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How to Assemble a PC from Scratch (17 Steps)

The Complete Checklist to Building a PC for Beginners (With Photos and Diagrams)

How to assemble a new gaming computer from scratchAn all new and improved 2019 version of our detailed yet simple to follow guide to building a PC

Published On: Sep 16, 2019

It's time! You've planned the perfect list of PC parts, ordered them to your door or picked them up from your local store, and are now eager to start learning how to assemble your PC parts together in the correct, safe way. You're in the right hands, as over many years this comprehensive tutorial on how to build a PC for beginners has helped many thousands of first-timers to easily and confidently install all PC parts together to make a fully-functional new gaming PC from scratch.

Now in a brand new and improved edition for builders in Q4 2019 and throughout 2020, we're proud to present the latest iteration of our flagship PC building guide for beginners, which includes full and clear instructions on how to install every hardware component properly and safely, along with everything else you need to know to assemble a computer from scratch all the way from choosing the right surface to build on, to a successful first-boot and beyond.

Still Choosing Parts? See Our Introduction to Planning Your First PC Build

Feel like this about building a PC? Fret not, feline - this complete walkthrough makes it easy

This how to build a PC walkthrough showcases the step by step installation of a value for money gaming computer build as our follow-along example, however all instructions in this assembly tutorial are written in a way that can apply to building any type of custom computer - whether that's a budget gaming PC, a high-end monster, or a workstation/office desktop computer. 

Learning how to assemble a PC for the first time is exciting and a load of fun. So do take your time, don't stress about making a mistake (as it's very hard to go wrong if you carefully follow all the proven steps below one at a time), and most of all - enjoy! 

If you have questions along the way, or found the guide helpful and want to let us know (we love hearing feedback from you guys), leave a comment at the end in the new comments section. Without further ado, let's begin the quest and may the force be with you and your parts.

Prefer Videos? How to Build a Computer (Video Series) (our top recommended video course with similar attention to detail)

Want a More Convenient PDF Edition?

Our comprehensive all-in-one PC building manual for beginners includes all the installation steps below in a more condensed, easily-accessible downloadable (print-friendly) format which also includes all the other key information to know as a first-timer from around the site on planning a build and choosing parts, plus extra bonus chapters on maintaining, upgrading, cleaning and improving the performance of your new custom gaming computer:

The Gaming Build Blueprint (Extended Manual)

The extended eBook contains bonus tips and tricks

1. Gather What You Need to Assemble a PC

To complete the assembly of a new PC from start to finish, here's a list of every single tool, piece of equipment, and component that you need:

  • Screwdriver: It's true; to assemble a PC from scratch, all you need for most builds is a basic Phillips-head (#2) screwdriver. A medium one will do. See our guide to PC building tools for answers to all common questions related to tools and which additional tools and equipment you might want to use.
  • Suitable Surface: A large, flat, hard, non-conductive surface to assemble your PC on (wooden desk, kitchen table, non-carpet floor, or big piece of cardboard).
  • Safety Method: A way to ground your physical body to protect you and your components from static electricity, either by wearing an ESD/anti-static wrist strap/bracelet, or by periodically touching the bare metal frame of your PC case or other metal object such as a desk leg, file cabinet, masonry wall (stone, brick or concrete), water pipe, gas pipe, metal AC, or heating vent/radiator (and touching it right before you go to handle any component).
  • Enough Time: To build your first PC from scratch as a beginner, give yourself a 3-4 hour block of time (minimum) if you want to install and setup everything in one go (keep pets away if leaving a half-assembled PC overnight!).
  • Motherboard Manual: The only manual you will likely need to build a PC which comes in handy for locating where to connect front panel connections and where to install multiple RAM modules among other things. Your case manual is a close second in importance (and aftermarket CPU cooler manual if you bought one), but all other component manuals aren't typically necessary to assemble a PC (and rarely include much actual instruction anyway). Keep in mind your motherboard might not ship with the full manual, so you might need to download it from the manufacturer's website.

2. Remove Side Panels to Open Case

Funnily enough, the very first step in a tutorial on how to assemble a PC is to disassemble it. Your case, that is. Some cases may only have one removable side panel, but most will have two. In most cases, the left-hand side is the main access side where you install your components, and the right-hand side gives you access to some fixing screws and the space behind the motherboard for hiding cables later on. 

Go ahead and remove the side panels by undoing the screws on the base of the case. Many modern cases use thumbscrews to hold the side panels in place, meaning you can just use your hands to undo them, but sometimes you'll still need to use your screwdriver to initially loosen them up enough to the point where you can then use your hands. Other cases will just have standard screws. Once the screws are removed, the side panels should simply slide off:

Opening a PC case for the first timeUnscrew the side panel/s and slide them off

Depending on your case, you may want to move to remove a hard drive rack/caddy if one is present if you're not going to install many hard drives. This frees up space and will help maximize airflow within the system.

For our example PC build using the Cooler Master N200 Mini Tower case, we're not installing a large aftermarket cooler, we're only installing the 1 storage drive for now, and it's a compact case so space is important, therefore we're going to remove the hard drive rack from the bottom of the case by simply unscrewing it:

Removing a storage drive rack in the bottom of a PC caseRemove a storage drive rack/caddy if you won't use it

3. Install Additional Case Fans (Optional)

The majority of cases will come with at least two fans already pre-installed inside, with one usually behind the front panel to suck air in (an intake fan) and one at the back of the case to release warm air (exhaust fan). Most cases will also have support for more fans should you want to buy some to increase airflow further. 

For our example build for this PC assembly guide, the Cooler Master N200 has two pre-installed fans which is adequate for our needs for this system, but if you have extra fans to install then now's a good time before you install other components into your case (as it could be hard to install them later on once your motherboard and other components are installed in the case).

To install another fan in the front, you'll probably have to remove the front panel which you may just be able to slide it off with a firm pull or by removing screws or pegs; refer to your case manual if you need to. For example, with our Cooler Master N200, you simply pull off the front panel by grabbing it from the bottom and pulling it right off.

Don't force too hard when removing your front panel though, as some cases will have wiring attached such as for the power switch. You should be able to easily see where any additional fans fit in; if not refer to your case manual on how to install them, too. You'll have to screw them in with screws supplied by your case, which should be labelled as fan screws or something along those lines.

4. Prepare Motherboard for Out-of-Case Installation

Now we've prepared the case, set it aside but keep it on your work table within easy reach so you can touch it occasionally to ground yourself before handling your components; especially if you're not wearing an anti-static strap. 

There are now two approaches you can take to build a computer. You can either:

  • Build PC Outside Case: This involves installing some of your components (CPU, cooler, RAM) onto the motherboard first before then installing the motherboard into the case
  • Build PC Inside Case: Install the motherboard into the case first and then install your components onto it.

Either can work, and one may be better than the other depending on your components, but we're going to go ahead and do the external build method (the first option above). The advantage to this way to build a PC is it makes it easier to install your CPU, cooler, and RAM as you'll have much better control and accuracy.

Before touching your motherboard, if you're not wearing an anti-static strap you should ground yourself by touching a metal surface such as the metal frame of your case or another metal object (as mentioned earlier). Carefully remove your motherboard from its box and remove it from the anti-static bag. You want to handle your motherboard by its edges; try to avoid touching anywhere else. Now place your motherboard on top of the box it came in. Your box is cardboard, a non-conductive surface, which is just what we need:

Doing an external PC build outside the caseSit motherboard on its cardboard box or another non-conductive surface

Do not sit your motherboard on top of the anti-static bag it came in as the outside of the bag may be conductive to static electricity. Sitting it on the box rather than just on your desk also makes it a little less prone to damage, and also makes it more stable and less likely to move around once we get to installing components onto it. Position your motherboard so that the locking lever (the thin, bent metal rod) on the CPU socket is facing towards you, and that's step 1 on building your gaming PC done and dusted. Let's move onto the more interesting bits.

5. Insert Processor Into Motherboard

It's time to install the new brains of your battlestation onto your motherboard, which deserves its own separate page which explains all steps and includes answers to any common questions you might have:

How to Install a CPU Step by Step

6. Mount Heatsink and Fan On Motherboard

Now it's time to attach the CPU cooler (also technically called a HSF: Heatsink and Fan) to your CPU and motherboard. Refer to your cooler's manual if you bought a third-party/aftermarket cooler as the exact installation process will vary slightly with different models, however the general process is similar no matter which cooler you're installing. For our example build used for the photos of this PC assembly tutorial, we'll be installing the stock Intel cooler that came with our CPU because it was adequate for our budget PC:

How to Install a CPU Cooler and Apply Thermal Paste

7. Insert Memory Into Motherboard

Fitting your memory modules is one of the easiest, quickest aspects of learning how to assemble a PC from scratch, so you'll be done in no time:

How to Install RAM Into a Desktop Motherboard

8. Mount Motherboard Into Case

Once you've finished installing the CPU, cooler, and RAM onto your motherboard, it's time to install the case standoffs (screws that create a gap between the case and the motherboard) and then lower the mothership into the deep dark depths of your case. Your construction is really starting to take form now, and after you've gone through these steps your PC will start looking somewhat like a PC:

How to Install a Motherboard Into a PC (& Fit Standoffs)

9. Connect Case Front-Panel Cables

Your case has a range of front-panel features, and it's time to connect them all up to the correct locations on the motherboard. This is where your motherboard manual will come in handy, so grab that and dive into the steps when you're ready:

How to Connect Front Panel Connections to a Motherboard

10. Mount Storage Drives In Case

Traditional 3.5 inch HDDs (Hard Disk Drives) and 2.5 inch SSDs are installed the same way. You secure them into a storage bay within your case, and then plug them into the motherboard. As for m.2 SSDs (the thinner, faster drives) - those are plugged directly into an m.2 slot on your motherboard (and are powered solely by the motherboard; no power cable needed).

How to Install a SATA Hard Drive (SSD or HDD)

11. Install Optical Drive (Optional)

Another optional step is installing an optical drive if you have one. Once an essential part of any standard PC build, optical drives are becoming increasingly less important over time with the rise of media being streamed and delivered wirelessly. But if you have one for whatever reason, such as for playing your older games or you want to burn discs, it's a simple process like installing storage drives.

The most common way to install an optical drive is from the front (outside) of your case, and not from inside, so you'll likely have to remove your case's front panel and slide it right into the 5.25 inch bay. The front panel in most cases should pop off with a simple firm tug.

You'll need to match up the holes on the drive to those on the case, and then screw them in (usually four screws). Then you simply connect a SATA cable to the motherboard, routing the cable through any cable management holes on your case where appropriate. Most motherboards have a mix of both SATA2 and SATA3 ports, but most optical drives don't take advantage of SATA3 so you're probably better off plugging it into a SATA2 to free up the 3's for more important things such as storage drives.

12. Install PCIe Cards On Motherboard

Time to finally fit the star of the show where it belongs. GPU installs are a piece of cake. If you also have a wireless network card or sound card to fit, now's a good time, hombre.

How to Install a Graphics Card

How to Install a Sound Card

13. Mount Power Supply In Case

Fitting the PSU into your case is another quick and easy step of assembling a PC:

How to Install a Power Supply (& Which Way to Mount)

14. Connect Power Supply to Components

After you've physically mounted the PSU, all that's left is connecting the cables to various parts of your system and doing a little basic management of your cables to keep things nice and neat:

How to Connect Power Supply Cables (& Cable Management 101)

15. Last Checks and First Boot

We're done covering all the physical installation steps of how to assemble a PC, but before you start up your machine for the first time there's a few extra steps and checks:

Booting Your New PC for the First Time (Checklist Before Starting PC)

Have trouble with booting up? No need to freak out, as it's usually something simple, and we've got your back:

How to Troubleshoot a New PC Build (What to Do if PC Doesn't Turn On)

16. BIOS and Software Setup

Once your new computer is finally fully operational, there's still a few more things to do including entering the BIOS and checking/changing a couple things, and installing software like your operating system and other programs. Get the complete lowdown here:

What to Do After Building a PC (BIOS and Software Setup)

17. Game in All-New Graphical Glory

If you've read this far, and done all the steps - congrats! Welcome to the wonderful world of DIY PC. Time to celebrate a little in whichever way you like to roll, and then proceed to load up your game of choice to do what you do best. Or if you're like me and rarely have time for a gaming sesh these days, get straight back to work - although in a (hopefully) much faster, productive and load-free manner.

Started at the mobo now we're here

I hope this comprehensive gaming PC assembly walkthrough has helped and that you enjoyed going through it as much as I did creating and fine-tuning it. After going through all the PC installation steps above and building your first custom PC from scratch, you now have the knowledge, skill and confidence to easily build computers - for life. Once a builder, always a builder, and now you've seen behind the curtain and how much better and more fun the DIY path is, there's no going back to prebuilt land of doom.

If you have any feedback or questions on how to assemble your PC, post in the comments below or feel free to contact me direct. Any constructive criticism or ideas on how you think this PC building guide could be improved for first-time builders to better understand all the steps is also always more than welcome and helps us to continually make this tutorial the best written PC building guide on the internet (at least that's our aim).

That's it for now, and enjoy your new system! Happy gaming.

- Julz

Want to Keep Learning?

Our extended eBook on building a PC, The Gaming Build Blueprint, includes all the steps above in a more condensed all-in-one downloadable guide (minus some of the fluff) along with additional topics to take your DIY and general PC knowledge further such as what to know about maintaining your first gaming PC, upgrading basics, how to clean your PC properly and safely, tips and tricks including how to boost the performance of your rig, and more!

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