I purchased my first PC when I was 15 years old. I bought the computer from RadioShack, a Compaq Presario Pentium 2 gaming computer with all the bells and whistles. I know – I’m old.
Since that day, I have had a ton of different laptops and PCs. I have used both Mac and Windows systems and have enjoyed using each one of them. I have always leaned toward owning prebuilt machines because I felt building my own PC was intimidating.
This may be your opinion as well. Maybe you feel like you could NEVER build your own computer. Maybe you think it will be too difficult, or it just seems overwhelming knowing which parts to buy and taking the time to put it all together.
I have felt that way for years. Anytime I needed a new PC, I always let the 15-year-old boy in me win and head to the store to buy a prebuilt machine.
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This year, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and build a custom PC with my son.
In this article, I will explain the entire process, my difficulty, and if you should step out of your comfort zone and build your own.
The Pros and Cons of a Prebuilt Computer
There are several reasons why I decided to buy a prebuilt computer.
First, it’s easy. All the components are compatible, and all you do is take it home from the store and connect it, and it’s up and running. Especially all-in-one computers like the iMac or the Dell Inspiron 5400 All-in-One Desktop. These computers even have a monitor, so getting started is super easy.
Prebuilt PCs also have an operating system included, a mouse and keyboard, and sometimes even a monitor. It’s just super convenient.
The issue with Prebuilt is that they are not designed to be upgraded. I mean, there are small things that you can change, but overall, they are designed to be recycled, and you purchase another one.
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Most of the time, prebuilt PCs have limitations to upgradability. An example would be not being able to open both sides of the case. This makes it hard to customize it.
That’s another thing to consider with prebuilt machines. You can’t customize them. You purchase a bulk system, and that is what you get. You can’t change things depending on your needs.
Lastly, pre-built computers are more expensive. You’re paying a premium for having a machine ready to go, which you’ll have to consider before you purchase your next PC. You can get a more powerful PC for cheaper if you decide to build it yourself.
The Pros and Cons of a Custom Computer
For this section, you just have to put everything inside out. It’s all the opposite of what I mentioned above.
A custom PC is easier to upgrade, fun to customize based on your wants and needs, and far cheaper than purchasing it as a prebuilt machine.
The cons of building your own gaming PC are it takes time and is frustrating to figure out. Especially if you don’t have any experience with computers.
To be honest, there were a couple of times when I was frustrated with my custom PC build.
Before You Begin Building Your PC
I have to be honest; when I decided to customize a PC and build it from scratch, I was nervous. I mean, what if I blew it up by mistake? I’d waste all that money.
When I finally got over my hesitations, I headed out to the local computer store, and they were extremely helpful in directing me.
They helped me find the best components for the best price. You could spend $600 more on specific components and only get a small amount of increased performance. You want to ensure you’re getting the best parts for your PC for the best price.
You can use UserBenchmark to help you compare different components of your PC build.
Find a Trusted Computer Store to Help You
This is the first step. Find a trusted computer store to help find the best parts for your custom build.
You can do the research yourself and get an idea of the price and information of the best parts for your build, but having someone that deals with computers every day, is really going to be a big help.
I know that the computer store I went to helped me. Gave me great advice and saved me a ton of money by choosing the right pieces and looking for better prices of similar products.
Choose a Budget
Next, you need to choose a budget.
You could spend a lot of money on a custom computer, so you must have a number in mind before you even begin.
Let’s say your budget is $2000. This allows you to upgrade and downgrade specific components to stay within your budget.
I had initially picked the 3060 Ti as my GPU but really wanted the 3070. Now, the performance wasn’t a huge difference between the two GPUs – 7% more performance than the 3060 Ti. Yet, I was able to save some money by buying a different case which made up for the difference.
Having a budget will keep you from spending thousands of dollars.
Find Ways to Save Money
It doesn’t take long for your custom build to start adding up. Yet, there are ways you can save money.
I decided to use an old monitor, keyboard, and mouse until I had enough money to purchase a new one. I didn’t want to just buy one to have one. So I waited and got the one that I wanted.
Also, I saved money on Windows. I found an old laptop with Windows 8 and used the key to register my new PC. Then I just upgraded to windows 11.
If you don’t have an old PC, you can download windows 10 or 11 and install it on your computer. You can use it unregistered for as long as you need with two disadvantages: you can’t customize it, and you’ll have a watermark on the bottom right-hand corner telling you to register it. It’s not the end of the world.
My PC Components
If you have some experience with computers, it’s going to help. I’m comfortable customizing PCs, like installing RAM, HDDs, Video Drives, and other components. I just haven’t built one from the beginning.
There are eight things you’ll need for your custom build.
SSD or a Hard Drive
This will certainly get you started. I also linked the parts above with links to the specific parts on Amazon that I purchased.
I did add a standard 8TB HDD later to store my video files.
The computer I listed above is solid and will be a fraction of the cost of a prebuilt one with comparable specs.
This computer is super fast. I was impressed. It really is a great machine – it’s pretty too.
Putting the Computer Together
In this section, I will walk you through my experience of putting it all together.
First, we added the processor, ram, and SSD to the motherboard. Be VERY careful when you install the processor not to bend any pins. It’s probably the most challenging part of the entire build. Just take your time, and don’t force anything down.
Next, install the cooler on the processor. We purchased a liquid cooler that works like a car radiator. You’ll need to install the cooler fan to the top of your case later.
It’s best to install everything on your motherboard now (except the video card) because it gets more complicated once the motherboard is in the case and the GPU is installed (The GPU is the video card).
I added the motherboard to the case and installed the power supply. You get all the needed screws to install the motherboard securely to the case. It’s essential to use the correct screws for installing the motherboard.
Because you have both sides of the case open, running the correct cables to the motherboard is easier. You’ll want to install the correct cables for powering the motherboard and the CPU. These cables run from the power supply and plug directly into the motherboard.
I had to run a SATA power cable for the RGB lights on the case and liquid cooler.
Once that is all done, you’ll need to connect the power switch and HDD light to the motherboard. This really got me confused. I had no idea where they went on the motherboard; I had to read the manual to figure it out. For a second, I actually thought that I blew up my motherboard because I couldn’t get the PC powered on.
I would ensure you read the instructions and know where everything goes on the board. Most things are labeled and dummy-proof because they will only fit specific pins and only fit a certain way.
It’s good to get familiar with your motherboard before you start plugging everything into the board.
You can power the board up by hitting the small button on the board, which is needed for the first boot-up. Now you should be ready to install your operating system.
Connect your mouse and keyboard, and of course, your monitor.
My anxiety about building a custom PC quickly turned to excitement.
The best part about building your own PC is that upgrading or customizing things later is easy. When you build a PC, it never really ends.
I already added a new HDD to the PC to store videos and pictures.
The entire process took about 3-4 hours to complete. Now, this was my first PC build, and I am sure that it will take a lot less time when I build my next one.
I just have to research and know where that crazy power switch goes before I begin. I laugh at that now.
What I learned After Building My Own Custom PC
First, I learned that building a PC isn’t difficult. It may feel intimidating, but it isn’t that bad. I wish I had built a custom PC years ago. I wasted a lot of money on prebuilt machines that weren’t upgradable or fast. The PC that I recently built has enough power to do everything that I need it to do and more.
I played Flight Simulator on max settings, and it handled it like a boss.
Wait, so you built your PC without any issues? Nope. I had some problems along the way.
I did get frustrated at one point and thought the absolute worst, but I got through it. I find that many videos online skip the small things – like installing the power switch cable on the motherboard. Just take your time and go through the process step by step. Don’t rush through it or take shortcuts.
Download your motherboard’s manual online and get acquainted with the board and where all your cables go. The most critical cables can only fit in one place on the board. You don’t have to worry about blowing it up.
Relax and have fun.
Building my custom PC was a great bonding experience for my son and me. We had a blast putting it all together, and it was worth the investment. It’s something that we share together. It’s the PC that we built.
You only build a PC once for the first time. So don’t sweat it, and have fun doing it.
You can use videos online to help install the processor, cooler, and video card. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory.
Should You Build or Buy Prebuilt?
If you’re on the fence about building a Custom Gaming PC, I encourage you to do it.
You’ll get far more value in building your own PC than buying a prebuilt one. Plus, you’ll have a lot more fun with the process. When making changes to your PC later, you’ll know where everything goes because you already built it from the beginning.
It may feel overwhelming to get started, and you may be intimidated by the entire process – but don’t.
It’s really not difficult to do.
You can go ahead and use the links above and build the PC I made, or head over to a local computer store and find the best components for your custom build.
You’ll be glad that you did.
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