If you’ve been looking for something productive to do during quarantine, why not build your own computer? You’re here because you’ve been considering it, so why not have a go at it? That’s what this post is about – how to build a computer from scratch.
PC Parts – What You Need
No matter what your proficiency level is at electronics, you should use PCPartPicker. Not only does this website have everything you’ll need to get to build your PC, but it lets you assemble your PC from scratch right there on the site to give you an idea of how all your hardware will fit together. They even have a few examples of builds you can tweak however you’d like.
No matter what kind of PC you plan on building, the basic components you need will be the same: a motherboard, a CPU, memory, storage, a power supply, a case, and a monitor. Here’s a little preview of each component and some component recommendations.
The motherboard is the highway that components use to interact and collaborate. Every other piece connects to this circuit board. Motherboards come in various dimensions and configurations, but they all serve the same core function.
- MSI MPG Z490 (Great for Intel processors.)
- ASUS ROG Strix B450-F (If buying an AMD processor.)
If your computer had a brain, it would be the processor (CPU). Like many components, it plugs directly into the motherboard, and it’s the single most important element of your computer. But that doesn’t mean you have to get the most expensive. No matter what kind of CPU you get, make sure it includes thermal paste. This one will do.
- Intel Core i7-10700K 8-Core 3.8GHz (Excellent choice for high-end systems.)
- AMD Ryzen 3 3200G 4-Core 3.6GHz (A solid pick if you’re on a tight budget.)
If you’re putting together a gaming PC, you’ll need a graphics processing unit (GPU or graphics card). The GPU is a specialized processor devised and optimized to handle visual data like the graphics in the games.
- MSI GeForce GTX 1660 (Good pick for gaming on a budget.)
- MSI Radeon RX 570
- MSI GeForce RTX 2060
This is your PC’s closet. This is where you’ll store all your data, movies, games, documents, photos, and secrets files.
- WD Blue 1 TB Internal SSD: (It’s fast, with loads of storage space.)
Memory and storage are two different components. Memory is short-term, but still – very important to cache (temporarily store) data in a place it can be recovered quickly.
- G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 32 GB 288-Pin RAM
The power supply is a little box designed to keep the power running to every component. The more power it has, the faster and more ‘powerful’ your PC can be.
- EVGA SuperNOVA 750 GA Power Supply (The more power, the better.)
The case is just that – a metal box – a big metal box that secures everything inside.
- Corsair Obsidian Series ATX Full Tower (There are many cases out there- from super small to enormous. Your decision will ultimately come down to the design you like the most.)
- If you’re uncertain which one to get, check out these other cases: NZXT, Fractal, Phanteks, Cooler Master, and Lian Li.
When you’re done building a PC, you won’t automatically have Windows included. You’ll have to obtain a license from Microsoft or another vendor and install it.
Fixing It All Together
Because the internals of every PC is a little different, we’re not going too deep into it, but in general, here’s how to go about putting all these components you’ve gathered together.
First, find you a clear workspace. The dining room table or a cleared off desk will do— any surface large enough for your case to be laid safely on its side, with enough room around it for the rest of the components.
NOTE: You’ll also need an appropriate Phillips-head screwdriver.
When you assemble the parts, make sure to discharge any static buildup and operate on a nonmetallic surface like a wood table. Most of the components you’re going to get will come with instruction manuals; don’t lose them.
Installing Your CPU
Let’s start with the motherboard. Open up the guidance manual to the installation page. Your first task is going to be seating your CPU.
Depending on what CPU brand you bought (Intel or AMD), the chip will feature either little prongs on the side or tiny golden contacts on the side.
Seating your CPU is relatively easy. First, refer to your motherboard’s instructions and make sure you’ve opened the processor socket. It’ll be a big square with a collection of little pockets (or contacts), with a lever (or button) next to it. Your motherboard’s instructions will tell you explicitly how to open the socket to put your processor in properly.
Once you’ve established that it’s open and ready, just find a little golden triangle on your processor and line it up with the corresponding symbol on your motherboard’s processor socket. Slowly place the processor into the socket, then flip the locking mechanism. If you find yourself pressing surprisingly hard, make sure that the processor is seated correctly.
Next, get your thermal paste. That little plastic syringe of silvery goo is essential for this step. Now that your processor is seated correctly find the shiny square of silicon – it should be in the center of it. That’s where your heat sink is going to lie. Your processor should come with a heat sink, and on one side of it, you’ll notice a copper circle. Apply the thermal paste and place the heat sink on top of the processor, ensuring that the silicone square and the copper circle line up perfectly.
Carefully release a little ball (no larger than a pea) of thermal paste onto the silicon square on your CPU. Put it as close to the center as possible.
Now line up the heat sink with the screws around your processor and carefully lower it into position. The goal here is to form a thin layer capping the back of your processor, so you’re going to have to squish the thermal paste. It’s OK if it leaks a little, but be sure it doesn’t go over the edge of the processor.
If you didn’t screw up this step in the first place – kudos. Next, screw your heat sink into position. Refer back to your motherboard instruction manual and find the right spot near the processor socket to secure your heat sink’s cooling fan. Once you’ve identified it, plug it in, and you’re set. You just installed your CPU. This is usually considered the hardest part – take a break if you need to – you deserve it.
Connecting Your Motherboard and Power Supply
Let’s begin by setting your motherboard into your fantastic case. Referring to your motherboard’s instructions, line up the screw holes on the motherboard with the ones in your case, and screw them in tight.
Moving on to the power supply. There should be a spot for it – a large square spot that will perfectly fit your power source. If you can’t find it, look for a big empty square. That’s where your power supply goes. Once you’ve found its spot, gently set it in, and screw it into position.
Make sure all the cables coming out of the power supply can reach your motherboard. Don’t plug anything in yet; we’ll circle back to the power supply in later sections.
Installing Your Graphics Card
GPUs are pretty big, that means you should pay close attention to how it fits into your case. Once you settle your GPU in there, space is going to start getting scarce.
Refer to your motherboard’s instruction manual once again and look for a PCIe slot. It will be a horizontal slot with a small plastic lock next to it, near the center or bottom of the motherboard.
That’s where your GPU goes. All you need to do is identify the back of your GPU (the side with the HDMI and DisplayPorts), line it up with the back of the case, and place the GPU into the horizontal slot. It should pop into place smoothly.
Next, fasten your GPU to the case, using another one of those tiny little screws. It shouldn’t be hard to find.
Now, going back to the power supply cables. There should be a few cables that could fit into the socket on the side of your GPU.
It should look like six or eight little openings in a square (or rectangular) shape. If you’re having trouble identifying these, take a look at this video. Some of the specifics may be different, but it’s a great visual of how to install a GPU.
Installing Your Storage and Memory
Memory is perhaps the simplest thing to install. See those small vertical sockets alongside the CPU? Slot your sticks of RAM in, starting from the left-hand side. They’ll lock into position once you’ve placed them correctly. If you’re planning on using two sticks of RAM, be sure to skip a slot between them. Your motherboard handbook should state which slots to use. For your hard drive (or solid-state drive), locate an empty port in your case. Slide your hard drive in and twist it into place like you did with the power supply.
This section depends on the hardware you bought, so consult the manuals for every component to make sure you’ve plugged it into your motherboard and the power supply properly.
Start It Up and Install Windows
The closing stage of your journey is a simple one: Hit the power button. If the PC hums to life, you did it – you’ve put it together correctly! If it doesn’t, relax.
Many possible issues could cause a newly built PC to fail to boot up the first time around. This video from Kingston covers some pitfalls that might be the culprits, so if you’re not able to start your PC, we recommend you watch and reinspect your steps.
If it booted up just fine, the next step is simple: Turn it back off. Take a flash drive with windows installed on it. Plug it into the computer and start it up again. If you do this correctly, it should get started right away.
To complete this step, you might need to open your BIOS (refer to your motherboard’s manual) and set the drive to be a “boot device” first. Here’s a short rundown of that process.
Congratulations! You’ve just built your first PC. It’s a bit of a lengthy, mildly painful process, but it’s a great way to spend your day (or a couple). Feel free to use other components you think are best for your device. Further reading: