000 MHz CL15
Power supplies are another component that doesn’t require much explanation. In short, a 500 W to 750 W PSU should be more than adequate for most builds; however, if you’re building a gaming rig with a high-end graphics card (or two), then you might want a power supply in the 750-1000 W range.
In terms of rating, 80+ Gold is more than enough, and we highly recommend EVGA’s PSUs for their superior build quality and reliability.
However, if you’re looking for something a bit more exotic, Phanteks offers a PSU capable of powering two systems at the same time!
Learn More at All Report!
All Report is home to the best shopping guides on the internet for a variety of products. From tuxedo couches, to umbrellas, to Plex servers, and everything else in between, we can help you find the best products on Amazon as you learn how to put together a PC.