There comes a time in everyone’s gaming life when their machine of choice decides to call it a day and ascends to the heavens. For some this could be 20 years after buying your first Gameboy or in my case 8 years after buying my HP laptop. It had served me well in that time, but I now desperately needed an upgrade.
Now, I like to think of myself as somewhat of a tech savvy and money wise individual and after a couple of quotes for custom PC builds had come in, it just didn’t feel like I was getting the value for money that I really wanted. After a short period of despair I decided to undertake the task of building the new PC myself and I learnt a lot of useful information in the process.
I’ve since finished my build and am glad that I took up the challenge, but at the same time it took a lot more time and effort than I had originally anticipated. In this article I aim to layout my plan of action for anyone who’s thinking of building their first PC, in the hope that I can save you some time and maybe even some money.
Step 1: Budget
Budgeting is the single most important thing you should consider. It’s easy to say I want A, B and C, but what can you actually afford to spend. Before you even browse for components you should sit down and work out how much of your hard earned money you can dedicate to the new build. Once you have a good idea of how much you can spend, then start looking at the market and getting an idea of what specifications your new PC will consist of.
There’s nothing worse than getting ahead of yourself in this situation as costs can easily begin to spiral out of control, especially once you factor in all the different components. If like me you want to build a gaming PC I would recommend that as a very minimum to build a decent rig you are going to need to spend at least £450 on main components only. That’s Processor, Motherboard, Graphics Card, RAM, Storage, Monitor, Case and Power supply. If you can get something good put together for cheaper than this then you are in luck, but at this minimum level you would be expecting to upgrade parts within a year.
Step 2: Research
This was the longest part of the process for me as it took a while to decide exactly what it was that I wanted in my PC. In the end I decided to push the budget more towards the graphics card and processor as these would be taking most of the strain. Below I’ve listed the full specifications of the main components that I eventually chose.
Getting to this final specification list took a couple of steps. First of all I used Logical Increments to get an idea of what I could afford for the amount I was willing to spend. I then took the information from there and input that to PC Part Picker and adjusted various components to more suit my needs. A little less on a case and monitor and a little more on graphics and processor and I was almost there.
These two website were invaluable for me as without them I wouldn’t have even known where to start. They gave me a base idea and allowed me to adjust it to suit my needs while keeping a tab on price and compatibility. PC Part Picker was the most helpful, giving you a final summary of your specification, listing any incompatible parts or issues that you may have using certain components. For example if there was a case that was too small for the components you had chosen, or the monitor didn’t have HDMI input, it would let you know.
When putting your spec together, don’t forget to factor in costs such as Windows OS, mouse and keyboard, anti-virus, Microsoft office, external hard drive, headphones and anything else you might need or want for your particular set up. It’s easy to miss out the smaller things in your budget and they can often add unexpected cost to your overall build.
Step 3: Advice
Advice from friends was an important part of the procedure for me as a first time builder. That outside view from someone who had completed their own PC build can be invaluable in helping you choose the right components and spending money in the right places. If you don’t know anyone who has built their own machine, try using social media or searching for tips and answers on the internet. Beware though, people don’t always know what they’re talking about and might give you bad advice. It’s always best to double check everything.
If you have a bit of money to spare it might be worth popping into your local PC store and asking for advice there. I find independent shops to be much more honest and helpful than the large chain stores that try to push sales on you.
Step 4: Bargain Hunt
While PC Part Pickers is a great way to gauge what prices you will be paying for components, there are only a select few websites to choose between. It’s always a good idea to bargain hunt and if you’re lucky enough to find somewhere that does what your looking for a bit cheaper, that saved money could go towards improving other components or upgrades down the line. Certain websites can offer free postage or discounts if you buy more than one item, but remember to always order from reputable sources, a quick Google check always cleared my mind on this front.
Step 5: Build
Of all the steps I took, the build was both the part I was least confident about and most looking forward to.
Luckily an experienced friend agreed to oversee the construction (and by oversee i mean he did most of the work). In this short time I went from complete novice to having a good idea of what I would need to do if I ever had to replace or upgrade a component in the future. This experience was invaluable and if it wasn’t for my friend I would have probably looked up a guide on the internet instead. Each piece I ordered also came with a fairly in depth manual explaining exactly how it fitted into the motherboard or connected to the power.
If you don’t know or can’t convince anyone to help you out, there are number of helpful guides online that can be used to aid you in your build. They can be found here, here and here.
Step 6: Game On
OK, so this is not so much of a step as a celebration of all that you have achieved, your machine is finally up and running! You’ve spent weeks buying all the components, waiting for delivery, building it, installing the OS and countless updates and you want to finally test it out. Make sure you have anti-virus installed and download your most graphics heavy game, turn everything up and test it out to make sure everything is running ok. No lag, no graphical or sound problems, unexpected crashes or faults with the system. Once this is all done you’re pretty much free to do what you want. Enjoy your system, you deserve it.