If you’ve been beating yourself up about doing nothing productive during lockdown, don’t. Sometimes nothing is exactly what you need. Other times, it's nice to make something with your own hands. That's what this guide is about: how to build a PC from scratch.
It can be daunting for a lot of reasons—it's expensive, it's complex, it can get messy . But I want to be clear: If you can build an Ikea table, bookshelf, bed, or anything that comes in more than one of those deceivingly heavy flatpacks, you can build a PC. The tricky part? I can’t tell you how to build your PC. Not really. Not unless I know exactly which hardware you’re using. I can, however, explain what each component does and what my recommendations are for each category.
Updated May 2021: We’ve added new hardware in CPU, GPU, memory, and storage categories, including Intel 11th-gen Rocket Lake processors and Nvidia 30-series graphics cards.
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What Do You Need?
No matter what your experience level is, you should use PCPartPicker . It not only has everything you need to buy, it also lets you build your PC piece by piece right there on the website, making sure all your hardware will play nicely together. It even has a few example builds you can tweak to your liking.
Regardless of what kind of PC you're building ( home-office or gaming ), the components you need are going to be the same. You'll need a motherboard, a central processing unit (CPU), storage, memory, a power supply, a case, and a monitor. The only thing you might not need if you’re mostly using this PC for home-office tasks is a GPU (graphics processing unit), but it’s necessary for photo or video editing and gaming. That's a lot of stuff. Here's a little breakdown of what each component does, along with some hardware recommendations.
But before diving in, you should know that there's a worldwide shortage of PC components right now , particularly with graphics cards, and prices overall keep rising. If parts aren't available, the best advice we can give is to wait. Things will eventually get back to normal.
Every other component plugs into this circuit board. It's 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 fill the same function. One thing to look out for: Make sure you know which processor you want to go with before you buy a motherboard. Motherboards come in a couple of flavors, but the most important thing to know is what kind of socket it has.
There are basically two kinds, LGA and AM. You’ll always see them listed with a number after them, like LGA1150 or AM3. The exact numbers after the LGA and AM portions of these socket names will change over time, to indicate which generation of Intel or AMD chips they support, but the current standards as of 2021 (which will work with the latest chips from either maker) are LGA1200 for Intel and AM4 for AMD.
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