How to build a PC

How to build a PC: A step-by-step guide

We'll help you through the entire process, from installing the CPU and Windows to proper cable management.

$300 Athlon 3000G Full Nerd Build side panel off view 2
Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

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AMD’s mighty Ryzen processors and Intel’s high-octane 10th-gen Core CPUs continue to spark interest in PC building, but some people still hesitate at the idea of crafting a custom PC. Don’t! Building your own PC isn’t some arcane art or esoteric skill that only the most hardcore of hardware geeks can pull off. In fact, assembling a DIY PC is pretty straightforward once you’ve settled on your parts list. 

Rolling your own computer offers a number of advantages that boxed desktops just can’t match, even though high demand during the pandemic has made PC parts scarcer and more expensive. You still get granular control over every single aspect of the hardware. You still get to choose not only the nuts-and-bolts-level details like processing and graphical performance, but also deeply personal touches like the PC’s case design and cooling capabilities. There’s no need to settle for a boring black box, unless you want a boring black box.

Looking to build a hulking PC brimming with top-of-the-line hardware and closed-loop water-cooling? Go for it! (If you can convince your significant other to OK the expense, that is.) Or maybe you prefer a more well-balanced rig, or a delightfully small system with big gaming chops. You can even go light on your wallet and still come away with a gaming PC. When you’re building your own computer, the choice is yours.

[ Further reading: The best SSDs ]

ryzen and gtx 1080 ti 2 Brad Chacos

We built this PC with a liquid-cooled 8-core AMD Ryzen chip and Nvidia’s powerful GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

Even better, when you’re building your own PC you can shop around for the best price for each of your chosen components, rather than paying a single marked-up cost for the whole-hog system. AMD’s Ryzen processors have sparked a brutal price war in CPUs. DIYers benefit from that! The superb PCPartPicker.com website makes comparison shopping dead simple. And when you’re done building your PC and successfully power it up, it feels glorious—like you’ve truly accomplished something, rather than simply yanking a prebuilt tower out of a box.

Building a PC for the first time can be intimidating, though.

Even though PC assembly’s fairly simple once you know what you’re doing, staring at a giant pile of disparate parts and knowing you not only need to piece them together correctly but also wire them correctly afterwards is enough to bring a lump to a newbie PC builder’s throat.

We’re here to help.

ryzen 1500x pc 4 Brad Chacos

Building a PC lets you opt for an SSD the size of a gum stick.

PCWorld has detailed installation guides—often with supplementary buying advice—for every major PC component you need. This comprehensive superguide explains how to build your PC from top to bottom, from case fans to CPU to cable management.

Need help installing a particular component? Here are links for each piece of hardware in your PC:

How to avoid common PC building mistakes —a must-read before you even buy your first part.

How to install a power supply in your computer

How to install an Intel or AMD CPU in your PC

How to install new memory in your PC

How to replace your PC’s motherboard

How to install a graphics card

How to install a hard drive in your PC

The ultimate guide to proper PC cable management—you want your PC looking nice and pretty, after all.

Even veteran PC builders stumble into trouble every now and again (though our guide to avoiding common PC building mistakes should help you avoid most of it). If your system won’t start after it’s all together, check out PCWorld’s guide to troubleshooting your home-built PC. It’s several years old, but still very applicable today. And once everything’s up and running, consider checking out these free programs that your new PC needs first. They all rock!

Then sit back, relax, and enjoy a cold beverage. You just built a PC with your own two hands. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Editor’s note: This article was most recently updated to mention component shortages and price increases for DIY hardware.

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