Why build a gaming PC? Every time a hotly anticipated PC video game comes out, it never fails. Within a week or two of its release, internet forums become filled with tales of woe from disappointed gamers who’ve been dealt one of the worst blows any gamer can experience– the inability to play a game on their system. This problem doesn’t just happen to people with budget computers. Even gamers who’ve splurged on expensive desktops aren’t immune to the cold slap of stuttering frame rates, lag, terrible graphics, or a blank screen.
Why does this issue happen so frequently? Too many times, people think that just because they own a really expensive desktop, it’s up to the task of running the most powerful video games. However, unless their computers were purchased from a manufacturer that specializes in gaming rigs, odds are that their store-bought machines probably aren’t ready to run most of today’s high end video games out of the box.
If you’re someone who’s currently looking forward to an upcoming gaming title, how can you also avoid the unexpected shock and disappointment of finding out that your PC is not up to the task of running it? Build a gaming PC of your own. Below is a list of four crucial things that any gamer should think about if they intend to build a gaming PC.
Checklist to Build a Gaming PC:
Requirement #1: Multi-Core Processor
When it comes to casual games and older video game titles, you can probably get away with having a powerful single-core processor. However, with the latest generation of cutting edge PC games such as Crysis, Dead Space, Bioshock and many others, squeaking by on a single-core is virtually impossible. The reason? Nearly all games of this caliber require at minimum a dual-core CPU to even run at all and a triple to quad-core to play at maxed out graphics settings. You can try to play using a single-core, but chances are that the game will be unplayable or shut down as soon as you try to launch it.
What if you’re about to buy a game that requires a multi-core processor, but have no idea whether or not your existing PC has one? Easy. You can find out by running the DirectX Diagnostic Tool, or DxDiag for short, in Windows. To access it, press the Windows and R key, type in “dxdiag” into the text box, then click “Okay.” You’ll immediately get a detailed display of your computer’s hardware, including the name of your processor.
Usually, DxDiag will indicate how many cores a CPU has by placing this information in parentheses after its name– for example, “Amd Athlon II x 2 250 Processor (2 CPUs).” The “2 CPUs” in this case means that this particular Amd CPU is a dual-core processor. Had it been a triple-core processor, DxDiag would have displayed “3 CPUs” instead, and for a quad-core, “4 CPUs.”
Sometimes DxDiag isn’t always this clear (there may not be anything in parentheses after the processor’s name). If you run the program and there’s nothing displayed to indicate how many cores your processor has, it’s always best to look up your CPU’s specs online at the official manufacturer’s website to find out whether it is, in fact, a multi-core or a single-core.
Requirement #2: Dedicated Graphics Card
When you buy any PC, it always comes with a graphics chipset referred to as onboard video, or alternately, integrated graphics. The reason why it’s integrated is to allow you to start viewing and running multimedia on a new computer right out of the box, rather than be forced to purchase an additional component just to run basic games and watch video clips.
It used to be that onboard video was just good enough play basic video clips and games with low end graphics. Now chipsets are much more powerful than they were years ago and can run many games that have better than average graphics. Because chipsets have improved so much over the years, many people have begun taking it for granted that they can play any games they want without upgrading their computers. Unfortunately, this is still not the case. With graphics-intensive gaming titles, you still have to get what’s called a dedicated graphics card (a separate card that takes over from your system’s onboard video), because integrated graphics will never be powerful enough to run a video game like Assassin’s Creed or Saints Row, not even if played on the lowest graphics settings.
If you intend to build a gaming PC, you probably know by now, graphics cards designed to run powerful games can cost a pretty penny. If a primary reason why you’ve avoided getting a card all this time is budget, you don’t necessarily have to invest in a $200 state of the art graphics card if all you want is to run games at basic graphics settings. You can either buy a used card or better yet, get a slightly dated version of a high end card you’re interested in. We’ve also shown you how to overclock your graphics card. Just make sure, however, that you find a card that’s compatible with your computer model. Otherwise, it will be as good as useless.
Requirement #3: A Compatible Version of Windows
There was a time when you didn’t really have to worry about whether the operating system you had installed on your system could run a game, because for the longest time, PC titles were released for all versions of Windows starting with XP and up.
With the release of Windows 7 and 8, however, that has all changed. Game developers are beginning to drop support for XP and only make titles compatible with Vista and above. Some are even going so far as to only develop games with Windows 7 as the minimum requirement. This is pretty unfair to diehard users of XP and Vista, but given how old these O/Ses are, it doesn’t make sense anymore to developers to keep making software that can run on them.
As of now, it’ll be awhile before there won’t be any more games that are compatible with XP or Vista. However, you can be sure that within the next couple of years, you’ll be coming across an increasing number of games that won’t support either, especially when Microsoft drops support for XP in 2014. So if you want to build a gaming PC by upgrading components, it is important to understand what your current OS is. And if you’re still a hardcore XP or Vista user, make sure that any videogame you plan to get does, in fact, support your O/S.
Requirement #4: An Internet Connection
This is a very controversial, sore subject for gamers, but unfortunately there’s no avoiding it. For most gamers, an internet connection may be assumed, but let’s consider why it is important today and why speed matters.
Many years ago, you didn’t need an internet connection for a game unless it was an online multiplayer game, like Everquest or World of Warcraft. Then several years ago, the gaming industry started using Digital Rights Management (DRM), a security measure that uses various methods to prevent users from pirating software. One method is to force players to complete a game’s registration and installation online, rather than complete it on their computer’s hard drive.
This internet requirement used to be pretty easy to get around, since very few games used it. All you had to do was avoid certain titles that needed an internet connection. However, DRM has become such a widespread practice that there’s very little escaping it. More games than ever are requiring players to go online for either registration, installation, or both. In some extreme cases, some games can only be played when the player is logged into a server, even if the game itself is not an online multi-player.
There’s some more bad news. Not only has it become necessary to have the internet in order to run and play games, in many cases, it has to be a fast connection. The reason? Even if a particular title doesn’t need the internet to install or play, it may need one to download patches. The more robust the video game is, the larger file sizes you can expect, and the more excruciating it can be waiting for a gigantic 500MB patch to install on a less than optimal internet connection.
If you’re on a system that has a decent internet connection, you don’t have to worry too much about this issue when considering a video game. However, if you have a poor internet connection, no internet access at all, or just plan to run a particular title on a machine that has no connection, make sure the title you want doesn’t require internet access. Otherwise, you’ll have an unplayable game.