If you're building your very first PC, this quick introduction to the PC parts that make up a computer. We'll cover which hardware components you need for a new custom computer build to be fully functional, as well as which add-on parts and accessories you have up your sleeves as options should you want to further customize your setup.
Required Gaming PC Parts (core hardware)
CPU / Processor
The CPU (Central Processing Unit), also commonly known as the processor, is the brains of a computer. It performs all the lightning-speed calculations required by your games and software. The processor is one of the most important gaming computer parts, and for most people will be second in importance only to your graphics card. In other words, for gaming you generally want to get the best CPU you can get, however there is a point where a CPU is overkill for gaming and you'd be better off lowering your CPU tier to allocate that money towards a better graphics card instead.
If your CPU is the brain of your computer, your motherboard is the heart, or central nervous system that relays data between all of your gaming computer's parts. The motherboard is the main hub of your system where all the other components connect to. Whilst it doesn't directly affect gaming performance, you still want to find a decent, reliable board that has the features that you need, the upgrade capability that you want, and that is ideally from a good, trusted manufacturer.
RAM / Memory
RAM (Random Access Memory) is the memory in your computer that running programs (and games) use during their operation. In other words, while your computer is on, the RAM stores all your programs and applications that you have running. The more of this memory that you have in your computer, the faster your programs and games will run, although for gaming there is a point where more RAM isn't going to change anything.
The hard drive, technically referred to as the Hard Disk Drive (HDD for short), is used to store all your programs, games, and other files. Data in a HDD is stored on thin magnetic disks which can store hundreds of gigabytes of information. Buying a hard drive is essential for your gaming system, although keep in mind that you also have the option of getting a Solid State Drive (SSD) in addition to your HDD/s which is explained under the optional parts below.
Now we come to the real workhorse component that games rely on, the graphics card, also known as the GPU for short (Graphics Processing Unit). The graphics card is responsible for creating the spectacular 3D graphics and effects you see in games and video, and without a decent one in your build you won't be able to view your games at their best. Therefore, you should allocate a decent portion of your overall PC build budget to your GPU to max your gaming experience.
Your power supply unit (PSU) will, surprise surprise, provide power to all of your gaming computer parts. It's often the most overlooked choice in a gaming computer parts list, and it makes sense because it's just a power supply, right? Well, some noob builders definitely make a mistake when they simply pick the cheapest unit they can find, which may cause you trouble down the road. Ideally you want to find a decent-quality unit from a reliable PSU manufacturer which will likely last you the distance and not cause you issues down the road (or fry your parts).
Last but not least of the core gaming computer parts that make up a new PC is the case (also called the chassis). The case houses all your precious components, whilst also being responsible for the look of your gaming PC. Fancy gaming cases are all the rage these days. Your choice of case also has an influence on the cooling of your system, and what sort of upgrades you can make later.
Required Gaming PC Peripherals
For a new PC build to be fully functional and ready to game, as well as the core gaming computer parts you'll also need some peripherals that you can use from a previous build or buy new. First of all you have the monitor which will display all the awesomeness that your graphics card conjures up, and it most definitely does play a role in your overall gaming experience so make sure to pick a good one.
The mouse is another peripheral required for a new gaming computer build to actually be use-able from the get, and to some gamers it's an important part of the overall gaming experience as not all mice are created equal when it comes to gaming. Depending on how seriously you take your gaming, and how much you're willing to invest in a quality comfortable model that lasts, you'll want to put at least a little thought in the mouse you choose as they can vary greatly in size, weight, features, feel, and responsiveness.
For a new PC to work you'll obviously also need a trust keyboard, which is a selection that will depend on how important your keyboard is to you. Many gamers building a cheap rig will do just fine getting a budget, low-cost keyboard that just gets the job one. Others will want to invest in a higher-quality, more comfortable keyboard, perhaps with extra handy features.
Headset/Headphones or Speakers
Don't forget your audio, which will require you to either have a headset/headphones or a set of speakers. Some monitors come with built-in speakers but they're usually terrible unless it's a high-end display. If you're wondering the difference between a headset and headphones; a headset comes with a mic, headphones do not. Whether you need/want a mic is totally up to you.
Operating System Software
Let's not forget your operating system (OS), which is another required part of the PC puzzle. Your main 2 choices for a custom PC is Windows or Linux, but if you're a beginner then just stick with Windows (version 10 which is the latest at the time of writing this) as it has the most support and is easiest to setup and use.
Optional Add-On Parts and Peripherals
The following parts are nice-to-haves but not required for a new working PC build, but may be something you'll want to consider adding to your build now or in the future:
Got a question or want to share your thoughts on the above guide? We're listening and you can reach us on the platforms below or email us direct and we'll gladly help you out where possible if time permits. If you need more in-depth help with tweaking a build or planning one from scratch for your specific budget/theme/performance aims/etc - see our Get a Done-for-You Parts-List service where for a small tip we can thoroughly research and plan the very best build for your exact wants and needs. Also, constructive criticism on any aspect of the site is always welcome and appreciated as it helps us continue crafting BGC into the best noob-friendly DIY resource that it can be. Thanks guys.
Former hobbyist game programmer turned tech fanatic, Julz is the founder and lead author at BGC and has kept a keen eye on the latest in DIY gaming since starting the site in his spare time over a decade ago as an almost-laughably basic, unimpressive little site with a simple aim to try and make building a PC more accessible to the average gamer since most resources were far from beginner-friendly.
Over countless reiterations to the quality and depth of the site's content and research process over the years, it's steadily grown into the fairly expansive, comprehensive and constantly-updated PC building resource that it is today, now reaching and helping thousands of gamers and power users each and every month to more effectively plan optimal setups for their exact needs. His fav PC games of all time are HL1, WC3 and SWKOTOR (OOT, Perfect Dark, DKC2 & MGS2 for consoles) and he promises never to speak in third-person again. You can learn more about the BGC mission here.