Beginner's PC Build Guide | Pick Parts Like a Pro


Looking to build a PC this year? Here's a guide with all the latest information you need to know.

Building a PC is simple and allows you to get more bang for your buck. Purchasing something prebuilt gets you less performance with typically inferior parts. So, if you're ready to dive in, here are a few things you should think about when choosing the hardware.

Choosing Your CPU

Your CPU choice comes first as it determines what type of motherboard you'll need.

Intel vs AMD in 2017

The two big players in the CPU market are Intel and AMD. And depending on what the goal is of your computer build you may prefer one over the other.

The easy way to think about it is that Intel processors, in general, have faster IPC or instructions per clock. This means that for each core or thread they perform faster. For games that prefer faster over more cores (most of them) Intel will typically give more FPS or frames per second. So, if your only goal is to get the most performance in games, Intel will likely be the winner in most scenarios.

On the other hand, if more cores and threads matter to you, AMD is a very good choice. First of all, a similarly priced AMD CPU isn't that much slower than an Intel one. It also typically comes with more cores. This means that for certain tasks your AMD CPU will outperform the Intel one. This also is true in certain games that can take advantage of those cores. As more and more games continue to use more cores, this will certainly give AMD CPUs additional longevity.

How Much CPU do you Really Need?

For gaming, the amount of CPU you need is determined by your graphics card and the resolution you're playing at. For example, if you're purchasing a $100 graphics card, then a CPU from $75 to $125 likely won't bottleneck it. However, if you're purchasing a $700 graphics card, you'll need something in the $300 to $400 range to give you the best results.

The resolution you play at also matters. Those who play at a higher resolution are putting more demands on their graphics card. As such, the CPU they use is actually not as big of a deal. This is counterintuitive to many.

Installing a Processor

Installing your CPU is actually a simple process as long as you've purchased the correct motherboard. Simply align the notches of your CPU with the socket of your motherboard being careful not to bend any pins. Once it's installed, the socket latch should do the rest of the work. Pull it down and latch it into place.

Choosing a Motherboard

It's easy to overspend on a motherboard. They come as cheap as $50 and as expensive as around $500. Yet, the performance you'll actually get in a game isn't that different between the two. So, what's the difference?

Some motherboards have more features and include the option to overclock your Ram and CPU. Better parts and even size can also make a difference.

Motherboard Compatibility

When you purchase your processor, pay attention to the socket type. This should correspond to the motherboard type you purchase. For example, if you purchase a socket LGA 1151 CPU, you'll need an 1151 motherboard. Or, if you purchase an AM4 socket processor, you'll need an AM4 motherboard.

From there, you'll want to determine what type of chipset of that type of motherboard you need. The chipset of your motherboard is just another way of saying that certain features are guaranteed to be found on that type of motherboard. Certain features will also be added by the manufacturer of the motherboard.

So, the best way to determine what features your motherboard has is to look at the specifications of the motherboard itself.

From there, you'll have to determine what types of features you want on your motherboard or if you want to overclock. Overclocking is only available on certain chipsets. So, knowing that beforehand is crucial; however, most gamers do not overclock.

Installing Your Motherboard

Motherboards come in various sizes that fit into certain types of cases. So, be sure you're getting a case that is compatible. For the most part, bigger cases will fit smaller motherboards.

In order to install your motherboard line up the holes in your PC case with the motherboard. Once you've done that install motherboard offsets in the corresponding PC case holes. Place the motherboard down on the offsets while forcing the back I/O into the back of the case. Screw the motherboard down to the offsets.

Choosing a Power Supply

As you might imagine the power that your PC needs is based upon the components that you choose for your PC.

For the most part, the power requi#ff3d00 to even run higher-end PCs has gone over the years. So, it's unlikely you'll need a large capacity power supply. That being said you can get a general idea by using a power supply calculator online to calculate your overall wattage needs.

Power Supply Efficiency and 80 Plus Certification

I recommend you go with a good energy efficient power supply that is rated at least 80 PLUS. This means that the power supply is at least 80% efficient with the power it draws from the wall. 80 Plus certifications are rated by efficiency from bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.

Not all 80 Plus power supplies are expensive. So, even a budget build of around $500 should still look for a bronze certified power supply. I've also made a list of the top rated power supplies on the market. I recommend that if you're wanting additional information on power supplies.

Power Supply Sizes

If you buy an ATX or standard power supply it should fit into any Micro ATX, mid-tower, or full tower PC case. For other slim sizes, be sure to check your case's specifications.

Installing Your Power Supply

Power supplies are typically mounted on the top or the bottom of the back of your PC case. Use four of the screws provided by your motherboard manufacturer to secure it into place.

Choosing a PC Case

While your case certainly won't affect the performance of your PC much, it's still important to find something compatible that will help to keep your components cool.

Understanding Case Sizes and Motherboard Compatibility

Cases come in various sizes just like motherboards. Motherboard Sizes include mini ITX, Micro ATX, ATX, and E-ATX from small to large. Cases are available in mini-ITX, Micro, mid-tower, and full-sized towers. Some large-sized cases may be compatible with any smaller motherboard; however, be sure to check the manufacturer technical details to be sure.

Compatibility typically has to do with where the holes are for the motherboard offsets.


Cases come not only with or without fans but also compatibility for liquid cooling. I'd recommend you get a case that has at least one fan even if you're doing a budget build. A front fan brings in cool air and helps to blow the hot air out the back of your computer. This keeps your PC and components cool which also increases their longevity.

The more wattage that your PC uses the more heat it will produce. So, if you go with an energy efficient build, very little cooling is actually needed. On the other hand, if you build a huge PC that you plan on overclocking, additional cooling plans may be ideal.

Choosing RAM For Your System

DDR4 is the latest memory technology. It's available in speeds from 2133MHz to above 4000MHz and comes in various capacities.

How Much Ram Do You Need?

For any gaming system, the typical answer to this is 8GB. I'd say that in almost every situation that this is true. While some games use over 8GB I haven't seen a huge difference in a number of frames one gets simply by having Ram over this amount. That being said, some modern games do go over so if you're wanting to future proof your system, 16GB might be a good idea.

How Fast Does Your Ram Need To Be?

This depends on your system. First, some motherboards have restrictions on how fast the Ram you purchase can be. So, be sure to read its specifications before going with higher speed ram.

For Intel systems, I'd go with anything 2666MHz and above while leaning towards faster ram if it's the same price as slower ram. Many times it is.

For an AMD Ryzen system, I'd go with as fast as ram as makes sense for your current system. Ryzen really thrives on faster memory speeds. So, reaching for 3200MHz is a good idea for high-end system builders.

Do You Need a CPU Cooler?

I get this question a lot and it depends on what you're planning to do with your CPU.

Most CPUs come with a stock CPU cooler that is more than good enough to keep it cool. So, if you're just planning to run your processor at stock speeds, my answer to this would be no.

On the other hand, if you want to overclock your CPU, then it depends on the processor itself. Many "K" processors from Intel, don't come with a stock cooler. This is because the "K" shows that this particular processor is unlocked for overclocking. So, if you don't plan on overclocking, stick with the cheaper non-K versions.

For the newer Ryzen CPUs that come with a stock Wraith cooler, the answer is not always yes. The Wraith cooler will allow you to overclock your CPU. However, if you want a greater overclock, you'll likely need to purchase something separate.

Choosing The Right Graphic Card

The graphics card you choose should be based upon the games you play, the framerate and settings you want, as well as the resolution you play at. We recommend you take a look at specific graphics card benchmarks for the games you most like to play in order to find the card that's most appropriate for your system.

The GPU you purchase should also be based on the processor you have.

Budget processors don't have the power necessary to keep up with the demands of a higher-end graphics card. So, pairing something like an i3 and a GTX 1080Ti wouldn't get you as far as you might have hoped for.

How Much of Your Budget Should Be Used on a Graphics Card?

That depends on your goal. For budget PCs, this number might be pretty high (40-50%).

However, if you have a higher-end PC and simply want to play in 1080p at 60 frames, then a super pricey GPU is probably unnecessary.



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TechFonder: Beginner's PC Build Guide | Pick Parts Like a Pro
Beginner's PC Build Guide | Pick Parts Like a Pro
Looking to build a PC this year? Here's a guide with all the latest information you need to know.
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