Building a gaming computer may sound daunting — like a hobby reserved for those who know a lot about computers and are tech-savvy. But the truth is, with a bit of time, patience and willingness to learn, anyone can build a computer.
Sure, it’s intimidating, but so is anything else that forces you to step outside your comfort zone and learn a new skill. Just be careful with how loudly you brag about your new PC-building skills; you don’t want to turn into the on-call tech support agent for your friends and family.
We recently built not one but three different gaming computers and put them to the test — and we learned a lot along the way.
Just like any other DIY project, building your own gaming rig will save you some cash, and you’ll learn a ton about all the parts and pieces that go into a computer. For example, by the end of the build process, you’ll know what a motherboard is and why you need to familiarize yourself with its BIOS (that’s the operating system that runs on a motherboard, and allows the CPU, GPU, RAM and other components to communicate with each other).
In addition to saving money and gaining a learning experience, you’ll find gaming on a PC is just fun. Not only do you get to choose between a keyboard and mouse versus a controller, if that’s more your speed, but you’ll have access to game catalogs from a number of different platforms, not just Sony’s or Microsoft’s game library. That means you can download games from Steam, Origin, Blizzard and Epic Games, just to name a few.
Finally, depending on your budget, you can put together a gaming PC that will far outperform any gaming console on the market right now, and it’s not even close. Or, if you don’t care about frame rates and gaming in 4K, for around $500 you can build a gaming PC that offers similar performance to consoles you’d buy — with the added benefit of being upgradeable, whereas if you buy a gaming console, you’re stuck with whatever’s inside.
Enter the search query “gaming computer” into Google Images and you’re sure to find an unlimited supply of PC towers with colorful lights and huge fans. It’s true, most gaming PCs have some form of LED RGB lighting, and keeping the system cool is crucial for longevity and performance. But at the end of the day, those two items alone don’t make it a gaming PC. It essentially boils down to graphics and processing power. But even then, the line between a normal computer and a gaming computer is rather blurry.
Every computer, whether it’s a Mac, Windows, Chromebook or Linux device, has some form of graphics processing unit. The GPU is how your computer is able to display your desktop, app icons, or any sort of image on the display.
There are two types of GPUs: integrated and discrete. An integrated GPU is built into the computer’s CPU, or main processor, and shares resources like memory with the CPU. A dedicated GPU is a separate card, sometimes called a video or graphics card, that has its own memory (VRAM).
A discrete GPU is far more powerful than an integrated GPU, and in nearly every gaming PC build, you’ll find either an AMD or an Nvidia GPU. There are exceptions, as we’ll talk about in a minute, however. Some integrated GPUs are good enough (barely) for basic gaming.
In order to complete your first build, you’re going to need some supplies. Here’s a list of the components you’ll need to purchase to put together your own PC.
- Motherboard: The motherboard is what all of you