The Perfect PC: Don’t Buy It, Build It

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Before you start, get your tools are in order. Luckily, you won't need many.

To open the boxes that components arrive in, keep a box cutter or a sharp knife handy. You'll also need to cut away any cable ties that stand in the way.

Quite a few screws will accompany each of your components, and they may not be interchangeable. Keeping things organized will simplify your work. You'll need a Phillips-head screwdriver to put everything together, so be sure to have one available.

We used these nine basic steps in assembling our PC from parts.
Finally, have a few twist ties and cable ties on hand. Building a PC can be messy work, with a rat's nest of wires protruding from the power supply and plugged into your components. But besides being annoying while you're mucking about inside the case, tangled wiring can cause components to get hotter than they otherwise would while your PC is running. Tying back cables to keep them out of the way will keep cool air flowing throughout the chassis.

Step by Step

Assembling a PC isn't as hard as you might think. Just clear a couple hours from your day and find a big, clean space to work in. Following are the nine steps you'll take to assemble your homemade PC. As you'll see, it's not very technical and doesn't require special tools or skills. For a more detailed demonstration of building a PC, see our video series.

How to Build Your Own PC, Part 1

How to Build Your Own PC, Part 2

How to Build Your Own PC, Part 3

1. Install the power supply: Line up the power supply's holes with the mounting space in the case, and screw it in.

2. Install the motherboard: Screw the spacers into your case, and then screw the motherboard onto the spacers. Plug the power supply and case buttons (power, reset) into the motherboard.

3. Install the CPU: Gently place the processor in the socket, and fold the lever down to lock it in place. Place thermal grease on the CPU if necessary, and then snap or screw on the CPU cooler.

4. Mount the CPU cooler: Position the CPU cooler over the mounting holes, adding a dab of thermal paste to the CPU if necessary. Some coolers have snaps and some have screws; either way, tighten it down securely.

5. Install the RAM: Line up the notch in the RAM with the slot and press firmly until it snaps into place.

6. Install the hard drive: Screw the hard drive into the mounting brackets (usually in the front of the case). Attach the SATA power cable from the power supply, and the SATA data cable to the motherboard.

7. Install the optical drive: If you have rails, screw the drive onto them and slide it into the case. If not, slide the drive in and screw it into position. Attach the SATA power cable from the power supply and the SATA data cable to the motherboard.

8. Install the graphics card: If you're using integrated graphics, you can skip this step. Push the graphics card firmly down to seat it in the large PCIe slot closest to the CPU. Then plug in the power connectors from the power supply.

9. Install the operating system: Attach your keyboard, mouse, and monitor; then turn on your PC and put the Windows disc in your optical drive. Follow the prompts to install your OS, and you're done!

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