How To Build A Gaming PC
How to Build a Gaming PC
Building a PC is like putting together an intricate Lego set. We're not only going to show you how to build a PC in this guide, but we'll show you optimal build order to make the process as easy as possible.
All you really need to get started is a Phillips screwdriver, but here are other helpful PC building tools.
Before you begin the building process, keep in mind these tips:
- You don't need an anti-static wrist strap to build a PC, but it's a good idea to touch a metal surface to ground yourself before you begin touching any components.
- When handling processors, you should avoid touching pins and try to grab CPUs from the side.
Before we show you how to build a PC, we're going to outline the components we used to build this budget gaming PC.
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 3 1200|
|GPU||EVGA GTX 1050|
|Motherboard||Biostar A320MH Pro|
|RAM||Patriot Viper Elite 8GB (2 x 4GB)|
|Storage (SSD)||Kingston A400 120GB|
|Storage (HDD)||WD 1TB Hard Drive|
|PSU||EVGA 430 W1|
|Case||Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 3.1|
In the event that you wanted to skip to a certain section, we've highlighted how to install all of the major components in the links below:
- How to install a CPU
- How to install a CPU cooler
- How to install RAM
- How to install a motherboard
- How to install a PSU
- How to install a hard drive
- How to install an SSD
- How to install a graphics card
Related: PC Hardware Explained
Install the IO Shield
A rookie mistake that beginning PC builders make is that they forget to install the motherboard's IO shield before installing the motherboard. So we advise taking off your case's side panels and popping that in first. Make sure that the IO shield is right-side up and has the labels facing the outside.
The IO shield can be sharp, so make sure you're mindful of its edges. You can hold it in place and push its four corners into the back of your case with the tail-end of your screwdriver if you want to avoid getting cut.
Prep the motherboard and install the CPU
The next thing we recommend is to prep the motherboard outside of the case. This encompasses installing the CPU, air cooler, and RAM. It's ergonomically easier to do these things before you put the motherboard in the case.
The first step is to install your CPU. In the picture above, we're using an AMD Ryzen 3 1200 CPU and a Biostar A320MH Pro motherboard, but the basic principle applies for other AMD and Intel CPUs.
When you're picking up the processor, remember to grab it from the sides as to not damage any pins. Make sure that you properly align the CPU before you drop it into its socket. The easiest way to line it up is to look for an arrow on one of the corners of the CPU and match it up with the corresponding arrow on the motherboard socket. Once you've figured out the proper orientation, pull up on the lever to open up the socket and gently drop in the CPU. From there, push the lever back down to lock the processor in place.
Our Biostar A320MH Pro motherboard comes with pre-mounted brackets for an aftermarket water cooler, but since we're using AMD's included CPU air cooler, we're going to remove them.
Install the CPU cooler
With the CPU in place, you'll want to install the CPU cooler. The stock AMD cooler we're using comes with pre-applied thermal paste (make sure you don't touch it).
If your cooler doesn't come pre-applied with thermal paste, you should use a pea-shaped glob of paste in the center of your CPU. You really don't need much.
Once that is resolved, align the four screws on the cooler with their respective notches on the motherboard and screw it down.
Try to use a star pattern when you're screwing the cooler in place. This will ensure that they will have an even distribution of pressure. Also, make sure you don't screw it in too tight. Over torquing screws can put unnecessary strain on the CPU and can damage the board or processor.
Once the CPU fan is mounted, it's going to need power. From here, you can plug in the fan's power cable into the CPU fan port on your motherboard. The notch on the pin ensures that it will only go in one way.
Install the RAM
The final step in prepping the motherboard involves installing the RAM. You should check your motherboard's manual to see which RAM slots you should occupy given the amount of RAM you have.
Since we're using 8GB of DDR4 RAM across two sticks coupled with the fact that our motherboard offers two RAM slots, we don't need to resort to the manual. Before you seat and push the RAM down, make sure that the slot levers are lowered and that the sticks are oriented correctly. RAM only goes in one way.
Install case standoffs
With our motherboard prepped, it's time to lay the case down flat and install the appropriate standoffs that came with your chassis. Standoffs allow you to screw the motherboard into the case. You can see how many standoffs you need by how many screw holes are in your motherboard. Just make sure they are aligned with the holes before you screw them in.
Some cases will come with pre-installed standoffs, but ours didn't, so we added the required six that our Micro ATX board needs.
Install the motherboard
Once you've got all the appropriate standoffs in place, it's time to gently drop your motherboard in. We recommend picking up the motherboard by the CPU cooler. You'll want to make sure that standoffs within the case pop through the corresponding holes in your motherboard and that the ports on the board line up with the IO shield you previously installed.
Once you have the motherboard properly situated, it's time to use the included screws that came with your case to secure it in place. Again, try and use a star pattern so you can get an even distribution of pressure.
Install the power supply unit (PSU)
Now that the motherboard is secure, you'll want to install the power supply. If your case has a power supply unit (PSU) fan cut-out at the bottom, it's a good idea to orient the PSU fan downwards. If your case doesn't feature one, then you'll want to have the fan facing up, as it acts as an intake fan. From here, you will need to screw the PSU in place on the back of the case. PSUs typically feature four screws. You may find it easiest to finger tighten these screws before you tighten them with a screwdriver.
This is an optional intermediate step, but with both sides of the case open, it's a good idea to come up with a basic cable management plan. Primarily, this means that you'll want to route the CPU, GPU, motherboard, and SATA power cables through the back of your case and back around through any grommets your chassis provides. You don't have to plug everything in just yet, but it's a good idea to lay out a foundation for where the cables should go.
Install the hard drive
Now is a good time to install your hard drive into the case. Many chassis will come with HDD trays for you to slip them into, some will require you to use four screws to hold them in place. You typically mount storage drives so that the ports are facing towards the back panel. This will allow you to hide the SATA cables we'll install later on in the back.
Install the SSD
If your build uses an SSD, screw it down in place. Like HDDs, SSDs will typically feature four screw holes to secure them.
Plug in the motherboard power cable
You can now plug all of the power cables from your PSU into the motherboard. The beefiest cable is the 24-pin one, which provides power to your motherboard. It's important that you align the notch on the 24-pin cable with the notch on the respective motherboard power port before you push it in, as it only goes in one way.
Plug in the CPU power cable
You'll also want to make sure that your CPU power cable gets connected. These cables will typically be either four or eight pin power connectors.
Plug in your case cables
Now that you've got the CPU and motherboard power cables connected, it's time to plug in all of your case cables into the motherboard. This typically means USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HD audio, and any case fans you may have. These ports should all be labeled in your motherboard, but if you have trouble identifying them, make sure to consult your motherboard manual.
Connect front-panel connectors
Now plug in your front panel connectors from your case into the motherboard. Your motherboard should lay out where each little cable goes, but considering they are often small and difficult to read as a result, you should also feel free to consult your motherboard manual for a larger read-out.
The front panel connectors can be a nuisance to plug in, but one helpful tip is that you generally want the text on the connectors to face outwards. If a connector has an arrow, it also means that it's a positive header. The reset and power switches have neither positive or negative headers.
Install SATA cables
Now connect the L-shaped SATA power cables to your storage drives. You'll also want to plug in the SATA data cables, that came with your motherboard, into your SSD and hard drive. Both SATA power and data cables will only go in one way, so make sure that they are properly aligned before pushing them in.
You should then plug the other end of the data SATA cables into the motherboard.
Install the graphics card
The last component we're installing is the graphics card. To do that, you'll need to unscrew and remove the metal brackets on the back of the case so that you can slide your video card down into its PCIe slot.
Generally speaking, if your motherboard offers multiple PCIe slots, you'll want to install your GPU into the slot nearest the CPU. Before you insert your graphics card, though, you'll want to make sure that you depress the PCIe slot's little lever. This will allow you to push the card down and lock it into place.
If your video card requires additional six-pin or eight-pin power connectors, you should plug them in after you've installed the card. Our GeForce GTX 1050 can get enough juice from the motherboard's PCIe slot, so it doesn't require additional power. From here, we're going to screw the card down in place.
With everything plugged in, your PC should look something like this.
Cable management part continued
As an optional step, you can use zip ties to do some cable management. It's a good idea to use scissors to cut the loose ends of zip ties.
Finally, close both side panels and plug the power cable from the wall into your PSU. Ensure that the PSU is set to the on position, and turn on your computer. If it boots to the BIOS then you have successfully built a PC.