In this beginner's guide we cover how to install your operating system on your new PC build step by step (either Windows 10, Linux, or another Windows edition), what you need to know about your motherboard's BIOS, downloading device drivers, as well as a few recommendations for some of the best programs to install on a fresh build.
All of these sections are meant to be followed through with soon after first booting your PC to ensure your machine runs at its best and that you kick things off in the right manner.
We know you're probably itching to get started playing your favorite game, but don't worry this guide won't take you long and you'll be playing in no time.
Installing Windows 10 Step by Step
It's time to continue on from your successful first-boot and install your operating system. We're assuming you're using Windows 10, but most of the following steps will apply to any version of Windows, or Linux if you're going down that route. Let's get into it!
Step 1: Access the BIOS
The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) is pre-installed software that comes with every motherboard. It controls how your PC boots up as well as many other details about your computer.
When you first see a BIOS in action, it may seem a little daunting with all the many settings, and if that's the case don't worry because you likely won't need to tinker with it at all as the default settings are usually exactly what you need.
However, we will likely have to change just one thing and that is the boot order. The boot order dictates which device your PC encounters first when booting up, and we'll need to set it to either your Windows installation disk or your Windows USB drive depending on which way you'll be installing Windows.
With some motherboards, including ours, you won't need to do this as the system will automatically be set to recognize your USB drive/CD when you insert it and boot your PC.
So go ahead and test this; insert your Windows media (if it's a CD you'll need to turn the PC on to access the optical drive and then press reset) and then boot-up.
If the Windows installation immediately comes up on-screen, you're good to go and you can skip step 2 below and move straight to step 3. If it doesn't come up, after turning your PC on press ESCAPE, DELETE, F1, F2, F8 or F10 on your keyboard to access your BIOS. The button to access your BIOS will depend on your motherboard.
You'll have to time the keypress for just a little after you press the on button, but sometimes you'll miss the right time to press it, so if after you've hammered all of the above keys (press them all multiple times quickly) then turn off your system and repeat until the BIOS appears.
Step 2: Set Boot Drive
Once your BIOS comes up, you'll notice either a very old-school, basic looking menu screen that can only be accessed with your keyboard controls, or a more modern BIOS with mouse access.
Either way, head on over to the BOOT section by using the keys on your keyboard (and pressing enter or escape to go forward and back) or by using your mouse for a modern BIOS.
You should see a list of devices listed in order of priority. You can set your system to boot from either a hard drive, optical drive, CD-ROM drive or an external device such as a USB drive. Configure the order so that your Windows media (either disk or USB) is set as the first boot device.
Save and exit the BIOS. Your PC should restart and then the windows installation screen should appear on screen.
Step 3: Windows 10 Setup
Installing Windows 10 is a very simple process and all you have to do is follow the basic on-screen instructions. It should first ask you to choose to install either 64 or 32 bit; always go for 64 bit unless you have a seriously good reason not to.
Then you'll be asked where to install Windows by showing you a list of your storage drive/s. If you installed an SSD in your build to become your main system drive as many people do, make sure to select that one. Otherwise, select your HDD.
Sometimes it may be a little confusing as to which drive is which, so if you have multiple drives in your build and you're not 100% confident you're selecting the correct drive to install Windows to, turn off your PC and remove the SATA data cable from the drives you DON'T want to install Windows on, leaving only the drive you want. Then when you start back up again, only that drive will show on the list of available drives.
For anybody who has installed previous versions of Windows in the past and are wondering about whether to create a separate partition on your drive for Windows, these days there's very little need to do so.
Windows 10 shouldn't take too long to install, and once it has it should restart and you'll be greeted with the desktop screen for the first time after you login with your just-created username and password.
Step 4: Other BIOS Considerations
As mentioned there are many different things you can check or change with your BIOS, but for most people you won't need to change anything as the default settings should be just right.
Advanced users may want to go through and check all of the settings, but if you're a beginner I wouldn't worry about any of that and I'd only return to the BIOS if you end up needing to later down the track.
However, there may be one more thing to do; if when your PC boots up from now on you get asked every time if you want to boot from disk, you'll need to go to your BIOS (by pressing the access key after your boot up remember) and change the Boot Order/Sequence like you did before so that your HDD or SSD where Windows lives is at the top of the sequence.
Also, just a word on BIOS updates. Motherboard manufacturer's sometimes release newer versions of their BIOS, however, unlike other software updates on your computer which are a mandatory and standard procedure, such as updating Windows, it's highly recommended that you DO NOT update the BIOS unless you know you really need to.
It's only suggested to update a BIOS if the newer version directly fixes a certain problem or bug you have with your system, or if you're installing new hardware that would only be supported by a BIOS update.
You can find out about BIOS updates on the manufacturer's website, but this isn't necessary unless you run into bugs with your system. Even then I would first contact the manufacturer to confirm that your bug would be fixed by an update.
Updating a BIOS is dangerous and may bring your system fresh problems, with the worst case being it kills your motherboard, rendering it useless. Updating a BIOS may even void your warranty. You've been warned my friend.
Step 5: Update Windows
Before you update your device drivers in the next step, now is a good time to update Windows to its latest version. You could perform this update after updating your drivers, for example if you want to use your new PC right away as the Windows update may take hours, but in general we recommend you to update Windows before your drivers.
What to Know About Updating Device Drivers
Drivers are software and codes that allow a computer to communicate with your hardware devices. Most if not all of the drivers you need should be taken care of by Windows or the Windows update automatically, however you’ll want to manually get the latest graphics card and motherboard drivers from the manufacturer website and download them as these two are important.
You'll notice that some of your parts may have come with device drivers on CD, however these will be outdated anyway so I wouldn't worry about them.
You can install the latest drivers for all your other components if you really want to make sure, but like I mentioned the OS should take care of it and the graphics card and motherboard are the only ones I'd worry about. Without a graphics card driver your screen may not display properly.
Graphics card drivers are also different than other drivers because they not only fix issues/bugs, but NVidia and AMD actually work to improve direct performance in specific games.
To double check which other drivers may be necessary for your particular PC, use the Windows Search bar to open up the “Device Manager” to look at all your devices.
If there are any with warning icons that say something is missing such as “there's no display adapter” (your graphics card) then you know you'll need to go and grab that driver from the manufacturer's site.
The graphics card is a bad example though because you should be getting them either way, and you would be wise because some of your games could see a serious improvement in frame rate, especially if the GPU drivers your system current has are quite old.
One more thing about drivers that's worth mentioning is that when you go to a manufacturer's site to get the latest ones to download, keep in mind you don't need to install all of the software available for that device.
Many manufacturers include optional, bloated versions of their drivers with programs and other extras you either don't need or wouldn't want on your awesome new system. Keep your system lean and mean.
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Former hobbyist game programmer turned tech enthusiast, Julz is the founder of 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 noob friendly.
Over countless reinventions and reiterations to the quality and depth of content over the years, the site has 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, C&C TS 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 & how to support it.