Is the process of building a PC as hard and convoluted as it might seem at first glance?
It’s an interesting thing to ponder on, what with there being so many different components, form factors, limitations, and what have you.
The oft-talked about digital revolution brought forth many different things, chief of which (one could argue) is a staggering proliferation of knowledge — all of which happens to be readily available.
Those who don’t know how to build a PC can learn and inform themselves within a matter of minutes, and yet the process itself seems to be laden with more challenges than ever before.
With the influx of new technologies and an ever-increasing number of options (amongst other things), buyers are faced with a litany of obstacles and, by proxy, potential pitfalls.
Still, one could argue that once you’ve built your first PC (and really learned the “ins and outs” of what such a process entails) that you’re basically equipped with all the information and knowledge you need for the years if not even decades to come.
Is building a PC hard?
Building a PC isn’t hard if you know the purpose behind each component and how exactly it is supposed to function within the entire system. This, too, holds true for most other things in life.
Once deconstructed into bite-sized chunks, challenges that previously seemed unassailable suddenly become simpler to understand and tackle.
And, as always, rolling up one’s sleeves and doing a bit of reading sure goes a long way towards making any process a lot less intimidating and, therefore, “digestible.”
From the outside looking in, building a PC must seem like a feat of heroics.
So many different bits and pieces, components with all sorts of cables sticking out, pins, barely legible symbols, limitations, recommendations, warnings, and screws of various shapes and sizes; these things add up, so it should come as no surprise that most folks eschew from building their own computers.
Fortunately, the process itself — at least in its purest form — can actually be mastered within just a few hours!
We’re talking about the most basic PC build here, the kind most of us grew up on; no oversized graphics card (the kind that draws as much “juice” as a nuclear power plant), no “complex” aftermarket cooling solutions, elaborate fan set-ups, no particular tuning or overclocking or undervolting or what have you.
There’s Always Something New
One could argue that the most beautiful thing about building a PC is that there’s always something new for one to learn.
And even when you’ve mastered the whole thing, there’s still a host of brand new components (built on a more advanced processing node or imbued with a wholly different architecture) right around the corner!
So, in a way, we’re all novices, no matter our experience and knowledge.
The market has been set up in such a way that we’re always “hooked” — we’re always on the lookout for the next big thing, the kind of component or build or novel breakthrough that would empower us in our creative endeavors and give us yet another shiny new thing to salivate over.
This kind of depth shouldn’t intimidate you, as the most rudimentary amount of knowledge will still allow you to build a perfectly good PC.
It should, instead, get you excited about the endless number of possibilities and ways in which you could upgrade your computer further down the line — your machine will be able to grow alongside your needs and overall workflow; it can follow you every step of the way as you transition from one part of your life/career to another.
How to Make Building a PC Easier
As already mentioned, make sure to deconstruct the whole process into smaller, “easily digestible” chunks.
Building a PC is comprised of various tasks, some of which are more important (and complex) than others. Tackle them one by one without ever really sweating the bigger picture.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of guides and tutorials in today’s hyper-connected, “always-on” world.
Focus on What You Have
The sheer amount of hardware that’s currently available on the market is simply astounding.
There’s a seemingly endless number of processors, graphics cards, motherboards, storage devices, cases, cables, protocols, ports, and so on. And they all have their own “sub-groups” and “sub-types,” too!
Chipsets, sockets, form factors, options of all shapes and sizes, and complexities — variables so vast in number you cannot help but get seized by vertigo.
The good thing is that you don’t need to understand it all. Focus on what you have, on the PC you’re building and the workload it is intended to eventually tackle.
Having a broader understanding of what’s what — and how it relates to your own PC and workflow — isn’t always possible. That comes naturally with time and experience.
So instead of trying to “consume” the last, say, two decades’ worth of information, hone in on the basics, on the things and components you need at this point in time.
Say you’re buying a 12th Generation Intel processor (codenamed Alder Lake). There’s really no need for you to understand why it’s so much better than its “forerunners” or why its novel architecture is such a big deal.
Those are important bits of information as well, but reading about them will only further complicate things and burden you with “unnecessary” details during a process in which they’re simply not vital.
Or let’s say you’re buying an SSD. You don’t need to understand the difference between flash-based storage and the quantum leap it provides over an archaic mechanical hard drive — knowing how to install it and picking the right form factor (and capacity) should definitely take priority.
By the same token, there’s no need to read about ITX builds if their petite (and admittedly quite expensive) enclosures happen to be outside of your budget.
Triple-fan all-in-one liquid cooling solutions? An incredible thing, sure, but not what you need if you’ll be sporting a “budget” processor, so don’t even read about them.
In other words: don’t get overwhelmed by all the possibilities.
Don’t spend the vast majority of your day on YouTube watching reviews of things and hardware you’re not actually interested in or little knick-knacks you have no real need for.
Frequent PC Building Mistakes
Let’s go over some of the most frequent PC building mistakes:
- Spending too little: if possible, don’t skimp out on the most important parts of your build. You need a powerful enough CPU. You need ample RAM and a graphics card that’ll get the job done (whatever that job might be). You can always upgrade these components further down the line but knowing how much power you need is an incredibly important “element” of the PC building equation.
- Spending too much: conversely, don’t go for an “overkill” PC build if you’re not going to be using it to its full potential. In that case, you’d just be wasting money under the guise of “futureproofing.”
- Not thinking about the bigger picture: have in mind that your workflow is probably going to change over the years. So, with that in mind, buy a motherboard with a sufficient number of M.2 slots. Buy an enclosure that isn’t too limiting when it comes to the GPUs it can accommodate. Buy a power supply that has a bit of overhead. You get the point.
- Buying incompatible hardware: not keeping track of hardware compatibility is, without a doubt, one of the most frequent mistakes inexperienced PC builders make. If in doubt, refer to PC Part Picker, in addition to any online guide/tutorial.
- Cheaping out on the power supply: having a sufficiently capable PSU is of the utmost importance. You don’t have to buy the most efficient one on the market, but skimping out the power supply could, by all means, have significant consequences further down the line.
- Not thinking about airflow: the more your computer can “breathe” the better it’ll run. Check your temperatures. If they’re too high you should definitely invest in a couple of fans/a better aftermarket cooler.
- Buying a single stick of RAM: having a dual-channel RAM set-up is hugely beneficial. To learn more about it, go here.
- Applying too much/too little thermal paste: for your processor (and, by proxy, PC) to function properly, you’ll need to apply sufficient amounts of (high quality) thermal paste. For more information, check out our in-depth guide.
- Not installing motherboard stand-offs: motherboard stand-offs are absolutely vital. If they’re not installed properly you’ll run the risk of short-circuiting your motherboard and, in doing so, causing irreparable damage.
- Not installing/updating drivers: having up-to-date drivers is also quite important. Make sure to download and install all possible updates upon doing a fresh install of Windows.
Let’s go over a few potential questions you might have regarding the PC building conundrum:
Should I Build a PC Myself or Buy It Assembled (Pre-Built)?
You should definitely build a PC yourself. Not only is it a fun experience but it’ll also save you a bit of money, too!
Plus, you’ll have a much higher level of control over your entire system, which is also incredibly important if you’re a “power user” (or are aspiring to become one).
How Long Does It Take to Build a PC?
That heavily depends on the complexity of the build and, naturally, your experience. Generally speaking, it should take a seasoned “builder” about an hour, give or take.
Is Building a PC Hard?
Absolutely not! It can seem intimidating, but it’s actually a lot simpler than it looks.
The most important thing is to have a few good guides you can follow, be they in written or video form.
Once you’ve armed yourself with enough knowledge, just take your time and tackle one component after another, and, soon enough, you’ll have yourself a fully built PC!
Should I Build a PC or Buy a Mac?
Building a PC is definitely a more rewarding experience, and it’ll also give you the ability to upgrade each separate component further down the line (should the need arise).
MacOS-based devices are closed-off, “what you see is what you get” systems that offer no real upgradeability. They are more user-friendly, but that sure does come at a cost.
That being said, if your preferred software suite of choice is fully supported on macOS and you don’t mind buying a system you won’t be able to tinker with — to some a severe limitation, to others, an invaluable benefit — then do consider buying a Mac Mini/Mac Studio (or even a MacBook Air/Pro if you’re in need of something portable).
Over to You
Building a PC isn’t nearly as hard or complicated as it might seem at first glance. In fact, once you do it a couple of times it pretty much becomes “second nature.”