This holiday is the perfect time to build your dream gaming PC. I've had the pleasure of making my first desktop this holiday, and it was both fantastic and frustrating.
Why a desktop?
Desktops have the potential to be extreme powerhouses, doing trillions of things at once, mining bitcoins every hour of the day without a break, and handling hundreds or even thousands of petabytes of storage through the cloud. For your use, though, they are much better than laptops in terms of performance, lifetime (how long the products last), upgradability, ability to quickly and easily repair, and more. One of the only major cons of having a desktop instead of a laptop is that it is not very portable and needs to be connected to power to work since it doesn't have a battery that it runs on. Why you should build a desktop and why it can be better than a laptop is detailed in our blog, "Why Desktops Over Laptops?".
Desktops require many intricate parts, but assembling the parts is not complex at all. The parts I will be using for this build are:
CPU: Ryzen 7 3700X
CPU Cooler: be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4
Motherboard: ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming 4
Memory: 2x Corsair Vengeance LPX (8GB each, 16GB total memory)
Storage: Crucial P1 1TB NVME Solid State Drive (SSD)
GPU: EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 KO Gaming
Case: Fractal Design Meshify C (ATX Mid)
Power Supply Unit (PSU): Antec Earthwatts Gold Pro 750W
This PC build is usually around $1000 if you can get good deals; otherwise, it would be approximately $1,200. When building a desktop, a handy website to use is pcpartpicker.com, a website that allows you to list your parts. It checks for compatibility, part availability, best prices, and has most if not all components available on the website. Here is our build, in case you want some or all of the same components. Benchmarks will also be available at the end of the blog.
Here is a nice build guide video on YouTube if you also want to know a fantastic step-by-step guide for building a desktop and an overclocking guide.
Thramkar. "How To Build A PC - Full Beginners Guide + Overclocking." YouTube, TechSource, 22 Nov. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO-V8E9MIBg.
This video is also where our overclocking guide came from, so we recommend you check the channel and the video out.
Problems after finishing builds:
After finishing my desktop build, I was super excited to test it out. I plugged in the power and the monitor, and... nothing happened. Two red lights on the motherboard were switched on, indicating a problem with either the memory or the CPU. The computer did not boot. I had no idea what the problem was. For the rest of the day, I tried switching the RAM, replacing it with some spare memory, re-installing the GPU, and much more. I thought the motherboard itself was not functional until I finally took out the CPU cooler and the CPU and put them back in again. I also re-plugged my motherboard and I/O cables. Finally, after two days of trying to troubleshoot, my desktop booted! There was nothing online to help me, and the troubleshooting guide on the motherboard manual didn't say anything about the problem I was having. It might have been a problem with the cable, or just that the CPU was not seated correctly, so if your desktop is having an issue, try out everything related to the problem, as the resolution can be something unexpected.
For this PC benchmark, we used Novabench. Novabench is a free-to-download software that gives you scores to compare against other PCs. This build got a score of ~4000, which is about 51% better than most PCs similar to this one. The CPU is 96% better, but the GPU is 14% worse. This is probably because the GPU still is not overclocked and is therefore not operating to its fullest potential.
Benchmarks After Overclocking:
After overclocking, the benchmarks were much better. The score was still around 4000, but the GPU score and the CPU score individually were much higher since we overclocked the parts. The GPU was now functioning even better than it should have, and the CPU score was ~98% better than similar PCs.
An Overclocking Guide:
Overclocking sounds excellent, and you might want to try it on your pc, too! We created this guide to help.
First, what is overclocking? Overclocking is increasing the multiplier on parts such as your CPU, allowing them to run faster. But because overclocked parts run faster, they require more voltage, therefore more heat. Too much heat can cause long-term damage to your components and can be dangerous if you do not overclock correctly or do not have sufficient enough cooling. To solve this problem, you can get a better fan or a liquid-cooled system. It would be best if you also searched up your parts' clock speeds to ensure you are not overdoing anything. Thankfully, though, there are stress tests to test your CPU and GPU temperature and if they can handle the overclock. If they cannot, you might have to reduce the boost clock speeds.
Well, how do you overclock something? Here is how:
First, you need to download stress testing and overclocking software. You can do this with the following links:
Ryzen Master - Software for overclocking and stress testing CPU.
Heaven Benchmark - Stress testing for GPU.
MSI Afterburner - Overclocking the GPU.
Overclocking is simple after you have downloaded the required software. For the CPU, first, you open the software and click "Advanced View."
After clicking the advanced view, click on "profile 1" on the left side.
Then, click on "Manual" on the right side.
Click the little red button near CCD 0, so it mirrors your changes across all cores. The button should turn green after pressing. After, start overclocking! Make sure to overclock in small increments and click apply and test at the bottom regularly after increasing so the software can test whether the current boost clock speed works. Also, pay attention to the voltage. If the current overclock doesn't work, try increasing the voltage. Make sure to research the maximum boost clock speed of your processor!
After you find the best clock speed for your CPU, it will be time to move on to the GPU. For this, open up MSI Afterburner. Drag the power limit and temp. limit buttons all the way to the right, then open up the Heaven Benchmarking tool. While running the benchmark in windowed mode, start increasing your core clock in increments of 25. When the benchmark crashes, you have to lower the core clock. Using this method, find the perfect clock speed. Do the same with the memory clock.
With that, your desktop is officially complete! For troubleshooting help, use online resources or the manuals that come with your desktop parts. After you are done with the PC build, install Windows using the Windows Install Media (8GB flash drive), and plug-in your USB Wi-Fi adapter if you do not have a built-in Wi-Fi card.