How to build a gaming PC: the ultimate guide

How to build a gaming PC: the ultimate guide

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If you’ve decided to build your own gaming PC, you’ve come to the right place. It may seem complicated putting together all those components but it’s as easy as building Lego – honestly! It’s also incredibly satisfying being able to say you’ve put your own PC together. Here’s how.

Useful tips

Clear a large area for assembly (a good-sized table will do), free of any carpets. Static electricity can damage components, so a table is the best surface. We’d also recommend touching a grounded metal object (such as your metal PC case) before handling your components. Lastly, you’ll want good lighting – a head torch is best, but a standard torch will suffice when accessing your PC’s nooks and crannies.

1. CPU installation

Firstly, you’ll need your CPU and motherboard. Place the motherboard on the table and remove the plastic film. Next, remove the CPU from its packaging. Undo the lever-latch on the motherboard’s CPU socket and align the CPU chip with the socket, making sure the arrow on the bottom left of the CPU is aligned with the bottom left of the socket. The CPU doesn’t click in, so rest it in the socket then close the lever latch.

2. M.2 installation

You can install your M.2 SSD on to your motherboard when it’s in your PC case, but we find it easier to fit it when it’s out. Take out the screw that holds your memory stick in place, then insert it into the port at a 30° angle and slide into place. The stick will spring up when docked, so once in, gently screw the stick back in.

3. I/O shield placement

You’ll need your PC case now. Open it up (remove the screws by hand) and place on its side on the table with the main housing facing up. Some newer motherboards come with the I/O shield permanently fixed, so if you have one of those, you can skip this step. If not, you’ll need to align your I/O shield (a metal plate with lots of portholes on it) with the I/O slot on your case. The important thing to remember is to make sure your case and motherboard are aligned. Once you’ve lined them up, click the shield into your case’s I/O slot from the inside until you hear a click.

4. Install your motherboard

Your motherboard comes with a bag of screws, zip ties and other accessories. Find the motherboard standoffs, which are usually gold and threaded on the bottom half, with a screw hole in the top. Some cases come preinstalled with standoffs, in which case you can jump to step 5.

If not, locate which standoffs are required depending on your motherboard size – check this by referring to the instructions: A refers to the standard ATX, M for micro ATX and I for mini ATX. For standard ATX motherboards you’ll need nine standoffs which you screw into the bottom of your case. Next, align the motherboard screw holes with the installed standoffs on your case, while also aligning the ports with the I/O shield. Once aligned, tighten the screws through the appropriate holes on your motherboard. Don’t over-tighten – just enough to make sure the motherboard is secure.

5. Connect case wires

Often the most difficult segment of building a PC is connecting the case wires to your motherboard. The best advice is to consult your motherboard instruction manual and read which cables plug into where. This varies greatly depending on motherboard and case features.

6. Install the PSU

Your PSU sits in the bottom of your case and needs to be secured to it via screws. Ensure the power button and socket both face the back of the case, then attach the internal cables to the other side. Make sure your PSU is fan side down to encourage good airflow, but if you’re going to keep your PC on a carpet, it needs to face upwards.

7. Connect PSU to motherboard

You now need to thread all remaining cables through your case and connect them to your motherboard to power the various elements of your PC. Good cable management is important to maximise airflow – bunched cables affects cooling and looks messy.

8. Install CPU cooler

To install the CPU cooler, apply a pea-sized amount of thermal paste to the top of your CPU chip, then use the pressure of mounting the cooler on your motherboard and chip to spread the paste so you have a thin, even layer between CPU and cooler. You’ll also need to screw the cooler bracket in to the motherboard.

9. Install RAM

Unpack your RAM sticks and slot them into the DIMM slots on your motherboard. Look at your manual to see the optimum slots to use depending on your RAM set-up, but it’s a simple click-in installation. You may need to apply a fair amount of pressure to hear the click – and make sure you’ve unlocked the slots before installing the RAM and relock them when the RAM is in.

10. Install HDD and SATA SSD

Most cases now come with SATA drive bays which make installing these hassle-free. Slide open the bay and secure your drives while keeping the cables to the rear of the bay to keep the front neat and tidy. Once secured, slide the driver bay back into the case and thread the attached cables to the front through one of the cable-management holes.

11. Install GPU

Remove the expansion slot covers at the back of your case to reveal the GPU ports. We’d recommend using the first x16 PCIe slot (the one closest to the CPU), so undo the thumbscrews of the corresponding covers and keep them in a safe place. Next, align your GPU with the x16 PCIe slot and press it into place, then replace the screws that held the covers on.

12. Dot the i’s and cross the t’s

The final part is to connect a monitor to your GPU, and a keyboard to a USB port, then switch the power on and see if your PC turns on. If your screen comes on that’s good; if the BIOS shows up, even better! From there you’ll be gaming in no time.

If nothing happens, it will most probably be due to a loose connection, so check that everything is connected properly and plugged into the right port. If you get an error message or get stuck on the BIOS screen, consult Google to see if there are any fixes to your problem. Nine times out of 10, Google has the answer.

Building your own PC is a great experience and you’ll feel proud knowing that you built your own. This quick-fire guide gets you gaming quickly and shows that it isn’t complicated – your PC really is just electrical Lego!