Welcome to our beginner’s guide to building a gaming PC. The world of PC gaming is an incredible adventure with so many creative opportunities to test new mods, experience high-end graphics, and upgrade your living, breathing PC over the years.
If you’re wanting to experience the freedom of choice, modability, and uniqueness of the PC gaming world, welcome to the team. If so, let’s get started!
If you’re looking for a prebuilt gaming PC we recommend checking out our guide of the best prebuilt gaming PCs.
How Much It Costs To Build A PC
Building a gaming PC requires a little technical knowledge but nothing you can’t learn from this guide.
We’re going to be using an entry, mid, and high-end cost structure so you have options to choose from. Most games can be played at the entry to mid-level, but rockstar-level equipment will get you all the fancy settings you crave.
|$300 – $600
|$600 – $800
|$800 – $1000+
Part 1: Components
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The central processing unit (CPU) is the “brain of the computer. If you’re only a gamer and don’t plan on using video editing software, your rig shouldn’t bottleneck with mid-tier CPUs. The faster the CPU, the snappier your PC’s performance, and the higher the framerates you’ll get in-game.
There are two main brands for CPUs – Intel and AMD. It doesn’t really matter which brand you choose. Just note that you will need to have a motherboard that’s compatible with your CPU. If you choose AMD, you’ll need an AM4+ motherboard.
Random Access Memory (RAM) is the “short-term memory” of the computer. It’s used to store data that doesn’t get transferred to other forms of storage. RAM is so cheap these days I can’t really recommend 8 GB anymore. By the way, you can’t download free RAM.
Entry/Mid: Corsair Vengeance DDR4 16GB –
$79.99 -> $70.99
Rockstar: T-Force Vulcan Z DDR4 32GB – $102.99
The motherboard is the skeleton of the PC. It’s used for all that electrical wizardry that I couldn’t dream of understanding. A good motherboard has some nice advantages, such as overclocking, onboard Wi-Fi, or better audio quality. Modern motherboards are all pretty good, though.
There are two types of motherboards that only work with their respective CPU manufacturers. Intel boards only work with Intel CPUs and AM4+ boards only work with AMD CPUs.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The graphical processing unit (GPU) is a secondary processor that has evolved over the years to compute the increasing demand for graphics in games. This is the bread and butter of gaming PCs and what really sets them apart from other computers.
These beasts are extremely important and can become expensive if you have your eyes set on the high-end. As with almost all hardware, GPUs suffer from the law of diminishing returns. If you plan on just gaming, mid-tier GPUs work very well.
There are two main GPU makers, Nvidia and AMD. Yes, it’s the same AMD that makes CPUs. As a general rule of thumb, Nvidia makes the more powerful GPUs but AMD usually has a better price-to-performance ratio.
Modern PCs have two types of storage, hard drives, and SSDs. In my rig, I have both. However, you can get by with just a SSD since prices are pretty good nowadays. As a rule of thumb, Hard drives are slower, have more storage space, and are bigger. SSDs are much faster, more expensive, and have no moving parts.
Have you seen how fast the new PS5 boots up games? That’s because it’s taking advantage of a modern SSD-type storage system. The amount of space you need is completely subjective. I’ve been fine with 1TB while others demand 5 TB+.
Entry: Seagate BarraCuda 2TB – HDD –
$57.99 -> $51.99
Mid: Samsung 870 1TB – SSD
$129.99 -> $89.99
Rockstar: Seagate BarraCuda 6TB – HDD $139.99
Gaming PC Case
All gaming PC cases serve the same purpose – hold what’s inside. What really matters here is if it’s big enough for your hardware and it looks good to you. There are a few sizes of cases that most people use.
Entry: NZXT 510 – $69.99
Mid: NZXT H510 Elite –
$169.99 -> $149.89
Rockstar: Thermaltake Core P8 – $249.99
Power Supply (PSU)
The power supply is the engine of the PC. It provides all the electricity needed to operate the rest of the computer. The main thing to note about power supplies is modular vs non-modular or semi-modular.
Modular power supplies offer the most customization and are great for cable management. Non-modular power supplies just give you all the wires without the ability to pick and choose. This can get kind of messy but they are usually cheaper.
Also, if you have more power-hungry parts, you might want a power supply with more voltage. Typically, most builds will be fine with 600w or so. Anything over that is probably overkill for beginner builds. I recommend going no less than 500w.
Entry: ARESGAME 500w – $47.99
Mid: ARESGAME 750W – $79.99
Rockstar: GAMEMAX 850w –
$179.99 -> $139.99
Don’t forget to add some of the most critical parts of a new gaming rig, the accessories! You might want to visit our other post about the best gaming mouse and best gaming keyboard, and best gaming chairs to get your accessories ready to game.
Part 2: Assembling Your PC
Sweet, now that you have your gaming PC parts picked out, it’s time to start putting it together. The only thing you should really is a screwdriver, a source of light, and a flat surface to work on.
Install The Power Supply
First thing first. We want to install the power supply. Look for the part of your case that has an opening. This is where the power supply usually goes.
Remember, the power supply will connect to an outlet so face mount it so the connector is facing the outside. You usually have to screw it in with four separate screws. Viola! On to step two already.
Mount Your Motherboard
Once you have everything unboxed and ready, you’re going to want to lay your case on its side so you have easy access to everything. Once your case is flat on its side, you want to screw the mounting brackets on the case.
This is where your motherboard is. Depending on the size of your motherboard, ATX, Micro ATX, or Mini ATX, there should be instructions in the case where you should mount your screws.
If you don’t see any visual indicators, lay your motherboard inside your case and look where the little holes line up with the holes on your motherboard. There is where you’ll insert the mounts. Once you’ve installed the motherboard you’re ready to add the CPU.
Install The RAM
This is the easiest part of the whole build. Get your RAM sticks out and stick them into the RAM slots on the motherboard. You should hear a “click” when they are properly fitted. If your motherboard has four slots, distance your sticks one apart as a best practice.
Install The CPU
I know this part might seem scary for those of you who’ve never built a gaming PC before. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as hard as it looks. The first thing you’ll want to do is apply thermal paste to your CPU.
This stuff keeps your CPU cool and is essential to the health of your computer. Some CPUs come with thermal paste already installed. If it has a gray/silver sticky paste applied on the bottom of the CPU, it already has some.
If there’s none, just add a pea-sized amount to the center of the top of your CPU. Seriously, you don’t need that much. Now you want to gently lock the CPU into the motherboard slot. Make sure you don’t touch the pins on the bottom. Those things are sensitive and bring easily.
You should see an arrow on the CPU and motherboard slot. You want them both facing the same way. CPUs can only attach the board one way. Once it’s locked in, we need to install the fan to keep your CPU cool.
Some CPUs come with fans, others don’t. If you’ve seen some builds that have water-cooled parts, don’t worry about that. That’s for a more advanced enthusiast.
There should be instructions on how you can attach the fan to your CPU. Once the fan is properly fitted, we’re ready to move on to the GPU.
Install The Storage
Next, you’ll want to mount your drives to your case. Typically, there are hard drives bay that you can use to install either your hard drives or SSDs.
When you’re installing your storage drives, make sure you face them toward your motherboard. You will have to attach the SATA cables that come with the drives to the appropriate slots on the motherboard.
Don’t worry too much about plugging them in yet. I usually wait until the end to do that.
Install The GPU
We’re down to the last piece of equipment! Luckily the GPU is super easy to install. First, remove the dust filters from the appropriate parts on the back of the case.
The ones you will want to remove will be the ones that align with the PCIe slot that you will mount your graphics card. I think finally hearing that “click” when you put in the graphics card is the most satisfying part of building a gaming PC.
Although there are smaller PCIe slots (x4) that you can use to install a soundcard, modern graphics cards require x16 slots. Not only will it say so on the motherboard, the size should align perfectly with the size of the slot on your card.
Once the dust filters are removed, simply align the GPU with the PCIe slot and slide it in. You will hear a click to notify you it’s secure.
From here, just screw in the GPU to your case where you removed the dust filters.
Note: For bigger GPUs, you might have to take out some of the hard drive bays so it fits.
Connect The Cables
Now that you have all the parts installed you’re ready to connect all the cables. This part can be tricky at first but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Start with the biggest cables first. Most of these should be pretty self-explanatory.
Connect the appropriate cables to the respective slots and you’re almost there! Don’t forget to check the manual on your motherboard if you need any hints.
The really tiny LED cables still show you where to put them, you just have to look really close at the motherboard to see where they go. Every cable you need to boot your PC will be included in your power supply.
Boot It Up!
Alright, you finally have everything installed and all the cables are connected. It’s time for the big best part.
Turn on the power supply and hit the power button! You should see your motherboard’s BIOS screen pop up. From here, you’ll want to choose the operating system of your choice and start gaming!
Sometimes, error messages will pop up. Don’t worry, it happens to all of us. Your computer will usually diagnose what’s wrong and display the error in your BIOS. Get the errors fixed and boot up again!
Sweet! Your gaming PC is booted up and chugging along. Welcome to the world of PC gaming. You’re going to love it here.
We hope you enjoyed our beginner’s guide to building a gaming PC.
If you want to skip the “hassle” of building a gaming PC, why not see the best gaming laptops instead?
Did this guide help you build your first rig? Let us know in the comments below.