The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

Building a gaming PC can be time-consuming and stressful. There are a thousand things that could go wrong, and any one of them could cost us hundreds of dollars. And yet we do it anyway. Why? Because building PCs is totally awesome.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've finished building and fine-tuning a new gaming PC. It has been a rewarding, maddening, exciting, terrifying and ultimately enjoyable experience.

Today, I'm going to list the ten best things about building a new PC. Later this week, I'll list the ten worst. But for today: Happiness! Positivity! Excitement!

Here we go.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

1. Telling people you're building a new PC.

It's fun to tell people you're building a new PC.

"I'm building a new PC," you say.

"Oh, cool!" They reply.

You get to sound like you're some hot-rodding, customising know-it-all who builds his own things all the time. Yeah, I build my own PCs. I also grind my own coffee beans, and when the downstairs bathroom doorknob falls off, I fix it myself.

You're about to create something. You're building something. You rule.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

2. Talking yourself into getting the more expensive part.

It's usually a good idea to start out by setting a budget. Maybe you want to keep it under $US800. Maybe under $US1000. You'll probably go and find some online PC builder's guide that tells you just what parts to order so you can get the most bang for your buck.

Then, you'll look at the graphics card you're buying…and weigh it against the next better model…which, yes, costs like $US100 more… but oh look it gets like 20 more fps in Far Cry 3... hmm…oh fuck it, let's get the better one. And hey, that SSD is on sale…maybe we can get that, too…

You'll eventually wind up getting a PC that's kind of like the one listed on that PC builder's guide, but with a few better parts, for a bit more money. Once you've started pressing the Confirm Order button, it gets a lot easier to press it for other, better things.

But hey: It's your PC. Get what you want.

3. Your helpful YouTube friends.

There is perhaps no more lonely feeling than sitting in a room with a half-built PC in front of you, counting up motherboard mounting screws and wondering if you have enough. But these days, thanks to YouTube, it's almost impossible to truly feel alone while building a PC.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

This is Paul. He works for Newegg. While I was building my new PC, he became my best friend. I'm serious: This three-part series is so damned good, and he is so good in it.

His soft Midwestern (Missouri?) accent, the way he makes fun of his own "hot mess" of cables before reassuring you that it will be ok, his generally chill demeanor: All of it reminds you that things will be fine. We'll handle it. Paul is here.

When Paul didn't have the answers I was looking for, I had so many other YouTube friends: This super friendly guy from Tech Upload who talked me through installing my Evo 212 CPU cooler, these two young people from Cooler Master who explained how to use the hard drive cages on my Cooler Master case, this guy who demonstrated how to apply thermal paste and even made a joke about how to do it in the most metal way possible:

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

In the darkest hours of PC building, there's nothing better than hearing an actual human voice telling you: It's ok. You can do this. I've done this. Here, let me tell some jokes and show you how to do it.

4. Diving into the ridiculous abundance of online PC-building resources.

Good lord, online PC-building resources have gotten good in the last ten years. There are now far more resources available than anyone could ever need. Fortunately, you can kinda just boil it down to four or so places: Tom's Hardware, PC Part Picker, Overclock.net and Lifehacker.

(OK, ok, yes, Lifehacker is our sister site and I like everyone who works there. I'm biased. Still, they're great.)

If you have a question about anything, I'm not even kidding, literally anything, there will be six threads dedicated to it on Tom's Hardware. Want to know a safe operating temperature for your GTX 770? Tom's Hardware. If for some reason you can't find what you're looking for at Tom's, you will find it at Overclock.net. I'm convinced that those two sites contain more combined knowledge about PC customisation than anywhere else on the face of the earth.

If you want a comprehensive guide to how to, say, overclock your GPU or CPU, or if you're just curious how much overclocking can really help your PC, Lifehacker is the place to go. And if you're wondering whether that more-expensive CPU you want will still work in the motherboard you have ordered, PC Part Picker can tell you in an instant.

5. Locking the tension arm on your CPU.

There are a few key Moments of Truth when building a PC, and installing the CPU is one of the first and more crucial. Oh, the feelings of relief and excitement that follow dropping the CPU into place and locking the tension arm.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

It always takes a little more pressure than you thought it would, and there's always that one moment when you think, "Oh shit, oh shit, I'm about to squish my CPU." But then you lock the arm in place, and everything's all good, and your motherboard has a brain.

6. Plugging stuff into other stuff. Oh, yeah.

Generally speaking, it's fun to plug things into your motherboard.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

Paging Dr. Freud!

I like to think that they call it RAM because you kinda have to ram it in there. (OK, be gentle, but you know what I mean.) There's usually a moment of terror when I first open up the arms in the RAM cradle, check that I'm putting it in right-side up, and start to push down. Will it seat correctly? Am I scratching something? Is this going to work at all?

Then it slides in, the arms pop up, and you're home free.

Wow, it's hard to talk about motherboard installation without sounding like you're talking about sex. Maybe it's just me.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

7. The moment when you press the power button and everything works.

Eventually it's time to plug in the power supply, connect some peripherals, and press the "power" button.

There's a click, and a whirr…the light on the front of the case lights up, the logo on the side of your GPU illuminates, and all of your fans start spinning.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

Because I am an impatient maniac, I don't do a test boot before putting everything in the case. So, I'm never sure if everything works until I fire it up for real. There are always so many small things that can happen to foul things up — those damnable tiny front-panel connectors almost always do me in — but when it works, when everything starts spinning and whirring and lighting up…there's no feeling quite like it.

8. The Cloud™

The Cloud has officially become mainstream. There are dumb movies about The Cloud. Your dorky uncle probably makes jokes about The Cloud™.

The downside of The Cloud™'s popularity is that it has become an annoying cultural touchstone. The upside is that The Cloud™ has actually reached a point where it often (usually? sometimes?) works as advertised and can be genuinely useful.

This is rarely more true than when building a new gaming PC. There was a time where installing Windows to a new hard drive meant spending an hour or two backing up your shit on the old one, burning CDs, saving and re-saving copies of precious Morrowind save files, knowing that, if you messed up, hundreds of hours of careful character customisation would go down the drain.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

While it may be annoying how newer PC games like Starcraft II and Diablo III force you to create an account and log in to play, there is an upside: When you switch to a new PC, your entire profile, saved games, and settings will be there waiting for you. You can pull over files from your last hard drive's SteamApps directory and Steam itself will check The Cloud™ and re-download any files you missed. You can (and should) sync all of your important documents and saved games to Dropbox and they will be a single login away from your new rig.

Setting up software on a new PC used to take a couple of hours. This time around, with Chrome, 1Password, Steam and Dropbox all syncing to The Cloud™, I got all my essential stuff up and running in about 10 minutes. A half an hour later, I'd copied over a bunch of great games.

What did I do with the time I saved? I played video games, of course.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

9. Loading games that gave your old PC a hard time and crushing them like ants.

When you own a PC, it can feel like you're stuck in a long-distance race against your own games. Sometimes you're ahead, and sometimes you're behind. Building a new PC, then, is like constructing a pair of bionic legs at a pit-stop — all at once, games that used to give you a hard time are eating your dust.

Far Cry 3 on ultra? 60fps, even during those cutscenes where Vaas gets up in your face. Max Payne 3? Fuhgettaboutit, locked 60, max settings at 2560x1600. Head-trauma has never looked so clear. The Witcher 2? Give me a break! Crysis 3? Oh yeah baby, maximum settings. That game isn't even very good and I'll still play it for an hour or two just to marvel at how amazing all the dudes' faces look.

It won't be too long before a new game makes you bump texture quality down from ultra to high. So, enjoy it while it lasts.

10. When you close up the case and decide that you're finished.

You'll probably spend your first few hours of new-PC ownership with the case wide open, installing software and making sure everything runs properly. But eventually, there will come a point where you're finished.

(At least, you're finished until you decide you want to upgrade.)

You spend a few minutes organising your cables behind the motherboard, tying down cords and tucking away unused connectors. You'll push the side panels on, realising that the transparent left panel on your case is actually way cooler than you thought it would be. You'll connect all the cables to the back of your rig, and slide it into place beside your desk.

You'll press the power button one more time, sit back, and pause to observe your creation in its natural habitat.

The 10 Best Things About Building A New Gaming PC

Life is good. You have a new gaming PC.

Pictures: Shutterstock, Newegg, Tek Syndicate, HomePCBuilder


Comments

    I quite proud and disgusted with how accurate that list is for me :p

    I think you mean "The moment when you press the power button and nothing works." :P
    I've built thousands of PC's, and so often you get it all plugged in connected, setup and then hit the power and no post :D

    *note* Thousands is accurate not an exaggeration, my first job for 2 years was as a PC builder.

    Last edited 16/07/14 1:36 pm

    Relevant to @powalen's current interests.

      11. Playing the damn Steam games that I've bought over the years but couldn't run.

        I just bought about 100 games in the last sale, all through a laptop that won't play half of them. Starting to think I might need a new PC.

    Wish I had some video, but when I built my last computer, I plugged in, switched on the PSU, then hit the power button, only to see a huge plume of smoke...
    After bypassing all switches and buttons and just ripping out the power cable in a panic, I learnt my lesson - Always plug your fans in the right way! Had the fan connector upside down and the wire heated up and cooked the plastic coating.

      So thats where Halt and Catch Fire came from

    Spending 6 hours downloading updates to windows, and all your "cloud" shit.

      .... then spending the next week filling your "unfillable" new drive space with Steam games you bought years ago and haven't played... and still won't play.

    C'mon Kirk... Fessup. You bought that Titan didn't you?

    Enjoy your new beast, and bathe in all it's frame crushing glory.... For 6 months until newer versions of all your parts come out :)

      Titan has been out-dated since the 780 came out. If he got one now, we'd be all lol'ing.

        That was a Titan Z, the new nVidia dual-gpu card going for AUD$3,800. So it outbenches a single 780 a bit. Saying that, if you got a Titan Z instead of an R9 295X2 for games you'd be equally worthy of ridicule, so your sentiment stands.

    What pc case is that at the end and in the gif? loooks sweet :)

    Number 9 is the best one. Finally being able to play a game at a buttery smooth 60FPS and setting everything to maximum.

      The funny thing is, when it's a game you had some experience playing before, it's actually worse to play for awhile at first because you got used to moving around and adjusting to the frame drops and the environment can be overwhelming with all of the extra detail, particles, fancy blending effects and what not.

      It seems to silly to complain but this happens to me every time lol. Almost like it's running too fast for you.

    This forgets the best part of PC building, the improvising you might have to do. Like when your GPUs all sag onto each other because even though ASUS wrote "quad-SLI" all over the box, they didn't really give you enough clearance on each of the PCI-e slots. So you end up hoisting them up with a zip tie to the roof of your case. Or taking a dremel to your case when a 480mm rad doesn't fit.

      Or your new GPU doesn't fit in the case.

      http://tehstickman.com/2013/tech/gpu-upgrade-a-tale/

    I'm about to build my new PC now, i have just bought the case, Mobo and PSU and waiting for delivery in the next couple of days.

    The CPU, RAM, HDD and SSD will come in my next few pays, i'll recycle my GTX 680 until i save up for two GTX 780's, It's a build as i go system so hopefully it should be done in a few months.

    The specs i am aiming for are -

    Case - NZXT Phantom mid tower.
    Mobo - Asus Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1
    PSU - Cougar CMX V3 1000w Modular
    CPU - i7 4790k @ 4.0GHz
    Cooler - Corsair H90 liquid cooling
    RAM - 16Gb G-Skill Ripjaws
    GPU - 2 EVGA GTX 780 Superclocked
    HDD - 2TB, SSD - 256Gb

    Edit*** i just got an email from PC Case gear saying that the Aerocool case i ordered has no ETA so i had to change cases. What pisses me off is that they sent the email so late and now have to wait until tomorrow for it to be sent.

    Shopping online might be cheaper but is it sometimes as convenient as shoppping in store?

    Last edited 16/07/14 6:21 pm

      Sounds awesome, EVGA is releasing a 6GB model of the 780 soon might be worth checking out.

        Yeah, Gainwald have a 6GB 780 available.

        No point, the 780 only has a 384 bit Memory bus which mostly renders the additional vram useless, the 6gb model is a marketing gimmick (responding to concerns that AMD performs better at higher res due to more vram. true but mostly inconsequential improvements at sub 4k res) and unless you're playing above 1440p will not give you much if any tangible performance benefit.

        Last edited 16/07/14 10:21 pm

      If your just gonna use it for gaming the i7 is a little extreme
      only difference between i7 and i5 is hyper threading and most games don't even utilise that.

      also (and correct me if I'm wrong) I find that 1 mid price card will do well and that 2 GPUs are almost always unnecessary, I bought a AMD 5770 for $150 at least 3 years ago and its only just starting to show its age.

        Also 16GB ram is overkill.

          Nah, it's not. 8GB is plenty for gaming-only, but 16GB is sweet-spot if you do any other 'work' on it.

        Does it matter?

          This is exactly the point about building a PC ^

          It may not be needed, it may not be necessary, it may even be more expensive.

          But hell its BIG and SHINY and NEW and EXPENSIVE and HELL, who are you to tell me what to do.

          If you have a budget then yes.
          If you got boat loads of cash then go crazy.

    Locking that tension arm ugh was the biggest heart stopping moment

    Perfect timing with this article, just had all my parts delivered for my steam machine and was feeling too lazy to start putting it together until I read this.

    For me one of the best things about building a new PC is that new PC smell. It brings back the joyous memories of previous new PC builds. That smell may actually be a mix of plastic and sweat shop worker tears but to me it smells like pure happiness.

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