How to Build a Gaming Computer

by Jennifer Claerr

Building a gaming computer is easier than you might think. A custom-built gaming computer is less expensive than one you would purchase off-the-shelf, and is also tailored to your personal gaming needs. Read on to learn how to build a gaming computer.

Check the system requirements of the games you intend to play. You will need to purchase the parts for the games with the highest system requirements.

Find a good retailer for purchasing the parts of your gaming computer. Read plenty of reviews not only for the store you wish to purchase your hardware from, but also for the hardware itself.

Purchase the CPU separately from the motherboard. If you think you might upgrade the CPU in the future, the motherboard should be able to take a faster CPU than the one you've chosen. Your motherboard should have multiple PCI upgrade slots, as well as a PCI express or AGP slot. Also make sure that it has as many USB ports as you will need for various devices such as an Internet access point, a mouse and a joystick.

Follow your motherboard manufacturer's instructions for purchasing RAM rigorously. For example, if the motherboard manufacturer says you need 240-pin DDR3 SDRAM DIMMs, of 1 Gigabyte each, with a speed of 1333, 1066 or 800 MHz you must purchase RAM which fits these specifications exactly. Purchasing the wrong RAM will result in your computer failing to operate. You will need at least 1 to 2 Gigabytes of memory to play most graphics-intensive games effectively.

Purchase the largest and fastest hard drive you can afford. In most cases, you will want a SATA drive. Avoid SCSI drives, which don't offer much additional performance for their high price tag.

Purchase a PCI Express video card if your motherboard supports the specification. Otherwise, get an AGP card. You'll want to at least get the graphics card which supports most demanding game. The most common choices are nVidia GeForce and ATI Radeon. Look for GPU speed, graphics memory and which version of Pixel Shader the card supports.

Get an audio card which meets your needs. If you play 3D games, you may need a sound card which processes 3D sound. You may also need a special sound card to support other devices, such as MIDI devices, special headphones, special speakers or input devices.

Select a case which will house all of your internal devices. Make sure your case and motherboard have the same form factor. Pay special attention to whether or not any of your internal devices have front-facing panels, as you will need to purchase a case which can hold these. You will need a power supply of at least 300 watts to power your unit. You may also need a CPU cooling fan if you have a particularly fast processor.

Choose a CD-ROM and/or DVD-ROM drive for your computer. There are many combo drives which will fit the bill. Whatever you do, make sure you get a rewritable drive with plenty of speed. Then you can ensure your games will play properly, and that you will be able to burn any necessary files to disk.

Select your monitor. Whether you go with LCD or CRT, you will thank yourself for getting a large flat screen monitor. For more advanced gaming, you can get speaker systems with four or more speakers which will greatly enhance your game play. Also, you will need a mouse and keyboard for your computer. You may also need a joystick or headphones, a DSL or cable modem, a router, or a wireless access point if you're planning to play games on the Internet. You will also need an operating system to run your computer.

Assemble your gaming computer, using extreme caution. Start with installing the CPU, heat sink, cooling fan and RAM on the motherboard. Then install the power supply in the case. Install the motherboard and connect it to the power supply. Install any front-facing devices. Install any cards in the upgrade sockets. Next install the hard drive, CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives. Connect peripheral devices only after all internal parts have been fully installed. Power on your gaming computer and troubleshoot as necessary.

Tip

  • check Refer to your manuals throughout the building process for specific instructions on how to connect components.

Warnings

  • close Always ground yourself on an unpainted portion of the computer chassis, or put on an anti-static wrist strap, before installing any computer component.
  • close Hold all cards by their edges and take care that you do not touch any metal part of the cards.
  • close Avoid allowing screws or screwdrivers to come in contact with any computer component.
  • close Keep magnetic devices away from the computer components.
  • close Work on a table over a surface without carpet.

About the Author

Jennifer Claerr is a web writer who has written for online sites such as Demand Studios, NBC5i.com, Texas.com and PC.com. She has a degree in art from the University of Texas at Arlington. She writes on a variety of topics, including holidays, health and fitness, travel, computers and art.