Although building a PC is generally pretty straightforward nowadays, it’s still difficult for newcomers to grasp the basic PC building process as well as the unique terminology used in our community. There are so many different approaches to building a PC in addition to all the misinformation that is out there — things that can making gaming PCs seem very confusing.
Here we have quite a few common questions newcomers to the PC gaming space have about the process of building a gaming rig.
1. Is Building a Gaming PC Hard?
This is a question everyone thinks about when they first get into PC gaming. The answer to this question is fairly nuanced, but the difficulty of building a PC boils down to how complex and specialized that PC is.
However, if you’re building a standard gaming PC, it’s not hard at all once you have a solid understanding of PC fundamentals. In the end, there are only around nine main components in a gaming PC: the CPU, graphics card, motherboard, memory, storage, power supply, the CPU heat sink, fans, and a case. Be sure to know how to tell if these are compatible here.
Although custom PCs look vastly different from each other, 99% of them are built in roughly the exact same way.
Verdict: It might seem a little overwhelming at first, but it’s very straightforward.
2. How Expensive is PC Gaming?
Compared to console gaming, PC gaming is unquestionably more expensive. Though you can actually get a functional gaming PC for $400 or even $300, console gaming will always be the more affordable hardware option.
However, PC games are generally much cheaper than console games, due to the nature of competing vendors selling PC games online. If you’re the type of player to buy a lot of different games, you can actually save tons of money going with PC gaming in the long run.
Generally, a PC at $500 will be able to game at 1080P reasonably well. Games that aren’t resource intensive like E-Sports, Fortnite, and CS:GO can run well at 1080P with a budget of under $400. At $1000, you can game at 1440P at high settings with good FPS.
Verdict: $500 is enough for 1080P; $1000 is enough for 1440P. Look at our full set of guides for PC builds for more info.
3. What Do I Do About the Windows License?
When you’re building your own PC, you’ll have to come up with the operating system yourself. A new copy of Windows 10 from an official vendor will set you back around $100, which is a lot especially if your budget is low.
However, you can go on reseller sites like Kinguin and get a copy of Windows 10 for under $30.
You can even just forgo the Windows Key entirely, as Microsoft doesn’t actually prevent you from installing Windows 10 if you don’t have a key. They just leave a watermark on the bottom right of your screen that you’ll quickly learn to ignore.
Verdict: Windows is expensive, but there’s ways to get it for very cheap or even for free.
4. Where Do I Buy Components?
If you’re in the US, the main places to buy components online are Amazon and Newegg. Prices on both platforms are pretty low, but Newegg is generally slightly better for the core PC components, while Amazon is usually better for peripherals and random accessorizes as they have the biggest marketplace in North America.
If you live close to a Micro Center, that is a great option as well. Though most PC components at Micro Centers are around 5-15% more expensive than they are online, they do price-match and their CPU’s are much much cheaper than anywhere else.
However, always check sites like PcPartPicker for the best prices across all different retailers.
Verdict: 90% of the time you’ll get everything from Amazon and Newegg.
However, AMD Ryzen is now nearly across-the-board a better value than Intel. However, Intel still does win out slightly in single core performance compared to AMD, and gaming performance at the top-end is still better with Intel CPUs.
For a more indepth look at this, take a look at our page dedicated to AMD vs Intel for CPU.
Verdict: AMD is the better value, but top-tier Intels still have the bests performance.
6. AMD or Nvidia for Graphics?
Nvidia recognize that they have a much bigger brand and reputation than AMD’s Radeon cards, so they can get away with charging as much as they want and people still buy Nvidia GPUs.
AMD is unquestionably a better value than Nvidia for mid-range and below graphics cards, but the lack of AMD options at the high end mean that Nvidia still dominates the high end graphics card market.
Be sure to know the difference between APU’s, GPU’s and CPU’s.
Verdict: AMD is a better value especially in mid-range and low-range cards, but Nvidia has a virtual monopoly on high-end cards.
7. What Tools do I Needs?
Literally just a standard phillips head screwdriver for most standard builds.
Everything else should come with your components.
Verdict: Just a screwdriver
8. How do I Overclock?
Overclocking is not nearly as relevant today compared to before due to a variety of reasons (mostly auto-overclock technology) , but here are the basics of overclocking for each overclock able component.
CPU: Only K-series Intel CPUs can be overclocked, and you need a Z390 or Z370 motherboard. All Ryzen CPUs can be overclocked, but you need a B350 chipset motherboard or higher.
GPU: All graphics cards can easily be overclocked using a variety of applications, but a lot of them come factory overclocked.
Verdict: You need a specific motherboard and a specific CPU to overclock your CPU, but you can overclock any GPU in any situation.
9. What are the Components in a Gaming PC?
Extra storage drives
A second graphics card in Nvidia SLI or AMD Crossfire
Extra case fans
A waterproofing system
10. Do I have to buy Windows?
Pretty much, Linux is the only other operating system that we can think of and pretty much no games can run on it because it doesn’t support most of the drivers and core level software that Windows supports.
11. Do I Need to Buy Thermal Paste?
If you are using an aftermarket CPU cooler, whether it is an air-cooler or water-cooler, you will need to buy thermal paste as most coolers don’t come with it.
However, if you will use the stock Intel or AMD CPU cooler, you don’t need thermal paste as stock coolers come with thermal paste pre-applied. There’s nothing preventing you from removing the pre-applied thermal paste and adding a better aftermarket thermal paste to the stock cooler, though.
Verdict: Yes if you’re using aftermarket cooling, no if you’re using the stock cooler.
12. Do I Need to Buy Anti-Static Gear?
Spending a few bucks on an anti-static wristband or mat can provide you with a good peace of mind, but it’s not actually necessary at all.
Unless you are extremely careless when building you PC, the probability that you will shock your components is very low, especially with how most modern PC components have good static protection.
Verdict: It reduces the risk of an already very low probability event
13. Do I Need an Aftermarket CPU Cooler?
Unless you plan on overclocking, an aftermarket CPU cooler is not necessary, especially if you are using an AMD CPU, which comes with decent stock coolers.
You can even do some overclocks with the stock AMD Spire or Prism coolers that come with higher end AMD chips.
Verdict: No, unless you want to overclock.
14. Does the Motherboard Affect Performance?
The motherboard does not affect the performance of your CPU, RAM, or graphics card.
What you get with a more expensive keyboard are usually better construction quality, better VRM cooling, overclocking capability, and other bells and whistles.
Verdict: No; an pricier motherboard just adds extra features.
15. Should I get a Pre-built PC?
It’s understandable if you don’t want to go through the hassle of building your own PC. Half of the purpose of building a custom PC is because it’s fun, and if you don’t find the idea of building your PC very enticing, there is not too much reason to do so.
Pre-builts don’t have the best reputation among the PC gaming community as they cost more than pre-builts for worse performance and worse quality, but they aren’t as bad of a value as many make them look.
If you look for the right deals and models, you can find a pre-built that is almost as good as a custom built PC of the same price.
Verdict: Don’t feel compelled to build your own PC if you really don’t want to.