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Hands inside of an open PC case

How to Build Your Own PC

Hands opening a PC case

There are plenty of people who dream of building their own PC but are unsure where to begin. Kingston will get you off to the right start by covering the necessary components and build basics, so that you can be confident in your quest for the perfect personalised rig.

When building a PC, budget is often the primary concern. It can be cheaper to build a custom machine perfect for your needs, instead of making an off-the-rack purchase. However, this often depends on bargain hunting and selecting only the necessary components for your build. If you’re building a workstation for your video editing business, you can probably skip the RGB lighting and liquid cooling systems.

Another important consideration is size. Your case must be large enough to safely house all your components. How will you organise it? With a top-mounted or bottom-mounted PSU? Both have their advantages. A bottom-mounted PSU gives your case stability from a lower centre of gravity. Rear-mounted PSUs offer more cooling options.

Is it cheaper to build your own PC?

When deciding on the size of your case, you also need to think about your motherboard. Some CPUs only fit certain motherboards. Often, it’s better to pick which CPU you want to use in the budgeting phase, before deciding about motherboards and cases. You’ll likely want to get a processor with the best bang for its buck, especially regarding:

  • Cores
  • Processor speed
  • Hyper-threading/Multithreading

You will also want to consider your RAM options. DDR4 is less expensive, but more power-intensive with lower clock speeds. DDR5 costs more, but it’s future-proofed and often performs better. Again, your CPU and motherboard choices may have an influence on your decision, as not all RAM is compatible with every motherboard or processor. If possible, purchase memory in pairs, so that you can take advantage of running in dual-channel mode for better performance.

Your next element to make decisions about will be storage. Will you go with an HDD, which can be inexpensive but noisy and power-intensive? Or an SSD, which is faster and increasingly more affordable?

Build your own gaming PC

Liquid-cooled PC build with Kingston FURY Beast memory

There are also options regarding your GPU. Some processors come with integrated GPUs that offer benefits over dedicated graphics cards. For example, they require less power, cause fewer compatibility issues, and are often simpler to deal with as well as cheaper. However, dedicated GPUs are often stronger and offer more ports (for example, if you’re building for a multi-monitor setup), though they require more expenditure.

If you are building a gaming PC, or for work use in video editing or CAD, it is likely that a dedicated GPU will provide the extra power you need. However, make sure that the motherboard you decide upon has space for it. For graphics cards, AMD and NVIDIA® are at the front of the pack, and your preference may come down to which games you prefer to play. Some games are specifically engineered to work with tools developed by one or the other.

We’ve talked about power-hungry components at several points. These components get their juice from the PSU (power supply unit). It’s important to balance your PSU to the wattage needs of your rig. A good way of ensuring that your PSU is a good match for your system’s requirements is to use a calculator tool, such as the Outervision Power Supply Calculator. (Note: having a larger PSU doesn’t necessarily mean more heat or wasted power – it just means its capable of delivering more power to the system. The system will only draw what it needs)

Speaking of cooling systems, many components will come with their own measures for heat management. However, if you are building a particularly high-performance machine, or your case composition could benefit from additional heat mitigation, there are options you can install yourself. Air cooling is cheap and versatile, but noisy. There are high-airflow fans good at circulating air through an entire case, as well as static pressure fans, suitable for focus on a specific component or if there are elements blocking circulation throughout the case.

Build your own PC case

When you have gathered the necessary parts and you’re ready to begin assembly, it is important to proceed correctly. Lay out your components and case. Ensure you have the product packaging and necessary tools close at hand. Common requirements are:

  • A Phillips-head screwdriver
  • A brush
  • Needle-nose pliers

Build on a large, flat surface that is not subject to static electricity: you don’t want to fry your components before they’re installed. It is also wise to wear an anti-static wristband. Be careful when assembling! Many of the components in PC building have sharp edges and can easily cause cuts.

There are differing opinions on where to start with a PC build. Some people insert the PSU first, others the motherboard. We recommend installing the PSU first since it is often harder to install once other parts are already housed in the case. Ensure the PSU is set for the right voltage (or that it’s a newer unit that can assess this independently) and that the fan is correctly positioned, then screw it into place. Make sure the cables are out of the case, so they don’t obstruct other incoming components.

Assembling a PC motherboard

When assembling components on the motherboard, it’s often a better idea to do so outside the case rather than inside, where there’s less room. The CPU can sometimes be difficult to install. However, many come with indicators such as arrows on their surface to show the correct alignment. We recommend installing the cooling system at the same time as the CPU. Processors heat up quickly: running the CPU without the cooling system in place ‘to test it’ can be disastrous.

The next component to install should be your gaming memory. Never handle your RAM by the copper fingers: you can damage it. Start with the motherboard slot marked DIMM 1 or Bank 0, pop the clips on either end of the memory socket, and be sure to align the notch in the stick of memory with the raised key in the memory socket. The clips will pop back into place if you have correctly inserted the card. Multi-channel memory must be installed in pairs, in the correct location to function properly. Look for the colour-coded sockets or check your motherboard user manual for guidance if necessary.

Installing the I/O plate onto the motherboard should be elementary: a matter of lining it up and firmly pushing it into place. The metal tabs on the backplate should line up with the motherboard’s tabs. If they don’t, you can adjust them with needle-nose pliers. Sometimes, the I/O plate comes pre-installed and if this is the case, you won’t have to do anything. With the I/O plate ready, you can carefully lower your motherboard into your case, so you can see where the risers need to go. Risers separate your motherboard from the sides of the case, but you should still be able to screw the motherboard in securely with the risers in place. Don’t over-tighten, this can warp the motherboard.

Now you can install components like GPUs and storage. Carefully place them in the appropriate slots, making sure they align snugly. M.2 drives may have specialised sockets on the motherboard so, if you’re unsure, refer to the motherboard manual.

Cable management and booting a new PC build

The next step is hooking up cables.

  • Run data cables from your drive(s) to the motherboard
  • Run power cables from the PSU to the motherboard
  • Run power cables from the PSU to the drive(s) and other components

Good cable management often leads to better airflow and heat management. See if you can secure your cables so that they are not tangled and taking up space. Connect all of the fan headers for the case and the CPU to the motherboard and then connect any remaining headers for the front panel, USB, audio, and power-control. Wires for case lights and buttons must all also be aligned.

When you’re building your first PC, it’s a good idea to wait until you complete its assembly before attempting a boot. Remember to remove your anti-static bracelet before booting! Leave the case open, connect a monitor, and ensure that all fans are spinning, especially the CPU fan. If it isn’t, immediately shut down your computer to avoid damaging its components. If the monitor is displaying the motherboard manufacturer’s logo, you may be all clear! If not, check your connections and try again.

The next step after a successful boot is to adjust the BIOS and set the date and time. Once this is done, it should be a simple matter to install the OS of your choice. Congratulations! Your new PC is ready to use!

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