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JoostinOnline

How to build a gaming PC for $400US or less

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Posted (edited) · Original PosterOP

Because I've had to type the instructions so many times, I thought it was best I just made a detailed guide that I can link to (and update) any time. This guide is specifically for the US, but the basic instructions can still be applied to other countries.  You'll be able to build a decent 1080p machine with these instructions.  It includes Windows, but not peripherals.  You will probably have some money left over after this though, so long as you take your time buying.

 

Step 1: Used Parts

The majority of your parts will be used, specifically the ones that are safest to buy without a warranty.  Your budget is up to $290 with tax and shipping.

  1. Get an Optiplex with an i5-3470 and 8GB of RAM.  Make sure it has Windows 7 or later installed, but don't worry about the hard drive size.  It MUST be an MT model.  They are regular width.  The thin/SFF models will not accommodate a graphics card or a new power supply.  It should cost you at most $150.  I've seen them for $110.  If nothing is available, check back every day until you can find a decent deal.  Take advantage of the "Or Best Offer" option if it's available.  Don't make ridiculous offers though, those just angers sellers.  Try for about $10 below asking price.
  2. You need a graphics card.  Subtract whatever you spent on the Optiplex from $290.  That's your budget.  This step will require some scavenging, and it's the only one that you probably can't use stores for.  Use Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, letgo, and OfferUp (the latter two are apps) to check the used market.  At the time of writing this, graphics card prices are inflated, so you'll have to do some haggling.  I suggest looking for a GTX 780, GTX 960, or RX 470/570.  If possible, ask the user to put it in their computer to show it works.

Step 2: New Parts

There are two parts you don't want to buy used: the hard drive and the power supply.  While anything can fail, these two are less reliable.  Your budget is up to $110 with tax and shipping.

  1. The reason I said not to worry about hard drive size is because you'll be getting a brand new one for your programs and files.  You want one that is 1TB, and at budget of $47.  The one I recommend is the WD Blue 1TB 7200RPM drive.  You'll get different recommendations depending on who you ask, but it's the only brand to never fail me, and it usually falls in budget.  Spend up to $3 on a SATA cable that is 18 inches or longer (try eBay).  Don't worry about whether it's SATA 3 or not.
  2. You don't want to get a garbage power supply.  If it fails, i can take your whole system out with it.  As far as wattage, any quality power supply will be 450W or higher, and that's more than enough.  You need a stable one though.  Thankfully, @STRMfrmXMN keeps a great list up to date of PSU models, and their quality.  Get anything on there that is Tier 3 or higher and under $60.  Use PCPP to search quickly.  Keep in mind that those prices sometimes include mail in rebates, so you may want to uncheck the box on the top left to see what you'll be paying for it up front.

Step 3: Setup

Before you start jamming parts in, there are a few things you need to do first.

  1. Power up the machine without anything installed.  If it's on Windows 7/8, you can still manually update to Windows 10 using the Media Creation Tool.  Download it as an ISO, extract the contents of the ISO with Winrar or 7-Zip, and run setup.exe.  Not everyone likes Windows 10, but it's important so you don't risk losing your product key.  When it's updated to Windows 10, sign into or create a Microsoft account (DO NOT try to use a local account).  This will register your product key to your account, so hardware changes won't require a new product key.
  2. Once you're up to date, power down the machine and unplug it.  You'll need a Philips screwdriver and (preferably) an anti-static wrist strap.  The wrist strap is only vital if you live in a staticy environment, but at the very least you should ground yourself regularly. A single shock can ruin a component. Unplug all the PSU cables from the motherboard and other components.  Take the whole power supply out and put the new one in.  Plug everything back in with the new PSU.
  3. Add the new hard drive and graphics card.  Remember to connect the proper power cables to both, and use the SATA cable you bought to connect the HDD to the motherboard.  The case doesn't have a window, so as long as none of the cables interfere with fans, you don't have to worry about cable management.
  4. Power the system on, initialize the new hard drive as MBR in Disk Management (right click on the Start Menu to load it) and format it as NTFS.  That's what you'll install everything onto from now on.  Download the appropriate drivers for your new graphics card.  Windows should stay activated despite any hardware changes.

 

That's it, you're ready to game!  Bargain hunting takes a little longer than buying everything new, but you'll save several hundred dollars.

Edited by JoostinOnline
Updated prices

Make sure to quote or tag me (@JoostinOnline) or I won't see your response!

PSU Tier List  |  The Real Reason Delidding Improves Temperatures

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The best way to make a PC on the cheap is to save up more than you need, wait for good deals on completes, and sell off the stuff you don't need.

At least that's how I put together my entire set up for around $250 - $300. Including several horrible happenings.


Current PC:

Spoiler

*WORK IN PROGRESS*

 

Mothballed PC:

Spoiler

 

CPU: Intel i5 4690k Cooler: Corsair H100i V2 Motherboard: MSI Z97i AC ITX

RAM: Crucial Ballistix 16GB DDR3 Storage: Kingston Fury 240GB GPU: Asus Strix GTX 970

PSU: Thermaltake TR2 Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX

Monitor: Dell P2214H x2 Mouse: Logitech MX Master Keyboard: G.Skill KM780 Cherry MX Red

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
5 minutes ago, dizmo said:

The best way to make a PC on the cheap is to save up more than you need, wait for good deals on completes, and sell off the stuff you don't need.

At least that's how I put together my entire set up for around $250 - $300. Including several horrible happenings.

I'm guessing that took you more than a week or two though. ;)

 

This was a guide on how to build one now.  Your way is definitely better financially speaking, but it's a slower process, and requires you to save up longer.


Make sure to quote or tag me (@JoostinOnline) or I won't see your response!

PSU Tier List  |  The Real Reason Delidding Improves Temperatures

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3 hours ago, JoostinOnline said:

I'm guessing that took you more than a week or two though. ;)

 

This was a guide on how to build one now.  Your way is definitely better financially speaking, but it's a slower process, and requires you to save up longer.

Good things come to those who wait ;)
Especially considering mine was for the entire set up; $250 speakers, desk, monitor, 7600k i5, 16GB DDR4, GTX 980, etc.

I'll have a build blog as a self send off. It only took me 2 months, but that was because there were many headaches along the way (more than I've had for every other budget build I've done >:().


Current PC:

Spoiler

*WORK IN PROGRESS*

 

Mothballed PC:

Spoiler

 

CPU: Intel i5 4690k Cooler: Corsair H100i V2 Motherboard: MSI Z97i AC ITX

RAM: Crucial Ballistix 16GB DDR3 Storage: Kingston Fury 240GB GPU: Asus Strix GTX 970

PSU: Thermaltake TR2 Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX

Monitor: Dell P2214H x2 Mouse: Logitech MX Master Keyboard: G.Skill KM780 Cherry MX Red

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
22 minutes ago, tj_420 said:

Great guide! Very well done.

 

*Applauds*

Thank you very much. :)

 

By the way, I just added a note about an RX 460 being an AMD option for a graphics card.


Make sure to quote or tag me (@JoostinOnline) or I won't see your response!

PSU Tier List  |  The Real Reason Delidding Improves Temperatures

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On 5/7/2018 at 7:18 AM, JoostinOnline said:

Thank you very much. :)

 

By the way, I just added a note about an RX 460 being an AMD option for a graphics card.

Might want to consider adding the GTX 980 as a suggestion seeing as the cheaper ones are starting at around $50


DIOCLETIAN IV : CPU: Ryzen 7 2700X || CPU COOLER : AMD Wraith Prism || MOBO : ASUS Prime X470-Pro || GPU: ASUS GTX 1080 Ti Strix OC || RAM: 4x8GB Corsair Vengeance (3200) || SSDs: Samsung 970 Evo 250GB, Samsung 850 Evo 1TB x2, Crucial MX500 1TB || PSU: EVGA G2 850W w/ Cablemod Black & White Cables || CASE: NZXT H510 White || Monitor: Acer Predator X34A, HP 27yh || KEYBOARD: Razer Blackwidow Chroma TE V2 || Mouse: Logitech G502 Hero || Audio: Steelseries Arctis 5, Logitech C920 || Case Fans : 2x Corsair ML140, 2x Cooler Master MasterFan Pro 120 ||

DIOCLETIAN III (HTPC) : CPU: Ryzen 5 1600 @3.8GhZ || CPU COOLER : Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black Edition || MOBO : MSi X370 Gaming Pro Carbon || GPU: ASUS GTX 1080 Strix OC || RAM: 2x8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws V (3200) || SSDs: Crucial P1 500GB, Crucial MX500 1TB || HDD: Seagate Barracuda 2TB || PSU: Seasonic 650W w/ Black & Red Extensions || CASE: Phanteks P300 || Monitor: Samsung Q60 65" QLED || KEYBOARD: Logitech G613 || Mouse: Logitech 305 || Audio: Samsung Q60R Soundbar || Case Fans : 2x Cooler Master Masterfan Pro 120, 1x Noctua NF-F12 iPPC-2000 ||

JUSTINIAN - Dell XPS 15": CPU: Core i7-9750H || GPU: GTX 1650 || RAM: 2*8GB 2666MhZ DDR4 SODIMM || SSD: 1TB M.2 PCIe || CASE: 15.6" Laptop with dBrand skin || Monitor: 15" 1920 * 1080 IPS || KEYBOARD: Dell Keyboard || Mouse: Logitech G305 White || Audio: Skullcandy Earbuds

OTHER : Dell Latitude (i7-6600U, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD) || MacBook Pro Mid 2013 || Various half-assembled towers ||

MOBILE : Galaxy S7 (32GB + 64GB uSD, main phone) || Honor 7X (Europe) || iPad Air 2 || Rooted Kindle FIre 7" ||

SMART HOME : Google Home x2, Google Home Mini x1, RGB GE Lightbulb x1 || FORTHCOMING SMART HOME : 10x White-Only GE Smart Lightbulb, Nest E Smart Thermostat,

ONGOING : PowerMac G5 workstation || 

DESK : 2x IKEA Gerton tabletop, 7x Olav table leg, 1x Alex drawer, 4x Capita leg

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
2 hours ago, OrbitalBuzzsaw said:

Might want to consider adding the GTX 980 as a suggestion seeing as the cheaper ones are starting at around $50

I will update the prices when I get back from vacation, but that's a suspiciously low price.


Make sure to quote or tag me (@JoostinOnline) or I won't see your response!

PSU Tier List  |  The Real Reason Delidding Improves Temperatures

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