Home > PC Assembly
Last Updated: February 27, 2020
So, you've spent what feels like 400 light-years researching how to build a PC for the first time, changed your mind on which parts to use 267 times, and wrestled back and forth with whether or not you should just call it a day and buy a prebuilt gaming PC to save time having to go through all the PC assembly steps. But you eventually mustered up the courage and bit the bullet on ordering the perfect list of PC parts for your needs, and they've finally arrived at your door. Good choice; while getting a premade PC isn't the end of the world if you do your research and pick a decent model from a good company, there's no escaping the fact that building your own PC has many advantages. Overall, it's well worth the time and effort, and you'll be glad you did once it's all over and your new custom PC is up and running.
After all the build-up and endless research your moment of truth is here; it's FINALLY time to learn how to build a PC for real and actually install all your components, along with everything else you need to know before and after the main PC assembly steps. Feeling anxious? Fear not, Padawan, as we're proud to present our meticulously fine-tuned, super detailed yet simple to understand PC installation guide freshly updated with a new 2020 AMD build example that will take you by the hand from the absolute start to finish of your very first build (while simultaneously answering many common newbie questions and concerns that may pop up throughout the process).
If you'd rather learn how to assemble a PC with a detailed written guide with photos so that you can slowly go through each and every step in your own time without having to continually pause and rewind videos on YouTube (or so you can print it out and have by your side to read from as you go through your build), this is the comprehensive PC build guide you're looking for. Way back when I learned how to build a PC for the first time myself, I followed a written guide too as I found it easier to learn that way.
Stuck in PC Planning Land of Eternal Doom? See Our Sample Gaming PC Builds for Ideas
If you're feeling a little anxious about building a PC, there's no need. It's easy to do if you simply take your time and have all the steps layed out in front of you, and if I do say so myself you're in good hands with this particular PC installation guide as it's been used successfully by many other first-timers before you to learn all the PC assembly steps from start to finish. This guide has also been continually fine-tuned over the past few years with the aim to make it the most helpful, in-depth yet easy to understand computer building guide online today.
If I'm being completely honest, the majority of PC installation guides out there aren't all that newbie-friendly and almost always brush over many little details and important things to know when you're brand new to PC hardware.
To be fair, most guides aren't specifically targeted for complete hardware novices though, who crave detailed instructions on absolutely every single little part of the process, and not just how to do a certain step but why you should (or shouldn't) do it, so that you can fully grasp and understand the process.
At least that's what I wanted when I learned how to build a PC for the very first time, so if that's what you seek in a PC build tutorial then I'm confident you may find the instructions below helpful on your journey.
This multi-part PC assembly guide was written from the ground-up to be as simple to follow along with as humanly possible, yet super detailed enough that any questions or concerns you might have during the process will very likely be covered at some point throughout the tutorial. I remember exactly what it was like to be a total newbie to building PCs, and to often only become further confused and intimidated by the written guides and videos out there.
To this day I try to never forget what it's like being a noob, and I aim to keep this PC building guide as elementary basic as possible despite my hardware knowledge and experience increasing tenfold over the past few years. Want to be spoken to as if you've never even seen the inside of a PC before? These are the assembly steps you're looking for.
I would wish you luck, but you won't be needing it because if you simply follow all the instructions carefully and just take one step at a time (as slowly as you require; there's no rush) then there really is nothing to worry about. You got this.
PC Build Examples Used for This Guide
The following 2 builds are what we'll be assembling throughout this tutorial as examples for you to follow along with. Though don't worry if your parts are different, as this guide is written in a way that applies to any type of gaming PC build whether that's a budget rig like the 2 examples below, or a high end system with top of the range components.
The second build has been added to this tutorial in 2020 to explain and showcase how to install certain PC components that weren't present in the first build: an AMD CPU and cooler instead of Intel, m.2 SSD, extra aftermarket case fan, optical drive (DVD burner), and PCIe wireless card.
Budget Intel Build
CPU: Intel Pentium G4560
CPU Cooler: Stock (Standard Intel Cooler)
Motherboard: MSI B250M PRO-VD
RAM: Crucial 8GB DDR4 2400 Mhz (1x8GB)
GPU: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB OC
Storage: Western Digital 1TB Blue HDD
Case: Cooler Master N200 Mini Tower (mATX)
PSU: Cooler Master GX450 80+ Bronze
Operating System: Windows 10 Home (USB)
Budget AMD Build (Added 2020)
CPU: AMD Athlon 3000G
CPU Cooler: Stock (Standard AMD Cooler)
Motherboard: MSI B450M Pro VDH MAX
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR4 2666MHz (2x4GB)
GPU: Gigabyte Radeon RX 570 4GB Gaming
Storage: Kingston A400 120GB SSD (M.2)
Case: Deepcool Matrexx 30 Mini Tower (mATX)
PSU: Corsair CX450M 80+ Bronze (Semi Modular)
Operating System: Windows 10 Home (USB)
Add-Ons: Cooler Master SickleFlow 120mm LED Fan, TP-Link T4E Wireless Adapter, Asus DVD Burner
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:
Disclaimer: Yes, learning how to assemble a PC is not hard if you take your time, but if you get careless 'cause you're in a rush to boot up and play some Fortnite or Tarkov, it is possible to damage a component (or even yourself, though I've never heard of that happening so relax). In the rare chance you cause any sort of damage using this tutorial (to your hardware parts, to your human parts, or to your cat) we cannot be held responsible. We've prudently put a lot into making this PC building guide as precise and thorough in its explanations as possible, but your build is of course 100% your responsibility. From my world view this goes without saying, but a lawyer buddy told me I should include this for (lame) legal purposes. In other words, if you burn your house down, get electrocuted and now resemble Palpatine after facing Windu in ROTS, or die, don't sue me 'cause this tutorial doesn't exist and this site is a figment of your imagination.
So, you've got everything you need to build your very first PC. Now, let's begin the process. Funny enough, the first step to assemble a PC is to disassemble it. Well, your case that is. Some cases may only have one removable side panel, but most will have two so that you can work from both sides (the rear side is handy to access for managing your cables later on).
Go ahead and remove both side panels, or the main side panel at least (usually the left side 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 a screwdriver to initially loosen them up enough to the point where you can then use your hands. Other cases will just have standard screws that you'll need to fully unscrew with your screwdriver.
The Cooler Master N200 case for our Intel build example (which I'll just refer to as "Build A" from now on for simplicity) did need the screwdriver to open up:
For our AMD build example ("Build B" from now on) using the DeepCool Matrexx 30 case, it can be opened up without the screwdriver by simply undoing the thumbscrews by hand:
Once you've removed the screws on each of the 4 corners of the case, the panel should simply slide off. If it's a glass panel like the one pictured above for our DeepCool Matrexx 30, be careful with it and make sure to place your case on its side before undoing the screws so that it doesn't accidentally fall off (and once removed gently place the glass panel somewhere safe where it won't get scratched or marked).
So now that's your case opened up; yup, told you we're keeping it real basic here so nobody gets left behind. Not even your Grandma, who may very well be in on the tangible Half Life Alyx hype of late and be assembling a high end gaming PC build to get in on the action (respect, but I think she'll have a heart attack when that first headcrab pounces right at your face in freakin' VR).
Inside your case you'll find the already attached front panel cables (pictured below) which we'll connect to the motherboard later on, pre-installed fans and their cables which also connect to the mobo later, and you should also find a bag of screws which you'll want to open up and keep handy. Just don't lose any screws and keep them all together somewhere.
Also, if your case has a hard drive rack/caddy on the bottom and you're not going to install many hard drives, consider removing it to free up room in your case. Especially if you either have a smaller case with limited room and/or if using a non-modular (or semi-modular) power supply that will require a fair bit of room for your cables (PSU cables can be real chunky).
For Build A, the Cooler Master N200 Mini Tower case has a drive caddy, but it's a smaller case and we've only got one storage drive for this build so I removed the caddy by simply unscrewing it:
The majority of cases will come with 1-2 fans already pre-installed inside, so there's nothing to do for these stock-standard fans besides plug them into the motherboard when the time comes. There should be a fan in the back of the case to push out warm air (called an exhaust fan), and if a case comes with 2 fans then the second one will likely be in the front to suck cool air in from outside the case to provide airflow onto your internal components (called an intake fan). Most cases will also have support for more fans should you want to buy some to increase airflow further.
For build A, the Cooler Master N200 has two pre-installed fans, and it's a budget gaming PC build so there's no need for any more than that. Even if you were using more powerful components than what we're installing here, More than 2 fans is only necessary for super powerful PCs, significant overclocking, and/or aesthetic purposes where you need 3 fans or more.
But for build B, the DeepCool Matrexx 30 only comes with 1 fan (exhaust fan in the back), so I've gone ahead and got an extra 120mm fan that will go in the front to fortify airflow and add some cool green lighting that will be visible through the front mesh panel of this already quite slick-looking budget case (I can definitely recommend it for budget builds).
It's worth mentioning that if you're not using a graphics card, and are simply using the integrated graphics of a CPU like the AMD Athlon 3000G (or the 3200G or 3400G for that matter), you could get away with just the 1 fan. Low powered systems like these really don't need much airflow.
So, if you have an aftermarket fan (just a fancy word for extra fan) to install for your build, consider doing that now otherwise it could be more difficult to reach in and fit the fans once other parts like the motherboard or PSU are installed inside the case.
Full Steps: Releasing March
Now we've prepared the case, there are two different approaches you can take from here when learning how to build a PC from scratch for the first time. You can either:
So what's best? Should you install your PC parts outside or inside the case? Either can work, but the first option (external) is generally best and what I'd recommend for most people. It has more pros than cons compared to fitting the motherboard first.
Why You Should Install Parts Outside the Case First
It can be more difficult to reach in and install parts onto your motherboard when it's mounted inside your case. Working on your motherboard outside the case gives you much more room to move, makes it easier to see where to install things like the CPU, and makes it easier to firmly insert your RAM and CPU cooler (which can require a firm little push).
For example, pushing your RAM down firmly onto the board is a whole lot easier when it's on a flat surface; applying too much pressure to the motherboard when it's installed in the case could flex the board too much and damage something. Plus, installing your parts outside the case allows you to quickly check that all those parts are working fine by temporarily connecting your PSU to the motherboard (we'll get to that later).
You can install the graphics card onto the motherboard outside the case too, to include that in your quick component test, but you'll want to remove the GPU before installing the motherboard into the case (and install the GPU after). Don't worry if you're confused, as all will become clear.
So, let's go ahead and prepare your motherboard. Carefully remove your motherboard from the anti-static bag it came with, and holding the board by its edges, place it on top of your motherboard box (or on your desk if you don't have the box).
You want to hold the motherboard by its edges and/or the big metal connectors (for the rear USB ports etc) - avoid touching any exposed circuitry on the top or bottom of the board. Motherboards and other parts can be quite sturdy in general, but accidentally bending a pin or even getting oil from your skin on there could damage something.
Just take precaution with all your parts and carefully follow all instructions throughout this carefully-written walkthrough and you'll be fine, ad all you really need to remember is to hold components by their edges or metal backplates, and don't touch anything you're unsure about.
Sitting a motherboard on its cardboard box rather than directly on your desk makes it a little less prone to damage, and also makes it a little more stable to work with and less likely to move around when we install parts onto it (and less risk of scratching/damaging the underside of the board).
It's time to install the new brains of your battlestation onto your motherboard, which deserves its own separate page to explain all the steps as well as answers to common questions about CPU installs.
If I included this entire tutorial on a single page it would be too long and might take a while to load in your browser (but if you do want this entire PC assembly tutorial in a single all-in-one PDF to download or print out easily see our eBook version).
So when you're ready, head over to the CPU section of this guide.
Full Steps: How to Install a CPU Step by Step
Now it's time to attach the CPU cooler (technically called a HSF: Heatsink and Fan) which will sit on top of your CPU to keep it cool. You'll want to 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 two example builds we'll be showcasing how to specifically install an Intel and AMD stock-standard cooler, as these basic models are typically all you need for most gaming builds unless you're overclocking quite a bit or you're assembling a high-end, powerful system.
As with installing the CPU, to keep this main page from being too long, all the steps for CPU cooler installation are in its own separate guide (which also includes what to know about thermal paste application) so head on over and return here once you're done.
Fitting your memory modules is one of the easiest, quickest parts to install when assembling a computer, but there are some things to know including which specific memory slots on the motherboard to install them in (technically called DIMM slots, short for Dual In-Line Memory Module).
If you planned a smart PC parts list, you'll have gotten 2 memory modules for your PC build instead of just the 1 in order to take advantage of the performance benefits of running dual channel memory. Though if you're on a real tight budget, a single module isn't the end of the world.
If you were also wise about choosing your motherboard, and got one that has 4 memory slots so you can have 2 slots free for a future upgrade, the question is which 2 slots do you use now? It does matter, so head over to our full RAM guide for all the details and install steps.
Full Steps: How to Install RAM Step by Step
If you have an M.2 SSD to install, you'll also want to do that now (or even before the CPU if you want) while your motherboard is chilling outside the case because as mentioned you have all the space in the world to easily work within your motherboard (and M.2 screws are smaller than regular computer screws too).
M.2 SSDs are the thin-style SSDs that plug directly into your motherboard (and are powered by it; no PSU connection required), as opposed to regular 2.5 inch SSDs which are installed separately to the motherboard (in drive bays; explained later in this tutorial). For all the steps see our M.2 guide.
Full Steps: Releasing March
This is another technically optional step when learning how to build a PC from scratch, but it is considered good practice and can be worth it in the event you get unlucky and have a dead part. It's something I recommend to most first-time builders, however feel free to skip this step if you're feeling confident and just want to finish your build sooner rather than later.
Doing a quick check that the parts you've installed thus far are all working is easy, and just requires you to temporarily plug in the PSU and jump-start the motherboard with your screwdriver, and it can save you a little time down the road in the (unlikely but definitely possible) event that you received a bad component and have to do a little troubleshooting.
Oh, and you might want to temporarily install your GPU for the test too, and then remove it to be able to mount your motherboard in the case. All is explained in our external test guide so head on over if you do want to give your parts a quick check for signs of life.
Full Steps: Releasing March
Once you've finished installing the CPU, cooler, and RAM (plus M.2 SSD if you have one), and you've done a quick external test to be on the safe side, it's finally time to lower your mothership into the deep dark depths of your case.
This first requires you to fit the motherboard backplate and install the case standoffs (screws that create a gap between the case and motherboard). Then it's a matter of carefully lowering the board in to first match up with the backplate, and then onto the standoffs. Lastly, you screw in the board to secure it.
After this key step of PC assembly, your construction will really starting to take form. For full steps and photos, plus an FAQ about standoffs and backplates (they can be annoying), don't miss our comprehensive beginner's guide.
Technically speaking, this is yet another optional step when learning how to build a PC as some of you are going to be building an APU gaming PC without a graphics card (in other words, using the CPU's integrated graphics; shoutout to fellow low-spec gamers as I know what it's like to have to roll that way my whole life until only just recently).
But for most people assembling a gaming PC, chances are you'll have a graphics card to install. It's easy to do but check out our full step by step guide as there are a few things involved including using the right PCIe slot on larger motherboards that have more than one full-length PCIe slot (spoiler; it's almost always the top slot), removing the correct rear metal bracket on your case, securing the card with screws, and connecting it to the PSU (when your PSU is installed though).
You might also have other PCIe (PCI Express) cards to install such as a wireless desktop adapter card for WiFi or a sound card for audio production purposes, so now's as good a time as any to get that done.
Earlier we went over installing M.2 SSDs that live snugly on your motherboard, but for all other regular-sized SSDs and HDDs (2.5 and 3.5 inches respectively) you'll need to fit them within your case somewhere. Exactly where they go will depend on your specific case, but they'll typically be slotted into a drive bay.
Once you've found a home for your drive/s, you also need to connect them to your motherboard using a SATA data transfer cable (that should have been provided in your motherboard box). You also need to plug them directly into your PSU (using your PSU's SATA power connector; not to be confused with the SATA data cable).
We'll explain the cable connections later on in this guide after we've installed the PSU into the case (including tips on cable management), but for the physical installation of your HDD or SSD see our dedicated guide if you need full detail and photos.
Full Steps: How to Install a SSD or HDD in Case
Once an essential part of assembling a computer, optical drives (DVD, CD, and/or Blu-ray drives) are becoming increasingly less important and less used as the digital age continues and physical media dies its inevitable slow death. But it's definitely not completely dead, and there's a lot of people who still include them in their PC builds for playing older games, watching physical movies, or burning discs.
So if you need to install one, it's a simple process of removing your case front panel, sliding it through a 5.25" drive bay, securing the drive to the case with screws, and lastly connecting a SATA data and SATA power cable to the motherboard and PSU respectively (oh, and popping in any driver/app CDs you received with the drive after you've installed your operating system).
Full Steps: Releasing March
Your case has a range of features on the front such as USB ports, power on button, reset button, headphone jack, mic jack, etc. These need to be plugged in to the correct connections on the motherboard (technically called motherboard headers), but exactly where they plug in on the motherboard will vary from board to board so you'll want to consult your motherboard manual and then dive into the steps.
You probably want to do this before installing the PSU, especially in smaller cases, as having the PSU already in your case can make reaching and pinpointing the motherboard connections a fair bit harder (and for our Build B, a ton harder).
Full Steps: How to Connect Front Panel to a Motherboard
Physically fitting the PSU into your computer case is another quick and easy part of learning how to build a PC, but as with most PC assembly steps there's always a few little things to know and potential questions you might have as a first-timer. Most crucially, you might wonder how to position the power supply; a great question. We break it all down in the guide.
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:
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:
Have trouble with booting up? No need to freak out, as it's usually something simple, and we've got your back:
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:
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.
I hope this comprehensive guide has helped you learn how to build a PC more easily. 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 so to speak, and how rewarding planning and assembling your own computer is, there's no going back to prebuilt PC land of doom.
If you have any feedback or questions on how to assemble a PC, leave a comment on the best gaming PC builds page or reach out to us on our FB Fanpage. Any constructive criticism or ideas on how you think this PC assembly walkthrough could be improved for first-time builders to better understand all the steps is also always more than welcome and hugely appreciated as it helps us with the ongoing aim to be the home of the very best, most in-depth written PC building guides for beginners on the web.
Enjoy your new system, and if you've made it this far - well done! Happy gaming, friend.
PS: If you found this guide helpful on your journey to building your first PC, all I ask in return is to consider helping us spread the word about BGC by sharing the site with any gaming buddies you think might also be interested in leaving those overpriced prebuilt PCs behind to get their foot into DIY like you have. With your newfound skill I'm sure you could help them plan (and even build) a killer custom setup that they'd be super stoked about.
Crave More Knowledge to Further Setup, Tweak, Monitor, Benchmark, Upgrade & Overclock Your First Custom PC?
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Checkout the eBook here and transform from DIY noob to ninja.