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How to Build a Gaming PC In 2024: The Definitive Guide

From planning to building to maintaining, the How To Build a Gaming PC guide covers everything you need to know about building your first PC.

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Building a gaming PC requires experience and knowledge of which component best suits and complements the other in your build. Having a rough image of what your PC looks like and what programs you want it to run can help when choosing certain parts, such as the GPU, processor, etc. 

Key Takeaways

  • During the planning phase, consider your budget, the upgradability of your PC, its performance, looks, and overclocking potential.
  • In the building phase, get compatible components and build your gaming PC by connecting every element.
  • For the maintenance phase, monitor the thermals and performance of your PC to look for any anomalies, and clean the rig regularly.

The Planning Phase

In the planning phase, I will walk you through the factors you must consider before buying your components for a gaming PC.

Budget

Staying within your budget is essential. To achieve this, compare prices from different stores rather than purchasing all components from one place. Research component prices thoroughly. If you find a part you like but a bit too expensive, you can also explore the used market for cost-effective options.

While secondhand components can offer better value for money, they come with risks. For beginners without technical knowledge and testing expertise, it’s not recommended due to the potential for financial loss. Here is approximately how much it cost me to build my gaming PC.

Our reviewers tested gaming PCs under $500, $1000, $1500, $2000, and $5000, so review them to get an estimate of your budget.

Upgradability

Choose components that support future upgrades, ensuring your PC stays relevant. With this approach, you can easily enhance your system’s performance by upgrading RAM, GPU, or other critical components without investing in an entirely new rig, saving you money and keeping your PC up to date. Check out the best CPU and RAM for gaming tested by our reviewers on various aspects to help make your pick easier.

Performance

When building a gaming PC, prioritize top-notch performance and component compatibility to avoid bottlenecks. This ensures that all parts work seamlessly together, unlocking the full potential of your setup.

Looks

Even though looks are not nearly as important as the other factors, they can still matter to some gamers. You can show off your gaming PC build to your friends or make it in your style, setting it apart from other forms. 

A Gaming PC
A Gaming PC (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Overclocking Potential

Unless you want to squeeze every bit of performance out of your rig and have the technical knowledge to succeed, this factor might not appeal to you.

The overclocking potential refers to your PC’s ability to handle high thermals to deliver more performance than it was meant to by default. When you overclock your PC, you feed it with more power, hoping your system runs stable and delivers higher performance. 

Addressing the extra heat generated to maximize your system’s performance through overclocking is crucial. Get a robust cooling system to manage this heat effectively. Additionally, a capable power delivery system is essential to provide the required power seamlessly to components like the CPU, GPU, and RAM.

Overclock With MSI Afterburner
Overclock With MSI Afterburner (Image By Tech4Gamers)

A high-quality CPU cooler, top-tier power supply, and a sturdy motherboard to support overclocking are indispensable features in any gaming PC build.

Prebuilt Systems Vs Custom Gaming PC

You can purchase a prebuilt gaming PC from any store, and it even provides a warranty, saving you from manufacturer hassles. However, customization options are limited, and swapping components can be pricier. While you can upgrade a prebuilt PC to some extent, it’s more flexible than a custom PC. 

Meanwhile, the idea behind a custom gaming PC is simple: you buy particular components from different places or just a single store (depending on your preference) and build the system yourself at home. 

On the other hand, building a custom PC takes more time and requires ample knowledge about PC components to make the right pick, but you get complete control of the customizations.

Custom Built PC
A Custom Built Gaming PC (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Which One Should You Go For?

I recommend you build your custom setup to save some cash. However, purchasing a prebuilt arrangement is best if you lack time and the required PC knowledge.

Things Required

Building a PC is relatively easy. In fact, with a couple of Phillips Head screws and a few other tools, you can get right down to business. I recommend you go for magnetic screwdrivers to avoid losing screws.

Here are a few essential tools required for building a gaming PC:

  • Phillips Screwdriver (Number #1).
  • Phillips Screwdriver (Number #2).
  • Standard Flathead Screwdriver.
  • Hex Nut Driver.
  • A magnetic screw tray or magnetic mat (to stay organized).
  • Anti-static mat or Anti-Static wristband.
  • Zip Ties.
  • Thermal Paste.
  • Knife.

The Building Phase

By this point, you should have a rough idea of what type of gaming PC you’re after and your budget. With these answers in mind, move to the building phase. 

WARNING: Remember to ground yourself when building the PC to prevent shocks and component damage.

Get The Components

For a good gaming setup, you need to do lots of market research and select the components that offer the perfect blend of performance and price. To get an idea of the compatibility and pricing for each element, I use PCPartPicker. Select the parts, and see how your build turns out.

Furthermore, these buying guides will help you purchase a top-notch GPU, RAM, CPU, motherboard, and CPU cooler. Every part you select must go perfectly with the rest of the components.

Avoid Basic Mistakes

If you’re a beginner, you’ll likely make many mistakes throughout your first PC-building experience. Therefore, familiarize yourself with the PC building mistakes you have to avoid before you begin.

WARNING: Never touch electrical components when the device is turned on.

Installing Components

It took me about 2 hours to align and install all the components correctly into the PC. While the duration varies with one’s experience, maintain focus during PC building to avoid errors and mishaps.

Step 1

Processor

I began the assembly with the processor. While handling, hold the processor from its edges and never from the bottom. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Open The Socket: Push down on the small metal lever next to the socket > Slide it away to open the socket. For older AMD CPUs, lift the metal lever.
  2. Remove Components: Remove the plastic cover from the CPU socket > Remove the processor from its box.
  3. Identify Markings: If you have an Intel processor or an AMD 7000 processor, you will find markings around the edge of the processor. You will also find a similar marking on the CPU socket.
  4. Place The Processor: Align the processor with the corresponding markings on the chip and the socket > Gently insert the processor into the socket. If you have an older AMD processor, make sure the pins at the bottom of the processor are seated into the socket holes.
  5. Close The Socket: Lower the metal lever down > Slide it into its place. For older AMD processors, push down the metal lever.
    Processor in motherboard
    An i7-10700K Processor Placed On Motherboard (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 2

RAM

Review your motherboard’s manual once and check out its DIMM slot configuration for optimal performance. Conventionally, if you have 4x DIMM slots and want to install 2x RAM sticks, the first stick should go in the first slot furthest from the CPU socket, and the second stick should go in the second slot away from the CPU socket. Install the RAM sticks in alternate places. Take note of the instructions below to proceed.

  1. Place RAM Sticks Into DIMM Slot: Unlatch the plastic clips at the end of each DIMM slot > Place the first RAM stick according to the DIMM slot. You will notice a space on the RAM’s connector, which should match the DIMM slot.
  2. Push The RAM In Place: Apply light force with both thumbs on each RAM end until you hear a click > Repeat for the next RAM.
    RAM on motherboard
    An XPG DDR5 RAM Kit Installed On A Motherboard (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 3

CPU Cooler

Bring out a Phillips screwdriver and some thermal paste for this step. The instructions for installing a CPU cooler vary depending on your motherboard socket, cooler type, and platform; thus, refer to the installation guide. This is the procedure I followed.

  1. Apply Thermal Paste: Install a compatible backplate to the motherboard > Apply pea-sized thermal paste onto the CPU. Ignore this if there is no backplate and thermal paste is pre-applied.
  2. Position The Cooler: Remove the fan from the cooler > Hold the cooler above the CPU socket > Position it according to the standoffs of the installed backplate. 
  3. Screw The Cooler In Place: Remove the protective film at the cooler’s base. While keeping the cooler aligned with the holes or standoffs, gently place it onto the spots so the thermal paste is spread evenly > Tighten the screws. 

    ARCTIC Freezer 50 CPU Air Cooler
    CPU Cooler Installation (Image By Tech4Gamers)
  4. Connect The Wires: Refer to the CPU cooler’s manual for the cables and see which line goes where for the motherboard. Generally, plug the fan’s cable into the CPU_FAN header.

    CPU Fan Headers
    CPU Fan Headers (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 4

M.2 SSDs

Installing an M.2 SSD is straightforward. Before securing it, consult your motherboard’s manual to identify the M.2 slot location – a horizontal slot, about an inch long, with a screw at one end. It is typically found near the CPU socket or PCIe slots in the lower half of the motherboard. Once you have located the M.2 slot, use these steps.

  1. Position The SSD In Its Slot: Unscrew the small screw from the M.2 slot > Hold the SSD from its edges > Slide it in the slot with its connector end first.
  2. Tighten The Screws: Gently screw it in place > Repeat for more SSDs.

    CPU Fan Headers
    Installed SSD On Motherboard (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 5

Motherboard

First, install the IO Shield. Place the IO Shield on the case and gently press each corner until it snaps into its place. With the IO Shield good to go, here’s how you can install the motherboard.

  1. Look For Standoffs: Make sure there are no internal cables around the motherboard tray. After that, check if the PC case has standoffs pre-installed. If not, then install the standoffs yourself.
  2. Align The Motherboard With PC Case: Lift the motherboard > Hover it over the motherboard tray of your PC > Align the motherboard’s rear IO ports according to the installed IO Shield > Align the holes on the motherboard with the case’s standoffs.
  3. Tighten The Screws: Place the motherboard on the motherboard tray > Screw the motherboard in place.

    Installing the motherboard (Image By Tech4Gamers)
    Installing The Motherboard (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 6

PSU

After installing the CPU Cooler and the motherboard, it’s time to place the power supply unit to power the components. All you have to do is follow the steps below.

  1. Remove The Cables: Unplug all the cables from the PSU if it’s modular > Locate the PSU slot in your PC case. Usually, it is located at the bottom.

    PSU slot at the bottom (Image By Tech4Gamers)
    PSU Slot At The Bottom (Image By Tech4Gamers)
  2. Position It Properly: Decide the PSU’s orientation to ensure proper ventilation. Orient it so that the PSU’s fan faces the vent on the back of the case. However, if your case comes with a bottom vent, adjust accordingly.
  3. Place The PSU: Put the PSU into its slot > Screw it in its place.
  4. Plug The PSU: Take the 24-pin connector near the bottom > Plug one end into the PSU and the other into the motherboard > Repeat the same step for an 8-pin connector near the top of the motherboard.
    Plugging the 24-pin connector (Image By Tech4Gamers)
    Plugging The 24-pin Connector (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 7

GPU

Identify the x16 PCIe slot to install the GPU. It should be colored differently than the other PCIe slots, and even if it’s the same color, it will be a bit long. If you can’t identify it, refer to your motherboard’s manual to be safe.

PCIe x16 Slot (Image By Tech4Gamers)
PCIe x16 Slot In Motherboard (Image By Tech4Gamers)
  1. Remove PCIe Slot Brackets: Unscrew the PCIe slot brackets from the case > Push down the plastic latch on one end of the PCIe x16 slot.
  2. Insert The GPU: Hold the GPU firmly > Push it down into the slot while aligning its connector with the x16 slot until you hear a click > Screw in the GPU’s frame and PCIe slot brackets.
  3. Connect The Cables: Plug in the GPU with the PSU using the relevant connector.
    Install GPU Into Motherboard Slot
    Correctly Align And Install GPU Into The PCIe Slot (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Step 8

Cable Management

When building the rig, I used velcro straps and zip ties to manage the cables properly. First, group together the wires that seem to be going to the same place or near each other, then tie them up with a velcro strap or a zip tie and route them so that they neither block the airflow nor are they visible.

Cable management
Neat Cable Management (Image Credits Tech4gamers)

Tip: Route the cables through the back of the motherboard tray to tuck them away neatly.

Step 9

OS

Once the component installation is completed, install the preferred Operating System on your gaming PC. I chose Windows 11. To get your new gaming PC up and running, follow these steps.

  1. Connect The Peripherals: Connect all peripherals, including the monitor, via HDMI to the GPU > Power on the PC > Insert a bootable USB drive with Windows Setup.
  2. Access Boot Menu: When prompted, access the Boot Menu by pressing the specified key (e.g., F10, F11, or F12).
  3. Install And Activate Windows: Choose the USB drive in the Boot Menu > Follow the onscreen instructions to install Windows > Activate Windows using an existing license key or purchase a new one if needed.

The Maintenance Phase

Check all connections and components in the BIOS to ensure proper detection of RAM, storage, and other elements. Monitor temperatures and performance once everything is confirmed.

Monitor Thermals and Performance

I use MSI Afterburner to monitor my PC’s thermals. Play a few games and notice the performance. If your PC faces thermal problems, it might be due to improper air cooler installation. Recheck whether it’s seated correctly and whether the thermal paste is adequate. Additionally, follow the techniques to lower GPU and CPU temperatures.

Monitor Gaming Performance With MSI Afterburner
Monitor Gaming Performance With MSI Afterburner (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Cleaning

Dust accumulation on the motherboard and components can trap heat and hinder airflow, impacting system performance over time. Regularly clean the PC and its components, like PC fans and motherboard, to maintain optimal conditions.

Dust Build-Up Inside Computer Case (Image By Tech4Gamers)

WARNING: Dust accumulation often leads to the jamming of internal components.

Final Words

From gathering the components to putting them together and testing their performance, building a gaming PC was challenging, but the above process was very helpful in ensuring I built my setup without many problems. Using my knowledge and expertise around PC building, I picked the latest components to keep my PC in line with the most recent technology, so if you have a good budget, I suggest that’s what you should do as well if going for a custom gaming PC.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Building My PC A Better Option Than Buying A Prebuilt One?

Building your setup allows you creative freedom and is cheaper; however, it requires skill and knowledge.

Is Buying A Cheaper CPU A Good Idea?

Inexpensive components do not function as well as expensive ones. Check what CPU is compatible with your build at your price point.

Are Secondhand Prebuilt Units Any Good?

I recommend you avoid purchasing secondhand builds as they are more prone to issues.


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