Can you build a PC by yourself? Yes. It's possible.
It's important to know that successfully building a PC largely depends on your PC goals, potential use, budget, and putting everything together correctly. You'll also need to find the right parts and understand how to connect them to make a computer.
With skill and following the assembly instructions carefully, you'll build a PC and use it for the intended purpose. This article teaches you how to build a PC using custom parts with steps and instructions that are easy to follow.
Before you set on the journey to build a PC, you need to do 4 key things:
There are two things in planning: determining your PC's use and setting the workspace.
Think about why you plan to use the PC. Standard desktop PCs are used for easy tasks like browsing, and nominal programs like Microsoft Office can use less expensive older parts. But if you want to build a complicated PC like a gaming- or editing-focused one, you'll need more robust, up-to-date components/parts.
You also need to make your workspace ready. Set the workstation in a place that will give you much space for movement, with natural light and air. At the very least, the tools you'll want are:
- 1. Desk. Get a desk preferably with a comfortable height for working on.
- 2. Screwdrivers. Use the Phillips-head screwdrivers (sizes #1 and #2).
- 3. Zip ties and/or twist ties. These will help you in cable management.
- 4. Flashlight. The PC's case may get dark at the corners. The flashlight will help you reach those places.
- 5. Thermal paste. Stock coolers often have this component pre-applied, but you need one, just in case.
- 6. Screw holders. You will be using many screws and need to hold them in place.
- 7. Band-aids (just in case).
You may also need antistatic equipment, such as mats or wrist straps, to avoid shorting out the PC or parts. But they're not necessary if you don't live in a dry place, you're not building the PC on a metal surface (wood or plastic is better), and you're sure you won't be rubbing your socks on the carpet while building. If you're so worried about static, you can still get them.
Do not start assembling parts and components before you budget. It's easy to buy attractive parts only to realize sooner that you're out of money without all the equipment you need to build the PC. You should have a total budget you want to use, for example, $ 2000, to build the PC to completion.
So, figure out a soft limit (e.g., $150) and a hard limit (e.g., $500), then try to stay within that range. While purchasing the components, also try to be logical. For example, if you budgeted for a $100 old model processor but got a newer model discounted at $120, the extra $20 shouldn't deter you from getting a long-term investment.
Have you ever opened a PC before to know what's inside? If you never have, these components might be strange to you. But since you want to build a PC, we believe you have an idea of the components you need to build a PC.
Whether it's a simple PC or a complex gaming PC, the following are the components you'll need:
- Case. This is the outer protector that covers all other components.
- Processor (CPU). This is the "brain" of your PC. It might be the most expensive part.
- Motherboard. This is the interface between the processor and all other PC components.
- RAM. The Random Access Memory ( RAM) is a key part of the PC for its performance and memory. More RAM means better PC performance.
- Storage driver. You can get an HDD (Hard disk drive) or SSD (solid-state drive). The SSD is exceptionally fast and more efficient, but it's expensive.
- Graphics card. This is what renders images on your PC. Although most processors have a built-in graphics card or Graphics processing unit (GPU), a dedicated graphics card can improve your gaming or intensive computer use.
- Power supply. Your PC, and the components, will need the power to work. This is also how power will get into the PC from the wall socket.
- Cooling system. The case fans and coolers of particular components keep the PC and cases inside at safe temperatures.
These components have sizes, types, and models. For example, RAM can be 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, etc, storage can be 256 GB SSD, 500 GB HDD, 1TB HDD, 512 GB SSD, etc. The same goes for other components. Research the ones you want based on the type of PC you're building and its use. A graphics card can be Intel or AMD. Settle the components that will serve you best.
Once you know the parts and components, you'll want to use them, and you can proceed to acquire them. Acquiring them can be done by dismantling your old PCs and using the parts to build a new PC or buying.
If you have to dismantle old PCs to make one, only use parts in good shape. Otherwise, buy parts that will serve you well. If you're buying parts, there are two things you need to consider: Carefully research every component you intend to use and know where to buy them.
To research the component, you want to buy and read online sites, magazines, and consumer reviews. Don't overlook research because your PC will depend on correctly working hardware.
For example, a motherboard should fit or is compatible with your processor, has onboard Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Multiple RAM slots or high RAM capacity, and supports graphics cards.
During the research, find good and bad reviews, and focus on bad reviews. Use review sites like Linus Tech Tips, Gamers Nexus, or Tom's Hardware to find your needed information.
Next, know where to buy the components. The reviews might hint at where you can buy the components, but you need more research. You can buy the parts at your local tech store or online stores like Amazon, eBay, or OEM (original equipment manufacturer). Before you buy from anywhere, review the stores and compare their prices.
You can also consider used parts, especially those listed as "Like New." They come cheaper and do the same work as new.
When buying the components, use discounts or after-sales services like free shipping. If sales periods are near (e.g., Black Friday), you can wait because the parts may come at heavily discounted prices.
Purchase the components and ensure you have the necessary parts before starting the assembling process.
Now that you know the type of computer you need and have acquired all the components to make it, you can proceed and build your PC.
Note: Every PC has a slightly different internal layout. So, we'll not go into too much detail here about the internal layout. For this, you can read various PC and hardware manuals for reference. If you go to youtube, you can also benefit from seeing an actual person handling the hardware and arranging them in the case.
That said, follow the steps below to put all the components together and build your PC:
1. Safety First
For safety against static electricity, you need to ground yourself first.
Put it on if you bought an antistatic wrist strap/band/cable. One end clips on the PC case, and the other wraps around your wrist. This will keep you constantly grounded and prevent electrostatic discharge (ESD) that can damage computer electronics.
Alternatively, you can touch a large metal body, such as a radiator, to discharge yourself. Also, use a room with a bare floor to build your PC — because carpets generate much static — and wear rubber-soled shoes instead of socks.
Many components you purchased the ship in antistatic bags. Leave them bagged until only before installation.
2. Open the Case
You'll open the case based on the specific model you purchased. Cases have different layouts.
But you have to remove the side panel (usually the left one) before you begin installing anything in it. You can do this by unscrewing it or sliding it toward the back of the case. Once you remove the panel, you'll get access to the case's interior.
Make sure you also remove anything dangling inside the case. If it's permanently attached, push it aside to give you a working space in the case.
3. How to Install the Power Supply
Before you put anything else together, you must first install the power supply unit (PSU). Some cases may come with a preinstalled power supply. But you have to install it in others.
The PSU is usually located at the case's rear, often at the top or bottom corner. Check with its manual for the proper location.
To install the power supply:
Step 1. Place the power supply in a mounting position. Check the manual whether the PSU should be installed with the fan facing down (to let it pull cool air from outside the case).
Step 2. Ensure nothing is blocking the power supply.
Step 3. Screw the power supply appropriately to the case.
Step 4. If the power supply is a modular PSU, plug in the various power cables for various components. Otherwise, it will come with all the cables already installed.
Step 5. Once you're done installing the power supply, set the case aside for a few minutes to calm the electrostatic discharge.
4. How to Install the Processor
The processor is a key component of the motherboard and the PC. Although you don't have to, installing the processor before installing the motherboard on the case is a good practice.
Use these steps:
Step 1. Ensure there's no source of dust or liquid nearby
Step 2. Remove the motherboard from the antistatic bag and carefully set it on a hard, flat, nonmetal surface (a wooden desk or the motherboard box's top).
Step 3. Find the processor's spot on the surface of the motherboard.
Step 4. Attach your CPU/processor to the motherboard, and line it up correctly. Find the small, golden triangle corner on the CPU (the latest 12th-generation Intel CPUs and modern AMDs) and match it with a similar one on the motherboard.
Step 5. Double-check CPU's alignment and give it a little nudge to ensure it has slotted in correctly. If you doubt your placement, remove it and place it again.
Step 6. Once you've installed the CPU, press the retaining arm gently but firmly until it's locked in place.
- The CPU installation process is the same whether it's an Intel or AMD processor. The CPU and motherboard have numerous pins, and bending anyone could damage that component. So, take great caution and don't touch or bend the pins.
5. How to Install RAM
System memory, or RAM, is also a key component of the motherboard and PC.
Assuming you've chosen compatible RAM, slot choice and direction are two essential factors when installing it. The motherboard often has two slots for the RAM.
Step 1. Slot choice. This depends on factors such as the number of RAM sticks and manual direction. If the motherboard has just one slot, put the RAM on the first slot, usually called A1. If you bought two sticks, you'd install them in the motherboard's A2 and B2 slots. The manual should guide you.
Step 2. Finding the direction. This is easy because each RAM stick has a notch lining its bottom edge. This edge lines up with a block in the memory slots on the motherboard.
Step 3. Install RAM. Push the RAM's plastic wings down and outward at the slot on either end, then place the stick in that slot sticking straight up. Once it's in place, push the RAM down firmly until it clicks into the slot. You should hear the plastic wings click back in and clamp the stick's ends.
6. How to Install the Motherboard
Installing the motherboard correctly is paramount because it's the foundation for everything else in the case and PC.
Step 1. Gather Standoffs. First, gather all the standoffs that came with the case and install them appropriately. Most of them should be marked on the case, but this depends on the size of your motherboard. Many cases also come with standoffs preinstalled, so you may skip this step if you're lucky.
Step 2. I/O Shield. This covers the area around your rear ports. It comes with a motherboard.
You must fit the shield into the case's chassis before you install the motherboard. You must install it with its right side up so that the motherboard's ports fit through the holes. You may have to use a little force to snap all its four corners into place.
Step 3. Install the motherboard. Ensure the motherboard's holes line up with the standoffs and the ports line up with the I/O shield's cutouts. Once the board is in place, screw the motherboard into the insulating standoffs for anchorage.
Step 4. Complete necessary connections:
- Connect the motherboard and CPU's power connection.
- Connect the motherboard's case plugs and buttons.
- Connect the USB headers that connect to your front-facing motherboard ports.
These connections are a combination of pins and cables. You'll see the ones that connect in matching colors or similar sizes.
7. How to Install the CPU Cooler
Installing the PC's CPU cooler differs depending on each particular cooler. So, for specific instructions, you'll refer to the manufacturer's manual. Also, many coolers come with processors in the box.
But in general, here's what you need to do:
Step 1. Thermal paste. If you're going with a stock cooler, it'll already have a thermal paste applied. But if you use an aftermarket cooler, apply a thermal paste. Apply it carefully — a pea-sized amount to the CPU in the center and let it spread.
Don't add too much paste to prevent it from squirting out the sides (socket and surrounding PCB).
Step 2. If the CPU cooler you bought requires it, remove the case's other side panel and attach a custom backplate design. This may require you first to remove the board's stock backplate.
Step 3. Once the CPU cooler is firmly on top of the processor, press it down gently, then line up any retaining brackets/bolts with the cooler's mounting holes on the board.
Step 4. If the cooler has a separate fan, install it too, and plug its connector into the CPU cooler port on the board.
8. How to Install the Graphics Card
Installing the graphics card is optional since not all systems need one. So, if you're using an AMD OR Intel with integrated graphics and don't plan on a severe activity like gaming, you may not need a discrete graphics card. Follow the steps below to install the GPU:
Step 1. Remove the slot covers on the case so that the DVI, HDMI, DVI ports, etc., show through.
Step 2. Connect your GPU into the motherboard's PCIe X16 slot — the long connector at the board's rare end. Use the topmost one if your board has more than one. You should hear a click sound when the GPU locks into place.
Step 3. Fasten the back of the card using the screws you pulled from the metal brackets. They shouldn't be highly tight but just enough to hold the GPU card firmly.
Check the connectors and make sure they're in the right place. Check with the manual to ensure all connectors go into the correct slots.
9. How to Install Expansion Cards
Like Graphics cards, expansion cards also use the PCIe slots. Other cards (add-ins) that use these slots are wireless networking (Wi-Fi), sound, storage, and video capture.
Installing expansion cards is no different than installing a discrete GPU:
Because there are different types of PCIe slots, not all cards use the same. For example, most expansion cards use the "PCIe 4x" slot — a much shorter one than the PCIe slot.
Just check your motherboard's connectivity and the card's connecter size to see the appropriate slot:
Step 1. Remove the metal bracket protecting the case that corresponds with the PCIe slot that will host the add-in card. Ensure you keep the bracket screw because you'll use it to secure your expansion card.
Step 2. Line up the card's contact rows with the slot, then firmly push down. If your card needs additional power (from SATA or otherwise), locate the right cables and plug them into the expansion card.
Step 3. Finally, secure the card in place. Screw it firmly into the back of the case.
10. How to Install Hard Drives and SSDs
You can install three storage drive sizes: hard disk drives (HDD), solid-state drives (SSD), and M.2 format. Let's see how to install HDD and SSDs.
You may be interested in: How to Set SSD as Boot Drive
Step 1. To install an HDD/SSD, find your case's drive mounting point(s) (3.5-inch). This can be a full HDD cage with multiple mounting points or a simple space for a single drive with screw holes. Check the manual to confirm.
Step 2. Slot your drive (and screw if HDD), or lock it in place using the case's mounting system.
Step 3. Attach the SATA cable (data) to the drive and the motherboard.
Step 4. Attach the SATA power cable/connector to the drive.
- To install a SATA SSD, repeat the same steps but change the mounting point to the one that fits the 2.5-inch slot/cage or slot.
Attach any given or necessary additional power cables.
Now that you've finished building your PC and connecting internal components, you need to double-check and ensure that everything is fixed well and that no cable or connector is out of place.
This is important to avoid any power shots before you hit the power button.
- 1. Check the motherboard and ensure it's seated correctly and doesn't move.
- 2. Check that the CPU cooler is fitter securely to the processor. Make sure the fan's connector is correctly plugged into the appropriate slot on the motherboard.
- 3. Ensure the graphics card is attached correctly, secured, and has a suitable cable.
- 4. Check that the expansion cards are comfortably mounted in their PCIe slot with appropriate power cables.
- 5. Ensure the HDD/ SSD is installed correctly and carefully tightened. Also, ensure it has the right power and data cables plugged in.
Power on the PC
Once you've made sure everything is in its proper place, you can power on the PC:
- Attach your PC to an outlet (a monitor) and connect peripherals such as a mouse, keyboard, etc.
- Connect the power cable to the socket (wall outlet) and power it on.
- Turn on your PC. Press the PC Power button on the front or back case to power it on. If you connected everything well, your PC should start up without any problem. Otherwise, you may need to reopen the case to check again and make sure everything is well.
- Once the PC powers up, you'll need to install an operating system (Windows or Linux), drivers, and system updates.
- Finally, after the OS and drivers are installed and updated, you can start using your PC!
Voila! You've built a PC from scratch.
We believe you've learned how to build a PC from scratch. With a lot of attention to detail and some luck, you should have a working computer.
If you're successful, congratulations! Keep an eye on your PC temperatures for a few hours or days to ensure all the CPU coolers and fans are working correctly. If something within the PC breaks or needs attention, we believe you're now well-equipped to work on it.
If you have any questions or concerns, please share them with us in the comments section.
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