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presents

BUILd yoUr oWn


GamInG pC
FaLL 2013
Hardware Components

06

Regardless if youll be gaming or web browsing, a great


PC needs great parts. Weve done all the heavy lifting
for you providing plenty of recommendations that will
suit a variety of tastes and budgets

How to Build the perfect pC

42

Use our step-by-step illustrative guide to avoid


fumbling through the building process

Install Windows 8 Like a pro

60

A complete, easy-to-follow guide for properly confguring a fresh Windows 8 install

How to set Up a new pC the right Way 66


A detailed list of proper optimization techniques and
must-own apps for all PC gamers

Fix It

74

Having problems with your network? Does your


videocard have a case of the Mondays? Check out this
reference guide for how to solve the most common PC
user woes

Gaming on a Budget

86

Building a new PC is pretty expensiveluckily these


incredible games are not

Hottest Hardware

94

Every consumer CPU and videocard ranked in PC


Gamers exclusive lustworthiness chart

the tech support Cheat sheet

96

Use this convenient tear-out sheet to keep your


hardwares vital info at hand in case you ever need to
contact tech support or replace defective hardware

06

HardWare
components
2 pC Gamer BUIld YoUr oWn GamInG pc FaLL 2013

60

Install
WIndoWs 8
lIke a pro
www.pcgamer.com

gaming on
a budgeT

www.pcgamer.com

FALL 2013 build Your oWn gaming pC PC GAmeR 3

Build your own


GaminG PC
fall 2013
ediTorial
editorial director Logan Decker
editor-in-Chief Ryan Taljonick
Contributors Alexandra Hall, Connor Sheridan,
Katherine Stevenson, Gordon Ung, Josh Norem, Jimmy
Thang, Alex Castle, Tom McNamara, Marco Chiappetta,
David Murphy, Nathan Edwards
arT
art director Boni Uzilevsky
Photographer Mark Madeo
BuSineSS
Vice President, Content and Brand
Kelly Corten, kcorten@futureus.com
Publisher
Ace St. Germain, astgermain@futureus.com
Vice President, Sales & Business development
Nate Hunt, nhunt@futureus.com
national director of Sales
Isaac Ugay, iugay@futureus.com
regional Sales managers
Brandon Wong, brandonwong@futureus.com
Stacy Gaines, sgaines@futureus.com
Jen Doerger, jdoerger@futureus.com,
Tad Perez, tperez@futureus.com
advertising Coordinator
Heidi Hapin, hhapin@futureus.com
marKeTinG
VP, marketing & Sales development
Rhoda Bueno
eCommerce & fulllment director Lisa Radler
newsstand director Bill Shewey
ProduCTion
Production director Michael Hollister
Production manager Larry Briseno
Production/Print order Coordinator Jose Urrutia

Ryan Taljonick

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
T

he most exciting thing about building


your very own PC is that youre in
complete control of everything that
goes into it. From general use budget parts to
a high-end gaming components and
everything in between, there are limitless
customization optionsthe hard part is
figuring out where to begin.
Start by answering one very important
question: What do you intend to use your PC
for? If your answer is web browsing and light
gaming, weve specced out an inexpensive
build thats sure to suit your needs. If youre
wanting a powerful gaming setup, that sexy
PC on the front cover of this very copy offers
powerful performance at a decent price. Or, if
moneys no issue, weve even picked out parts
for a high-end rig thatll laugh in the face of
any game on maxed settings.
But regardless of your intended usage, this
issue is all about the building experience, and
how to properly take care of your fancy new
machine once its put together.

fuTure uS, inC.


4000 Shoreline Court, Suite 400
South San Francisco, CA 94080, (650) 872-1642
www.futureus.com
President Rachelle Considine
Vice President, finance & Business management
Lulu Kong
Vice President / General manager, digital
Charlie Speight
General Counsel Anne Ortel
SuBSCriPTionS
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Future plc produces carefully targeted
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export or license our publications to 90 countries around
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future Plc
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non executive Chairman Peter Allen
Chief executive Mark Wood
Group finance director Graham Harding

4 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC fall 2013

In the opening pages, youll find a detailed


explanation of every component that makes a
PC tick, with expert advice on what to look
for when shopping around for each. Of
course, weve done the heavy lifting for you
and specced out no less than four different
builds designed to cater to a variety of tastes.
Then, well help you put the whole thing
together with our illustrative step-by-step
build-it guide, as building a PC can be a
daunting experience for newcomers. But what
if something messes up along the way? Dont
panicdead-on-arrival components are a
very real possibility, but weve also included a
whole how-to guide for fixing the PCs most
commonly recurring problems. Finally, weve
also put together a list of incredible games
you can pick up for an equally incredible price
so you can put that new PC to work.
So grab that screwdriver and get ready to
find out why building your own PC is the
most rewarding experience an enthusiast can
have. Weve got your back.

ryan Taljonick
Editor-in-ChiEf

CPU
This at surface protects all of the
CPUs microscopic components, while
also distributing the heat they generate. If using an aftermarket cooler, apply some quality thermal paste here
before attaching the heat sink.

Integrated Heat Spreader

The i7-4770K features no less than


1,150 tiny connector pins, which correspond precisely with the 1,150 little
holes of a motherboards LGA-1150
socket. You bend these pins at your
peril, so only handle the top of the
chip.

Land Grid Array

CPUs are rated by speed, but since some CPUs can


do more operations per clock than others, this is only
a general indicator. What you really want is a CPU
thats fast enough for your intended usesdo we hear
gaming?but doesnt break the bank or generate
excessive heat. Overclockability, the ability to run
faster than the rated speed, is also nice. Our
suggested Intel Core i7-4770K leans slightly more
toward performance than value, which means that
itll power through high-end games and applications
for years to come.

What to look for:

A computer is a device that calculates and computes at


amazing speed. And this crucial componentthe
central processing unit, aka CPU or processoris
where most of that magic happens. Featuring billions
of microscopic transistors, the CPU breaks each task
down to ones and zeroes, manipulates the data as
requested, and returns the result before you can even
blink an eye. A fast CPU is a key component in any
enthusiast system, helping your OS run smoothly and
supplying your GPU with all the data it needs to
render beautiful scenery.

What it does:

Hardware

die

www.pcgamer.com

budGet
AMD FX 6300 BE
amd.com | $120*
AMDs CPUs never quite seem to catch
up to Intels in terms of gaming power,
but for raw value theyre hard to beat.
The $120 FX 6300 BE and an $80 mobo
can form the core of a very reasonable
budget build.

HiGH-end
Intel Core i7-3960X
intel.com | $1,070*
When building a PC you must strike a balance between what is possible and what
is reasonable. Its certainly possible to
blow over $1,000 on this six-core monster,
but only the most specialized users will
nd it worthwhile.

Alternatives

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

mainstream
Intel Core i5-3570K
intel.com | $220*
The i5-3570K was our main pick in our previous issue, and it remains an amazing
combination of price and performance.
While its a little slower per clock than the
i7-4770K, it runs cooler and is easier to
overclock.

Overclockings undeniably cool,


almost like getting something for
nothing. Except to safely do so, youll
probably be buying a non-stock CPU
cooling solution, additional fans, a
more expensive OC-friendly motherboardthese are all costs. Todays
CPUs are so fast, too, that you may
not notice much beneft. We like to
OC in two main situations: when
our hardwares becoming noticeably
outdated, and when were running
CPU-hungry apps like PS2/GameCube emulators.

to overclock or not to overclock:

The CPUs cores live here,


crunching numbers and generating heat. The term is derived from the fact that larger
silicon wafers are diced into
smaller pieces, each of which
becomes a die.

faLL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 7

INTEl CORE i7-4770K


Price $340*
Link intel.com
Clock Speed: A general indicator of
how much work a processor can accomplish per second. Its a helpful
guide, but newer processors can do
more work per clock cycle than older
ones. The 3.5GHz Core i7-4770K,
built on Intels new 22-nanometer
Haswell technology, is the absolute latest and fastest per clock.
This new tech runs even hotter than
Intels previous Ivy Bridge CPUs,
though, which may impact overclocking plans.
Cores: Cores are where the actual
number-crunching happens, and
mainstream CPUs like the i7-4770K
typically have four. While the idea of
multiple cores working concurrently
is exciting, in reality its difcult for
programmers to completely parallelize their code to take 100% efcient advantage of the discrete
cores. Still, the more the merrier.
Some Intel CPUs feature hyperthreading, which makes the PC
think it has twice as many cores to
work with. The performance boost is
typically more subtle than the heat
increase, however.
Cache: Just like people, CPUs need
short-term memory, so they put oftrequested data into super highspeed bits of cache memory to keep
it quickly accessible. More cache is
better, but any modern CPU will
have more than enough.
Socket: On the other hand, you really ought to pay attention to what
motherboard socket type your CPUs
compatible with. Having your parts
arrive only to nd that your CPU
cant physically connect to your
motherboard is pretty high up there
on the list of crummy computer
emotions. The i7-4770K supports
the LGA-1150 socket standard.

the specs

What to look for:

Decide on a CPU first, as your choice of


motherboards will be constrained by the socket type
that CPU requires (LGA-1150 in this case). Actual
performance doesnt vary greatly between different
mobos, so youre mostly shopping for features. Look
for lots of USB ports (you want at least two USB 3.0s),
at least four RAM slots, 6Gb/s SATA III connectors
for your storage devices, and user-friendly
overclocking features. Consider the size; will it fit
into your desired case? Finally, check reviews: do
current owners find it stable? Sure hope so!

What it does:

More than any other component, the motherboard


(aka mainboard or mobo) is the core of your new
computer, providing the sockets, ports, and
infrastructure to which all the other parts connect.
Your hard drives connect to its SATA ports, your
graphics card lives in a PCI Express slot. The
motherboards feature set (or lack thereof) goes a long
way toward defining your computers potential
capabilities, so its important to plan ahead a bit and
decide which features are must-have (say, lots of RAM
slots) and which are optional.

Just like other pieces of hardware get regular software driver updates, mobo manufacturers regularly release rmware/BIOS updates for their
motherboards. When a mobo is newly released its
rmware can be immature, so the rst couple
updates often squash the most pressing bugs and
add compatibility with more avors of hardware.
So, check your motherboards product webpage
every month or two to stay on top of rmware
updates; having the latest BIOS is rarely a bad idea.

Freshen Up Your BIOS

Your computers random-access memory


(RAM) lives here. Youll want to take advantage of the motherboards dualchannel memory conguration, which
boosts performance, by inserting your
RAM modules in alternating DIMM sockets. See your mobos included instructions for more details.

DIMM Sockets

Brain goes here. Put brain in slot. Make


sure no hard pressure. Make sure no
bend pins. Secure with lever thing.
Now computer has smart brain.

CPU Socket

motherboard

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

budget
MSI 970A-G46
us.msi.com | $85*
Our low-cost AMD build requires a lowcost AMD mobo, and the MSI 970A-G46
serves nicely. With 6Gb/s SATA III, USB
3.0, CrossFire/SLI readiness, support for
up to 32GB of RAM, and a user-friendly,
OC-ready BIOS, the 970A-G46 ticks all
the necessary boxes.

HigH-end
Asus P9X79 Pro
asus.com | $310*
Intels X79 chipset is designed to run
some of the companys most powerful
CPUs, so its no shock that X79 mobos
cost a premium. But really, if youre already a grand in the hole after your CPU
then whats another $300 for the ASUS
P9X79 Pro? Embrace excess.

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

MainstreaM
ASRock Z77 Extreme4
asrock.com | $135*
If youre going with a previous-generation
Ivy Bridge/LGA-1155 build (a ne idea) the
ASRock Z77 Extreme4 will provide a solid
foundation. Its very similar to the LGA1150 MSI Z87-G45, with minor variations
like two extra USB 3.0 ports and one fewer PCIe graphics slot.

Storage devices like hard drives connect to


SATA ports. You typically want SSDs on the
6Gb/s SATA III ports, while HDDs and optical drives can connect to whatevers left.

These pins control a bunch of features, like the


power and reset switches, drive access lights,
and so on. Connect them to the appropriate
wiring from your case.

Alternatives

sata Ports

Motherboard Headers

faLL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC gaMer 9

MSI Z87-G45
Price $155*
Link us.msi.com
Chipset: Chipset refers to the
electronics, usually designed by
either Intel or AMD, that connect the
various mobo components and
largely dene the capabilities of the
platform. Our recommended MSI
Z87-G45 sports Intels new Z87
chipset, which exclusively supports
recent Haswell CPUs like the Core
i7-4770K. Z87 is geared toward
high-end gaming performance, with
Crossre/SLI graphics compatibility
and good support for overclocking.
Socket: Every few years Intel and
AMD change the sockets with which
their CPUs connect to motherboards, so you need to make sure
your mobo has the right socket for
your chosen CPUeasy enough if
you pay a little attention. Our recommended MSI Z87-G45 mobo and
Intel Core i7-4770K CPU both support the LGA-1150 socket. How convenient, and utterly crucial.
UEFI: When you turn on your PC the
BIOS (Basic Input/Output System)
handles the task of testing and initializing the hardware, and then
hands off control to your operating
system (OS). UEFI (Unied
Extensible Firmware Interface) is a
newer technology that does much
the same thing while offering better
security and surpassing some of the
ancient limits imposed by the over
30-year-old BIOS system. UEFI delivers mouse-driven conguration,
support for massive 2TB+ drives,
and faster boot times.

the specs

ONLY

9.99

EXCLUSIVELY AT WALMART

or order now at www.pcgamer.com/minecraftguide

The best way to dissipate heat is to


spread it out over the maximum possible surface area, which is why todays
heat sinks tend to have hundreds of
wafer-thin metal ns.

Fins

COOLER
The killer cooling formula is typically 1) a huge heat
sink with 2) lots of narrow fins. Todays plethora of
massive aluminum-block tower designs testify to
this: they just work. Copper heat pipes, which
connect the coolers base to the tower, also help move
heat up and out. Add a large but quiet fan (usually
included) to blow away the hot air and youre all set.
We love the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. Its been
around forever, is cheap, and does a great job of
dissipating heat. A true classic.

What to look for:

Thanks to the physical laws of the universe, even the


smallest PC processors generate a lot of heatso
much so that theyd burn up if we just let them baste
in their own warmth. Hence, CPU coolers. Intel and
AMD supply lowest-common-denominator coolers
with every CPU, designed only to keep the chip from
destroying itself. If you want better cooling, and as
overclocking enthusiasts who appreciate quiet PCs
we always do, youll need to invest in an aftermarket
CPU-cooling solution. The difference in
temperature will be night and day.

What it does:

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

CooLEr MaSTEr HypEr 212 EVo


Price $35*
link coolermaster.com
Compatibility: Just like CPUs, coolers are built to be compatible with
certain mobo socket designs. The
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO supports a huge range: Intel LGA
1150/1155/2011/1366 and AMD
Socket FM1/FM2/AM3+.
Base Material: Different metals
have different heat conductivity
properties, making them better or
worse as heat sinks. Todays enthusiast designs use aluminum towers
and copper bases.
Dimensions: Enthusiast heat sinks
are big, no lie, so make sure theyll
actually t in your intended case.
This is particularly important given
todays trend toward smaller cases.
(Thermalrights excellent TRUE
Spirit 120M is a more recent cooler
that is actually designed to be a little
smaller.) Overly large heat sinks can
also block the closest RAM slots,
which is the opposite of good.
Fan Specs: The best computer fans
move a lot of air while being as quiet
as possible, and the Hyper 212 EVOs
120mm fan moves a lot of air while
producing only modest noise. We are
fans of this fan.

the specs

HiGH-end
Thermaltake CLW0217 Water 2.0
Extreme
thermaltakeusa.com | $90*
Liquid cooling used to be the sole domain
of total rockstar rebel nerds, but now you
can enjoy its amazing cooling efciency
with ready-made devices like the Water
2.0 Extreme. Imagine the OC potential

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 13

mainstReam
Enermax ETS-T40-TB
enermaxusa.com | $36*
Even cooler and quieter than the Hyper
212 EVO? Indeed, and for just a small price
premium. What isnt small is the heat
sink, which is more likely to clash with
your case and cover RAM slots. But if you
can make it t, go for it.

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

budGet
Stock Cooler
If it aint broke, dont x it. Well, your
CPUs stock cooler is a little broke, but it
will get you by just ne if you dont overclock and if youre not too concerned
about noise. Its not glamorous or elegant, but keeping your CPU from baking
itself is denitely a plus.

Alternatives

Your CPUs integrated heat spreader is not a 100% flat, flawless


surface, and your heat sinks base plate is considerably less so. Air is
a terrible conductor of heat, so youll need a heat-conducting
compound called thermal paste to bridge the miniscule air pockets
formed by these imperfections, enabling the efficient transfer of
heat from CPU to heat sink. Most coolers come with their own
thermal compound, or you can buy it separately. Check for an
application guide online, because its no fun to clean up the mess
left by an overzealous application.

filling in the gaps:

If youve got a big RAM surplus you can


take advantage by dedicating some of it
to a super-fast RAM disk (one good use
for which is temp fles) and/or turning off the Windows page fle (a fle on
your comparatively pokey HDD/SSD to
which Windows swaps out RAM contents when free RAM runs low). There
are pros and cons to each, so defnitely
hit up Google before trying.

Fancy RAM tricks:

Right now, this sentence is in your brains RAM.


Now this one is. And this one. Random Access
Memory (RAM) is extremely fast memory meant to
hold whatever data the computers working with at
any given moment. Its not quite as quick as the CPUs
cache memory, but it can be read and written to
exponentially faster than even the most advanced
solid-state storage drive. More RAM lets your
computer handle more data without swapping out
temporary files to the comparatively snail-like
storage drives, so the more, the merrier.

What it does:

RAM

Current DIMMs have 240


gold connector pins. Look,
but dont touch.

Gold Pins

These days four gigabytes is the bare minimum, and


eight or 16 will give you better future-proofing. RAM
prices are at a historic low, but theres a point of
diminishing returns past which most people will no
longer benefit from more. Enthusiast RAM is rated
to run at higher speeds, but the difference is only
noticeable in benchmarks. So, youll be fine as long as
the memory youre looking at is compatible with your
motherboard and has good reviews for stability. If
your new PC is crashing, the RAM is one of the very
first things to check.

What to look for:

Corsair VengeanCe LP 8gB


(2x4gB) DDr3 1600
Price $75*
Link corsair .com
Type: RAM standards change every
couple years, but right now DDR3
(Double Data Rate Type 3) is the
memory of note.
speed: RAM can work at different
speeds, and the maximum supported speed will be mentioned in the
RAMs product name. For example,
our recommended Corsair
Vengeance 8GB DDR3 1600 is meant
to run at 1,600MHz. Enthusiast
motherboards will let you overclock
RAM a bit, but the difference is
scarcely noticeable.
Timings: Similarly, RAM is rated to
meet certain timing standards. Our
Corsair Vengeances timings are 9-99-24, with each number representing the number of clock cycles it
takes the RAM to perform a certain
task. Hence, lower RAM timing numbers are faster. You can attempt to
tighten these a bit, but again, the
performance improvement will be
extremely minor.
Multi-channel Kit: Todays dualand triple-channel RAM sticks can
operate more quickly when slotted
in pairs or trios, respectively. All of
our builds use dual-channel memory, which is why our recommended
RAM DIMMs come in pairs (our 8GB
Corsair comes as 2x4GB, for example). When upgrading memory,
never add just one stick.

The Specs

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

RAM generates heat, so heat


spreaders theoretically help dissipate it. But honestly, most manufacturers just use them as an
opportunity to make their RAM
stand out visually.

Heatsink

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

When inserting DIMMs you can rely


on this handy notch to make sure
youre inserting them with the correct orientation. Thanks, notch!

notch

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 15

HiGH-end
Kingston HyperX 16GB (4x4GB)
DDR3 1600
kingston.com | $155*
Only people doing specialized work like
compiling or rendering can really benet
from 16GB (or 32GB!) of RAM, but its so
cheap these days you might just want to go
for it. Its nice never having to worry about
running out of memory.

mainstReam
Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB (2x4GB)
DDR3 1600
corsair.com | $75*
Tricked you: there is no alternative. This is
the same memory as in our standard build,
as theres little point to seeking out some
other type just for variety when the primary pick is already plenty fast and, more importantly, stable.

budGet
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB
(2x2GB) DDR3 1600
gskill.com | $40*
A time traveler from even just ve years
ago probably wouldnt believe that 4GB
of RAM could be had for 40 bucks, yet
here we are. G.Skills a good brand, even.
Also crazy: 4GB is startin to feel a little
cramped, so get more if possible.

Alternatives

Nvidias SLI (scalable link interface) and


AMDs CrossFire are similar technologies
that let you run multiple graphics cards in
tandem. Sounds good, but the added performance often comes with annoying
glitches, not to mention more noise and
heat. Do some research before partaking.

CrossFire Connector

All of todays graphics cards feature technology


from either Nvidia or AMD, and they tend to
take turns having the absolute fastest cards. But
unless youre rich, youll probably want to look
for the best balance of features and performance
vs. price. Crucial as videocards are to good
gaming, they can be expensive, so decide what
minimum level of performance youd like and
check out some benchmarks to see which cards
can supply that. Anything beyond $350 is getting
into premium territory.

While a CPU is oriented toward performing general


calculations, a graphics processing unit (GPU, or
videocard) is a specialized device optimized to
render sophisticated 3D images onto your screen.
Todays CPUs actually come with rudimentary
built-in graphics capabilities, but anyone looking to
play games will demand the faster graphics performance that only a discrete videocard can provide.
When it comes to gaming performance, the GPU is
probably the single most important component of
your system, so try not to skimp.

GPUs compete with CPUs for being the hottest


part of your PC, so we hold strong, quiet cooling in high esteem. Some videocards can
accommodate after-market coolers, but its
cheaper and more convenient just to nd a
card that comes with a good stock cooler. GPU
fans can become distractingly noisy when rendering hectic game scenes, a scenario we
prefer to avoid.

Fan

What to look for:

What it does:

Additional software can really help you get the most


out of your GPU. MSI Afterburner is great for
overclocking GPUs and taming excessive fan noise
try setting a custom fan curve. RadeonPro is a must
for AMD users, offering wonderful tweaks that should
really be built into AMDs less-than-elegant drivers.
D3DOverrider can sometimes enable framerateboosting triple buffering in games where nothing else
can. And SweetFX is a cutting-edge hack that can
greatly improve the graphics of many Direct3D
games. Master these tools and youll never go back.

Tame your GPU:

Videocard

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

budGet
MSI GTX 650 Ti Boost ($110)
us.msi.com | $110*
If youre looking to save a bit on the GPU
then MSIs GTX 650 Ti Boost variant is a
ne pick. Itll run a lot of todays games
in 1080p (1920x1080) at or near 60
frames per second (fps), which is a good
baseline to aim for.

HiGH-end
Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan
geforce.com | $1,020*
Here it is: the current state-of-the-art in
graphics excess. One grand gets you 6GB
of memory and the best single-GPU performance available, not to mention bragging rights. But is your case big enough to
accommodate a 12-inch card?

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

mainstReam
Nvidia GeForce GTX 760
geforce.com | $255*
The GeForce GTX 760 is very comparable
to the Radeon HD7870, perhaps a little
faster overall. If youre a die-hard Nvidia
acolyte who cant fathom owning an AMD
(you know if you are) then youll be quite
happy with this pick.

Alternatives

This little tab helps keep your


relatively heavy graphics card
rmly anchored in its PCIe slot.
Be careful not to snap it off
when removing the card.

tab

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 17

ASuS RAdeoN Hd 7870


Price $240*
link asus.com
Clock Speed: Just like CPUs, GPUs
have clock-speed ratings. Our recommended ASUS Radeon HD7870
runs at an impressive 1GHz
(1,000MHz), while its memory is
clocked at 1,200MHz. As with CPUs,
these speeds are just guideposts,
and different cards cant be directly
compared. You can overclock most
GPUs via their drivers or third-party
software, but be careful to stop before temps rise too much or you start
seeing graphical artifacts.
Stream Processors: The number of
stream processors (aka shader units,
or CUDA cores in Nvidia land) is another general indicator of GPU performance. Stream processors power
through crazy-tough math to generate the impressive special effects evident in todays real-time game
graphics. A good example is realisticlooking water: shader units at work.
The HD7870 has 1,280.
Memory: Videocard memory is split
between two crucial tasks: keeping a
copy of the current image (this is
called the framebuffer) and holding
copies of all of a scenes many textures. 1GB has been the baseline rec
for a while, but its nally time to
bump that up to 2GB. 4GB or even
6GB would be smart future-proong,
considering the specs of the Xbox
One and PlayStation 4.
Bus: High-performance GPUs should
go in the mobos fastest (generally
16x) PCI Express (PCIe) slot.
outputs: HDMI and DVI are the most
popular connection types for todays
monitors. Its good to have as many
outputs as possible, since you never
know what youll want to hook up to.
Our ASUS Radeon HD7870 has a
great assortment: HDMI, DisplayPort,
and two DVIs.

the specs

You want four things in a HDD: high capacity, a


7,200-rpm spin rate, reliability, and a multi-year
warranty. 1TB (1,000GB) is a good baseline capacity,
and more is better. Be sure to check other peoples
reviews before buying; high drive failure rates are a
huge warning sign. Your SSD, meanwhile, will be a
lot smaller. 120GB is a good minimum, enough for
your OS and some games. SSDs are still improving
rapidly, so be sure to read up on any supposed
bargains, which might be clearing out old models.
Newer SSD technology is better.

Since RAM is only temporary memory, your


computer also needs a more permanent way to store
data that doesnt get wiped every time you turn it off.
Traditionally this task has fallen to hard disk drives
(HDDs), but in the last few years much faster solidstate drives (SSDs) have become prominent too. A
balanced system has both types of storage. HDDs,
though slower, are much cheaper per gigabyte, and
thus good for storing media collections and the like.
SSDs are ideal for the OS, games, and anything else
youd like fast access to.

WesTern DiGiTal Caviar


BlaCk 1TB
Price $90*
Link wdc.com
Capacity: How much data can the
drive store? Thats capacity. Its important to know that advertised
capacity will always be greater than
actual formatted capacity. For
example, a 120GB SSD like our recommended Corsair Force GT, once
formatted, will actually have around
111GB of useable space.
interface: Todays storage (and optical) drives connect via SATA ports.
Any SATA port will suit a HDD, but be
sure to use your mobos 6Gb/s SATA
III ports for any SSDs, along with a
SATA III-compatible cable.
rPMs: The circular disks inside hard
drives spin at high speeds, typically
5,400 or 7,200 rpm. While any hard
drive will seem slow compared to an
SSD, youll still want to go for a
7,200-rpm model like the Western
Digital Caviar Black. Its not like it
costs much more.
Height: SSDs can vary in height. If
youre shopping for a laptop SSD,
make sure that the SSD youre considering will actually t in your laptop. Just a few millimeters can make
all the difference.

Corsair ForCe GT 120GB


Price $130*
Link corsair .com

Its okay to make your SSD and HDD C: and D:, but we like
to keep things a little neater. On the SSD make a small C:
partition for Windows, no more than 60 gigs, and turn the
remaining SSD into D:. Thats where games and portable
apps go. The HDD becomes E:, for media/docs/data. Install
any programs you like to C: and then use imaging software
to create a disk image of it, to store on E:. This keeps your
OS pristine, running like the day you installed it.

Keepin it fresh:

Storage drives require but two


connections: power and data.
The former comes from your
power supply, and the latter
from your motherboard.

Data/Power
Connectors

What to look for:

What it does:

( ssd and hdd)

storage
The Specs

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 19

HiGH-end
Crucial M4 512GB
crucial.com | $400*
If you like to have a ton of games installed,
or perhaps multiple operating systems, a
512GB SSD is well worth the investment.
Like the Samsung 830, Crucials M4 is a
strong performer thats nally seeing
lower prices, relatively speaking.

mainstream
Samsung 830 256GB
samsung.com | $195*
One of the most popular SSDs of the last
year or so is now well south of that magic
$1 per gigabyte landmark. The Samsung
830s speed and reliability make it a nobrainer, and 256GB will give you a little
room to stretch your legs.

budGet
Seagate Barracuda 500GB
seagate.com | $60*
500GB is about as low as youll want to
go these days, and 60 bucksll get you
the 500GB model of the venerable
Seagate Barracuda. A good start, but
dont go too crazy on the downloading. If
youre strapped for cash, skip the SSD.

Alternatives

What to look for:

Optical drives are a commodity now, so any decently


reviewed model is as good as any other. The 24x
ASUS DRW-24B1ST is a reliable go-to for many, so
its our pick for the main build. The only real question
is if youd care to invest a little more in a Blu-ray drive.
Blu-ray discs will never become as important or
popular as CDs and DVDs, but they are a viable way
to back up a few dozen gigs of data and watch highdefinition versions of the latest movies.

What it does:

A long time ago, in a world without broadband,


CD-ROMs were the preeminent way to distribute
software, and owning a quick optical drive was
mandatory. Now were lucky if we need them once a
month. Still, an optical drives handy for installing
operating systems and occasionally burning files to a
disc. Opticals days are numbered, though, and
someday our kids will regard these shiny, fragile discs
the way some generations look at eight-track tapes.

Optical
Drive
ASUS DRW-24B1ST DVD BURneR
Price $20*
Link asus.com
X Speed: The rst CD-ROMs transferred data at just 150 kilobytes a
second, but that was a start. Soon
300-kilobyte/sec drives appeared,
known as 2x CD-ROMs. Eventually
they reached 52x. The same happened with DVDs, which started at
1.39MB/s. Now 24x drives, hitting a
theoretical 33MB/s, are standard.
Current Blu-ray drives are 14x, which
for them translates to 63MB/s.
Cache: Just like processors, optical
drives have a bit of cache memory
set aside for buffering data. Here in
2013, does a DVD drives amount of
cache affect performance in any
meaningful way? Nope, not really.
Just know that its there, buffering
its little heart out for you.
Mysterious Sufxes: Terms like
DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM,
and so on simply refer to different
standards for writing to DVD media.
RW means rewritable, meaning you
can write to a disc multiple times.
DVD+R one-ups the older DVD-R
standard by allowing for double the
capacity, and so on. Again, any modern optical drive capably supports
all of these standards.

The Specs

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

budGet
Lite-on iHAS124-04 DVD-RW
us.liteonit.com | $16*
Sometimes its nice to have an extra
four bucks to spend at McDonalds. If
this is one of those times, save those
dollars and hit the golden arches.
Maybe the McRibs in season?

HiGH-end
LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray burner
lg.com | $70*
If youre building the high-end rig then
theres no reason not to spend a little
more for a Blu-ray drive. Itll make you feel
just that little bit more special, and your
PS3 could use a break from the Blu-rays.

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

mainstream
Asus DRW-24B1ST
asus.com | $20*
Okay, so theres not really an alternative
pick. Really, the ASUS 24x is all anyonell
ever need to meet todays limited optical
media needs. No reason to switch things
up just for the sake of variety.

Alternatives

Just like HDDs and SSDs, optical drives


require a power cable from your power
supply and a SATA connection. Any old
SATA port will do, as optical drives arent
fast enough to need more.

data/Power Connectors

Pro Tip!

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 21

1) Install Windows or Linux


2) Burn audio or MP3 CDs for your car
3) Burn mix CDs for your cutie
4) Install old games you dont have on Steam
5) Boot a recovery disc to fx your PC
6) Back up modest amounts of critical fles
7) Rip your music collection to MP3
8) Rip console games for emulation
9) Ponder the ever-changing, transcendental
nature of reality
10) Watch movies

10 things to do with optical drives:

Discs are a
great backu
p
medium, b
ut dont so
lely rely
on them. T
hey dont la
st forever, and you
never wan
t to be
one bad bu
rn away fro
m
losing imp
ortant
data.

Soundcards have always been kind of confusing, but


theyre especially so today, where it can be hard to tell
what sets two models apart (for example, the Creative
Sound Blaster ZXR has a headphone amp, while
some do not). User reviews, from which you can glean
pros and cons, are crucial to understanding what each
card offers. Things youll always want are good driver
support for your OS of choice, a decent signal-tonoise ratio, and sufficient outputs (and inputs) for
whatever youre looking to hook up to.

PCs didnt always have the versatile audio recording


and playback capabilities we take for granted today. If
you wanted more than beeps you needed a soundcard,
which didnt always come standard. Nowadays every
PC has decent-sounding audio built right into the
motherboard, making discrete soundcards a specialty
item aimed at gamers and audiophiles. Onboard audio
is good enough for most people, but if you prefer a
higher-quality audio experience then a soundcard is
the way to go.

Linux users can n


d soundcard drivers at alsa-p
roject.
org, while Window
s ASUS
Xonar users can n
d improved, third-party
Xonar
drivers at maxedtec
h.
com.

Pro Tip!

The ZXR features a companion card


with high-quality recording inputs. It
will occupy an expansion slot but
doesnt need a connection to the
motherboard.

Daughter Card

What to look for:

What it does:

Creative Sound BlaSter ZXr


Price $230*
Link us.creative.com
interface: Most soundcards connect
via USB or your motherboards PCIe
1x slot (bet you were wondering
what those were for). Internal
soundcards are usually better products overall.
Connections: Any soundcard will
have a few basic audio outputs, but
if you have a more specialized speaker/device setup youll want to make
sure it has the specic outputs you
need. Maybe you want discrete
analog 5.1 jacks? Optical out? Maybe
a specic input type? A headphone
amp? Look before you buy. The
Sound Blaster ZXR comes with an
additional DBPro daughter card that
hooks directly to the ZXR and provides studio-quality recording
inputs.
Misc features: Soundcard manufacturers tend to make hyperbolic
claims that dont really matter much
to us end users, so youll need to roll
up your sleeves and do some reading
to discover the ner points of each
product. Enthusiast hardware/audio forums and reviews on retailer
sites are both invaluable.

The Specs

Though humans have just two ears, we


can pinpoint sounds in 3D space thanks
to sounds reaching one ear a fraction of a
second before the other. Technology can
simulate this phenomena for headphonewearers via head-related transfer functions
(HRTF), which process sounds to simulate
these real-world locational cues.

WTH is HRTF?

soundcard

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

Most of the audio magic


happens here, with a specialized chip processing all
audio before it reaches your
ears.

mainboard

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 23

HiGH-end
Creative Sound Blaster ZXR
us.creative.com | $230*
The cutting-edge rig deserves a cutting-edge soundcard, and Creatives
Sound Blaster ZXR ts that bill more
than any other. Its signal-to-noise ratio
is a super-high 124dB, and an included
daughtercard provides high-quality
recording inputs.

mainstream
ASUS Xonar DGX
asus.com | $40*
If our suggested Sound Blaster ZXR is
too rich for your blood then a budget
card like the ASUS Xonar DGX could be a
good compromise. For $40 you get
clearer audio, Dolby Headphone, and a
nice headphone amp.

budGet
Opting out of buying a soundcard
entirely is a very valid choice. While its
more prone to interference and lacks
fancy features, onboard audios not the
joke it used to be, and will be more than
enough for a majority of people, even
gamers.

Alternatives

ng with
ings wro
th
e
m
o
s
If
e tempta
, resist th
un d.
ro
a
e
your PSU
k
o
dp
pen it an tain lifetion to o
can re
rs
o
it
c
a
C ap
ges even
ing volta
ged
threaten
g unplug
after bein hile.
for a w

pro Tip

power
supply
Heaviness is a good sign
when it comes to power
supplies. The more powerregulating components in
there, the better.

Enclosure

PSUs come rated for a maximum power output. Our


suggested Corsair HX 750W can handle up to 750W
of power draw at once, though realistically its best to
stop a little shy of a PSUs max rating. 750W is a nice
enthusiast level, while a less game-focused rig can get
by on 500W. The best PSUs have 80 Plus
certifications, which means theyre highly efficient
(read: lower temps and power bills). Modular cabling
is another great feature which lets you insert only the
power cables you need, which helps for case airflow
and cooling.

What to look for:

A power supply (PSU) converts the alternating


current (AC) that electrical outlets provide into the
direct current (DC) that your PC loves. Boring, huh?
True, GPUs are much sexier, but youre in for a world
of hurt if you cheap out on the power supply. Your PC
relies on the PSUs steady supply of clean current to
work properly, so if you overload your PSU or it
otherwise starts acting up you will have a heck of a
troubleshooting job on your hands. A good PSUs
even more important if you overclock or run
CrossFire/SLI, so choose wisely.

What it does:

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

Corsair HX 750W
Price $130*
Link corsair.com
Maximum Power: Just about every
device you add to your computer will
draw some power, so you need a
power supply that wont buckle under the pressure. A gamer wont
want to go below 650W, and higher
is better. Pay particular attention if
youre running multiple videocards,
as those suckers can take 200
300W apiece. PSUs tend to run more
efciently below their maximum
output, so its smart to leave some
breathing room at the top.
input Voltage: PSUs expect 120
volts AC, at least in North America. If
your outlets putting out something
else you may well have been kidnapped, in which case stop reading
PC magazines and seek out local
authorities.
Connectors: PSUs can have a dozen
cables coming out of them, not all of
which are the same. Youll see power
cables for SATA drives, 6- or 8-pin
PCIe connectors for videocards, 4pin molex connectors for case fans,
and a massive 24-pin cable that
powers the motherboard (always
satisfying to plug in). All these cables can be really messy when youre
trying to tidy up your PCs internals,
which is why we love modular PSUs
like the Corsair HX 750W, as they let
you plug in only the cables you need.
Noise: PSUs are another possible
source of PC noise, either via their
fans or an annoying electrical
phenomenon called coil whine.
Check up on reviews to nd out if
your PSUs known as a noisemaker.

The specs

HiGH-end
Cooler Master silent Pro Gold 1000W
coolermaster.com | $195*
The high-end build will need a beefy power supply to keep everything running
smoothly. 1000W will cover that and then
some; in fact, we could probably stick another Titan in there. Hmm

faLL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 25

mainsTream
oCZ ModXstream Pro 600W
ocz.com | $99*
If 600W is all you need then the OCZ
ModXStream Pro will save you $50. Its
only slightly less efcient than the Corsair
HX750 and retains that lovely modular
cabling we all admire.

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

budGeT
rosewill Green series 530W
rosewill.com | $55*
Reliable, relatively quiet, and cheap, the
Rosewill Green 530W is a strong budget
pick. Its not modular, alas, but its nice
to get 80 Plus Bronze efciency at such
a low price point.

Alternatives

More and more cases provide a hole in the otherwise solid metal plate on which you mount the
motherboard, providing convenient access
when routing cables and installing cumbersome
CPU heat sinks.

Backplate Cutout

All these expensive parts have to go inside something, and thats where your case comes in. The
chassis (as the cool kids call it) protects components
from the outside world, funnels out the heat they
generate, and hopefully looks damn cool while
doing so. As with the motherboard, your choice of
case can either expand or limit your computers
possibilities, so its important to consider your
expectations for the new PC and how you might
hope to upgrade it in the future.

What it does:

case
Well-designed cases offer lots of little clips
and passages to help you arrange the cables
just so, leading to optimal cooling. (A modular
PSU is a big help, too.)

Cable Routing

Not to be shallow, but looks are absolutely important,


as you dont want some garish ugly thing spoiling
your desk area forevermore. Beyond that, consider
your rigs needs. If youre planning to overclock then
good cooling is of utmost importance. If you like
quiet PCs look for noise-suppression features.
Removable drive bays and cable-management
features (two strong points of our recommended
Cooler Master Storm Stryker) are always a plus, as are
backplate cutouts and toolless access.

What to look for:

Cooler Master storM stryker


Price $160*
Link coolermaster.com
Form Factor/type: PCs have gone through a number of form
factors over the years, but gaming-oriented desktop towers most
commonly use the ATX specication. Any ATX motherboard should
t an ATX case. The CM Storm Stryker is an ATX full tower, which
makes it about two feet tall.
Case Material: Cheap cases will be made of lesser materials, usually
plastics and thin metals. Thicker, higher-quality metals will grant
heft, hardiness, and sound dampening. With cases you really get
what you pay for, and imsy is a four-letter word. Figuratively, at
least.
Front Panel: Cases typically expose a few ports on the front for
convenient access. The CM Storm Stryker goes above and beyond,
giving you USB 2.0 and 3.0, audio in and out, and fan control(!).
Cooling: Computer components produce a ton of heat, so cramming them all into a small space like, say, a PC chassis is not the
ideal cooling scenario. But weve gotta give the engineers something to do, and theyve done a ne job designing cases that efciently exhaust all of that problematic hot air. Most cases come
with at least one fan, but you may want to add more. While fans
add noise, keeping the temperature lower means they wont have
to run as hard, resulting in a quieter system.

The Specs

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

budGet
Antec Three Hundred Black Steel
antec.com | $60*
Gosh, this is a fantastic case for $60.
Lots of bays, small dimensions, surprisingly good cooling (two fans), and
enough space for a 10-inch+ videocard
make for a chassis thats small in size
but big in features and value.

ard
videoc es, so be
Todays
ch
in
h to
ceed 10
larly ex a little researc
o
ed
d
d
n
o
t
e
t
sure
ur in
that yo tually t
ensure
c
la
ard wil
e.
videoc
o ur ca s
y
e
id
s
in

p!
Pro Ti s regu-

HiGH-end
Corsair Obsidian Series 800D
corsair.com | $245*
This chasis is massive, even for a full
tower. Great cable management, good t
and nish, and a very clean look are key
qualities. Is it worth almost $300? Youve
already spent two grand on the CPU/GPU,
so dont cheap out on us now.

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

mainstream
NZXT Phantom
nzxt.com | $110*
Feature for feature, the steel/plastic
NZXT Phantom compares well with our
main pick, the all-steel CM Storm Stryker,
while coming in a fair bit cheaper. Some
might miss the Strykers side window, but
we love the Phantoms uber-sleek look.

Alternatives

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 27

Used to be that you needed a screwdriver


to do just about anything to a computer,
but todays cases rely more on ngerfriendly thumbscrews, plastic clips, and
the like. Youll denitely still need a
screwdriver to mount the motherboard
onto the backplate, though.

toolless access

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You want a good signal-to-noise ratio, ample wattage,


low distortion, crisp highs and deep lows, accessible
controls, and so on. Also decide if you want a 2.1 (two
speakers and a subwoofer), a 5.1, or even a 7.1 setup.
The latter choices let you experience the magic of
surround sound, but at the cost of added expense and
bothersome placement/wiring considerations. We
think a decent 2.1 setup paired with headphones for
positional gaming audio is a solid combination.

No offense, but if we have to explain what speakers


are then you may be biting off more than you should
by building a computer. Computer speakers started as
tinny multimedia speakers over two decades ago,
but todays desktop rattlers actually possess a fair
amount of audio cred. If youre a stickler for rumbly
bass and want to potentially share your sound with
otherssay, when watching moviesa nice set of PC
speakers could be a good investment.

Muscles convert electrical impulses into kinetic energy, while speaker drivers convert it into sound
waves. Both are pretty neat.

Drivers

The magic of Bluetooth has enabled a new generation of wireless


speakers, which makes wiring
dilemmas a thing of the past (and
possible interference a thing of the
present).

Wireless

What to look for:

What it does:

speakers
Creative t6 SerieS ii
Price $400*
Link us.creative .com
Once youre done sorting out all the
usual technical specs, speaker preference is really kind of personal, isnt
it? What sounds good to us may not
sound great to you, and vice-versa.
That said, were still big believers in
checking out user reviews and message board impressions to sort of
get a ballpark idea of what others
think about specic sets, which
should help you make informed decisions about which ones youd care
to take a closer look at. Were happy
to recommend any of the speakers
on this page, so there you go: your
rst data points.
But past a certain point its just kind
of down to what your ears happen to
prefer, and if youre particularly
dogged in your search for personal
audio nirvana you may have to go
through one or more products before you nd the one you like most
(consumer-friendly return policies
are a huge help here).

The Specs

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

mainstream
Creative GigaWorks T3 2.1
us.creative.com | $135*
Creatives GigaWorks T3s are another solid
2.1 set, and cost only half as much as our
main builds Creative Labs T6 Series IIs.
They sound good, look sharp, and we really
like the volume-control pod, which has a
convenient headphone jack.

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

BudGet
Logitech LS21 2.1
logitech.com | $30*
How good can a $30 set of 2.1 speakers be?
Good enough. Theyre not fantastic for
savoring music, but theyll denitely add
some oomph to your virtual explosions and
YouTube fail montages.

Alternatives

A strong subwoofer will shatter


your kidney stones but leave your
teeth intact. You may need to ddle with the settings a bit rst.

subwoofer

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 31

hiGh-end
Logitech Z906 5.1
logitech.com | $340*
Going for 5.1 surround? Logitechs Z906
setup is an excellent choice. Their sound is
extremely clear and really lls the room; in
fact, they might be a little too powerful
for apartments and such. Whats the point
of good speakers if you cant turn em up?

This may sound like sacrilege, but if you plan to


play a lot of games with
headphones (certainly our
preferred method) then you
may not actually need a set
of speakers. This is especially likely if your monitor
has its own built-in speakers; they wont sound great,
but they may be all you need
to fll in during those rare
times youre not wearin the
cans. As always, consider
your own needs and how
they affect your situation.

a speaker-free lifestyle?

Imagine the web without scroll


wheels: excruciating. We like the
clicky kind.

Scroll Wheel

mouse

Same as with GPUs, a little extra tweaking can do


a mouse good. First we like to completely disable
aim-disrupting mouse acceleration, a complicated
topic well covered at donewmouseaccel.blogspot.
com. Then we install X-Mouse Button Control
(highrez.co.uk), an amazing little app that sits
in your system tray and lets you customize your
mouses buttons and behavior on a per-application
basis. Its kind of like a Firefox add-on, but for
your entire OS.

Making mice roar:

Narrow the field by figuring out your preferred grip


(see specs sidebar). If you like the palm grip, then
avoid claw mice. Do you want extra buttons? How
about a lot of extra buttons, for an MMO? Is high DPI
important (the SteelSeries Sensei should please you),
or will 1,600dpi suffice? Once you narrow the field
down to a few, start reading about others
experiences. Maybe one mouse has bad drivers, while
another has build quality issues. There may be a few
false starts, but eventually you will find your ideal
mouse.

What to look for:

Who knows what the future may bring, but for now
there is no better tool than the mouse for whipping
around virtual guns with startling speed and
precision (and we hear its useful in Windows too).
The mouse is one of the two primary ways we interact
with our PCs, so one that doesnt track well or that
disagrees with your wrist can put a damper on the
computing experience. Luckily, we live in an era of
unprecedented mouse variety and ergonomics, so you
never need suffer a subpar clicker.

What it does:

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

SteeLSeRieS SenSei
Price $65*
Link steelseries.com
DPi/CPi: This is a measure of how
often the mouse checks its position;
in other words, its accuracy. Higher
DPIs will make your mouse twitchier,
and many modern mice support super-high settings that arent really
that feasible to use. Our suggested
SteelSeries Sensei can go up to an incredible 11,400 DPI, but if youre happier at 800, thats totes cool too.
Drivers: Mouse drivers should
enhance your experience, not annoy
you. We like drivers that let us assign
the mouses buttons however we
like and completely disable cursor
acceleration. Youd be surprised how
hard the latter can be sometimes.
Grip: Modern mice feature two grip
styles: claw or ngertip on the
smaller end and palm on the bigger. Some mice sit somewhere in the
middle of the continuum. Which you
prefer is highly personal, with the
size of your hands being a factor
(bigger hands may be better-suited
to palm grip).
Sensor: The truly hardcore will want
to research the optical sensors each
mouse uses, which have different
pros and cons. Its understandable if
you dont care to travel down this
particular rabbit hole; it runs deep.

the specs

budGet
Gigabyte GM-M6900
gigabyte.com | $30*
Its not going to show up in any CounterStrike tourneys, but Gigabytes GMM6900 is a solid, basic optical mouse
that will get the job done. It has a good
selection of buttons and a tilt wheel:
nice for the price.

Alternatives

hiGh-end
Razer DeathAdder 2013
razerzone.com | $70*
Razers DeathAdder is another big fave,
and this 2013 update gives its proven
design a few nips and tucks. Were not
huge fans of Razers driver software,
but your mileage may vary. In any case,
the mouse itself is great.

faLL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 33

mainstream
Logitech G500
logitech.com | $60*
A long-time standard, Logitechs comfy
G500 is still many gamers mouse of
choice. It has all the game-friendly features most people want, and if you shop
around you can nd it for a better price
than other premium mice.

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

Mac mice used to have but a single button, but todays PC mice
can have 15+. Impressive, but
we prefer a more modest ve or
six. Theyre great for copying/
pasting, extra game buttons,
macros, and so on.

side buttons

ITS PC GAMING

EVERYWHERE!

In your mailbox, in your pocket,


on your tablet
Print:

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only $1.99 per month.

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2012 Future US, Inc.
*Subscription offer good in U.S. only. Newsstand price per year is U.S. $8.99 per issue.
Game trademarks and copyrights are properties of their respective owners.

Ever shake
your keybo
ard
upside-do
wn? Best d
o it over
a trash can
. Its gross b
ut
somehow
satisf ying.
You
might wan
t to clean fu
rther with ca
nned
air.

Cherry MX Red: No click. Keys feel soft,


like typing on a pillow. May activate keys
by accident.
Cherry MX Black: No click, soft, but considerably stiffer than Reds.
Cherry MX Blue: The clickiest of the
clicky, youll know when these hit their activation point. Great typing feel, but loud.
Cherry MX Brown: Midpoint between Blue
and Red, have a tactile bump rather than a
click. Medium noise, good for gaming.

The most popular mechanical switches


come from a company called Cherry, which
makes a variety of switch types, identified
by color.

Every switch way:

The most basic decision is membrane vs. mechanical.


Membrane keyboards are most common, and tend to
feel mushy rather than clicky. Mechanical boards, like
our suggested Razer BlackWidow Tournament
Edition, cost more but feature higher-quality
components, lending them a superior tactile feel which
we feel is worth the premium. Now, do you need gamer
features, or are you looking for a more sedate
presentation? Do you like backlit keys? If youre going
mechanical, what kind of switches seem appealing?
See, we told you theres a lot to keyboards.

The other half of your basic input equation, the


keyboard is something many people take for granted,
thinking one the same as another. Not so: a sturdy,
well-designed keyboard can make your computing
experience that much better. Perhaps youd like an
ergonomic board, like Microsofts Natural line, which
is easier on your wrists. Maybe some gaming features,
like macros and LCD displays. Or just a solid
mechanical board that feels great to bash on. The
possibilities are vast, but one things for sure: you can
do better than that sad little hand-me-down Dell.

Pro Tip!

What to look for:

What it does:

keyboard
RazeR BlackWidoW
TouRnamenT ediTion
Price $70*
Link razerzone.com
mechanical Switches: While membrane keyboards have rubber domes
underneath each key, old-fashioned
mechanicals have actual mechanical switches, resulting in a completely different feel. Mechanical
keyboards like our recommended
Razer BlackWidow cost more, but
may convert you for life.
anti-Ghosting: Ever notice how
some keyboards can only register a
few keys at once? This is called
ghosting, and is a hardware limitation. Better keyboards support nkey rollover, which reduces or even
eliminates this problem. Razers
BlackWidow can read 10 key presses
at once.
macro keys: If you play MMOs or the
like you know how handy macros can
be, so it can be nice to have them
built directly into your keyboard.
Backlighting: Backlit keys look cool,
and are helpful if you need to check
your keys when typing in the dark.
PS/2: This ancient connector debuted with 1987s IBM PS/2, but believe
it or not, when it comes to keyboards
its still better than USB in a couple
ways. Specically, PS/2 is not susceptible to ghosting. (Stick with USB
for mice.)

The Specs

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

Lots of gaming keyboards


highlight the WASD keys,
which is great unless you
prefer ESDF.

Wasd

They feel good to press and are rated to last just about forever.

mechanical Keys

A minor but thoughtful feature, it


can be helpful if your case is far
away.

removable Cord

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 37

HiGH-end
Gigabyte Aivia Osmium
gigabyte.com | $130*
This solidly built backlit mechanical comes
with Cherry Reds or Browns, and has nice
touches like USB 3.0 passthrough, lots of
macro functionality, n-key rollover, and
brightness/volume wheels.

mainstream
Cooler Master CM Storm QuickFire
Rapid
coolermaster.com | $80*
The CM Storm QuickFire Rapid may be the
most popular gamer-oriented mechanical
right now, and its a quality board through
and through. You can nd it with all four
major Cherry MX switch colors, which is rad.

budGet
Lite-On SK-1788/BS
us.liteon.com | $10*
For $10 you simply cant do better than
Lite-Ons SK-1788. Its about as reliable and
nice-feeling as a cheap membrane keyboard can be. Its no luxury item, but its
denitely good enough to get stuff done.

Alternatives

What to look for:

First choose a panel type: TN (worse viewing angles/


colors, faster updates) or IPS (great angles/color,
slower refresh, pricier). Native resolution is your next
decision; 1920x1080 (aka 1080p) is standard, but
high-end 2560x1440 (1440p) and greater monitors
are becoming more affordable. While high-res may
be tempting, keep in mind that your videocard will
have to be able to keep up with all those pixels.
Another choice is 60Hz vs. 120Hz. 120Hz looks super
smooth, but again, requires vidcard muscle. Finally,
make sure it has all the inputs you need.

What it does:

The greatest videocard in the world would be wasted


on a cruddy CRT from 1998, so its important to get a
monitor that matches your systems capabilities. If
you think about it, youre going to be staring at your
monitor for much longer than any other part of your
PC, so youll want to get one that pleases your eyes
rather than aggravates. Youd be amazed at how much
difference a quality display can make whether youre
gaming or browsing the web. Luckily, LCD panel
prices have plunged such that a solid screen can be
had for less than $200.

Display

A good stand is stable and


provides comfortable viewing
angles. Really nice ones let you
rotate the screen vertically.

Stand

BenQ RL2455HM 24
Price $220*
Link benq.us
Connectors: Make sure your monitor
can accept the types of signals put
out by your videocard. HDMI and DVI
are the two most important, with
DisplayPort and VGA being
secondary concerns. Our suggested
BenQ RL2455HM has everything but
DisplayPort.
native Resolution: Unlike CRTs,
LCDs have one key resolution they
look great at; any video signal from
your PC at a lower resolution gets
scaled up, introducing blur. So, you
want to use your LCDs native res as
much as possible, which is why its
pointless to get a 1440p monitor if
your videocard can barely keep up at
1080p. This 24 BenQ is 1080p.
Panel Technology: LCD panels that
use TN (twisted nematic) tech have
great response speed (less blur) but
iffy viewing angles and color range.
In-Plane Switching (IPS) screens are
the reverse; they look beautiful but
are more prone to blur. TNs like the
BenQ have fast response, wellsuited to gaming.
Refresh Rate: Most LCDs redraw
their images 60 times per second,
but 120Hz screens double that. They
havent caught on yet, partially due
to their high videocard performance
requirements, but FPS players who
try 120Hz swear by it.

The Specs

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

If youre running multiple monitors,


its nice to have thinner bezels to
minimize the gap between screens.

thin bezel

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

Virtual reality fopped in the 90s, but now hardware is fnally catching up to the idea. Oculus VRs
Rift headset, though not yet released, is currently
making waves among developers with its amazingly
immersive, head-tracked, full-3D VR experience.
Just about everyone who tries it comes out a believer, and if VR headsets fnally take off they might
start to achieve monitor-like importance among
avid gamers. Oculus VR is aiming for a $300$400
price point and a late-2014 debut, so keep an eye
out for gamers wearing goofy visors on YouTube.
VR is coming.

better late than never:

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 39

HiGH-end
HP ZR30W 30
hp.com | $1200*
We couldnt possibly equip our high-end
build with anything other than a 30,
2560x1600 monster. Amazingly, it costs
more than the builds Titan videocard,
which shows how bleeding edge it is. But
price is no object, and the Titan can (probably) keep it fed.

mainstream
ViewSonic VX2370Smh-LED 23
viewsonic.com | $160*
If the TN panel of the BenQ is getting you
down the 23 Viewsonic VX2370Smh-LED
might cure what ails, with a beautiful (if
slightly laggier) IPS panel. It has the same inputs, and the price is certainly right for an IPS.

budGet
Acer S220HQLAbd Black 21.5
acer.com | $130*
Aside from its low price, Acers 21.5
S220HQLAbd doesnt stand out in any particular way. Its a ne choice for loang around the
Internet and general gaming, but dont expect
the world from such an inexpensive monitor.

Alternatives

We like mics that can swing up and


out of the way when not needed.
Good work, Sennheiser.

Paddings a huge asset, but you


really need to try a headset on
personally to see if its comfortable for your unique anatomy.

Padded Earcups

Good sound quality is our biggest preference, which means


were always reading lots of reviews on headsets we havent
tried ourselves. Prices range from sub-$50 to $200+, so pick
a range. Connection type is important; many PC headsets
are USB, which means they wont work with standard audio
jacks. Hows the mic? Will it snap off? Do you want fancy
stuff like noise canceling? Finally, seek feedback on comfort
level. If youre going to be wearing these for hours, you
dont want an earache after just one.

If you ever watch a professional gaming event, youll notice every


single competitors wearing a headset to block out the outside
world and zero in on the action of their game. Indeed, a good
headset can give you a competitive advantage, helping you isolate
small sound cues that give away opponents. Then theres the
requisite mic, which (ideally) allows you to plan a strategy with
like-minded teammates, or at least call them useless. Ultimately,
you may find you actually prefer a headset to speakers.

Microphone

What to look for:

What it does:

headset
SennheiSer PC 360
Price $210*
Link sennheiser.com
Drivers: We dont mean software
drivers, but the physical speaker
drivers inside each earcup that
translate the electronic impulses
into audio. Bigger drivers usually
leads to bigger sound.
Connection Type: A lot of PC headsets only have USB connectors,
which limits what you can hook
them up to. Our suggested
Sennheiser PC 360 headset
connects to a standard 3.5mm jack,
which lets you use it with hi-
systems, consoles, and most either
devices.
Controls: Many headsets feature
physical controls that let you tweak
volume and such on the y. The
Sennheisers have a little volume dial
on the right earcup.
Comfort: Comfort is key, because
youre going to be wearing these
things for ages. The Sennheisers are
quite light, which is usually a plus for
comfort.

The Specs

Hardware

www.pcgamer.com

If youre not feeling the gamer


headset thing (or you just dont
need a mic too often) then
consider a pair of audiophileoriented headphones. Match
them with a discrete soundcard and youll suddenly have
some top-tier PC audio. We
love bargains, so one of our
favorite sets of cans is Samsons
SR-850s. Theyre only $50 but
sound like they cost four times
as much. And if you do need a
mic occasionally, you can trot
out a separate clip-on when the
need arises.

Going old-school:

mainstream
Logitech G930 Headset
logitech.com | $105*
Logitechs G930s have a few key differentiators. Theyre wireless and have simulated 7.1 surround, a noise-canceling mic,
and the cushiest earcups this side of a
Canadian blizzard. Theyre USB, though,
so not as versatile as the Sennheisers.

*Listed are the current street prices, which may differ from the manufacturers suggested retail price.

budGet
Creative Fatal1ty Gaming Headset
creative.com | $50*
Want something competitive for 50
bucks? Creatives Fatal1ty is an inexpensive way to test the waters. Theyre
prone to sound leakage, so they wont
be ideal for, say, a library. You shouldnt
be playing Counter-Strike there anyway.

Alternatives

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC Gamer 41

HiGH-end
Astro A40 with MixAmp Pro
astrogaming.com | $250*
$250 is a bundle for a headset, but the
Astro A40s have the t and nish to justify it. Most interesting is the included
MixAmp Pro, which lets you set voice and
game volume independently and apply
Dolby Headphone surround effects. Neat!

Build It

Parts and Price list*


Case
Cooler Master Storm Stryker

$160

CPU
Intel Core i7-4770K

$340

motherboard
MSI Z87-G45

$155

ram
Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB DDR3

$75

Videocard
Asus Radeon HD 7870

$240

Optical Drive
Asus DRW-24B1ST

$20

Hard Drives
Corsair Force GT 120GB
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB

$130
$90

CPU Cooler
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

$35

Power Supply
Corsair HX 750W

$130

Operating System
Windows 8 64-bit OEM

$110

TOTal

$1485

*LISTED ARE THE CURRENT STREET PRICES, WHICH MAY DIFFER FROM
THE MANUFACTURERERS SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE. ON THE BRIGHT
SIDE, STREET PRICES ARE USUALLY LOWER!

42 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

Its time to build the

perfect
pc!
We show you how to build a
powerhouse rig in just 14 steps!
by Ryan Taljonick

ow that youve got all the components for your new


computer, its time to piece them all together. Yes,
this part can be scary, and yes, its possible to screw the
whole thing upbut dont panic. Breathe. Oh, and punch
your pre-building fear square in the face, because the end
result of the next several pages means youll have one of
the baddest PCs on the block.
Youve got all the instructions youll need within arms
reach. Follow our 14-step guide and youll be booting up
in no time. We suggest reading through this guide now so
you have an idea of what to expect ahead of time.

www.pcgamer.com

Also, grab your case, motherboard, and cooler


manualsyoull need them for specific installation
instructions. Plan to build your rig on a flat surface with
lots of room, and dont forget to discharge static from
your body by touching a piece of metal inside your PC
case before you begin.
If you chose to go with one of our alternative builds (or
a build of your own), this guide will still walk you through
the basic steps of PC building. Take note that there may
be some differences in setup depending on your selected
components. And finally, have some fun!

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 43

Build It

STEP 1
CraCk the
Case
A

Ready? The rst step


couldnt be easier: remove
both side panels of your case.
The left panel opens the main
cavity where all your hardware
will go. The right panel gives you
access to the back of the motherboard tray and hard drive bays.

The only thing thats in


your case at the moment
is a box full of drive bay brackets
and this rats nest of wires. These
connectors power your cases
front panel and fans, but theyre
one of the last things well hook
up. For now, just tuck them
behind the case so they dont
interfere with the assembly of
your system.

B
44 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

C
D

STEP 2
PRePaRe the
Chasis
C

Included with your chassis will be a


bag (or box, in some cases) that contains various screws and other accessories. In
the case of the Cooler Master Storm Stryker,
theres an included toolbox in the bottom
front portion of the case. Find this, then grab
the little standoff screws pictured above.
These screws prevent the motherboard from
making direct contact with the tray while
powered onwhich is good because your
mobo would short out otherwise. Refer to
the case manual to determine where these
should be placed. Our mobo requires an ATX
conguration. To properly seat the standoffs, twist until theyre tightly in place.

This thin metal plate, called an I/O (input/output) shield, comes packaged
with your motherboard. Its purpose? To protect the motherboards rear ports from dust
and Cheetoh crumbs. The I/O shield is
installed through the rear interior of your
case; just grab it and snap it into place, making sure the six round ports, reserved for
audio inputs and outputs, are on the bottom.

www.pcgamer.com

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 45

build it

sTep 3
Install tHe
PoWer sUPPlY
E

The rst component youll install into the chasis is the power
supply, which feeds electricity to the
rest of your hardware. Take it out of
the box. Notice the modular connector ports; these let you attach additional component cables as needed to
avoid having a billion wires suffocating the airow of your case. Drop it into the bottom of the chasis with the
cables resting on the inside and the
power cord connector facing out. The
PSUs fan should be facing the top of
the case, which allows it to blow hot
air toward the rear exhaust fan to
keep it from overheating. Screw the
PSU in place with the four screws included in its box. Finally, run the cables through the cable routing outlets
on the bottom of the motherboard
tray to move them out of the way.

E
sTep 4
CPU Cooler PreP

Before you can insert the motherboard into the case, youll
need to afx the backlplate of the
Hyper 212 EVO to the board. That coolers pretty heavy, and this plate will
give it plenty of support once you
stand your PC on its feet. Place the
coolers backplate on the back of the
motherboard, with its insulating tape
(located on each of the four legs)
facing the back of the board. Find the
four screws and nuts that come packaged with the cooler.
Youll put these through the front of
the motherboard and through the
middle anchor point on each of the
backplates four legs (assuming
youre following our exact buildthis
may change depending on your motherboard). Be mindful of the at portion of each screw and leg; youll need
to line these up when placing them.
Secure the backplate in place with the
nuts on the backside. Refer to the
coolers instruction manual for stepby-step details if necessary.

46 PC Gamer pc builders bible fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

WWW.COOLERMASTER-USA.COM

GAME AT THE NEXT LEVEL

/coolermasterna

/r/coolermaster

/coolermasterna

Build It

G
STEP 5
mount the motherboard
G

Now that the prep work is done, its time to insert the motherboard into the chassis. The rst thing youll want to do is make sure that your
case is resting on its side, with the main cavity facing upward. Look over your motherboardsometimes they come with stickers attached to
certain areas. If you see any, nows the time to take them off. Gently insert the mobo at a slight angle so that its connector ports t into the I/O
shield. You might feel a bit of resistance here, but thats normal. The motherboard should rest on the standoffs that you installed a few minutes
ago, and the screw holes in the board should line up with them. If not, be sure you installed the standoffs into the correct holes. Next, screw the
board in place with the included screws. If youre not sure which ones to use, double check the case manual. Dont over-tighten, though, or youll
risk cracking the board.

48 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

STEP 6
Seat the PRoCeSSoR
H

That wasnt so bad, was it? Now its time


to seat the CPU; be sure to hold onto its
packaging after youve taken it out of the box
and plastic casing, as youll need these should
you have to return a defective unit. To install, lift
the lever of the CPU socket shield on the motherboard and remove the plastic placeholder
protecting it. With the metal lever all the way up,
carefully lower the CPU straight down into the
socket. It needs to be aligned so the little golden
arrow on the CPU matches up with the arrow on
the socket shieldthe arrow should be pointing
down toward the PSU if placed properly. The
CPU should drop in without any effort, but be
careful. If you attempt to force a misaligned CPU
into place, you could damage the processor and
motherboard. Note that Intel CPUs dont have
pins on their undersides, while AMD CPUs do
be very careful not to bend any pins on either the
motherboard socket or CPU.

With the CPU in place (again, make sure


its properly aligned!) lower the socket
shield and secure it by clamping the metal lever
into position. Youre going to feel some resistance. Scary, to be certain, but normal.

I
www.pcgamer.com

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 49

Build It

STEP 7
Install the CPU
Cooler
J

Seeing as heat is the worst enemy


of any CPU, youll need to provide a
few lines of defense to protect it. The
rst of these is thermal grease, which
improves the heat transfer between the
CPU and its cooler by lling in microscopic holes on the heatsinks of each. With
the CPU in place, apply a small, pea-sized
dab of thermal grease to the center of
the processors heat shield, but dont
overdo it. A tiny syringe of grease is
included in the coolers packaging.

J
K

50 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC fall 2013

The second line of defense your


CPU has against its arch nemesis is
the coolerits own, personal air conditioning unit. Before inserting the cooler,
youll have to remove the giant fan from
the side by gently bending the plastic
clips that grip the heatsink. Next, grab
the X-shaped brace that came packaged
with the cooler. This needs to be screwed
to the mounting bracket you installed on
the motherboard earlier. By default, the
brace is set to an LGA 775 conguration,
so youll need to adjust it to the LGA
1150/1155 mode rst (refer to the manual
for specic instructions). Thread the
brace through the cooler between the
heat pipes and the heatsink in a crossstar pattern. Now, put the entire heatsink/brace combo on top of the CPU so
the heatsink is parallel to the RAM slots
and rear panel ports. Screw the brace
into the mounting bracket one corner at
a time, and tighten each corner evenly
until all four screws are in place.

Finally, grab the heatsink fan that


you removed in the last step, and
reax it to the side of the heatsink closest to the RAM slots. If you look closely at
the sides of the fan, youll see arrows
depicting the direction the fan blades
spin, as well as where it will propel the
hot air expelled from the heatsink. This
placement ensures the dissipated air will
get blown toward the exhaust fan on the
upper back portion of the case. Once the
fan is in place, plug its power cable into
the fan connector on your motherboard.
This should be located near the processor socket and DIMM slots, and is often
labeled CPU_FAN.

www.pcgamer.com

STEP 8
Install the Ram
M

The next few steps are easy


compared to dealing with a
bulky CPU cooler. First up: the RAM.
Locate the four DIMM slots (or memory slots) on the motherboard. They are
the four thin, vertical ports adjacent
to the CPU. Youll want to install these
into alternating slots (refer to your
motherboard manual for specic instructions) so you can take advantage
of the motherboards dual-channel
memory conguration. To place the
RAM, prop open the locking clips at
the end of each slot, and insert the
modules. Be sure the notch in the slot
aligns with the notch on the bottom
of the module before locking it into
place. These can only be inserted one
way: the right way.

STEP 9
a house of CaRds
N

Its time to install your computers two PCIe expansion cards:


the videocard and soundcard(s). Grab
a Phillips-head screwdriver, then
unscrew and remove three of the PCIe
slot shields from the back of the case.
Youll only need to remove the ones
blocking the slots required to t these
cards. Hold onto these in case you ever
need to remove a card.

First up, the videocard. Insert


the GPU into the rst PCIe x16
slot on the motherboard. Next, push
the card straight down until the retention clip snaps into place. Finally,
screw the videocard into the PCI slot
bracket. If you ever have to remove
the videocard, dont forget to release
the retention clip rst!

P
www.pcgamer.com

Grab the ZXR soundcards.


The bigger of the two is the
mainboard; insert it into the second
PCIe x1 slot (one of those mega tiny
ports). Gently press until it snaps into
place, and secure it with a screw. The
smaller card (or daughter card) does
not require an expansion slot, and is
powered by the mainboard via the
included ribbon cable. Place it into an
expansion slot, secure with a screw,
and connect it to the ZXR mainboard.

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 51

Build It

Q
STEP 10
seCure THe
HarD DrIVes

Nowadays, most cases feature


toolless drive bays for hard
drive and optical drive installation.
Grab two drive caddies from the box
that came in the Stryker chasis. Plant
the WD Caviar Black inside one of
them and secure it into place by lining
up the drives screw holes with the
caddys pins. Repeat the same process for the Corsair Force GT, but know
that youll have to physically screw
this one into place via the holes on the
underside of the caddy. Note that the
drives connectors will face the rear of
the case, as to not clutter the front
side with additional cables.

52 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

Build It

R
STEP 11
Insert the
OPtICal DrIve

With the hard drives in place, its


time to secure the optical drive.
Remove a bay cover from the front of
the Stryker by pressing the retention
clips. It doesnt really matter which
one you choose to remove, as your
optical drive will t in any of them.
Simply slide the optical drive into the
cases newly formed opening and
push it back until its screw holes line
up with that of the drive bay. Youll
need to screw it into place to secure it.

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STEP 12
CONNeCT SaTa
DaTa aND POWeR
S

Now youve got all your components seated and locked into
placegreat work! Now its time to
connect your drives to the motherboard and feed them power. Start with
the hard drives and optical drive. Each
requires two connections: one for data
and one for power. Data is fed to each
via the SATA cables included with your
motherboard. Grab three of these
cables and connect them to the open
SATA ports on the mainboard. Next,
feed the cables through a routing
grommet so you can connect their opposite ends to your hard drives and optical drive. If your GPU blocks access to
these ports, remove the offender until
the SATA cables have been locked into
place. Dont worry about plugging
these in the wrong waythe grooving
on the cords and connectors prevent
misalignment. Stil, be careful, because
you could accidentally snap the plastic
connector if youre too rough with it.

S
S

That takes care of the data


cables, but now you have to
feed power to each drive. Locate a
couple SATA power cables (included
with your PSU). Theyre longer and
wider than SATA data cables. Attach
as many as you need to your PSU (two
should sufce) and feed them
through one of the cases cable management ports. Connect one to your
optical drive. Youll also have to connect one to both of your hard drives,
which you can likely accomplish with a
single cable, as each comes equipped
with multiple connectors.

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fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 55

Build It

U
STEP 13
affix the
frONt PaNel
CONNeCtOrS
U

Remember those front panel connectors you set


aside at the beginning of this build? Nows the
time to round them up. Separate the small ones that
correlate with the front panel LED and power switches
from the USB and HD Audio connectors. Youll want to
refer to the motherboard manual to nd out which
connector goes where, an admittedly annoying but
necessary process. Plug each connector into its appropriate port on the motherboard, and take care not to
bend any of the boards tiny pins.

Now its time for the USB, eSATA, and HD Audio


ports. Plug the USB connector into the internal
USB port on the motherboard, located near the front
panel connector ports. (Be sure not to plug a USB cord
into a FireWire connector!) Plug the front panel audio
cable into the HD Audio port located on the left interior
of our MSI board, and the SATA data cable into a free
SATA port. Finally, plug the large USB 3.0 cord into the
appropriate motherboard connector. You may have to
remove your videocard or the soundcards daughter
board rst to properly install some of these.

The Storm Stryker comes with several fans to


keep your system cool, but they need to be
plugged into the motherboard to work. Attach a fourpin molex connector cable to your PSU, then attach it
to the appropriate connector afxed to the case. Refer
to the motherboard manual if youre having trouble
locating any of the above-mentioned ports.

V
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X
STEP 14
the ends in siGht
X

Youre almost done! The last steps of the


build involve feeding more juice to your rigs
power-hungry parts: the videocard, CPU, and motherboard. High-end GPUs require a lot of power, and
our 7870 requires two six-pin PCIe power connectors. Grab one such cord, attach it to your modular
power supply, and feed it to the graphics card.
(Dont forget to take advantage of the cases cable
routing features!)The cords will be labeled, and are
keyed to prevent incorrect alignment.

One of the cords that came attached to your


power supply from the start is an eight-pin
ATX power cable, which feeds steady electricity to
your CPU. Sometimes these connectors are labeled,
but if not, it will look similar to the PCIe cables you
plugged into your videocard. Plug this into the corresponding port on your motherboard up near the
CPU socket. It will only t into the port one way.

Finally, grab that humongous 24-pin power


connector, which powers the entire motherboard. Plug that beast into the main power connector on your board. Again, it only plugs in one way.

Congratulations, youve done it! For now, keep


your cases side panels off until youve powered up
the system. Once it boots properly, go ahead and
close up your case, grab a celebratory drink, and install Windows. Welcome to the DIY system builders club!

www.pcgamer.com

Z
fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 57

Build It

your
new pc! ed
now go fe
it some

bioshock
i n fi n it e

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PC wont boot?
Stay calm!
(It happens to the best of us)

Troubleshooting Checklist
Youve labored over every component,
attached all the cables, and plugged the
power supplys AC cord into your wall outlet. Youre ecstatic. Youre salivating. You
anxiously push the cases power button
and...nothing. Zippo. Nada. It doesnt
boot. Or it sounds like its booting, but
your monitor mocks you with a blank and
empty stare. But wait! Dont take a hammer to your videocard. Instead, review our
checklist of possible failure points to investigate and troubleshoot the error. The
list is ordered from simple faults to more
complex mishaps, but all of them are easily addressed (and each of them are readily solved without you chucking your new
PC out the second story window).
Check that the power supply is
switched on and plugged into a working
outlet. Also, if youre using a power
stripand you should bemake sure
its switched on as well.
Reseat the ATX 12V connector and the
main power connector on the motherboard.
Reseat the RAM modules and ensure
the RAM sticks are in the correct slots
for dual-channel conguration.
Check the cases power switch wiring
to the front-panel connector or use the
power-on switch on the motherboard.
Check to see that the DVI/HDMI/
DisplayPort cable to the monitor is
properly connected to the videocard,
not the motherboard.
Reset the BIOS by pulling the CMOS
battery. Unplug your power supply
from the wall and then pop the circularlooking silver battery out of the motherboard. Wait ve minutes and then
re-insert.
Reseat the videocard with the PC
turned off and unplugged.
Remove the CPU cooler and reseat the
processor. Make sure it is aligned correctly in its socket (dont forget to reapply thermal paste if you do this).
Remove and reseat the motherboard,
checking that the standoffs are correctly aligned with the otherboards
mounting points .
Pro Tip: A PC should be able to turn on
and reach the BIOS screen with only the
CPU, RAM, and videocard plugged into the
motherboard. If you dont see the BIOS
screen after powering up, check these
three essential components rst.

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fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GameR 59

Windows 8 Install

HOW tO
INStall
WINdOWS 8
Bring your new PC to life with Microsofts latest OS by David Murphy

ow that youve got your PC set up and ready to go, its time
to install an operating systema necessary step if you
actually plan on doing anything with that fancy new rig. Youve
got a few options when it comes to the OS, but the two most
popular ones for modern machines are Windows 7 or 8. Seeing
as Windows 8 is Microsofts latest initiative, thats what well
be covering in this step-by-step guide. If you have a copy of
Windows 7 on hand, though, feel free to install that instead.

Before you take the full plunge into Windows 8, be sure to


have your serial key ready. Unlike its predecessor, Windows 8
requires that you have one on-hand during the installation. No
trial for you! Before we get started, were also going to assume
that youve backed up any data you want to keep. Otherwise,
you might want to do so before you perform the unrecoverable
process of wiping your drive and installing Windows 8 from
scratch. Now, lets get started!

Step 1:
Configure your BIOS
When installing an operating
system the rst thing youll need
to do is navigate to your systems BIOS (Basic Input/Output
System). First, turn on your PC.
While its going through its POST
(Power On Self Test), youll need
to hit the corresponding key on
your keyboard that either pulls up
your systems boot menu (the key
varies) or your motherboards BIOS
(often the DEL key).
If the latter, navigate on over to the
menu that contains your systems
boot priority list (it might be within
something called Advanced BIOS
Features). Set your optical drive
to boot rst. Next (assuming youre
installing the OS to a solid-state
drive), youll need to enable AHCI
SATA mode; this, too, is located in
the BIOS settings, typically in the
Advanced menu. Once AHCI has
been selected, hit enter, and then
Save Changes and exit your BIOS.
Your PC will now reboot.

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Step 2: Boot from the DVD


Whether you set your boot priority in your BIOS or specically
selected to boot from your optical drive via a separate option during
your motherboards POST, youll want to keep an eye out during your
systems boot processspecically, be on the lookout for your screen
to prompt you to Press any key to boot from CD or DVD When
that happens, do just that. Its OK if you miss your chance: Just wait
for your computer to boot into your existing OS (or give you an error
message like No Operating System Found), restart, and try again.
Assuming all went well, youll be shown a black screen with a blue
Windows 8 icon in the center and a spinning progress barreally,
a wheelon the lower-center portion of the screen. The Windows
8 setup utility is loading and might take a bit of time before youre
taken to the primary screen depending on the capabilities of your
particular system. Hold tight.

Step 3:
Entering the Windows 8
setup wizard
3A. Here we go! Once you see the ofcial Windows 8 Windows Setup screen, click Next
you likely wont need to adjust language, time
and currency, or keyboard input settings. Before
you do so though, a note: Windows 8 presents a
more automated, faster installation experience
than what you might have previously seen when
installing a Microsoft OS from scratch, especially
if youre slapping Windows 8 onto an SSD. Dont
expect to go make a fancy dinner or watch your
favorite sitcom while the installer runs; you wont
need to.

3A

3B. Similar to the installation routine of


Windows 7, youll now see a screen with one of
two optionsa big, fat Install now button in
the screens center and a smaller Repair your
computer link in the lower-left corner. If you
nd yourself having issues with your PC, youll
want to remember the latter. Otherwise, click on
Install now to continue forward with Windows
8s installation process.

3B

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FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc PC GAmeR 61

Windows 8 Install

Step 5:
Agree to the software license
Legalese gives us a headache. If you want to read the entire
license agreement for the version of Windows 8 youre installing, go right ahead. Ninety-nine percent of your peers will simply
click the I accept the license terms checkbox, and then click
the now-available Next button in the lower-right corner to
proceed forward with Windows 8s installation. In short: You get
one key and copy of Windows 8 per computer. Ta-da.

Step 4:
Enter Your Product Key
In previous versions of the Windows operating system,
Microsoft gave you a choice: You could either enter your product key at the point of installation (why not!) or defer until
later, which gave you a trial period of sortsfree rein within
the operating system for 30 full days from the point of installation, and a limited version of the OS for stragglers after that.
Windows 8? Not so much: If you dont have a product key,
this is where your installation journey draws to a close.
5

selecting Upgrade at the top of the Windows Setup screen.


If youre ready for a clean slate, then the Custom installation is
your ticket, and its what well focus on for the rest of this how-to.
Click the option and the installer will ask you where you want to
install Windows. If youre installing on a brand-new hard drive,
odds are good that the program will recognize its big, empty chunk
of unallocated space and allow you to click Next to continue sans
issue. If your drive is full of data and you want to wipe it clean rst
to free up as much space as possible (which you should do), the
installer can help you out there as well.

Step 6:
Choose your installation type
If you want to install Windows 8 on top of your existing operating
system and let Microsoft handle all the detailsreplacing the OS;
preserving some les and settings; telling you what you need to
install (or uninstall) to make the process run smoothlyyou can by

62 PC GAmEr BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc FAll 2013

Highlight your drive (or drive and data partition, depending on how
youve set it up) and click on the Drive options (advanced) link in
the lower-right. Click on the Delete option to delete the partition,
and youll see that the drives total capacity has been converted
intoyou guessed unallocated space. Repeat the process for any
other partitions you want to clear out, and then click on Next to
continue forward.
We should also mention that you can use this screen to set up new
partitions from your giant pool of unallocated space, in case you
want to save some space for a secondary operating system down
the road (for example). Click on New after youve selected your
unallocated space and youll be able to specify the size of your new
partition as you see t. If youre just slapping Windows 8 on your
SSD (the smaller of your drives), just select that and click Next.

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Step 7: Let Windows Roll


Sit back, relax. Windows 8 is now copying the necessary les to
your hard drive, installing features andif you happen to have
your system connected up to the Webinstalling any updates
that it can pull down. Your system will automatically restart
whenever Windows needs it to do so.
Depending on the speed of your components (optical drive,
whether youre putting Windows on a mechanical hard drive or
an SSD, et cetera), this total process could take a few minutes.
While Microsoft has worked to slice time out of the installation
process as a wholeespecially compared to previous versions
of the OSyou could still be spending as much as 30 minutes
installing windows on a less-speedy system. Thankfully, you
wont be required to input any information until the Windows 8
installer is good and done with the bulk of the heavy lifting.
7

8A

Step 8: Configuring Your System


8A. Naturally, the rst conguration screen that
Microsoft will send your way is one where youre
asked to pick a color for your system and assign it
a namedo that and click Next.
8B. Youre now given a fun choice: You can let
Microsoft set up most of the standard Windows
options for you, like automatic updates; allowing apps to your systems location, name, and
account picture to personalize your experience;
and turning on network le sharing. Just click on
Use express settings to do just that if youre so
inclined.

8B

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If youd like a little more control over your Windows experience, however, youre going to want
to click on the Customize button. For the sake
of this guide, were going to assume that youll be
doing thatand well help you quickly navigate
these conguration waters in the next step!

FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc PC GAmeR 63

Windows 8 Install

Step 9: Customize Your System


Youre free to edit your systems conguration as you see t, but there are a few variables
that you might want to set in particular ways to ensure that your system remains healthy and
secure. Additionally, Microsofts thrown a few new options into the mix that warrant a bit of
explanation if youre going to be editing these initial settings all manually anyway.
9A
9A. First off, we recommend you
leave Windows update set just
as it isto automatically install
updates as they arrive. If you dont
want to have to fuss with installing new drivers for your systems
components, you can also have
Windows 8 grab those on your behalf. However, youll likely be able
to acquire them faster if you just
scan the websites of the manufacturers that make your systems
parts from time to time. Leave the
setting on, howeverthat was just
an FYI.

9B

9B. SmartScreen Filter is an


Internet Explorer feature that
helps protect you from phishing and malware; feel free to
ick it off if youre not an IE fan.
Windows SmartScreen lter
protects you from running unrecognized apps that might be
harmful, which could be useful
or summon a pop-up when you
try to install legitimate apps.
Your call there. Do Not Track is
great for IE privacy; leave that on
and click Next.

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9C

9C. The next screen of options


relate to just what information
you want to send Microsoft. Only
you can decide what youre comfortable with here. The same
goes for the following screens
worth of options, which includes
settings that allow apps to use
your name and account picture
and prompt you for your location
as needed. Make the decision
that best reects your personal
privacy on each option, then
hit Next when youre ready to
continue!

Step 10: Wrapping it Up


Give yourself a user name, password, and password hint, and youre
almost ready to start tinkering around in your brand-new operating
system. While you might have heard about the operating systems
ability to use your existing Microsoft account to log into Windows
8, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for keeping your data,
preferences, and apps synchronized across multiple computers, you
dont set that up on this screen. The user name and password is the
standard Windows account that youll use to sign into your system

until (or if) you decide to switch over to Microsoft account-based


authentication insteadunless you decide to use one of Windows
8s more unique password setups, like its brand-new picture password functionality.
As soon as you click Finish, Windows 8 will take a moment to
nalize your settings and, while doing so, itll provide you with a little
instructional video on the raw basics of Windows 8.

10

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FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc PC GAmeR 65

First Time Setup


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HOW TO

SET UP A

NEW PC
the Right Way

Whether you just built or bought a new PC, it


Pays to optimize your setup from the start

NothiNg holds more promise than a brand-new PC. The hardware is fresh and full of potential,
the OS is clean and clutter-free, and you have nothing but pure, unadulterated storage space awaiting
your precious data. Its an exciting time, indeed. But before you start dumping old files onto your new
rig willy-nilly, and downloading every shiny bauble of an app that catches your eye, take some time to
consider a more measured approach to moving in. After all, you only have this opportunity once.
The way you set up your new PC now will have a lasting impact on your experience over time. Do it
haphazardly, and your experience will be plagued by disorder and regret. Do it thoughtfully, though, by
following the course of action we prescribe on the following pages, and you will have a machine thats
primed and ready to meet your every need from the start.

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FALL 2013 build your own gaming pc PC GAmeR 67

First Time Setup

CheCk Your SpeCS


If youve just built your rig or unboxed a sparkling-new PC, its always a good idea to verify the hardware specs to make sure all parts
are actually performing as they should be. Weve seen simple BIOS
miscongurations downclock chips by hundreds of megahertz.
First download CPU-Z (www.cpuid.com). This excellent free
utility will query your CPU and report the model number, cache
size, and clock speed of the chip in real-time. To test your CPUs
speed, put a load on it using, say, Prime95 (www.mersenne.org/
freesoft) and run a stress test. CPU-Z should report the correct
clock speed for your chip. While youre here, pull up Task Manager
by hitting Ctrl+Alt+Del. Select the Performance tab and make sure
that each of your cores, virtual or real, is represented. Believe it or
not, weve seen Hyper-Threading turned off occasionally on some
systems.
Turn off Prime95, but keep CPU-Z open. Click the Memory tab.
You should see the memory frequency reported under DRAM Frequency. This is the base clock, so you should double it to get the
frequency of the RAM. For example, if your DDR3/1600 is reporting
as 667, your RAM is actually running at DDR3/1333 speed.
CPU-Z will also report graphics speed, but we prefer GPU-Z for
more detailed info. Download it at www.techpowerup.com/gpuz.
GPU-Z will generate a CPU-Z-like interface. Pay particular attention to the default clock speed and memory speeds for your GPU.
If you paid for an overclocked GPU, check that it is running at the
speeds you paid for. GPU-Z will also tell you if SLI or CrossFireX
is enabled or not and also at what speed the PCIe slot is running.
Yes, it's possible that a new machine will have the GPU running in a
slower slot, which may impact performance.

STreSS IT ouT
If a component is going to fail, you want it to fail while its under warranty. For CPU stress tests, we prefer the free Prime95
(www.mersenne.org/freesoft). Just download it and run the inplace stress test. A properly congured and cooled stock-clocked
system should have no problem running Prime95 for hours on end.
For GPU stress testing, FurMark (www.ozone3d.net/benchmarks/
fur) is still quite popular, or you can run Unigines Heaven benchmark (www.unigine.com) in a loop for a few hours. Keep in mind
that stressing the GPU will also stress your PSU and cooling, so any
shortcomings may crop up there, as well.

Any new PC should be able to run Prime95 for at least a few


hours without issues.

68 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC Fall 2013

TechPowerUps GPU-Z will tell you what speed the PCIe is running at.

Inspect CPU-Zs memory tab to see if your RAM is congured


correctly for double- or triple-channel (whichever you chose to
run), and that the frequency is set to the level you paid for.

rTFM
Did you know your motherboard has a special USB port
that allows you to make BIOS updates without a CPU being installed? No? Well its right there in the frakking
manual. One of the rst things you should do with your
new machine is to read the documentation, particularly
the motherboard manual, that came with it.

STore Your
eXTrA pArTS
Once youre done building a new
PC, collect the extra modular
power cables, drive rails, special
sound-dampening drive screws,
and put them in one place. You
could even store the extra parts
in your case, as long as theres
room to spare and it wont block
airow. You wont thank us now
but you will in three years.

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GET DRIVERS
IN ORDER

High-end peripherals
should be paired with
the latest drivers
to unlock all of the
devices functionality.

If you installed the drivers from the disc that came with
your motherboard, your drivers are already way out of
date. Any new PC should be paired with the freshest
drivers available for the platform, as updates can add
performance, enhance compatibility, and fix the wonkiness that usually occurs with the first drivers to ship.
The freshest drivers are usually available directly from
the manufacturer of the component, so the best source
for updated drivers for an AMD motherboard is AMD. If
youre running a fancy gaming mouse or keyboard, youll
also want to install the matching drivers for them. These
drivers unlock the full functionality of the mouse or peripheral beyond the built-in Windows 8 HID drivers.

SET UP YOUR
SECURITY

Thanks to AVGs free AV app, even cheapskates can be safe


from malware.

Theres no point in taking the time and care to set up


a new PC just right if you dont also make security one
of your first priorities. Other wise, its just a matter of
time before some form of malware gets in your system
and mucks up the works, possibly even requiring a reinstall. We found Nor ton Internet Security ($80, w w w.
nor ton.com) to be the best AV suite for purchase, while
AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012 (w w w.avg.com) proved to be a
ver y capable free solution. Before you do anything else,
be sure to do this.

PREPARE FOR
DISASTER
With Windows 8, everything you need for data backup and system repair is right there in the OS. Combine that with a large hard
drive, and you have no excuse not to establish a full-edged data
recovery plan. With a secondary drive in place (either internal or
external), head over to Control Panel, then System and Security,
then Backup and Restore. Choose Backup Your Computer, then Set
up Backup. Select the drive that backups will be saved to, choose
the les to be saved, and set a schedule. Next, choose the option
to Create a System Image, an exact copy of your driveOS, system
settings, program les, etc.to use in the event your drive fails or
your system stops working. Finally, opt to Create a System Repair
Disc. This disc will save your bacon should your machine not start,
allowing you to boot your computer from the optical drive and then
retrieve the system image and backups youve dutifully created.

www.pcgamer.com

DECRAPIFY
YOUR PC
When you build a new PC, you have full control
over the software that gets installed. Not so when
you buy a system, which is practically guaranteed
to host a number of apps you have little use for, or
that slow your PCs performance, or that constantly pester you with pop-ups. Get rid of that crap with
PC Decrapier (www.pcdecrapier.com). The free
tool walks you through the process of removing
unnecessary programs, startup items, and icons.

FALL 2013 build your own gaming pc PC GAmeR 69

First Time Setup

TRANSFER YOUR
FILES, EASILY
Its time to sully that pristine PC with craploads of junk from
your old PC. Power users normally go manual by popping the
old PCs drive into a spare SATA port on the new rig. This lets you
pick and choose whats really worth moving. If youd rather just
do it on autopilot, check out Microsofts free Easy Transfer utility.
Its meant for newbies, but it can make the move to a new machine fairly painless. Run Windows Easy Transfer on your new
PC (Search > Windows Easy Transfer), and it will give you options for the move: USB hard drive, the network, or an optional
USB cable. The utility will ask you to insert a USB key where an
executable will be installed. Run this executable on your old box,
and it will package up all of the les into a single le that will be
stored on an HDD or moved across the network to your new PC,
where everything is unloaded into its proper place.

TIPS FOR TRICKIER


FILE TRANSFERS

STEAM GAMES

On your old PC, go to your Steam folder (C:\Program


Files\Steam, by default) and copy the steamapps
folder and its contents to your external drive. On your
new computer, install Steam and launch it once, then
exit it. Go to the Steam folder and delete everything
in it except for steam.exe. Now copy the steamapps
folder from your old PC into the Steam folder on your
new PC, and launch steam.exe again. After a brief
self-update, Steam should show your games as installed. Youll have to do a quick le-verify as you
launch each game for the rst time, but thats a lot
faster than downloading them all over again.

GAME SAVES

Not all your games come from Steam, and not all
that do have Steam Cloud to manage their saves. And
it seems every publisher has a different method of
storing saved games. Thats where GameSave Manager (free, www.gamesave-manager.com) comes in.
Run GameSave Manager on your old computer,
and it will auto-detect the games you have installed,
nd out where the game saves are, and back them
up, all via the Backup Gamesave(s) menu. Once you
have a backup archive (a .gsba le), you can move it
to your new computer and use GameSave Manager to
automatically restore all your saves.

Moving documents from one computer to another is usually


just a matter of copying-and-pasting onto an external hard
drive and then to your new PC. Thats ne for ofce docs and
photos, but what about apps that build media libraries, like
iTunes and Steam, or saved games, which go wherever the
publisher feels like putting them?

iTUNES

If youre using an iDevice, you might be stuck with iTunes as


a media manager. Heres how to move your music and other
media (and keep your ratings, playlists, etc.) without having to
rebuild your library.
First, open iTunes and go to File > Library > Organize Library > Consolidate Files. This will ensure that all your music
is in one place. Once done, exit iTunes. Copy your iTunes folder,
which should be under My Music (unless youve moved it) to
your external drive. If youre decommissioning your old PC, be
sure to deauthorize that computer from your iTunes account.
Open iTunes again and go to Store > Deauthorize This Computer. Enter your Apple ID and password.
Install iTunes on your new computer, and then copy the
iTunes folder from your external drive to the Music folder of
your new computer. Next time you open iTunes, hold down
Shift while you double-click the launcher. Youll be prompted
to choose an iTunes library; look for iTunes Library.itl in the
folder you just copied to your PC. You should now have your
library, with ratings and playlists intact, on your new PC.

GameSave Manager hunts down all those weird


game save directories and lets you back them up
easily.

Hold Shift while launching iTunes to manually select


your library le.

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CONFIGURE
AUDIO
By default, most motherboards and soundcards come congured for stereo speaker output. By default, most gamers
today play with headphones. The problem is that most advanced audio cards feature algorithms tuned for the output
mode. Cool features such as head-related transfer functions
(HRTFs) and other lters that greatly enhance sound for headphones dont get used unless you set the driver accordingly.
To do this, just dig into your soundcards control panel and set
the default to Headphones for the best experience.

DISABLE ACCESSIBILITY SHORTCUTS


Windows comes with a host of accessibility features that can
be a great help for people with disabilities or other difculties using computer hardware. There are keyboard shortcuts
for some of these options, but the shortcuts are easy to perform accidentally, and can pop up unwanted dialogue boxes.
These shortcuts are:
> Press shift ve times: StickyKeys
> Hold right-shift for eight seconds: FilterKeys
> Hold num lock for ve seconds: ToggleKeys
You can disable each shortcut individually by performing it,
then choosing to turn off the shortcut, or you can disable
them all in one fell swoop in Control Panel > Ease of Access
Center > Make the keyboard easier to use.

www.pcgamer.com

CALIBRATE
YOUR MONITOR
If you got a new display with your new PC (or if youve
never taken the time to adjust your old monitor), it
might be badly calibrated, degrading the image quality you see. For a quick-and-dirty x, you can run the
calibration software built in to Windows by clicking the Search button, then entering DCCW into the
search bar. The program will run you through several
simple calibration exercises, and adjust your monitor
appropriately.
For a more thorough calibration, we recommend
that you use high-quality calibration test images,
such as those found at www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/.

ADJUST YOUR
POWER SETTINGS
Whether youre looking to save the environment, or
just your battery life, you should pay a visit to your
new PCs power options. If you open the Control Panel, then select Hardware and Sound, and then Power
Options, youll see the available power proles. You
can select one of the available proles, or change
your screen's brightness from this menu, but if you
want more control, youll need to select a prole and
click the link that says Change plan settings.
A new menu will pop up, where you can change how
long the computer waits before it dims the display, turns
off the display, or goes to sleep. Even more options can be
found by clicking the advanced power settings button.

FALL 2013 build your own gaming pc PC GAmeR 71

First Time Setup

TIDY UP YOUR
INSIDES
your computer has a lot of cables inside, from front-panel connectors to sata and power cables. if your case doesnt have a
window, it might be tempting to just leave a rat's nest of wiring
inside, but there are substantial benets to an uncluttered chassisbetter cooling and less dust, for example.
if you bought your PC from a boutique builder, it should have
come with a decent wiring job, but if you built your own or bought
an off-the-shelf system, theres likely room for improvement.
many modern cases have cable-routing cutouts in the motherboard tray, and room behind it to route cables. you should
route as many wires as you can behind the motherboard tray
usually your motherboard power cables, at least, can go back
here. route as many power cables from your Psu behind the
motherboard and bring them back out near where they need
to plug in; you can dramatically reduce clutter in your case this
way.
if you dont have any cutouts in your motherboard tray, you
can still use zip ties to keep your cables organized and out of
the way. you can also buy stick-on organizing clips to keep your
cables attached to your motherboard tray, not hanging out in the
middle of your case.
if you have a modular power supply, disconnect (and keep in
a safe place) any cables youre not using. if you dont, use zip ties
to bundle unused cables together, and try to keep them out of the
way of your fans airow.

Sloppy
wiring can
create
pockets of
hot air and
dust in your
case.

Routing
cables behind
the motherboard tray
(if possible)
can lead to a
much cleaner
and cooler
build.

Must-Have apps and utilities

No PC is ComPlete without these key Programs


GooGle Chrome

Dropbox

If you nd yourself
using more than one computing device daily, Dropbox
makes it easy to share documents across all those devices, including smartphones.
www.dropbox.com

a password manager, allowing


you to store all your passwords (e.g., email, Facebook,
online banking) in a single and
secure database that can only
be accessed by you.
www.keepass.info
revo UninSTAller

STeAm This

KeepASS Using top-of-the-line


encryption algorithms AES
and Twosh, KeePass acts as

Google
Chrome remains the singlefastest web browser out
there. Couple that with
exclusive apps and a fully
customizable web interface,
and youve got a browser that
no PC should be without.
www.google.com/chrome
is a must-have
application for PC gamers.
Through Steam, you can
download just about any title
(often for a good deal!), and
it stores all your games and
save les in one convenient
location.
www.steampowered.com
Revo Uninstaller

72 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC Fall 2013

These
days, its simply not enough
to use Windows to uninstall

your programs, as harmful


remnants can be left behind.
Enter Revo Uninstaller, a free
app that not only uninstalls
software, but allows you to
manually remove additional
data left behind.
www.revouninstaller.com
SKype

Installing Skype allows


you to talk face to face with
anyone, anywhere, so long as
they have the software and a
webcam. Skype also allows
you to set video conference
calls, call mobile devices, and
make international calls for
additional fees.
www.skype.com

SUmATrA pDF Sumatra PDF is


a free PDF creator and viewer

www.pcgamer.com

Hot Air
Cold Air

Provide a consistent airow pattern for your case. Here, cool air
enters at the bottom and exits through the top and rear.

7-Zip 7-Zip is a fast, free


le archiver that can pack
and unpack a huge range of
les, from ZIP to TAR les. It
features an extremely easyto-use interface that presents
users with all facets of the
unzipped le, automatically
organized by folders.
www.7-zip.org

Skype

FileZilla If you need to


connect to an FTP server,
FileZilla is the best way to
go. Its easy to use and highly
customizableyou can even
congure your own transferspeed limits and transfer up
to 4GB of les.
www.lezilla-project.org
Digsby With Digsby you can

for Windows. Its a relatively


small le, starts up extremely
quickly, and is tremendously
easy to use. It can also read
XPS, DjVu, CBZ, and CBR les.
bit.ly/aHICnC

www.pcgamer.com

consolidate all of your instant


messaging accounts into one
centralized hub, supporting AIM,
Digsby

OPTIMIZE YOUR FAN


SETUP
Your components will last longer if they run at lower tem
peratures. They will run at lower temperatures if they
have sufficient airflow. Thats science.
Your case should have both intake and exhaust fans.
Youll need at least one front intake fan and one rear ex
haust fan. Many cases have additional intake fans on the
front or left side, and additional exhaust fans at the top
of the case. This helps keep hot air moving up and out
of your case. You should have roughly the same num
ber of exhaust fans as intake fans, and you should make
sure theyre in places that make sense, to create obvious
paths for the air. Dont create dead zones where hot air
can stay trapped. If your case has filters for its intake
fans, clean them regularly. If not, dust inside your case
regularly with canned air.
Many motherboards offer fan control in their BIOS set
tings; you can set your fans to ramp up when your system
gets hot and ramp down when its cool, or you can wire
your fans to a fan controller and set their levels yourself.
Most motherboard manufacturers also offer a desktop
fancontrol utility for use with their boards. Simple fan
controllers just offer speed control; others, like NZXTs
Sentry series, also include temperature sensors, which
you can use to automatically control fan speeds based on
the temperature of various parts of your system.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, and Google


Talk. Its also a handy notication tool for personal email.
www.digsby.com
Malwarebytes anti-Malware

Yes, you already have


an AV program (right?), but it
never hurts to have a second
opinion or line of defense. For
us, thats Malwarebytes AntiMalware Free. It doesnt run
auto scans, so it wont conict
with your other AV solution.
www.malwarebytes.org
superantispyware You
could say that SuperAntiSpyware is the third prong in our
three-prong approach to PC
security. Like Malwarebytes,
it provides yet another line of
defense. And its free, so why
not avail your PC of this extra
layer of protection?
www.superantispyware.com

FALL 2013 build your own gaming pc PC GAmeR 73

Fix
it!
WindoWs Wont boot. Your hard drive Wont spin
and Your internet is sloW. no this aint no countrY
song, its What happens When things on Your pc
break. We tackle the five most pressing problems
in each major component category!

ts happened to us all. You get home from a long day at work


and you want to blow off some steam with an hour of gaming
or maybe browsing the web, but when you tap your mouse
button or punch the power switch, the unthinkable happens.
Youre SOL.
Whether the system is red-lining, the OS is BSODing, or your
Internet is crawling on all fours, this frustration is familiar to any
person who drives a PC. Youre faced with a problem that stops

74 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc fall 2013

you dead in your tracks. If youre a salty self-tech, you run through
your proverbial checklist of areas to look at. But not everyone is
so experienced, and even old hands have holes in their troubleshooting repertoire. So, in the interest of providing the most useful
advice to the greatest number of people, weve compiled a list of
the top ve problems that could impact each of your computers
major hardware or software subsystems and our best advice on
how to x them.

www.pcgamer.com

www.pcgamer.com

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc PC GameR 75

Storage

What to do when your hard disk is


dying and your SSD is sputtering

Problem: Hard drive disaPPears


solution: If its a drive that was previously visible, the rst
step is to see if the drive shows up in the BIOS (check under Boot).
If not, swap out the SATA and/or power cables. If the drive shows
up, run CHKDSK on it by right-clicking the drive in My Computer,
choosing Properties, then the Tools tab, and then Check now
and Automatically x le systems errors. If the drive continues
to give a ton of errors, and is behaving erratically but is visible in
Windows, copy all data off it immediately if you can, or run Data
Recovery on it STAT. If the drive is not visible in Windows, your options are limited to the Freezer Trick (an hour or so of extreme
cold sometimes sets things straight) or expensive forensic-style
data recovery.
If this is a brand-new drive thats not showing up, you need to
initialize it rst. Right-click My Computer and select Manage, then
Disk Management and follow the prompts.

solution: This is usually an issue with 3TB or 4TB drives,


as 2TB drives should have zero issues in Win7 (WinXP users
might have to download a utility from the drives manufacturer
to allow for a drive with 4K sectors). Out of the box these 3/4TB
drives are typically MBR disks, which limits a partition to 2TB
(actually, 1.8TB or so) relegating the rest to a separate partition.
If you want the full capacity in one partition, you need to convert
the disk to GPT. To do this, type cmd at the Start search box; at
the prompt type diskpart, then list disk, then select disk X (substituting X for your drive number), then convert gPt. Now go to
Disk Management and create your massive single partition.

Problem: ssd PerFormance is slow


solution: If youre using a hard drive and it feels slow,
dont worry; thats how they are for the most part. If youre using
an SSD and its slow, there is a problem. If youre not sure if its
slower than spec, download CrystalDiskMark and see what kind
of sequential-read/write speeds you are getting. Second, make
sure the drive is connected to the native SATA 6Gb/s ports on the
motherboard. You cant rely on color, only your mobo manual, to
tell. Third, go into the BIOS and make sure the SATA port for that
drive is set to AHCI mode instead of IDE mode, as that will usually
give you better performance.

Problem: aHci causes bsod


solution:

Problem: oPtical drive disaPPears


solution: This classic conundrum involves either a missing
drive or one that stops functioning suddenly. Put on your big-boy
pants and type regedit in the Start menu search box, then navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\
Control\Class\{4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}.
If you see an entry named UpperFilters, delete it. If you see an entry named LowerFilters, delete it. Once youve done this, exit Regedit and reboot your system. In most scenarios, your optical drive
will reappear and/or magically begin working again. Note that you
may have to reinstall software that accesses the optical drive (e.g.,
burning software) to get back to 100 percent functionality.

Sometimes, people install Windows 7 without


AHCI enabled, only to nd out that enabling it after the install causes
a BSOD. To x this, you have to edit the registry. Press Windows
+ R key, type regedit, then navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\
SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\msahci. Then right-click the
word Start on the right-side and click Modify. Change the value in the window to 0 and click OK. Exit Regedit, reboot the
system, and change your SATA controller to AHCI; you will boot
right into Windows.

Problem: drive not rePorting Full


caPacity

76 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

USB

What to do when it wont plug nor play

Problem: Some USb PortS Dont Work


SolUtion: Nonfunctional USB ports could be caused by a
few things. If the ports are front-mounted, make sure the internal
cables are connected properly and that the requisite USB header
is enabled in your system BIOS. If the ports are soldered on the
motherboard (and enabled), open up Device Manager and see if
any USB root controller or hubs are reporting a problem. If so, a
driver update/reinstallation may resolve the issue. Its also possible that the physical connectors have been damaged (or a fuse has
blown), in which case youll need to replace your motherboard
hopefully its still under warranty. If the USB ports are associated
with a third-party controller, be sure its drivers are installed, because Windows may not recognize the controller automatically.

Problem: CHarging PHone over PCS


USb Port takeS Forever
SolUtion: Standard USB 2.0 ports connected on a root hub
have to share 500mA of current (USB 3.0 powers up to 900mA).
If youve got a bunch of USB devices connected and the port your
phone is plugged into is competing for limited power, it will take
much longer than normal to charge. Try plugging the phone into
a different port (preferably USB 3.0, if possible) or disconnecting
other USB devices while charging.
Its worth noting that some motherboard manufacturerssuch
as Gigabytehave begun incorporating high-powered USB ports
that can deliver up to 2.7A of current onto their boards. If you want
to rapidly charge devices while theyre connected to your system,
it may be worth checking out one of these boards.

Problem: SloW File tranSFer over USb


SolUtion: Windows Vista and 7 have some known USB performance issues, so the rst thing to do is run Windows Update
and make sure your OS is fully patched. Wed also advise installing
the latest drivers for your motherboards chipset and any discrete
USB controllers. You could also try setting the USB drive to performance mode. Open Device Manager, right-click the USB drive, and
choose Properties from the menu. In the resulting window, click
the Policies tab and tick the option labeled Better performance.
Please note, this feature will enable write caching, so youll have
to use the Safely Remove Hardware option when disconnecting the
drive to prevent any data loss.

Problem: USb DeviCe iS not reCognizeD


SolUtion: USB devices are usually as plug-and-play as you

Problem: USb HUb DoeSnt Work

can get, but if a particular device isnt recognized properly, it may


be incompatible with your USB controller or require drivers to be
manually installed. Compatibility is very good with USB controllers native to modern chipsets, but weve seen some incompatibilities with some discrete USB 3.0 controllers that are yet to be
resolved. Should you need to install drivers for the device, plug it
into a USB port, then go to Device Manager, right-click the device,
and choose Update Drive Software from the menu. Then, you can
search the web for drivers automatically or point the wizard to any
drivers downloaded from the device manufacturers website.

SolUtion: This problem is almost always caused by insufcient power being supplied to the hub. If the hub came with an
AC adapter, make sure its plugged in and working properly. And
if youve got the hub plugged into a front-mounted USB port, try
connecting it to a rear port that is soldered onto your mobo. Rearmounted ports can usually provide more power (or more stable
power), which can resolve some issues with nicky hubs.

www.pcgamer.com

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc PC GameR 77

Video Cards
Problem: GPU Is slow
solUtIon: If your GPU is lagging, the rst stop on the road
to redemption is a driver update. Both Nvidia and AMD are engaged in a drivers arms race, with each company updating its
drivers with an OCD-like frequency thats impressive. So always
check to see if theres a new driver before you launch a brand-new
game. You can nd your driver version easily in both Catalyst Control Center under Information/Software, and in the Nvidia Control
Panel. Overheating can also cause the GPU to throttle its clock
speeds, so monitor your temps using the software provided by
your GPU manufacturer.

Problem: mUltIcard setUP not workInG


solUtIon: Dual-card setups can be problematic for a number of reasons, and getting them recognized by Windows is the
rst challenge. If CrossFireX/SLI isnt an option you see in the
software, ignore your motherboards color coding and move the
second card to a different PCIe slot. Games are a different story,
as the drivers have to include a prole for a certain game, benchmark, or application to allow both cards to function, so there is
usually a bit of a wait after a game comes out for a compatible
driver (EVGA uniquely offers temporary proles for new games).
Assuming dual-card mode is enabled in the drivers, and the game
has been out awhile, your SLI/CrossFireX bridge could be faulty,
but that is rare. You can try forcing dual-card mode via the Catalyst
Control Center or Nvidia Control Panel, but success is hit-or-miss
when doing this.

Problem: screen corrUPtIon and


artIfacts
solUtIon: Graphical corruption is usually due to one of two
things: a video card that is either overheating or dying. First, check
your temps using software like MSI Afterburner, EVGA Precision
X, Asus GPU Tweak, GPU-Z, etc. Anything below 80C is ne but a

78 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc fall 2013

Gee, pee-yew!
well-cooled card typically doesnt exceed 70C. Second, take your
GPU out of the case and give it a good cleaning with compressed
air, and after you reinstall it, put some cool air on it by removing
the case door for a bit, or manually turn up the fans to 100 percent
using the above-mentioned software. To see if your card is dying,
try running it in a friends system to test; conversely, use his or her
card in your system. Also, if you are overclocking, immediately go
back to stock speeds.

Problem: dIsPlay and resolUtIon IssUes


solUtIon: While not as common, you should never overlook a cable/connection issue as the cause of your problem. If you
are running 2560x1600 resolution, you probably need a dual-link
DVI cable (and therefore a dual-link DVI port on the video card,
as wellsome DVI ports are single-link, so check). DisplayPort
also runs at 2560x1600, but VGA and single-link DVI do not. Also
double-check the input source for your LCD, as thats a mistake
that even non-rookies make. And double-check the cable youre
usingswap it out if possible.

Problem: second dIsPlay not recoGnIzed


solUtIon: First, make sure you are running the latest drivers. Many systems that are running the default Windows drivers
have issues with this. Second, make sure you have gone into the
control panel of the drivers to enable the second display. Third,
some DVI ports do not work if you are using a VGA-DVI adapter,
so if there are two ports on your card, try them both. If you have
everything set normally in the drivers, make sure your Windows
settings are congured properly, and that you have multiple displays enabled.

www.pcgamer.com

CPU

Its usually not the culprit

Problem: CPU Is overheatIng


solUtIon: Dont assume that high temps automatically warrant a new heatsink. The cooler is likely dust-clogged (try cleaning
it), or the fan is dying (requiring a replacement). Or the heatsink
has been poorly installedremove it and remount it with new
thermal paste. (Incidentally, degraded thermal paste alone can be
the culprit). Other possible causes include the case fansclean
and check them. Or a newer, hotter GPU could have swamped your
cases ability to stay cool. A BIOS update could also change the fan
proles from what you had set. Also keep this in mind: If your CPU
is seemingly running hot but the machine isnt blue-screening or
throttling clock speed, you probably dont have to sweat it.

issues rst (see CPU Is Overheating). Also check your RAM with
Memtest86+ (www.memtest.org). Check your power supply connectors to the mobo and GPU. If the PSU is overheating and failing, it could cause crashes. Failing PSUs cause power sags, which
can look like a bad CPU, too. If you have a known good PSU you
can swap in, do so. Oddly enough, a failing GPU can resemble a
CPU failure, so if you have a spare GPU or an integrated option, try
switching to it and testing again.

Problem: CPU Is slow


solUtIon:

CPU performance issues typically come from


misconguration in the BIOS or overheating. First, verify your
chips clock speed by running CPU-Z (www.cpuid.com) while running a CPU load in Cinebench 11.5 (www.maxon.net). If the clocks
are correct (remember, chips dont Turbo under heavy loads on
all cores), compare your Cinebench 11.5 scores with others on the
Internet. The scores should be within a few percentage points of
others. If the scores are close, the CPU is not slow; its something else in your system. If the scores dont match, you may have a
thermal issue. Check that your heatsink hasnt come loose, reapply thermal paste, and clean the heatsink and fans. A BIOS update
could also be needed, as well.

Problem: CPU Is always Under a


heavy load
solUtIon:

Heavy CPU usage can be a sign of malware, so


make sure your AV is updated and run a full system scan. Also consider running a secondary scan using Malwarebytes Free (www.
malwarebytes.org) and any of the free web-based scanners such
as those from Trend Micro, Bit Defender, or ESET. Also check to
see that your own AV app isnt thrashing the system by doing a
scancheck the running processes in Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt +
Del, Start Task Manager, select Processes.) Click the CPU column
to sort by usage and begin searching the Internet for each suspicious process name.

Problem: CPU only works In sIngleChannel mode


solUtIon: First, make sure the RAM is OK by running MemProblem: CPU Is Unstable
solUtIon: CPUs rarely go bad. They typically work or dont
work. Usually, its everything around them that breaks. If youre
overclocking, stop. Try to isolate CPU problems by running a CPUintensive app such as Prime95. If it blue-screens, check thermal

www.pcgamer.com

test86+ (www.memtest.org). If the RAM clears, check the slots for


debris and swap out the DIMMs for known good RAM. If crashing persists when put into dual-channel mode, you likely bent a
pin installing your CPU. Weve seen this on LGA1366 and LGA1155
platforms several times. It can be xed by taking a sharp knife
and carefully straightening the pin in the socket (or on the CPU in
AMD chips).

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc PC GameR 79

Network

Why cant it just work?

Problem: Internet ConneCtIon DroPs


solutIon: The most likely culprit is your ISP, so prepare to wait
on hold. Before you do, though, try some basic troubleshooting.
If your system(s) connects through a router, connect the system
directly to your modem to see if the router has a problem, and also
cycle the power on your broadband modem. But dont just quickly hit
its power switch or reset button. Unplug it from power for a few seconds. Plug it back in and wait for the modem to resync with your ISPs
network before testing the connection again. If you nd yourself resetting your modem monthly or even weekly to resolve Internet connectivity issues, a call to your ISP is in order. There may be an issue
that only a modem replacement or a service tech can x.

Problem: FIle DownloaDs take Forever, PIng tImes suCk


solutIon: Contrary to popular belief, there arent any tweaks
that will signicantly speed up or improve Internet connection speeds.
If your connection is usually fast, but slows during peak hours or only
when connecting to certain sites, there may not be much you can do.
You should certainly run a broadband test to see where your speeds
actually are. ISPs usually have a guaranteed speed band that, if youre
under, they will either x or charge you less for. Also, power cycle
your modem and router. Check your routers log to see if you have
an unauthorized guest sapping speed. Streaming Internet cameras,
or streaming Netix to multiple devices will also sap performance.
Problem: Cant aCCess new server/
nas/PC From other systems
solutIon: There are a number of things that could cause a new
system/NAS to be inaccessible from other machines on a network.
First, make sure the new system is denitely connected to the LAN
properly and that its network controller is active. And also check that
the systems congured with the correct IP address. If the server or
NAS is on a different subnet, for example, it may appear to be connected to a network, but it wont be visible to your other systems.
With a standalone NAS device, youll have to log into its conguration

menu, navigate to the LAN settings, and then enter the proper IP address (or set it to DHCP). To change an IP address on Windows 7 systems, youll want to go to Network and Sharing Center, click the Local
Area Connection, then click the Properties button, highlight Internet
Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4), and then click Properties again. You
can change the systems IP address on the General tab.
Its also possible that your client PC has network discovery disabled or an overzealous rewall that wont let the system see other
devices, so check that, too.

Problem: ssID aPPears but Cant


ConneCt usIng wI-FI
solutIon:

Wi-Fi connectivity problems are almost always


caused by interference or rmware and/or driver incompatibilities.
The rst thing to try is to simply reset your wireless router in case
somethings gone wonky that a reboot might x. Pull your routers
power cord, wait a few seconds, and then plug it back in. Once the
router has fully booted, try to connect again.
If the issue persists, the wireless channel being used by your router may be congested. Download a utility like Insider (www.metageek.
net) to your laptop, or Wi-Fi Analyzer to your smartphone, and scan
the wireless networks in the area. If your router is using the same
channel as many others within range, log into your routers conguration menu, navigate to the wireless network section, and change
the channel to the one thats least used in the area.
If that doesnt help, try updating the routers rmware. Hit your
router manufacturers website and check for a rmware update. If
one is available, download it, and then log into the routers conguration menu and apply the update (this process will vary from router to
routerconsult your manual). Once the rmware update is installed,
congure the wireless network settings and try connecting again.
Updating the drivers for your wireless network controller is worth
a shot, too.

Problem: Internet ConneCtIon Is


unrelIable
solutIon: Unreliable or intermittent Internet connections are
usually the result of a hardware or signal problem at some point between your PC and the web. Some of these problems you can x, others may require a service call from your ISP.
The rst thing to try is resetting your modem and router and swapping out the network cables between them. Kill the power to your
modem and router, wait a few moments, and then power them back
up. Also, be sure to use known good cables to connect the devices
together. We cant count how many times a faulty cable has caused
funky issues on a network. If the problem persists, give your ISP a
call and have it run a diagnostic to check the signal strength and quality on your line. Should your ISP nd a problem, odds are it can be
xed by a service technician.

80 PC Gamer pc builders bible fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

Windows

Whats made of 50 million lines of


code and rarely breaks? Nothing

Problem: WindoWs is Freezing


solution: The biggest culprits here are usually malware
(malicious software, whose favorite installation method is through
browser exploits) or high temperatures in your case. With malware, there are no real standards for quality, so badly written ones
can cause all kinds of performance issues. The stuff is also designed to be hard to nd and hard to remove, so your antimalware
software (Norton, McAfee, or Malwarebytes) might not remove it.
In which case, you may need to reinstall Windows.
But before you nuke it from orbit, how dusty is your case? The
stuff insulates whatever it's collected on and will clog fans over
time. But a can of compressed air held upright and triggered in
short bursts should take care of most of it.
Case vibration over time can also loosen cables and cause random loss of signal, so make sure those are all squared away (and
not chewed up by gremlins).
Lastly, if you're overclocking your CPU or GPU, you may just
need to tone that down a bit.

from the manufacturer's website, preferably the drivers labeled


"WHQL" (for Windows Hardware Quality Labs), Microsoft's seal of
approval. Didnt write down the BSOD info? Check out BlueScreenView (www.nirsoft.net).

Problem: WindoWs sloWs doWn

Problem: blue screen error

solution: The usual villains are beta GPU drivers and over- solution: The most common source of this problem is a proclocked CPUs (but feel free to Google specic error messages).
GPU drivers see the most frequent changes in enthusiast PCs, and
beta versions are sometimes shaky. You can uninstall these drivers in the Add or Remove Programs section of your Control Panel
(Programs and Features in Windows 8), where the les are labeled
according to your brand (usually Nvidia or AMD, sometimes Intel).
Then reboot and install an older version of the driver obtained

What to
Do When
WinDoWs
Won't start

82 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc fall 2013

gram eating up your CPU power or RAM. Sometimes it's a memory


leak, which means that a program isn't releasing RAM that it's no
longer using, which can snowball over time to occupy all available
memory. Restarting the program should x the leak temporarily,
but the long-term solution usually requires the program's creator to
produce a new version. Other times, it can be a scheduled virus scan
running in the background, or even a virus or other malware.

Let's say you

can get your computer


to perform its POST (power-on selftest, which ends with a single, short
beep from your motherboard if you
have a speaker installed on it), but
Windows itself won't load. Before
you start sweating through Google
searches, sometimes the problem
is temporary and random; simply
restarting your PC can make the
problem go away.
If your PC tells you that a file
called NTLDR.exe is missing, the
problem may be more serious.
Sometimes you can just create a
new version of this file. For Win-

dows 7, reboot and hit F8 just before


Windows would start loading. This
loads a troubleshooting menu, from
which you select Repair Your Computer. This is mostly an automated
process; you follow a few onscreen
instructions and let Microsoft take
the wheel. For Windows 8, you boot
from its installation disc to access
repair options, or you may have a
Recovery Drive on a USB stick. To
make your computer boot to those
devices instead of Windows, consult your motherboard manual for
the keyboard shortcut that can open
your boot menu during the POST.

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To check background programs, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc, which


opens the Task Manager. You can click the labels at the top of each
column to sort alphabetically, or by CPU or RAM usage. Save your
documents or whatever else you were working on at the time.
Then, if a program is eating up your resources and you don't recognize it, Google its name to determine its danger level. If it's not
supposed to be there, you may need to manually run a virus scan to
remove it. Or you may just be able to right-click the program in the
Task Manager list and select End Process. In some cases, simply
rebooting can make sluggishness issues disappear.

Problem: WindoWs UPdate Hangs


solUtion: First, is the time and date right on your PC? Mi-

Down) or other program hogging your RAM, you can try increasing
your virtual memory, which is a cache that Windows stores on your
hard drive. Right-click the Computer icon on your desktop and select
Properties. (In Windows 8, switch to Desktop Mode to see the icon.)
Click Advanced System Settings on the left. In the section labeled
Performance, click the Settings button. Click the Advanced tab and
click Change. Uncheck the box at the top and select Custom Size. A
good rule of thumb is to set Initial Size and Maximum Size to 1.5 times
your amount of RAM (listed on the Properties window you opened
earlier). More than that can actually slow down your PC. Click Set
and then click OK.
Editing high-def videos, high-res photos, or large audio les can
eat up gigs of RAM, too. If that's something you do, adding more RAM
is not a bad idea, assuming you have available slots on the motherboard and you can nd sticks of the same type and speed.

crosoft has a "Fix It" le available on its support page that talks
about this issue, Article ID 2700567. Just run that, and it may x
your issue. If not, you may have to use System Restore to reset
Windows to before it hung on Windows Update. In Windows 8, you
get there by restarting your PC, clicking the power icon on the login screen, holding down the Shift key, and selecting Restart. That
will load a screen with some troubleshooting options. Select Troubleshoot, then Advanced Options. When you click System Restore,
your PC will reboot in the Restore mode. Select your account, select Next on the next screen, choose your Windows drive, hit Next
again, then wait for the restore process. You can hit Restart when
that's done, then redo WIndows Update.
If your system isnt booting in Windows 7 and you need to restore, you need the installation disc and access to an admin account (home desktop users have this account type by default). Pop
in the disc, reboot, and press any key when your PC prompts you
to (shortly after the POST, but before your current Windows installation would start loading). Click through the CD's language,
time, and input settings, select "repair your computer," and follow
the onscreen instructions. The most recent Restore Point should
work. After this process reboots your computer, try Windows
Update again.

Problem: loW memory


solUtion: If it's not a memory leak (see "Windows Slows

Sometimes, you can still boot into


Safe Mode to diagnose the problem.
This is a stripped-down environmentonly the minimum necessary
services and drivers will load. For
Windows 7, this is accessed via the F8
menu mentioned above. For Windows
8, you must also hold down the Shift
key when pressing F8. It may take several tries to get your timing right, because your window is small. This will
load Windows 8's recovery mode. Once
there, click Troubleshoot to get a number of options, including loading a restore point, recovering from a backup
drive image, accessing the command

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prompt to enter text commands, and


altering Windows startup settings. It's
not a bad idea to try the restore point
or drive image options, if you created
those recently. If not, then click the
Startup Settings button, then click
Safe Mode. Once this mode has loaded,
you can try running a virus check or
uninstalling recently installed programs or drivers.
It could also be a loose data cable on
the storage device that contains your
Windows installation, making it invisible to your PC. You'll want to shut down
your rig, open the side panel, and do a
spot check.

It's also possible that the drive


Windows is installed on is dead. Storage devices usually do not give much
warning of imminent failure. At most,
you'll hear some crunchy sounds or
clicking before they give up the ghost.
If you install the drive in another computer and you still can't "see" it, it's
probably a goner.

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc PC GameR 83

Sleep

Even PCs can get insomnia

Problem: When PC Goes to sleeP, I Cant


Wake It baCk UP
solUtIon: Systems that dont wake up after going to sleep
usually have a device connected or an internal component that
misbehaves when the machine enters the sleep state. If youre
lucky, the device is throwing an error before the system hangs and
you can ascertain the culprit by checking out Event Viewer (click
your Start button, type event viewer in the search eld, and hit Enter. Then check the system log for critical errors). If your system
isnt providing any clues, though, run Windows Update to ensure
the OS is fully patched and also try updating your device drivers,
especially for components like graphics cards, chipsets, and storage controllers.
Its also possible that a device connected via USB is the root
cause of the problem, so try disconnecting any nonessential devices until you gure out which ones at fault.

malware infestation that triggers some sort of scheduled task, so


run a scan on your system to be sure its not infected.
A component in the system can also be the culprit. To nd out
exactly what caused your system to wake up, open a command
prompt with elevated privileges (type cmd in the Start search,
right-click and Run as Administrator); at the prompt type:
powercfg /lastwake and the utility will list the device or service that last woke the PC. If it turns out it was a nonessential
service, you can simply disable it. If a system component was the
cause, open Device Manager, nd the component, right-click it,
and choose Properties from the menu. In the window that pops
up, click the Power Management tab and uncheck the eld labeled Allow this device to wake the computer.

Problem: WakInG PC CaUses Crash


solUtIon: A vital component or driver that doesnt reinitialize properly when the system is coming out of the sleep state
is most likely the cause of the crash. More often than not, driver
and/or rmware updates can resolve issues like this one. A aky
piece of hardware, like a bad stick of RAM, can also be the root
cause, but software issues are much more likely, especially if
the system is stable and behaves normally otherwise. Add-in
storage controllers and older graphics cards are commonly the
cause of sleep-related instability, so make sure youre using the
latest drivers and rmware for both. Installing the latest BIOS on
your motherboard and using the latest drivers for your chipset
are also recommended.
Problem: PC Crashes When It Goes to
sleeP
solUtIon:

The most likely solutions to this problem are


virtually identical to the previous question, so follow our recommendations above. Also keep in mind that if the crash results in
a memory dump and an event being written in the system log,
checking out the details in Event Viewer can help quickly sniff out
the offender. Googling the actual error codes or using a utility like
BlueScreenView can also come in handy to help pinpoint the cause.

Problem: system keePs WakInG from


sleeP

Problem: PC Wont Go to sleeP


solUtIon: If your PC wont go to sleep, check that youve
got it congured to go to sleep in the rst place. Click your Start
button, type power options in the search eld, and hit Enter. Then
click the Change plan settings link for the plan you have selected and make sure there is a value in the Put the computer
to sleep eld.
If youre certain the system is congured properly for sleep,
but it still wont power down, open a command prompt with elevated privileges and at the prompt type powercfg /requests
and hit Enter to see a list of items that are preventing the system
from going to sleep. Once youve found the culprit, disable it (if
its nonessential) or change its Power Management settings (see
above) and your PC should go to sleep.

solUtIon: A few things can cause a system to constantly


wake from sleep. One of the more common problems is a pesky

84 PC Gamer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

The 10
CommandmenTs of
TroubleshooTing
Important life lessons for dealing with a broken PC
1. Pause Your overclock

any built-up static before touching any sensitive electronics.

Overclocking is indeed a wonderful way to get free performance, but when you are troubleshooting a mysterious issue,
put a pause on your extracurricular clock-pushing.

6. at the first hiNt of trouBle, Back uP


When your drive makes one mysterious click or when even a
single NAS fan fails, do a complete backup rather than waiting and potentially feeling remorse that you didnt act sooner.

7. wheN iN DouBt, reBoot


Rebooting will x more things than you can imagine, especially for those folks who put their PC to sleep rather than
shutting down.

8. retrace Your stePs

2. Do Not use Microsoft as a BoogeY MaN


Its easy to point ngers at Microsoft for everything from the
JFK assassination to, well, the Modern UI, but usually OS
problems can be traced to buggy applications and drivers
rather than the OS itself. Dont get us wrong, there are still
many, many bugs in Windows probably more than 50 million lines of code, but blaming Microsoft while throwing your
hands in the air with defeat, rather than really investigating
the problem, is a cop-out.

If something just broke, its usually the last thing that you did.
So, if you installed a new AV program, a new stick of RAM,
or mucked with the registry to improve performance, put the
truck in reverse and beep your way back.

9. choose the right tiMe for MaiNteNaNce


Your term paper is due tomorrow morning, so it probably isnt a good time to ash your BIOS and rmware and
resize your disk partitions. Rather than turn a standard

3. uNPlug it
Its common to begin working on your system with the PSU
still plugged in or switched on. People forget that when the
PSU is hot, power is still running through the RAM and PCIe
slots. Its very little power but theres still a small risk of
damaging components when removing parts from the motherboard, so switch off your PSU before you tinker.

4. check Your coNNectioNs


The thing about wiresand even expansion cardsis they
dont always like to stay put. This especially holds true if you
move your PC every now and then, as momentum can jostle
them out of place. When things go wrong, always check to see
if your PCs connections are secure (after grounding!).

5. alwaYs Be grouNDeD
Granted, donning a grounding strap or ESD smock just to pull
out a stick of RAM is a tad overkill, but you should at least
touch a large metal object such as le cabinet to discharge

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repair job into a critical emergency, choose the right time


for maintenance.

10. Most harDware ProBleMs caNt Be fixeD


The sad thing about integrated circuits is that 80 percent of
hardware issues cant be xed by you. Sure, you can replace
a burst capacitor or bend back a socket pin, but a fried CPU,
bad stick of RAM, or disabled SSD cant be xed no matter how
many hours you burn on it. Sometimes, its better to just know
when to fold em.

fall 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc PC GameR 85

gaming on a budget

Gaming
on a
Budget

Pick up a lot of games for not a lot of money


by Connor Sheridan

ou fretted over which components to buy, waited in agony for


days or weeks for them to arrive, and put them together with
migraine-inducing care (perhaps suffering a few thermal-grease
related scares along the way). Now youre ready to play some
video games.
Just one problem: Buying all that stuff left your cash reserves
dangerously low. If you were a console gamer, youd have to get by
with just a game or two: all dressed up with no mobs to kill until
your scal vital signs stabilize. But youre a PC gamer, pal, and if
theres one thing you have, its options.
The next few pages lay out a small sample of the deals you can
score in the wonderful world of digital distribution, and where
to nd them. These games will keep you clicking, shooting, platforming, looting, sneaking, leveling, perma-dying, and
low-Earth orbiting on the cheap for months to come. You
better get playing.

86 PC Gamer build your own gaming pc fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

GAMES FOR $30 OR LESS

The Walking
Dead

At least the
zombies wont
attempt to guilt
trip you.

When the dead attack the living,


there are no easy choices
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games

Surviving is one thing, but living with yourself is another


in Telltale Games The Walking Dead. Its survivors skirt
around the comic and television series, telling a new
story of the zombie apocalypse come to Georgia. A
smattering of adventure game puzzles and action segments bow to its adaptive narrativethis game is all
about making choices. Characters live and die by your
words and actions; who appears and what happens in
each episode depends on who you help and who you
forsake. Its up to you to decide whats most important,
but remember, a little girl is watching and learning
about how to live in the new world.

Payday 2
Pull off the perfect heist
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Overkill Software

Kerbal Space
Program

A good heist needs a bit of planning, plenty of communication, and a


touch of intimidation to end with duffel bags full of cash. A bad heist just
needs ample ammunition and body bags to clean up the mess. Robbing a
well-secured institution involves many moving partsnot just squirming
hostages. Keep in mind that Payday 2s extended scenarios track your performance over multi-mission arcs, rewarding your team for precision strikes
with less police interference, friendlier criminal cohorts, and more cash.

Build, y, and watch the ery


demise of custom rockets
Publisher: Squad
Developer: Squad

Ever looked at a space shuttle and thought, I could do better?


Well, its time to put your rocket science where your mouth
is, buddy, because Kerbal Space Program is all about putting
adorable little green dudes on the moon. Or at least in orbit.
Or at least somewhere above the... oh, nope, they just crashed
into a plume of re and broken dreams again. KSP is goofy and
challenging; chances are, youll fail dozens of times before nally
building a space-worthy rocket. But that doesnt mean you wont
feel like Neil Armstrong and Elon Musk rolled into one when your
Kerbal crew leaves its rst boot prints on an alien world.
www.pcgamer.com

fall 2013 build your own gaming pc PC GameR 87

GAMES FOR $20 OR LESS


Gaming on a Budget

Counter-Strike:
Global Offensive

An old dog learned some new tricks


Publisher: Valve
Developer: Valve

Amnesia:
The Dark Descent
Hide for your life and sanity

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive doesnt x what isnt broken.


The original CS helped propel competitive PC gaming to its
industry-dening state today, so a graphical overhaul, a few
equipment tweaks, and some new modes are more than
enough to modernize the lethal classic. Veterans of de_dust
and bomb-defusing neophytes alike can nd a lot to love in this
update. Classic modes like hostage rescue and bomb defusal
remain intact, but an ofcial Gun Game mode (called Arms
Race here) should be enough to get anybody on board. Dont let
the terrorists win. Unless you spawn as a terrorist.

Publisher: Frictional Games


Developr: Frictional Games

There are jump scares, and then there are dark, quiet horrors
that tie stomachs in knots and submerge their sufferers in
nauseating suspense. Amnesia: The Dark Descent generally
goes for the latter. Despite inspiring a renaissance of rstperson horror, Amnesias penchant for producing boundless
dread remains unmatched. Players must balance physical
health, mental fortitude, and all-important lantern oil as
they explore a dingy castle full of unsettling sights and
freakish monsters. Fighting its native horrors is out of the
question, so youd better keep an eye on the nearest closet or
dark corner to hide in... and hope youre alone in there.

Mark of
the Ninja

None who see your sweet


ninja moves may live to tell
the tale.

Stylish sidescrolling stealth


honed to a shurikens edge
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Klei Entertainment

When a guard sees his partner strung up from a chandelier just


in time for the lights to go out and 180 pounds of ninja to land
on his chest, you begin to wonder why stealth sucks so much
in every other game. Mark of the Ninja takes the simple act of
sneaking around in a 2D environment and builds, polishes, and
simplies until its more or less a lifestyle choice.
88 PC Gamer build your own gaming pc Fall 2013

You dont have to stay quiet in Mark of the Ninja if its gratuitous
combat beckons, but you seldom need to bloody your blade if
you prefer wearing the shadows. Whichever path you decide
to take, a generous checkpoint system and ample replayability
means each scenario can (and should) play out a dozen ways.
This is easily one of the best ninja games ever made.
www.pcgamer.com

Rogue Legacy
Each ancestors grave is just a
stepping stone to success

Build a better
dungeon-diving
future for your
offspring.

Publisher: Cellar Door Games


Developer: Cellar Door Games

In this brilliant fusion of lethal Castlevania-inspired


exploration and persistent RPG advancement, you can
get rich and die trying. Every hero that delves into Rogue
Legacys sidescrolling dungeons will nd a treacherous new layout to map and plunder. But death is just
an intermission: you can begin again as one of your
characters descendants, who benets from all the cash,
equipment, and abilities his or her forebears found and
purchased. Each descendant has a distinct class and genetic quirks like color blindness or gigantism, so getting
to know your new character is almost as fun as exploring
the ever-changing environment.

Metro 2033

Teleglitch

Post-apocalyptic Moscows horrors mostly dont


go in the subway

Build guns and set traps


in this top-down shooter
roguelike

Publisher: THQ / Deep Silver


Developer: 4A Games

Publisher: Paradox Interactive


Developer: T3P

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive


Developer: CD Projekt Red

You need to do a few things to


survive in the tunnels under Moscow:
scavenge everywhere and everything,
always keep a few gas mask lters on
hand, and try to save the good bullets
for special occasions. Metro 2033s
wrecked tunnels and brief, terrifying
surface interludes make a unique setting for a grim rst-person shooter.
Its story of tenuous survival in a
nuclear winter (which destroyed the
surface world and produced scads of
deadly mutants) is based on a Russian novel, but this aint no Tolstoy.

Teleglitch looks like Doom fan ction. Instead of a rst-person romp


through a moon base, its a tense
top-down shooter with scarce ammunition and plentiful enemies.
Fortunately, your lone survivor is
clever, and junk like tin cans and nails
can be crafted into deadly weapons.
Teleglitchs randomly generated environments are pixelated, but subtle
perspective shifts and distortion create a surreal sense of motion. Mind
your woeful line of sight and you just
might make it to the exit.

The Witcher series has a complex


story with many signicant characters and compounding player choices.
But main character Geralt of Rivia is
an amnesiac, anyway, so its not like
anybody can expect you to remember
them if you didnt play the rst
game. You, on the other hand, will
remember The Witcher 2s intricate
towns, deep plotlines, and intense,
ght-for-your-life battles. Youll also
remember how good it is to be a PC
gamer when you get all this for just
shy of $20.

www.pcgamer.com

The Witcher 2:

Enhanced Edition
Enter a dark and memorable fantasy world

FALL 2013 build your own gaming pc PC GAmeR 89

Gaming on a Budget

GAMES FOR $10 OR LESS

The Binding
of
Isaac
The most gruesome of roguelikes
Publisher: Edmund McMillen
Developer: Edmund McMillen

Who knew the story of a sad little boy eeing from his
licidal mother could be so entertaining? The Binding
of Isaac looks like a cartoonishly disturbing take on
The Legend of Zeldas dungeons, but it plays like a
top-down shoot-em-up through legions of disgusting
hellspawn. Power-ups scattered throughout randomly generated layouts turn Isaacs tears into powerful
weapons, and secrets beckon behind every wall. If
you manage to reach the end, a new dungeon full of
freshly unlocked secrets will be waiting next time.

When the going


gets tough, the
tough get kinda
creepy.

McPixel
Save the day in 20 seconds or
less
Publisher: Mikolaj Sos Kaminski
Genre: Mikolaj Sos Kaminski

Theres no time to get frustrated by adventure game logic


when each scenario explodes in twenty seconds. MacGyver
wannabe McPixel defuses his way through dozens of tiny
puzzles, each with only one solution that doesnt end in
everyones demise. Chunky sprites, crunchy tunes, and endless potty humor make this send-up of the early Infocom
and LucasArts adventuring days seem like a hot mess, but
McPixels boundless determination to defy expectations
makes it impossible to put down.

whERE tO Find diGitAL dEALS

Steam
PC gamers need Steam. Its home to more games,
players, and crazy-good seasonal discounts than
any other service, and it even hosts some compelling social features like game communities and
guides. Consider the other services auxiliaries.

90 PC Gamer build your own gaming pc Fall 2013

Origin
The only place to play current Electronic Arts
games on PC is Origin, so at least it hosts its own
social features and ties in with your EA account.
Nothing about Origin bests Steam, but its mostly
harmless.

Good Old Games


A DRM haters paradise of new and classic games.
Its seasonal savings are second only to Steam,
and its selection of classic games puts Valves
store to shame. GOG is a lightweight one-stop
retro shop.

www.pcgamer.com

Hotline
Miami
Hyperviolence at its best
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Dennaton Games

Get your invite to the Electric


Kool-Aid Murder Fest.

Hotline Miami is a 2D top-down shooter, but its more Drive


than Smash TV. Buildings laid out at like ashing, nauseating
oorplans become horric crime scenes as your character shoots,
stomps, and smashes his way through dozens of faceless goons
at the behest of a voice on his answering machine. Which is a lot
harder than it soundsthis game is tough as nails.

To the Moon
A bittersweet journey through a
dying mans memories
Publisher: Freebird Games
Genre: Freebird Games

Green Man Gaming


You can download and trade games through
Green Man Gamings native service, but its also
a frequent middleman for cheap Steam codes.
Some truly mind blowing deals come through
every now and then, so keep your eye on it.

www.pcgamer.com

Two doctors have


a single mission: to
fulll the last wish
of a dying man.
Before they can
grant his desireto
go to the moonthe
two must rewrite his
memories and work
backwards through
his life to nd out
why. To the Moon
looks like a SNES-era
RPG, but its awed,
funny characters and
understated music
will build a little
lighthouse in your
heart.

Hotline Miamis uninching violence is a puzzle as much as it is


a test of twitch reexes: can you shoot a guard to death then
take out his friend across the hall before he splatters your brains
across a pool table? Can you dodge bullets long enough to nd
and aim a fresh assault rie? Dont expect any easy resolution to
the stomach-turning tasks from its stark, ambiguous narrative.

FTL
Space roguelike with a penchant
for blowing up your ship
Publisher: Subset Games
Genre: Subset Games

Desura
An easy way to install and play dozens of lesserknown standalone titles and mods, Desuras a
godsend for PC indie gamers. Dont expect to nd
the latest cinematic shooter, but you are liable to
dig up something deliciously different.

This Kickstarted
space-roguelike
will satisfy all your
ship-to-ship combat
fantasies, but dont
get too attached
to your vessel. One
slip-up and its gone
for good, and youre
back to the beginning. Fortunately,
a randomly generated selection of
ships, galaxies, and
enemies to ght
means youll always
nd fresh obstacles
to best and spoils to
salvage.

Uplay
Ubisofts dedicated PC portal has less going for
it than Origin. Still, its an improvement from the
publishers old DRM policies. You can even use
points earned in console games to unlock bonuses
in PC games, and vice versa.

FALL 2013 build your own gaming pc PC GAmeR 91

Gaming on a Budget

FREE GAMES

PlanetSide 2

Find your niche on one


battleeld with hundreds of
players.

A massively multiplayer world thats


yours for the rst-person conquering
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment

Three factions. Three continents. Thousands of players. One


hotspot where you could make the difference. Its one button
press away in PlanetSide 2, where the battles are tremendous
and every single muzzle ash comes from some other players
rst-person perspective. Fortunately, this battleeld is
newbie friendly: instant action teleports you wherever youre
needed and enlists you in a platoon of squadmates. But its
a good thing taking over the world one hexagon at a time is
so fun, since improving gear and abilities takes a long time
without spending cash.

League of Legends

Team Fortress 2

The worlds biggest MOBA is an


unbelievable value at $0

Gib your friends in the best classbased shooter ever

Publisher: Riot Games


Developer: Riot Games

Publisher: Valve
Developer: Valve

If you try this game rst, theres a good chance youll never
install another game onto that rig you just built; youll be too
busy learning the interplay of more than a hundred heroes and
drinking in victory after hour-long struggles against ve of
your worst enemies. League of Legends may have cribbed its
notes from Defense of the Ancients, but its streamlined battleeld mechanics and rotating lineup of free champions made
it the biggest game in the world. Clear out a few afternoons to
learn its ways, and watch the rest of your free time disappear.

The denitive class-based multiplayer shooter is easily the


oldest game on this list, but you wouldnt know it from the
patch notes. Team Fortress 2 shows no signs of slowing down
after more than six years online, and it gets as deep as you
want it to be: a newbie soldier who doesnt know a rocket jump
from a spy check can still blow ag runners to smithereens, but
a devoted scout with equipment customized to perfection can
dance around his helmeted noggin for a dramatic comeback.
Oh, and there are bout a billion digital hats for you to collect.

92 PC Gamer build your own gaming pc Fall 2013

www.pcgamer.com

Blacklight:
Retribution

Tribes:
Ascend

Super Monday
Night Combat

Feast on some fast, futuristic rstperson shooting

Momentum and fancy guns are


your best friends

Claim the lanes in third-person


scrums

Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment


Developer: Zombie Studios

Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios


Developer: Hi-Rez Studios

Publisher: Turbine
Developer: MMORPG

Customize your futuristic gun from


stock to muzzle, load out your soldier
with top-of-the-line equipment, and
send him or her into fast, frantic rstperson battles against other players or
zombies in Blacklight: Retribution. That
fancy visor can see through walls, but it
cant stop a rampaging hardsuit.

The jet boosting, slope skiing classic


returns in a slick update. Capture the
ag is still the star of the show, but a
host of new classes boost the tempo
of every high-speed reght. Your PC
hasnt lived until its hosted a desperate
spinfusor duel across frosty peaks and
ski-friendly valleys.

Third-person tower defending isnt just


the sport of the future in Super Monday
Night Combat: its a deep, thrilling take
on MOBAs. More than a dozen customizable characters can compete online,
andeven if youve had it up to here
with lanes and creepsshooting mascots stuffed with cash never get old.

DOTA 2
MOBA greatness
requires discipline
Publisher: Valve
Developer: Valve

Valves take on multiplayer online battle arenas is a Scorsese thriller


to League of Legends
Bruckheimer blockbuster. Exacting mechanics
and truly distinct heroes
make LoLs learning
curve look like a bunny
slope. But once Dota 2s
complexity clicks, its a
sport of kings.
www.pcgamer.com

Path of
Exile
A world of random,
customizable loot
Publisher: Grinding
Gear Games
Developer: Grinding
Gear Games

Action RPGs are always


about the items, anyway,
so why dally with restrictive classes and structured progression? Path
of Exiles dark world is
full of randomized loot,
monsters, and other
players, and it boasts
one of the deepest
character advancement
systems ever devised.

Warframe
Time to raid
Publisher: Digital
Extremes
Developer: Digital
Extremes

Blades, swords, and


creepy robo-ninja suits
await in cooperative
action game Warframe.
Think of it like any other
sci- romp where you
raid hostile bases and
mow down legions of
enemies with special
abilities, but this time
you do it with a bunch of
your friends.

SWTOR
A galaxy full of
stories

Spiral
Knights
Top-down brawls in
dungeons

Publisher: Electronic Arts


Developer: BioWare

Publisher: Sega
Developer: Three Rings
Design

Star Wars: The Old


Republic could have
easily been Knights of
the Old Republic 3. And
4. And 5. Whether you
nd MMOs appealing or
not, dozens of elaborate
stories waiting to unfold
make it worth playing for
Star Wars fanatics and
dialogue wheel wizards
alike.

The Legend of Zelda:


Four Swords and Diablo
III had a baby, and they
named it Spiral Knights.
Team up with strangers
or pals for randomized
dungeon dives and score
sweet new gear and
weapon combos. Just
put aside a couple bucks
for extra energyyoure
going to need it.

FALL 2013 build your own gaming pc PC GAmeR 93

GeForce GTX 760 The GTX 760 is


the cheapest of Nvidias new 700
series line of cards, and even surpasses the more expensive 660 Ti.

Radeon HD 7970 ATIs agship


single-GPU card, the HD 7970 was
once the fastest of its kind on the
market. Then Titan happened.

Radeon HD 7990 AMDs agship


dual-GPU videocard goes toe-totoe with Nvidias GTX 690 at every
turn. This thing is disgustingly fast.

GeForce GTX 690


Radeon HD 7990
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780
GeForce GTX 770
GeForce GTX 680
Radeon HD 7970
GeForce GTX 670
GeForce GTX 580
GeForce GTX 760
GeForce GTX 660 Ti
Radeon HD 7950
GeForce GTX 680MX
Geforce GTX 570
Geforce GTX 480
Radeon HD 7870
GeForce GTX 680M
GeForce GTX 590
GeForce GTX 660
GeForce GTX 675MX
Radeon HD 7850
GeForce GTX 470
Radeon HD 6970
GeForce GTX 560 Ti
GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST
Radeon HD 6950
GeForce GTX 560
GeForce GTX 465
GeForce GTX 650 Ti
GeForce GTX 460
Radeon HD 5970
GeForce GTX 580M
Radeon HD 5870
GeForce GT 645
Radeon HD 6870
GeForce GTX 460 v2
GeForce GTX 675M
GeForce GTX 560 SE
Radeon HD 5850

GPUs

heres more to choosing a videocard and CPU than just picking the
latest and fastest model, but we all know that performance is still
what everyone really cares about. So weve weighted and rated
virtually every consumer videocard and processor currently on the
shelves in this chart, from the current kings to the court jesters. The
rankings here are based on benchmark results from the PerformanceTest
benchmarking software. Use this chart as an upgrading guidebegin by
looking up your current hardware on the chart, and if you find youre
falling too far down the thermometer, it may be time to heat things up.

70

80

90

100

110

120
Core i7-3960X
Core i7-3930K
Core i7-4770K
Core i7-4770
Core i7-3770K
Core i7-4770S
Core i7-3770
AMD FX-8350
Core i7-3770S
Core i7-3820
Core i7-2700K
Core i7-2600K
Core i7-3720QM
Core i7-2600
AMD FX-8320
AMD FX-8150
Core i7-3630QM
Core i7-3610QM
Core i5-4670K
Core i5-4670
Core i5-4570
Core i5-3570K
Core i7-3612QM
AMD FX-8120
Core i5-3470
AMD FX-6300
Core i5-3450
Core i5-2500K
Core i5-2500
Core i7-2670QM
Core i7-960
AMD Phenom II X6 1100T
Core i5-3330
Core i5-2400
Core i7-950
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T
Core i7-2630QM
Core i5-2320
Core i7-870
AMD FX-6100

CPUs

The hoTTesT hardware

Core i5-2500K The 2500K offers


considerable bang for the buck, but
its Sandy Bridge architecture of yesteryear means it doesnt quite keep
up with the similarbut marginally
pricier3570K above.

Core i5-3570K It may not reign


supreme on the benchmarking
charts, but Intels Core i5-3570K has
a price-to-performance ratio thats
nigh impossible to beat.

Core i7-4770K Intels new Haswell


architecture has landed at last, and
the i7-4770Kthe CPU in our
recommended buildis high
enough on the benchmark list to
last you a few years.

Core i7-3960X Are there faster


CPUs than the 3960X? Yepbut
those are typically designed for
servers or video encoding. Chances
are you arent willing to drop a
grand on a processor, but this
things mega fast if you felt so
inclined.

H ow g o o d
is
you r PC s
ga m i n g f u
?

www.pcgamer.com

Radeon HD 6770 Dont be fooled


by the model number change. This
is really an HD 5770 with a new
video block bolted on. Nice for
HTPC buffs

GeForce GTX 550 Ti Nvidias entry


level gaming card cant hit high end
performance levels, but is okay at
lower resolutions.

Radeon HD 7770 The Radeon HD


7770s price puts it into budget card
territory. Decent performance at
1080p, though.

GeForce GTX 560 Ti The GTX 560


Ti is the spiritual successor to the
original 8800 GT. Its affordable
and decently fast.

GeForce GTX 460 SE


Radeon HD 6850
GeForce GTX 480M
Radeon HD 7770
GeForce GTX 670MX
GeForce GTX 485M
Radeon HD 5830
Radeon HD 6700
Radeon HD 6900M
GeForce GTX 670M
GeForce GTX 570M
GeForce GTX 555
GeForce GTX 550 Ti
GeForce GTX 650
Radeon HD 5770
Radeon HD 6770
GeForce GTX 660M
Radeon HD 7750
GeForce GTX 560M
GeForce GTS 450
Radeon HD 7870M
Radeon HD 4890
Radeon HD 7850M
Radeon HD 5750
Radeon HD 4870
Radeon HD 6750
GeForce GT 640
GeForce GT 650M
GeForce GT 545
GeForce GTX 285
GeForce GTX 280
GeForce GTX 275

10

20

30

40

50

60
Core i7-930
Core i7-860
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T
Core i7-920
AMD Phenom II X6 1045T
Core i7-3520M
AMD Phenom II X4 965
Core i3-3220
Core2 Quad Q9550
AMD Phenom II X4 955
AMD FX-4100
Core i3-2120
Core i5-760
Core i5-3210M
Core i5-750
AMD Phenom II X4 945
Core i3-2100
Core i5-2520M
Core i5-2450M
Core 2 Quad Q9400
AMD Athlon II X4 640
Core i5-2430M
Core i7 Q 740
Core2 Quad Q9300
Core i5-2410M
AMD A10-4600M
Core i5-650
Core i5-3317U
Core i7 Q 720
Core 2 Quad Q8300
Core2 Quad Q6600
Core2 Quad Q8200

Core i3-2100
If you want to skimp on the CPU so
youve got more cash for a high-end
videocard, the Core i3-2100 isnt a
bad way to goespecially because
it ts the common LGA 1155 socket
type. In short, buy an inexpensive
CPU now, upgrade later once youve
got available funds.

Phenom II X4 965 On a tight


budget? AMDs quad-core chips will
give your PC a decent computing
foundation without decimating
your bank account.

Phenom II X6 1100T AMDs X6


series of chips offers a great price
break to Intels painfully expensive
hexa-cores. In pure CPU performance, the X6 will get badly
beaten by Intels hexa-cores and,
frankly, can even get beaten up by
Intels quad cores in many tests.

The Tech SupporT cheaT SheeT


PC Gamers clip-out guide to...your PC

Its bad enough when a part goes kaput two days after your
rst boot-up. But its even worse when tech support asks for a

cPu

Model/type:

serial numberthats inside your case.


Lets avoid that. As you unbox each item,
record on this page its identifying information as well as the technical support
number from the documentation. Then,
cut this sheet out and keep it in an easily

date purchased:
m

serial nuMber:

purchased FroM:

videocard

date purchased:

Model/type:

Model/type:

serial nuMber:

purchased FroM:

raM

date purchased:

Model/type:

Model/type:

Model/type:

serial nuMber:

purchased FroM:

hard drive

date purchased:

Model/type:

did you buy this new?


y

Model/type:

did you buy this new?


y

serial nuMber:
Model/type:

did you buy this new?


y

did you buy this new?


y

serial nuMber:

purchased FroM:

Monitor

date purchased:

Model/type:

serial nuMber:

96 Pc GaMer BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING Pc fall 2013

purchased FroM:

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:


did you buy this new?
y

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:


did you buy this new?
y

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:

date purchased:
m

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:

purchased FroM:

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:

date purchased:
m

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:

purchased FroM:

serial nuMber:

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:

date purchased:
m

case

did you buy this new?


y

purchased FroM:

serial nuMber:

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:

date purchased:
m

oPtical drive

purchased FroM:

serial nuMber:

soundcard

date purchased:
m

Power suPPly

did you buy this new?


y

purchased FroM:

serial nuMber:
MotherBoard

accessible place, like a ling cabinet.


Should anything go awry, just consult
your cheat sheet for help. But remember
to keep your boxes, packing material and
receipts for at least the length of each
components warranty.

did you buy this new?


y

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:


did you buy this new?
y

Y / N

tech support phone nuMber:

www.pcgamer.com