How to build a PC: A step-by-step guide
How to build a PC
We’ll help you through the entire process of how to build a PC, from installing the CPU and Windows to proper cable management.
By Brad Chacos
Senior Editor, PCWorld | Jan 30, 2018 8:10 AM PT
AMD’s disruptive Ryzen processors and Intel’s supercharged 8th-gen Core CPUs have sparked a wave of interest in PC building, but some people still hesitate at the idea of crafting a custom PC. Don’t! Building your own PC isn’t some arcane art or esoteric skill that only the most hardcore of hardware geeks can pull off. In fact, assembling a DIY PC is pretty straightforward once you’ve settled on your parts list.
How to build a PC: A tool kit isn’t necessary, but it’s handy
Rosewill 45 Piece Premium Computer Tool Kit RTK-045
Rolling your own computer offers a number of advantages that boxed desktops just can’t match, even though inflated component prices have made DIY computers less of a deal these days. You still get granular control over every single aspect of the hardware. You still get to choose not only the nuts-and-bolts-level details like processing and graphical performance, but also deeply personal touches like the PC’s case design and cooling capabilities. There’s no need to settle for a boring black box, unless you want a boring black box.
Looking to build a hulking PC brimming with top-of-the-line hardware and closed-loop water-cooling? Go for it! (If you can convince your significant other to OK the expense, that is.) Or maybe you prefer a more well-balanced rig, or a delightfully small system with big gaming chops. When you’re building your own computer, the choice is yours.
We built this PC with a liquid-cooled 8-core AMD Ryzen chip and Nvidia’s powerful GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.
8-core desktop PCs have gone mainstream
AMD Ryzen 7 1800X processor
Even better, when you’re building your own PC you can shop around for the best price for each of your chosen components, rather than paying a single marked-up cost for the whole-hog system. AMD’s new Ryzen processors have sparked a brutal price war in CPUs. DIYers can benefit from that! The superb PCPartPicker.com website makes comparison shopping dead simple. And when you’re done building your PC and successfully power it up, it feels glorious—like you’ve truly accomplished something, rather than simply yanking a prebuilt tower out of a box.
First Timers, How to build a PC:
Building a PC for the first time can be intimidating, though.
Even though PC assembly’s fairly simple once you know what you’re doing, staring at a giant pile of disparate parts and knowing you not only need to piece them together correctly but also wire them correctly afterwards is enough to bring a lump to a newbie PC builder’s throat.
We’re here to help.
Building a PC lets you opt for an SSD the size of a gum stick.
The CPU cooler in PCWorld’s graphics test PC
Corsair Hydro Series H100i v2
PCWorld has detailed installation guides—often with supplementary buying advice—for every major PC component you need. This comprehensive superguide explains how to build your PC from top to bottom, from case fans to CPU to cable management.
Even veteran PC builders stumble into trouble every now and again (though our guide to avoiding common PC building mistakes should help you avoid most of it). If your system won’t start after it’s all together, check out PCWorld’s guide to troubleshooting your home-built PC. It’s a few years old, but still very applicable today. And once everything’s up and running, consider checking out these free programs that your new PC needs first. They all rock!
Then sit back, relax, and enjoy a cold beverage. You just built a PC with your own two hands. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Editor’s note: This article was most recently updated to mention current components and the pricey state of today’s DIY hardware market.
Senior editor Brad Chacos covers gaming and graphics for PCWorld, and runs the morning news desk for PCWorld, Macworld, Greenbot, and TechHive. He tweets too.
Cheap, used parts are great for building DIY computers for testing servers. Check out our used parts.