Published On: Sep 16, 2019
What do you do after building your computer and successfully booting up for the first time? The finish line is in sight, but there's still a couple steps left to finish off your new custom system. It's time to enter the motherboard BIOS software, check some settings, set the boot sequence for your operating system, install the OS, and then update necessary drivers. Confused? No need - we got you covered. In this beginner's guide to setting up a fresh new computer, we'll explain all. Without further ado, here's 8 smart steps to do after building your PC:
The very first thing to do after building a PC is to enter the BIOS.
What is the BIOS?
The BIOS (short for Basic Input Output System) is software that comes pre-installed on every motherboard, and is like the main hub of your system where you can control different basic settings such as how your PC boots up, how it runs, and various other things.
How do you enter the BIOS?
Just after turning on your computer, you'll need to press a certain button on your keyboard to access the BIOS. Which button you need to press will depend on your motherboard, but it will usually be either ESCAPE, DELETE, F1, F2, F8 or F10. Check your trusty motherboard manual if you need to know which key to press.
You'll have to time the keypress for just a little after you press the on button though, so sometimes you'll miss the right time to press it and will have to turn off your PC and try again.
Once your BIOS comes up, you'll either 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 that comes with some (tyipcally higher-end) modern motherboards.
When you first see a BIOS in action for the first time, it may seem a little daunting with all the many settings, but don't worry because you likely won't need to tinker with it much (if at all) as the default settings are often exactly what you need.
However, we will likely have to change the boot order to be able to install the OS, and maybe the RAM speed too.
If you installed some nice, fast RAM modules in your gaming PC, you'll want to check the BIOS shows them running at their maximum speed. How you do this exactly will depend on the exact BIOS you have, but it shouldn't be hard to find somewhere. You'll simply need to turn on XMP profile, and change the set frequency to whatever speed your RAM should be running at (if it's not already showing the correct speed). For example, if your RAM is 3000Mhz, make sure the BIOS shows that.
Confirming Your RAM Speed
To confirm 100% that your memory modules are running at their fastest speed, you can download a system monitoring program like CPU-Z to double check. Though optional and rarely an issue, when doing all this it also doesn't hurt to double check your memory timings as well, as well as checking that both of your drives are being picked up properly too if you have multiple storage drives.
You could also test your memory speed is all good using the Windows Memory Diagnostic, which you can find in Windows 10 by simply searching in the search bar in the bottom of the Windows desktop. You'll have to restart your system, and then go to Event Viewer, Windows Logs, System, and you'll see the results of the test there. If you can't find it then enter Event ID 1201 in the search filter.
What Else to Change in the BIOS?
There are many different things you can check or change with your BIOS, but for most people you won't need to change anything after building a PC 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 it, and you can always return to the deep dark waters of the BIOS if you ever need to later on. It's not going anywhere.
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, 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 to the next step of this guide.
If it doesn't come up straight away, head on over to the BOOT section in your BIOS using your keyboard (and pressing enter or escape to go forward and back) or by using your mouse for some modern BIOS programs.
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.
After installing your OS (see steps below), if every time you boot-up your system it keeps asking you if you want to boot from disk, you'll need to re-enter the BIOS and change the Boot Order/Sequence like you did before so that your primary SSD/HDD (where Windows was installed) is at the top of the sequence.
A Note on BIOS Updates
Motherboard manufacturer's sometimes release newer versions of their BIOS.
However, unlike other software updates on your computer which are a typically mandatory and standard procedure (such as updating Windows which is always a good idea unless you have a good reason not to) it's generally NOT recommended to update your motherboard's BIOS unless:
Apart from that, I would forget updating the BIOS. Why? Updating a BIOS can be hazardous, especially for novice users, and you must follow the manufacturer's instructions very, very carefully to do it right. Worst case is you kill your motherboard. By all means go ahead and update the BIOS if you need to, as you'll be fine if you really pay close attention and take things real slow, but just thought I'd give you a little warning and heads-up because people do screw up their systems doing BIOS updates.
We'll cover the basics steps to Windows installation, which is what most beginner PC builders will use, as while Linux is free it is a lot more involved and not recommended if you're new to the PC world. If you do want to use Linux (it does offer more control for advanced users), you'll want to invest a few days or so to learn the basics (check out this good in-depth tutorial or this one).
Installing Windows 10 on your new PC build 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.
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 (in the next step), 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 just to be safe.
What Are Drivers?
Drivers are software applications and codes that allow a computer to communicate with your hardware devices.
Which Drivers Should You Download for a New PC?
Most if not all of the drivers you need for a new PC build will 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 (and sometimes Window's won't get automatically get you the latest).
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.
What About Driver Disks Shipped With My Components?
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.
How to Download the Motherboard and GPU Drivers
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 download the latest version, search around your motherboard and GPU manufacturer sites, or just search direct in uncle Google. Keep in mind you don't need to install all of the software available for that device, as just the main driver is what's important. 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.
If you're rocking a monitor with a high refresh-rate of 120Hz, 144Hz, 240Hz etc, running your screen at 60Hz is like using a RTX 2080 Ti for 720p resolution - avoid.
So, to avoid such wastage of quality equipment, check that your system is set to the correct refresh rate of your monitor. Even if you have a 75Hz screen, you might as well check it's not running at 60Hz.
For NVidia graphics cards, simply go to the NVidia control panel by right clicking your desktop screen (or search for it in the Windows search bar) and check the refresh rate that's listed matches your monitor.
For AMD cards, right click your desktop screen and go to Display Settings, then scroll down to Display Adapter Properties. Now select List All Modes, choose your refresh rate, then click Apply. For dual or triple monitor setups, you'll need to select the other monitor/s in the Windows Display settings and repeat the process for each screen you have.
The last "must-do" step to do after building a PC is to install a small range of good-quality, useful utility programs for important things such as security, system monitoring/tweaking, and so on.
Although, unless you know what you're doing, don't go too crazy and immediately clutter your brand new system, especially not your SSD (if you have one as the primary drive), and especially not if it's a 240GB or less SSD as you want to keep it for only your most important, frequently-used applications.
Anyway, here's our current recommendations on what to install as a gamer and/or hardware enthusiast:
After adding a small handful of some top-notch programs, you're on your own my friend. Time to load up your favorite game and do what you do best! Happy gaming.
Need Help Choosing Parts?
Don't miss our flagship guide, The Best Gaming PC Builds for the Money, which pinpoints the current best value parts for Q1 2021, and feel free to ask for help in the comments section if you get stuck along the way.