Welcome to BGC where our mission is giving you all the detailed, updated information you need to confidently build your own gaming computers from scratch - even if you're a complete beginner who's never seen the inside of a PC before.
When getting a new computer to experience PC gaming in all its graphical glory, if you want to get the smoothest performance and highest graphics quality for your money to maximize your experience (and to avoid lame lag getting in the way of the fun), building a custom gaming PC yourself is the smartest way and has many advantages over buying a prebuilt desktop.
When you learn how to build gaming computers, you'll not only stretch your money further and get the fastest gaming performance for your budget (which means higher frame rates and better graphics), you'll also be able to include more reliable, higher-quality parts that will allow your system to run as smoothly as possible for as long as possible without needing to upgrade.
Plus, when you build a gaming PC it will be WAY easier to upgrade and maintain your machine, as you'll have full flexibility and control from the very start which means you can easily tweak it over the years however you see fit and without encountering issues. For example, some prebuilt PCs are quite limited in the upgrades you can do, and some manufacturers even void your warranty if you simply open up the computer case.
Furthermore, building a gaming computer means you can choose the right parts for the types of games and applications you run, as well as choosing the exact style, theme and features that you really want. Buying a prebuilt just can't compare to the upsides of building your own.
But what's even better?
All that hype you might have heard that building a gaming PC is super straightforward to do and that it's "just like building Lego but for grown-ups"... it's all true. Objectively speaking, in modern times building a gaming computer is indeed as easy as they say, and very hard to mess up if you have the right guidance on choosing good parts, following basic safety precautions such as not touching the delicate parts of your hardware components and regularly grounding yourself to avoid static electricity when installing parts (by simply touching a metal object before installing anything), and then simply taking the installation process slowly and one step at a time.
Our many meticulously and objectively researched hardware buying guides, example gaming computer builds, and beginner-friendly step by step tutorials are carefully-crafted to make everything as simple as possible, but if you're brand new we highly recommend reading the introductory steps below to quickly get up to speed with the basics and to start off on the right foot with your first gaming PC build. Good luck and may the force be with you and your parts.
Thanos-Sized Tools Optional
As mentioned, planning and building your own gaming desktop computer is a remarkably easy process considering how complex it may sound to some random stranger on the street who doesn't realize there's nothing complicated about it. However, as straightforward as it is to build a computer in the modern PC age, you'll still need an introductory step-by-step guide to follow as a first-timer.
The manuals that come with your parts don't provide the detailed explanation that you'll require as a beginner (most include diagrams and stuff like that which can come in handy during installation, but they lack actual written explanations). The following 5 steps on how to build a gaming computer for the first time covers all the basics you need to know. Any questions or concerns you might have right now will also likely be covered at some point in the below steps and our supporting guides around the site, so if you're a little confused or overwhelmed about anything then chances are everything will become clear as you keep moving through the process. Good luck and have fun.
For your new gaming battlestation of glory to be fully-operational once you've finished the construction process, the following are the essential parts you will need to buy when building your own gaming computer.
Parts Needed to Build a Gaming PC:
Everything else is optional for a computer build, as there are a whole bunch of other additional add-on parts and accessories that you could include in your custom setup either from the very start or later on as an upgrade. But the basic parts above are what's 100% required to construct a new working PC that you can start gaming on straight away.
Let's take a quick look at the main role of each of these parts, including links to our detailed hardware selection guides should you want to learn about a particular component in more detail (including what all the spec and features mean). But keep in mind that to build a PC you don't need to thoroughly understand all the hardware parts n too much detail, and a basic understanding is sufficient to get started on planning your build (so feel free to skip ahead to step 2 if you already know a little about hardware).
Also called the processor, the CPU (Central Processing Unit) is a fairly small, square-shaped component that sits on your motherboard and is responsible for all the lightning-speed mathematical calculations required by the games and software you run.
You'll want a good CPU when building a gaming PC, as its importance to gaming performance is second only to your graphics card. See our full guide to choosing the best CPU for gaming to get up to speed with what all the CPU features mean and which specs are most important, or see our latest sample gaming PC builds which include breakdowns of the current best value gaming CPUs and why.
Also referred to as the HSF (Heatsink and Fan), this is what sits on top of the actual CPU to keep it cool and quiet. Most CPUs will already come shipped with a cooler in the box, so chances are you won't need to buy one when building a computer, though when building a high-end gaming computer you'll want to consider replacing the stock cooler with a better aftermarket one for more effective cooling and noise reduction.
Buying your own CPU cooler is especially important if you want to overclock your gaming PC as stock CPU coolers aren't designed for overclocking, though you should probably avoid overclocking if you're brand new and just building your first PC.
If your CPU is the brain of your computer, the motherboard is the heart and central nervous system which acts as the center of your build, as well as transferring information between all of the components in the system.
Whilst it doesn't directly affect the performance or frame rate of your games, the motherboard is an important component and when you build a gaming computer you want to find a decent one that has the features that you need, the upgrade flexibility that you want, and that is from a good, trusted manufacturer. If you need to know the full details of selecting the right Mothership for your battlestation don't miss our complete guide to choosing the best motherboard for a gaming PC.
RAM (Random Access Memory) comes in the form of horizontal memory modules/sticks that you slot into the motherboard, and is the memory in your computer that running programs and games rely on during their operation.
Generally speaking, the more RAM you have in your system, the faster your programs and games will run, although for gaming there is a point where more RAM isn't going to noticeably increase performance. As of 2019, 8GB-16GB is enough to maximize gaming performance. Learn more about choosing the right RAM for your rig here.
The star of any worthy gaming system, the graphics card (also called a video card or GPU, short for Graphics Processing Unit) is responsible for calculating and rendering the 3D graphics and special effects to your monitor. Your choice of graphics card plays the biggest role in how well your gaming PC will perform (ie how smoothly and high-quality your games will run) and without a decent one in your parts-list you won't be able to view your games at their best.
Therefore, you should allocate a healthy chunk of your overall budget to your graphics card to maximize the gaming performance of your new rig (more on this in part 3 below). See how to choose the best video card for gaming to delve deeper into what GPU specs and features mean.
For your gaming computer build you'll need some sort of storage capacity to be able to load the operating system and games on, and there are various devices you can use for this with the most common being either an internal HDD (Hard Disk Drive) if you're on a budget, an internal SSD (Solid State Drive) for faster performance, or a combination of both a HDD and a SSD (where you'd use the SSD as the main drive for your operating system and a handful of programs, and the HDD for all your other files).
There's no need to worry about getting a huge amount of storage upfront, as you can always add internal or external drives later on should you need more space. Yup, you guessed it - we have guides on choosing a HDD and choosing a SSD should you wish to learn more.
Commonly referred to as simply the PSU (Power Supply Unit), the power supply is a box that sits inside your case (usually on the bottom) and provides the power for your system from your main wall socket in your house. When beginners learn how to build a gaming computer for the first time, it's often an overlooked component and that makes sense because how important can a power supply really be, right?
Hold your horses digital bruh - you want to avoid making the rookie mistake of simply buying the cheapest PSU you can find, as it may come back to bite you later on as cheap PSUs spell trouble. If a power supply dies, there's the risk of it frying and killing your other parts in the process. You could say your gaming computer is only as strong as its weaklest link, and a bad PSU is a liability. Choose a decent power supply that will last the distance, has a decent efficiency rating (80+ Bronze at a minimum), and that provides enough power for your particular parts-list (and for future upgrades).
Last but definitely not least in terms of the core hardware components that make up your PC tower, the case (sometimes called the chassis if you want to get fancy) which will house all your precious parts, provide airflow to your system with a bunch of fans and grills, and which is obviously responsible for how your awesome new gaming computer will look from the outside.
Will you choose a sleeper low-key looking case, or more of an in-your-face aggressive all-RGB beauty with see-through side panels? Perhaps something in-between? There's a vast array of cases out there to suit any taste, and you can see some of our current favorites in our guide to choosing a good case for your gaming PC build.
There are a gazillion software programs you can install on your PC, but there's only one that is 100% non-negotiable, and that of course an operating system. Windows is the most popular choice for gaming, with Windows 10 being the latest and greatest and what we'd recommend to most who are building a gaming PC (especially beginners).
The above are the core parts you'll need when you build a gaming computer, but to make a working new computer that is also ready to play games from the get, you'll need a couple extra things. Without things like a monitor or mouse, your new PC will just be a hopeless heap of hardware that sits there twiddling its thumbs in boredom.
How much is it to build a good gaming PC? You probably already have an idea of how much you want to spend, but if not let’s discuss different price points and what to expect in terms of performance. Like most tech, when it comes to computer hardware the more you spend the better performance and quality you’re going to get (generally-speaking, but there are some exceptions).
However, not every gamer needs to fork out thousands of dollars on a high end machine as you could be just as happy with a cheaper system. If you're only sticking to standard 1080p resolution (full HD), or you're only playing less graphically-demanding games (or you don't mind turning down the graphics settings on more demanding titles) then there's no need to build an expensive PC.
Under $500 (Retro Gaming and Entry-Level 1080p)
With a spending of amount of 500 dollars and under you'll be quite restricted, but the truth is with smart component choices you can still absolutely still build a first gaming PC that will play modern titles in the standard 1080p resolution, even with smooth performance (depending on the game and how much you turn down the settings).
A build in this price point may be all you need though if you’re just mainly sticking to older, less demanding games, or you don’t mind turning down the graphic settings considerable and/or you don’t mind the occasional slow-down/lag here or there in the more demanding titles.
Many popular eSports titles have much lower demands and can perform really well on a real cheap setup. Obviously you can’t expect much in terms of peripherals and accessories in this tier either, but some gamers honestly don’t mind using a basic, generic mouse, keyboard and monitor that simply gets the job done.
$500 to $1000 (The Mainstream Mid-Range: Best for 1080p)
This is the sweet spot to building quite a capable gaming PC for excellent performance in the standard 1080p (full HD) resolution, with decent room to move in terms of complimenting your build with a decent set of peripherals. The power you can expect from a build in this price range is enough to please most gamers, and you would only really need to spend more if you have specific higher demands than the average gamer in terms of resolution, FPS (frames per second), and other application demands such as building a VR, video editing or other workstation-level PC.
Or, if you wish to get the highest quality peripherals possible as they can quickly add up in cost (top of the line monitors such as 120/144Hz screens can easily chew a big hole in your budget) and so you might need to drop more than $1000 if you absolute need the best accessories you can get your hands on. If you’re building your first PC and don’t really know where to start because you’re confused about what you’re going to need, this price point is a safe bet for a nice balancing of price and performance, assuming you stick to 1080p, and should make you happy.
$1000 to $2000 (Best for 1440p and Entry-Level 4K)
Now we start getting into very high performance for the gamers who demand more for things like playing in higher resolutions and/or higher refresh rates such as 1440p or 120/144Hz, for absolutely flawless performance in 1080p in demanding modern games with the in-game settings cranked up to the max for the best visual quality, and/or for a very fast VR or workstation setup.
Spending a nice chunk of change like this on your PC will also future-proof your parts more, so you won’t really need to upgrade for a long time (read: 3-6 years depending on your games, demands, preferences, etc) to continue playing the latest games well. With a very flexible spending budget like this you also have the freedom to get the exact gaming peripherals and accessories that you want without sacrificing on quality too much (if at all), whereas in the sub $1000 price tier you may have to settle for average (ie middle of the road) peripherals.
$2000 and Beyond (Flawless 4K and Virtual Reality)
Now we get into serious power, and building your own gaming desktop in this price range is for gamers seeking the very best gaming experience that money can buy, with little to no compromises. In other words, if you're rocking a 4K monitor and want to take full advantage, or if you're delving deep into the exciting world of virtual reality gaming and don't want your system slowing you down in any VR title (either now or over the next few years as VR really heats up), you're going to want to do everything you can to get your hands on a setup of this calibre. Overkill for most gamers, but an extreme build of this nature is the holy grail for the hardcore gamers among us.
Planning and tweaking an awesome list of matching, compatible components for your budget can be a big part of the fun when you learn how to build a gaming PC. If you're building your first custom computer, a great place to get ideas for your parts-list is our flagship guide: our constantly-updated, meticulously thought-out Best Gaming PC Builds for the Money series where we publish sample builds for all price ranges based on careful analysis of the current hardware market to get the most bang for buck.
If you're tweaking a build or designing your own parts-list from the ground up, don't forget that the two most important parts as gamers are the video card and CPU. You should allocate a nice chunk of your overall budget towards these two, and it's a good idea to base your parts-list around them:
Allocating a PC Build Budget for Maximum Gaming Performance:
Graphics Card (25-40% of Total Build Budget)
To build the best gaming PC for your money, you'll want to invest a minimum of 25% of your total build budget on the graphics card, as nothing is more important to gaming performance. So for instance, for a gaming computer build around 1000 dollars you're looking at a graphics card around $250 to $400 to max performance. Going higher than $400 or so will mean having to make too many sacrifices on your other parts, and less than 25% means you're not allocating enough of your budget to graphics and leaving gaming performance on the table like many prebuilt PCs do.
CPU (15-25% of Total Build Budget)
The second most important component when building your own custom gaming computer, so look to also spend a healthy portion of your budget on the fastest one you can get. Using a $1000 system as an example again, throwing $150 to $250 on the CPU is about the right balance. Remember this is just a general guideline, and also this is for gamers wanting the fastest gaming performance; if you're building a workstation PC or hybrid gaming/workstation PC, consider throwing a bit more at a better CPU.
The reason we single out the graphics card and CPU is because, as mentioned in step 1, these are the two most important parts in a gaming PC. You should probably think about choosing these parts first when planning your build, assuming you want to maximize gaming performance. Picking a graphics card around 30-40% of your total budget (and 15-25% for a CPU) is a good ballpark to aim for that will allow you to include the best graphics card you possibly can in your rig, which will lead to the best gaming performance. For anyone wondering, yes bottlenecking is possible (which happens when your CPU is too weak in correlation with your graphics), but for most builds these ratios will work well and you won't experience bottlenecking.
Performance Perfectionist? Planning for the Exact Performance You Want
If you follow the general guidelines above, or study how we allocate different spending budgets in our best PC builds for gaming series, you'll end up with a very good performing gaming PC for your budget. But if you want to take things further and guarantee that your new system will get the frame rate that you want in a certain game at a certain resolution (and settings), then you'll want to look into benchmarks around the web. In our sample builds we often include this information as well (ie the average frame rates you can expect from a build of that price), but sometimes you'll have to do the research yourself. If you get stuck and want us to help you predict the frame rate for the build you're thinking of, leave a comment on any of our build guides.
As well as predicting the type of performance your potential parts-list will get in games, if you'll also be using your system for other demanding non-gaming tasks for work, don't forget to take your particular programs and workflow into account. For example, you might want to allocate more of your money to the CPU and/or RAM if you care just as much about video editing, 3D production and/or streaming as you do about gaming performance. Have a read over these guides if any of these apply to your build:
Planning Ahead for RAM, CPU and GPU Upgrades
This should go without saying when you're learning how to build your own gaming PC, and when you plan your parts-list around a well thought-out example build like our own builds this has already naturally been taken into account, but if you're planning a parts-list from scratch (or tweaking an existing build from someone else) then always consider the upgrade path. Let's cover a few basic examples that is good to know as a beginner.
First and foremost, with RAM being one of the most common upgrades you can make to a gaming PC (as it's quite inexpensive yet brings a nice little boost in overall performance), as a rule of thumb you want to always keep a couple of RAM slots free on your motherboard. That means choosing a motherboard that has 4 RAM slots if you're getting 2 RAM modules now (which is a good idea by the way as 2 modules usually runs faster than just the 1, even if it's the same amount of RAM). In the chance you do pick a motherboard with only 2 slots (perhaps it's a small form-factor one that you really like), you'll want to consider just getting the 1 RAM module instead to keep one slot free for the future.
If you plan on swapping the graphics card for a better one in a few years time, there shouldn't be any problem with doing that, but make sure you choose a computer power supply that will provide enough power to accommodate a more powerful card in future. Same thing goes with upgrading to a dual graphics card setup should you want to do that later on, and in that case you'll need even more wiggle room power-wise.
Upgrading a CPU later on is also possible, but if you're going for Intel you're likely not going to be able to upgrade to the latest processor in a few years as you'd also need to change the motherboard too. This is where AMD has a nice advantage, as their current AM4 platform is compatible with future CPUs by doing a BIOS update, meaning if you buy an AMD CPU and motherboard today, in a few years time you can likely upgrade the CPU to the newest edition whilst keeping your same motherboard. With Intel, you'd have to either upgrade to a faster yet older CPU (as in, the same generation that you're buying now), otherwise you'd need to get a new motherboard if getting the latest CPU. Although to be fair on the whole AMD vs Intel debate, there's no telling how long AMD's AM4 platform will last.
If you're using one of our recommended gaming desktop builds as-is, you don't have to worry about checking compatibility between all of your parts as we've done that due diligence for you. But if you're tweaking one of those builds or designing your own parts-list from scratch, don't forget to always check that all your parts are compatible with each other (as well as thinking about a couple other things we'll explain in this section).
A site called PCPartPicker can come in handy for checking basic compatibility of your chosen parts, but do keep in mind that it doesn't check absolutely everything. How accurate is PCPartPicker? Well, it's reliable for basic compatibility checks of a parts-list, but it doesn't check for absolutely everything and clearances of some CPU coolers, RAM modules and expansion PCI-E cards aren't taken into account AFAIK (meaning you could encounter space issues if you don't think about these things), and there are other considerations that no tool can consider for you such as the expansion and upgrade options of your parts combination, the cooling effectiveness, overclocking ability/potential, matching looks, among other things.
If you want to be as safe as possible, you'll want to do your own checks and considerations (most pro PC builders do) and not rely solely on an auto-generated tool. Plus, it's always great to know how to do compatibility checks yourself to be an smarter, informed builder for the future, so have a read of the hardware guides on our site to learn the fundamental things to know about compatibility for any given component.
Buying Parts Online vs Offline
In 2019 it's a no-brainer that if you want the best price on most consumer products, buying online is the best way to go 9 times out of 10 as online stores don't have the overheads of brick and mortar stores and therefore can afford to afford the absolute lowest prices around. With PC hardware it's no different, and huge retailers like Amazon have a vast range and hard-to-beat prices. Shipping is also super-fast and reliable. If you want to buy offline, head down to your local Microcenter or other computer store to see what you can find, but more often than not you're going to find the best deals on the good old interwebz.
In terms of the best online stores to shop for PC parts, in 2019 arguably one of the best overall for the lowest prices, selection, and overall customer service is of course Amazon who also have great range internationally in many other countries than just the US. A close second (for the US) is BHPhotoVideo who have a stellar reputation for service.
Navigating Customer & Professional Reviews
When researching a particular product, reading both professional and customer reviews can come in real handy to learn more about the product and someones experiences with it if you want to dive deeper into whether a particular model is worth the money or not.
Whilst still helpful, be wary when researching customer reviews and ratings (ie amateur reviews) as they can be misleading in some cases because people who have a bad experience often feel inclined to leave negative reviews, whereas those who are on their merry way with a successful component, happy as Larry Page, tend to not leave their thoughts in a positive review.
That sometimes skews the perception of certain products, where you might see many 1-2 star reviews from those who have received faulty or broken parts, and you start to think the product is a piece of junk when the reality could be it’s just fine and those unlucky customers who got a dud/lemon are the exception and not the norm. Don’t get me wrong though, certain products are definitely more prone to fault and DOA (dead on arrival) issues, so if you see a lot of bad ratings it potentially is a bad buy, but don’t take things at face value too quickly in this industry.
If you want to research reviews, lean more towards trusted, credible sources such as top hardware sites like TechSpot, TomsHardware, AnandTech just to name a few. However, customer reviews from sites like Amazon, Newegg, and PCPartPicker definitely can still be quite helpful so long as you put your thinking cap on whilst reading, don’t get too caught up in any one person’s opinion (it’s tough to know who actually knows what they’re talking about and who is just sprouting random nonsense), and base your decision off multiple sources if you can.
Should You Buy All Parts at the Same Time?
You most definitely can slowly piece together a build part by part over time, but if you're a beginner you're probably best off buying all the core components of your new system at (or around) the same time. Why? A couple reasons:
1. Some parts will have a limited time frame in which you can return them for a replacement in the odd case that they are defective. If you buy one part at a time, you can't know for sure if a certain part is working perfectly before you have all of your parts together. So if you get unlucky and receive a faulty part, and you find this out a few months or even later when you finally get around to building your PC, you may not be able to return or swap it.
2. Another reason to favor buying all the PC parts for your build around the same time is that as times goes on new parts will obviously come out, and it's possible that if you then buy a newer part in future to use with the older parts that you purchased previously, you might encounter compatibility issues. This is both quite uncommon, nad avoidable if you know what you're doing, but it has happened before to beginners so it's worth mentioning. An example would be buying a motherboard now, then waiting a few months to buy a new CPU and failing to realize that it's not compatible with your older motherboard.
Cutting Costs on Your PC Build
If you're on a budget and looking to save as much money as possible on your PC build, there's a few other things to consider including:
Buying Previous Generations:
If you don't mind not having the latest and greatest graphics card or CPU, you can save a bit of cash by opting for a slightly older model instead of the current new release whilst not sacrificing on performance too much. Older parts are typically priced more competitively compared to newer models in terms of overall bang for the buck (though not necessarily all the time). A good example right now would be AMD CPUS; new ryzen chips will be released later on in 2019, but current generation AMD models are at very attractive prices right now so it's a close call between waiting it out for the new generation, or getting a model from the current-crop at a nicely discounted price where you'd save money but not lose out on too much performance.
So - you've planned a good compatible parts-list that will get the performance you want, you've ordered the parts from a trustworthy online store like Amazon, and you've received them at your door. I's time for the moment of truth; actually building your gaming computer.
Prefer a Written PC Installation Guide?
See our comprehensive step by step tutorial to building a PC which we've carefully crafted with beginners in mind and which includes photos from a recent build we assembled. It also covers everything you need to know along the way such as safety precautions to take, troubleshooting, software installs, what to do after installation, and more.
Prefer a Video PC Installation Guide?
There are various YouTube videos out there covering the step by step installation of how to build a gaming PC, but keep in mind many are lacking enough detailed yet simple articulation for beginners. This one from Paul seems decent for newbies though, although you still won't get as much in-depth detail and little tips and tricks that a written guide can provide. Use whatever works best for you though, as everyone is different (and if you find a better video guide than the one we've linked here then please do let us know in the comments!).
How Long Does it Take to Build a Gaming PC?
Building a gaming computer may take you less than a few hours, especially if your system is quite simple in nature, but if you want to ensure you finish it in the one go then a few hours for your first build may be necessary. There's no rush and no need to complete the installation on the same day though if you don't have time, so you can always build it over 2 or even more days, but if you do this just make sure to leave any parts you haven't installed yet in the safety bags they came with (don't leave parts lying around unless they're securely installed in your rig).
Need ideas on planning the perfect parts-list to maximize your budget? More easily choose good parts with our long-running series of continually-updated sample gaming computer builds which explain how to select excellent components based on the current hardware market.
From a super bang-for-buck $300 entry-level setup for casual/oldschool gamers, all the way to a monster $5000 all-RGB rig with all the bells and whistles (and every build budget in-between), our meticulously-researched, objective and 100% unbiased monthly gaming computer build recommendations are here to help you build a better, faster, longer-lasting custom gaming computer that's optimally ventilated and cooled, flexible for future upgrades, and that also looks the part.
We started these regular build guides many years ago to help solve the biggest hurdle that beginners face when learning how to build a custom gaming computer: choosing the right set of 100% compatible, value for money, matching parts for your specific budget and performance needs. Our carefully thought-out sample builds quickly became the most popular section on the site, and ever since we've continued tweaking and updating them to perfection each and every month or quarter (depending on recent changes to the market). One of our favorite hardware manufacturers said it best:
After helping many tens of thousands of gamers over the years here at BGC, the above quote is bang on-point as there are an almost infinite amount of possible hardware configurations you could use for any given budget, and it's all too easy to get lost in the vast sea of specs, models and ever-evolving features out there in the market.
This confusion with choosing the best PC parts unfortunately leads some would-be builders to get overwhelmed with building their own system, and they become swayed to the PC gaming darkside of buying an overpriced, un-optimized prebuilt system (as mentioned perhaps ad nauseum around our site, the parts-list company's use in prebuilt desktops, even those marketed to gamers, are very rarely optimized for the fastest gaming performance).
But fear not, Jedi, as with BGC by your side you can easily keep your DIY dream alive - browse the latest lineup of our current top recommended gaming computer builds for beginners and let us help you in choosing a killer set of custom parts for your next build or upgrade.