For serious gamers, building a custom top-rated gaming computer is not just a wish; it’s a must. Most off-the-shelf consumer laptops and desktops, while an easy buy, don’t end up being the best computer for gaming. They’re too slow, or their video cards are underpowered, or they’re not built for performance.
You already knew that, though; that’s why you’re googling how to build a gaming computer. But, you’re most likely overwhelmed. There are a lot of options out there, and they all have a high price tag. So, before you drop $500, $750, or $1,000+ on components, do a bit of research.
Start with a quick perusal of gaming computers on Amazon. Navigate to the most popular choices, and read their descriptions and reviews (especially the reviews). Balance your needs and priorities against the various components; remember, the fastest gaming computer – e.g. the CyberpowerPC Gamer Ultra GUA3100A, the CybertronPC Shockwave X6-9600, or even the VR-Capable Alienware Area 51 a51R2-1766SLV – is not one size fits all. You’re building a custom computer because you have custom gaming needs. Know them, and you’re on your way to the perfect computer.
Once you’ve done your research, you’re halfway to knowing how to build a gaming computer. Let’s break the rest down into 10 simple steps:
- Select Your CPU
- Buy the Right Motherboard
- Pick the RAM That Meets Your Gaming Needs
- Slot in the Hard Drive / SSD Drive
- Choose the Best Graphics & Sound Cards
- Decide on a Case
- Install Fans, a CPU Cooler, Case Controls, etc.
- Protect with the Right Power Supply
- Power On!
And now, let’s jump into the nitty gritty.
Step 1: Select Your CPU
Choosing your CPU may be the hardest part of the process, but you’ll have lots of help. We recommend comparing benchmarks with current prices. Sites like PassMark run thousands of CPU performance tests on Intel and AMD processors, making the job a little easier. A few that make the price-to-performance cut: Intel Core’s i7-4790K and AMD’s FX-Series.
Step 2: Pick the RAM That Meets Your Gaming Needs
Your second big choice is RAM: what kind and how much? Again, it’s all about the balance between price and performance, and it usually boils down to this: RAM affords the greatest increase in performance relative to cost. Luckily, you only need about 8GB for gaming (16GB if you’ll be doing image/video editing). Some good choices include the Ballistix Sport 8GB Kit and the Corsair Vengeance Pro 16GB.
Step 3: Find the Right Motherboard
The reason you picked your CPU and RAM first is because those choices will dictate your motherboard selection; they must be compatible. (Example: An Intel motherboard for an Intel processor or an AMD motherboard for an AMD processor, with compatible socket types.) Once you’ve chosen the right motherboard, get shopping.
Step 4: Slot in the Hard Drive / SSD Drive
Games and media eat up hard drive space, so the general rule of thumb is to buy as much as you can, without sacrificing quality. Balance the factors – hard disk or SSD? size and interface? specifications? performance? – and then hit the ‘net for the best deal. Final thought: Go for a brand name; Samsung and SanDisk are both reputable brands.
Step 5: Choose the Best Graphics & Sound Cards
From a gaming perspective, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing your graphics card. Your choice of sound card is also a consideration, as video and sound are the core of the gaming experience. As far as graphics cards go, your best bet is one of the big brands, like NVIDIA and AMD.
Step 6: Decide on a Case
Gaming computer cases can be a fun decision. After you get past the logistics, like motherboard compatibility and size, your personality can come out: shape, size, color, etc. The case determines your computer’s appearance, so choose wisely. Have a little fun with the NZXT Phantom 410 Mid Tower, DeepCool TX Mid Tower, or Thermaltake CORE P5 Mid Tower.
Step 7: Install Fans, a CPU Cooler, Case Controls, etc.
There are several small-but-important components you’ll need to add to your build, including a CPU cooler (ex. MasterAir Maker 8), fan (ex. NZXT Technologies RF-FZ120-02), and case controls. Be sure they’re compatible with your case and other components.
Step 8: Protect with the Right Power Supply
A gaming computer’s power supply (PSU) is mundane but important; without power, there’s no gaming. One tip: Splash out on a good PSU, as it’s likely to outlive your build (and you can use it again for the next). A few recommendations for powerful, reliable power supplies are the EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G2 and Seasonic XFX series.
Step 9: Power On!
You are go for gaming. Enjoy!