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How To Assemble A Gaming PC | Step By Step Guide

Karleen Flood

If you’re a gamer, chances are that at some time or another you’ve either thought about or taken the plunge and assembled your own gaming PC. Why? Because when it comes to serious gamers, money is no object, and even if it was wasting money on overpriced OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) systems isn’t something they’d do. This article is meant for those of you who may have thought about doing this yourself as well; we’re going to walk through every step necessary – from start to finish – in order to build your very own custom gaming rig! So let’s get started with all the tips and tricks I picked up building my last system… You also have the option of best prebuilt gaming pc if you can’t handle the headache of putting everything together.

Choose A PC Case

The first step to assemble a gaming pc is choosing your PC case. There’s one type of case design I’d like to explain, and that’s ‘modular’. As the name implies, these cases are designed so that if you want to add extra cooling fans, or other components such as a water-cooling system, it’s usually extremely easy to do so with modular cases. The more common type is one which uses trays on rails – you can pull out a tray containing your drives (usually 5.25″ optical drives and 3.5″ hard disks), and install another one in its place with ease. This is obviously extremely useful for those wishing to add an extra HDD later on in order to improve their storage space without having to open up the case again; not everyone has room inside their PC case for masses of HDDs!

The other type is a case which uses a slide-out motherboard tray. While this generally requires you to remove the entire side of the case to access, it does mean that should you want to add in another graphics card for SLI or CrossFireX (running multiple graphics cards together) later on, installing them will be incredibly easy! Also, as long as your motherboard has one or two spare PCI Express slots, there really shouldn’t be any problem running more than one graphics card.

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Choose Your Processor

Choosing the right processor isn’t usually too much of an issue; if you’re not overclocking then it’s simply a matter of choosing between AMD and Intel, and seeing which company currently offers more bang for your buck. Dual/Quad Core or even Hyperthreaded Pentium processors are good enough for most people, and you’d be hard-pressed to see a difference between the two in day-to-day tasks. If you do plan on overclocking your processor though, pick an unlocked processor such as Intel’s ‘K’ series (for example the i7 920) which can be pushed well beyond its stock speed with ease; they’re also good overclockers out of the box too!

Also note that if you’re planning on running SLI or CrossFireX at some point, get a motherboard with two PCI Express 3.0 slots (preferably 16x+16x) so that when you do want to purchase another graphics card, it’ll be compatible with your processor and motherboard!

Choose Your Motherboard

When choosing a motherboard, make sure that it has everything you want. Onboard sound isn’t as important these days thanks to the improvement in on-board audio quality, but if you do plan on hooking your PC up to a 5.1 or 7.1 surround system via optical (Toslink) or electrical (Coaxial) connections – for example, running games at night without waking up your flatmates – then make sure there’s an optical/coaxial output on the back of the motherboard so you can connect them easily. Also be sure to get onboard LAN; it doesn’t have much bearing these days thanks to gigabit Ethernet cards being dirt cheap, but it can be useful if you live in an area with low ethernet speeds or a particularly poor router.

Finally, always be on the lookout for SLI/CrossFireX certification so that your PC will have room to expand (if need be). Sometimes motherboards come with three PCI Express x16 slots all concentrated into one large ‘block’, which means two graphics cards are out of the question due to an incompatibility.  Check reviews and user feedback before buying!

Choose Your RAM

The golden rule here is this: get more than you think you’ll need for now; 2GB used to be enough, then 4GB, and now 8GB is pretty much standard for most people. Most games require 2-4GB of RAM (and some even recommend 8GB for high-end gaming!), and memory hungry applications such as Adobe Photoshop usually require around 4GB to function properly. On top of that, Windows XP 64-bit requires a minimum of 1GB of RAM, whilst Windows 7 and Vista require 2GB.

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When it comes to speed, your choice is simple: 1600MHz or higher. A 0-Latency kit also makes little difference – the performance increase over 1333MHz DDR3 is less than 5%, so unless you plan on overclocking your chips, there’s no need to buy faster kits. Just make sure they’re compatible with your chipset!

Finally, check which sockets you’ll be able to put your chosen CPU into; if possible, it should be able to fit into a motherboard with the same socket (e.g. you want an AM3+ CPU, so go for an AM3+ compatible motherboard). Clashing sockets usually work fine as well, but you’ll have to do some more research!

CPU Cooler

If you’re overclocking – yes! Upgrade to a better cooling solution (or liquid cooler) unless it comes with a stock fan which is sufficient Wraith, Scythe Mugen 3, CM Hyper 212+, etc…

If you’re not overclocking or are going for a budget build – no! You will get away with your stock cooler just fine. If it’s good enough for professional overclockers (and they make it look so easy) then it’s certainly good enough for the average consumer.

Choose Your Graphics Cards

If you’re planning on running two graphics cards in SLI or CrossFireX (or even just one!), then pick up a card that’ll go well with your chosen processor and motherboard;  if possible, get the most powerful card available which is within your budget – not only will this mean better performance in modern titles such as Crysis 3 and Battlefield 3/4, but if you decide to upgrade later on it won’t bottleneck your system!

Whilst it’s common knowledge that SLI scales incredibly well in most games (the two cards will communicate with each other to split rendering tasks, so you get double performance often without even trying), CrossFireX does the exact same thing but doesn’t always perform as well.  AMD’s drivers have improved somewhat over recent months, however – and you can now run up to four GPUs in a single system (using more physical PCI Express slots of course). The downside is that AMD GPUs are not quite on par with their Nvidia counterparts; whilst AMD’s Radeon HD 7xxx and R9 2xx series offer good performance for their price tags thanks to GCN architecture, they don’t quite hold a candle against Nvidia’s Kepler or Maxwell architectures.

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On the other hand, Nvidia’s Kepler cards (GTX 6xx and 7xx series) are also powerful but incredibly power-hungry. If you build a high-end gaming rig with multiple GPUs in mind, then make sure it has a good PSU which can handle all the extra current!

The Bottom Line

Most motherboards are pretty much identical nowadays; as long as they’re compatible with your chosen CPU socket, RAM speed and slot type (DDR3 or DDR4), then you’re looking at an okay motherboard. However, there are some things to consider when choosing one:

Firstly, check whether your case supports the size of motherboard that you want – ATX motherboards take up a lot of room, and microATX boards don’t take up much space at all.  Also remember that some socket types are physically larger than others – even if the motherboard chipset supports a certain CPU, it might not fit into your case – so do plenty of research on this before buying!

Secondly, look for things such as wireless support (for connecting to WiFi networks), good quality sound chips or extra SATA connectors – these aren’t absolutely necessary but will give you more options in the long run.

Finally, check whether the back-panel ports come with PS/2 ports for your keyboard and mouse . This is increasingly rare nowadays (in fact my last motherboard had none at all!) but usually comes down to personal preference. If you prefer to use PS/2 devices, then make sure your motherboard supports them.

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