All gamers have dreamed about owning the most modern top of the line gaming PC. A PC which runs cutting edge graphics without so much as a drop in the FPS. You might ask yourself why would someone want to build one themselves when renowned companies out there are already doing so? The thought of undertaking such a technical hardware job may even be intimidating to some people, but the hardcore gamers out there know that the only way to get required performances from your PC is to have every little detail tweaked to your own liking.
But that’s not all, not only does a self-built PC give you max performance; it is also a much cheaper alternative to the company built systems. One more positive about building your own gaming pc is that it leaves a lot more room for upgrades later on as tech develops.
Making your own PC is not a difficult task but it does require a bit of technical knowledge. This guide is primarily meant to help the most adventurous gamers out there on how to build a gaming PC step by step. A gaming PC could cost anywhere between 800-3500$ depending upon the gaming requirements and extra upgrades.
I will try to guide you about the percentage quota that each component should have from the overall budget so once you have a total cost in mind you’ll know how much to spend on each of the components. Please keep in mind that these budget allocations have been worked out based on a set of somewhat balanced gaming PCs. It is just a basic guideline and more experienced users may have different ideas. So go easy on me.
I will be enumerating everything that you need to build your own cheap gaming pc and then we’ll move on to step by step installation. If it was not clear so far, we’re talking about a desktop model as they are the ones that can be upgraded and tweaked as per requirement.
Steps For Building A Gaming PC in 2021
- Step 1: Pick the Required Tools
- Step 2: Choose an Appropriate PC Case
- Step 3: Choose the Motherboard
- Step 4: Choose and Install CPU
- Step 5: Choose and Install Your SSD
- Step 6: Choose and Install the Cooling System
- Step 7: Choose and Install the RAM
- Step 8: Choose and Mount PSU
- Step 9: Install the Motherboard
- Step 10: Choose and Fit in the Graphics Card
- Step 11: Install Hard drive If needed
- Step 12: Double-Check Everything
- Step 13: Play Games on Your Gaming pc
Tools Required For Building a Gaming PC
As it is a hardware job we obviously need a few tools to build our cheap gaming PC. Before I get into the list of hardware I would like to point out that a workspace is obviously needed. A well-lit isolated place with a table, at least 4×4 feet space and a height according to your own that does not require you to excessively bend your back. Your workspace should be in a relatively cleaner and dust-free corner of your home to protect the hardware parts of your pc as some of them might be sensitive to dust.
Essentials: I know when I said “Hardware job” I might’ve scared some people off. But the list of essential tools will put your minds at ease
So here is are the essential items that you’ll need to work on the hardware of your gaming pc:
Phillips screwdriver #2 and Phillips screwdriver #0
Wait? Is that all? 2 essential things? Yes, that is all you need to build your gaming pc step by step. Just as a tip, it is better that the screwdrivers are magnetized so you don’t lose your small screws and rivets. The magnetization is light in strength and is not going to affect your system’s parts
Both of them are four-faced screwdrivers and are just different in size. #2 being the slightly larger one
Optional: Coming over to some optional tools. These are not required but would make working easier.
Anti-static wrist strap
Sometimes our clothes and bodies pick up a slight electrostatic charge. The discharge while coming in contact with the components of your gaming pc could result in damage. Now, this is not a very common thing to happen, nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to be on the safer side. It is extremely easy to use. Put the wrist strap on and make sure that the ground wire connected to it is actually grounded. It will transfer any static charge picked up by your body to the ground harmlessly.
Again, you do not require zip ties for building. But there are considerable numbers of wires going around the pc from component to component. You could organize the wires connecting any two components together and keep them in order with a zip tie so they don’t mingle up. It will also help in easily identifying and removing components when you go for upgrades or changes. Keep a pair of scissors or cutters handy to get rid of the extra wire on the zip tie.
Components Of Your System: (Essential Part For Building a PC)
Here’s a list of all the components required for our gaming machine. It is recommended that you make an overall budget to get an idea of how much should you be spending on these components.
Preparatory Component: First and foremost component is building your pc step by step is the outer casing. A tower casing is recommended as they have much better space and offer better configuration options.
Main System Components: Your system is going to have the following main components.
- CPU (Central processing unit)
- Mainboard also known as the motherboard.
- Graphics Card (Graphics processing unit, GPU)
- Storage space (Hard drive)
- Power Supply Unit (PSU)
Other Required Components:
- Peripheral devices (Mouse, keyboard, your favorite headset)
- Operating system (Windows, Linux, Ubuntu whatever you prefer)
Gaming PC Casing
As I have already discussed, I would recommend the tower casing for building your cheap gaming pc. They are available in 3 different sizes generally but it is hard to categorize them precisely as such because there are no standard dimensions, different manufacturers use slightly different dimensions but mainly there are three and they can be called small medium and large. That being said, approximate case sizes are as follows:
Large case size: 22-25 inches high, 18 inches long, 6-8 inches wide
Medium case size: 18-20 inches high, 16-18 inches long, 6-8 inches wide
Compact case size: 12-14 inches high, 10-12 inches long, 6-8 inches wide
There are 3 main considerations to be kept in mind while selecting a case size.
- Type of motherboard being used: The types of motherboards will be discussed in detail but you should at least know the dimensions of the motherboard that you plan to use and what case size it will fit in best
- Type of cooling system: Generally air cooling is used and it does not take up much space, but advanced gamers and over-clockers may use liquid-based cooling systems which have better performance but also take up a lot of space.
- Last but not the least would be the space available to you for keeping your system. We wouldn’t want to buy a case size that doesn’t even fit on the table with the other components.
Generally, the mid-size casing is used for building gaming PCs. It provides a happy compromise between space and slots available with the performance requirements. But this is not a rule, more advanced gamers using heavy cooling systems might have to go with the full-sized tower casings.
A mid-sized computer casing’s cost can fall under a wide range of prices. The budget of the casing should be kept separate from the actual system but as a general guide, not more than 10% of the total that you have decided on.
All Other Hardware Components To Build a Gaming PC
Now it is time for the part that will actually provide you with the processing power to render those heavy-duty graphics and make your games look lifelike. Here are the components that will make up your cheap gaming pc. I will explain how to install each of the component one by one and at the end give an overall budget percentage to spend on it. It is highly recommended that before you start building the PC. You make a list of all the components that you decided on after reading this guide and check them for hardware compatibility as some of the components by certain manufacturers may not be compatible or optimized for the other.
For clarity’s sake, I’ll explain the motherboard first. We all know that the motherboard is exactly what it sounds like. A board that is the mother of all the other components. All the components of building our pc step by step are either installed or are connected directly to the motherboard.
They come in a few different sizes and that is why the type of motherboard you decide on affects the size of the casing that you’re going to buy. The classification according to size is.
- Extended ATX is the largest size with a dimension of 12 x 13 inches. It usually contains 8 slots for installing RAMs. This means that you can top your RAM out at 128 GBs.
- ATX is just a little bit smaller than its extended version and has a dimension of about 12 x 9.6 inches. The main difference is that it contains 4 RAM slots so it can house only 64 GB of RAM.
- Micro ATX is 9.6 x 9.6 inches in size and it also has 4 slots for RAM installation.
- Mini ATX is the smallest of motherboard sizes. It has a dimension of 6.7 x 6.7 inches and has only 2 RAM slots meaning that the max RAM it can support is 32 GBs.
If you decide to go with an Extended ATX size motherboard you will probably have to get the largest case size available. Generally, the standard ATX size is more than enough for all the modern games that are available in the market.
I recommend that a total of not more than 7-8% of your budget (Part of the complete budget unlike the casing) is enough to get you a decent Motherboard for building a cheap gaming pc.
The central processing unit acts as the brain of your PC and it has two basic performance characteristics with the advent of parallel processing technology.
- Core count is the number of cores that the CPU has for running parallel processing as an example the latest CPU in the market by Intel is the I9 and it has a core count of 18 cores. This basically means that it has 18 separate CPU cores that execute tasks simultaneously.
- The second performance characteristic is the clock speed. It is measured usually in GHz (Giga Hertz) and is a measure of the speed with which your CPU carried out the processing.
- The CPU is the first component that is to be installed on your motherboard. The process is very simple but you have to keep in mind that CPU is a very sensitive component and could be damaged by the slightest of nudges or dirt.
Tip: Do not touch the base of your CPU as it could transfer small amounts of oil or dust to the CPU. Always hold it from the sides. Do not remove the plastic packaging with your hands it’ll be automatically removed once your CPU is in place and being locked in.
The packaging that these components come in is anti-static so if you have bought yourself a wrist band you should be wearing it before handling them. Release the metal lever on the motherboard’s CPU housing. You have to gently pull it to the side and flip it open. Your CPU has small pins on the underside (These pins may be either beneath the CPU or on the motherboard depending upon the manufacturer that you choose to go with). These pins will adjust your CPU in the housing. There usually is an arrow or multiple arrows on the CPU chip which helps you with the alignment.
DO NOT push or roughly try to fix the CPU, it’ll fall into place by itself gently. Once the CPU is secured lower the casing on it and lock the metal lever in place. Here are some pictorial guides to help you as well
These are the steps of opening the housing on the motherboard and removing the CPU from its packaging.
This is how the CPU will fit into the housing easily. Remember the CPU only fits one way and there is absolutely no need for rough handling. The markings on the CPU will guide so as to the positioning of the CPU in its housing so it is a simple process.
Budget: CPUs are one of the core techs behind a PC and advancements are being made every single day. The recommended ceiling for buying your CPU is 12-13% of your total budget.
The second component to be installed on to the motherboard is the heat sink or the cooling system but if you’re installing a Solid State Drive (SSD) onto the system you probably want to do that before moving onto to the cooling system.
Solid State Drive is a type of storage device. The upside to installing an SSD is that it gives you much faster performance as it uses an integrated processor to store data as opposed to a mechanical arm used by HDD (We’ll get to it). The downside is that it has a much higher cost per GB of space than the traditional HDD. The good news is, you do not have to stick to only one type.
Tip: Most gamers just install a single SDD of about 128 GBs to store their operating system on. The perks are a much shorter boot time and faster operating system performance. The rest of the storage could be the cheaper HDD type.
Installation:- (Use the #0 Screwdriver)
The installation procedure is absolutely simple. Your SDD is not as sensitive a component as your CPU (In fact, no other component is as sensitive as the CPU) but it is still a good idea to handle it with care. The SDD slot is a small horizontal slot that can be identified by a small screw across from it placed in center alignment. If you have difficulty finding this slot or you find more than one of these, please refer to the user manual that will come with your motherboard.
Slide the SDD into the slot, once it is in place it will be making an angle of approximately 35 degrees and standing diagonally to the motherboard. Push it gently down until the screw comes to its place in the SDD chip. Use the #0 screwdriver to secure the screw firmly in its place but do not over-torque the screw. As soon as it stops moving that’s your cue. I will show a pictorial guide for the installation on how to build a gaming pc step by step.
Budget: The SDD may be much faster than the HDD but as I have already mentioned that it costs a lot more per GB of space than the HDD. If you spend too much on this storage it could end up hurting your budget. The cost of this storage should not exceed 10% of your total allocated budget.
In the next step, we will be installing the cooling system onto the motherboard. The cooling system is installed directly above the CPU. Depending upon your usage and requirement the cooling system could be either air-based or liquid-based. Liquid-based cooling systems are larger in size and thus would affect the casing that you buy for building your cheap gaming PC. Specific instructions about every cooling system’s installation will come in the manual but I will explain the general process.
The cooling system is installed on a bracket. This bracket could either be pre-mounted on your motherboard or might come with the cooling system. If you’re using a customized cooling system you might have to replace the bracket that is installed on your motherboard.
Tip: Do check the compatibility of your desired cooling system for building your gaming pc with the motherboard that you are buying.
There is usually a thermal paste on the bottom of the cooling system which comes in contact with the conductive part of the CPU. This paste could already be there but in some cases you might have to install it yourself. For that purpose a small syringe with the paste will be provided with the cooling system. Do not forget to read the manual before attempting this task
Tip: Just as a practice apply the thermal paste onto a piece of paper or a scrap of unused metal so you apply it evenly and without any problems to your cooling system.
Here is a pictorial guide for general installation
Budget: Cooling system can come in various price ranges depending upon the manufacturer and principle of working. But as a guide do not spend more than 6-7% of your budget on this component. It is important, however, that you keep in view the heat emitted by your system and the climate conditions under which you’ll be operating the gaming pc that you’re building. E.g. if you’re going to be operating in hot and humid conditions without air-conditioning, you might have to consider adding a little money to your budget for a better cooling system. Because the cooler you keep your system the smoother it’ll run.
Random access memory (RAM) in other words, is your PC’s short term memory. It is much faster to access and store data but is a temporary memory. Your CPU stores short term essential instructions onto it for smooth execution of all its processes. Deciding on how much RAM you need could be a little tricky.
Your system only requires a certain amount of it for smooth functioning and even demanding tasks such as gaming. Anything more than the required RAM although does not hurt your system but it does hurt your overall budget. As a general thumb rule, most built cheap gaming PCs have 8-16 GB of RAM installed on them.
The first step is to check the number of slots that your motherboard has available for installing RAM. If there are more slots than your planned RAM space then you have to consult the user manual for the motherboard to see in what combination you have to install the RAM chips. These chips are fixed without the use of any tools or screws. They are simply pushed to sit inside their slot and you’re good to go. Sometimes there are plastic plugs at the side that help keep the RAM in place.
Tip: The RAM chip basically has a hollow space between its fingers, this hollow space is not exactly centered and before pushing the RAM onto the slot just check the alignment of the hollow space whether it matches the alignment of the installation space on the slot
Here is a pictorial guide for help.
Budget: A faster and vast RAM storage is the 2nd most pertinent detail of building your gaming pc. It helps run the heavy background tasks that are to be executed by your PC during gaming. RAMs have a variety of costs depending upon the storage capacity and the memory technology used. I advise a budget not exceeding beyond 8% of your total.
PSU Mounting (PSU, PSU cables, Philips #2 Screwdriver)
The power supply unit of the system is self-explanatory. It provides power to all parts of the system and is an essential part of building your gaming pc step by step. The PSU has its own heat sink to keep it cool. Usually, all power supplies come with 4 screws and are easy to attach. The tricky part is to find out what is the best place for it in the casing that you have bought.
The PSU has a power output listed in its manual. You have to keep in mind the power consumption of all your components combined. The PSUs are usually designed to fulfill all the system’s requirements but just in case add the current required for all of the computer’s major components and see whether the PSU can manage it.
This might be a little technically difficult. You can use the online wattage calculator to check whether your PSU will meet your system’s requirements
Tip: Usually manufacturers have a grated sheet or part of the casing, especially for your PSU. It is to be installed with the fan facing the grated portion to let the heat out. But in case your casing has no grated part, install it with the fan facing into the system so it has space to dissipate the heat and for the air intake. Do NOT install the fan facing a wall of the casing if it does not have a grated opening.
The installation is pretty simple, keeping the tip told above in mind, organize the cables that are to go out of the PSU in advance so it does not hinder you in your further work. If you have the zip ties, keep them neatly organized and tied with a zip tie. The Phillips #2 screwdriver will be used for the screws on your PSU. Here is a pictorial guide for better grasp.
Budget: Like all other options in building a cheap gaming PC, the PSU also comes in a wide price range. Since power supplies are one of the most prone to damage or failure component of our system. I have allocated a 13-15% of your total budget to it. But if you can afford to spend a little extra for safety measures don’t hesitate.
Almost all the components described before, except the PSU, were installed on your motherboard. Now it is time to install your motherboard onto your system or your casing. Since I have already broadly covered the types and budget for the motherboard I will get right to the installation. You require Motherboard, motherboard manual, I/O sheet (if not already installed), Phillips #2 screwdriver.
An I/O shield is a metallic casing for your motherboard. It is designed to contain the electromagnetic radiations emitted by your motherboard. It usually comes installed on your motherboard but in case it is not you just have to clasp it on the back of your motherboard. It usually does not have any screws or plugs etc. It usually has sharp edges so mind your fingers while handling it.
The motherboard is installed usually with the help of 6-8 screws vertically towards one side of the casing. I will add a pictorial guide for better visualization. Simply screw it to the side with the help of your Phillips #2 screwdriver and you’re good to go.
Tip: Make sure all the wires to be attached have been threaded through correctly and are secure in their place before you install the motherboard as after installing it may be a little hard to maneuver your hand around to install cables.
GPU (Graphics Card)
The graphics processor unit is the component that is directly related to the gaming capacity of building your gaming PC. This is basically a processor for the extensive visual information that needs to be rendered onto your screen while playing a high-end game. 3 main factors are to be considered while selecting a GPU.
- Shader core count: These are basically processors for advanced graphics. They are used to render graphics in 3D including the shadow and shading etc. Higher number of shader cores usually means better computing power for your GPU.
- Memory: Memory available with the GPU to store visual info.
- Clock speed: The speed with which the processes can be performed and data converted into visual information translated on your screen. Better clock speed means your GPU is faster.
You will require the GPU, Manual for the motherboard, Phillips #2 screwdriver. The GPU will be connected with the largest PCIe available in your system. Most GPUs use a 16 port PCIe to connect to the system. You need to check where the largest PCIe connection is available in the casing of your cheap gaming PC. It is usually covered with a metal strip which basically acts as an I/O shield. This metal strip will be screwed to the PCIe. Use your recommended screwdriver to remove the strip.
Tip: There may be multiple PCIe available in your system to connect more than one GPU. Generally, the very 1st port is used for installing the GPU but you might need to consider the spacing of your GPU from the rest of the motherboard as you want it to have a little breathing room. Choose the port in consultation with the manual available, if the manual does not specify a single slot to be used then keep the placing of your components in mind while placing it.
The PCIe slides into place without much effort so do not be harsh with it. Gently push it into place by aligning your GPU both with the PCIe and the side slot meant to hold it in place. You might feel a gentle click with it.
Your GPU might need an auxiliary power source to be connected. If so, it is just another PCIe but is a little smaller. Connect it to the power source PCIe.
Budget: The GPU is the most important part for gamers. It is also the most expensive component of building a gaming PC. That is why we have a hefty budget allocation for your GPU. But make sure not to spend more than 30-34% of your total budget on it as a general rule.
We have come to the final component of building your gaming pc step by step. The hard drives are basically storages for all the data that your system will be storing permanently. I have already described in the SDD topic how the HDD (Hard disk drives) are usually cheaper per Gigabyte of space available on them. The downside is that the storage speed on the HDD is much less than the SDD. However, most people do not use the SDD for the complete storage configuration. The SDD is used for the main operating system drive whereas for general storage the cheaper HDD is used.
Installation: There could be 2 ways in which your hard drive storage space will be available. There are either tool-free drive bays or we have the simple metal brackets.
You will require Phillips #2 Screwdriver, HDD, Manual, screws
- Tool-free drive bays come with plastic latches or plugs, simply unplug the latch and pull the drive bay out. Adjust your drive inside the bay (this usually doesn’t require any screws) and slide the drive bay back inside securing it with the same plastic latch. Attach the connector wires with the HDD and you’re ready to go.
Tip: Tool-free drive bays can be in 2 sizes, 3.5 inch or 2.5 inch. Most 3.5 inch drive bays can hold the 2.5 inch HDD in them too but obviously this cannot go the other way round. Make sure to buy a casing which has its drive bays in accordance with the size of the HDD drives that you buy. If the drive bay is 3.5 inches and your HDD is 2.5 inches. It might need to be secured inside the bay with the help of screws.
- Metal brackets are just grated brackets available in your casing and are supposed to hold the HDDs. Simply slide the HDD in the bracket and secure it with the help of screws.
Tip: The drive can be held in place with any number of screws. Try and stick with the recommended number in the manual but in case you are short on the number of screws just use 2. Two screws are usually enough to hold the drive in place.
Budget: Your storage capacity should not cost you more than 5-6% of your total budget.
After you are done with all the above steps, you have been successful in building your gaming pc step by step. As I have already highlighted that building your own PC doesn’t only give you more room for modifications, it is actually a cheaper way to build your gaming PC. All you need to do now is buy the peripherals and audiovisual devices. After installing a preferred operating system on your system you are good to go