Building or buying your own PC is pretty much the zenith of PC gaming. We all love that guilty moment we put our money where our mouth is and splash out on a build. The how and why we get there is different for everybody though, and that's why have hundreds of thousands of different PC build configurations represented here on GD.
Everyone has different priorities, and most of us have limited cash. When we build our PCs we're willing to spend more on certain components than others, depending upon which is the most important to us. Here we'll not only be running down a complete checklist of all the PC components you'll be needing in a built, but we'll also have a run-down of the order of importance, from myself and Felix.
Building Your Own PC - Complete Component Checklist
When buying all of your internal PC components, you always have to be mindful of the size of the case they are going in. PC chassis vary from console-like living room boxes all the way up to huge towers capable of fitting mammoth cooling systems, multiple graphics cards and ample storage.
The central processing unit, as the name implies, is where the bulk of your computer’s basic functionality will occur. Often likened to as the brain of a PC, your choice can have a large impact on both gaming and general computing performance. Multi-core processors are now the norm, the use of which will change from program to program.
Depending upon where you live and what you plan to do with your CPU, a CPU cooler can be a vital component. As you’d expect, this is responsible for cooling your processor, and it’s particularly handy for overclockers looking to extract a little more power out of their systems.
For those coming over from console, or for specific genres, a gamepad can be a must. These come in all sorts of varieties, but the most commonly used gamepads come from Microsoft and Sony. The same console controllers that work with PlayStation and Xbox also work with PC, including the Xbox 360 controller, Xbox One controller, the DualShock 3 and the DualShock 4.
The growling engine of any gaming PC, the graphics card does the lion’s share of visual processing. In terms of your gaming experience, this is the single component which will have the greatest impact on performance. Prices reflect this, ranging from extremely modest for lower-tier cards, all the way up to $1000+ for the best of the best.
The ultimate in large-scale storage, the ever-popular hard-drive stores data on a series of rapidly spinning discs. Hard drives vary in size both physically and with the amount of data they can store on them. Nowadays a 3 terabyte hard drive can be had for less than $100.
If the sound of traffic rumbling past your window is enough to pull you out of jungle rampage in Far Cry, then a set of headphones is the answer. The benefits of headsets over speakers are cheaper, easier to set up surround sound, all while taking up less space a lot of the time. The downside is headsets can make gaming a bit of a solitary experience.
Probably even more so than the mouse, the keyboard is one of the primary ways users can interact with their PC. Long gone are the days of bog-standard keyboards, and now there’s also sorts of variations depending on your needs. Keyboards can be tailored towards eSports players or MMO fans, and even shrunk down for use on laps.
Memory, which is typically ram, is a volatile data storage solution designed to be access by your processor for quick data storage. High speed memory can allow often-used data to be accessed more readily, and a shortage of it is a significant factor in poor gaming performance. DDR3 and the new DDR4 are the current standards.
This one should be fairly obvious. The monitor provides a visual display of what your PC executing. Monitors come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the higher the resolution, the greater the number of pixels your PC needs to push.
The beating heart of a PC, the motherboard is the central hub through all of your other components interact, both internally and externally. The motherboard needs to match the socket of the processor you intend to buy, or vice versa. These can also include other niceties such as USB ports, wi-fi, audio chips and LAN support.
Don’t let anyone fool you, the mouse is the ultimate tool for gaming success. The ultra-high resolution of modern gaming mice make these the most accurate tools in a gamer’s arsenal, allowing lightning-quick reactions and actions, all with the flick of a wrist.
The dreaded operating system. You can spend all the money in the world on your beast of a gaming rig, but it’s all for naught without an operating system. Operating systems vary from free to $100+, and each comes with its own set of benefits and compatible games. Choices include Windows, Mac OS, Linux and Chrome OS.
There’s no denying the number of uses for an optical drive has waned over the years, but these are the components you’re going to need if you want to use all those old game discs you’ve got lying around. Likewise, if you want to run Blu Ray discs through your PC, you will a BD optical drive.
Without a power supply, you’re really not going to achieve anything. The PSU needs to provide enough watts to power your entire PC tower, including the motherboard, CPU, cooling and the ultimate power hog - the graphics card. The total wattage needed differs depending on just how powerful the PC is.
For many users, hard drives just don’t cut it any more. Solid State Drives (SSDs) are far faster than their hard-drive counterparts, delivering far quicker game loading times and near instantaneous system boot-up. The downside is the price. A 1TB SSD will set you back in the region of $350, while the same size hard drive can be had for just $50.
While some monitors come with built-in speakers, if you want a higher quality audible experience then speakers are a must. These can range from integrated audio all the way up to booming surround sound, providing a more immersive gaming experience.
If you’re going to be overclocking your hardware to extreme speeds, then watercooling is the way to go. Watercooling keeps components at cooler temperatures than air cooling, and also lengthens their lifespans.
Often overlooked, but if you’re going to be moving your PC around your house much, wireless network card is a must. This is typically achieved using Wi-Fi PCI cards, USB Wi-Fi adapters, or found on certain integrated motherboards. It allows your computer to connect to the network wirelessly, rather than using an ethernet cable stretching from your router to your PC.
PC Upgrade Priorities
- Graphics Card - Come on, how could it be anything else? While the graphics card isn’t necessarily the component I’ll spend the most on, it’s still the thing I want to get right first. Luckily the graphics card doesn’t really dictate the rest of the build, being as it is one of the first components likely to be upgraded.
- Case - Glancing over at Felix’s list, I can’t help but feel a bit vain. I think I spend far too much time staring at my PC, which is why the case is all-important. I’m not one for flashy lights, just something nice, small and simple that can fit into my front room.
- CPU - The processor is really important to me because it’s one of the areas I want to think long-term. If a new processor family is coming on a new socket, I’ll definitely hold out any wait.
- Gamepad - I’ve spent my life umming and ahhing over which I prefer, but eventually I settled on gamepads for the majority of my gaming. What can I say, I love sofas. A decent gamepad is really important to me, and it’s why I’m keeping an eager out for the Steam Controller.
- Motherboard - There’s nothing sexy about a motherboard, whatever ASRock’s latest zoomed-in pics try and make you think, but this can be one headache-inducing component that demands attention. Choose the wrong one and you’re upgrade path is screwed, choose the right one and you’ve got years of life in your new build.
- Monitor - For me, gaming’s all about those otherworldly sights and sounds you just don’t see in everyday life. And FIFA. When I’m thinking about a window into this virtual world, this is a fairly high priority. It doesn’t matter how capable your rig is, if the screen’s poor quality then it’s for nothing.
- Hard Drive - SSDs are all well and good, but when it comes to storage I’m all about quantity. Waiting 30 seconds for a PC to boot really doesn’t bother me.
- Power Supply - Now, the power supply is really important, and if you ever ask anyone about advice for it, it’s don’t skimp. There’s all sorts of horror stories out there from dodgy PSUs, and I myself had a PC actually set alight inside from a dodgy PSU. With that in mind, I try not to bottom out with this, but I don’t exactly crave a premium one either.
- Speakers - I love me some booming sound, and investing a bit more money into some decent speakers can make gaming better than ever. Many don't give a second thought to speakers and are happy with some headphones, but there's something great about your whole desk shaking from the bass of booming explosions.
- Keyboard - Comfort is king and it's important to find the right keyboard for you. My general thing is to try a few out before I can buy if possible. The quicker it feels like I can type on it, the more natural a fit it feels for me. I'm not too bothered by the extras, just a basic layout is fine for me, but the quieter the better.
- Operating System - My modus operandi when buying a new build is - get the latest Windows operating system. Obviously some are better than others, and Microsoft hasn’t been too great with Windows 8, but I find it nice and reliable to have the latest OS with the most up to date support.
- Solid-State Drive - Waiting 30 seconds for a PC to boot might not bother me, but spawning in last in Battlefield 4 and missing every vehicle does, sadly. For this singular, admittedly minor problem, a small SSD is my next priority. Just enough for my current online games of choice.
- Mouse - I love a nice sleek mouse, but having put up with some absolute atrocities over my time, I’ve become accustomed to just making do. The majority of my gaming is with a gamepad, but when I am forced to use a mouse, it’s usually for more sedate experiences like city-builders and CRPGs.
- CPU Cooler - More so than watercooling, I’m inclined to have a CPU cooler for a bit of light overclocking. These can usually be had for fairly cheap, and with some of the unlocked CPUs you can expect some decent performance gains that can save you from upgrading.
- Headset - On the odd occasion I might use a gaming headset, but in the flat I currently live in it would be a pretty antisocial experience. Occasionally I need to be a bit quiet however, and for this, a headset is invaluable.
- Wi-Fi - It’s a nice option to have but, again, in a small flat like me, pretty much next to useless. I like my downloads to whizz down as quickly as possible, and an ethernet connection does the job just fine.
- Water Cooling - I’ve sadly never progressed to watercooling, but I’m sure it’ll come in time. Pretty much exclusively the preserve of the high-end, I’ve generally not had enough horsepower to warrant squeezing out some extra few frames with some water-cooled overclocking.
- Optical Drive - I can’t remember the last time I wanted to put a disc in my PC. You can thank Steam for that.
- Graphics Card - I prioritise the largest proportion of spend to GPU. This is the core of a gaming PC build. A GPU is a computer in itself. It has a mobo a cpu and its own ram. Obviously built specifically for gaming. So it makes sense that this is where a gamer should focus a lot of their interest.
- Motherboard/CPU - Getting the right mobo/CPU combo goes hand in hand and is next in my build list where I try to spend proportionately more than items below
- Memory - This is a simple one for me. I don't really care much for Hz, I just want enough GB (currently 16) to see me through for the foreseeable future. For me, its often a case of buying the best value sticks at the time. My next PC will have DDR4 16 GB RAM
- Solid-State Drive - I love these things. They make all software and game loads happen in a flash. They deliver a big performance boost across not just your gaming but your entire desktop experience.
- Power Supply - This needs to be solid. Its too easy to skimp in this area and have a great computer stop working on you due to a shorted cheap arse power supply. Get a quality PSUs people. Look for the bronze, silver, Gold or platinum standards
- Monitor - Pay a bit more and get a good looking screen. Obviously, this is where your eye-feast happens, so if you spend cash on getting the hardware right, you want it to look good or what's the point.
- Mouse - Your primary input device. Shut up, the keyboard is second place to the mouse. You have to do stuff to the keyboard, whereas the mouse caresses the palm of your hand, gliding you through your gaming experience, providing the connection between gamer and imagination. Getting the right balance, sensitivity, textural feel of a mouse can up your reaction time in fast twitch first person shooters or make a slow paced adventure game, a sedate pleasure. Get the right one for you and it will make a big difference. This doesn't mean spending a fortune. This is high up my list because it represents the amount of time I will spend researching the right mouse for me. Often finding a good mid range price mouse will be perfect.
- Headset - I like the idea of cupping my ears into the music and voice acting of a great game like, the Witcher 3. Get some good ear snugglers and I reckon it will make a good game great.
- Speakers - I haven't really gotten into speakers before. But I reckon I should. I reckon if I got the right speakers, just once, then I would realise that a game can become even more of a sensory spectacle than just pretty graphics alone. I am still using some speakers I bought 14 years ago. They are creative and they did cost a fair amount back then. But I think it is time to level them up.
- Keyboard - For years I have had a keyboard that is slick, and a real pleasure to use 99% of the time. Its fricking annoying as hell the other 1 percent of the time though. You see it only understands a number of simultaneous keypresses, so while my fingers effortlessly glide to the right buttons in the blink of an eye (I wrote this entire paragraph in less than 2 seconds by the way), it wont let me “sprint”, “strafe” and “jump” at the same time, because that's too many button presses at the same time. So getting a gaming keyboard will get you past this, if it matters to you.
- Operating System - Get the right OS for you. Some are free. Some offer some great gaming performance boosts and some are evil crap. Dont get the last one.
- Wi-Fi - On a few occasions when my broadband connection has been lost I quickly turn my mobile into a hotspot net connection only to realise that I foolishly didn't bother to spec up a wifi connector in my build. These things are cheap and sometimes, on a dark and stormy night, super important
- Hard Drive - Yeah I suppose you need some back up storage space, you know, for all the porn we like to download.
- Case - Dont care what it looks like, as long as it has enough USB slots and space for all me PC gubbins to breathe then I am happy.
- CPU Cooler - I don't overclock so I just run with factory standard. I didn't use to. I use to buy all sorts of fancy go faster cooler blocks but in the end it all seemed a bit of a waste of money for me.
- Water Cooling - Never tried it. Although the geek in me wants to tell people that I have a water cooled system. Maybe I should just tell people that anyway.
- Optical Drive - Definitely don't bother with this anymore. Download everything or transfer stuff via USB stick.
So that's how me and Felix prioritise our upgrades, and as you can see there's quite a few key differences between the list. This ultimately means we end up with different builds tailored to our needs.
Now it's over to you. We want to know which components are the most important to you, and what you're willing to sacrifice to boost performance elsewhere. Let us know your own upgrade priorities in the comments below!
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For me it's:
-Wifi (not something I'd bother with, but since I'm renting I've got it in my current rig)
Thats the rough order I'd go through.
I would like an advice on which GPU to get (I'm not impressed by the current models though) and a 1440p monitor model, would prefer IPS to TN.
I have DELL U2713HM for over a year, it's great 1440p 27" IPS matte-coated screen, solid quality build, matte bezel, fully adjustable stand,
currently running on GTX770 which is probably minimum for 1440p, GTX970 or better would be suitable
Here how I will go next year. :o
GPU - look for best price/performance card
CPU - looking forward to zen if not promising will get Skylake if Canonlake is pushed to 2017.
PSU - a qood quality bronze + at least 650w
MB - Depends which cpu I go, but overall a decent one and with all needed feature
RAM - if MB supports both stick with DDR3 if not going with DDR4 hope price will drop
HDD - Enough storage for other things
SDD - just enough for games
FIRST OFF SOLID CPU meaning i7
i have a i7 2600 and a good mb and unlike a e8500 or a p4 it still works
for how long will my rig work before need an upgrade??
For very, very long.
You have a high-end quad core and a middle-end GPU. The 970 is already struggling for games requiring 3.5GB+@1080p which is already common now and it's going to worsen in 2016. For medium graphics the 970 will be fine. The CPU will definitely murder this gen but likely won't make it far into next gen since Hyperthreading is not used for games. DDR3 will need to be replaced for sure. DDR4 is a massive power saver promising 4GHz bandwidth soon @1.2v, and it will be utilized eventually by laptops for explosive performance in small form factors. The rest of your parts will live for several+ years
Haha I disagree, sir. GTX 970 a middle-end GPU for medium graphics? You're kidding, right? What are GTX 960, R9 280X, 380 then? Low-end GPUs? 970 isn't struggling. It runs pretty much any game you throw at it on Ultra, Ultra-high setting at over 60fps at 1080p except AC: Unity, which runs just below 60fps on Ultra, FXAA at 1080p. Also he's running 970 in SLI.
games that have come out in recent months like Witcher 3 and GTA:5 force the 970 into 30s FPS due to VRAM issues when textures are cranked up on ultra. The GPU itself would be a tank if not for the memory issues past 3.5GB. Running SLI does not counter this effect either since VRAM is shared and not stacked. So for an example, if one 970@1080p on GTA:5 cannot max out the game on ultra then two 970's will not either since the game simply needs more VRAM and is not lacking for stream processors. Make sense? I was indicating that the VRAM would be the downfall, not the speed or quality of the GPU
Not really. I have a GTX 970 myself and I can confirm you that up until today, no game has caused any VRAM issues for me. Certainly not at 1080p. If you're referring to 970's 3.5GB issue then let me make it clear that it's not a problem unless if you push VRAM with extreme settings for e.g. like using ultra HD textures in Shadow of Mordor (which is recommended to use on a 6GB card) at 1440p resolution while downsampling from 4K resolution.
Eurogamer has put up an excellent article on this. You can read here more.
Everything maxed out in GTAV including textures and despite the textures on ultra (Very High in-game) being as heavy as AC: Unity's ultra textures that can easily cross 3.5GB even at 1080p sometimes, the actual frame-rate doesn't go below 60fps let alone 30.
Regarding witcher 3. Ask anyone here and they'll tell you that Witcher 3's even Ultra textures surprisingly is very light on the VRAM. It hardly uses anywhere near 2GB of VRAM at 1080p. Honestly I've never seen it cross 2GB. In my observation, TW3's ultra textures hover around 1.4-1.8GB at most at 1080p while still maintaining solid 60fps on Ultra setting with only foliage visibility range set to one notch below ultra.
clearly shows that when ALL FEATURES are ON EVERY GPU under the 980ti succumbs to 30FPS on 1080p at times. This isn't about max average FPS it's about the future and right now games are easily capable of reducing a 970 to unplayable frames even at 1080p so it's unrealistic to expect YEARS out of the card. THAT was his question... years of use. The answers is a flat no. 2 years tops for Ultra gaming. Antialiasing is necessary for GTA at 1080p because of all the 90 degree angles
I have Gtx 970 and I have no issues in any of the games @ 1080p.. Even AC unity works gud most of times at 60 fps with maxed out settings.. I am running GTA V maxed out ,advanced setting on , except 2 X MSAA . My GPU usage is 3783 mb my fps never goes below 55 in any case... No stutter...
that's fine without AA, but many people consider at least 4xAA for open world games bare minimum and that's why bench results often include that. Turn every sinlgle slider to its maximum. THAT IS CALLED ULTRA GAMING, not ULTRA w/2xAA or ULTRA 8X AF. ULTRA MEANS 16xAA 16xAF and EVERYTHING 100% BALLS TO THE WALL MAXIMUM. This is also about FPS minimums not maximums or averages. If a game now can crunch the 970 then expect much much worse later on. The 970 is a budget 980, note BUDGET, as in MID. Most people DESPISE FPS dips and consider steady 40FPS unacceptable otherwise the 295x2 would popula
I have another PC with GTX 980 , i7 4790k , 16 gb DDR3 ram ..even it cant keep max 60 fps steady with ultra settings in GTA V...... @ 1080p 2x and 4x AA or 8x AA will not have much difference.. Any ways with TXAA on will over ride aeveryting.....
This conversation lost its track from "will his system last years for maxed gaming" to which the answer is an obvious no for the 970
actually u r pointing out the component that will create the least problem.right now 970 can kill any game even at 1440p.
and that vram is not as issue because dx 12 will stack vram and by the time games that require 3.5 gb+ vram comes out,games will start supporting dx 12 so vram will stack anyway
whoa that is super awesome. I did not know that. So dx12 will stack VRAM for SLI/CFX. I appreciate that information man. That's music to any gamer's ears. If that's the case then the 970's in SLI have EXTREME value and will easily smoke games for a few more years
Actually,there isn't any confirmation that DX12 stacks vram.Right now,there are only rumors about the whole dx12 thing.What we do know is that dx12 is going to be epic and revolutionary.This could also be the case with Mantle.
I think I should be fine for few years :D
I think there is no need for me to upgrade my PC for another couple of years :)
On an upgrading spree right now, I am switching to an i5 4690k for some serious overclocking and a 970 cuz I'm done with SLI.
Those are my first priority. After that
-CPU Coolers & Fans
-Peripherals including Monitor
Never a fan of over-clocking so cooling aren't a problem for me :)
Priorities aside, how long will I buy able to be "ok" with gaming,guys?I don't mind reducing the resolution or tweak the graphics down a bit,as long as they are playable and look good enough.Help will be appreciated.
For 3 years probably
but hard to say, it mostly depends on what will next gen of gfx cards and new api in 2016 trigger
500 and 6000 series aged really fast as they were replaced with 600 and 7000 series which turned high end cards from previous gen to mid end cards and cut driver support (fermi/VLIW) to focus on new arch (kepler/GCN) in probably one and half year
3 years should be more than enough for me :) Its crazy that new stuff being released everyday and everything just keep getting older.Hard to keep up tbh. Was gonna buy a 290 4GB but it was out of the damn market in my country...
For me, a long term pc priorities are:
GPU is at place 5 since that need a upgrade every 2 years if you want to keep playing on ultra or if you buy used cards, to keep your games running.
Case is actually important as the mobo and stuff needs good cooling, yet the components are more important. A good mobo and cpu (+cooler)...
... cost you a lot, but that cpu could probably run 6-8 years before it will need a serious upgrade. So what I actually am saying: Keep good long term items and keep your gpu reasonable and don't get expensive gpu's. Your gpu will handle all games well, but you will be missing some great featues that new cards have.
i agree my 660 lasted me 2 years before i had to go to medium and i perfer high or better so i got a 980 this time and suprisingly enough my dinky quad core amd cpu is jamming all the next gen games with no over clocking in ultra at 1680x10
my gtx 560 was still on high at 60 until i tried watchdogs then it died this year so a gtx 980 ti because the rest of my system would surely bottleneck future gpus
I don't have an optical drive in my PC either, everything is downloaded. I do have some older games on disc but I re-bought those because they are cheap on steam or other places
Hoping after a ram upgrade to 16gb and new ssd's for storage that i will be able to maintain my build for a while. It's scary to see high end pc components become old and slow after a few years.
About the system case, mine is an old case way back 1999, but my current specs are what's inside of it. I will be upgrading to either GTX 970 or 290x soon.
Its been 4 years with my set up and still i'm good with it.
and hopefully this year i get my full upgrade of all my hardware's. :)
Had a GTX 650 1GB paired with Core i5-3330 until March this year. GPU was my main priority to upgrade. Did it. Then upgraded my PSU last month from inefficient 500W cooler master PSU to Corsair CX600. It's at least bronze certified. My previous one wasn't. And now with extra headroom in the PSU, I could overclock my GPU even further. My next priority as of now is the CPU. Looking forward to Skylake's i7 processor. It will definitely be a huge upgrade and my 970 deserves it :P
Great article. For me I wish I'd spent a bit more on a better gpu but I've been really happy with the r7 265. As for other upgrades I did my first major upgrade on cooling. I bought 2 new case fans and the cooler master hyper 212 pro evo to replace the stock AMD cpu cooler. Temps have dropped and I'm happy with my purchase. Next upgrade will most likely be a new graphics card but not for a while yet. I'll hold onto the fx 6300 for as long as possible and now with a better cpu cooler I can start to looking into overclocking. But as long as I can play Fallout 4 I'll be happy.
For my next build in the couple of years I will be getting in this order:
-Corsair 750D airflow edition
-New mainboard (whatever the cool kids use those days)
-probably ddr4 ram
-a new cpu, whatever's recommended then
-maybe a new vidcard, i'll see about it then
nice case, was one of my candidates, together with Phanteks Enthoo Pro and Luxe, but finally gone for Fractal Design Define R5 :)
1.GPU | 2. CPU | 3. RAM | 4. MB are the things i buy new. Everything else has been carried over as much as possible. My case is 15 years old. So are the 4.1 Creative speakers. The monitor was changed in 2011 from a Compaq CRT bought new, you guessed, 15 years ago, to a Dell LCD that i bought semi-new for 50€ on CashConverters. My 250GB hdd is 7.5 years old. The keyboard and mouse are brand new now, but a few months ago they were 7.5 and 2 years old respectively. I do need a new PSU then...