How to build a gaming PC (for beginners)

We take you through the perfect PC build step-by-step!

02 Jun 2021

You’ve seen the hype about building your own PC. You’ve picked your components using our PC Builder. They’ve arrived and you’re ready to go… but now what? If this is you’re first time building a PC and you’re not sure where to start, that’s okay. We’re here to help!

We’ll take you through the basics step-by-step. And we’ll link you to loads more resources at the bottom, just in case you want some extra help.


How to build a PC

What you’ll need:

You – you’re the most important part of this build!

Screwdriver – you might be tackling a variety of screw sizes, so a Philips screwdriver with a couple of different sized heads should do the trick.

Anti-static strap – wearing this will stop any static damage to your PC’s components

Bowl – just handy for keeping all your screws in one place.

Flat non-carpeted surface – to work on

USB stick with at least 8GB storage – for installing your operating system (OS)

Another computer – also for installing your OS

All the manuals – this may sound over the top but trust us. They contain loads of information that’ll help you with the specific parts you’ve chosen!


Prepare the motherboard

The motherboard can be a little bit fiddly, so sorting it out before it goes in your PC case will make everything a lot easier. And our other very important tip is to read your motherboard’s manual before you start. This might seem like a bit of a cop out from us, but different motherboards have different needs- so making sure you understand yours could save you a headache in the future!

And an extra tip- while you’re working with your motherboard, it’s a good to place it on the anti-static bag it comes in. That’ll help stop any static mishaps before your motherboard goes into the PC case.


Install the CPU

Look for the CPU socket on your motherboard. It’ll be a square-ish block or tray protected by a piece of plastic. Remove the plastic and this should reveal all the metal hardware underneath. You’ll also see it has a little metal arm or lever- gently pushing down on the arm and pulling it slightly to the side will open up the tray.

If you’ve got an Intel CPU, gently place the CPU so that all the indents on your CPU line up with those on the socket. Or, if you’ve got an AMD CPU, line up the triangles on the corner of the socket and the CPU.

Once you’ve placed your CPU in the socket, close the tray by locking the metal arm back into its original position.


Install your SSD storage

If you’re using M.2 SSDs, this is the point where we add them to your motherboard. First thing’s first- check the motherboard’s manual. Which M.2 slots does it say to use first? Follow their advice.

If your M.2 slots have protective thermal guards on them, remove them and put them to one side. Now you can slot in your M.2 SSDs – they should slide in with a little gentle force. Make sure that they’re in the right position and then screw each M.2 SSD down with the right screws included with your motherboard.

Those thermal guards we set aside? Place them back on top of each M.2 SSD and screw them back into place.


Add your RAM

Back to the motherboard manual! Have a double check where your RAM needs to go and how spaced apart it should be if you’re not filling all the RAM slots.

Now you know where things are being placed, it’s time to install. Flip down the plastic clips on either side of the slot(s) you’re using. Don’t worry if some don’t move down, some motherboards only move on one side. This is normal.

Line the notch on the bottom of the memory with the notch in the slot and then push in the RAM with a little pressure until you hear it click into place. At this point, if the plastic clips have flipped up to encase your RAM, you’re good to go. If not, you’ll need to try inserting it again.


Install your CPU cooling system

Now we have a different manual to consult- your CPU cooler’s! This will let you know if you need to attach a backplate to your motherboard or do any other kind of prep to install it.

If you’ve got a liquid-based cooling system, there are a few different parts to it. First, you’ll have the radiator and its fans- you may have to screw these onto the radiator yourself. Second, you have the pump that attaches to the CPU itself.

Before you start attaching anything to the case, decide where you want the radiator to go. You’ll need to have the fans blowing air out, away from your PC’s interior. So it’s best to find a space for it with maximum airflow, like the top grill or the back of the case. Once you’ve picked your place and checked it will fit, go ahead and screw the radiator in.

A quick warning though – make sure you’ve got the right screws, because the last thing you want is a leaky radiator!

Next thing – does your CPU need to have thermal paste added to it? If so, you’ll need to squeeze a tiny blob (less than pea-sized) onto the middle of the CPU. There’s no need to spread it around, it’ll do that itself once your cooler’s mounted.

If there are any extra cables that need to be plugged into the pump, go ahead and connect them. Now press your cooler’s pump into its position on the CPU’s thermal paste and screw it into the motherboard.

Installing an air cooler? The process is similar to a liquid-based cooling system, but without the extra radiator block, since it’s already built into your cooler. Take a look at your manual again if you need a little more guidance on how to install it.

And don’t worry if you have to lift your cooling system back up and reseat it to get it right. The thermal paste will move around once you properly apply pressure, so you don’t have to get it perfect first time!


Get your case ready

Our next step is going to be adding the motherboard to the case, but before we can do that, we have to get the case ready. If your case has already has pre-installed standoffs for your motherboard to be screwed onto, then just double check these match your motherboard.

If not, your motherboard should have come with some standoff screws. Screw these into the corresponding holes in your case (your trusty motherboard manual should give you some help here).

Next install the I/O panel (i.e. the bit where all your USB ports will be) from your motherboard onto your case. There should be a rectangular hole in your case where this can just neatly slot in! Some motherboards come with this pre-fitted, so check that manual again.

Now is a good time to make sure any cables you need to route around the motherboard are done. This includes all your fan cables, power cables. It’s best to spend as much time as possible doing this as having cables running across your motherboard doesn’t look all that great.


Install the power supply (or PSU)

This part’s pretty exciting, since now everything’s coming together and looking more… well, computer-y.

Does your PC case come with a special bracket for your power supply? If so, you’ll want to screw it onto the back of the PSU.

Next, decide where you need your power supply’s fan to point. Every case will have its own specific ventilation areas built into it. The screw holes on your PSU will usually give you a hint about what the best cooling direction is. So most of the time we’d suggest lining up the screw holes with the case as intended. Otherwise, make sure the fan’s aligned to one of your case’s ventilation areas- preferably pointing to the side, away from the inside of your PC.

Now you know where it’s going, slide your PSU into the case and screw it in.

Some PSUs are known as modular PSUs. If you’ve got a modular PSU, you can attach or detach the cables as you need them. So you'll need to fit the cables into the PSU and into the other parts separately. But this is a good thing, since it’ll give you a bit more flexibility over where and what you use. Just make sure to keep hold of anything you don’t need right now for the future.

And if you’ve got a modular PSU, you’ll also need to attach all the connectors and cables for your PSU before you screw it in, since otherwise they can be pretty hard to reach!


Install your motherboard

Lay the case on its side and gently place your motherboard down onto the standoffs. The I/O panel on your case and your motherboard should neatly align. This is so you can easily access all the ports when your PC’s up and running.

If everything’s lining up right, start screwing the motherboard onto the standoffs with the screws included with your motherboard. Don’t force any of the screws or twist them too tightly- just enough so everything’s secured.


Connect up your hard drive

Your case should have a specific bay area dedicated to holding your SSD or SATA hard drives. Once you’ve found them, check for two metal clasps on either side of the bay. Squeezing these clasps will allow you to pull the bay out. From there you can screw in your SATA drive. Once you’re done, slot the bay back into place.

Your motherboard should’ve come with a SATA cable and your PSU will have its PSU cable. Plug one end of each of these into your hard drive. Then plug the other end of the SATA cable into the correct slot on your motherboard - again, check your manual. Take the other end of the PSU cable and plug it into – you guessed it – your PSU. That’s the hard drive installed!


Connecting up your motherboard

This is where things get a little complicated… and you’ll need to check your motherboard manual a lot.

You’ll need to connect all the cables from your case onto your motherboard. They’re small, sometimes delicate and different motherboards will have different set-ups. So make sure to follow your manual carefully while plugging everything in! That of course includes your PSU.


Get those cables tied up

This step isn’t totally necessary, but you will thank yourself later if you take the time to do it now. Tidying your cables not only improves the airflow in your PC (stopping it from overheating), but it’ll also make it easier to see what you’re doing if you ever open up your case again.

Use the Velcro straps or zip ties that come with your case to tie your cables together. Be careful not to tug too much and ruin your hard work!


Install your graphics card

This is it- the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It’s time for the GPU.

Your GPU will need to fit into one or more PCIe Express slots. Find the slot in the back of your case that’s nearest to your CPU and the top PCIe slot and remove them. You might need to remove a couple or even 3 if you have a really big GPU. Don’t worry if you remove too many - you can always reinstall them later!

Slot your GPU into the PCIe Express slot(s) and screw it in. The retaining clip should flick up to let you know it’s locked in.

Now all that’s left is to plug your GPU into your power supply. Find the right cable from your PSU and plug it into your graphics card. Et voila! Graphics card installed.


Finish up

Plug in your peripherals like your mouse, keyboard and monitor and power up your PC. Just make sure you’ve plugged your monitor into your graphics card and not your motherboard. If you plug it directly into your motherboard you probably won’t get the best performance!

Did it work? If so, then finish up and screw in the case’s final panels. And guess what-you’ve done all the actual building! You deserve a massive pat on the back. Go ahead and give yourself one. And switch your PC off while you’re at it.


Install your OS

It’s time to install your chosen OS- probably Windows. You’ll need another computer for this, other than the one you’ve just built. Head to the Microsoft website and follow their instructions to make your USB drive into a Windows installation device.

Once you’ve done that, insert the USB drive into your new PC and start it up. It should take you straight into the Windows 10 installation process- sorted!


Install your drivers

We know you’re itching to play by now but hold your horses. There are a few more bits of maintenance to get done. Check that all you’ve installed the drivers for all your PC’s components- a double check of the different manuals should help you there!


And that’s it! You’ve built your own PC from parts you picked yourself. Feels good doesn’t it? And, as we said, we’ll include some extra resources down below- just in case you want a little extra help!*

TechRadar’s How to build a PC

PC Gamer’s Gaming PC build guide

Linus Tech Tip’s First Person View PC Build Guide


*Just to let you know, these links will take you outside the Currys website. So, we’re fans of these content creators, we aren’t responsible for any of their content they post now or in the future!

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