How to build a PC from scratch: A beginner’s guide for building your own desktop computer

Learning how to build a PC from scratch is easier than you might think. The process mostly involves screwing in the right screws and connecting the right cables, so as long as you’re careful with your components and take the proper safety precautions, even beginners can make a PC that rivals the best desktop computers.getintopc

We’re building a gaming desktop here, but the process is the same regardless of what type of PC you want to build. If you’re gunning to build a gaming desktop like us, make sure you have one of the best graphics cards to install in your system if you want the most impressive performance.

What you need to build a PC

This is a guide on how to build a computer, but you can’t do that until you have all the parts a computer needs. If you haven’t selected and purchased all the required hardware, make sure you do that first. Also, make sure that it’s all compatible and that it will fit inside whatever case you want to build it in.

Here are the core components to build a PC:

  • Case
  • CPU
  • CPU cooler
  • Motherboard
  • RAM
  • Solid state drive (SSD) and/or a hard drive.
  • Power supply
  • Graphics card

Multiple PC components need to be compatible with each other, which can create some headaches for newcomers. We recommend using a site like PCPartPicker to select your components, as it automatically checks for compatibility issues.

Before you dig in, ensure there’s a clean workspace with plenty of room to open boxes and put parts together, preferably a desk at a comfortable height for working on.

Safety first

There’s an invisible risk when building a computer that you rarely have to worry about with an assembled PC: static electricity. The same force that lets you shock your friends when you wear wool socks can also fry components in a heartbeat. Fortunately, static is easy to all but eliminate with a few simple steps.

One solution is to purchase an antistatic wristband. One end wraps around your wrist, and the other clips somewhere on the computer case, keeping the wearer constantly grounded. Touching the case frequently with the PSU plugged in and powered off achieves the same effect.

Make sure you’re building your PC in a room with a bare floor if you can — carpets generate a lot of static — and wear rubber-soled shoes rather than socks. Many components ship in antistatic bags, so leave them bagged until just before installation.

Opening the case

Preparing the case is the easy part. Instructions for the specific case you purchased should introduce you to its basic layout, as well as list special instructions regarding component installation.

Lay down the case in your work area and remove the side panel. For most PC cases, this means the left-side panel when viewed from the front. This panel provides access to the case interior.

Also, remove anything that’s dangling inside the case. If it’s attached, push it aside. Many cases have permanent internal wiring that becomes problematic later on.

How to install the power supply

The first component to make its way into the case should be the power supply (PSU). It is typically located at the rear of the case, usually at the bottom, but in older chassis, it can be at the top. Consult your case’s manual if you have trouble finding the proper location.

Step 1: Most cases are designed for the PSU to be installed with the fan facing down, letting it pull cool air from outside the case, but check your manual if you’re unsure. You may need to remove a PSU mounting plate depending on your case, but most will require you to push the PSU into the rear of the case, from the inside.

How to install the processor

Although you don’t have to, it’s a good idea to install the processor before you put the motherboard in the case, as access is far easier.

Step 1: Carefully remove the motherboard from its antistatic bag and set it on a hard, flat, nonmetal surface such as a wooden desk or the top of the motherboard box itself.

The process isn’t designed to be difficult, and as long as you follow the instructions clearly and keep an eye out to ensure the chip is fully seated before you clamp it in place, you’ll be fine. However, there are some subtle differences in the process depending on who made your CPU, and processors are delicate, so be careful.

Step 2: Locate the square CPU socket. If the motherboard is new, it’ll have a plastic cover on it. Unhook the metal retention lever and lift it up to free the plastic cover, and remove it.

Step 3: To install the CPU, you need to line it up correctly. On most Intel CPUs, you’ll have notches on the side that allow you to only place the CPU in one orientation. On the latest Intel CPUs, you get a little golden triangle in one corner to help you align it properly. The same is true of all modern AMD processors.

Pick the processor up by its sides, taking care not to touch the underside, and align it correctly using whatever aids you’re given. Then gently place it into the CPU socket. Double-check it’s in the right place, by giving the CPU a little nudge from side to side. If in place, it’ll move a tiny amount. If it isn’t in the right orientation, it’ll slide out of place. In that case, remove the CPU and check alignment before reinstalling.