Building your own PC can be an intimidating, exciting, nerve-racking and rewarding experience. Crafting a machine on your own, with a selection of electronic parts is quite a thrill. It also allows you to make something that's personalised to you and built according to your own budget, specifications and preference.
Crafting a gaming PC can save you money over buying a pre-built machine from a retailer or allow you to create a monster gaming machine which will run games on ultra-settings for years to come.
We're going to talk you through the steps, the things you’ll need to think about and all the considerations along the way.
Budgeting your gaming PC
Before you can get started, you'll need to consider your budget. It's all very well day-dreaming of the ultimate gaming machine, but you can only get what you can afford, and you'll soon find when adding parts to your wishlist up that things can get expensive.
That said, it's worth considering the future-proofing of your system. You don't want to spend a small fortune on something that will be out of date in a year or two. The joy of PC gaming is if you build the foundations of a good gaming PC, you'll only need to upgrade a couple of parts every few years to keep your PC going and going for years to come.
It's worth spending extra on the core parts of the machine - the CPU and motherboard – as these are the foundation of the computer and much harder to replace and upgrade in future. You can always add more RAM, a better graphics card or more storage later to beef up your system.
What components do you need?
Building your own gaming PC requires a number of different components, each will vary depending on your budget and the type of system you're looking to build. It's important to do your research first to ensure you buy the correct parts for your PC and that they'll all work together. Certain specifications of each component will affect this and you need to be sure this is all correct before you even place your order.
Think of the motherboard as the foundations of your build. Though each of the components plays its part, none of them could function without the support of the motherboard. Each device within the PC connects to it to allow the computer to function.
Choosing the right motherboard for you will depend on other factors. It's essential to remember to thoroughly examine the specifications of your motherboard before you purchase other parts to ensure they'll not only fit, but also work with your system.
As an example, the motherboard we're using for the build covered later in this article is the Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E. This motherboard supports DDR4 ram from 2133MHz to 4000MHz in dual channel format. That's three different things to bear in mind just in relation to one component.
Dual channel simply means two sticks of RAM work in pairs on the motherboard. Other versions of RAM include tri-channel and quad-channel. The latter will work in this motherboard as four sticks of RAM can fit, but tri-channel won't as they have to be installed in threes.
The RAM's frequency is measured in MHz. This motherboard is capable of taking RAM with a maximum frequency of 4000MHz but not more and not less than 2133MHz either. You need to ensure you buy RAM that fits in the right category.
This might all sound complicated but you just need to ensure you have the right architecture (channel, MHz, type and size) and it will work.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The Central Processing Unit (CPU), is the brain that powers your computer. The CPU you choose will depend on budget and you'll also need to match the motherboard to the CPU.
There are two main manufacturers of CPUs - AMD and Intel. These manufacturers also make a variety of processors with different chipsets. In order to work out which CPU fits which motherboard you'll need to first pick the manufacturer then work out how much money you have to spend.
Let's take Intel as an example. The current model of Intel CPU is the eighth generation of processor also referred to as "Coffee Lake", these are the newest chips.
Coffee Lake processors are socket LGA1151 - which means you need to ensure the motherboard you purchase can accept this socket type. Motherboards are also purposely sold as AMD or Intel compatible to make this easier for you.
The current Intel processors are also split into Core i3, i5, i7 and i9. At a basic level, the higher the number, the more powerful the processor. We have chosen an Intel Core i7-8700K processor for the build in this article, but if you want to keep costs down you may opt for a Core i5 or Core i3 instead.
As we've said already, it's worth spending extra on the motherboard and CPU as these are likely the two hardest parts to replace in future - because you'll essentially need to take your entire machine apart to do so. If you want to future proof and avoid your PC becoming obsolete then it's worth not scrimping here.
To help you choose, Intel has a handy tool to find the right CPU to match your motherboard or vice-versa.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
RAM is the memory of the computer. In a gaming PC, it helps the computer to act quickly and efficiently as you game. The more RAM you have and the higher the MHz frequency the faster the computer can work.
Most modern computers will run DDR4 ram in a dual channel format. Those, along with the MHz frequency are what you'll need to consider when ensuring the RAM will work in your chosen motherboard.
The size of RAM is measured in GB. Most modern gaming PCs will run with at least 8GB of RAM as a minimum.
We'd recommend looking at the minimum/recommended specifications of games you want to play, but also consider that 8GB, 16GB or 32GB will allow your new PC to run more effectively. You'll also need more RAM if you want to do things like stream your games to Twitch.TV or Youtube or intend on doing intensive things like rendering gaming videos.
The good thing about RAM is it's one of the easiest things to upgrade in a gaming PC. As long as you buy RAM that matches in terms of size, frequency and model number you can double the size in future. If you want to save money now, buy 8GB to start with, then upgrade with another 8GB in future.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
This is a little box that supplies power to your gaming machine. All the essential components need to be plugged into it in order to get power they need to run - the motherboard takes the majority of the power and supplies some of the other parts, but the graphics card, hard drives and fans will also need power.
It's important not to scrimp on the power supply as buying a cheap one could result in disasters with the potential destruction of your machine. You also need to choose a PSU which has enough power to run your machine and all the parts inside it. Power supplies are sold according to wattage, which is the amount of power they're capable of putting out. Generally speaking, the higher the wattage, the higher the price, but bigger isn't always better.
If you have a PSU that's too powerful it won't run as efficiently and may run up your electric bill. Too weak and the power supply simply won't give enough power to the parts which could see your machine turning off (or worse) in the middle of a game.
Luckily there's a handy calculator you can use to work this out - input all the components and use this to calculate the minimum wattage power supply you require.
Considering your storage options and requirements
There are a number of different options when it comes to storage for your machine. These are slightly different and vary in price as well as speed and storage size.
You may want lots of storage space to save photos, videos and install every game in your collection. Alternatively, you might only play one or two games and so load speed and lag reduction are more important. You could also mix and match the following options to maximise your system's storage.
Hard disk drives (HDDs)
These disk drives are the cheapest storage option, but also the slowest. They offer larger capacity storage space for less money than other modern storage systems like Solid State Drives. They are slower though, so you won’t feel the benefit when booting your PC or loading games.
Solid State Drives (SSDs)
Solid State Drives have no moving parts and so can transfer files more quickly than traditional hard disk drives. This means you can copy photos, videos, music and other files between them more easily, but it also means your games will load faster and you should see a reduction in lag too.
These are a slightly more expensive option but will improve the boot speed of your computer or allow you to get into a game faster.
M.2 and NVME Drives
These drives are newer versions of Solid State Drives that are more expensive but also are smaller form factor and run at faster speeds.
They have several benefits. An incredible load speed will help with boot times, but also reduce so-called "lag input" during gaming which can help improve your gaming prowess.
They also fit so neatly onto the motherboard that you don't need cables for power or data transfer, unlike other hard drives.
What you get here will depend on your budget and needs. A small, fast M.2 drive might be great in theory, but you may soon find yourself running out of storage space as new games get bigger and bigger in download and install sizes.
The graphics card is the component that does the majority of the workload when it comes to powering your games.
The newest graphics cards will run the latest games on very high or ultra settings and result in incredible graphics that will leave you drooling over your keyboard. Graphics cards do come at a premium though and they're likely the most expensive single component you will be adding to your machine.
The good news is, if you build a solid gaming PC foundation, the graphics card is the one part you can keep upgrading for years to come to keep your machine running the latest games. This means you don't necessarily need the most expensive graphics card money can buy as you can always replace it in a year or two without spending the same money all over again.
Graphics cards are produced by two manufacturers - Nvidia and AMD. These vary in price and the power they deliver. A good way to pick the right graphics card is to look at the system requirements of the games you want to play, then aim a little higher to ensure you can play the latest games for the next few years.
Another consideration might also be virtual reality. If you want to build a gaming machine that's capable of running VR then you'll need to be aware of the minimum system specifications of the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
Both these devices require a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480. These can be used as benchmarks for your minimum graphics card requirement if you want a good gaming machine that's capable of running VR and new games releases.
Cooling is an important part of any gaming PC. Running games is an intensive activity that requires a lot of processing power. The components in your case will also need to be kept cool, not least of which is the CPU.
Modern processors do a lot of work and get really hot when you're playing. Keeping them cool is essential - not only to prevent them from overheating and breaking but also to ensure the smooth running of the PC and uninterrupted gaming.
Heatsinks and fan systems are purchased separately from the CPU. Basic systems include a small tower of radiators that attach to the CPU and keep it cool. More advanced systems include liquid and water cooling with large radiators to move the heat away from your processor and out of the case.
Since this is your first gaming PC we'd recommend a self-contained liquid cooling system. These systems are a great way to keep the CPU cool and be sure it won't let you down while also avoiding the horror of liquids leaking over electronics.
For our build, we used a Corsair liquid cooling system with triple radiator. These systems are easy to install and easy to fit, plus they have all the fantastic cooling performance of liquid cooling without all the danger of spillages.
You'll need to consider the size of your case too and whether the cooling system will fit inside. The radiator on the Corsair H150i is 360mm which would only just fit on the front of the case we were using. You also need to check the specifications to ensure it will fit on your CPU - they differ in design whether you're using AMD or Intel processors.
Computer cases are available in a range of different sizes, shapes, colours and with varying features. The type of case you buy will impact the build of your gaming machine.
The main difference is size. Cases are available in full-tower, mid-tower, ATX, micro-ATX, mini-ITC and more. The smaller cases may look neater and can be hidden out of sight, while the full-tower cases take up more room and sit loud and proud in your gaming area.
If you want to go small with a micro-ATX case then you'll need a motherboard to match. These motherboards are smaller and often have less outputs. They also restrict the type of graphics card and cooling system you can buy. Modern graphics cards are large - both in length and width, so you need to look at the specs of your case to ensure it can handle the graphics card you want to buy.
For building a gaming PC we'd recommend considering either a full-tower or mid-tower. These often have a lot more room and flexibility. A big PC case makes building a PC easier as you'll have more room to work, more places to hide cables, but most importantly plenty of room for air to flow through the case.
Large cases also offer other features like more storage bays for hard drives and more space for case fans and heatsink radiators.
Many gaming PC cases will come with a handful of case fans that can be plugged directly into the motherboard and powered to keep the case cool. You may choose to upgrade these fans now or in future.
When choosing your case be sure to take a look at the specifications to see what size fans will fit in your case if you want to purchase extras.
Anti-static wrist strap
One of the cheapest parts you'll buy. This is a strap that attaches to your wrist and you will use this while building your gaming PC. Static electricity that builds up in your body can fry electronics in your computer while you're building, so this is a worthwhile precaution.
Thermal paste is another cheap but essential purchase. This is a cooling paste that goes between the CPU and the heatsink/cooling system. It helps with convection and cooling and ensures your PC will run as it should. Don't scrimp here, but you won't be spending the earth either.
How to build your gaming PC
Once you've purchased all the parts and waited impatiently for them to arrive at your house, the real fun begins.
Putting the parts together can be a daunting experience, but with our help, you'll find its relatively easy and once it's all done you'll have an awesome gaming machine that you created yourself. This is an incredibly satisfying experience and you'll probably be hooked afterwards.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, there are a few things to remember which will help the build go more smoothly:
- PC building usually ends up with an excess of wires/cables, screws and parts that you don’t need. Don't panic if this happens.
- Complete PC builds may include cables that don't connect to anything and this might not be a problem. Again, don't panic.
- Use an anti-static wrist strap at all times.
- Don't start cable tying until the very end, in case you have something in the wrong place that needs to be moved.
- If the case has protective stickers on it, leave them on until the end to avoid accidental scratching while you're building.
- Keep all instruction manuals handy so you can easily reference them while you work.
- Keep any screws you remove in a logical place so you know where they are when they need to go back in.
To show you how to build your own gaming PC we're going to talk through each step of the build and how to put it together. This will vary slightly depending on the parts you're using, but will mostly require the same steps.
For this build we used the following components:
- Motherboard - Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E
- CPU - Intel Core i7-8700K (socket LGA1151)
- Case - Corsair Obsidian 500D mid-tower
- RAM - Corsair Vengeance DDR4 16GB RGB 3200MHz
- CPU cooling - Corsair Hydro H150i Pro RGB liquid cooler
- M.2 - Corsair Force Series MP500 480GB M.2 SSD
- HDD - Toshiba 6TB high-performance hard disk drive
- SSD - Samsung Evo SSD 250GB
- PSU - Corsair HX850 modular power supply
- GPU - Asus ROG STRIX 1070TI graphics card
Optional extras and upgrades include:
- Corsair Commander PRO
- Corsair RGB LED Lighting PRO Expansion Kit
- Corsair LL120 RGB 120mm RGB fans - two triple packs
- Corsair premium individually sleeved PSU cable kit
Other things you'll need:
- Time - if this is your first build it can take as much as a day or two to do it correctly and get your PC up and running. Don't rush.
- Screwdrivers - most parts require a Philips head screwdriver to install.
- Anti-static wrist strap
- Thermal compound
Getting started with your PC build
To start off unbox your case, remove any extra cables and bits that came with it, then set it to one side.
Try to avoid building in a room with carpet and make sure you wear the anti-static wrist strap throughout the build process. This clips to a radiator or any piece of metal that's grounded and works to disperse any static electricity build up in your body to prevent damaging the important components.
Make sure you have plenty of space, including a large flat area to move the machine about. Sometimes you'll be laying it down, other times you'll be working with the case stood up straight.
Note - scroll through each image gallery to see some of the steps described in the building process.
Setting up the motherboard
Take your motherboard out of its box and remove it from the anti-static plastic bag it comes in. We find it's a good idea to use this as a mat to lay the motherboard on top on so it doesn't touch or scratch anything underneath while you work.
Ensure the motherboard manual is easy to access - it's very handy to reference, especially when it comes to plugging cables into the right places.
Installing the CPU
The CPU is one of the easiest components to install, but you do need to take care doing so. Forcing the processor into the motherboard can result in damaged pins and a broken CPU.
Within the motherboard box you'll find a CPU installation tool. This is simply a small plastic housing with an instruction manual included. This allows you to pop the CPU into the motherboard while ensuring the processor is perfectly lined up.
With the motherboard correctly oriented the CPU will be installed with a tiny little gold arrow pointing down to the bottom left corner. The instructions on the tool also show how to insert the CPU to then install it. Avoid touching the middle on either side as you do so.
The next step is to remove the protective cover from the motherboard. This is clearly labelled and covers the slot for the CPU. Lift the lever arm to release the shielding and pop the cover off. Note how the lever fits as this is how the CPU will be held securely in place.
Now use the installation tool to set the CPU into the motherboard. You can only put the CPU in one way round, so you shouldn't be forcing it in or get this wrong.
Now that's done, drop the metal cover and put the lever back down.
Seating the RAM
Next job is installing the RAM. We're putting two sticks of RAM into two slots on the motherboard. You'll see from markings on the motherboard and instructions in the manual that the RAM needs to be installed in DIMM slots A1 and A2. Putting them in B1 and B2 will not work - unless you already have RAM in A1 and A2 and ram needs to be installed in pairs.
Take the RAM out of its box and line it up with the correct slots. You'll see how it should fit in fairly easily. There are clips at the ends of the slots that will make a satisfying click when the RAM is fully inserted. Don't force it or use too much pressure or you could risk damaging the RAM and the motherboard.
Installing the M.2 NVMe SSD
Alongside the RAM, the M.2 SSD drive is one of the easiest things to install. This drive gets its power directly from the motherboard and it transfers data that way too, so there's no need for pesky cables.
On the Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E motherboard, there are two slots of M.2 drives. You can find their location in the manual. One is immediately obvious as it sits just below the CPU.
The second bay is neatly hidden away under the heat shield on the bottom right of the motherboard so requires a little more effort to get to. Unscrew this shield from the motherboard by removing the three screws. You'll see a sticker underneath that needs to be removed before reinstalling and this will help keep the drive in place.
With the cover off you can install the drive. It slots in easily in either slot. With a screw to hold it in place on the other end. Be sure to replace the heat shield and screw it back in too.
Preparing your case
You've now down everything you can easily do outside the case, so it's time to move onto the main business of fitting it all in the case.
Take your case out and lay it flat so you can see the inside easily. You should find some stand-off screws inside the motherboard case. These can be used to fit the motherboard.
On the Corsair Obsidian 500D these stand-off screws come pre-installed but that might vary from case to case. There should be nine screws which essentially act as the bottom half of screws you'll be installing to hold the motherboard in place. These stand-off screws ensure the back of the motherboard doesn't fit flat against the back of the case.
Different sized cases take different sized motherboards so the layout and number of stand-off screws might differ but the principle is the same.
Installing the I/O shield
Before going any further you need to install the I/O shield. This is a bit of plastic mixed with metal that goes into the top rear of the PC case. This houses the inputs and outputs for the PC and protects the rear of the motherboard from contact with the case itself.
The I/O shield should be in the motherboard box. Find it, line it up with the holes on the back of the case and push it into place. This can be a little fiddly and some I/O shields have sharp edges, so take care fitting it.
You're now free to install the motherboard in the case.
How to install the motherboard
To install the motherboard in the case simply line it up with the I/O shield and the stand-off screws. We find the best way to do this is to lower the motherboard into the case at a slight angle with the ports pointed down towards the holes they'll be going into first.
Line the ports up with the holes on the I/O shield and push the motherboard into place. Then lower it gently down onto the stand-off screws. This should result in you being able to see the holes of the stand-off screws through the holes on the motherboard. These holes will be shown on a diagram within the motherboard manual. They're also easily identifiable by the small silver dots around the outside of them.
Use the supplied screws to put the correct amount into the holes and tighten the motherboard securely onto the case without overtightening.
Preparing to install the heatsink/liquid cooling system
The next step is to prepare to install your heatsink. This will vary depending on what cooler you have chosen and what CPU you have installed (AMD and Intel use different brackets) but the process is relatively similar.
For this task, it's easier to stand the case up vertically so you can access both sides.
Follow these steps for the Corsair H150i Pro.
Inside the box, there are two backplate brackets. One for Intel and one for AMD CPUs. The one for Intel has two settings. For the CPU we're using here (socket LGA1151) you need to ensure the brackets towards the middle. Then the backplate is pushed against the back of the motherboard and protrudes through the front around each corner of the CPU.
Move back to the front of the machine. You'll now see there are two lots of screws to use to attach to the holes on the bracket that have pushed through the front. Check the instructions and pick the right set of four screws. For this build, we need the ones that are equal length on both sides. Screw these into the four holes of the backplate bracket.
The next step is to work out where to fit the heatsink's radiator. For this build, the cooling system uses a 360mm radiator. On larger cases this can be installed on the top of the case but in the case we're using it needs to be installed on the front panel. This is an excellent large cooler but it needs a lot of space and this is why you need to check it will fit in your case before you buy and begin the build.
Optional - by default, the Corsair H150i PRO cooler comes with three standard fans. These can be removed and replaced with the Corsair LL120 RGB fans we included as optional extras for this build. It's a simple case of unscrewing the old fans and replacing them with the RGB fans to install this upgrade. There are 12 large screws for attaching the fans to the radiator.
For full glorious RGB lighting you can install the fans facing inwards.
Mounting the radiator on the case
The radiator for the liquid cooling system now needs to be mounted to the case. This is done by around ten screws and washers included in the box. To install front-mounted on this case you first need to remove the fan mount from the front of the case. This is held in place by two hinges and two thumb screws. On this case, it holds one of the original fans installed on the case. Remove the mount from the front, then unscrew the fan and set it aside.
Now you need to mount the cooling system's radiator to the fan mount. Firstly, ensure the radiator is the right way up. For front mounting, this will mean the cooling tubes are at the top of the case. Another way to check is to line the CPU heatsink up with the CPU itself. The Corsair logo should be readable from right-to-left.
You'll also want to try to ensure the cables for the fans are pointed towards the rear of the case to allow for easier cable management and better airflow. Now you're sure of orientation, screw the radiator to the fan mount. You can tell the orientation of this by looking for the notches that just out on one side. Two large hinges fit into the back of the case to hold it in place with the thumbscrews holding the other side in.
You can now reinsert the fan mount into the case and screw it back in.
Optional - with RGB fans use some labels to mark the number of the fans in the order you want to show them. In our build, we started with the bottom fan as one, the next as two, the third as three and so on. This way, when the wires are put into the Commander Pro and linked up properly you can set the fans to change colour in order within the Corsair Link software.
Installing the heatsink
This heatsink comes with pre-applied thermal paste. Others might not. You need to use thermal paste for conduction and apply a small amount to the heatsink before installing.
Take the heatsink and stick it down over the CPU, lining up the holes on the arms with the screws you installed earlier. Ensure the heatsink is the right way up – with "Corsair" being readable left to right. Then use the thumbscrews to fix it in place. You can use a screwdriver to finish this off and make sure it's nice and tight.
There are several cables here that need to be installed in order for this system to work properly. In the box, you'll find a USB cable that needs to be plugged into the pump itself (the part you installed on top of the CPU) and then into the USB header on the motherboard. You can find this input in the motherboard manual - but it's on the bottom of this motherboard.
The CPU fan cable from the pump fits onto the motherboard on the connection marked "CPU FAN". You might find this cable a bit long, so hiding it could be tricky. Some cable ties can be used later to neaten things up.
The other cables attach to the three standard fans on the radiator and allow the system to power the fans and be controlled by the motherboard. Connect these up now.
There's also a SATA power cable - a large flat thin connector - that needs to be connected directly to a cable from your PSU to power the whole system.
Optional - if you're using the Corsair Commander PRO and LL120 fans then things are slightly different. The cables for the fans plug into the Commander Pro and RGB LED Hub (included with the fans). You can also plug the USB from the pump into the Commander Pro and then into the motherboard's USB header. This allows the Commander Pro to control all the lighting and fans via the Corsair Link software. It does mean that the original cables for the fans on the Corsair H150i PRO system now have nowhere to plug in, so you'll need to find somewhere to hide them.
Installing extra case fans
If you've purchased extra fans or have spares (like the one you've removed from the front) then you can now install these on the top of the case. The same logic applies here. There is a fan mount that is held in place with thumbscrews, remove this mount, attach the fans and re-insert.
Be sure to install the fans facing the right way. There is some debate about how to orient your fans, we've mounted them inwards to pull cold air in, but you might like to face them the other way to blow hot air out. Whatever you do, we'd recommend facing the cables to the rear of the case to allow for cable tidying later.
Optional - install the rest of the LL120 RGB fans now. Face them inwards to get the full RGB lighting glory. You can also replace the fan at the rear of the case, with one of these fans. You should then have six RGB fans on the case. Be sure to label all the cables so you get them plugged into the Commander Pro in the correct order.
Installing the Power Supply Unit
Installing the power supply will be slightly different from case to case. On this case, we have a shield for the power supply which hides it away and allows for easy installation of cables.
Open the rear of the case and prepare to install. Take the power supply out of its case. With the Corsair HX850 you'll find the standard power cables, the mains power plug and a fancy velvet-esque bag that holds the PSU. Take the PSU out. There's a large fan on it, this mounts downwards in the case so you can read labelling on the inputs for the cables.
Push the PSU into the back of the case. It should line up with the honeycomb mesh showing through the rear of the bottom and several screw holes showing where there appropriate holes on the case for attaching it. You'll probably need to push the other side of the PSU from inside the case while you screw it in to fully secure it.
Note - if you're going to be putting the case on a carpet, you might like to try installing the PSU upside down so the fan doesn't suck dirt into it. There is, however, a dust filter on this case that can be removed and cleaned with ease.
Once the power supply is in, you'll be able to install all the cables later on.
Installing standard Solid State Drives
Now you can install the other hard drives in the machine. This is an easy process.
The Corsair Obsidian 500D has two 3.5-inch drive bays for HDDs and three 2.5-inch drive bays for SSD drives. To install an SSD you simply remove these drive bays by unscrewing the thumbscrew then take the drive off.
The SSD can then be screwed to the tray you've removed with four small screws in each corner of the back, then you reattach the drive bay to the case with the thumbscrew.
These types of SSD drives need to be powered by a single SATA power cable from the PSU and then attached to your motherboard using the supplied cable. There are two types of cable supplied with the motherboard - one that's flat at both ends and another that's flat one end and bends 90-degrees at the other. We'd recommend using the flat ones for this build or you won't be able to shut the rear door.
Installing standard Hard disk drives
Standard platter-based hard disk drives are installed in a caddy. These pop out of the case and fit with pins that pop into four corners on the edge of the hard drive.
On the Corsair Obsidian 500D these caddies are on the back left of the case. They're held in place with thumb screws. Remove one, orient it and slip the hard drive inside clipping the pins in place. Then simply replace the hard drive and screw it back onto the case.
Like the SSD drives, the HDD drives are powered by a single SATA power cable from the PSU and then attached to your motherboard using the supplied cable. Refer to the manual to see where both these types of drive are plugged into the motherboard, but it's a side-mounted along the right of the motherboard, so you need to feed cables through from the back to the front.
Attach front-panel connectors
Every case has front-panel connectors of one sort or another that need to be connected to the motherboard in order to work. These include things like USB cables, audio cables (3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks), power buttons and more.
In most cases, these are already attached to the front and fed through into the case. On the Corsair Obsidian 500D they're fed through and visible when you first open the case. These need correctly connecting to the motherboard. This is where the manual comes in really handy. Each cable is clearly labelled in the case manual as to what it is and in the motherboard manual as to where it should plug in.
Optional - you may choose to feed these cables in and out through the back of the case for neatness. Just make sure they're all plugged into the right place.
Installing the graphics card
To install the graphics card you'll need to find the correct PCIe slot on the motherboard. On this motherboard, we're using that's the PCIE_X16 slot that sits roughly in the middle of the motherboard just below the CPU. Looking at the graphics card, you'll find the connectors that fit into this slot are on one side and require you to install the graphics card with its fans facing down towards the bottom of the case.
Before you slot it in you need to remove the cover from the rear of the case. This is a strip of metal held in place with a thumbscrew. You'll need to remove two of these in order to fit the connectors through the back of the case so you can plug them into a monitor.
Now you can put the graphics card into the slot. Line up the connectors with the holes. You'll note there is a small one next to a longer one, so it's impossible to install this component incorrectly, but don't force it.
Once the graphics card is slotted into the motherboard, you can screw the thumbscrews back into the holes - through the metal plating on the back of the graphics card - this will help hold it in place.
Attaching and connecting power supply cables
This next stage is where things can get messy and fiddly - plugging in all the power cables. The more components you have in your gaming PC, the more cables need to be plugged in. It should be relatively straightforward, but keeping the cables neat can be difficult.
Many cases have holes, hooks and channels for tidying your cables. The Corsair Obsidian 500D is an absolute joy for cable management. On the rear of the case, there is a cover that's held in place with a thumb screw. Removing this cover you'll find an area where you can hide a multitude of cable sins. Underneath you'll find three holes for running cables through from the back of the case to the front.
Keep this cover off as you start to install the power cables. Inside the PSU box, you'll find a mass of cables in a bag. These are used to connect the various components of your machine to the PSU. There are a variety of different cables, but don't worry as the cables are labelled clearly.
You can also refer to the manual to see where each cable fits - it's worth noting that there are usually at least two power cables that need to go into the motherboard. This includes a large 24-pin cable and an 8-pin connector too.
On the PSU you'll find labels for each of the cables and it's only possible to attach them one way up - with a clip that holds them in place, so it's relatively easy to do.
Firstly plug in the 24-pin and 8-pin ATX and PCIe CPU cables and run them through the case to the front to plug them into the motherboard. On the motherboard we're using the 24-pin connector plugs in on the right, the 8-pin plugs into the top left. This may vary on other motherboards, but you can find the labels in the manual and usually clearly marked on the motherboard itself too.
For SSD and HDD power you'll find cables and slots on the PSU marked "peripheral & SATA" these have thin, flat connectors on them that plug into hard drives. You'll find you have cables with multiple connections on them - you can plug several hard drives into this and anything else that needs SATA power (lighting controllers for example).
The graphics card uses an 8-pin PCIe connector cable which is often split into two. This can be fed through from the rear of the case. Along with the cables for the motherboard but is plugged into the 6+2 PCIe slot on the PSU.
Optional - with the Premium PSU Cable kit from Corsair you can make your case look neater and more incredible. These are sold in a variety of colours, but we loved black and white for some contrasting colour theming. In this package, you'll also get a number of cable clips that fit the individual cables into teeth and keep them separated and looking incredibly neat. This kit also helps if you're after an amazing tidy look inside your gaming machine.
Now your build is nearly finished you can try to tidy up a bit and make sure everything is neat and tidy. This isn't just about being obsessively neat - tidy cables also help with airflow in the case and help keep your components cool. It's worth spending time on.
Before you start, we'd recommend double checking everything is plugged in - check the motherboard manual and ensure all the inputs are connected as they should be. We'd also recommend plugging your PC into the power socket and powering it on. Don't touch the insides while you do this.
Motherboards have lights and speakers for letting you know that everything is running ok. On the Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E there are lights on the top right of the motherboard which light up and let you know if there's an error. Check the manual to see what these coloured lights mean but hopefully, everything turns on just fine. If not, the lights will highlight what's wrong - maybe RAM isn't seated properly or graphics card doesn't have power.
If it all works, turn off and unplug the PC, then begin the fun of tidying the cables. You should find cable ties in both the motherboard box and with the PSU. Loop cables together and tighten them up so they're held neatly together.
The case also has multiple metal loops on both the front and back that allow you hook a cable tie through and pull the cables neatly into the body and tie them down. These can be worked around all the edges to hide the cables as much as possible.
Optional - Commander Pro and RGB lighting
If you're looking to upgrade your build or add lighting to your gaming machine while you build it then you may have considered the Corsair RGB components we added to this. That includes six LL120 RGB fans, a Commander Pro and RGB lighting strips. Installing this system requires a little more fiddling and effort but results in a fantastic looking case with a mass of lights that can be controlled via your computer in a variety of different ways once your machine is finished.
We've covered installing the fans already, but you need to now install the Commander Pro and the RGB fan LED hub (included with the fans) to set this lighting up fully.
Firstly you'll need to find somewhere to install these two hub boxes on your machine. The SSD drive bays on the rear of the case make a good location if you're not using them. Just be aware that each hub/box has multiple cables that need to be managed.
Hopefully, you've labelled each of the cables from the fans you have installed. Each fan has two cables, one needs to be plugged into the Commander Pro, the other into the RGB fan LED hub. You'll see these are numbered 1-6, so attach the cables on each of these hubs in order ensuring they match on both boxes. This will allow you to control the lighting in order and sync it up inside the case via the Corsair Link software.
Both boxes need SATA power, so you also need to ensure you have spare power connectors to allow that. The smaller box - the RGB fan LED hub - connects to the Commander Pro via one of the LED connections on that box. The other is left spare for RGB LED lighting strips.
The Commander Pro has two connections for USB devices, so you can plug the USB cable from the Corsair H150i cooler into this and then plug the Commander Pro into the motherboard. This saves connections on the motherboard and also allows you to control everything via the Commander Pro and the software.
Note - if you're using all these devices you'll have spare RGB fan LED hubs and Lighting Node Pro boxes - as you get one of each with each twin pack of fans, but you only need the RGB fan LED hub if you're using the Commander Pro.
This system also has extension cables which allow you to put the boxes further away from the fans, which makes it easier to hide both the boxes and the cables around the back of the case.
Next, the RGB LED strips can be placed around the inside of the case. These need to be connected together, then attached to the other LED input on the Commander Pro. They are slightly magnetic, so easily stick to the inside of the case, but avoid putting them where they'll be in contact with components they might damage. Magnets and hard drives do not mix!
The LED strips also have stickers on the back, so you can secure them fully to your case. On the Corsair Obsidian 500D, you can attach them to the edges of the case and see them from outside through the glass. It looks great too.
Starting your machine for the first time
Now your first gaming PC is built. Congratulations! But it's not all over yet. You need to install Windows, some games and other software then get to the actual fun of playing games while bathing in the glory of having hand built your own machine.
You're going to need to plug those in to get started with the next bit.
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You'll also need another PC or laptop in order to install Microsoft Windows.
How to install Microsoft Windows
Installing Windows 10 is relatively straightforward. You'll need a few things first though:
- A purchased licence key for Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro.
- A USB thumb drive or DVD (note this requires a DVD drive in your build, which we haven’t done) with at least 8GB of free space
- Access to the Windows Installation Media tool
Using the Windows Installation Media tool you can turn your USB stick into a bootable drive - this means you'll be able to run the Windows installation program directly from it.
Run the tool, follow the instructions and install it on your USB stick using another PC. Once that's done, plug it into your freshly built PC and turn it on. You'll need to then press DEL as soon as the computer starts up and enter the BIOS. From there, look for the boot menu - this is an order through which the computer tries to load and select the USB drive you've plugged in as the first drive to try. This means when you exit - save the changes and reset - the machine will then load from the USB drive and prompt you to install Windows.
If you don't have access to another PC or laptop then you can buy a physical disc of Windows, but you'll also need to install an optical DVD drive in your PC. Borrowing a friend's computer is an easier option.
Once you've done this the tool will talk you through installing Windows - choose 64-bit and the hard drive you want to install on. Installing on an M.2 drive or SSD will mean Windows loads more quickly every time you turn your PC on.
After a while, you'll be asked to enter the license key and then the install will carry on. Your PC will eventually load Windows and then you'll be away! You'll need to plug in your Wi-Fi aerial or ethernet cable to connect to your home broadband, but then you can start downloading games and setting your PC up the way you want it.
Upgrading your PC in future
As we said earlier, once you've completed a build your PC should serve you well for years to come, but you can also upgrade it by adding various parts. The easiest upgrades are extra RAM and a new GPU. You can also add another hard drive fairly easily if you need more storage. RGB lighting and fan upgrades also make your machine look more snazzy.
Speeding up hard disks with Intel Optane Memory
If, like us, you're partial to standard platter hard drives for the amount of storage space they offer on a value-for-money basis then you'll also have mixed feelings about their performance.
Hard disk drives are great for masses of storage, they're not great for speed. The good news is, there's an easy upgrade you can do to your system to improve performance and help speed up these drives.
Intel's Optane Memory HDD accelerator does just that. It's an M.2 drive that slots into your motherboard (in the same way as the M.2 NVMe SSD above) and makes standard hard drive access as much as 14 times faster.
Simply install the accelerator in any spare M.2 slot on your motherboard, then download the accompanying software. From there you can then choose the hard drive you wish to accelerate. Over time this will boost performance and improve your experience.
You could use this to improve the performance of your large storage drives or as an alternative to having an SSD or NVMe drive as your Windows Boot drive.
Hopefully, you've found this guide useful. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments.
Special thanks to Asus, Corsair and Intel for the support provided in creating this article.