Top 10 PC Building Mistakes To Avoid In Your New Build

CG Director Author Christopher Harperby Christopher Harper   /  Published 

What are the most common PC building mistakes for a newer PC builder, and how can they best be avoided?

That’s the question I’ll be tackling in this article before wrapping up with a few points of building advice and resources.

Let’s not waste any time and dive right in!

Top 10 PC Building Mistakes To Avoid

1. Forgetting Standoff Screws

First and foremost, let’s talk about standoff screws.

Standoff screws are screws that you put into your case before your motherboard (if you’re lucky, there may be pre-mounted standoffs in your case already— check your manual), which you then place your motherboard onto before screwing down a second set of screws into the original standoffs.

Built-in Motherboard Standoffs

Source: Corsair

This stabilizes your motherboard inside your chassis and keeps it from shorting, but can be a pretty easy step to forget, especially if you assume you can just screw it in.

Always install standoff screws or confirm that your chassis has pre-mounted standoffs before you try to install the motherboard!

Anything you manage to install before standoffs will only end up getting in the way before you make it back to this vital step.

Also: Beware that your Standoffs have to be matched to the holes on your Motherboard. Another thing that is easily overlooked as a first-time PC-Builder.

Our Guide to Motherboard-Standoffs has some in-depth info if you want to double check!

2. Choosing a Non-Modular Power Supply (Build Creation)

Another big mistake common with PC building actually happens before the build. It’s called “buying a non-modular Power Supply”, and it becomes a more extreme problem the smaller your case gets.

modular vs non modular psu

Source: Seasonic

Non-Modular Power Supplies are fine and all, but they come with a lot of extra cable clutter, regardless of how many devices you actually have connected into them.

All that cable has got to go somewhere in your PC, and it can add a great deal of difficult clutter into a PC build, especially if you’re using a Mini ITX or Micro ATX case with limited cable management space.

Cable Management

I’d recommend sticking with Fully Modular or Semi-Modular Power Supplies for a good building experience.

3. Not Properly Grounding Yourself

While the risk is somewhat reduced with modern hardware, you should still be mindful of potential ESD (electrostatic discharge) whenever you’re building a PC!

ESD can damage your components, which is the last thing you want when you’re trying to make a brand-new PC come to life.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take very much to prevent ESD.

All you need to do is properly ground yourself while building your PC, and you don’t necessarily need to buy any fancy equipment to make that happen. Spending $10 or less on an antistatic wristband will make it more convenient, though.

How to Set Up Anti-Static Wrist Bands

4. Choosing Incompatible Hardware (Build Creation)

Depending on how you sourced the parts for your build, you may encounter unexpected compatibility issues.

Intercompatibility between components is key

I would recommend using PCPartPicker or our very own PC Building Tool to make sure that the parts of your choice are actually compatible with each other.

If you want to know how to manually check your PC parts for compatibility without an automated tool, also consider Alex’s PC Part Compatibility Guide.

5. Not Installing CPU, RAM, and Cooler Before Installing The Motherboard

Did you know that in most circumstances, you can install your CPU, RAM, and oftentimes even your (Air) cooler onto your motherboard before placing it into your case?

You don’t need to do this first, but taking these steps first will make the PC building process much easier in the long term, so I highly recommend doing so.

6. Not Installing I/O Shield Before Installing The Motherboard

One actual-mandatory step before installing your motherboard is installing the I/O shield that comes with it. (Those lucky ones with pre-applied I/O shields can skip ahead.)

Once you’ve installed the motherboard, installing the I/O shield afterward becomes nearly or actually impossible, depending on the board.

Plus, it gets a little dangerous, because some I/O shields can be quite sharp to the touch at certain points before they’ve been properly installed and aligned with the I/O of a motherboard. Always do this first!

7. Placing RAM In The Incorrect Slots

If you didn’t know that RAM could be placed in an incorrect slot, this is the tip for you.

If you have 4 sticks of identical RAM and 4 slots, you can basically just install them wherever without worry. Same for if you have 2 sticks and 2 slots like you would on a Mini ITX motherboard.

RAM slots on consumer motherboards

But if you have more RAM slots than you have RAM, you need to make absolutely sure that you are placing them in the correct slots.

For 2 sticks of DDR RAM to run in dual-channel on non-dual-slot boards, there needs to be an empty slot between them, and the two slots that you use first will depend on your specific motherboard. Most of the time it’ll be the slot furthest away from the CPU Socket, then leave one free, and then populate the second-closest to the CPU Socket as well.

So in the Image above, with 2 modules, you’d want to populate slots 4 and 2. Which slots to use first is often printed directly onto the motherboard as well.

It’s best to consult your motherboard’s manual for the right slots for your RAM, though.

8. Installing Case Fans Incorrectly

Case fans are made to push air in one direction, and you’ll want to make sure before you install them that they’re pushing it in the right direction. (Pulling air into your case for an intake fan, or pushing air out of your case for an exhaust fan.)

Case Fan - Airflow Direction

Usually, this will be indicated with an arrow on the edge pointing in the direction where the fan will be pushing air.

If you aren’t sure which way your case fan pushes its air, you can also visually intuit it by looking at the curve of the fan blades.

Curving toward you = intake, whereas curving away from you = exhaust.

9. Not Updating The BIOS Before Booting (on certain Motherboards)

This is really only a problem for motherboards and sockets that support multiple generations of CPUs.

Many older AM4 motherboards get BIOS updates that enable compatibility with more recent generations of AM4 socket Ryzen processors, but unfortunately, these updates are not always applied before you, the end user, get your hands on the motherboard.

Nothing bad will happen if you boot a PC with a BIOS-incompatible but physically-compatible CPU in the socket.

However, you also won’t be able to do anything because as far as the motherboard is concerned, you don’t have a CPU installed that it can use.

You’ll want to either contact your motherboard manufacturer for a loaner CPU to do the BIOS update with or, if your motherboard supports updating the BIOS without using a CPU, you’ll want to do that.

10. Forgetting To Remove Plastic Cover or Apply Thermal Paste on New CPU Cooler

Thermal Paste, also called TIM (thermal interface material), is a pretty integral part of any PC build.

How does thermal paste work

Basically, it’s what makes it possible for your CPU to more optimally transfer heat to your cooler, from which it can be dissipated to keep your temperatures low and your performance stable.

Most CPU coolers you buy, including AMD and Intel stock coolers, will have pre-applied TIM. However, it may also be covered by plastic, which you’ll want to remove before installing the cooler.

Additionally, for the few CPU coolers that don’t have their own TIM, you’ll need to provide and apply your own thermal paste.

Bonus: Not Staying Organized Before & After The Build

The great thing about a PC build is that you can organize and plan for pretty much every step in advance.

Make sure you have a clear, static-free workspace with plenty of room for all of your components to be laid out separately (on anti-static bags/mats if they shipped with them, as most GPUs and motherboards do).

Setting up your PC building workspace

You’ll also want to have your screwdriver and each set of screws (motherboard standoff, motherboard install) laid out separately.

During the build process, don’t rush a single step if you can avoid it. Especially make use of any options for cable management you might have, as this will make any subsequent steps in your building process or future upgrades/maintenance much easier.

Cable management isn’t just about looking pretty— a solid commitment to it early on will pay off in convenience and ease of use in the long run.

FAQ

How Do I Build a PC Properly?

While I used this article to walk you through what not to do and tried to impart some good building advice, you may still be looking for a proper PC building guide.

If you want a detailed guide to building a PC properly, including a video for each step in the process, I highly recommend Jerry’s How To Build a PC Guide!

What Do You Do After Building Your PC?

So, what do you do after you’ve built your PC?

Well, the first thing is to open it up and double-check that all of your cables are connected securely and everything is in its right place.

Then you can start booting it up, installing your operating system, and doing all the other usual first-time PC setup stuff.

If you want a nice post-build checklist to get your PC up and running, I highly recommend Alex’s extended What To After Building a PC guide.

If you’re generally comfortable with the first-time setup stuff after you’ve built your PC, you don’t necessarily need to bother with that entire guide linked above.

I would recommend at least using Ninite as a quick and easy way to download and install the latest versions of all of your core applications in one place.

Over to You

And that’s it!

I hope this article taught you what mistakes to avoid before you start building your PC.

While it isn’t a definitive PC-building guide in its own right, I did try to cover all the most common mistakes I could think of, including a few I made myself when I first started building PCs.

These days I can crank out a flawless PC build in about an hour, or two if it’s a smaller case.

But my first PC build took pretty much 6 hours, and I made plenty of mistakes back then that made it a more stressful and time-consuming process than it needed to be.

I hope this article helps you avoid those mistakes, and learn to love the PC building process! I think it’s pretty fun, and the end result speaks for itself.

What PC-Building mistakes have you come across?

Any questions or concerns? Feel free to comment them below or head to the Forums to talk to the rest of the CGDirector Team and community.

Until then or until next time, happy building! And don’t forget to ground yourself— that includes not building your PC on a carpeted or other high-static surface if you can avoid it.

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Christopher Harper - post author

I have been a passionate devotee to technology since the age of 3, and to writing since before I even finished high school.

These passions have since combined into a living in my adulthood and have made writing about PC Hardware very satisfying.

If you need any assistance, leave a comment below: it’s what I’m here for.

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