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A beginner’s guide to building a PC from scratch

Building a computer used to be a complicated process, where careful selection of delicate parts was a necessity, and when it finally booted, it was a triumphant experience.

Related: What matters (and what doesn’t) when buying a gaming desktop

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever, with clear standards of compatibility, obvious choices for performance and value, and an actual building process that’s straightforward and well documented. That being said, there are a lot of pitfalls and assumptions that experienced builders make that newcomers won’t know. We’ve compiled this handy step-by-step guide that will take you from a pile of parts to a working computer in just a couple of hours.

Getting started

This guide is all about putting your components together. If you haven’t selected and purchased all the hardware you need, then stop reading and go check out our PC build guide, which outlines recommended components for a variety of builds.

Have your parts? Good. Let’s get started.

PC build-out guide
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Before you dig in, ensure there’s a clean workspace with plenty of room to open boxes and put parts together. Hopefully there’s already a pile of them in front of you, but if not, our PC build guide can walk you through that process.

There are a few matters to discuss first, that will make this whole process a lot smoother.

You can feel it

There’s an invisible risk when building a computer that can crush the most powerful system: static electricity. The same force that lets you shock your friends when you wear wool socks can also fry components in a heartbeat. Fortunately, it’s easy to all but eliminate with a few simple steps.

One easy way is to purchase an anti-static wristband. One end wraps around your wrist, and the other clips somewhere on the computer case, keeping the wearer constantly grounded. Touching the case frequently with the PSU plugged in, but turned off, achieves the same effect.

PC build-out guide
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Apart from that, it helps to build in a room with a bare floor — carpet generates a lot of static — and wear rubber-sole shoes, rather than socks. Many of the components will be packaged in anti-static bags, and it’s a good idea to leave them there until just before installation.

Need help? Just ask

Building a PC for the first time can be a little tricky, but the good news is there are many resources to help. People who like building computers don’t often get the opportunity. If you have an enthusiast friend, they may jump at the chance to help put it together.

This guide is meant as a general overview of the process, and the instructions your parts came with may vary from our suggestions. When they do, default to the included instructions, and use our guide as a road map for the whole project.

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