Build a PC Checklist: Essential Components for Your Custom Computer

Madison Evans

black computer tower on white table

Building your own PC can be a rewarding project that not only results in a machine fitted to your exact needs but also gives you a deeper understanding of the technology you use every day. Before the first component is selected or the first screw is turned, it is important to have a clear plan and a comprehensive checklist. This ensures a smooth building process and helps avoid any potential setbacks that can come from incompatibility or forgetting a crucial piece of hardware or tool.

A checklist plays a crucial role in the assembly of a personal computer. It serves as a step-by-step blueprint, guiding builders through selecting compatible components, acquiring the necessary tools, and understanding the functions of each PC part. A well-thought-out list helps manage the budget and time, as it highlights what needs to be purchased, and in what order tasks should be undertaken.In building a PC, one cannot underestimate the value of preparation and having every detail accounted for from the beginning.

Build A PC Checklist

  • Processor:
    ☐ AMD ☐ INTEL
    ☐ Ryzen 3 ☐ Ryzen 5 ☐ Ryzen 7 ☐ Core i3 ☐ Core i5 ☐ Intel Core i7
    ☐ AM4 ☐ AM5 ☐ LGA1151 ☐ LGA1200 ☐ LGA1700
  • CPU Cooler:
    ☐ Stock ☐ Aftermarket
    ☐ Air ☐ Liquid Cooler
    ☐ AM4 ☐AM5 ☐LGA1151 ☐LGA1200 ☐LGA1700
  • Motherboard:
    ☐ ATX ☐ MicroATX ☐ MiniATX
    ☐ AM4 ☐AM5 ☐LGA1151 ☐LGA1200 ☐LGA1700
  • Memory:
    ☐ DDR5 ☐ DDR4 ☐ DDR3
    ☐ 8GB ☐ 16GB ☐ 32GB ☐ 64GB ☐ 128GB ☐ 256GB
    ☐ 1 Module ☐ 2 Modules ☐ 3 Modules ☐ 4+ Modules
  • Storage 1:
    ☐ SSD ☐ 7200 RPM ☐ 5640 RPM ☐ 5400 RPM
    ☐ 2.5” ☐ 3.5”☐ PCIe ☐ M.2
    ☐ 20TB ☐ 10TB ☐ 8TB ☐ 4TB ☐ 2TB ☐ 1TB ☐ 500GB
  • Storage 2 (OPTIONAL):
    ☐ SSD ☐ 7200 RPM ☐ 5640 RPM ☐ 5400 RPM
    ☐ 2.5” ☐ 3.5”☐ PCIe ☐ M.2
    ☐ 20TB ☐ 10TB ☐ 8TB ☐ 4TB ☐ 2TB ☐ 1TB ☐ 500GB
  • Video Card:
    ☐ NVIDIA ☐ AMD
    ☐ RTX 3060 ☐ RTX 3070 ☐ RTX 3080 ☐ RTX 3090
    ☐ RTX 4060 ☐ RTX 4070 ☐ RTX 4080 ☐ RTX 4090
    ☐ RX6500 ☐ RX6600 ☐ RX6700 ☐ RX6800 ☐ RX6900 ☐ RX6950 ☐ RX7900
  • Power Supply:
    ☐ ATX ☐ Flex ATX ☐ Mini ITX ☐ SFX ☐ TFX
    ☐ 400W ☐ 500W ☐ 600W ☐ 700W ☐ 800W ☐ 1000 ☐ 1300W ☐ 1600W+
  • Case:
    ☐ Full Tower ☐ Mid Tower ☐ Tower ☐ MicroATX ☐ MiniITX
  • Optional:
    ☐ Sound Card ☐ Ethernet card ☐ WIFI Card
  • Peripherals:
    ☐ Keyboard ☐ Mouse ☐ Webcam ☐ Speakers ☐ Microphone ☐ Headset

Building Your Dream PC: A Comprehensive Checklist

Essential Components:

These are the core parts you’ll need to build a functional PC:

ComponentPurposeNotes
MotherboardThe foundation of your PC, connecting all other components.Choose one that supports your CPU and has the features you need.
Processor (CPU)The brain of your PC, responsible for calculations and instructions.Intel or AMD, choose one that fits your budget and performance requirements.
Memory (RAM)Short-term storage for data your PC is actively using.More RAM generally means better multitasking and performance in memory-intensive tasks.
Storage (SSD or HDD)Long-term storage for your operating system, programs, and files.SSDs are faster but more expensive than HDDs.
Graphics Card (GPU)Handles image processing and rendering, especially important for gaming and video editing.Not strictly necessary for basic tasks, but crucial for high-performance applications.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)Supplies power to all components in your PC.Choose one with enough wattage to handle your components and some headroom for upgrades.
CaseHouses and protects your components.Choose one that fits your motherboard and provides good airflow.
Gaming PC Parts

Optional Components:

These parts can enhance your PC’s functionality and aesthetics:

ComponentPurpose
CPU CoolerKeeps your processor cool to prevent overheating and maintain performance.
Case FansImprove airflow and cooling within your case.
Optical DriveFor reading and writing CDs, DVDs, or Blu-ray discs.
Wi-Fi AdapterAdds wireless connectivity to your PC if your motherboard doesn’t have it.
Sound CardProvides better audio quality than onboard sound.
Additional StorageAdd more storage space if needed.

Tools and Accessories:

You’ll need these to assemble and maintain your PC:

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Anti-static wrist strap or mat
  • Thermal paste (for CPU cooler)
  • Cable ties (for cable management)
  • Compressed air (for cleaning)

Additional Tips:

  • Research and plan your build thoroughly before purchasing parts.
  • Check compatibility between components.
  • Follow a detailed build guide or tutorial.
  • Be patient and take your time during assembly.
  • Install drivers and updates after completing the build.

Key Takeaways

  • A planned approach to PC building begins with a clear checklist.
  • Selecting compatible components is essential for a successful build.
  • Proper tools and understanding PC parts facilitate the assembly process.

Planning and Choosing Components

Building a personal computer requires careful selection of each part. The process resembles putting together a puzzle. Each component serves a specific function and must fit with the others.

Understanding PC Components

Every computer has a variety of parts. The motherboard acts like a city map where other parts like the CPU, RAM, and GPU find their homes. The CPU, or processor, is the brain of the computer. RAM holds temporary data for quick access. The GPU, or graphics card, handles visuals. Storage drives like HDDs or SSDs keep software and files.

Setting a Budget

Before shopping, one should decide how much to spend. Components vary in price. A higher budget allows for more advanced parts that may last longer or perform better in tasks like gaming or video editing.

Compatibility and Form Factors

Parts must match to work together. Motherboards have a form factor like ATX, and CPU sockets that fit specific processors. Memory slots determine RAM selection. Users should check these things to ensure a smooth build.

Selecting a Case and Power Supply

A computer case should fit the motherboard’s form factor. It should also have enough space for other components and cooling systems. The power supply unit (PSU) must provide enough power. A modular PSU helps manage cables better.

Choosing Storage Options

Options include HDDs, SSDs, and M.2 drives. SSDs are faster than HDDs. M.2 drives offer top speed and compact size but are pricier.

360mm AIO Cooler
360mm AIO Cooler

Picking the Right Processor

One chooses between AMD and Intel CPUs based on budget and needs. More cores and higher speeds are better for demanding tasks. Compatibility with the motherboard is critical.

Finding the Suitable Motherboard

The motherboard connects all parts. It should suit the case size and support the chosen CPU, RAM, and other components. Ports for peripherals are also important.

Deciding on Memory (RAM)

System memory is important for multitasking and performance. More RAM is better. Speed and compatibility with the motherboard are key considerations.

Graphics Card Considerations

For gaming or video work, a powerful GPU is essential. Casual users may not need as much power. One should consider the card’s space requirements and power needs.

Additional Components and Peripherals

Beyond the basics, one might add fans for cooling, a CPU cooler, or upgrade the default ones. Keyboards, mice, and headsets complete the set up for users.

Assembling A PC Step-By-Step

#StepDescription
1Prepare Your WorkspaceFind a clean, well-lit, and spacious area. Have a soft surface to place components on to prevent scratches.
2Gather Your ToolsYou’ll need a Phillips head screwdriver, anti-static wrist strap (optional but recommended), and maybe some zip ties for cable management.
3Install the CPUCarefully consult your motherboard manual to locate the CPU socket. Gently install the CPU, ensuring proper orientation with the indicated pins. Secure the lever or bracket to hold it in place.
4Apply Thermal Paste (Optional)If your CPU cooler doesn’t come pre-applied with thermal paste, you’ll need to put a pea-sized amount in the center of the CPU.
5Install the CPU CoolerFollowing your cooler’s instructions, attach it to the motherboard using the provided screws or mounting mechanism. Ensure proper contact with the CPU.
6Install RAMLocate the RAM slots on your motherboard. Gently hold the RAM sticks by the edges and align the notches with the slots. Press firmly until they click into place.
7Prepare the MotherboardCarefully remove the motherboard’s I/O shield (backplate) if not pre-installed. Place the motherboard on the case, aligning the screw holes with the standoffs. Secure it with screws, tightening them diagonally in a star pattern to avoid warping.
8Install Storage DrivesLocate the storage bays in your case. Depending on your drive type (SSD or HDD), secure it with screws or use a dedicated caddy. Connect the SATA data and power cables following your motherboard manual.
9Install the Power Supply Unit (PSU)Position the PSU in the designated area of your case. Secure it with screws and connect the main 24-pin power cable to the motherboard.
10Connect Front Panel ConnectorsLocate the small headers on your motherboard for the power button, LED lights, USB ports, and audio jacks on your case’s front panel. Consult your motherboard manual to identify the correct pins and connect them carefully.
11Install the Graphics Card (Optional)If using a dedicated GPU, carefully insert it into the PCIe slot on your motherboard. Secure it with a screw and connect any additional power cables required.
12Cable ManagementRoute all the cables neatly behind the motherboard tray. Use zip ties (optional) to bundle cables together for better airflow and a cleaner look.
13Close the Case and Connect PeripheralsCarefully put on the case’s side panel and tighten the screws. Connect your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals.
14Power On and TestPlug in the power cable and turn on the PSU switch (if it has one). Press the power button on your case and listen for the fans starting. Look for a display output on your monitor.
15Install Operating SystemIf everything seems functional, you can proceed with installing your operating system of choice (e.g., Windows, Linux) on your storage drive.