Tuesday, March 21, 2023

How to Build a PC (2021): Hardware Suggestions, Instructions, etc.

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If you have been blame yourself for not doing anything productive during quarantine, no. Sometimes nothing is exactly what you need. Other times, it’s good to do something with your own hands. That’s the subject of this guide: how to build a PC from scratch.

It can be intimidating for many reasons: it’s expensive, it’s complex, it can get complicated. But I want to be clear: if you can build an Ikea table, shelf, bed, or whatever comes in more than one of those underwhelming flatpacks, you can build a PC.

Update January 2021: We added new material in each category.

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What do you need?

Regardless of your level of experience, you should use PCPartPicker. It not only has everything you need to buy, but it also allows you to build your PC piece by piece right on the website, making sure all your hardware will work well together. It even has a few sample versions that you can change to your liking if you want.

No matter what type of PC you build (home office or gaming), the components you need will be the same. You will need a motherboard, processor (central processing unit), storage, memory, power supply, case, and monitor. The only thing you might not need if you primarily use this PC for home office tasks is a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), but it is needed for photo or video editing and gaming. It’s a lot of things. Here’s a quick rundown of what each component does, along with some hardware recommendations.


All other components plug into this PCB. It is the highway they use to communicate and collaborate. They come in different sizes and configurations, and each one looks a little different, but they all perform the same function.

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Processor (CPU)

It’s the brain of your computer. It connects directly to the motherboard and is the most important component of your PC. But that doesn’t mean it has to be the most expensive. We will come back to this later. If the processor doesn’t mention thermal grease inclusion, be sure to get some as well. This one will do.

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Graphics card (GPU)

If you play games on this PC, you will need a graphics processing unit, or GPU (also known as a graphics card). It is a specialized processor designed and optimized to handle visual data such as graphics in games. It is also used in video and photo editing, and other graphics-intensive tasks. These cards are hard to find in stock (or reasonably priced) right now, so you might have to wait a bit.

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  • MSI GeForce GTX 1660: This one is a good choice for low budget games.

  • MSI Radeon RX 570: The RX 570 gets a bit long in the tooth, but it’s a great buy for low budget builds.

  • MSI GeForce RTX 2060: If you’re looking to get into mid-to-high-end gaming, this card strikes a good balance between power and price. If you can find the newer 3060 TI or 3070 models, those are also great options.

  • Radeon RX 6800 XT: If you’re going all out, the RX 6800 XT is my top pick right now. It’s a GPU beast that can handle anything you throw at it. same Cyberpunk 2077.

Storage room

This is your PC’s walk-in closet. This is where you store all your files, games, movies, documents, photos, your everything. You can always add more storage later if you need to.

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  • WD Blue 1TB Internal SSD: It’s fast, with lots of storage space.

  • Samsung 980 Pro M.2 SSD: Samsung’s M.2 drives are always a good choice. They’re fast, durable, and super tiny (they’re about the size of an eraser stick), so they can pair with just about any other internal SSD you want. Most motherboards have an M.2 slot either on the front of the card or on the back, and you don’t even have to worry about cables.

  • Samsung 970 EVO M.2 SSD: The EVO line is cheaper but a little slower. It’s always a great buy for any build. If you are on a budget I would go with the EVO.

RAM memory)

You’ll see a lot of the same terms when you look at memory and storage, but they’re quite different. Memory is more like that table that you throw things at to process later. It is scrap paper; it’s short term. This is very important, however, because the software uses memory to cache (temporarily store) the data in a place where it can be retrieved very quickly.

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Power Supply (PSU)

Your power supply is a small box that maintains electricity to each component. It determines the speed and power of your PC. The faster it is the more energy it needs and you always want to have a little more of it than you need, just in case. Much like GPUs, PSUs are also a bit hard to find at the moment.

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Your case is exactly what it looks like. It’s a metal box. It can be covered with glass panels and etched aluminum, but inside it’s just a large metal box that holds everything together.

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  • Corsair Obsidian Series ATX Full Tower: There are many different types of cases, some are very small, some are huge. And your decision will ultimately depend on the design you like as much as anything else. If you’re not sure what to buy, this one from Corsair is great for your first build. Other case makers we love are NZXT, Fractal, Phanteks, Cooler master, and Lian li.

  • NZXT H710i ATX mid-turn: This is one of my favorites. It has a sleek aesthetic and a slightly compact silhouette without compromising cooling capacity or accessibility.

Operating system

One thing to remember is that when you build a PC, Windows isn’t automatically included. You will need to purchase a Microsoft license or another seller and create a USB key to install it.

Put it all together

We’re not going too far into the weeds here, as each PC’s internal components are a little different, but in general, here’s how you should go about putting all of those components together.


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