Built my first PC rig

Introduction

Recently I finished building my FIRST PC (gaming) rig. I’d like to share my experience and hopefully can benefit you a little bit.

Please note that I assume you have basic knowledge about PC parts, i.e. CPU, GPU, ram, motherboard, etc. I acknowledge that this is not a good time to build a pc. The newest parts are out of stock everywhere and you won’t be able to easily get one in the foreseeable future.

On the GPU side, Nvidia announced their newest RTX 30 series cards in September 2020. The RTX 3060 ti (founder edition, released on December 2020) had an MRSP of $399 which is considered one of the best graphic cards for gaming on 1080p and 1440p. AMD has also announced their newest Radeon 6000 series cards in November 2020, however most of them were high-end cards (6800, 6800xt, and 6900xt).

On the CPU side, AMD announced their newest 5000 series processors in October 2020, among which the mid-range CPU Ryzen 5 5600X with an MRSP of $299 is considered one of the best price-performance CPUs in the market. A non-X variant is expected to replace the last-gen Ryzen 5 3600 (MRSP was $199). Similar to GPUs, they were sold instantly whenever they were back to stock. Things are getting better recently. You should be able to snag one at Micro Center if you go there early in the morning. I also saw restocks in major retailers i.e. Walmart and the stock lasted for an hour or so.

Things are better for CPUs, because you can always get the last-gen cups, which were released in 2019 (AMD) and in 2020 (Intel 10th) and they are still decent processors even for 2021. However, the problem with GPU is it is a universal short of supply. All the GPUs are out of stock regardless of generation. Another bad information is the prices of GPUs have increased because of the trade war between China and the US. Prices are expected to increase by 7.5 percent to 25 percent. The motherboard will probably be impacted by the trade war as well.

Anyway, you are encouraged to keep an eye on the Reddit section buildapcsales where enthusiastic gamers post the newest deals. Wish you good luck!

Lastly, try the pc part picker website to do a pc build simulation and test the combability of your parts.

Note that this is not a step-by-step instruction. This post aims to share my experiences and provide some tips. Please do your research before you start your build.

Budget

This is the first thing you need to consider before you start any build. A higher budget will give you better parts and greater performance. Generally, there are several budget lines. $1000 and below are considered entry-level builds, $1500 is regarded as the mid-range level, and $2000 and above are the high-end builds. Entry-level builds should be fine for gaming on 1080p as well as 1440p (if the newest cups and gpus are available at normal prices). Mid-range level builds are decent for gaming on 1440p and you should also be able to put some fancy stuff in these builds, such as AIO cooling and RGBs. If your budget allows you can always go to the high-end builds.

Where to buy pc parts

  • In-store. If there is a Micro Center (MC) nearby, I recommend you go there and buy all your pc parts at MC. There are several reasons. First, MC does price match with major retailers such as Amazon, Newegg, etc. Second and more importantly, parts in MC are cheap and even cheaper than those online retailers. MC offers a promotion on the bundles of cup and motherboard ($20 off). Third, you can get the parts immediately and skip the shipping time. It’s also more convenient to return the parts. By the way, the return policy at MC is very generous.

  • Online. If you buy parts online, you have several options, i.e. Amazon, BH, and Newegg. I would say just go to Amazon (if the prices are comparable with other retails) purely because returning is easier with Amazon. My friend and I had bad returning experiences with BH and Newegg.

  • A list of my pc parts

    • CPU: AMD Ryzen 3600 @ $199.99
    • Motherboard: ASRock B450M PRO4 AM4 @ $49.99
    • RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws V 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3200 @ $69.99
    • GPU: PowerColor Radeon RX 5700 XT Red Devil Overclocked Triple-Fan @ $459.99
    • SSD: Western Digital Black SN750 500GB NVMe @ $69.99
    • HDD: Seagate BarraCuda 2TB 7200RPM SATA III @ $54.99
    • PSU: PowerSpec 650 Watt 80 Plus Bronze Semi-Modular @ $51.96 (open box)
    • Case: LIAN LI Lancool 215 @ $69.99
    • Total cost: $1026.89

CPU on motherboard

Annoying case wires

Front case fans

Front case fans

See the red devil

How to build

This is the most interesting and challenging part. I enjoyed it. But as a beginner, after I unboxed all the parts, I had no clue how to start initially, which was not what I expected because I watched many YouTube videos and I thought it should be pretty handy… Note that you are also encouraged to watch some videos before you start.

  • Install CPU and CPU fan on the motherboard
  • Install RAM on the motherboard
  • Install SSD (NVMe) on the motherboard
  • Put the motherboard in the case (don’t forget the I/O shield)
  • Connect the case wires to the motherboard. This is the most confusing part, I think. But don’t get panic. Just read the motherboard manual and case manual and you will learn how to plug the wires into the motherboard. Usually there will be a group of pins for the case front panel, pins for the USB. If your case has preinstalled fans and RGBs, you should refer to the case manual to learn where the associated pins to plug in on motherboard.
  • Install the GPU.
  • Install the PSU. PSU stands for power supply unit. As named, it supplies power for the CPU, GPU, and motherboard. Just follow the motherboard manual and the PSU manual to connect the pins to motherboard.

After all these, you should be able to power on the computer. If all the fans are working and you can enter the motherboard set up, then you are good. The next step is to install the Window and necessary software.

Important tips

  • Within your budget, invest as much as you can on CPU and GPU (particularly GPU if you are going to use it for gaming)

    A budget motherboard should be fine if you are not going to overlock your CPU. In particular, if your total budget is tied, you won’t be able to get a high-end CPU and a high-end board will be a total waste for entry-level CPU. Get the regular RAM kit and I won’t recommend a 1TB SSD. Just get a 500GB SSD for your operating system and apps and get a 2TB HDD for your games.

    Additionally, get a micro ATX instead of a full ATX. In most cases, micro ATX should be fine. You can save roughly $20-$50 with a micro ATX.

  • Keep an eye on the open box

    If you buy your parts from MC, you can check out their open box items on their website. These can save you quite an amount of money. However, it depends on which parts you are looking for. Opened RAM and storage should be perfectly fine. This is not the case for the motherboard, because there are lots of small items associated with the motherboard. Some of those items are likely missing in the opened motherboard. Opened PSU and case should also be fine. I got bad luck. In my build, I bought opened PSU and it ended up lots of parts were missing, such as the power cord, the PSU manual. And without the manual, I will never know whether some of the cables were missing or not. I contact MC and requested a shipment of a replacement (the nearest MC is one and half hour driving from my town). The customer support team told me they sent a message to the manager of MC at Huston. However, the manger never reached out to me regarding this issue. I finally bought the power cord from Walmart…

  • Stock cooler VS aftermarket cooler

    While I am not familiar with the Intel CPU coolers, for AMD CPUs I think the stock cooler is fine if you are not going to overclock it, at least this is the case with Ryzen 5 3600. Aftermarket coolers are generally better in performance and also quieter than the stock coolers. You should be able to get a decent AIR cooler at less than $50. No need for an AIO.

  • Usuful resources

    I followed several YouTubers which I think are very useful. See a few of them below.

Yabin Da
Yabin Da
PhD Candidate in Agricultural Economics

Research interests include Environmental Economics, Applied Econometrics, and Causal Inference.