What are the Essential IT Hardware for Startups on a Budget

What Do I Need to Build a PC?

Building a PC can be a highly rewarding experience, giving you the satisfaction of creating a machine tailored to your specific needs. Whether you’re aiming for a powerful gaming rig, a workstation for creative tasks, or a reliable home office setup, understanding the components and steps involved is crucial. Here’s a comprehensive guide to what you need to build a PC, focusing on the essentials and providing some UK-specific advice.

Components You’ll Need

1. Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The CPU is the brain of your computer, handling all instructions from software and hardware. When choosing a CPU, consider what you’ll use your PC for. For gaming, Intel’s Core i5 or i7, or AMD’s Ryzen 5 or 7 are excellent choices. For more intensive tasks like video editing or 3D rendering, look into higher-end models like the Intel Core i9 or AMD Ryzen 9.

2. Motherboard

The motherboard is the backbone of your PC, connecting all components. Ensure compatibility with your CPU (socket type), RAM, and other components. Popular brands like ASUS, MSI, and Gigabyte offer a range of motherboards from budget to high-end. Pay attention to form factors (ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX) depending on the size of your case and your expansion needs.

3. Memory (RAM)

RAM is essential for multitasking and overall system performance. For general use and gaming, 16GB of DDR4 RAM is sufficient. However, for more demanding tasks like video editing, 32GB or more is recommended. Ensure your motherboard supports the speed and type of RAM you select.

4. Storage

You’ll need storage for your operating system, software, and files. A combination of a Solid State Drive (SSD) for your OS and frequently used applications, and a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) for larger files, is ideal. NVMe SSDs offer faster performance compared to SATA SSDs. Aim for at least a 500GB SSD and a 1TB HDD.

5. Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

For gaming and creative work, a dedicated GPU is essential. NVIDIA and AMD are the main players in the market. For 1080p gaming, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 or AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT will suffice. For 1440p or 4K gaming, consider higher-end models like the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 or AMD Radeon RX 6800.

6. Power Supply Unit (PSU)

The PSU provides power to all components in your PC. It’s crucial to choose a reliable unit with enough wattage to support your entire build. A 550W PSU is generally sufficient for most mid-range builds, but high-end systems with powerful GPUs and multiple drives might require 750W or more. Brands like Corsair, EVGA, and Seasonic are known for their quality and reliability. Ensure the PSU has the necessary connectors for your GPU and other components.

7. Case

The case houses all your components and influences cooling and aesthetics. Cases come in various sizes, from full towers to compact mini-ITX cases. Choose a case that fits your motherboard form factor and has adequate airflow and space for future upgrades. Popular brands include NZXT, Fractal Design, and Corsair. Features like tempered glass panels and RGB lighting are available if you want a more stylish look.

8. Cooling

Effective cooling is vital for maintaining system stability and performance. Most CPUs come with a stock cooler, but aftermarket options from brands like Cooler Master, Noctua, and be quiet! can offer better cooling and quieter operation. For high-performance builds, consider liquid cooling solutions.

9. Operating System (OS)

You’ll need an operating system to use your PC. Microsoft Windows 10 is the most common choice, especially for gaming and general use. Ensure you purchase a legitimate copy, which is widely available online or in-store.

10. Peripherals

While not part of the PC itself, peripherals are essential for using your system. This includes a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers or headphones. Ensure your monitor resolution and refresh rate match the capabilities of your GPU. For gaming, a monitor with at least 1080p resolution and 60Hz refresh rate is recommended, but higher resolutions and refresh rates can enhance the experience.

Building Your PC: Step-by-Step Guide

1. Preparation

Before you begin, ensure you have a clean, well-lit workspace. Gather all your components and tools, including a screwdriver, thermal paste (if your CPU cooler doesn’t come pre-applied), and cable ties for neat cable management. Ground yourself to avoid static electricity damage by touching a metal object or using an anti-static wristband.

2. Install the CPU

Start by installing the CPU onto the motherboard. Align the CPU with the socket, making sure to match the notches or indicators. Gently lower it into place and secure it by closing the retention arm or lever.

3. Install RAM

Next, install the RAM modules. Refer to your motherboard manual to ensure you place the RAM in the correct slots for optimal performance. Open the retention clips on the RAM slots, align the RAM module with the slot, and press down firmly until it clicks into place.

4. Install the CPU Cooler

Attach the CPU cooler to the CPU. If using an aftermarket cooler, apply a small amount of thermal paste to the CPU before securing the cooler. Follow the cooler’s installation instructions to ensure proper attachment.

5. Install the Motherboard

Place the motherboard into your case, aligning it with the standoff screws. Secure the motherboard with screws, ensuring it’s firmly in place but not overtightened.

6. Install Storage

Install your SSD and HDD. For SSDs, especially M.2 NVMe drives, attach them to the designated slot on the motherboard. For SATA SSDs and HDDs, use the appropriate drive bays in your case and connect them to the motherboard with SATA cables.

7. Install the GPU

Install the GPU into the appropriate PCIe slot on the motherboard. Remove any necessary expansion slot covers on the case, insert the GPU, and secure it with screws. Connect the GPU to the PSU using the required power connectors.

8. Connect the PSU

Place the PSU in the designated area of your case, typically at the bottom or top. Connect the 24-pin motherboard power cable, the 8-pin CPU power cable, and any additional cables needed for your components. Ensure all connections are secure.

9. Cable Management

Organise and manage your cables to ensure proper airflow and a clean look. Use cable ties to bundle excess cables and route them behind the motherboard tray or through designated cable management channels.

10. Power On and Install OS

Double-check all connections and components before powering on your PC. Connect your monitor, keyboard, and mouse, then power on the system. Enter the BIOS to check if all components are recognised. Insert your OS installation media (USB or DVD) and follow the instructions to install the operating system.


Building a PC can seem daunting, but with the right components and a systematic approach, it’s a manageable and rewarding project. By understanding each component’s role and following the steps outlined, you’ll be well on your way to creating a custom-built PC that meets your needs and preferences. Happy building!

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