The Beginner’s Guide To Building A PC - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Beginner’s Guide To Building A PC

These days, owning a gaming PC is required to maintain a complete view of the video game landscape. With an expanding array of indie treasures, early access titles, mods, and triple A blockbusters, even people who have traditionally been console gamers are supplementing or replacing their consoles with custom-made machines.  

For first-timers, buying and assembling the components can be daunting, but the process shouldn’t scare you away. With so many different options and varying budgets, creating a one size fits all gaming PC isn’t possible, but you can follow a handful of general tips to steer you in the right direction.


We spoke with Jeremy Vaughan, editor at Over clock ers. com, for some simple advice on how to build a powerful PC in your price range.

Don’t Worry
A computer is a complex machine, and this leads to the assumption that building a PC is a hopelessly complicated ordeal. “The fi rst thing to realize: It’s not as hard as it looks,” Vaughan says. “Yes, there are a lot of wires and plenty of intimidating looking connections. However, in today’s computing environment, it is essentially hard to mess up assembling a PC. If you try something one way and it doesn’t fi t, don’t force it, because it probably isn’t supposed to go there… Aside from making sure you discharge yourself by touching something metal (so you don’t have built-up static electricity in your body), it’s actually pretty hard to hurt anything.”

Invest In Solid State
Let’s say you have all of your components chosen, but you have a little bit of your budget left to spend. Where would that extra money make the most difference? The first step is to make sure you have enough RAM; 16 GB is a good place to start. After that, a solid-state drive (SSD) is your next priority. These drives are capable of booting quickly to get you into games much faster than traditional drives. “If you already have an SSD and have some leftover budget, get a bigger SSD,” Vaughan says. “Even on older computers, given a decent amount of RAM, an SSD is the number one biggest, most noticeable upgrade a person can get.”

Avoid Cheap Power Supplies
Saving money is good, but your power supply is one place to pay a little more to ensure that you’re getting a quality part. “A cheap power supply can not only fail, but it can take everything it’s connected to down with it,” Vaughan says. “Figure out the wattage you need and buy a solid, reputable power supply.” A bargain doesn’t mean much if it costs you more money in the  long  run.

The Motherboard In The Middle
Your motherboard is important, and it’s important to not go too cheap on it. However, don’t be fooled into spending too much, either. Motherboard prices range from cheap to ridiculously expensive, and the advantages of one model over another may not be immediately apparent. However, even if you’re building a good gaming PC, you likely don’t need one of the high end options. “There are cheaper motherboards that aren’t necessarily worth their weight in plastic,” Vaughan says. “Once you’re above the low end, what really separates motherboards from each other are features. Pick a board in the mid-to-high end that has the features you want and get it.” If the motherboard you’re looking at has four graphics card slots and monitors processor heat down to sub-zero temperatures, it’s more than you’re going to need for your fi rst home-built PC.

Don’t Get Lost In The Details
Poring over minor differences between similar products from various manufacturers isn’t going to yield some game changing revelation. “Feature-for-feature and capacity-for-capacity, most graphics cards, RAM, and SSDs/HDDs are going to be at least in the general ballpark as all of the others,” Vaughan says.

“There are only so many ‘features’ you can add to that kind of thing.” If two components appear to have similar features and are about the same price, don’t worry too much about making a wrong choice.

Overclocking Not Required
Most gamers have probably heard the term “overclocking” in relation to PCs. It refers to running your CPU at a higher speed than it has been specified for, which can increase performance but it also generates more heat, which necessitates additional cooling. While this is certainly an option for fi rst-time builders, don’t think that you need to overclock your system in order to have a great gaming experience. “The kind of user that should overclock is one that enjoys getting the most out of the computer they put together,” Vaughan says.  “Or one that just likes tinkering, or even one that enjoys seeing what sort of benchmark scores they can get.” If that seems like more trouble than you’re interested in for your fi rst build, you can trust that most modern systems are powerful enough to play the best games currently on the  market.

Upgrade Gradually
Assuming your first build is a success, you will eventually want to get some components down the line. Unlike consoles, you don’t need to replace your whole system any time something goes wrong or needs improvement. “These days, keeping the majority of your system but upgrading just the graphics card every other year or so will keep you playing the most demanding titles without any problems,” Vaughan says. Because building your own PC makes you familiar with your components, you’ll be more comfortable and better equipped to install these upgrades yourself when the time comes.
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Brand Loyalty
Some manufacturers have a history of quality products that you can’t see when looking at a component’s specs. While everyone has different experiences with different companies, Vaughan shares some of his personal brand preferences for  various  parts.“I have always been a fan of Asus for motherboards.

Gigabyte, MSI, and ASRock also make plenty of solid products, but Asus usually edges  them  out. “For Nvidia graphics cards I lean toward EVGA. For AMD cards, Asus. EVGA has a reputation for solid cards that carry a superb warranty not just for the terms, but for their service as well. Asus’ non reference graphics cards, like their motherboards, are built like tanks. Gigabyte, MSI, and HIS make good graphics cards too.

“When it comes to RAM I am G.Skill loyal all the way. They don’t just make good RAM; they continuously test the limits of what can be done with it. Kingston is also a very good company that stands behind their solid products. Corsair is good but usually pricey. ADATA is no slouch either. There really aren’t any bad RAM manufacturers, just good and better.“Power supplies are the easiest in my book:  Corsair,  period.”

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