Tips for a first-time PC build?

Yo yo.  My computer is pretty much seeing its end days lately, and I'd like to replace it before it kicks the bucket.  I've always heard it's a better option to piece your PC together than to go through a company, but... I have absolutely no clue where to start.  I know a couple people who can help me build it physically for a few bucks, but I have no idea what things I need to buy.  I've read guide after faq after youtube video and everything just completely goes over my head.

So, how about you lot of tech-savvy folks?  I'm looking to run a few particular titles on upper-end settings with more than decent FPS (WoW, Warframe, and Guild Wars 2).  I'm really tired of having 40 fps in a dead area and 16 fps when people start doing things :(  What would you suggest to do, and do you know where a total newbie may find some solid advice?
[2:41:24 AM] Kenway: I bet you smell like evergreen trees and you could wrestle boreal mammals but they'd rather just cuddle you


  • PC Part Picker is an excellent resource. It will bring any compatibility problems to you attention as well as mine the net for the lowest prices available.

    I've got a thread for my build floating around on the forums somewhere. Basically what I did was choose a CPU and base my build off of that.

    My biggest piece of advice is to not short yourself. I had many many people tell me 8Gb was more than enough memory, but I ended up going with 16Gb. Absolutely needed it to run modded Minecraft on great settings.
  • Oh hey.  One last ditch effort before bed turned up this:

    leading into this how-to video on the build itself: 

    And this combo deal thingy to score all the parts:

    Like I said, I don't know crap about computers.  Does that build look solid?  Are there any changes you'd suggest?  I wanna keep about an 800$ price point.  :(
    [2:41:24 AM] Kenway: I bet you smell like evergreen trees and you could wrestle boreal mammals but they'd rather just cuddle you
  • This (and the following 4 parts) is a good place to start, and links to several other good guides/resources. This also seems good (in particular, it goes into more detail on managing cables, which is helpful).

    Choosing parts is the hardest aspect of building a computer, actually putting the parts together once you have them is easy (in my opinion), except maybe if you get a tiny/cluttered case that you can barely fit everything into so you don't have much room to work in. I would recommend trying to do it yourself, or at least watching while someone else does it. That way you know where everything is and how it fits together and you don't need to have someone help every time you want to replace or upgrade parts, or for simple maintenance/cleaning.

    One thing that most guides don't mention is that cases (especially cheap ones) tend not to come with any sort of instructions or information, so there may be parts that you aren't sure of the purpose of, or there might be removable parts that don't look removable at first. There may also be parts of the case that you have to physically break off (I needed a hammer when assembling mine), such as coverings for the various ports on the back.
  • JonathinJonathin Retired in a hole.
    I used to just go with the barebones kits and work up from there.
    I am retired and log into the forums maybe once every 2 months. It was a good 20 years, live your best lives, friends.
  • when putting your cpu in your motherboard, you'll have to force it a bit and you'll hear audible compression. pleasant to hear when dealing with a tiny thing with fragile pins that costs ~$300.
    And as he slept he dreamed a dream, and this was his dream.
  • edited June 2015
    Hey! I actually built a system for the first time just this month and it was an absolute blast. This is what it looked like inside and outside. I later had a GPU added on as I got it a little later than most of the parts. For reference, this $400 system (had to buy Windows) can play GW2 in World vs. World at medium settings at a stable 30+ FPS. Here's what I have, for reference:

    CPU: Intel Pentium G3258 3.2GHz Dual-Core Processor  ($64.95 @ NCIX US) 
    Motherboard: ASRock H81M-HDS Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard  ($54.99 @ Mwave) 
    Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 Memory  ($69.98 @ OutletPC) 
    Storage: Western Digital BLACK SERIES 500GB 2.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive  ($54.99 @ SuperBiiz) 
    Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB Video Card 
    Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 USB 3.0 MicroATX Mid Tower Case  ($34.99 @ Directron) 
    Power Supply: EVGA 500W 80+ Certified ATX Power Supply  ($36.99 @ SuperBiiz) 
    Total: $316.89
    Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
    Generated by PCPartPicker 2015-06-04 07:36 EDT-0400

    You can save a lot of money by buying used and one generation earlier parts. At the bare minimum, the two items that you must buy new are your power supply and your hard drive/solid state drive. If you have a local computer store near you, you can also save on shipping by buying stuff directly from them, but always check if they have prices comparable to other sellers.

    In terms of where to buy, you cannot go wrong with Newegg or any of the Preferred Merchants in PCPartPicker. As @Jacen said, that site is absolutely great to plan out your build as it automatically checks if your parts are compatible. Don't forget to buy an anti-static bracelet!

    You absolutely only need a screwdriver - at worst, you need two sizes of screwdriver. You should also look at the video @Kuy mentioned to get a feel of how putting the stuff in works. Investing in a modular power supply is worth it, seriously (learned that the hard way). Assembly can take around four to six hours depending on your parts - I took four and a half hours to finish.

    Also, never hesitate to ask for help - there are a lot of PC building communities out there, and they really help since there's a lot of stuff that you really can't be sure on. Also, PCPartPicker sometimes doesn't catch all incompatibility issues, so it's always good to have someone who knows their stuff look over your part list before you commit.

    Good luck!

    League of Legends: IA ROCKS (NA)
    Guild Wars 2: erasariel.1532 - Devona's Rest (NA)
    Final Fantasy XIV: Novi Selea - Cactuar (NA)
    Achaea: Erasariel (duh!)
  • Don't cheap out on the graphics card, and don't blow your load on a new high end processor.

  • CPU means almost nothing for gaming unless we are talking massive simulations. Save money here. Nothing wrong with an i3 in a gaming rig.

    Graphics card is king, though don't ever buy top of the range. AMD R9-270 and up are decent buys at great prices. Look for at least 2GB GDDR to help with modern textures (The main reason why games started going from 5GB to 30GB is 4K textures)

    RAM is cheap, go 8GB minimum, make sure you fill your channels correctly to get the most speed out of them.

    SSD is one of those thing you never knew you needed until you have it. Can pick up a 256GB one for pretty decent prices these days and it should be enough for OS plus a good amount of games. Then add a Magnetic drive of your choice for larger storage space. Always put your OS on its own partition, makes reinstalling that much simpler.

    Power supply, do not go for multi-rail, it is a waste unless you fill each rail to the max. I would suggest an 850W that will last you 5+ years as you upgrade.

    Buy a good case and it will last you a decade. Larger towers to grow into are a solid choice, good quality and not too flashy (Flashy cases tend to look tacky over time when 5 years later you realise that chrome spikes and plastic clip-on accents were just a phase you were going through). Something sleek but not boring. Something like the one below.

  • MorkadoMorkado Seattle, WA
    Also, I have to disagree that multi-threading won't help a gamer out. If your operating system takes advantage of it, you WILL see a benefit. While it's true that your GPU handles the bulk of the graphics processing workload while, say, playing a game, it's still going to be giving and receiving instructions to and from the CPU stack. Sure, if all you're doing is playing a single game at one time, you probably can't see any difference, but if you're more like me -- running World of Warcraft (with multiple add-ons) , League of Legends (with add-ons), watching a Twitch stream, playing music in the background, talking on Skype, with maybe 8+ browser tabs open -- then you start to notice a difference.

    That said, an i3 or i5 are both great processors and probably more than sufficient for your purposes.
  • What the hell with people only selling all-in-one systems or laptops these days?

    Im going to hijack this thread in a day or two.
  • Oh, another tip.

    Do NOT buy a case that requires a screwdriver to open. You will be needing to clean your case once a week to make sure your parts last as long as possible. If you don't clean it frequently like I did, your $300 GPU will overheat frequently enough to destroy itself after 3 years, and then you will be pissed, buy a pre-built desktop for the same amount of money as the parts you built your PC with 3.5 years ago and end up with a slower computer and regret the $900 you spent. Not that this happened to me a few weeks ago.

  • I would never advice a Pentium dual core, that is pushing too low. Can get by just fine on an i3 with the games stated (Never had any stutter on Evil Within or DA Inquisition on my i3) but of course having a bit more oomph is nice and future proofs you better. Just about what you are willing to spend.

    Keep in mind you can always bump up the CPU later as the i5 will also work on the motherboard. The new generation high end i3 chips are good value though.

    Only place where I do start feeling the strain with an i3 is stuff like Cites Skylines when the city starts getting very big.

  • Oh this is also one of the best resources you can find and they update regularly. Have a look, just work out the exchange rate to see what you should be looking at. They drill down on each choice and explain why they chose that particular part.


    In your $800 range you should look at these builds.

  • AktillumAktillum Philippines
    Arador said:
    I would never advice a Pentium dual core, that is pushing too low. Can get by just fine on an i3 with the games stated (Never had any stutter on Evil Within or DA Inquisition on my i3) but of course having a bit more oomph is nice and future proofs you better. Just about what you are willing to spend.
    Yeah I3 is a great choice for OP's game list. My post wasn't calling out the I3, just the bit where you said said CPU means almost nothing for gaming. I was once dumb enough to pair a $200 GPU (an HD 7870) with a Pentium dual core in a pre-built Dell computer, and complain about stuttering in online Battlefield 3... :(

    But again @Kuy if you can shoot for an I5, do it.

  • MorkadoMorkado Seattle, WA
    Yeah, if your GPU pushes instructions to the stack faster than your CPU (or your front-side bus) can handle, then you will observe a stutter, at least. Though modern Intel's (modern motherboards) use DMI 2.0 or HyperTransport or QuickPath Interconnect, in which case, opting for something as low end as a Pentium Dual Core is quite literally akin to shooting yourself in the foot. You don't have to go overboard, but I would avoid handicapping yourself as well. Take advantage of newer technology where you can. On that note, I highly recommend...

    Solid state drives
    DDR4 or better RAM (Properly channeled)
    Windows 10 (DirectX12 is nice!!!)

  • Definitely sink money into an i3 if you can afford it! I already was breaking my (really low) budget so I wasn't able to grab one - might update it in a couple years. In the meanwhile, I heard that the chip I have is great for overclocking so I might do that sometime!

    League of Legends: IA ROCKS (NA)
    Guild Wars 2: erasariel.1532 - Devona's Rest (NA)
    Final Fantasy XIV: Novi Selea - Cactuar (NA)
    Achaea: Erasariel (duh!)
  • All you really need is a laptop that can handle extensive amounts of text, and runs Mudlet! Forget all those other fancy games you mentioned. 
  • Zuko said:
    All you really need is a laptop that can handle extensive amounts of text, and runs Mudlet! Forget all those other fancy games you mentioned. 
    Pffft i run an i5 3570k with dual 660's in SLI . no mudlet lag.
  • Zuko said:
    All you really need is a laptop that can handle extensive amounts of text, and runs Mudlet! Forget all those other fancy games you mentioned. 
    Laptop keyboards are for plebs, how do you even egghunt without a number pad to map directional movement and squinting to?
  • edited June 2015
    In case you're still building this thing, I would add a few notes:

    1) Putting together a computer is 99% "put the round peg in the round hole", but there are a couple of unintuitive things. If you have a friend who's done it before, have them over or even have them help via skype and it'll reduce headaches quite a bit. Of particular note are the process of attaching the cooler to the CPU (specifically of how to do the thermal paste - which is absolutely crucial (and personally I always spring a few bucks for some Arctic Silver 5 rather than using the often crappy paste they include with coolers)) and of dealing with the front-panel connectors on the motherboard (and setting any jumpers, though usually you won't need to do that anymore). It's useful to have someone to tell you "Yes, you actually do need to push the RAM that hard into the slot to get it to seat." to save time and "No, you shouldn't have to press down on the CPU at all to get it to seat." to prevent breaking things (I imagine Ellodin was talking about levering down the thing that holds the CPU in place, which is another thing that takes more force than you would think).

    2) There was a period of time where CPU didn't matter much for games. Now things are more complicated. Look up the games you like to play. There are a number of recent games that are outrageously CPU-bound in a way you probably wouldn't expect. Both BF4 and GW2, for instance, are surprising CPU hogs. Definitely focus on the GPU, but consider the CPU too, depending on what games you're looking to optimize toward. Since you mention GW2, don't skimp too much.

    3) I wouldn't worry too much about threading unless you really multitask while playing games - there are still too many games that aren't threaded in any real way and even two cores is likely to be mostly fine for multitasking/OS functions while playing games.

    4) Be wary of assuming you can just upgrade the CPU later. The CPU is typically the least easily upgraded part since sockets change so often. You can just about always slot in a new GPU, but typically, the only time you'll be inclined to upgrade the CPU (when there's one that's better enough than your current one to justify the price), you'll need to upgrade the motherboard too because the newer one will use a different socket. If PCs move to a newer RAM standard, you might end up buying new RAM too. This doesn't mean go crazy buying a really expensive CPU, but it does bear mentioning.

    5) Buy lots of RAM. You can never have too much memory and memory is stupidly cheap. When you put in new RAM, you generally want to match the sticks (as closely as possible - the ideal scenario is to get sticks from the same production batch, which is what most kits will give you). What this means is that if you buy 6GB of memory right now and, next year, you decide you want 16, you can't just go buy 10 more and slot them in (or at least you shouldn't - mixing them might work, but the problem is that it also might not, then you're out money on RAM that doesn't work and/or have to deal with RMA). Do yourself a favor and just get a bunch upfront - 16GB is only $100 anymore, and that should be enough for quite a while.

    6) It's cost-prohibitive to put everything on an SSD right now, but if you can afford a smallish SSD along with a normal HDD for bulk data, you can keep windows and/or a few games on it and that can make a huge difference in how fast you feel everything is. Mechanical hard drives are orders of magnitude slower than any other component in your PC, so they're pretty frequently the bottleneck. Developers know this, so they typically load everything into RAM well before it's needed, but the loading process (and the boot process) is astoundingly faster with an SSD. Adding an SSD last year resulted in the most noticeable improvement to my PC in like a decade.
  • MorkadoMorkado Seattle, WA
    Arctic Silver 5 is a must. Well done for remembering this overlooked tidbit of advice, Tael. :)
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