Should you buy a gaming PC or build one?

If you want to build a kick-ass computer room in your home, you’ll need to start with a kick-ass computer. But with so many ways to get good PCs these days, you’ll need to make a decision:

Did you buy a pre-installed computer? Or do you buy the parts yourself and build the PC by hand?

Over the past 10 years, I’ve made both of those choices, so I’m here to guide you through the process. Let’s talk about what you’ll need to build your own PC, what it’s like to order a custom pre-made PC online, and what I recommend.

What do you need to build your own gaming PC?

Building a PC is hard work, but it can be extremely rewarding. It gives you complete control over the process and really makes your PC feel like your own creation. It also makes it easier to upgrade your PC, because you know exactly how every part and part fits together.

Speaking of parts, let’s start with everything you need to build a complete computer and be able to test it yourself:

  • One case
  • Processor (CPU)
  • Processor cooler
  • One motherboard
  • Multiple Memory (RAM)
  • A hard drive
  • One graphics card (GPU)
  • Power Supply (PSU)
  • Fever reducer patch
  • Flashlight
  • Screwdriver
  • Anti-static wrist strap (optional, but recommended)
  • Copy of Windows (or other operating system)
  • One screen
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard

To buy back parts, I recommend PCPartPicker. It’s a great resource for beginners and will let you compare different pieces so you can get exactly what you want (and it will also let you know if any of your incompatible with each other). You can also take our checklist above and purchase individual parts from an online retailer like Amazon or pick them up at a local store like Micro Center.

Going into this process, you need to know that PCs are complex and fickle. One wrong move can cause you to crash when trying to start your PC for testing. And if you’re not careful about your static build-up, you could accidentally damage one of your expensive components.

This process takes hours of focus and precision. If this is your first time, I recommend bringing a trusted friend – especially if they’ve built PCs before.

For the build process, you’ll need a flat surface and an iPad, laptop, or phone so you can see the instructions. The best way to build a PC is to have an accompanying video that shows you exactly what to do and in what order you should work.

The above video of ECPU is a great tool for beginners. They start by detailing the parts and why they’re important before moving on to the actual build. There are also timestamps in the video that make it easy to skip. I like this instructions from PC Centric also.

It should be noted that all PC builds are slightly different depending on the parts you choose. If you’re having trouble with a part you have that the person in your video guide doesn’t have, try reading the manual or – even better – look for a build video with a case, motherboard, or processor. your particular case.

How do you get a custom pre-installed PC?

In addition to building your own PC, you can buy one pre-made out of a box at a store like Best Buy, or you can customize one at an online store like iBuyPower. The first may be fine, but I recommend buying custom.

All you have to do is visit the iBuyPower website (there are many sites like this, such as CyberPowerPC) and open their PC customizer. You can choose your parts from a long list and even test how your mock build will run popular modern games like Elden Ring.

As long as all your parts match – for example it will warn you if the graphics card you want is too big for your case – you can test. An expert will then collect your parts for you, build the PC, and ship it to your home. All you need to do when it arrives is remove the giant, weird packed peanuts inside the box and plug it in.

All very convenient, and it also made the huge financial burden that was a brand new PC for me a lot easier to swallow. I was able to purchase my iBuyPower PC using the built-in Affirm partnership on the website. Affirm runs my credit and offers me a cheap rate and a 12 month payment plan. Overall, I paid $189 more for my $2,324 PC, but it was well worth it for the ability to upgrade my old desktop a year early.

If you have cash on hand – or a really good credit card – you can of course buy the whole thing upfront. But if the cost of the PC is the biggest obstacle for you, custom ordering can make things easier if you go the route I did with monthly payments.

Which one do I recommend?

The new iBuyPower is on the wooden floor

Photo: Ryan Gilliam / Polygon

Over 10 years of machine building, I’ve never had a big problem in one of my builds. I’ve never fried anything and my PC always boots on the first or second try. Many of the more talented PC builders I know aren’t so lucky, but I’ve had great experiences. I also really enjoyed the process, and initially imagined it would be something I would do every few years for the rest of my life.

However, after many builds and upgrades – as well as a pandemic – I wanted to try something simple and easy. I wanted a build that was perfect for both work and play, and that’s exactly what I got from the custom-ordered PC I received in 2021. I still pick up all the parts of myself, but I do not have to work at all. Most importantly, I can pay for the computer over the course of a year instead of upfront, which is really helpful for my family during the pandemic.

When I get a new PC years from now, I’ll buy a custom one again, no question. It’s simpler in every sense and I had a great experience with iBuyPower. However, I still really appreciate the experience I’ve had building my previous PCs. I know how they mark and I will eventually be able to upgrade my current PC because I know how to carefully install computer parts.

If this is your first PC and you’re interested in learning, you’ll really appreciate your own experience. That being said, if you really just want to play the game with your friends or take advantage Steam sales, buying custom builds is the simplest way to get into PC gaming. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s easy, and it just works.

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