In an time when the general desktop PC market is shrinking, the gaming PC component industry has thrived, blooming to a massive $60 billion dollar industry.
Building a today is easier than ever, to the point where anyone can build one. PC parts are higher quality and more compatible than ever, and the amount of online resources in the PC enthusiastic community is enormous.
Still, building a custom gaming PC isn’t something that you can mindlessly go into without expecting to make some pretty awful blunders. There still a lot of complex technical jargon and confusing terminology you have to get a basic grip on before you can even start to pick out compatible components.
Even when you do understand the basics, there’s still a billion ways in which you can make horrible blunders in your PC building journey. Here is a list of xx common mistakes in every stage of the PC build that even seasoned PC builders fall victim to. We hope that you find this non-exhaustive list useful — and prehaps even help you avoid a big oopsie.
Before you even touch a PC component, you could already be making some mistakes when you are picking out what components to buy. This is similar to 15 common questions for new PC builders.
8 Common Mistakes When Picking Components
“Don’t buy a bad PSU” is probably the most common line of advice for people building their new PC. You’ve probably heard or read it so many times that we don’t need to say anything anymore, but this is still such an important point.
Low quality CPUs don’t exist, low quality graphics cards don’t really exist, low quality cases don’t exist, low quality RAM doesn’t really exist, low quality storage doesn’t really exist … you get it. Apart from motherboards most consumer PC components are of pretty good quality now.
Check out this very useful tier list to see where PSU models rank in terms of quality and performance.
If you’re building a high-end gaming rig for overclocking, you’ll want a high quality tier 1 or tier 2 PSU with good voltage stability.
But if you’re just building a mid-range or budget gaming PC, a standard 80+ Bronze PSU will work just fine for you as long as it has enough power output. The vast majority of consumer PSUs sold today have 80+ Bronze or higher ratings and are from the the big brands like EVGA, Corsair, and Seasonic.
As you as you don’t get a generic 15 dollar used PSU from a garage sale, you should be fine.
Getting a PSU that doesn’t output enough power for you power hungry components is a bigger issue today.
Use a power supply calculator like this one from outervision to get a pretty detailed estimate of how much wattage you need for you system, but this simple one should work just as well as most of your power consumption will be from your CPU and GPU.
Generally, a 550 watt power supply with an 80+ rating of any type will be sufficient for any new build below $1500, especially if you are using an Intel CPU and Nvidia GPU. Radeon GPUs are less power efficient, so you might want to make sure you get a higher wattage PSU if you go with AMD.
Computer applications are extremely memory hungry these days, and having too little RAM is one of the most frustrating things in the world.
Although the amount of RAM you have won’t really affect your gaming FPS when that’s the only application you’re running, RAM is extremely important for the performance of general PC tasks.
If the budget is higher than $700–$800, I recommend that you always get 16 GB of memory in the form of two 8 GB sticks. Unless you have a Ryzen CPU, the speed of the RAM is not that important. Just get a 2400 or 2666 MHz DDR4 set.
You probably won’t be able to afford to have 16 GB of RAM if your budget is under $700 unless you want to make some serious sacrifices in other essential components, so you’ll have to settle with 8 GB.
However, RAM is the easiest component to upgrade as you don’t have to throw out your old RAM as long as you have extra slots.
If it isn’t obvious already, don’t build a PC if you’re only going to have 4 GB of RAM.
If you want a top-of-the-line unlocked Intel CPU to overclock, you can’t just pick any cheap motherboard and expect to be able to crank your i5 9600K to 5k GHz.
You can only overclock your unlocked Intel CPU on a motherboard that has ‘Z’ in the name of its Intel chipset. The Z370 and Z390 chipsets are the most recent Intel motherboards that support overclocking.
If the motherboard has a ‘H’ or ‘B’ chipset, such as the H310 or B360 chipsets, you cannot overclock your CPU even if it does have an unlocked multiplier like the ‘K’ series Intel CPUs do.
If you’re using an AMD Ryzen CPU, this issue doesn’t apply to you as all AMD motherboards support overclocking — though some are designed for better OC performance.
The ATX, microATX, and mini-ITX are the configuration standards for motherboards that basically all consumer AMD and Intel motherboards adhere to.
ATX is the most common and largest motherboard design.
mircoATX is smaller than ATX, but is still quite common and usually costs a bit less.
mini-ITX is the smallest motherboard design, and is much less common than the other two.
If you buy an ATX motherboard and a microATX or mini-ITX case, you will have to build your PC without a case because the motherboard won’t fit inside.
The same applies if you try to use a microATX board with a mini-ITX case.
You can fit a smaller motherboard in a case designed for a bigger one, but not the other way around — a microATX motherboard will do fine in a ATX case. You’ll just have a lot of empty space.
The life cycle of PC components isn’t that long, and many are replaced in under two years, especially if they are core components.
While there’s nothing wrong with buying new hardware that is maybe a generation or two old, you won’t necessarily pay any less. Always check when the component was first released to gauge how long it has been around. If something is more than 2 years old, there’s probably a newer version of it around that is better.
An new 2015 model SSD generally isn’t going to cost much less than a new 2018 model SSD, and is probably a lot slower.
This doesn’t really affect components like cases and fans, however.
There’s two possible scenarios with this problem.
1. High end GPU with a low end monitor
If you have a $400+ GPU like a RTX 2070 that is capable of running every title at 1440P at max settings and you settle for a cheap 1080P 60Hz monitor, you’re wasting your GPU power as a much weaker GPU will deliver the same gaming performance on that monitor.
2. Low end GPU with high end monitor
If you have a weak GPU like the GTX 1050Ti and a 144Hz 1080P monitor, 1440P monitor, or 4K monitor, you’re going to run into some issues.
Using a weak GPU and a high refresh rate monitor is a bad idea because you’ll be wasting the potential of that monitor as you won’t get above 60 FPS anyways.
Using a weak GPU on a high resolution 1440P or 4K monitor will destroy your FPS as the resolution on those displays is so much higher. You’ll have to significantly lower your settings to make games playable.
While this is generally a newbie mistake that more knowledgeable PC builders never made, it’s one of the worst PC building mistakes you can make short of breaking your components.
The most common incompatibility mistakes deal with the CPU and RAM.
Each Intel CPU is compatible with a certain motherboard socket (most current Intel CPUs are socket LGA 1151). The same applies for AMD CPUs.
While the current generation of RAM is DDR4, there are still a lot of PCs using the older style DDR3 RAM. DDR4 and DDR3 memory are not interchangeable. A DDR3 stick won’t fit in a modern DDR4 RAM stock, and vice versa. You can’t salvage the DDR3 RAM stick on your old laptop and expect it to work on your new PC in 2018.
While this is not literally a mistake, you are missing out on a lot if you are using just a hard drive in 2019.
SSDs beat hard drives by every metric except for price per gigabyte. SSDs are much much faster, much less prone to failure, impact proof, silent, and are more portable than hard drives.
Unless you budget is under $500 (In that case check out our guide here for under $500 builds), there’s no excuse to not be using a solid state drive now that SSDs are so cheap. You can get a 240GB SSD for under $40 these days.
If you’re budget is decently high and you don’t need a huge amount of storage, you shouldn’t even get a hard drive in the first place. Just invest in a 500 GB or 1 TB SSD and you’re good to go.
Now that you’ve chosen proper and compatible PC components, you’ve only just started. There’s so many mistakes that are possible during the actual assembly of your PC, many of which that result in the destruction of your expensive components.
11 Common Mistakes When Building the PC
This is a relatively benign mistake, but it’s probably one of the more infuriating ones as you’ll have to deconstruct your entire PC in order to fix it.
You have to install you I/O shield from the inside of your case before you install your motherboard. You can’t put your I/O shield on after you install the motherboard since the motherboard will block it.
The I/O shield doesn’t actually have any real function other than to label the ports, so you don’t actually have to install if you don’t care about how your PC looks.
The tiny brass motherboard standoffs may seem like a trivial part of your PC build that doesn’t really matter whether you do it correctly of not, but it’s actually essential to the proper functioning of your PC.
It’s extremely important to keep the motherboard raised off the metal surface if your case in order to prevent short circuiting.
Seriously. Not installing the standoffs will result in your motherboard instantly shorting because of contact with the metal case panel.
Though it’s pretty obvious that components like the CPU are very fragile, a lot of new PC builders still handle them very roughly.
You have to handle your CPUs with care, especially if it is an AMD CPU as they have thousands of very fragile pins. If you bend the pins it can be a very scary thing to fix because it’s game over if the pin breaks off.
If you have are using two-sticks of RAM and have a motherboard with four RAM slots, you will generally have to alternate your RAM placement in order to maximize performance — meaning that you should place your RAM sticks in every other slot.
RAM slots on motherboards with four slots have two different colors. Only install pairs of RAM sticks on slots with the same color.
This is by far one of the most frustrating parts of building a PC.
You case has a power button, a reset button, and usually a LED light. These all need to be connected to certain pins on the motherboard. This part is often infuriating as the labeling of these connections is often very unclear and the orientation of the connection matters as well.
Be sure to find the section in the manual of your motherboard to see how to properly connect these little wires — you literally won’t be able to turn on your PC if you don’t.
This is a really common mistake for PC builders, but it’s very harmless and easy to fix.
If you connect your HDMI, VGA, or Display Port to your motherboard instead of your graphics card, your PC won’t work. It will probably boot, but some depressing error message will appear until you connect the monitor to your graphics card.
You definitely want to make sure your PC is fully shut down before you mess with the components. There’s many ways in which you can seriously screw your system up if you try working on it while it’s running.
Tweaking peripherals like fans while the PC is running is fine, but doing anything to the core components of your PC while it’s powered on is very dumb.
Double checking whether all the necessarily power cables are plugged in before you power on your PC is essential.
One of the most commonly forgotten cables is the CPU cooler cable. No matter how big your heat sink is, it won’t work very well if you don’t have a fan dissipating heat from it. Always remember to find where the CPU fan power connection is on your motherboard.
Applying thermal paste is a pretty stressful part of the PC build. There’s not established rule on how much to exactly apply onto your CPU.
However, more often than not, builders apply more thermal paste than is necessarily, resulting in it overflowing from the sides of the CPU after the heat sink is placed on the CPU.
For RAM, storage, and PSU wattage, more is safer — but it’s not true for thermal paste.
Just put a small drop of thermal paste on the CPU and the heat sink will efficiently distribute it across the entire surface of the CPU cover.
You finish assembling your PC and triple checked every single connection to make sure everything is done correctly.
You press of the power button your case in anticipation of your PC humming to life — but nothing happens.
You did nothing wrong — except that you forgot to power on your power supply. No matter how hard you press the power button the case, no power will be delivered to your components if you power supply is off.
ATX power cables need to be pushed entirely into the power socket to properly deliver power. Even when it looks like it’s properly plugged in, it might not be. It sometimes takes a lot of force to fully connect the power cables onto you components.
If the connection is not secure, you might actually end up frying you expensive components.
This is Just the Beginning!
Unfortunately, there’s a lot more than these different mistakes you can make while building your PC, but the good news is that you can avoid basically all of these mistakes by doing your research and being careful and conscientious when you are building your PC. At least for gamers, one other thing you should make note of is to turn off mouse acceleration!