Gaming PC
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Guide to Building a Gaming PC — Step-by-Step Guide

The first part of OnlySP’s guide to building a gaming PC outlined which components to choose. What follows is a step-by-step guide to building a PC.

Before you begin, make sure to ground yourself. Touching a radiator or water tap will do this nicely. Static have have a nasty effect on components like RAM, so make sure you do not accidentally blow the kit you are working on. An anti-static wrist strap can help if you are very prone to static, but is not always needed if you are careful.

  1. Open up the case. This will involve removing some screws and taking off the side panel. The screws will probably be thumb-screws, so easy to take in and out. Make sure you put any screws into a pot or small bag so you can find them later.
  1. Install the CPU. Take the CPU out from its packaging, being VERY careful not to touch the pins on the underside. Lay out the motherboard on your anti-static mat, and locate the CPU socket. Most modern motherboards come with a CPU cover that is operated with a lever. Lift the lever to expose the CPU socket. If your CPU does not come with any thermal paste (which many do), apply a small blob of arctic silver thermal paste to the socket; it will only need to be about the size of a grain of rice. Hold the CPU by the sides and line it up, using the arrows the make sure it is aligned properly, then lower it gently into place. Slide the lever down to make sure the CPU is firmly in place.
  1. Install the heatsink. This will come along with the CPU. You can get more elaborate fans and heatsink assemblies for advanced use, but the default units tend to work fine for light to moderate usage. The heatsink goes right over the processor. Some have an arrangement of clips, but most will come with four screws on the corners that will need to be secured with your trusty Phillips screwdriver.
  2. Place the RAM. RAM has a fairly obvious slot it needs to go in, with notches that match up to the notch on your RAM sticks. Make sure to push open the clips on the RAM slots, then slide the sticks into place and push down on the RAM module; this make take some force, but the RAM sticks are surprisingly durable, so do not be too afraid to apply a bit of elbow grease. Once the sticks are firmly in place, push the clips back into place.
  3. Install the motherboard posts. Each motherboard and case is different, so most case makers will provide an assortment of holes for the standoffs to be inserted into. Standoffs keep the motherboard elevated from the case to prevent shorts. Install the standoffs where the corresponding holes are on the motherboard.
  4. Remove the I/O shield – This is where the connectors poke out the back of the case. Most cases come with a default shield that will need to be removed so the one that comes with your motherboard can be put into place. You will need to apply some force to get it to come out, so again, do not be afraid to put your back into it.
  5. Install the power supply. This process is best to do before you install the motherboard, but your mileage may vary a bit depending on case design. The power supply should come with its own screws and will need to be securely installed in the bracket on the back of the case.
  6. Install the motherboard in the case. Line up the holes on the motherboard with the standoffs and use your Phillips screwdriver to screw them into place. Do not tighten the motherboard screws too much, lest you strip the threads on your standoffs.
  1. Install the hard drives, and optical drives if you have them. These will have little bays they can go in. Some cases come with little cradles for inserting the hard drives into, but most will simple screw into place. With the optical drives, you might have to remove a front panel plate in order to put the device in place.
  2. Install the graphics card. You will probably need to remove the expansion slot covers on the back of the case before sliding the graphics card into its slot. As you did with the RAM, push down firmly until it clicks into place and fit it in place with a screw.
  1. Attaching power cables. This is the tricky bit, where many an amateur PC builder (myself included) has shredded their fingers on sharp internals. Firstly, find the 24-pin connector from the power supply. This powers the motherboard and will need to be plugged in to the correct place on the motherboard. Then, do the same with the 6-pin PCIe connector, which wants to go in to the graphics card – some graphics cards will need more than one, and some need none at all. SATA power cables will need to go to your hard drives, and possibly your optical drive. Some CPUs and heatsinks also need direct power, so check for that as well.
  2. Connect the front panel. In order to use those buttons and connectors on the front of your PC, you will need to connect them up. Wires coming from the front of your case will need to be plugged in to the right spot on your motherboard. This will be marked on the motherboard itself, but in really tiny writing, so having a torch and a copy of your motherboard manual is really handy for this step. These usually include the following:
  • Power switch
  • Reset switch
  • Power LED
  • Hard drive (HDD) LED
  • Speaker
  • USB
  1. Connect the case fans. Under no circumstances should you skip this step, not even for a test. Some motherboards actually refuse to boot unless they detect fans installed. Again, find the spots marked on the motherboard for case and CPU fans, though some fans get power directly from the PSU.
  2. Tidy up your case. This is where cable ties come in handy. Make sure your cables are neatly arranged and will not clip into any fans or obstruct air flow. Then close up the case and screw everything back together.
  1. Plug everything in and turn it on. After double and triple checking everything, you will be ready to turn on your new gaming PC and see if it passes the ‘smoke test’. Make sure you have a copy of Windows or other operating system of your choice ready to begin installation.

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