A couple of weeks ago I set out to build a gaming PC, and let’s just say it wasn’t an entirely smooth process. I’ve watched all the recommended YouTube tutorials, and read many “how-to” guides that seemed comprehensive, and that assured me it would be just like making a Lego model.
But when things started to get worse, with BIOS updates refusing to download, and components failing in the right places, I started to feel like I had been misled a bit. So, before you embark on your first PC building project, here are 10 things guides don’t tell you about gadgets, technology, and life in general.
1. Choosing ingredients is difficult
There are many options for each part of your device. Are you using the best CPU you can afford and a cheaper GPU – or the other way around? Is Corsair RAM better than Western Digital RAM, and if so how? Do you need a modular or semi-modular PSU? Is the cheap motherboard you bought on eBay PCI 3.0 or PCIe 4.0? Will the gigantic, ultra-powerful graphics card really fit in the sleek, precise NZXT 210i case you’ve been looking forward to?
There are a lot of options and a lot of compatibility to consider. You can definitely make things easier by checking out all the components you want on a site like PCPartPicker, which will highlight potential conflicts. There are also online calculators to determine the capacity of the PSU you need. Be prepared to do it a lot from the study. I never realized that I would become an expert on DDR4 RAM data rates or the reading speeds of different M.2 SSDs, but God help me, here we go. If you are looking for some reliable storage options, take a look at our best SSD for gaming guide.
2. But overspending is easy
Each guide tells you to set a budget and stick to it, but it doesn’t tell you how difficult it is. There will always be a better component of just $50 of your spending plans, but these incremental add-ons definitely add up. It’s a really good idea to narrow down your options by honestly thinking about what you’ll be running on the device; If it’s mostly indie games and one-on-one Fortnite skirmishes, you don’t need to spend £500 on the latest monster card.
At the same time, if you’re going to overclock the absolute nonsense of Metro Exodus – Enhanced Edition, you need to allocate a significant portion of your budget to heat management. It’s not sexy, but it’s not a melted-down GPU.
3. It’s okay to take a shortcut
If you’re worried about getting the right set of essential ingredients, don’t worry. Decent PC vendors like Scan and CCL sell pre-assembled and fully tested packages of motherboards, CPUs, and GPUs, with all firmwares updated and tested. This may sound like cheating, but believe me, even with these ingredients sorted, you still have a lot of challenges in store.
4. Everything is in severe shortage
You might already know this if you’ve been hanging out on PC build websites or reading a lot of gaming news, but GPUs and CPUs are pretty hard to come by right now. Covid has had a major impact on the manufacture and shipment of silicon chips, affecting every technology industry, from computers to cars.
On top of that, there is a massive additional demand for GPUs thanks to cryptocurrency mining, and in the UK we have Brexit to contend with as well. It took several weeks to get the parts together for my build, so you may have to be patient (restocking is due in the spring) or risk paying heavily on the odds.
We have put together some guides about the newest places Try To buy an RTX 3080 or search for stock RTX 3070. Or you might have better luck with something older in our best graphics card guide.
Most guides will tell you that the only tool you need to build your own computer is a single screwdriver. This is true and a big lie. Certainly maybe Get that way, but unless you’re super confident and polite, it’s going to be tough. It’s a hard mode to build a PC. What you really need is a 2 size Phillips screwdriver with at least a 10cm shaft (so you can reach the motherboard once it’s installed), and a magnetic tip to help you put the screws in tricky spots…and pick them even when they inevitably fall out of the case.
I also like to make sure you have a small set of precision screwdrivers and a pair of long-nose pliers – these are incredibly handy tools for connecting cables in the MB when you have little space, and for loosening thumb screws.
6. You have to be tidy
One thing that PC building guides definitely don’t say is the number of different cables, screws, and attachments shipped with computer components. Manufacturers need to provide enough elements to ensure compliance with a range of builds and requirements, but it can be difficult to deliver too many bits. Everything looks kinda the same too – until you make a mistake.
The screws that need to be fixed in the hard drive may be 2mm longer than the screws for securing the MB, and using the wrong type may damage the thread. So when you open the boxes, put all the screws you remove into separate labeled containers so you know exactly where they came from. Also, don’t empty all the cables from all the component boxes and leave them in one pile on your table. Keep them separate. Record everything.
7. Nothing is completely compatible
Although the ATX standard and other standard approaches to computer hardware design have improved things immeasurably, you’ll run into situations where you don’t want the parts to fully align. Your hard drive or PSU might not fit snugly into the pre-selected compartment, for example, or the back panel of your case might have handy slots in all the wrong places. One thing I quickly learned was to be adaptable and ready to improvise. How do you tie cables differently? Can you sit on the hard drive another way? Think of it as a role-playing adventure. fact…
8. Planning for the future
You need to treat this process as some kind of technological camping trip, or raid of destiny. Plan everything first. Picture where your motherboard will go, where the PSU will sit and where the cables should be. Draw a map. This will save you a lot of tears later, when everything is in place and you realize you can’t access that USB port anymore because it’s hidden behind a giant motherboard power cable.
You can even do a basic build out of the case first. Plug the CPU, RAM, and PSU into your motherboard, plug it into one of the best gaming monitors you can find and get it working. You should see the familiar American Megatrends BIOS page. If nothing happens, you know something is wrong before everything in the case was intricately fitted. The reason may be that your RAM is not sufficiently equipped, for example, or your MB needs a firmware update – now is the time to find out about these things. The instruction manuals that come with the ingredients aren’t always great (this else the thing they didn’t tell you), but don’t be afraid to ask for help. The BuildAPC sub is full of friendly and patient people who answered all of my incredibly silly questions without a single use of the word “noob”.
9. There must be (a lot) of light
You need light. Lots of light. You have no idea how dark the inside of your computer case is. A head-mounted torch is a good idea if you can stand the silly look or a corner lamp that flashes in the recess. If I could light up my kitchen, I would do it in a heartbeat.
10. Once you’re done, you’ll want to build another
Building a computer, and actually running it, really gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment. The hermetically sealed architectures of modern smartphones, televisions, and game consoles have largely left us out of the technical process, but building a computer makes you realize why your grandparents spent so much time fiddling with cars, building gigantic railways, and sewing their own models. Clothes. Being competent and creative is highly addictive.
In short, this will not be your last creation; It probably won’t be your last design this year. You’ll want to update this device, while starting with one for a friend and another with a different set of specs. It will become expensive. It will turn a guest bedroom into a workshop. You’ll start buying broken tech gadgets on eBay, convinced you now have the technical expertise to fix them. This is the main thing that guides do not tell you. You’re not building a computer, you’re starting your strange new life as a master builder. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
For more, check out The best gaming PCTo inspire your building, be sure to pair your new device with a gorgeous screen from Best 4K gaming monitor Instructs.