How to Build a PC Guide

November 10, 2018
build pc guide hardware gaming

Introduction

Back in 2014 when I was really into PC gaming, I ran a community website at Xydre.com. As part of the the effort to entice people to join, I wrote several guides trying to spread information on how to “get the most out of PC gaming”, including how to build your own gaming PC.

The content of this post is a copy and paste of the original article I wrote from Xydre.com, thus some of the information is outdated now and hardware has moved on since, but I think that as a general guide the majority of the content is still relevant.

Build Guide

How-To Build A PC Guide: £1200 Rendering Machine - i7 Extreme 4930K, X79, GTX 770, H80i, 200R

In this guide, I will be explaining step-by-step how to assemble a PC from scratch. Whilst this specific build is an extremely powerful top-end rendering machine for producing 3D scenes with lighting and shadows from the CAD/CAM work we do at the company I work for, this guide will also serve as a basic and general PC building tutorial for almost any modern machine setup.

I will be adding steps for other common parts, such as how to attach the cooler I am using to more widely used CPUs as well as to the i7 Extreme that I am using here.

If there is anything that I miss, or any suggestion which you would like to make to this guide, please feel free to reply to this thread and I will make any necessary changes.

Let’s get started!

Case

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For this build, I am using a Corsair 200R. This is an extremely high quality cheap case. It is a no-frill product, providing an extremely solid base for almost any machine, but lacking the room or features of a lot of higher-end cases.

Because the PC I am building will spend its days sat in an office at my workplace, I am not concerned about aesthetics or noise reduction, and this case will suffice for everything I need from this build.

Previous to this, I have been using the Cooler Master K280 case as my standard no-frills case, although this particular model seems harder to get hold of now and the 200R has a far nicer build quality.

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Taking a look inside the 200R, you’ll see two fans (a front intake, and a rear exhaust), a load of wires for the front panel and the supports for the motherboard. These are already pre-installed for an ATX motherboard, so no fiddling around trying to install them in the right configuration like older cases.

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Power Supply Unit

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Let’s install the power supply unit now. The PSU sites at the bottom of the case, and has it’s own intake and exhaust vents, so be sure to install it the right way up! I’m using a Corsair RM650, which is an 80 PLUS Gold certified power supply. That puts it at an efficiency of at least 90%, meaning we’re not wasting much of the input power and our system won’t have a problem with needing to draw more power under load. Cheaper non-80 PLUS supplies can run into problems where they cannot supply their stated power output.

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The RM650 has a great feature in that the fan will not spin up until the PSU is under at least 40% load, and even then, the fan is blissfully quiet. You do not want to skimp out on a good power supply, especially when you’re putting expensive components behind it. Always god 80 PLUS, if only Bronze and I can personally vouch for the solid PSUs made by Corsair and Seasonic.

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Empty the box of it’s contents and set aside the mains cable and power cables. This supplies also comes with a Corsair sticker and some cable ties - very handy for tidying up that mess of power cables after you finish building!

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Motherboard

The motherboard should have the CPU and RAM installed outside of the case. It is much easier to install components outside the confines of the case interior. I am using a Gigabyte GA-X79-UP4 motherboard, with an LGA 2011 socket - the socket required for my i7 Extreme processor. Most Intel gaming builds will likely use a Haswell board, such as the highly recommended Asus Z87-A.

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The board comes with a myriad of cables. The cables labelled “Nvidia SLI” are for linking multiple Nvidia graphics cards in 2-way, 3-way and 4-way configurations. An “AMD Crossfire” cable is also included for linking AMD graphics cards. The quick-install guide included can be quite useful if you’re building with an unfamiliar board or CPU. For now, toss everything else aside and grab the motherboard out.

DO NOT PLACE THE MOTHERBOARD ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE ANTI-STATIC GREY BAG. The outside of the anti-static bags that you will encounter around multiple components are highly electrically conductive, protecting the components inside the bag but posing a potential risk to any components placed on the outside of one of these bags. The best place to put the motherboard once it’s out of the bag is on top of the box it came in. This provides a great surface for installing the other components.

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Central Processing Unit

The CPU is the heart of the computer. It is where the work is done and the calculations are performed. It works hand in hand with your RAM, pulling and storing data back and forth. I would go deeper, but this is a PC building guide, not a computer science lecture! The CPU which I am using for this build is an Intel Ivybridge-E i7 4930K with 6 cores and 12 threads. I am using this particular processor since the machine I am building is for rendering complex 3D scenes. This is far more horsepower than you’ll need for a gaming machine.

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For all current gaming rigs, I recommend the Intel Haswell i5 4670K which uses an LGA-1150 socket. Why not an i7 for gaming? Games aren’t greatly mutli-threaded and don’t make use of the hyper-threading provided by an i7. Stick with the i5 for the same performance from the same amount of cores for around £80 less. If a 4670K is outside of your reach, an AMD FX-6350 is a great budget option.

The CPU sits on a bed of pins in the socket on the motherboard. The CPU must have good contact with these pins, so the socket has lever arms and a metal surround to keep the CPU pressed onto the pins with considerable pressure at all times. The LGA-2011 socket has two arms since the CPU is rather large and needs pressure on two ends. Most consumer-range sockets such as LGA-1150 only use a single arm.

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Memory

Next on the list is the RAM (Random Access Memory). As I said, this works hand-in-hand with the CPU to process data, storing the data for access by the programs running on the computer. For this build, I am using 4 modules of RAM totalling 16GB. For most gaming builds, 8GB will suffice for current games. 16GB becomes useful when storing a lot of information for working, such as with photo or video editing. The RAM I’m using is Corsair Vengeance with a clock speed of 1866MHz with vibrant red heatspreaders. I highly recommend Corsair Vengeance RAM. It’s always served me well and is good value for money.

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The motherboard which I am using provides 4 memory channels. To maximise the bandwidth available (the amount of data that can be sent to/from the RAM at once), I will be installing each module on it’s own channel. The slots on the motherboard are 2 per channel. Gigabyte have made it easy to see the first slot on each channel by colouring them grey. The secondary slots are black.

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Now that the motherboard components are fitted, the next step is to mount the motherboard in the case. As I said previously, the 200R comes preset for ATX boards with supports in the correct places. The middle support however, does not have screw hole. It is instead an alignment pin. This is found in a lot of modern cases. This allows you to align the motherboard and hold it in place whilst screwing down the board.

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CPU Cooler

With this computer being used for long batch rendering of complex models, the CPU will get very hot. The Intel Extreme processors are not designed with the same power-efficiency in mind as the normal Intel offering, and as a result get very hot under load. To combat this heat, I’m installing a all-in-one liquid cooling unit. More specifically, the Corsair H80i.

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Sidenote: The Corsair 200R has plenty of room to accommodate an H80i, but with the X79 board I’m using the RAM modules are present on the far left of the board too and this caused me an issue when trying to fit the radiator. I suggest using “Low Profile” RAM if installing an X79 board and H80i in a 200R.

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The H80i comes with mounting hardware for both Intel and AMD sockets, along with a backplate for all sockets other than LGA-2011. The mounting brackets are magnetic and simply snap to the cooler ready to screw down to the board.

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The backplate allows the water coolers to have the tightest possible pressure against the top of the CPU. The LGA-2011 socket already has a backplate and simply screwing the cooler down is sufficient to sustain pressure for good thermal conductivity.

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The cooler comes with 2 types of supports for screwing the cooler to the backplate. The supports with one small end, one large end are for LGA-2011. The supports with two equal ends are for all other Intel and AMD sockets.

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Solid State Drive

I am using a 250GB Samsung 840 EVO solid state drive. This is the only drive in this build since my company uses network storage for all files and the SSD is only going to be used for the operating system, applications and configurations. For gamers, I highly recommend getting an SSD to store these too, as well as your most played games from your library. A hard disk drive should be used to store general files such as photos, music and documents as HDDs are much less costly per GB and SSD-speed access to general files doesn’t provide noticeable speed-up to your system. If you plan to keep any critical files on your SSD, make sure to backup your drive regularly!

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Installing an SSD is dead simple, requiring a single SATA cable to the motherboard. The 200R provides slots for four 2.5” SSDs. These slots are simply push-to-install as they click into place and lock the drive in securely without screws. Releasing a drive is as simple as lifting the latch and pulling the drive out.

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Graphics Card

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In this build, I’m using a GTX 770 4GB. Why not a workstation card for a workstation? Because the programs that we’re using simply don’t benefit from a workstation card, and as such a “gaming” card is far superior value for money. This 4GB card has enough VRAM to hold plenty of detail on the models that we’re working with on-screen.

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All modern graphics cards (and almost any from the last few years) adhere to the PCI-E standard interface. This makes it simple to fit any card to any board. A common misconception is the requirement to use an AMD card with an AMD CPU and Nvidia with Intel. In fact, you can use any card with any CPU, so just go with the best you can get for your money. Keep in mind the individual perks of each GPU, such as Nvidia’s offering of their ShadowPlay and GeForce Experience features or AMD’s ability to Crossfire your GPU with your AMD processor’s iGPU. (There’s plenty of information on these topics elsewhere on Xydre).

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Optical Drive

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There is very little difference in optical drives now. My home PC doesn’t even have a disc drive. For this machine, I did need to install software from discs, so we’ll need a drive. You can pick up a DVD-RW drive from Samsung or LiteOn for less than £10 now and that’s all you’ll need unless you really want to read Blu-Ray discs.

Optical drives are extremely easy to fit. It’s just a case of removing the blanking plate and slipping the drive in. Most cases don’t even require screws any more.

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Front-panel Connections

In order for the power button and USB ports on the front of the case to have any effect, you’ll need to plug them into the motherboard. This is what the mess of cables coming from the front of the case is for. USB3 ports such as the ones supplied on the front of the 200R, are connected via a rather thick cable half way up the board. The other wires (LEDs, buttons, etc..) are connected to the collection of tiny pins at the front of the base of the board.

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Power

The last remaining physical build task is to hook up the power supply to the components it’ll be powering. With the modular nature of the RM650 I’m using, it’s easy to just add power cables as I go. Non-modular supplies will have a bunch of cables hanging off them already. Some manufacturers - such as Corsair’s CX430M - provide a semi-modular option, where the ATX and CPU cables are attached to the supply as they’ll be needed for any build and the PCI-E and SATA power cables are separate.

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Finishing Touches

Lastly, there are a few odds and ends to clear up. For the H80i radiator I’m using, an external SATA power connection is required to power the pump. It also requires a USB2 connection for using Corsair Link software to control the fans and lighting.

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System complete. All the physical inside-the-case building complete. Now to hook it up to a display and install an operating system.

Don’t forget to add your stickers!

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Monitor

To make the most of this rendering workstation, a large monitor is required. I am using a 24” LG IPS monitor with a standard 1920x1080 resolution.

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Operating System

Most people will be looking to install Windows on their computers. If you are not

then I highly recommend you jump the Windows train. You are free to pick a much better system such as Mint, Ubuntu or elementary.

However, if you are looking to play games or need Windows for specific software for which alternatives cannot be found on other systems, then you’ll need to buy a copy of Windows.

Here I am using Windows 7 since this is what the rest of the computers on our network use, the system that our employees are comfortable with and the system which is required for our CAD programs.

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You’re done! Welcome to your new desktop.

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Your next step is to perform Windows Updates. You will be required to update many multiple times for security patches and improvements made to Windows since SP1. This will restart your computer a fair bit. Once your updates are complete, you will need to install the drivers for your components. This is outside the scope of this build guide, but you can find plenty of information on where to find drivers and how to install the correct ones elsewhere on the Xydre website, just search the forums.

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