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Building a gaming PC is the best technology investment you can make. A gaming console is more durable than a smartphone, more powerful than a gaming console, and more versatile than a more powerful streaming box. Whether you’re writing scripts, editing videos or adding settings to the latest and greatest games, a gaming PC is the best tool for the job. With regular maintenance, one of these systems can last five years – with regular upgrades, maybe ten.
How To Make My Gaming Pc Faster
However, building a PC can be a difficult process, especially for beginners. There are a lot of good guides out there, especially from our sister sites like PC Gamer and Tom’s Hardware. However, both of these stories focus more on mechanics: what parts you need, and how to put them all together on a motherboard. Before I built my first PC, even these manuals were a little intimidating.
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Tom’s guide decided to divide the process into two parts and take an informed approach. Before building a PC, you need to decide why you want to build it. What are you looking for that you can’t get in a pre-built machine? What components will achieve that goal? And how do you make sense of the hundreds of different pieces of tech you’ll need?
With that in mind, the first part of our “How to Build a PC” series focuses on component selection. In a broad sense, we will cover devices that make the PC tag. But I will also discuss my thought process behind each episode, and what changes I was willing to make.
Before I lay out my thought process behind each component, there are, at least, seven components you’ll need to build a gaming PC:
Graphics card, or GPU: Arguably the most important part of a gaming device, the GPU (graphics processing unit) outputs images from your PC and puts them on your monitor. More powerful GPUs enable better graphics and in-game settings.
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Processor, or CPU: More than any other component, the CPU (central processing unit) is what makes your computer work. The CPU directs instructions from one program to another on your computer. The better the processor, the faster it can transfer information to software and hardware functions.
Motherboard: The motherboard is where all the components of your computer reside. The most important thing about a motherboard is its compatibility with the components you choose, but motherboards can have integrated graphics cards, Wi-Fi systems and more.
Memory, or RAM: RAM (random access memory) determines how much data your computer can process at any given time. To make things very simple, RAM is where your computer stores information that it needs to access quickly. The more RAM you have, the more efficiently your computer can process more information – it helps with productivity; important in sports.
Storage, or SSD/HDD: Computer storage comes in two forms: solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDD). Either way, this is where your files stay when not in use. Bigger drives mean more storage space, which means more space for files, games, media and more.
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Power supply: Possibly the most interesting and important piece of the PC puzzle, the power supply is exactly what it sounds like: It gets power from the outlet to the specific systems in your computer. Choosing the right one can be tricky, but once you do it, you probably won’t have to think about it again.
Case: Your computer’s case is, for the most part, an aesthetic choice, although some designs include additional cooling fans. Although it is possible to do an “open air” construction, a case is probably the best way to prevent dust and stored parts.
Anything else, like additional cooling systems or second hard drives, is nice to have, but not absolutely necessary. These are the parts you need to go from a bunch of hardware to a working PC.
As with any creative project, the hardest part of building a PC is getting started. There are thousands of possible features; where do you start Do you choose a GPU and build around it? Find a case you like and see what will fit inside? Scour Newegg for anything on sale and hope it’s all the same?
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Believe it or not, all of those building techniques are valid, but mine is very simple: Figure out the “why” first, and the “what” next. What? What kind of PC do you want to build? What? Looking for a productivity machine that can play games on the side? What? is it one of the most used next generation flavors? The highest priced powerhouse in generations past?
Personally, I need to build a new rig because my current gaming rig is 10 years old. This wasn’t much of a problem when I had a more powerful PC in Tom’s Guide office for testing games and peripherals. But because of the pandemic, I’ve been working from home for the past few months, and the old horse just isn’t cutting it.
So: I need a computer that can run the latest games well, but I don’t need to convert everything to 8K resolution and 120 frames per second. I also need something that will be at least as powerful as the PS5 and Xbox Series X, if I need to compare games across platforms.
After doing some research, I found that $1,500 is a good place for a powerful PC, but it’s not too high. I already have a mouse, keyboard, headset and monitor, so that was out of my budget. You’ll need to know what you’re using properly and consider your hardware, but knowing exactly what you want your PC to do will help a lot.
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From there, I went to Newegg (the best place to buy PC parts online, in my experience) and started looking for parts. Note: You can’t just buy the first seven parts you see and expect them all to be the same. It’s better to start with the most important component (in my opinion, the GPU) and work your way down.
Obviously, Newegg is just one part of the store. Once you’ve found the gear you need, you can bargain hunt on Amazon, Best Buy and other major electronics retailers. My favorite is the Micro Center, especially if you have one of these electronic meccas near you. You can walk in with nothing and walk out with a completely unbuilt computer, at a reasonable price.
Where possible, buy gear from established, well-known brands – Corsair, HyperX, Western Digital, etc. In theory you can save a lot of money by going without nameless storage, RAM or electronics. But the quality of the device is a complete failure, and customer service for small brands is often random or non-existent.
My final advice is to be flexible with your budget, if possible. Obviously, you don’t want to spend $1,500 on a $1,000 idea, but don’t throw away the entire design if you come in at $1,050. A good computer will last a long time, and a few dollars. it makes very little difference over the course of a few years.
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As mentioned above, the GPU is the most important (or at least the most direct) place to start with the design of a gaming PC. The first big decision you have to make is between Nvidia and AMD, each of which offers high-end graphics cards. The advantages and disadvantages of each may deserve their own article, but in the construction of my computer, I have been lucky with Nvidia and unlucky with AMD, and going with products you trust is one of the best ways in this process.
From there, it was a matter of choosing one of the three new Nvidia cards: GeForce RTX 3070, 3080 or 3090. Because I had a $1,500 budget in mind, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 was a natural choice. The other two cards will be more expensive. Buying old cards can save you money, but it makes your device less future-proof.
It’s worth mentioning that at the time of writing, the RTX 3070 is still a few weeks away from release, and will likely sell out very quickly. If so, you should definitely build something now, you can go with the old Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 series, which is currently dropping in price, or the equally powerful AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT. However, AMD will also release a new GPU (Big Navi) soon, so maybe it’s better to be patient and get stock again.
When I ran my build recommended by the Tom’s Guide staff, the CPU was the most controversial choice. The Intel Core i7-10700 is a powerful CPU, and while it’s not high-end, it’s a good match for the GeForce 3070 GPU.
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