Ever asked the question, how do I Build My PC by myself? Ever wanted to Build Your own PC but don’t have a clue? If this is you, this guide is for you.
Well, the PC is one sophisticated piece of electronic equipment. You don’t wanna mess around with it… Hey, I’m just kidding. So you want to build your own PC. That’s great. Or you want to build a PC for gaming. Equally great. Very often we’ve heard the question asked, “How do I build my PC by myself?”
We’ve put together this ultimate guide to help you. Perhaps you want to build a PC for graphic design or build the best rendering PC (if you are a digital artist), or you want to build a PC for CAD or Video Editing. Also, we have guides to help you build a PC for VR Gaming (Virtual Reality), for Streaming, or for Music Production.
All these are common examples of several reasons why you want to build a personal computer. Maybe you’ve not done this before, we are here to help. We provide all the answers to your questions. Follow us as we dissect this topic thoroughly in this ultimate guide to build your own PC.
Wait a minute, before we get ahead of ourselves, I’ll like to ask this question…
For what purpose do you want to build a PC?
To help you navigate and get specific advisory on the type of hardware you need to purchase,
I WANT TO BUILD A PC MAINLY FOR
Everything PC Gaming, with recommendations for budget, mid-range to high-end…
Video producers/editors, go here. Recommendations for all budgets…
You create awesome graphics mostly with a PC, and want to build one, go here…
For the 3D Content Creator, with recommendations for budget, mid-range to high-end…
Build a music production PC plus recommendations for studio equipment.
Want to go the VR gaming route? Follow this guide for recommendations…
For those that aren’t just content with gaming. Here’s a full guide with hardware recommendations…
Build a CAD capable workstation PC with hardware recommendations. All parts vetted for compatibility.
For building a PC solely for photo editing, follow this guide for hardware/software recommendations…
Thinking of building a PC for office use? Follow this guide…
- For what purpose do you want to build a PC?
- I WANT TO BUILD A PC MAINLY FOR
- THE PROCESSOR
- THE MOTHERBOARD
- THE MEMORY (RAM)
- THE GRAPHICS CARD
- THE HARD DISK
- THE CPU COOLER
- POWER SUPPLY UNIT
- THE OPTICAL DRIVE
- THE PC CASE
- THE MONITOR
- KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
- MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENTS FOR STREAMING PC
- MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENTS FOR CAD PC
- MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENTS FOR HOME OFFICE/BUSINESS PC
- STATIC ELECTRICITY
- INSTALLING THE POWER SUPPLY
- STEPS TO INSTALL THE POWER SUPPLY
- INSTALLING THE PROCESSOR
- INSTALLING THE PROCESSOR COOLER
- INSTALLING THE RAM
- INSTALLING THE MOTHERBOARD
- INSTALLING THE STORAGE DRIVES
- INSTALLING THE OPTICAL DRIVES (Optional)
- INSTALLING THE GRAPHICS CARD
- CONNECTING ALL COMPONENTS
- CABLE MANAGEMENT
- FINISHING UP
In the following section, we will answer the most common questions you might have concerning this topic. This is not an exhaustive list; you are encouraged to drop your questions in the comment section on any aspect we did not cover.
So, let’s get to it.
Some components for building a desktop PC
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Can I build my PC?
Yes. You can. There was a time when computers were mysterious and only the nerds got to look inside. Not anymore these days. Building your own computer has become so easy that a 10-year-old can do it, and there are lots of reasons why you should build your own PC.
This is because computer components are much easier to install nowadays, thanks to better design standards. Also, there are guides readily available, such as the one you are reading now, that make it easier to follow step by step as you build your own PC.
The only thing that can stop you from building your own PC is you. Yes… If you decide you can’t, then you really can’t do it. It’s simply a matter of willpower, some guts, and patience, and you’re on your way to building your first rig.
You can continue reading or just jump to the step by step section on how to build a PC.
What do I need to build my PC by myself?
There are just 3 things you need to build a PC by yourself…
- The PC components
- Some basic tools
- Some determination and patience
Here we break down exactly what different components make up a PC. It’ll help you to get familiar with the parts of a PC. After all, you’re going to build one, so you might as well understand how the different parts of a PC work together to get things done.
Let’s start with the core components: The Processor, Motherboard or Mainboard, the RAM, the Graphics Card, the Hard Drive, the CPU Cooler, the Power Supply Unit, the Optical Drive, and the PC Case. The peripherals include the Monitor, Keyboard, and Mouse.
The processor, or Central Processing Unit (CPU), is the main processing unit of the computer, that coordinates all operations that take place inside the PC, such as input and output. The processing power is described in clocks, or clock speed, and is measured in Hertz.
A processor can perform complex mathematical calculations at a very fast rate, or frequency. A typical modern processor can perform millions of these operations per second and has clock speeds in the region of 1.5Gigahertz (1.5GHz) all the way to 5GHz.
CORES AND THREADS
CPUs usually have cores or processing units. This means a CPU can be multi-core or single-core. A dual-core CPU has two physical cores or processing units. A quad-core CPU is made up of one processor chip and four physical cores.
Another important feature of processors is threading, which essentially splits a core into two logical or virtual processing units. What this means is that a quad-core CPU with multi-threading will have 8 threads or processing units.
Not all processors support multi-threading, though. In most cases, the multi-threading feature is listed on the box.
Desktop processor showing the contact pins
Processors usually have what we call cache memory. This is a special type of ultra-fast memory for handling operations inside the CPU circuit.
Cache memory is designed to store program instructions and data that are being processed by the CPU, which the CPU is likely to need next. So, instead of having to retrieve this data from the system’s main memory or RAM, the processor quickly fetches it from cache memory.
This way, the efficiency and effectiveness of the computer are enhanced. Cache memory is usually in megabytes (MB). The larger the cache memory of a processor, the more powerful and faster it is.
Another factor you should know is the power rating of a CPU, or what we call Thermal Design Power (TDP). The TDP of a CPU goes a long way in determining the cooling options you should install. For example, a CPU with higher TDP will usually provide more in terms of raw performance, but will ultimately consume more electricity. Technically speaking, TDP is not a direct measure of how much power a component will draw, but it can be a good indicator.
A PC processor produces heat, mainly because of the calculations it crunches. This makes cooling inevitable, and you have two options; air cooling and liquid cooling. Air cooling is usually provided by fans mounted on the CPU, while liquid cooling depends on water in a closed system that actively cools the CPU.
There are two major CPU manufacturers, Intel and AMD. Intel processors used to be strong on single-core performance in terms of raw processing power. Their processors are generally more expensive than AMD’s. On the other hand, AMD processors are generally strong on multi-core performance, though with recent releases have actually overtaken Intel in terms of multi-core performance compared to price.
As is common with every electrical/electronic device, heat is produced as a by-product of power utilization. Processors generate lots of heat energy, that is, alongside their data-crunching role.
With respect to heat, previously, AMD processors were poor on power efficiency, due to the way they are engineered. However, in recent times, AMD processors have better-improved power efficiency, resulting in lower heat output.
When buying a processor, you should bear these things in mind, apart from the purpose for which you are building a PC.
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The motherboard, or mainboard of a PC, is the part that holds every other part together. There are several ports/sockets that allow you to plug in several components that enable the PC to function.
A motherboard is usually composed of the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) on which you have the complex electronic circuit and different sockets, switches, and ports for the different PC components. On the circuit board proper, you have the Northbridge and Southbridge chipsets, the cache memory, and also the BIOS chip and battery for regulating the system internal clock.
Motherboards are classified according to their form factor, known as ATX (Advanced Technology eXtended). For instance, there’s ATX, EATX, mini-ATX, micro-ATX, nano-ATX, etc.
Motherboards are also classified according to the CPU socket type. For instance, there’s LGA 775, LGA 1150, LGA 1155, LGA 2011, etc. (LGA means Logical Grid Array). The number represents the number of contact points or pins on the processor socket.
A typical motherboard has a CPU (Central Processing Unit) socket for the processor, a RAM (Random Access Memory) slot for memory, IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) ports for connecting IDE devices, SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) ports for connecting SATA devices such as hard drives, DVD drives, and Solid State Drives.
There’re also USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports, PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) express ports for connecting graphics cards, M.2 ports for the latest class of storage devices, power connectors for the different devices, and audio in/out ports for audio devices.
A motherboard is really a complicated device that should be handled with extra care, especially during installation. Some major motherboard manufacturers include Gigabyte, ASUS, MSI, ASRock, Intel, Biostar, etc.
When buying a motherboard, note the form factor, the RAM type, and the CPU socket; those are the three most important factors, apart from the price. As a matter of fact, most of the motherboards in the market are designed especially for gaming, except for a few exceptions.
The motherboards designated as gaming motherboards are more rampant. This is because the gaming industry is huge, and has given rise to specialized hardware. You should understand that even though such motherboards are termed ‘gaming motherboard’, they are also useful for other applications like, say video editing. Always have these in mind.
If you are shopping for motherboards right now, here’s a great article on motherboards in the market for your system build.
THE MEMORY (RAM)
RAM is fast, temporary and volatile memory that the PC uses to store data being processed by the processor. RAM usually comes in modules or sticks. RAM sizes are usually a multiple of 2, i.e., 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, etc., though there are exceptions to this rule.
Data stored in RAM is lost if there is a power cut, that is why data needs to be transferred to permanent memory, in this case, the hard drive or external storage devices.
RAM types differ, but the most popular is DDR (Double Data Rate) Memory, which is numbered according to its generations, like DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, etc. Each iteration is faster, and feature higher frequencies and larger capacities than the previous generation.
If you are building your own PC, you need to buy matching RAM for the motherboard, because each motherboard is limited to a certain quantity of RAM and also the type of RAM, whether DDR3 or DDR4.
Some manufacturers of memory modules include Corsair, Kingston, G.Skill, OCZ, Hynix, Transcend, and Mushkin.
Additionally, you need a specific minimum size of RAM for the particular purpose of building a PC, such as for gaming, 3D rendering, Video Editing, etc. We’ll cover these aspects as we proceed.
THE GRAPHICS CARD
A desktop Graphics Card
Also known as the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), this is responsible for processing graphics and image data, and relaying the same to an output device, such as a monitor. The graphics card has become a specialized piece of equipment for the PC and has spawned a whole new industry that is a sub-set of the PC industry.
The memory on a graphics card is a special type of memory called GDDR RAM (Graphics Double Data Rate Random Access Memory), and it comes in various sizes. It is designed to handle graphics data being processed by the GPU processor. Just like PC RAM, it also comes in multiples of 2, e.g., 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, etc., though there are instances of exceptions in some brands.
Graphics RAM usually comes in generations like GDDR3, GDDR5, and GDDR6. As with PC RAM, each succeeding generation is much faster, with higher bandwidth and memory, than previous ones. Recently, HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) was launched, which featured cards with much higher bandwidth than GDDR5.
Graphics cards come in various sizes, brands, memory configurations, purposes, and price. Nowadays, we have specialized graphics cards for running heavy computations that a PC processor is not capable of running alone, such as simulations, image rendering and even Artificial Intelligence (AI) for self-driving cars.
The two major GPU giants are Nvidia and AMD, and their cards are marketed by brands such as EVGA, Gigabyte, XFX, ASUS, Zotac, PNY, MSI, Palit, and others. Lately, there have been rumors that Intel is launching into the GPU market, but time will tell if this is true.
When buying a graphics card, you must take into account your needs, such as the main purpose of the PC and your budget. You may not even need to buy a dedicated graphics card in some scenarios, which you’ll find out shortly. That means you can either rely on the integrated graphics on the processor or get one of the best budget graphics card.
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THE HARD DISK
Desktop Hard Drives
This is the main storage device of the PC. It features permanent, non-volatile memory. It’s not as fast as RAM, but it holds data permanently.
Hard drives are mechanical storage devices, unlike RAM, which manipulates data electronically. This is the main reason for RAM volatility. Mechanical hard drives are simply a collection of constantly spinning electromagnetic disks and platters which are used to access the stored data.
Hard drives or disks come in various sizes, which range from gigabytes to terabytes. A few years ago, hard drives used the IDE interface to connect to the motherboard using, but today, SATA is the preferred interface connector.
There are new technologies such as SSDs (Solid State Drives) and M.2 drives. Both utilize solid-state technology in storing and accessing the data. They are much faster and more reliable, consume less energy than traditional mechanical hard drives. The only downside is the cost, which is much higher (SSD prices have been on a downward spin in recent years).
An SSD Drive
An M.2 NVme drive
Ideally, it is advisable to use an SSD drive as the operating system drive (Boot Drive), which also holds your applications and a traditional mechanical hard drive as permanent storage for your files.
The major manufacturers of mechanical hard drives include Seagate, Western Digital, HSGT, and Toshiba. For SSDs, major brands among others include Samsung, Crucial, OCZ, Corsair, ADATA, Kingston, Silicon Power, Mushkin, and Western Digital.
THE CPU COOLER
This is a special cooling device for the processor. The cooler is important because it does the task of cooling the CPU, which releases copious amounts of heat due to its operation.
CPU coolers come in two forms, air coolers, and liquid coolers. Again, you need to determine the type of cooler you need, whether liquid or air. You should use a liquid cooler only if your processor is going to be seriously overclocked (more on overclocking shortly).
Major brands include NZXT, Noctua, EVGA, Corsair, Thermaltake, Cooler Master, and Enermax.
POWER SUPPLY UNIT
The Power Supply, or PSU, is responsible for distributing power to all the components attached to the motherboard.
Power Supply technology has improved tremendously in recent years, with improvements in design and efficiency. Today, we have modular power supply units that allow you to attach only the cables you need, thereby reducing clutter and improving airflow.
As with other components, there are scores of brands include EVGA, Seasonic, NZXT, XFX, Thermaltake, Antec, Corsair, and others.
THE OPTICAL DRIVE
Though this component is gradually going out of fashion, because of the preponderance of digital downloads, it is still relevant today. The optical drive has come a long way, from the older CD drives to DVD drives and lately, Blu-ray drives.
The optical drive allows you to transfer your data to an optical storage disc, such as a DVD or Blu-ray. You can connect one to the motherboard using a SATA interface cable. Major brands include LG, Samsung, Lite-On, and ASUS. When building your PC, you may decide not to include an optical drive, but that depends on your needs. If you are going to use your PC for media production, such as video editing or photography, you sure need one.
THE PC CASE
This is the housing for your PC. Nowadays, there are special design styles of PC cases from various brands, and for special purposes, such as gaming. There are lots of brands and designs out there, but one thing to keep in mind when buying a case is the form factor it can accommodate with respect to the motherboard. Major brands of PC cases include be Quite!, NZXT, Thermaltake, Antec, Corsair, Cooler Master, Rosewill, DIYPC, and Fractal Design.
As the name implies, this is the peripheral that allows you to ‘monitor’ what is going on in your PC. It is also known as the display. The computer monitor is basically an output device, comes in various sizes and brands, and is indispensable.
Nowadays, display monitors are a big deal, because it can enhance your computing experience to a large extent. There are special monitors for special purposes, such as for gaming, for office productivity, and for media professionals.
Monitors are classified according to the display technology they are manufactured with, such as Twisted Nematic, Vertical Alignment, and In-Plane Switching. You’ll also come across terms such as LED display, which is basically the backlighting type.
There are different sizes of monitors, such as 17 inches, 24 inches, 27 inches, 32 inches, etc. Monitors also have different resolutions, which is measured in pixels, such as 1280×720 pixels, 1920×1080 pixels, and 2560×1440 pixels and more.
Monitors also have what we call refresh rate, response time, aspect ratio, contrast ratio, and sync. You can check out our full review of the 10 best 24-inch monitors for more information. Major monitor brands include HP, ASUS, BenQ, LG, Samsung, Viewsonic, AOC, Acer, Sceptre, and NEC. When buying a monitor, consider your purpose, your needs, and your budget. Overall, a 23 or 24-inch monitor should serve for most users.
KEYBOARD AND MOUSE
These are input devices, which allow you to control the PC. For those that are into gaming, the keyboard and mouse are a big deal. There are different brands out there, but basically, users may want to buy a wireless keyboard and mouse combo. Gamers usually go for special keyboards and mice designed exclusively for gaming.
When it comes to keyboards and mice, the two options are wired and wireless. Of course, the wireless type allows for more flexibility in usage. Weigh your options carefully before you buy.
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Some basic tools needed to build a PC
Basically, you need the following:
- Small and medium-sized Phillips and flat screwdrivers
- A 1/4″ nut driver
- Needle-nosed pliers or forceps
- Anti-static kit (mat and wristband)
- Heat sink thermal paste
- LED torchlight
- Workspace (no rug)
A set of screwdrivers and tools for a PC Build
Anti-Static Wrist Band
Apart from these, you need some patience and self-motivation, which is why this guide is written, to give you that extra push and let you know that you can do it. Click here to read how to build your own PC step by step. We practically lead you by the hand to achieve this feat.
Can I build my own PC online?
Technically speaking, you can. And I’ll tell you why. You can select components for a specific purpose, order the components, and when they arrive, you simply go ahead and build your PC.
For the best results, it is advisable to follow a guide, like the ones we have, to build your PC. That way, you can always come back and drop a comment if you happen to run into a challenge, and we’ll quickly help you out of the situation.
We have a couple of guides on how to build a PC for special purposes, such as a budget gaming PC, Video Editing PC, and 3D Animation and Rendering PC. These guides are authoritative, thorough and easy to follow. You can also continue reading for guides on what components you need to build a PC for any purpose, including how to build your PC step by step.
Can I build my PC without a GPU?
Yes, you can. You don’t need a dedicated GPU if you buy some Intel and AMD processors, and also if you are not going to be doing some serious gaming on your PC.
For Intel processors, their integrated graphics chips are called Intel HD Graphics, Intel UHD Graphics or Iris Graphics, while AMD integrated graphics are called APUs, short for Accelerated Processing Units.
It’s interesting to note that Intel desktop processors with integrated graphics include Intel’s dual-core Pentium, Core i3™, Core i5™ and some Core i7™ line of processors. When buying a processor from Intel with integrated graphics, look at the packaging for the Integrated Graphics feature.
For AMD, their integrated graphics are called Radeon Graphics or Radeon Vega Graphics. Their A-Series™ processors and Ryzen™ processors feature Radeon Graphics. On the other hand, their Athlon™ Processors usually feature Radeon Vega Graphics.
However, the AMD FX™ and Ryzen™ Threadripper series require a discreet graphics card. Always look for the Integrated Graphics feature on the CPU box packaging when making a purchase.
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I want to build a PC for Streaming
Games are meant to be played, at least by one player and maybe 2 or 3 players. Recently, this has changed. Games can now be viewed in spectator mode – thanks to the online game-streaming service Twitch.
Twitch has gained stupendous popularity in recent years, hosting thousands of game streams at a time. In order to build a streaming PC, there are some things you need to get basically, and you’re good to go.
Let’s see the most important.
MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENTS FOR STREAMING PC
For starters, you’ll need a capable processor, at least a quad-core processor. It must be powerful enough to allow you to play the game and stream in high resolution at the same time.
You need a minimum of 8GB of RAM for a decent streaming experience.
Your graphics card must be DirectX 10 compatible, and DirectX 12 is recommended.
This allows you to capture your webcam stream and incorporate it into your stream, thereby adding a personalized touch to your game stream.
Of course, you need an account on Twitch, which you can create here. Next, you need to download the free streaming software Open Broadcaster Studio (OBS). OBS is a versatile desktop streaming software that can record and stream video game footage from your gaming computer to the Twitch network.
HEADSET WITH MIC
You’ll need this to be able to respond to chats, questions and also communicate with your audience.
Your internet connection must be able to support the high-resolution footage you’ll be streaming. You need at least 4.5 to 6Mbps to upload a 1080p stream at 60 frames per second, and 3.5 to 5Mbps to stream a 1080p stream at 30 frames per second.
Find below our carefully selected components for building a streaming PC, whether for budget, mid-range or high-end build. Each column holds a list of components for each build; this is to guide you properly. All links point to Amazon US.
STREAMING PC BUILD OPTIONS – Swipe left on mobile.
I want to build a PC for CAD/CAE/CAM
If you want to build a desktop computer for Computer-Aided Design, Computer-Aided Engineering or Computer-Aided Manufacturing, welcome to this guide. CAD/CAE/CAM software are a specialized group of software designed for drafting, modeling and rendering 3-dimensional models on the computer.
The models could be anything from architectural structures such as buildings, or structural designs of physical structures like bridges, iconic structures, high-rise buildings, etc.
They could also be machinery, tools, equipment, and other such stuff. CAD cuts across popular software such as AutoCAD, ArchiCAD, Solidworks, Catia, Autodesk Inventor, Autodesk Revit, FreeCAD, Onshape, Creo, AutoCAD Architecture, and a host of others.
When building a PC for CAD, you need a special hardware configuration for the best performance. We are going to examine the most important hardware requirements to build a CAD-capable PC.
MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENTS FOR CAD PC
Your processor must be powerful enough to handle the complex 2D or 3D models inside your CAD software. It is not recommended to get a Core i3 or Core i5 processor, even though your software will still run. But in terms of performance, you will be severely limited.
It is recommended to go for Intel i7 line of processors for CAD, or, if money isn’t an issue and you want to run simulations too, then go for a Xeon chip. I7 processors are preferred to Xeons because CAD software mostly performs better on a single core with higher clock speeds, like a typical i7 processor has than on multiple cores with lower clock speed, like Xeons.
You’re going to need large amounts of RAM for the best performance. For budget builds, you should go for at least 8GB, but you are going to have performance issues if you are handling large models. It is recommended to go for 16GB and above, for the best performance.
When it comes to choosing a graphics card for your CAD PC, it is quite tempting to go for a gaming graphics card, probably because of the cheaper prices. The problem is that gaming cards are not engineered specifically to run CAD software. Gaming cards specialize in drawing high-frame-rate game graphics, but their performance is limited when it comes to handling CAD software.
It is recommended to go for an Nvidia Quadro or an AMD Radeon Pro GPU for CAD, though GTX 1080 will still perform ok. But, if you are serious with CAD, by all means, go for a Quadro or a Radeon Pro GPU.
We present various options for building a CAD/CAM/CAE capable PC, all the way from budget to high-end. Each column holds a list of components for each build; this is to guide you properly. All links point to Amazon US.
CAD PC BUILD OPTIONS – Swipe left on mobile.
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I want to build a PC mainly for light office work
If you are running a small home office business, or a small business and want to build your own PC for office work, then this is for you. You need a PC that can be used to book orders, take inventories, type documents, browse the internet, and do general office work. The fact is, such a PC doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles, just what you need to effectively run a small home office.
Here are some considerations.
MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENTS FOR HOME OFFICE/BUSINESS PC
You’ll probably need just a dual-core processor, or at most a quad-core processor. Anything higher than this is overkill, as you don’t need that many cores unless you are going to be gaming with the PC.
A RAM size of 8GB max is perfect. 4GB is just OK. Activities such as browsing, typing, printing, scanning documents, and similar office work don’t demand huge RAM allocation for running them. So you’ll be just fine with 4-8GB of RAM.
You don’t need a dedicated graphics card, the integrated graphics on the CPU should be just fine unless you’re going to be using the PC for serious gaming, which is unlikely.
You don’t need a gaming motherboard. Gaming motherboards are unsuitable and more expensive. So you’re good with a productivity low-end motherboard.
You should go for a monitor that can provide you with decent viewing angles, such as an IPS monitor. As for size, 24 inches or 27 inches should do just fine. Ease of use should be one of your main considerations. We actually recommend the Dell U2415 24-inch Ultrasharp Monitor as the best monitor for an office setting.
Follow our recommended hardware for building an office PC below. All links point to Amazon US.
Scroll to the next section for a step-by-step guide on how to build your own PC.
Step by Step Guide on how to build your own PC
In this section, we cover how to actually assemble your PC components, in an easy and straightforward way. Like we said earlier, even if you haven’t done this before, we’ll guide you step by step to accomplish this feat. By the time we’re done, you should have built your PC easily.
By now you should have known the main purpose you are building your PC for, such as for gaming, graphic design, for CAD/CAM purposes, or for video editing. If you have not, click here to select the type of PC you want to build and follow our recommended hardware to get started. You can now come back and resume from here.
Like we mentioned earlier, there are some basic tools you need to build your PC, such as a screwdriver, an anti-static kit, an airy open space, thermal paste for the CPU, and needle-nosed forceps/pliers and LED torchlight. Keep these handy because you are going to need them.
First things first, once you have all the components needed to build your PC, the next thing is to carefully unbox all the components, and place them on a table neatly arranged. Make sure you keep the manuals and warranty cards handy. Never dispose of them because you may need them later.
Be careful when handling the components, especially the RAM and motherboard. Don’t touch the contacts with your bare hand. Always hold the RAM by the sides, never touch the gold contact points with your bare hands, as built-up static electricity could damage the circuitry.
The wrong way to hold RAM modules
The right way to hold RAM modules
Also, never touch the soldered contact points on the motherboard with your bare hands, always hold the motherboard by the sides.
Your body is always carrying a load of electric charge, and it could be negative or positive. This is static electricity, and the right quantity can damage your PC components.
Here are some precautions against static electricity.
- Always wear the anti-static wrist band and connect it to the PC case, before handling your PC components, to avoid the danger of static electricity
- Also, stand on the anti-static mat when fixing the components to reduce the build-up of static electricity
- Keep the power supply unit cable attached (but switch the unit off) to keep it grounded
- Avoid rubbing yourself against the carpet. It’s always better to stand on the anti-static mat
- Touch the metal part of the chassis or a metal pole nearby to discharge static, before handling components
- Work on a flat and hard solid surface.
INSTALLING THE POWER SUPPLY
After you’ve properly grounded and discharged yourself of static, gently position the case on the table. Locate the screws holding the side panel and unscrew. Remove and place by the side.
Depending on the type of power supply you bought, it could be any of the three:
- Modular – cables are not connected permanently to the unit
- Semi-Modular – some cables are permanently fixed to the unit, like the CPU and ATX cable.
- Non-Modular – all the cables are permanently fixed to the power supply unit.
Modular and semi-modular power supplies are the easiest to use. Most power supply units nowadays are fully modular and some semi-modular.
To determine how to install the power supply, you should check the PC case for the provided space. Some PC cases have a provision on the top of the case or the bottom. In both cases, the power supply fan must face the direction of the back of the PC case.
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STEPS TO INSTALL THE POWER SUPPLY
- Slide the power supply unit into the provided space with the fan facing the rear of the PC case.
- Screw in the screws that came with the case in the four holes at the back of the case.
- Make sure the unit is switched off using the switch behind.
- Plug the power supply unit into a power socket to keep the PC grounded.
- Keep all the power cables handy (modular power supply) for use shortly.
INSTALLING THE PROCESSOR
Next, we install the processor. Now doing this is quite easy.
- First of all, place the motherboard on the table, making sure to handle it by the edges. Also, make sure the protective anti-static bag it shipped with is still intact. Remove the anti-static bag, leaving the protective foam underneath.
- Next, gently remove the plastic cap covering the processor socket on the motherboard and un-clasp the locking latch. You should see the pins on the processor socket.
- Next, remove the processor from its box, handling it by the edges. You should see the marking on the processor for aligning it properly in the socket. Simply drop it in the processor socket, with the marking aligning with the marking on the socket.
- Next, close the latch to secure the processor, applying some force.
Hold the processor by the edges
Align the processor with the notch on the socket
Install processor in socket
Apply CPU thermal paste
Next, we install the processor cooler.
INSTALLING THE PROCESSOR COOLER
Installing the CPU Cooler-the arrows indicate where to insert the pins
You’ve successfully installed the processor! Hurray! Next on the list is the processor cooler. In some cases, the processor you bought may have a cooler included with the purchase, or you bought it separately. The installation is the same.
- FOR AIR COOLERS
Chances are your cooler is the air type cooler, with its distinctive large fan. You may need to apply the thermal paste. If the cooler came with thermal paste pre-applied (if it’s a bundled AMD or Intel cooler), then there’s no need to apply thermal paste. Otherwise, if your cooler is a used one or bought separately, then simply apply a pea-sized amount of thermal paste on the processor. Nothing more.
Secure the CPU Cooler
Make sure the four push pins for securing the cooler are facing the correct direction. The grooves on the push pins should be facing the center of the CPU fan. Place it on the processor gently (right on top of the drop of thermal paste), into the four holes on the four corners of the processor socket.
Once you get the proper alignment, place your thumbs on the two diagonal and opposite push pins and press down firmly on both pins at the same time until you hear a “clicking” sound. Do the same for the other pair.
Next, attach the included power connector to the 4-pin header for the cooler on the motherboard. Look for it near the processor socket.
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- FOR LIQUID COOLERS
All-in-One Liquid CPU Cooler
If you got an all-in-one liquid cooling system, then it’s time to install it. The advantages of a liquid cooling solution are obvious – better cooling efficiency for overclocked processors.
An all-in-one liquid cooler is made up of the pump, radiator, radiator fans, and installation brackets and screws.
- First of all, you need to install the back-plate on the underside of your motherboard, behind the CPU. This will be used to secure the pump assembly firmly on top of the processor. Your cooler should include brackets for either an Intel or AMD processor socket design. Check your cooler’s included manual for the right position for the adjustable mounts that came with it. Having done this, locate the four holes under the processor socket on the motherboard, insert the bracket’s mounting points into these holes, then move around to the front of the motherboard. Securely hold the bracket in place with the four included screws.
- Next, we install the radiator fans on the radiator. The fans come loose in the box; they need to be attached to the radiator before installing the assembly into the case. Depending on available space in your PC case and airflow preference, you can install the fans on both sides of the radiator for enhanced cooling performance. Connect the fans to the radiator using the screws supplied. Position the fans in such a way as to ensure their cables can reach the motherboard fan headers easily. Always consult your cooler manual for installation directions if you are lost at any stage.
- A good PC case should include installation mounting points for the radiator. You may find these on top of the case. Carefully insert the radiator into the case, and arrange the fan cables neatly by the side. Do not bash the pump or twist the rubber hoses that connect it to the radiator as you position the cooler into position. Simply use the supplied screws and washers to install the radiator into the mounting points on the case.
- Next, you need to secure the pump to the motherboard and CPU. If you haven’t done so already, connect the integrated retention bracket to the pump. It should fit neatly over the motherboard standoffs we installed earlier. Then, place the pump on to the CPU, making sure the standoffs go through the holes on the retention brackets. Then, check the radiator tubing to ensure there are no twists or blockages. Finally, firmly screw on the cooler with the supplied thumbscrews. You should find that the front and rear brackets are now tight.
- Finally, attach the power cables to the appropriate connector on the power supply unit and the motherboard – the pump to the fan header next to the processor socket, and then the standard SATA power connector to the appropriate power supply socket. Next, connect the fan cables to the power supply unit.
At this stage, you did it. Sit back and pat yourself for a job well done.
INSTALLING THE RAM
Hold the RAM by the edges or top
Next, install the RAM modules. Remember to hold the RAM sticks by the side, not on the golden contact points.
Your motherboard should have like four RAM slots, and most motherboards require installing the RAM modules serially, i.e., slot 1, slot 2, slot 3 and slot 4. If you have two sticks of 8GB each, that means you must install in the first and second RAM slots. Each RAM slot on the motherboard is labeled appropriately, so you shouldn’t have any problem locating the correct slot.
To install the RAM sticks,
- Relax the clips at each end of the RAM slots on your motherboard.
- Align the RAM modules with the notches on the slots.
- Firmly press down evenly until you hear the “click” sound of the RAM clips snapping in place, holding the RAM securely.
INSTALLING THE MOTHERBOARD
Arrows indicate where to insert screws while installing the motherboard
By now, the power supply is in place inside the case. The processor, the cooler, and RAM have been installed on the motherboard. It is time to lay the motherboard in its resting place – inside the PC case.
Locate the I/O shield, a flat piece of shiny metal that came with the motherboard. The I/O shield is important for protecting the PC components from EMI (Electromagnetic Interference). It has cutouts for most of the ports at the back of the PC case.
To install the motherboard, follow these steps,
- Slide the I/O shield into place (you should see the provided cutout for it), it should snap into position firmly.
- Hover the motherboard over the PC case back-plate to locate standoffs that match your board. Standoffs are provided for most motherboard sizes. If standoffs are not pre-installed on your PC case, you should find them in the case packaging. Install them in the four corners of the back-plate to hold your motherboard.
- Next, align the motherboard with the I/O shield. You should see standoffs where you need to place the supplied screws. Gently place the board in position.
- Fix the screws with a screwdriver. Do not over-tighten. Just enough to hold the motherboard securely. Check to ensure all four screws are intact.
INSTALLING THE STORAGE DRIVES
So far, everything is looking good. Next, we install our storage drives. You should probably have two types of drives, an SSD and a traditional hard drive. The SSD is the lighter and smaller of the two.
To install the SSD,
- Attach the drive to the bracket with the supplied screws
- Slide the bracket that came with the attached SSD into a drive bay. Attach it with the supplied screws.
To install the mechanical Hard disk drive,
- Remove the HDD bracket from one of the drive bays, preferably the one next to the installed SSD bay
- Insert the mechanical hard drive into the bracket
- Attach the drive to the bracket using screws or in some cases, screw-less mechanism. In this case, as soon as you push it in, it should snap into place
- Slide the bracket with the attached drive back into the bay.
In some cases, you have an M.2 NVMe drive. All you have to do is locate the M.2 socket on the motherboard. It’s usually smaller in length. Simply align the drive and push it into the slot. It’s that simple.
Next, we install the optical drive.
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INSTALLING THE OPTICAL DRIVES (Optional)
Your configuration may include an optical drive, maybe a Blu-ray or DVD drive. Well, they both have the same installation procedure. You should see the SATA cable and screws that came bundled with the drive. Keep them because you’re going to need them later.
To install the optical drive,
- Slide the drive into the topmost drive bay on your PC case
- Use the included screws to fasten it to the case, on both sides.
INSTALLING THE GRAPHICS CARD
This is probably the last thing to do. We chose to install this last because it occupies space on the board, and might interfere with other installation steps above. Your graphics card should come with an additional power cable or two, a software disc, and the manual.
To install the graphics card,
- Unscrew the PCI case brackets at the back of the case that aligns with the PCI Express slot you intend to use
- Locate the PCI Express slot on the motherboard
- Pull back the retaining clip at the end of the slot
- Align the graphics card on the slot and push firmly into the slot. The clip should snap into place, holding the card securely
- Gently screw the card in position with a screw at the back of the case. You should see the provision for a screw at the top of the metal bracket at the end of the card.
So far, so good. Next, we plug everything in.
CONNECTING ALL COMPONENTS
Now that we have installed all components, it’s time to connect everything together. We’ll start with the motherboard connectors. We assume you are using a modular power supply.
- Motherboard: The PSU offers a single power cable for the board: a 24-pin ATX cable. You should see it together with other cables from the power supply – it’s the one with the largest connector. Push the connector firmly and evenly into the slot on the motherboard, it should snap into place with a ‘click’ sound. Connect the other end to the appropriate socket on the power supply.
- Processor: Locate the 8-pin processor power cable. Press it into the slot on the motherboard, next to the processor. Connect it to the appropriate socket on the power supply, that is, if you are using a modular power supply.
- SSD and HDD: Solid State Drives and traditional hard drives use SATA connectors for data transmission to the motherboard. The SATA connectors are the 15-pin flat connectors with a bracket on one side to ensure plugging them in one way.
Plug the connectors to the drives, then plug the other end to the motherboard SATA sockets.
The SATA ports on the motherboard are labeled SATA0, SATA1, SATA2, etc. It is advisable to install the boot drive to SATA0, the traditional hard drive to SATA 1, the optical drive to SATA2. If you bought more than one traditional hard drive, you can connect that to SATA3.
Likewise, attach appropriate power connectors from the power supply to the drives.
- Optical Drive: Connect the optical drive with the included SATA cable. Look for a power connector from the power supply and attach it to the drive.
- Graphics Card: Next, connect the graphics card to a power slot on the power supply, using the included power cable.
- Front-panel USB/Audio: These front panel headers control the USB, the power button, the reset button, the HDD activity light, and the power LED, all on the front of your case.
To connect the front-panel header pins, you must consult your motherboard manual. These pins are located on one side of the motherboard. You should exercise care when plugging in these small connectors, which is why you should look at the motherboard manual for information as to the layout of these pins and to know which pin plugs into which socket.
To make things easier for you, each little socket on the motherboard is labeled with the corresponding pin name, which you can easily see on the pins. Plug them in carefully until all are secure.
- Case Fans: In case your PC case came with fans installed for a more cooling effect, simply connect the fans to the appropriate power socket on the power supply.
Cable management is recommended for better airflow
Now that all components are successfully installed, we’ll turn our attention to the cables. Most cases have provisions for better cable management, in which case you don’t have much work to do.
Many cases have a covering that hides the bundle of cables coming out of the power supply, allowing for a neater interior. Yet some cases have provision for routing the cables under the motherboard back-plate, completely hiding them from view.
The major purpose of cable management is to ensure that your PC maintains better airflow because cables can block fans and air movement, thereby increasing the ambient temperature inside your PC. This is not good for your components.
A second reason is you want to make it easier to find the cables you need to unplug when you add or remove components from your PC, in case of an upgrade. Finally, you want to make your PC innards look smart and great. Nobody likes looking at the cluttered bowels of a PC!
What you need for cable management,
- Velcro straps
- Zip ties
- Twist ties
You can easily get these from your local hardware store. The best is Velcro, as it is flexible. Zip ties aren’t that flexible. For instance, if you need to add or remove a cable from the bundle of cables, you will have to cut the zip tie and replace it when you are done.
This is not a good option if you frequently add or remove components from your PC, that’s why we recommend Velcro straps.
Look out for tie-down points on your PC case (if available), and use these to secure the zip ties or twist ties if you are using these to manage your cables. Some cases have clips for holding large cable bundles. Take advantage of this as much as possible. In the end, your PC cables should be safely out of the way, making for a much neater interior.
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Phew! Having come this far, you can see how easy and fun it was to build your own PC. As part of finishing touches, make sure all cables are securely connected. A loosely connected cable could give you problems later. Also, make sure the RAM is firmly in place. You can double-check by pressing down on the sticks once more. Do the same for the graphics card.
Once everything is good, plug in your monitor using the supplied cables. You may want to use the DVI or DisplayPort, or the more popular HDMI. It’s all up to your preference. Now is the time to connect your keyboard and mouse. If it’s a wireless keyboard, simply plug the little USB adapter to a free USB socket on the case.
Your hard work is about to pay off, except that, eerrh, your operating system isn’t installed yet. Never mind, we’ll come to that shortly. Well, at this point, take a deep breath, and hit your power button. The system should display the POST (Power-On Self-Test) screen with the technical mumbo-jumbo. After the initial POST screen, the PC should ask for an operating system. Of course, we’ll do that. Just stay with us.
If your PC refuses to power up, double-check all the connectors, that is, after switching off the power supply. A loose RAM module, a loosely connected cable, any of these could hinder a successful boot.
Well, if the PC keeps asking for a boot operating system, it’s time to install one.
Install Windows 10
We choose Windows 10 because it is the latest operating system. It is also fast, stable, and user-friendly. If you haven’t gotten a copy before now, head over to Amazon and order Windows 10. Otherwise, let’s proceed.
Most Windows 10 installations come in a USB flash drive or a DVD. If you have one already, plug it into one of your USB ports, power on your PC. If you’ve got a disc, slide it into the optical drive tray. Some motherboard BIOS will automatically boot from the flash drive. If not, you have to force the PC to boot from your flash.
You can do that by accessing the CMOS (Computer Metal Oxide Semiconductor) settings, which can be accessed during POST. The CMOS is a software that is stored on a chip on the motherboard, that controls most of your high-level PC settings. The system battery makes sure those values are preserved, even when the PC is turned off.
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Anyways, just look for the prompt “Press the DELETE key to enter Setup”. On some motherboards, it could be F2 or F10. Just press the required key to enter the CMOS setup. Once you are in CMOS setup, look for the section labeled “BOOT” or “BOOT SETTINGS”. Under this section, look for the setting labeled “BOOT PRIORITY” or something similar. Select the flash drive or CD/DVD as the first boot device and hit “ENTER” on the keyboard to finalize.
Exit the CMOS setup.
Your computer should restart. Look for the prompt, “PRESS ANY KEY TO BOOT FROM CD OR DVD OR USB”. Simply press any key. The Windows setup starts. At this point, just follow the instructions until the installation is done.
Congratulations! You made it. Once your Windows installation completes, the next thing you should do is install drivers for your graphics card and other important drivers. It is advisable to go online and download the latest graphics card drivers for your graphics card. Install the important software you need, sit back and enjoy your PC. You can go ahead pop a bottle of champagne. You deserve one.
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