How To Build A PC: From Component Selection To Installation

Other Components

It's possible to complete your build and get to gaming with nothing more than the previous-mentioned components (along with a thumb drive for your operating system). The number of downloadable programs has increased to the point that many of our readers never need an optical drive (CD, DVD, BD-ROM). Cases come with mounting screws and usually include cooling fans. Most retail-boxed CPUs have a heat sink and fan. And a majority of motherboards are bundled with cables.

For other enthusiasts, the ability to run old programs or play media is critical. Overclockers, especially, will immediately toss aside whatever thermal solution their multiplier-unlocked CPU came with in favor of something more effective.

Even the most tight-fisted builder should be able to afford a DVD writer, with typical online prices ranging from $20 to 40 on the latest models of many popular brands. Blu-ray writers are more expensive, though not nearly as bad as they once were. Combo drives with Blu-ray read and DVD write capabilities used to fill the pricing gap, but that market shrank as the gap decreased.

Other power users prefer additions like a premium sound cards or TV tuners, though integrated sound is quite good nowadays and Internet-based streaming services make TV cards largely superfluous. Then again, that's what makes the PC so great. You have the freedom to swap parts in and out as your needs change.

The debate over optional or mandatory upgrades heats up when we get to the world of overclocking.

CPU coolers range from tiny devices as small as a 2” cube to enormous liquid-cooled radiator systems. We review the entire range, and think that first-time builders who would eventually like to overclock will have the most success with something that’s easy to install. Depending on your case, that could still give you dual-fan sealed liquid system or big air options.

Any of these items are optional for most builds, so let’s get back to the mandatory steps.