Should I build or buy a PC for gaming?


This is a question I’m sure many of you have asked, and I can understand why some people may feel apprehensive about building a computer when you could just go and buy a ready-made one online or in a store.

The truth is however, it’s quite straightforward to build a computer for gaming, it can save you a lot of money and can be a great project to work on with your family.

An advantage of building your PC is that you can include the parts that you want and not be limited to the specifications of HP, Dell, etc. However, it’s fair to say that there are quite a few more steps involved when compared to just buying a new PC outright.

Why would you want to build your PC for gaming?

You can often find excellent bargains for parts online and you have the freedom to select a more powerful CPU, better graphics card or bigger SSD if you want.

It may sound a bit corny but when you build your computer it will instill a sense of pride and achievement.

As mentioned earlier, if you have kids then you can build the computer with them, this is an excellent way to get them interested in technology and analytics.

Building the computer as a project will allow you to better understand the various parts of a computer, how they integrate and what can go wrong with them. Again, this can help save you money in the long run. As you begin to understand how the various parts of the computer work together as a whole. Then you can diagnose issues yourself when you encounter system crashes. This could help save you having to fork out money for computer repair if you can fix it yourself.

Isn’t it easier to just buy a ready-made computer?

Yes, it’s much easier to go down this route, and if you’re apprehensive about building a computer from the ground up then it may be better for you go with this option.

While this option is easier, it will also limit your options concerning the components of the computer that you get.

If you plan on getting a computer for just everyday tasks (browsing the internet, sending emails, etc.) which don’t require a more powerful machine then this may well be the better choice.

For the people who just need a computer to do basic tasks like web browsing, mail, listening to music and so on then it may make more sense to get a laptop. This will give you the added advantage of mobility although may cost you slightly more.

What parts are required to build my computer?

I’ll break down below the various parts that go into building a computer, it may seem a bit overwhelming at first but once you become more familiar with the terminology you’ll see it’s not so scary.

Basic parts required for a self-build gaming computer are as follows:

  • Computer case
  • Motherboard
  • Power supply (PSU)
  • Graphics card
  • Processor (CPU)
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Hard drive (SSD / HDD)
  • Copy of Microsoft Windows
  • CPU thermal paste
  • CPU cooling unit (you’ll probably need this if gaming)
  • Speakers or headset (you may already have these)
  • Possibly an external DVD-ROM drive

So, as I said, when you look at the list you may find it a little daunting, but it really shouldn’t be.

I do strongly recommend that you do some research on the various parts before you go ahead and make any purchases. For example, if you buy an Intel CPU, you will need to make sure that you buy a motherboard that is compatible with that specific model of Intel processor.

This is generally quite easy to do as online stores will almost always list which socket type the CPU uses, you should then be able to filter by socket type when looking at the motherboards.

Perhaps I’m assuming too much here the general knowledge of how the various computer components are linked together so I’ll explain it a bit more below.

If the processor (CPU) is the brain of the computer then the motherboard is its heart. All the various components will connect into the motherboard so it’s important to make sure you choose a good board as the basis of your PC building project.

The building process usually goes as follows:

I will bold this part as it’s very important, DO NOT wear a jumper/sweater when building the computer, it can create a build-up of static electricity in your body which can have a detrimental effect on the PC components!

You install the motherboard into the computer case, there will be some separator screws which keep the board from touching the metal of the case.

On the board, you connect in the CPU and RAM. It’s generally best to do this before fitting the board into the case.

When installing the CPU, you’ll notice that there is an embossed arrow on one corner, this should match up with an equivalent embossment on the motherboard’s CPU socket.

Generally, it’s easier to install the CPU cooler (especially if one of the larger variety) while the board is outside the case, you need to put a blob of thermal paste on to the already installed CPU and then sit the cooler on top of the CPU.

Depending on the CPU cooler, you may need to screw in a backplate to help support the weight of it, this is prevalent on the larger types of coolers.

The motherboard is then fitted into the case and secured with screws. Once this is done you can start connecting in any additional components like the graphics card.

Fit and secure the power supply within the case.

Secure the SSD to the case and connect cable to the motherboard.

Cable management

From my experience, this is worth spending some time on and doing it correctly at the start.

Most computer cases now have holes inside which are designed to help with cable management.

You can route the cables from the power supply through these holes to keep the clutter down inside the computer.

This is very important as it allows the cooling fans to push the hot air out of the case.

If you’re building a computer to play games on then this is even more important. You don’t want the computer overheating while you are gaming.

Installing Windows OS

So now you have the computer put together and powered on, you’ll be likely presented with a black screen with a message showing something like “No Operating System found”.

Don’t panic, this is normal, it just means that Windows isn’t installed on the computer yet. What you’ll need to do is go into the computer’s BIOS to ensure that the computer will boot from USB first.

The method to enter the BIOS varies depending on the brand of motherboard, if you have a look in the manual that came with your board it will show how to do this.

The retail version of Windows now comes on USB key or DVD, this is in line with the shift towards modern computers not coming with DVD drives as standard.

Once you have set the boot order in the BIOS, pop in your Windows USB key / DVD and restart the computer.

All being equal, you will be presented with the Windows installation screen, you should be able to pretty much just click next, next next.

The files will install and the computer will reboot, at this point you’ll be required to create your login name and password.

Configuring Windows

Depending on if you’re using the Home version or Professional version of Windows, you will have different options here.

The Home version will initially force you to create a Microsoft account, you can get around this by booting the computer without being connected to your router.

You will then have an option to say “I have no internet connection”. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to do this but it does have its uses.

Once you have the Operating System installed, you’ll want to run updates and install the drivers for the various hardware that you’ve bought.

In general, the driver CDs that come with your hardware are vastly out of date.

Once you get the network card drivers installed and can get online, you should download the most up to date drivers from the websites of the hardware manufacturers.

If you’re going to be gaming then you’ll want to make sure that your graphics card drivers and motherboard drivers are up to date.

Some info to help get started

To help you get up and running a little quicker, you can visit the website www.ninite.com, this allows you to install various browsers and other useful utilities in a single burst.

You can use one of the free antivirus solutions to start with if you like (Avast and Kaspersky are both OK). I strongly recommend that you don’t use McAfee.

However, I’d recommend going with a paid option, I use antivirus software called NOD32 from a company called ESET, I’ve found it to be very effective and reasonably priced.

Ready-made machines

With a ready-made PC, you are almost always going to pay a premium in comparison to building yourself. However, you are also saving yourself quite a bit of work so some people may be happy to pay the extra.

The pre-built PC will be plug and play, you’ll still need to create a Windows login, run updates, etc.

You will tend to find on these machines that they come with a lot of what’s called “bloatware”, this will usually be 3rd party software that’s already installed.

It’s generally best to uninstall this software as it’s just using up resources that you could make better use of yourself.

Conclusion

So as you can see, this isn’t a hugely in-depth guide, it’s more of an overview to help give you an idea of what’s involved with both options.

In regards to sourcing parts, it’s worth your while to check various online stores as sometimes the prices can vary wildly. This was the case with graphics cards when everyone was buying them to mine cryptocurrencies, the prices of the cards skyrocketed!

As I mentioned previously, do some research on which parts you are going to buy, make sure that the components are all compatible with each other.

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