Building a gaming PC for a low budget is a daunting task. There are many components to consider when constructing a low end gaming rig. This guide outlines how to build a reliable, low-end gaming PC capable of handling the majority of modern games, without breaking the bank.
First, you should consider the case. Find one that is inexpensive yet has good ventilation and cable management capabilities. An ATX case is recommended, as these are usually mid to large sized, with good airflow.
Next, research a motherboard with your preferred socket type and form factor, as well as its features. AM4 and LGA 1151 are the most popular sockets, while ATX and Micro-ATX are the most common motherboard sizes. Choose one with plenty of fan headers and USB ports, as well as good audio support.
Third, find a CPU. They come in a variety of sizes, and most pricing tiers include compatible motherboards. Look for models with four or more cores, although two will suffice for casual gaming. For instance, AMD’s Ryzen 3 3200G and Intel’s Core i3-9100 are both solid choices.
Fourth, select a GPU. If you are only playing older indie titles or don’t plan to focus on 3D gaming, the Ryzen 3 3200G or an entry-level graphics card such as the RX 560 or GT 1030 should be sufficient. If you want to experience higher graphical fidelity or newer titles at higher resolutions, a midrange card is advised.
Fifth, pick memory. The amount of RAM you need will vary depending on the games you play and the settings you choose. Most gamers will be able to get by with 8GB, although 16GB is the optimal amount. Ensure that it is compatible with your motherboard.
Lastly, find a PSU. Consider your component selection and wattage requirements when selecting one. ATX PSUs generally come in 380-850W and have a variety of features such as Six Plus Two-pin PCI Express and 120mm fan cooling. Include a copy of Windows 10 and you’re set.
Central to any gaming PC is the components. There are many parts to choose from, but it can be daunting for a novice to decipher the jargon. To make matters easier, focus on the essential components of your low end gaming rig.
First, the CPU. This is the brain of the system and the groundwork for the entire PC. It is responsible for multitasking and performing other calculations such as gaming. Aim for a model with four cores and threads, such as the AMD Ryzen 3 or Intel Core i3 range.
Second, the graphics card. This controls how visuals are displayed on your monitor, as it renders images in three-dimensional form. Depending on the game, you may have to choose a mid-range or higher. The Nvidia GTX 1650 or AMD RX 560 are good entry-level cards.
Third, the RAM. This is the short-term memory of your system, serving as a buffer between the CPU and VRAM. 8GB is usually enough for gaming, but 16GB is ideal. Make sure it is compatible with your CPU and motherboard.
Fourth, the power supply. This feeds your components with the electrical current they need to function. Choose an ATX power supply with at least 380W of juice, as this will power the majority of builds.
Fifth, the storage. While there are several different types of storage for a gaming PC, an SSD is best for games. This grants access to the majority of games faster, making loading times quicker. Aim for an SSD that is large enough to store your games and other media.
Finally, the motherboard. This is the body of your PC, connecting all the components together. To ensure compatibility with all components, ensure that the form factor, socket type, and the features match the processor and graphics card.
The Cooling System
When constructing a gaming PC, cooling is essential. If the components within your system get too hot, it can cause performance degradation as well as hardware damage. An efficient cooling system will maintain your components at a safe temperature and prevent long-term damage.
First, check the components for stock fans and heatsinks. If you do not find any, purchase aftermarket variants to match the type of cooling you need. Air cooling is most common, and it is inexpensive and efficient. Water cooling is more expensive, but it is much quieter and more reliable.
Second, identify the airflow of your case. Many cases come with airflow fans at the front and rear to cool the components, but you may also wish to add extra fans to the sides to improve airflow. Make sure that these fans are installed and pointing in the correct direction.
Third, consider the fan headers on the motherboard. Many mid-range motherboards come with support for both static pressure and PWN fans, which provide better control over fan speeds. PWN fans are more efficient and generally quieter, but static pressure fans should be used in cases with limited airflow.
Fourth, check the temperatures. Use a temperature monitoring software such as CoreTemperature to keep an eye on the heat of your components. Most motherboards come with integrated temperature sensors, and some also come with a thermal throttling feature.
Fifth, undervolt and adjust the fan curves. Undervolting reduces the voltage the CPU uses in order to reduce the temperature, and adjusting the fan curves adjusts the fan speeds for different components. Both of these can be done using the motherboard’s BIOS or UEFI setup.
Finally, use quality thermal paste between the CPU and cooler. The paste acts as a medium to transfer heat more efficiently, and should be applied in a thin, even layer. Use a pea-sized blob in the centre of the CPU, and spread it with a soft flat tool such as a credit card.
Installing The Components
Once you’ve chosen your components, it’s time to put them in the case and begin installation. This process can be straightforward, but it’s important to note that there is still a chance of hardware problems occurring.
First, unpack the components and break open the anti-static bags they come in. This prevents any static electricity from damaging sensitive components such as the CPU. Place any accessories and documentation that came with the components on the side.
Second, identify which component goes in which slot. Start with the PSU at the bottom of the case and work your way to the GPU near the top. Take note of the motherboard’s labels, as this will help you determine which parts go where.
Third, start installing the components. Ensure that they are secure and properly aligned, as improper alignment can cause hardware issues. Touch a metal component of the case to ground yourself and avoid static electricity.
Fourth, connect the components to the power supply and motherboard. Use shielded cable ties to keep them in place and make sure that the power cables are correctly connected. If a component does not have a power cable, you may need to attach a molex adapter.
Fifth, install the memory and CPU. Fit the memory modules into the slots, ensuring a tight fit, and secure the CPU to the socket. If your CPU and heatsink do not come with pre-applied thermal paste, you will need to apply it before attaching the heatsink to the CPU.
Sixth, connect all required cables and attach the GPU. Unplug all power cables from the GPU then plug into the motherboard and power supply. Connect the display cables to your monitor and ensure all the cables are routed correctly in the case.
Once all the components are installed, place the side panel back onto the case and secure it with screws. The system should start up immediately, so all that’s left to do is to install your OS, games, and other software.
Testing The System
Once everything is up and running, it’s a good idea to test the system to ensure that all components are functioning properly. This will prevent long-term hardware damage and any interruptions during gaming.
First, run a hardware test. Use a hardware diagnostic tool to scan your system’s hardware and report any errors. This can identify inconsistencies between components and ensure that they are compatible.
Second, conduct a gaming test. Stress test the components by running a popular game at maximum settings. Keep an eye on the temperatures of your components and check that the game runs smoothly.
Third, check the frame rate. If the game does not render properly, you may need to adjust the graphics settings or upgrade your components for better performance. You can also adjust the refresh rate in the display settings.
Fourth, check the audio. Ensure that all audio is heard from each speaker or headset correctly, and listen for a humming or static sound that may indicate an interference. If you find any audio issues, you may need to change the audio driver or port.
Fifth, check the temperatures. Use a CPU and GPU temperature monitor to make sure your components are running at safe temperatures. Consider investing in a fan controller to control the speed of any additional cooling fans you have installed.
Finally, check the power consumption. Make sure that the PSU has enough wattage to power the components and ensure that no power is leaking from any connection. Use a power meter to analyse the use of electricity in more detail.
Upgrades And Maintenance
Building a gaming PC is exciting and it marks the beginning of a long-term relationship with the system. However, it will eventually need upgrades and maintenance in order to stay reliable and continue to meet your gaming needs.
First, consider adding storage. Video games can take up a lot of space over time, so adding additional storage may be necessary. An SSD will offer faster loading speeds than a hard drive, enabling you to access your games faster.
Second, always keep the system updated. Ensure that you update the RAM and the motherboard’s BIOS or UEFI, as well as the GPU driver. Regularly check for software updates in the operating system, as this can improve system stability.
Third, if a component fails or is not performing up to par, replace it with an upgrade. Aim to replace the component with something of a similar form factor and socket type, as mismatched components can cause conflicts.
Fourth, keep the system clean. Dust accumulation can cause components to overheat. It’s important to regularly open the case and wipe away any deviling dust with a can of pressurised air. Be sure to pay attention to fans and the GPU heatsinks.
Fifth, ensure the system is powered off and disconnected when performing maintenance. This prevents any electricity from traveling through the system, as this can cause damage to components. Pay attention to any warning signs of hardware failure, as these can indicate an issue with your system.
Finally, backup important data such as saved games and other software. This should be done on a regular basis. Not only does it safeguard against data loss in the event of a hardware issue, but it can also make an upgrade or reinstallation much smoother.