Custom PC builds are fairly straight forward: Screw together the eight core components (including the case), install some software, and start gaming on your new budget build (if you don’t have a build yet, our guides are an excellent starting point). That said, even master builders can trip up on occasion and miss a cable or connector, and new builders can feel overwhelmed by the potential to inflict damage to expensive components.
This Common Build Mistakes guide explains how to assemble a computer and avoid shocking or damaging components; we’ll also explore some of the easy-to-overlook crevices of a high-end rig (like surge protection!).
A lot of failures can be chalked up to hardware defects and RMA-resolvable issues, but there’s always some level of user involvement (don’t worry, we won’t tell). Some of the topics covered on the next page will include:
- Mechanical mistakes and errors.
- Improper cooling techniques.
- Thermalpaste tactics!
- Component-level errors (including all major components), and…
- Configuration-level / BIOS conflicts and compatibility issues.
Getting Started: Tools and Components Needed
If you’re an experienced builder or have worked on at least one machine in the past, you can probably skip over this subsection and jump to the actual common mistakes, found on page 2. This section is intended to help guide newer builders in the right direction.
For the most part, any PC build will require a simple screwdriver to get the job done; most cases now include tool-less setups and allow for minimal screwdriver-ing, making even a screwdriver less significant. That said, your job can certainly be made easier with a basic toolkit (this cheap Belkin one is a pretty common starter kit, but if you have some extra cash, these are also really nice sets) and some twist-ties, zip ties, or adhesive cable mounts (all of which can be found here).
If you’re feeling insecure or are an extremely electro-static-y person (or have carpet and a penchant for wearing shoes and/or socks), you may want to consider acquiring one of these anti-static wrist straps. There are a lot of these available, but generally speaking, just searching for ‘ESD wrist strap’ or ‘anti-static wrist strap’ should find one. Some have a single ground prong that plug into the wall, others have clips that attach to metal surfaces or case interiors. Just make sure what you’re clipping to is actually connected to ground – many case interiors are painted-over metal or otherwise non-grounded sources, so clipping to a table may be more reasonable. We’ll have more on how ESD works and how to avoid it on the next page.
“Don’t Afraid of Anything”
As a final note of advice before we get started, don’t be afraid to build a system. Seeing all the exposed circuitboards (or PCBs) and wiring can be off-putting for new builders, but don’t let that throw you. Is it possible to kill parts by touching them incorrectly? Absolutely. But if that’s the only thing stopping you from building, you can levy those fears by buying the aforementioned $7 ESD wrist strap.