Building a PC is generally not too difficult, though it can certainly feel daunting the first time. With a good guide and a screwdriver, it should only take a matter of hours — or even less — to transform a bunch of carefully selected parts into the system of your dreams.
When building a PC, there are definitely certain parts that are harder than others. Here, we describe four of the most challenging aspects of building a PC (suggested by our social media communities on Facebook and Twitter), and then provide some tips for how to avoid them.
Challenge #1: Mounting the CPU Cooler
For many people, mounting the CPU cooler can be particularly challenging. With larger CPU coolers especially, they are cumbersome, unwieldy, and difficult to install. They often involve threading studs through the motherboard and case and then installing nuts behind the motherboard to hold the cooler in place before even attaching the cooler. What’s more, this process differs with every cooler, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all technique — you need to read the instructions for your particular cooler to be sure you’re doing it right. And if that wasn’t bad enough, adding thermal paste into the process can create quite a mess.
When we asked the community for input, Žan Perko was fairly impassioned in his hate for CPU coolers, saying: “F****** CPU COOLER. That enormous heat sink is so f****** awkward, I just can’t get over it.”
Adam Boyd had a hard time as well, saying, “I tightened my H55 cooler a bit too much because it just kept going and I didn’t want it to be loose. I went a bit to far and heard a huge crack noise … every quarter turn was a nightmare … my cooler pushes out the edge of my side panel because theres no consistent specification chart or lists that show how much room you need…”
LI Tip: It is also wise to double-check that the cooler size is smaller than that supported by the case that you picked. Carefully check the size specifications of both the cooler and your case. You definitely don’t want to get a new 212 EVO on your doorstep and find that it doesn’t fit your system! Additionally, having a good video guide of someone installing a CPU cooler can be very helpful. Diagrams of installation can be very confusing, and following along makes it much, much easier. Also, don’t apply more than a dot of thermal paste, unless you want to have a lengthy cleanup. (Example resource: How to Install a Hyper 212 EVO video)
Challenge #2: Wiring/Cable Management
For many people, it can be confusing to find what plugs into what and which wires go where. Where do you plug in your fans? Do you need to use both of the 6 pin connectors on my GPU? How should you arrange your SSDs/HDDs for optimal cable management? It can all be very confusing, especially for a first time builder. Additionally, certain cables are shorter than others, so it is completely possible that you will be finishing up and notice that one cable doesn’t reach where it should. By the end, all the cables can make quite a mess.
Aleksandr Bregin said that “Every time, the hardest part for me is placing all those little pin-wires (USB, LD, coolers) onto the correct pins. Never understood what goes where.”
Ethan Kelly believes that cable management is a “Complete b**** to deal with, then after all your hard work you realize you need to reroute half the things, which destroys all your hard work.”
LI Tip: A lot of wiring issues can be helped by watching a good video guide on building a PC and/or PC cable management. By following along with an experienced builder, you’ll be able to repeat most everything need to connect. Before you go in, make sure you are aware of which wires are long and which are short, so you can avoid doing any rewiring later. Most modern cases also allow for good cable management by routing wires through the back side. Additionally, after all is said and done, twist ties do wonders with cable management! Group wires together and push them to the side until you have a neat, gorgeous PC. (Resources: PC Cable Management 101 blog post, Newegg’s How to Build a PC video)
Challenge #3: Mounting the Motherboard
Mounting a motherboard can be a real pain. Sometimes it can take a frustrating few minutes to line it up with the case stand-offs in the first place, and getting the screws to go in properly can be a struggle. It can also sometimes feel like you are forcing it, even if it is being installed properly, and the worry of breaking things while building a PC is always very prevalent. Plus, this is one of the most important aspects to get right, because a misplaced standoff has the potential to fry your motherboard when you turn on the PC for the first time.
When we asked our community, Alex Sempf said that “Forgetting to pop in the I/O plate before installing the motherboard and the rest of your entire build” is a problem he has had in the past.
Mark Phillips said that “My first time my biggest issues were setting in the motherboard [and the] CPU cooler.”
LI Tip: Make sure you pop in your I/O plate before installing the motherboard! Few PC mistakes are more painful than having to re-mount the entire board because of the I/O plate. Video guides are also quite helpful here, as seeing someone install the board makes it easier to visualize what you have to do. Otherwise, make sure that you have your board properly aligned with the standoffs before installation! If you feel it’s necessary, double or triple check that you don’t have a misplaced standoff.
Challenge #4: Researching/Selecting Components
By far, the most time-consuming part of building a PC is the research. Seeing what is on the market, what has good value for the price, and deciding on components can take weeks, or even longer. It can be confusing to find out what all the numbers mean. Here is some of the input the Logical Increments community had:
Joshua said “I just cant afford a decent rig.” While high-end computers can be expensive, with research it is definitely possible to find a good system on a budget.
Nick added that “As a first timer, the most frustrating thing for me is learning the difference from all the parts. I have no idea what one part does or if its better than another part.”
LI Tip: We at Logical Increments hope to take some of the pain out of researching with our Logical Increments parts list, which ranks PC components. Our guides, such as Building a PC for VR or Building a PC for Overwatch, show what components you need for certain purposes or specific games. However, we do actively encourage individual research! You can create a build that is better personalized for yourself than we ever could with our general recommendations.
Though many people say building a PC is just “adult legos,” it is definitely more complicated than that. However, once you have the parts in your hands and have done all the preparation, building a PC is achievable with a good guide and some perseverance. We hope that you do decide to build a computer, and that this article has helped you figure out some of the more difficult aspects of that and how to avoid some common pitfalls of PC construction.