How to Build Your First Gaming PC

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Last year (2020), I vowed to not go next-gen and build my gaming PC. A lot of what I did was the wrong way of going about it. Especially in today’s climate with graphic cards going through the roof with cost. So after going through this myself, I want to share the dos and don’ts.

I first bought a cheap PC, around £10. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Out, of that PC I only used the fan on my final PC. The rest of it was not upgradable. The motherboard had reached its end-of-life cycle. The CPUs it supported weren’t even produced in the last five years. The RAM was outdated, and the case was small and ugly. So, should you buy an old PC and upgrade or start from scratch?

Cannibalising an Existing Build

If you have an eye on a used PC, check the motherboard. If it is compatible with AMD Ryzen’s 5000 series or Intel’s 12th Gen CPUs plus RAM is DDR4 or DDR5, it is certainly worth buying as a base. Even if the CPU that is provided is at the bottom of the range. It will then be future proof for at least the next year. If not, don’t bother.

The only other situation where I’d say go for it is if the total cost of the PC is less than any of the major components. If the price is substantially lower than the cost of the PSU (Power Supply Unit), RAM, HDD, SSD or the tower. Then go ahead. But if the component you are buying it for is one you will upgrade in the near future, then ignore it and start from scratch. In short, if you must upgrade most of the tower, it’s probably not worth it.

In short, if you must upgrade most of the tower, it’s probably not worth it.

Motherboard

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The Motherboard connects all the components of your PC for it to function. There are only a few areas you need to look into:

  • Motherboard form factor
  • CPU Socket
  • RAM Slots
  • PCIe Express Slots

Form Factor

There are three main form factors that dictate the size of the motherboard, how many sockets, slots and ports IT HAS. These are the main ones in size descending order:

  • ATX
  • Micro-ITX
  • Mini-ITX

The size that you use depends on your needs. If space is no issue, then purchase an ATX board. They will have more slots for RAM and PCI Express card and storage devices. There is a lot more space, so keeping wires tidy will be far easier. The towers will be a lot larger, but most of the better towers have the capability of all three form factors, so why not get a bigger motherboard.

If space is an issue, then you are limited to Micro or Mini ITX motherboards. I’m currently using a Micro-ITX motherboard, though it works fine. It really limits the expandability of the PC. I bought a tower that has the capability of adding ATX, which I will do ASAP. But if you need smaller PCs, then these are the form factors you need. Just don’t expect it to last very long, both because of advances in technology and also less space for cooling.

CPU Sockets

Intel has dominated the CPU market in most of the 21st century. Yet, AMD has hit back with their Ryzen CPUs that are comparable and sometimes even better than Intel.

For AMD, you need to make sure the motherboard supports the AM4 socket. This is the most recent socket, but AM5 will release next year. AM4 sockets support Ryzen 1000s, 2000s, 3000s and 5000s series. So your PC should be future proof for the next few years. Yet if you can wait, purchase the AM5 motherboard when released next year.

For Intel, you need the LGA 1200 socket which was released last year. It supports the 11th generation of their CPU line-up but is not backwards compatible. From a consumer point of view, this means you will more than likely have to upgrade again in a few years. But so will you with AMD, so it’s more of a choice. Intel are more expensive, but this depends on stock.

My personal favourite is the AMD. It is backwards compatible with any of the Ryzen CPUs and hopefully will be future proof until AM5 takes off.

RAM Slots

The number of slots is less important than the version of the DDR memory. For complete future-proofing, you are looking for DDR5, which allows a max RAM size is 128 GB. If you can’t afford DDR5, DDR4 should be good for a few more years as it goes up to 32GB. For a better breakdown, click here.

PCI Express Slots

There used to be a time where you could run two graphics cards on one motherboard. This was available on both AMD and Nvidia cards. But this is no longer the case. So the number of slots isn’t as important as it once was. You need to make sure the motherboard has one PCI-e X16 slot which will support all modern graphic cards.

PC Tower

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After deciding on your motherboard, you are going to want a tower. ATX towers will support the other form factors. But you won’t be able to fix an ATX board into a Micro or Mini ATX form tower. You need to consider how many slots for PCI slots. Storage device bays are also a bonus, especially if they hide away your devices. RGB effects are also available, just make sure they are compatible with the RGB controller.

Choose a CPU

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For gaming, you want either at least an AMD Ryzen 5 or an Intel i5 to play most video games. They gear the higher performance CPUs to content creation and video game correction. However, if you are looking into creating YouTube videos or streaming content, you would look at an Intel I7 and an AMD Ryzen 7. But for your first beginner PC stay with the Ryzen 5 and the I5. With the motherboard that you’ve selected, you do still have the option of upgrading to an I7 or Ryzen 7.

The Expensive Graphics Card

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And this is where you should spend the bulk of your budget. Video game graphic cards have shot up in price because of cryptocurrency another blockchain activity. Graphics cards can mine these much more efficiently than CPUs. As of December 2021, it is near impossible to get a decent graphics card without going second hand or paying over the odds. I would recommend an Nvidia card. and if you can’t get one of the new RTX cards to play the latest games, you need at least GTX1080. Anything below 4 gigs of video ram and you’ll only be playing old titles. Unfortunately, the GTX1080 doesn’t have ray-tracing cores but can still produce ray tracing effects just not as detailed as the new cards.

So should you buy second hand? It is a lottery on whether you get a card that has not been used for crypto stop crypto takes lots of wear and tear on the graphics card which will mean the life span of the card is reduced. Another aspect to the count 4 is if the card has been overclocked if it has again the life span will have been reduced. I paid £350 for a 1080 and it seems to work fine with no issues. But I may have been very lucky and again I probably paid over it’s worth. This is the one area of your PC build that will take ages for you to get a decent card. have out of all the other components of the PC the CPU and GPU Barbie components that you must spend the most money on. I made the mistake of buying a second-hand GTX760 and it simply isn’t future-proofed. The GTX1080 will have a bit more life in it. And I’ll be looking to upgrade to an arty axe in five years’ time.

RAM

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We’ve already covered the ram in the earlier motherboard paragraph. Once you know the version of the RAM you need to gain RAM sticks. Generally, if you have two or four slots for RAM you want all of those ram sticks to be exactly the same. You will receive better performance, as they will all be running at the same speed. If you have to make the choice between RAM speed and capacity, choose the one with the higher RAM capacity.

PSU

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the power supply unit is the next important component. There are multiple calculators out there to work out how much power voltage your computer needs. I wouldn’t go below 650 watts for a gaming PC and at least a silver rating. Also what you need to consider is whether you go for modular, semi-modular, or non-modular PSU. If you have a graphics card that requires power directly from the PSU modular or semi-modular all the way to go. With modular, however, it is easy to manage your cables as you can get them from third parties to match the distance from the PSG to the power port.

Final Thoughts

These are just the basic areas that you need to look into when building a PC. This doesn’t include accessories such as the monitor keyboard, mouse, and a Internet connection. However, this is a great starting point and should be on your way to building your very first gaming PC stop it took me a year to get it all right to the point where I’m happy with it and won’t be upgrading bring up a few years. At this point in time, it’s cheaper to go console gaming rather than PC gaming. But PC gaming has a lot of advantages such as modding performance beasts I’m better graphics.

Brendan Freeman
Brendan Freeman

A new dad, who loves his video games. he's been playing games since he was 2. He likes RPGs and racing games.

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