Should You Buy a Gaming PC or Build One?

If you want to build a computer lab in your home, you’ll need to start with a kick-ass PC. But with so many ways to get good PCs nowadays, you will need to decide:

Do you buy pre-built PCs? Or do you buy your own parts and build the PC with your bare hands?

I’ve chosen both of those options over the past 10 years, so I’m in a prime position 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-built PC online, and which one 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, as you know how every piece and part fits together.

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

  • Case
  • a processor (CPU)
  • a processor cooler
  • a motherboard
  • Multiple sticks of memory (RAM)
  • a hard drive
  • a graphics card (GPU)
  • Power Supply (PSU)
  • thermal paste
  • a light
  • a screwdriver
  • An anti-static wrist strap (optional, but recommended)
  • A copy of Windows (or any other operating system)
  • a monitor
  • a mouse
  • keyboard

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

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

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

For the build process, you’ll want a flat surface and either an iPad, laptop, or phone so you can watch a tutorial. The Best Ways to Build a PC has a companion video that shows you exactly what to do and your sequence of operations.

Video above by ECPU A great tool for beginners. They start by detailing the parts and why they matter before moving on to the actual build. The video also has timestamps to make it easy to skip. I like this Tutorial from PC Centric Too.

It’s worth noting that all PC builds vary slightly depending on the parts you choose. If you’re struggling with a part you have that isn’t in your video tutorial, try reading the instructions – or even better – looking for a build video with your particular case, motherboard, or processor. Do it.

How do you get a customized pre-built PC?

In addition to building your own PC, you can either buy a pre-built PC that comes out of the box at stores like Best Buy, or you can customize one at an online storefront like iBuyPower, The first might be fine, but I recommend you buy a custom one.

All you have to do is go to iBuyPower’s website (there are many such websites, such as CyberPowerPC) And Open Your PC Optimizer, You can choose your part from a long list and also check how your fantasy creation will play popular modern games like elden ring,

As long as all your parts fit together – it will warn you that if the graphics card you want is too big for your case, for example – you can check. Then, an expert will assemble your parts for you, build the PC, and ship it to your home. When it arrives all you have to do is remove the weird, giant packing peanut inside the case and plug it in.

This is all very convenient, and it has also made a huge financial burden for me having a new PC that is very easy to swallow. I was able to purchase my iBuyPower PC using the site’s built-in Affirm partnership. Affirm ran my credit and gave me an affordable rate and 12 month payment plan. Overall, I paid an extra $189 for my $2,324 PC, but it was well worth it for the ability to upgrade my old desktop from a full year ago.

If you have cash – or a really good credit card – you can certainly buy the whole thing. But if the cost of the PC is the biggest hurdle for you, getting a custom one can make things easier if you go the route I did with monthly payments.

Which do I recommend?

A new iBuyPower sits on a wooden floor

Photo: Ryan Gilliam / Polygon

In 10 years of building machines, I’ve never run into a major problem during one of my builds. I never fried anything, and my PC always booted up on the first or second try. I know many more talented PC makers haven’t been so lucky, but I’ve had great experiences. I also really enjoyed the process, and basically imagined it would be something I would do every several years for the rest of my life.

However, after several builds and upgrades – plus a mnemonic – I wanted to try something simple and easy. I wanted a perfect build for both work and play, and that’s exactly what I got from the custom-order PC I got in 2021. I still picked out all my parts, but didn’t have to do any labor. Most importantly, I was able to pay for the computer over the course of a year instead of paying in advance, which was really helpful for my family during the pandemic.

When I get a new PC many years from now, I will without question buy a custom one again. It’s simple in almost every aspect, and I had an excellent experience with iBuyPower. However, I still really value my previous PC building experience. I know how they tick, and I’ll 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 love to learn, you will really value the experience of doing it yourself. That being said, if you really just want to play with your friends or take advantage of Steam Selling, buying custom builds is the easiest way to get into PC gaming. It’s fast, it’s simple, it’s simple, and it just works.

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