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What Parts Do You Need to Build a Gaming PC?

More and more people are choosing to build their own Gaming PC and it's easy to see why. You can create a gaming rig that's completely custom to you. Plus, you'll know the ins and outs of your system so you can easily upgrade it in future. So, if you want to try building a Gaming PC yourself, what parts will you need? Keep reading to find out!


Contents


Workspace and PC build tools

Before you start rushing out and buying a whole heap of components, you should first make sure you have an appropriate workspace as well as the correct tools. Trust us, having these things in place first will make a PC build so much easier!

Workspace

You’ll need a large surface to work on. There are going to be quite a few different components involved and you’ll want space to spread them out. Ideally, you should have a large flat, level table that you can use for your PC build.

Additionally, you should locate the table on an uncarpeted work surface. This will prevent accidental electrostatic discharge occurring whilst you work on your PC build.

You should also ensure that your workspace is well lit. If possible, position your desk directly under a light source or use a directional desk lamp. Some parts of the build will be a bit fiddly and will involve small screws etc, so plenty of light will make your life a lot easier.

PC build tools

For a PC build you’ll require a Phillips #2 screwdriver. This should suffice for near enough every part of the build.

Other tools that’ll come in handy include a pair of needle nose pliers (ideally with an incorporated wire cutter), zip ties for cable management, thermal paste (in case your CPU cooler doesn’t come with any), and rubbing alcohol if you think you may need to clean any parts or contacts during the build. If you’re particularly concerned about dust during your build, you should wear latex gloves and buy some compressed air too.

Tip - when selecting a screwdriver, buy one with a magnetic head. This will stop you from dropping and losing small screws.


Gaming PC Case

So, the first component you’re going to need to build a Gaming PC, is a case.

Whilst the design of the case is important, the main thing you should consider when choosing a case is the size. Cases are normally available in three sizes: full-tower, mid-tower and mini-tower.

These case sizes are not generally standardised however, but are based on motherboard sizes.

In terms of design, there are quite literally thousands of different options. You can choose to have a tempered glass side panel to show off the components inside your build, RGB lighting and more. But, before you buy one, think about where you’ll be putting your PC. If it’s going to end up under your desk for example, then you may not want to splash out on a flashy looking case.


Central Processing Unit (CPU)

Once you’ve selected your case, it’s time to start selecting the components that will make up the ‘innards’ of your system.

More than any other component, the CPU is what’ll make your Gaming PC run. The CPU is the ‘brain’ of your computer, which routes instructions from one system in your computer to another.

As with other PC components, your choice of CPU is almost unlimited. Which one you choose will largely be determined by what sort of performance you want to achieve. In other words, the better the processor, the faster it can transmit information for both software and hardware functions.

In terms of CPU brands, for many people it’s a straight choice between Intel and AMD.

When selecting a CPU for your Gaming PC, the are three things that you should be looking at:

  • • Clock speed
  • • Cores
  • • Threads

Clock speed

Clock speed is the measurement of a CPU’s processing speed. You’ll see clock speed measured in gigahertz (GHz). Clock speed refers to how many cycles a core will perform every second.

Each CPU is made up of a series of cores and threads.

Cores

A core is a CPU’s processor. Back in the early days of computing, each CPU would have a single core. Today, however, CPUs have multiple cores, each of which can be assigned a different task to work on.

Think of it like this. If you are running multiple programs, a multi-core CPU will assign a core to work on one task, whilst another core will work on another task. In other words, the more cores a CPU has, the more efficient it is.

Threads

A thread is a virtual version of a CPU core. Intel uses a process called hyper-threading and AMD uses a process called simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) (they’re both the same thing, just with different names) to break up physical cores into virtual cores (threads). Why do CPU manufacturers do this? Because a CPU with multiple threads allows two programs to run on a single core at the same time (as long as it’s not the same type of instruction). Threading is a way of making the CPU’s cores work even harder.

To hopefully make things a bit clearer, let’s take a look at some examples.

AMD CPUs with four cores use SMT to provide eight threads, while Intel CPUs with two cores use hyper-threading to provide four threads.

Traditionally, Intel’s CPUs have been recognised as having strong single-core performance, which means they are great for gaming. AMD’s CPUs have been recognised as having strong multi-core performance and affordability.

Whichever CPU you choose, you then want to look at getting the right motherboard for your Gaming PC…

Note - some CPUs come with a CPU cooler in the box. Others don’t, so you’ll need to buy a CPU cooler separately.


Motherboard

Once you’ve selected a CPU, you need to buy a compatible motherboard.

The motherboard is where all of the hardware in your computer sits. It’s a printed circuit board which houses the principal components of your PC. The motherboard allocates power and facilitates communication between the different parts of your PC such as the CPU and RAM.

As it’s the biggest board within a PC, the type of motherboard you choose will determine what size PC case you need to buy.

When selecting your motherboard, you’ll have a choice between low-end and high-end motherboards. If you plan on overclocking your CPU, then you will need to buy a high-end board:

  • • If you plan on overclocking an Intel CPU, you’ll need a K-series processor and a Z-series motherboard.
  • • If you are going to overclock an AMD CPU, you’ll need a B or X-series motherboard (all of AMD’s CPUs can be overclocked).

Once you’ve decided if you’re going to overclock your CPU or not, you’ll need to decide upon the form factor of your motherboard.

Most motherboards come in one of three sizes:

  • ATX- Measures 12 x 9.625 inches. This is the standard (and largest) size of motherboard. ATX boards are usually the best option if you want lots of features and plan on upgrading your computer in the future.
  • Micro-ATX - Measures 9.625 x 9.625 inches.
  • Mini-ITX - Measures 6.75 x 6.75 inches. This is the smallest type of motherboard and is normally used in compact and small form-factor PCs.

It’s worth noting that in addition to different sizes, the visual appearance of motherboards will vary depending on the types of ports and connectors they include. Plus, things like fan headers, M.2 connectors and the BIOS battery can be found in different places on different motherboards.


Graphics Card (GPU)

If you’re building a Gaming PC, then the GPU is perhaps the most important part of all (and it also tends to be one of the most expensive too).

To understand how a GPU works, think of it as the muscle, to the CPU’s brain.

For example, when you’re playing a multiplayer first person shooter, the CPU will be tracking the physics, other players and objects. The GPU on the other hand, takes this information and renders the actual graphics that you see on the screen. It’s the GPU that gives games their visual ‘pop’.

At this point, it’s important to point out that the CPU and GPU are essentially co-dependent. Don’t think you can buy a cheap CPU and an expensive GPU and still have a great gaming experience. The CPU needs to process what is happening in the game. If it can’t do this fast enough, then it'll throttle the performance of the GPU.

Note - it’s possible to buy CPUs that have integrated graphics capability. But, for a high-performance gaming experience, you should buy a separate CPU and GPU.

Like a CPU, when you’re buying a GPU there are several things you should look at:

Clock speed

The clock speed (along with a few other elements) determines the overall performance of a GPU. It measures how fast the cores of a GPU are and is measured in megahertz (MHz).

Put simply, it’s the job of a GPU’s cores to render graphics. So, the higher a GPU’s clock speed, the faster the processing of graphics.

VRAM

VRAM (also known as Video RAM) is a type of random access memory that is used to store image data. It’s the job of VRAM to help the GPU deliver smooth and consistent rendering of graphics.

Like normal RAM, VRAM is available in different standards - the latest one being GDDR6 which is the type of VRAM you’ll find on the latest NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards.

To give you an idea how much VRAM capacity you’ll want on your GPU, we’ve set out some performance benchmarks below:

 

VRAM Capacity Performance
4GB 4GB of VRAM is considered to be the bare minimum for graphics cards. With 4GB of VRAM you should expect decent performance in 1080p resolution with standard definition textures.
6GB 6GB of VRAM will provide you with decent performance in 1440p, or 1080p resolutions with high-definition textures.
8GB With 8GB of VRAM you’ll benefit from good performance in 4K and 1440p resolutions with high-definition textures.

 

Tip - 8GB of VRAM is now the standard for most GPUs. Buy a GPU with 8GB of VRAM if you want to futureproof your system or if you intend to upgrade to a 1440p or 4k monitor.


Memory (RAM)

Next up on your Gaming PC component shopping list should be memory.

Random Access Memory (most commonly referred to as RAM), is another important component for a Gaming PC. RAM acts as your system’s short term memory and gives your computer somewhere to store data that it needs rapid access to (although data is only stored in RAM temporarily).

Ensuring that you have sufficient RAM can help improve the performance of your CPU.

When buying RAM, most people buy it in the form of a Dual in-line Memory Module (DIMM), otherwise known as a RAM stick. These RAM sticks will fit into what’s known as DIMM slots on the motherboard.

As with VRAM that we discussed above, there are different types of RAM standards. For your Gaming PC you should make sure you buy the latest standard RAM which is DDR4 (although DDR5 RAM is now available, we wouldn’t recommend buying it as you’d need to wait for a DDR5 compatible motherboard).

As well as buying the right standard RAM, you should also make sure you buy sufficient capacity. To help you understand how much RAM you should buy for your Gaming PC, we’ve set out some performance benchmarks below:

 

RAM Capacity Performance
4GB 4GB is the absolute bare minimum amount of RAM. With this much RAM you’ll be able to complete basic computing tasks (such as web browsing and working on documents), but you’ll not really be able to do any gaming.
8GB Whilst 8GB is enough to play games, a Gaming PC with 8GB of RAM would very much be considered a budget option. You’d certainly struggle to multitask with this much RAM (e.g. play a game and have other programs open in the background).
16GB 16GB offers the perfect amount of memory for a modern, up-to-date Gaming PC. You’ll be able to play the top games and undertake some multitasking. Whilst some people might consider 16GB of RAM overkill, we think it provides the right amount of futureproofing.
32GB 32GB is more than you’ll need for almost any type of gaming. Whilst it’s nice to have more memory than you need, it’s only worth installing 32GB of RAM if you have money to spare!

 


Storage (SSD/HDD)

As well as plenty of memory to help your Gaming PC operate at it’s best, you also need somewhere to store all of your files. That’s where storage comes in.

Up until a few years ago, we’d store everything on Hard Disc Drives (HDDs). HDDs offer a significant amount of storage space at an affordable price. However, because of the way they’re constructed (an optical disc which is read by a read arm) they don't have as good data quality, or load times as SSDs.

So, what’s an SSD? A Solid State Drive (SSD) is another form of storage that uses non-volatile flash memory to store data. Because it doesn’t have any moving parts a SSD drive will offer excellent data quality and will offer much higher read and write speeds than a HDD.

For many gamers though, storage isn’t an either/or choice. They choose to buy a SSD drive and a HDD drive for their system. They store their operating system, favourite games and applications on the SSD, whilst they will store videos, films, music files etc on the HDD where loading times aren’t as important.


Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Don’t forget that you’ve got to power all of these components. So, the next component on your Gaming PC shopping list will be a power supply unit (PSU).

Probably the most important thing you should think about when buying a PSU, is the brand or manufacturer. Whilst you can get away with using cheaper versions of some components, you should definitely NOT skimp when it comes to your Gaming PC’s PSU.

Buy a cheap, potentially faulty PSU and you run the risk of frying everything in your system, costing hundreds or even thousands of pounds of damage.

So, make sure you stick to reputable PSU brands such as Corsair, Seasonic, EVGA, and similar.

When selecting a PSU you should check the following things:

  • • Wattage. It’s essential that you buy a PSU that will provide enough wattage for your system. Certain individual components use more energy than others, for example GPUs will normally list PSU requirements as part of their specifications.
  • • If you’re going to be overclocking your system, you need to take this into account when buying the PSU.
  • • Check the efficiency rating of the PSU. The majority of quality PSU manufacturers build their PSUs to meet the 80 Plus efficiency standard. This means that their PSUs will supply at least 80 percent power efficiency at 20, 50 and 100 percent load.
  • • Check the fan type of the PSU. The type of fan will determine the type of cooling you can achieve as well as the amount of noise the PSU will generate.

Operating system

Once you’ve bought all of the necessary hardware, you’ll need to decide what operating system you’d like to use on your Gaming PC.

Much of this decision will be influenced by what type of games you want to play as well as personal preference.

Windows

The most famous of all operating systems, Windows is an easy-to-use system that is installed on the majority of pre-built Gaming PC systems.

At the moment, the best version of Windows for gaming is Windows 10. Not only does it offer increased FPS figures so you can benefit from top-quality graphics, but it also comes with an XBOX app that lets you play and chat with console and PC users around the world.

Linux

Whilst Linux is a lesser-known operating system compared to Windows, it does have a very dedicated following.

Be warned though. Linux isn’t exactly user friendly. If you’ve not used it before, then you may struggle to navigate and find your way around it. You’ll also have fewer options when it comes to downloadable games. But, it is free, so if you’re on a super-limited budget Linux could be worth a try.

Here at CCL, we’d recommend sticking to Windows. Especially if you’re building your PC for gaming.


Peripherals

Aside from the tower itself and the software to run it, what else do you need? Peripherals of course! To keep it simple we’ve taken a look at the absolute core essentials that you’ll need: a keyboard, mouse and monitor.

Keyboard

If you don’t already own a keyboard, then you’ll want to buy one for your new Gaming PC build.

When it comes to choosing a keyboard, there are two main questions to answer:

  • • Wired or wireless?
  • • Mechanical or non-mechanical (membrane).

Wired or wireless is fairly self-explanatory. Do you want a keyboard that is tethered to your system, or do you prefer the freedom to be able to move around (e.g. place the keyboard on your lap when you’re gaming on the sofa)?

But, what about mechanical versus non-mechanical? What does that mean?

Well, a mechanical keyboard is a keyboard in which every key has a switch (a bit like a light switch). When you press down on each key, the switch is ‘clicked’ and relays a signal to the computer. This provides a very tactile and accurate typing experience. Because of this, many gamers prefer to use a mechanical keyboard.

Membrane keyboards on the other hand have a circuit board with a silicone membrane laid over the top. When you press down on a key, it presses down on the membrane which touches the circuit board, creating an electrical current.

Mouse

When it comes to selecting the right mouse for your computer, you’ll be able to choose between a gaming mouse and a regular mouse.

There isn’t actually a huge difference between gaming mice and regular mice. Generally speaking though, a good gaming mouse will feature an advanced laser sensor that enables you to make faster, more precise movements.

Decent gaming mice also allow for a certain level of customisation. These customisations include extra buttons for your thumb, the ability to make on-the-go adjustments to speed and sensitivity, extra-long cables and even advanced customisations such as adjustable weights or tension springs.

Tip - most of the top gaming mice are wired. Even though wireless mice only have an input delay of a few hundredths of a second, most gamers prefer to use a wired mouse.

Monitor

Arguably the most important peripheral (if you count a monitor as a peripheral) is the monitor.

If you’ve spent a considerable amount of money on a top-end GPU, then you’ll want to be able to really enjoy those amazing in-game graphics. So, getting the right monitor for your system set-up is really important.

When selecting a monitor, it’s important to buy one that is of an equivalent spec to your Gaming PC. For example, you wouldn’t want to buy a 4K monitor to go with a budget Gaming PC build - you’d simply be wasting your money.

To help you select the right monitor for your Gaming PC build, we’ve set out some guidelines in the table below:

 

Gaming PC Build Monitor Type
£500 or less 1080p/60Hz monitor
£600 - £1,000 1080p/144Hz or 1440p/60Hz monitor
£1,000 - £1,500 1080p/144Hz/240Hz or 1440p/144Hz monitor
£1,500 or more 1440p/144Hz/240Hz or 4k/60Hz monitor

 

Note - the above table is for guidance only. Your exact monitor requirements will depend on the CPU/GPU and other factors in your build.


Get building!

So there you have it! If you want to build a Gaming PC of your own and want to do it yourself these are the main components, parts and peripherals you’ll need.

Naturally, there are always going to be optional extras that aren’t listed here - but if there are any essential things that you think we should add to this list, let us know in the comments below!