Construction of a gaming computer is, without a doubt, the finest technical investment a person can do. A high-end gaming system will outlast a smartphone, will have more power than a game console, and will be vastly more adaptable than even the most powerful streaming box. A gaming PC is the ideal tool for the job, whether you’re typing up documents, editing video, or cranking up the settings on the latest and greatest games. It has everything you need. One of these systems may last five years with regular maintenance and updates; with frequent improvements, it could last 10 years.
Even yet, putting together a computer may be a difficult task, particularly for newbies. Fortunately, there are many excellent resources available, notably from our sister sites PC Gamer and Tom’s Hardware. Both of these articles, on the other hand, are heavily focused on mechanics: what components you’ll need and how to put them all into a motherboard. Even these directions would have been a little intimidating to me before I constructed my first computer.
Before you begin building a computer, you must first determine why you want to create one. You’re looking for something specific, but you can’t obtain it from a prebuilt machine. Which components will make that aim more achievable? And how are you supposed to make sense of the hundreds of distinct technical specifications that exist amongst the half-dozen various parts you’ll require?
With that in mind, the first instalment of our “How to Build a PC” series is devoted to the process of selecting components. On the whole, we’ll be talking about the hardware that makes a computer work. But I’ll also go into my thought process for each section and the compromises I was ready to make in order to complete it.
The Basic Parts
Before I lay out my thought process behind each part, there are, at minimum, seven parts you’ll need to build a gaming PC:
Processor, or CPU: More so than any other component, the CPU (central processing unit) is what makes your computer run. The CPU routes instructions from one system in your computer to another. The better the processor, the faster it can transmit information for both software and hardware functions.
Motherboard: The motherboard is where all the hardware in your computer lives. The most important thing about a motherboard is its compatibility with the parts you choose, but motherboards can also have integrated graphics cards, Wi-Fi systems and more.
Memory, or RAM: RAM (random access memory) determines how much data your computer can process at any given moment. To oversimplify things considerably, RAM is where your computer stores information it needs to access right away. The more RAM you have, the more efficiently your computer can process lots of information — helpful for productivity; essential for games.
Storage, or SSD/HDD: PC storage essentially comes in two flavors: Solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs). Either way, it’s where your files live when they’re not in use. Bigger drives mean more storage space, which means more room for files, games, media and so forth.
Power supply: Possibly the least interesting and most vital piece of the PC puzzle, the power supply is exactly what it sounds like: It gets electricity from an outlet to individual systems in your computer. Picking the right one can be tricky, but once you do, you’ll probably never need to think about it again.
Case: Your computer case is, for the most part, an aesthetic choice, although some models include fans for additional cooling. While it’s possible to do an “open-air” build, a case is probably a better choice for keeping dust out and components sheltered.
Graphics card, or GPU: Arguably the most important component in a gaming rig, the GPU (graphics processing unit) renders images from your PC and puts them on your monitor. More powerful GPUs facilitate better in-game graphics and settings.
How to Conceiving a machine
The most difficult element of making a computer, like with any creative endeavour, is getting started. I don’t know where to begin with this because there are literally thousands of different components. Do you start with a GPU and construct your system around it? Find a case that you like and see what you can put inside of it… Search Newegg for whatever is on sale and cross your fingers that it all works?
Those are all feasible construction methodologies, believe it or not, but my approach is a little more straightforward: Figure out the “why” first, and the “what” will fall into place as a result. What type of computer do you want to construct? Is it important to you to have a productive machine that can also play games on the side? Is there a more flexible alternative to next-generation consoles? Is this a high-priced powerhouse that will survive for aeons?
Personally, I’m in the market for a new gaming rig because my present setup is more than ten years old. The fact that I was using a more powerful PC at the Tom’s Guide office for game and peripheral testing didn’t pose a significant problem at the time. Although I’ve been working from home owing to the epidemic for the past three months, my old workhorse isn’t up to the task any more.
As a result, I require a computer that is capable of running the latest games fluently, but I do not require it to be capable of running everything at 8K resolution and 120 frames per second. In addition, I want a system that is at least as powerful as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X in the event that I need to evaluate games across platforms.
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