How to build a mid-range gaming PC

© Provided by Pocket-lint 2020 PC Components photo 1 (Pocket-lint) – Building your own gaming PC can be a super rewarding experience, not just because of the satisfaction of completing a build and turning it on, but also due to the proud feeling you get every time you game. Playing […]

a desktop computer sitting on top of a wooden table: 2020 PC Components photo 1

© Provided by Pocket-lint
2020 PC Components photo 1

(Pocket-lint) – Building your own gaming PC can be a super rewarding experience, not just because of the satisfaction of completing a build and turning it on, but also due to the proud feeling you get every time you game. Playing on a machine you built yourself is something special. 

Building your own computer can also be a good way to save money over buying a pre-built system. If you don’t have the cash to build an extreme gaming PC, but still want something with punch, then you’ve come to the right place. 

In this guide, we’ll be showing you how to build a mid-range gaming PC with the essential parts for a machine that will keep you gaming happily for a few years,  without leaving you in a mountain of debt. 

We’ll be talking you through the steps, the things you’ll need to think about and any other considerations along the way.

• Budgeting your gaming PC • Mounting the radiator on the case
• What components do you need? • Installing the heatsink
• How to build your gaming PC • Installing the Power Supply Unit
• Getting started with your PC build • Installing standard Solid State Drives
• Setting up the motherboard • Installing standard Hard disk drives
• Installing the CPU • Attach front-panel connectors
• Seating the RAM • Installing the graphics card
• Installing the M.2 NVMe SSD  • Attaching and connecting power supply cables
• Preparing your case • Cable tidying
• Installing the I/O shield • Starting your machine for the first time
• How to install the motherboard • How to install Microsoft Windows

Budgeting your gaming PC

Before you can get started, you’ll need to consider your budget – this really is a key step! If you want to keep costs down, you’ll need to think about the essential parts and the ones that aren’t easy to upgrade in future. There’s no point in building a good PC now, only to have to abandon it in a year or two because the foundations are massively out of date. 

If you’re looking to save money, you don’t necessarily need the newest and best parts either. Older generations of CPU, motherboard and more might be cheaper but still work well enough to last you for a long time. 

It’s worth spending extra on the core parts of the machine at the start. You can always add more RAM, a better graphics card or more hard drive storage at a later date if you need to.

What components do you need?

Depending on your budget, you’ll need numerous components to craft your new gaming PC. It’s really important to do your research first to make sure everything fits and will work together and you don’t waste money on things you don’t need. 

Gaming motherboards

The motherboard is the foundation of your new gaming PC. It works as the base for all the parts and will help control the system. Each device within the PC connects to it to allow the computer to function.

When choosing a motherboard, it’s important not to skimp out. The motherboard is not the easiest thing to upgrade in future, as you’ll have to tear down the entire system to do so. So buying a good quality one is important. 

That said, a good way to save money is to look for a previous generation motherboard – the one that supports the last generation of CPU, rather than the current one. That’ll bring the costs down without negatively impacting performance too much. 

It’s also very important that you thoroughly examine the specifications of the 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 MSI MAG B550M MORTAR. This motherboard supports DDR4 RAM, and is fairly simple to set up, plus has a useful in-built I/O shield. That’s three different things to bear in mind just in relation to one component.

Getting back to the RAM, though, this board’s dual-channel support 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, which is nice for future expansion. 

The RAM’s frequency is measured in MHz. This motherboard is capable of taking RAM with a frequency of 4400MHz. You need to ensure you buy RAM that fits in the right category, which our selection down below does indeed. 

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. Alternatively, match our purchases for total confidence. 

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The Central Processing Unit (CPU), is the brain that powers your computer. The CPU can be one of the most costly parts of your PC build, and the smallest. You’ll 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 eleventh generation of processor also referred to as “Tiger Lake” – these are the newest chips. If you want to build a cheaper, but still powerful gaming machine, then you can opt for previous generations. They’ll still be capable but won’t necessarily cost the big bucks. 

For this build, though, we’re going with AMD, which has been cracking out superb, low-cost processors for a few years now. We’re using a third-generation Ryzen chip, the Ryzen 5 3600XT, which brings really impressive performance but is also well below the price of some competing chips. It’s an AM4 socket type, which is important to bear in mind as you’ll need a motherboard that can accept this socket type. Motherboards are also purposely sold as AMD or Intel compatible to make this easier for you. 

It is always possible to upgrade your CPU in future, but only purchase an upgraded processor that’s the same socket as your motherboard or you’ll fine it a bit tiresome. We’ve put together a guide on how to swap out your CPU here.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

RAM is the memory of your gaming machine. It helps the PC to act quickly and efficiently as you game. The size of RAM is measured in GB. Most modern gaming PCs will run with at least 8GB of RAM as a minimum, but we’re stretching this to a future-proof 32GB of Corsair’s superb Vengeance RGB Pro RAM. 

If you’re working on a budget, then there are ways to save money here. For example, it’s worth looking at the recommended specifications of games you want to play, and future games being released soon. You can then build your PC to hit those specifications or slightly exceed them. 

RAM is one of the easiest things to upgrade in future. All you’ll need is enough spare slots on your motherboard and purchase of more RAM that matches in terms of size, frequency and model number. You’ll then be able to double your RAM amount in future. 

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

The power supply unit provides all the necessary juice your gaming machine needs. Every component needs to be plugged into it in order to run. 

Don’t risk scrimp on this part as buying a cheap PSU could result in the unfortunate and early demise of your machine. You also need to choose a PSU which has enough power to run your machine and all the parts inside it. PSUs are sold according to wattage, in other words, the amount of power they’re capable of putting out. 

Buy one that’s too powerful and it won’t run efficiently. Too weak and it won’t give enough power to the parts which could see your machine turning off (or worse) in the middle of a game. 

To solve any headaches, you can use this nifty calculator to suss out which one you need based on the components you plan on including in your machine. We’ve gone for this stonking Corsair unit, with the added bonus of a little more RGB in the package and loads of power to spare.

Considering your storage options and requirements

There are a number of different options when it comes to storage for your machine. These are drives you’ll use to store your games, videos, files and your operating system.

These are slightly different and vary in price as well as speed and storage size. We’re going to assume you want something fast and modern but without massive expense. We’d recommend either standard SSDs or NVMe drives.

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Solid State Drives have no moving parts and can transfer files quickly, as well as load games swiftly and reduce any issues you might have with lag. These vary in size, the smaller ones are cheaper but are likely to fill up quickly if you have a large library of games. For the build below, though, we’ll actually be sticking to M.2 storage. 

M.2 NVME Drives

These are the newest and fastest sort of Solid State Drives. They’re also the easiest to install and offer blisteringly fast load speeds that will reduce the time you spend staring at game loads screens. Better yet, in the form of this Corsair MP510 you’ll find that you get plenty of storage for not much cash, and you can easily pick a bigger size if you prefer. 

  • How to improve your gaming performance with blazing fast NVMe SSDs

Graphics cards (GPU)

The GPU does the majority of the work when it comes to powering your games. New graphics cards are being released all the time and those components will help run the latest games on very high or ultra settings.

These are likely the most expensive single component you can buy though. But you don’t necessarily have to have the newest or the best to get good results. 

The graphics card is also one of the easiest parts to upgrade in future. If you build your machine well, you can upgrade your GPU every couple of years or so and keep the whole thing running for many happy years to come. 

Graphics cards are produced by two manufacturers – Nvidia and AMD. These vary in price and the power they deliver. Again, it’s worth checking minimum or recommended specifications when deciding what GPU to buy. 

We’re going with this superb AMD card from XFX, which is indeed the priciest component in our build but brings really solid power that’ll last a good few years, and plays very nicely indeed with the AMD processor we’ve picked. Plus, its triple fan setup means it doesn’t get too hot, and looks might imposing. 

CPU heatsink/cooling

CPUs tend to get really hot when you’re playing games – or, frankly just in regular use. Keeping them cool is essential to ensure the smooth running of your PC and an enjoyable gaming experience. 

Heatsinks and all-in-one cooling systems are products you can purchase to keep the CPU running efficiently. We recommend using a self-contained liquid cooling system as these are easy to fit and do a fantastic job of keeping the CPU cool.

For this article, we’ll be using a Corsair liquid cooling system with two fans to help cool the radiator. These systems offer fantastic cooling performance without all the danger of spillages that come with fully-fledged water-cooling setups. 

You do need to consider the size of your case when looking for CPU cooling system to make sure it will fit – in this case, the 240mm variant is perfect. 

Computer case

Gaming PC cases are available in a range of different sizes, shapes, colours and with varying features. 

The main difference is size. Cases are available in full-tower, mid-tower, ATX, micro-ATX, mini-ITC and more. For your first gaming PC build, we’d suggest using either a full-tower or mid-tower case. These are slightly larger and allow you more space to work, but also better airflow and will accept a wider range of motherboards. 

We’ve picked this new Corsair case, which is nice and roomy, and comes with a bunch of case cooling and RGB pre-installed, which you’ll be thankful for later on while you’re building. You can lose the RGB on a lower-priced variant of the case, though, to save some money. 

Case cooling

As mentioned, many cases, including the Corsair 4000X, come with case fans already installed that can are plugged directly into the motherboard and powered to keep the case cool. There may also be space for extra fans if you want to add more to keep things really cool. Check the specs of your case, 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

Thermal paste is another cheap but potentially 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. However, for this build you won’t actually need any if everything goes smoothly – the relevant components will have paste pre-prepared. 

How to build your gaming PC

Once you have everything you need, the next step is to start building. The first time you do this, it can be quite daunting. But we’re here to help things go smoothly. 

There are a few essential things to bear in mind that will ensure everything goes well: 

  • Building your own PC 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:

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 

Getting started with your PC build

Gallery: Best PlayStation controller 2020: Pick up an extra PS4 or PS5 game pad (Pocket-lint)

To start off unbox your case, remove any extra cables and bits that came with it, then set it to one side. 

Build in a place where you won’t accidentally build up static electricity – so don’t do it on carpet if you can avoid it, for example. Also, be 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 (a non-painted part of your power supply could work nicely) and works to disperse any static electricity build-up in your body to prevent damaging the important components. 

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. 

This next bit can be easy to overlook or ignore – ensure the motherboard manual is easy to access. You might think you’re all sorted, but you will need this document. It’s very handy to reference, especially when it comes to plugging cables into the right places later on.

Installing the CPU

The CPU might be the smallest thing in this build, but it’s also really easy to install as long as you do it with care.  

With the motherboard correctly oriented the CPU will be installed with a tiny little gold arrow pointing down to the bottom left corner. Check to make sure you can see that easily. 

Now remove the motherboard’s protective cover by lifting the lever arm – in some cases this will be a metal shield, although on this MSI board it’s just a plastic mechanism. Note how the lever fits as this is how the CPU will be held securely in place. 

One that lever is lifted, you can then gently place the CPU down in place. Make sure it lines up properly and don’t force it. You can only put the CPU in one way round, so you shouldn’t be forcing it in. In fact, you should feel it just drop into place without any resistance. 

Now that’s done, you can simply replace the shield if it exists, before putting the lever back down.

Sometimes you might find a CPU installation tool in the motherboard to make life easier. These come with instructions and involve a couple more steps but help you avoid touching things you shouldn’t.

Seating the RAM

Now comes one of the next easiest jobs in this build process. Installing the RAM. With a close look, you’ll see from markings on the motherboard and instructions in the manual that the RAM needs to be installed in a certain order. For this motherboard, you need to fit the sticks in DIMM slots A2 and B2 first if you only have a pair of RAM sticks. Putting them in A1 and B1 will not work – you can see the different combinations in the motherboard’s manual.

Take the RAM out and line it up with the slots. You’ll see there are clips at the ends of the slots. Push these back to loosen things up before you put the RAM in. Once you seat the RAM it will make a satisfying click when fully inserted. Just like with the CPU, don’t force things. 

Installing the M.2 NVMe SSD 

M.2 NVMe drives are blissfully easy to install. These storage drives get power straight from the motherboard and transfer data that way too, so there’s no need for pesky cables. 

Most modern motherboards have two or more slots for these drivers. The MSI MAG B550M Mortar motherboard that we’re using has two slots. You can find their location in the manual. One is immediately obvious as it sits just below the CPU with its own heatsink, and that’s the one we’ll be using. 

Unscrew the heat shield from the motherboard by removing the two screws. You’ll see a sticker underneath that needs to be removed before reinstalling – this will help keep the drive in place.  

With the cover off you can install the drive. Simply click the drive in at a roughly 30-degree angle, then replace the heatsink cover with its screw to hold it in place on the other end. Hey presto, you’ve installed your storage.

Preparing your case

With the motherboard prepared, it’s time to fit it in the case. The good news is that this is really easy with the board and case we’ve selected. 

Lay the case on a flat surface so you can see the inside easily. The Corsair 4000X has stand-off screws pre-installed to hold the motherboard in place once you’ve slipped it in and screwed it down, so don’t worry about those too much. 

Exactly how many screws are needed to hold the motherboard in place will change slightly based on your choice of components, but you’ll be able to see which want screws by looking down through them to see if they’re over a standoff. 

Installing the I/O shield

Now, in the case of our motherboard, you can ignore this step, as the MSI MAG B550M Mortar handily has a fixed I/O shield that makes installing it super easy.

However, if you’ve got a differne board you might need to install the I/O shield yourself. This is a bit of plastic 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. 

This is included with the motherboard, so dig it out of the box, line it up with the holes on the back of the case and push it into place. This can be a little fiddly and takes some effort to pop into place in most cases. You should hear a pop and we’d recommend making sure it’s secure before moving on. 

How to install the motherboard

Installing the motherboard requires you to line it up with both the I/O shield and the stand-off screws. The easiest thing 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. 

Take care to lower it down gently into the case and over the stand-off screws. If done correctly, you should see the holes of the stand-off screws through the holes on the motherboard. 

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 liquid cooling system

The next step is to prepare to install your heatsink – this might just be the fiddliest part of the build. 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 iCUE H100i Elite Capellix cooler.

The first step you’ll need to take is swapping out the bracket on the heatsink to the right AMD version (or the right fit for your motherboard and processor). For us that means swapping in the AM4 bracket, which is easily done by sliding off the metal bracket and replacing it with the AM4 variant from the cooler’s box. 

In our case, this also means no change is needed on the backplate front, but if you’re using an Intel chip you may need to install a backplate on the rear of the motherboard using sticky-back plastic. You’ll find clear and detailed instructions on this process in your cooler’s box, regardless of what model you’ve opted for.

The next step is to work out where to fit the heatsink’s radiator. For this build, the cooling system uses a 240mm radiator, which we’ll be fitting onto the top of the case, so that it pulls air in through the PC’s front and expels it through the radiator on the top of the case. 

You’ll also need to fix the included fans onto the radiator, using the long screws that are included – again, this is pretty simple to do. 

Mounting the radiator on the case

The radiator for the liquid cooling system now needs to be mounted to the case, a pretty simple process – remove the dustguard from the case’s top, and simply use the included screws to fix the case in place through the holes you can see. 

As you do this, just make sure that Corsair logo on the radiator itself is up the right way round, which will ensure that everything works as expected. We’ve pointed the coolers two main tubes toward the front of the case – you’ll find this easier for cable management, in our experience, but this is something you can experiment with and change while building. 

If you’re not quite sure of how to set up all the fans you’ve now got access to, we feel your pain. There’s a great guide to case airflow here, which could help. As mentioned above, we prefer to use the radiator’s fans as exhaust fans rather than intake, but that’s just our taste.

Installing the heatsink

This heatsink comes with pre-applied thermal paste which makes life a lot easier as you don’t need to buy any paste or worry about not putting enough on (or applying too much).

Check your instruction manual to make sure that you know how the heatsink fits onto the bracket you’re using. In our case, that means remembering to fit the little clamp-like screws that will fix onto the plastic mount on our MSI motherboard.

Once that’s straight in your mind, remove the protective plastic cover and simply place the heatsink down, copper side first onto the top of the CPU. 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 fixed.

There are two cables here that need to be installed in order for this system to work properly. There’s 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 cables from the fans easily and conveniently fit the to cables from the Corsair Commander Core control box bundled with the cooler, and allow it to help control these fans. We’ll detail how to install that shortly. 

There’s also a SATA power cable for the pump – a large flat thin connector – that will also get routed through the Commander Core for convenience. 

Installing the Power Supply Unit

Installing the power supply will be slightly different from case to case. With the rear panel of the Corsair case off, you can easily see where this PSU fits, at the bottom of the case under a shield that keeps it out of sight. 

With the Corsair CX750F you’ll find the standard power cables, and a mains power plug in the box. Take the PSU out. There’s a large fan on it, which 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 and hold it there while you screw it in place. You’ll find four holes at the rear that you can tighten screws into to hold the PSU tightly in place. Alternatively, you can leave the PSU loose in this cavity until all your cables are plugged in later – this might make things slightly easier to see and access.

Installing standard Solid State Drives

Now, if you want to, you can install the other hard drives in the machine, although in this build we’re sticking to just our NVMe storage. If you do want to, the Corsair 4000X case has two 2.5-inch drive bays for SSD drives behind the rear panel of the case. To install an SSD in this case, you simply remove these drive bays by unscrewing the thumbscrew then taking 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.

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. In the Corsair 4000X you’ll find them nicely routed on the back of the case, for you to feed through to the motherboard and connect up. This can be a bit fiddly, but the motherboard’s manual is a lifesaver, and should have a clear map of what needs to go where. Each cable is clearly labelled in the case manual as to what it is and in the motherboard manual as to where it should plugin, while invidiual plugs also often have labels to clarify which function they control. This makes it a bit like following a Lego manual to work out which plug should end up on which pin. 

Installing the graphics card

To install the graphics card you’ll need to find the correct PCIe slot on the motherboard. On this MSI motherboard, we’re using that’s the PCIe slot that’s righ next to where we installed our SSD – it looks a tight fit, but trust us, it’ll work nicely.

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 two covers 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. 

Another important, if tiny note is to make sure you take any protective covers off the GPU’s ports before you install it – these will be fiddly to fish out once it’s in place!

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. 

Vertically mounting the graphics card

As an alternative, it’s possible to vertically mount your graphics card in some cases. We’ve included photos from a previous build, above, in case this is of interest. You need a case that has the slots for it and a suitable extension cable. Mounting the graphics card like this has no particular benefits to the gaming prowess of your machine, but it does look amazing, especially if you have a glass-sided case you can see through. 

The Corsair 4000X has a tempered glass side and the ability to side-mount with a panel at the real that can be removed and screwed in with thumbscrews, so if you do fancy this the case is more than capable of allowing it. 

The process is essentially the same. You just need to remove the panel, slip the card in and put the screws in place to keep it there. The extension cable then plugs into the top PCIe slot on your motherboard and plugs into the underside of the graphics card around the back. 

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 4000X has some nice channelling at the back for getting cables as neat as possible. You’ll find hooks for cable ties, recesses cables can be tucked into and more, and the case comes with a whole bundle of these fastenings to make your life easier. 

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 standard SSDs you’ll find cables and slots on the PSU marked “peripheral & SATA” these have thin, flat connectors on them that plug into SSDs.

The graphics card uses a couple of PCIe connectors, 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. 

Installing RGB controls

As we mentioned above, the benefit of the cooler we’ve picked for this build is that it comes with a new RGB controller from Corsair, the Commander Core, which is super easy to use and will make controlling your PC’s lighting trivially easy. However, it does mean a little replacement job.

The Corsair 4000X case comes with a lighting controller pre-installed, but it’s pretty simple to detach it with a screwdriver and unplug the cables connecting it to the case fans. Then, you can simply use the included sticky-back plastic to fix the new Commander Core unit in place wherever you feel it fits best. In our view, this is on the rear of the care, in the space left behind for one of two SSDs. 

Then you simply need to route your case and cooler fans’ cables to the Commander Core and plug them in, RGB on the left and fan power on the right. Finally, plug in the power cable from the cooler to the Commander Core, and make sure that the controller itself is hooked up to the motherboard and PSU as the manual directs. When you turn on your PC, downloading Corsair’s iCUE software will have you making custom lighting patterns in no time. 

Cable tidying

Now your build is nearly finished you can try to tidy up a bit and make sure everything is neat and tidy. This is worth spending time on as neat cables help with airflow in the case and help keep your components cool.   

It’s worth checking everything is properly plugged in before you get to tidying. Plug your PC into the power and turn it on to make sure it boots up with touching the insides. 

Motherboards have lights and sometimes speakers for letting you know that everything is running ok. On the MSI B550M Mortar there are lights on the 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 your graphics card doesn’t have power. 

If it all works, turn off and unplug the PC again. You’ll 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, although you don’t need to lose sleep if the rear of the case doesn’t look insanely clean. 

Run the cables through the various channels and use the ties and hooks to neaten everything up. 

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. 

Hopefully, you’ve already seen our guides on the best gaming mice, headsets and keyboards to buy and you’ve got yourself equipped with those and a shiny new monitor to plug into your gaming PC. 

You’re going to need to plug those in to get started with the next bit.

  • Best gaming mice: The best wired, wireless and RGB gaming mice to buy today
  • Best PC gaming headsets: The best wired, wireless and surround sound headsets around
  • Best gaming keyboards: The best quiet, loud, colourful and proud mechanical keyboards around

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:

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. It’s worth highlighting that, while it is seemingly possible to make this bootable drive from a Mac, we’ve tried several times unsuccessfully, while we’ve never had an issue on a PC. So, if you can, we’d strongly recommend doing this from a PC if at all possible.

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 ethernet cable to connect to your home broadband, 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, or you might feel that a Wi-Fi card will free you up to locate your PC in more places. 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. 

Special thanks to Corsair, AMD, MSI, and XFX for the support provided in creating this article. 

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