Everything you need to start building a gaming computer
Building a gaming computer can be complicated, especially if this is your first time taking on such a project. Computers require many different components like a desktop tower, central processing unit (CPU), graphics processing unit (GPU) and more. The parts that go into a gaming computer directly correlate with how well the machine runs and what types of games it can play.
This guide provides the basics of what you’ll need to build a gaming computer, as well as the steps to go from individual parts to a running machine.
You’ll need several computer components to build a fully functional machine. When selecting each component, cross-reference them to make sure they’re compatible with one another.
The main components you’ll be using for any basic gaming computer are:
- Desktop tower
- Random Access Memory (RAM)
- System cooling solution
- Power supply
The desktop tower is what houses all the components of a gaming computer. Towers come in various sizes and designs, but most towers follow the same fundamental principles. For your first desktop, choose a standard-sized tower (22 inches) so that it can fit all the components.
The NZXT H510 Mid-Tower is a great, affordable starting option. It includes two cooling fans and pre-installed channels for wiring and cable management.
Central processing unit (CPU)
There are two main brands of processors: Intel and AMD. Each brand has various specs, but the main point is that the CPU is what makes up the brain of the computer. Although you can choose any CPU you like, not all processors will be compatible with all motherboards.
For this build, check out the Intel Core i7-10700F. This CPU has eight cores for high-speed performance.
Graphics processing unit (GPU)
This component is what allows you to see the graphics of various computer games. Two main companies make GPUs: Nvidia and AMD. GPUs can be a little difficult to find at a good price, so keep an eye out for good deals. When choosing a graphics card, consider what types of games you want the computer to run. Most modern computer games require a dedicated graphics card, while simpler games with less intensive graphics require an integrated graphics card.
The motherboard is the part of the computer that connects all the individual pieces, which is why it’s important to make sure it works with all the other components. A common mistake people make when building a gaming desktop is choosing a motherboard that’s not compatible with the CPU. If this happens, the machine itself will not run. In some cases, the CPU may not physically fit in the first place.
For the PC build in this article, the MSI Z490-A PRO ProSeries ATX Motherboard works with both the case and the CPU.
RAM, or Random-Access Memory, is hardware that stores temporary data from programs on a computer. Having enough RAM is necessary for programs to run well on your computer. RAM usually comes in 8GB, 16GB or 32GB. For a gaming computer, the best option is to choose two sticks of 8GB RAM, for a total of 16GB.
If you’re not sure which to go with, the Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB is a great set.
There are two main cooling system solutions: liquid and air. Liquid cooling systems are a lot more complex than their counterpart.
Air solutions, meanwhile, rely on several fans that bring cool air in and push hot air out of the machine.
While liquid cooling systems may be more efficient than air cooling systems, they can be tricky to use. For that reason, it’s better to use an air system when building a simple, straightforward gaming computer. If you think you may need additional cooling in the future, make sure the desktop tower is large enough to accommodate more fans.
Gaming computers, like any other desktop, have two types of storage: a mechanical hard drive and a solid-state drive.
Mechanical hard drives hold more space but are usually slightly slower. Solid-state drives are faster than hard drives, but they are also usually smaller.
A gaming desktop can have either one or both types of storage in it, but if you’re looking for a lot of storage, check out the Seagate BarraCuda 2TB HDD.
The power supply is what powers the computer. When choosing a power supply, make sure it draws enough power to handle all the individual components in the machine. GPUs require a lot of power.
For a starter gaming computer, consider the Corsair RM Series RM750 Power Supply.
In addition to the basic components already mentioned, your new gaming desktop will need a few other accessories such as a:
Additional tower fans can provide a good source of airflow to the tower and prevent the machine from overheating.
Steps to build a gaming computer
First, find the CPU socket on the motherboard. It should look like a small metal lever. Push the lever down and gently pull it away from the socket to open the tray. Then, take the CPU by its edges and insert it into the tray. The arrows should line up. Once this is done, lower the lever. Avoid touching the pins or top side of the chip as this could cause damage to it.
Install CPU cooling
If using a CPU cooler, check the manual it comes with for exact steps on how to install it. In general, though, check the motherboard to see if it has a preinstalled bracket in it. Depending on the cooler, you may need to either keep the bracket where it is or remove it.
You may also need to apply a dab of thermal paste to the CPU before placing the cooler on top of it. Some CPU coolers do come with thermal paste already, however. If yours does, you won’t need your own.
Most motherboards have between two and four RAM slots. Check the motherboard’s user manual to find the correct position and configuration for the RAM and snap them into their slots. Make sure the pins align with the socket.
Place the power supply
Take your PSU, or power supply unit, and position it either towards the back of the case or on the bottom. The fans should face outside the case and be aligned with the case’s vents. Attach the PSU using a screwdriver and the screws it came with. Once this is done, set the PSU aside for later.
Install the motherboard
For this step, you’ll need the motherboard user manual, a Phillips #2 screwdriver and all the components of the case. Many computer cases have an unattached shield that is similar to a rectangular sheet of metal with cutouts. Place this shield in the back of the case.
Next, mount the motherboard. Make sure the cables are facing the correct way. Using the screwdriver, mount the center screw first to help stabilize it. Then, screw in the remaining screws.
At this point, you can connect the power supply to the motherboard. There should be an 8-pin connector at the top of the motherboard that’s for the CPU. Connect both this and the 24-pin connector on the side.
Now, locate the PCIe*x16 slot or slots on your motherboard. The location and number of slots will vary based on the motherboard itself, so consult the manual to determine the best way to install the GPU. If your case has I/O covers, remove them so they don’t block the GPU’s I/O HDMI port or other ports. These ports need to be accessible from the exterior of the case.
Align your GPU with the rear retention bracket and the PCIe*x16 slot. Push it down gently until it makes a slight clicking sound. Once that’s done, go ahead and secure the GPU to the case. If the GPU requires additional power connectors, connect it with the power supply.
Locate a series of bays on your case. These may come with metal brackets or small, plastic switches. The bays generally come in two sizes: 2.5 inches and 3.5 inches. Consult the case’s user manual if you can’t find the bays.
Each bay should have a corresponding tray. Place the hard drive into the tray and slide it back into place. Listen for a click to make sure it’s done correctly.
Once the drives are back in place, use a SATA cable to connect them to the motherboard. This cable should come with the motherboard or the drive. Then, connect the drive to the power supply unit.
Some cases have metal brackets rather than tool-free bays. These brackets will have holes or slats in them. If your case has brackets, simply slide the drive between the side of the case and the metal brackets and screw it into place. Again, refer to the case manual for specific installation instructions. Once this is done, connect the SATA cable to the motherboard, power supply and drive.
If desired, install any additional cooling fans to add more airflow to the desktop tower.
Now, it’s time to install the operating system and any accessories like a monitor, mouse or keyboard, plus the operating system, into your computer. Then, boot up the machine. It should give you the option to load up the BIOS. Do this to make sure everything you’ve installed is in working order.
Next, go to the “Boot page” and change the boot order so the system identifies the flash drive first and the hard drive (or solid-state drive) second.
Finally, restart the computer. The OS installer should then pop up. Follow the instructions to finish setting up the machine.
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Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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