It’s a weird time to build a PC. That’s partly because fewer people are doing it—sales for parts and prebuilt PCs are down across the industry, as people continue to make do with the stuff they bought early in the pandemic. And GPU prices, while closer to “normal” than they have been over the last two years, are still historically high.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to build a PC. Storage and memory are mostly cheap, and you can buy a lot of CPU power for not a lot of money (especially if what you’re used to is an older quad-core processor you picked up five or six years ago). Intel and AMD have also released new CPUs since our last system guide update in July, and Intel has finally jumped into the GPU business after years of false starts and delays.
It’s as good a time as any for a new version of our PC building guide, so we’ve put together four different sample builds focused on different budgets and use cases. You can buy the specific components we recommend and get a good, functional PC, or you can use them as starting points and make changes based on what you want and need.
A note on component selection
Part of the fun of building a PC is making it look the way you want. We’ve selected cases that will physically fit the motherboards and other parts we’re recommending and which we think will be good stylistic fits for each system. But there are many cases out there, and our picks won’t be the only options available.
As for power supplies, we’re recommending mostly EVGA models with some kind of 80 Plus efficiency certification because we’ve had good experiences with them in our builds and ones we’ve put together for friends or acquaintances. If you have a preferred brand, though, by all means, go with what works for you. The same goes for RAM—we’ll recommend capacities and speeds, and we’ll link to kits from brands that have worked well for us in the past, but that doesn’t mean they’re better than the many other RAM kits with equivalent specs.
Finally, we won’t be including the cost of a Windows license in our cost estimates. You can pay a lot of different prices for Windows—$139 for an official retail license from Microsoft, $120 for an “OEM” license for system builders, or anywhere between $15 and $40 for a product key from shady gray market product key resale sites. If you have a product key for Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7, you may also be able to install and activate Windows 10 or 11 without paying anything extra since Microsoft never disallowed that option after Windows 10’s free upgrade period. You could even install Linux! We’ll leave these decisions to you and your god.
We also haven’t priced in most peripherals, like webcams, monitors, keyboards, or mice, as we’re assuming most people will re-use what they already have or buy those components separately. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even make your own DIY keyboard! If you need more guidance, Kimber Streams’ Wirecutter keyboard guides are comprehensive and educational.