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(Pocket-lint) – Building your own computer can be intimidating. There are a lot of things to think about beforehand. These tips will help ease your worry.
We’ve written various detailed guides on building an extreme gaming PC, a mini-ITX machine, a budget gaming PC and more. But there are things to think about even before you get started.
One of the hardest things about building a PC is knowing which parts fit together and ensuring everything is compatible, both in terms of size and system stability.
Luckily there are solutions to these issues and tools to check before you even make a purchase.
One mistake people make is buying the wrong power supply. It’s essential not to cheap out on your PSU as a low-quality power supply can ruin an entire system. It’s tempting to save money but a poor quality power supply can potentially short out, surge or simply destroy your entire PC. Other times it might just fail, rendering the entire machine useless.
The old adage – buy cheap, buy twice – has never been so painful here. So make sure you purchase a good quality PSU with a good rating.
The other important thing to work out is the power requirements of your system. This will vary depending on what you’re adding to your PC. If you throw in a power GPU, a high-end CPU, multiple HDDs, SSDs and more then you’ll soon find the power requirements add up.
Luckily this tool lets you suss out your power supply needs with a simple PSU Calculator which lets you pop in your system specs and get a recommended wattage. Fill out everything you’re including and you’ll not only get the estimated usage but also a recommended PSU to purchase. Use this to ensure you have a power supply that has enough wattage to power your system (don’t buy one with lesser wattage or performance will suffer) but also to avoid overspending on something too powerful unnecessarily.
If you’ve done some research then you might well know some of the parts you want to buy. If you already know the specific CPU you want, for example, then you can use this system builder tool from PCPartPicker to plan out the rest of the build and see which parts will fit.
This tool lets you search for specific parts, add them to the system and then find other parts that will match. Maybe you could start with a PC case, then use that to choose the motherboard and other components like RAM and other things. This will make sure everything fits together nicely. It’ll also stop you from buying things that won’t fit or simply won’t work in the system.
It’s a great tool that’s free to use and even shows you where to buy the parts from.
It’s been tough trying to purchase a graphics card over the last few years. That’s set to get better as Nvidia (and others) are promising more effort to alleviate the supply shortages. Competition is heating up too, with Intel getting into the graphics card space soon, so it should be easier to purchase in the next few months and years.
Nvidia recently launched a campaign called “Restocked & Reloaded” which promises a range of GeForce RTX 30 Series graphics cards that are available to purchase now. So things are certainly looking up.
In the meantime, if you’re holding out for a particular graphics card to come down in price or to be available to buy then the good news is you might be able to get away without one in the short term. We’ve tested and written about how it’s possible to build a gaming PC and play without a graphics card.
We’ve already said it’s important not to cheap out on your power supply unit or risk destroying your entire machine at some point.
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There are other things that it’s worth spending more on initially. Some things can be replaced and upgraded in future. It’s really easy to add in more RAM, for example, or to swap out your graphics card for a newer model, but that’s not the case for everything.
We’ve written a guide on how to upgrade your CPU with relative ease. But something like your motherboard is not so easy to swap out. We like to think of the motherboard as being the foundation of your PC. If you ever need to swap it you’ll have to remove it from the case and that can be a pain, not just because you have to unplug everything but also because it counts as such a significant change that you’ll need a new licence for Windows.
Look for a motherboard that ticks all the right boxes in terms of what you need and buy that. Look out for IO ports, NVMe ports, PCIe lane speeds and other things. Consider if you really need a high-end motherboard for overclocking or if a more reasonably priced motherboard is a better option.
RAM you can save money on as you can always start with 8GB or 16GB in two sticks, then upgrade with more of the same in the future. So look to save there if you need to.
Ask yourself what you’re going to be using your PC for before you buy. If you’re planning on gaming then a good graphics card is important. But if you’re planning on doing other intensive tasks such as video editing, then you might find that higher capacity and faster MHz RAM will be beneficial too.
If you know the sort of games you’re going to be playing then you can get an idea of what you need by looking at the minimum and recommended system specs. Many games list these to give you an idea of what experience you can expect. If you’re always wanting to play the newest triple-A games on maximum graphics settings then the chances are that you’ll need a PC with plenty of processing power. If you prefer indie games, then those are often less graphically intensive and you can get away with a lower specced system.
Keep in mind though that technology advances quickly and if you buy a lower specced machine then your specs may soon be below even the minimum spec requirements of modern games.
You can however get more FPS out of your graphics card with a few settings and DLSS can help with frame rates too.
Don’t forget when budgeting your PC that you’ll likely need to spend a fair amount of money on a good gaming monitor, keyboard, gaming mouse and headset too. The cost can soon add up once you factor all these things in, so don’t neglect planning there too.