Picking a budget
The first step I took when thinking about building a computer was determining my budget. From that, I would be able to decide the quality of the parts I needed to order, and not overspend or underspend.
For my computer, I decided to create a budget of around 1,500 dollars for the build. Ideally it would cost a bit less, but this price gave me room to make higher end purchases for various components, while not going too extreme. To determine these components, I next considered what the purpose of the PC would be.
Deciding what I would use it for helped me choose the appropriate hardware that would give me ideal performance while doing that activity.
From the start I knew I wanted a powerful GPU for the multitude of games I play that require higher end parts to run well, using 3D modeling softwares, and general performance. In terms of storage, I knew that my current laptop storage with 512 GB of SSD wouldn’t cut it for the amount of files and applications I would be downloading for the next many years, and thought that 2 TB of storage would be too much. This settled me on choosing 1 TB SSD for the computer.
In terms of my RAM, on my current laptop, 16 GB was more than enough for most of the activities I did, so I settled on choosing a 16 GB RAM. I knew that I could always upgrade my RAM to 32 GB due to the simplicity and relatively cheap process later on. For my CPU, I wanted at least an 8-core processor to ensure it would allow the computer to perform.
With types of parts that I was looking for in mind, I began searching for the parts online.
Finding the parts
Finding the parts for the computer was the longest step in this process. I needed to ensure that all the parts were compatible with each other, and that generally the price at which I was getting the item was reasonable for the performance of it. This was especially true when I was purchasing my GPU. I used PCPartPicker to ensure this compatibility and keep track of the parts I still need.
I first started with determining a CPU. I wanted an 8-core CPU for ideal performance and went toward Ryzen initially, as I had a Ryzen on my laptop and performed well. I researched and found the Ryzen 5800X, a solid 8-core CPU for about 340 dollars. The CPU needs to have a compatible CPU socket on the motherboard, for which the Ryzen 5800X was an AM4 socket. I began researching motherboards with this socket, finding an MSI TOMAHAWK motherboard.
However, during this time, I was talking to my friend who had a bit more experience with building a computer and informed me to look at prices of various chips on the market. Ryzen CPUs at the time were overpriced for the performance given, and when comparing it to various Intel CPUs I noticed this performance and price difference. My friend suggested looking into the Intel 12600k; a 6 performance core 4 efficiency core which would be much more powerful for almost 100 dollars less. Needless to say, I started working on Build 2, with an Intel CPU.
Similar to the Ryzen CPU, I looked for a motherboard with the appropriate socket: an LGA1700. After looking at multiple reviews for various LGA1700 compatible motherboards, I found a good price good performance MSI PRO Z690-A, with wifi and bluetooth for about 210 dollars with good reviews.
With the CPU and motherboard settled, I looked for the components that would be installed onto the motherboard such as the RAM, SSD, and the GPU. My motherboard was only compatible with DDR4 type RAM, and with a small amount of research came across 16 GB Corsair RAM, with almost 5 stars by thousands of people. I wasn’t concerned about the speed of the RAM as it was an unnecessary bother of efficiency and cost for my purposes.
For the SSD, I followed a similar method of finding the product. I knew I only needed 1 TB of storage and searched on Amazon to find an almost 5 star 1 TB SSD by Samsung. I had seen this product in other builds that I had viewed, so I knew it would be more than enough.
When researching for the case of the computer, I needed to keep in mind the form factor my motherboard was: ATX. An ATX motherboard is pretty standard, so finding a case wasn’t an issue. I knew that computers became hot, and case cooling was a necessary component but expensive. While browsing cases I came across a case by Musetek which contained 6 inbuilt fans, with reviews complementing the quality and performance of the fans. While the fans aren’t the quietest or the most efficient, they do the job well enough, save money, and look cool, which was enough for me.
The case fans reminded me that I was missing a crucial part of my CPU: the CPU cooler. I searched for high quality fans that were compatible with the CPU, as keeping the CPU cool is very important for the performance of the computer. As I navigated through many reviews of various fans, I came across the Noctua NH-U12S: a relatively cheap fan with high performance, on par with the more expensive cooling systems.
At this point, all I needed was the GPU. At the time that I was building my PC, GPUs were in high demand due to cryptominers, making them exceedingly expensive. Ideally, I wanted to get a GPU as close to MSRP, however many were going for more than 150–200 dollars more. I knew I wanted to purchase a NVIDIA GPU due to the higher performance it gives over many AMD GPUs, but didn’t know where to start looking.
I started looking at RTX 3050s and 3060s as I wanted a high performing GPU, but didn’t want to overspend. I was leaning toward a 3060 due to the higher specs and better build quality, but didn’t know where to get it for a reasonable price. The MSRP for it is 330, so about 50 dollars higher would be ideal. I spent multiple days scouring stores for one, and in MicroCenter I found an EVGA RTX 3060 for 400 dollars, which was a good price for the time.
Lastly, all computers need a power supply to allow the computer to function. A high rated model I had seen in other builds was the Corsair RMx Series. According to the current parts, to be safe I would need at least a 650 watt power supply. However, at the time the 850 watt Corsair RMx was on sale making it cheaper than the 650 watt one. I decided to choose that one and added it to the parts list.
Finally, after scavenging the internet for weeks to find the correct parts, the list was done. With the help of my parents, I placed the order for all the parts and waited for the arrival.
Building the PC
A couple weeks later, I had received all the parts and was ready to start building. I first took out the motherboard, and laid it out on a flat surface. I planned to install most of the parts like that, before mounting the motherboard on the case.
Installing RAM and SSD
Installing the RAM sticks and SSD was fairly simple. The motherboard came with locks that kept the parts in place, so by unlocking the slot, inserting the part, and locking the slot in place allowed a complete and successful installation of both the RAM and SSD.
Installing CPU + Cooler
Installing the CPU with the cooler was one of the trickier portions in the assembly. It was fairly straightforward to install the CPU. I unlocked the pin area, gently placed the CPU in the correct orientation, and locked the area again, securing the CPU in place.
The next step was building and installing the CPU cooler.
The cooler came with instructions to separately build it, and by following them I was ready to mount it on the CPU. The Noctua cooler came with pre-applied thermal paste allowing me to place it directly on the CPU, and fasten the mounting plates onto the motherboard.
And with that, the installation of the CPU and its cooler were complete.
Mounting the Motherboard + Wiring the Power Supply
Mounting the motherboard was fairly simple. There were 6 screws to fasten into the case which were simple to install, allowing the motherboard to be firmly on the case.
The next step was to install and wire the power supply to the various components of the computer.
This step was another challenging step in the building process. It was difficult to correctly manage all the wiring to create a relatively clean outcome, as well as reach the ports each wire needed. In total, I needed to supply power to my motherboard, my CPU, and my GPU.
For the motherboard, I was supplied with a 24 pin ATX cable which I plugged into the appropriate place on the motherboard. The CPU is powered by an EPS cable, which I was able to find on the motherboard and plug in.
For regular usage and mild overclocking, one EPS cable is enough, however I was supplied with two allowing me to plug both in which would allow the CPU to receive more than enough power for heavier overclocking as well. It’s always safe to supply more power than necessary.
Next, I plugged in the GPU via a PCIe cable directly from the power supply to the GPU itself, completing the wiring.
During the process I kept the wires as organized as possible and found ideal holes to connect the cables from the power supply area to the motherboard area. To finish off work with the power supply, I had to carefully fasten it to the case in a way that put the ports closest to the motherboard, as well as secure the power supply brick with 4 screws to the case. With the help of my dad, I was able to successfully finish this part of the build.
Plugging the Case Pins
The case I purchased came with a top panel that included multiple USB ports, a headphone jack, and a power button. Determining which wire was for which port was a bit tricky, but after looking at the instructions manual of the case, I was able to figure out which wire was for which component. The instructions manual additionally guided me to find the appropriate place to plug in the wires, the JFP1 component, as well as the orientation and placement to plug in each wire.
With the case pins plugged in, the build was complete! The only thing left was to turn it on and install Windows.
Overall, I think the computer was a huge success. In the past couple months of using it, it has exceeded my expectations. It has given me faster performance for heavier tasks, as well as allowed me to play games in higher quality with no problem. For the $1,200 spent on it, I would say it performs, and looks, amazing.