During the actual build, though, I loved all the extra room. I never felt cramped, and I had plenty of space for bundling my cables just as I wanted. I also have lots of room to grow.
Bonus tip: If at all possible, consider springing for a slightly pricier PC case (and by pricier, I mean $60-ish instead of $40-ish) with beginner-friendly features like “tool-less” drive bays.
3. No, you don’t need an optical drive
One of the first questions you’ll be asked at ChooseMyPC.net is whether you want an optical drive to be part of your build. My initial answer: Well, yes! After all, how would I install Windows without a Windows DVD?
Of course—and as I should have known, giving that I can’t remember the last time I touched a PC DVD drive—it’s easy to install Windows on a PC without an optical drive.
Plenty of online guides are available, but here’s the short version: Just use Microsoft’s free ”media creation” tool to install a copy of Windows onto a (3GB or larger) USB memory stick. The first time you boot your new PC (and yes, you’ll get there), you’ll land on the BIOS screen. From there, navigate to your system boot options, then set your PC to boot from the USB stick. Once you boot from the USB drive, the Windows installation wizard will take care of the rest.
Beyond Windows, practically any program or game you’d ever want to install is available for download, no DVD required.
But what if you find yourself in the (unlikely) situation where you absolutely, positively need an optical drive? If that happens, you can always go back, crack open your custom PC and install one, or just grab an external USB optical drive (for all of $15 or so).
4. The motherboard manual is your best friend
One of the most daunting things about building my own PC was the fact that there wasn’t a single, IKEA-like manual that covered the whole process. Mind you, there are plenty of generic walkthroughs for building a PC (including PCWorld's good one), but nothing telling me how to assemble my own specific components. Instead, there was a manual for each individual component, and many of the directions were sketchy at best.
Don’t be afraid of the motherboard manual. It looks complicated, but it’s an invaluable guide for first-time PC builders.
My reaction was to blunder into the build practically blind, installing the drives first because that seemed like the easiest thing to do. (Note: While the experts will tell you to install the motherboard first, getting those drives installed was not only easy, but also a big confidence-booster.) Then I seated the CPU in the motherboard (with a sickening crunch as I pushed down on the delicate lever).
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