Beginner's Guide to PC Gaming

A Quick Look at the Components That Make Up a Gaming PC

EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti Superclocked 2GB
EVGA

If you're looking to start out gaming casually on the PC, there are a variety of computer components that make up a quintessential gaming "rig." The more one knows about the inner workings of a computer, the easier it is to make informed decisions about what parts are worth upgrading.

Here are the components that make up a gaming computer.

CPU

A CPU stands for "central processing unit." What it does is process instructions from applications.

The processor gathers information from a program and then decodes and executes the commands. Nowadays, processors come in dual core, quad core, hexa core  and quad core models (2, 4, 6 and 8 cores respectively). If you're looking for a high performance system, a quad core or hexa core processor works well in multi-threaded applications. Speeds vary depending on model and voltage, but typically you want a processor running at a minimum  2.0GHz-- and 3 gig and 4 gig  processors are even better -- to avoid a bottleneck in speed.

For more information, check out the guides specific to best gaming laptop processors and top gaming desktop processors to buy.

Motherboards

Another important component is a computer's motherboard. After all, the CPU, memory, and video card(s) all sit in the motherboard, also referred to as a mainboard. If you are building your own gaming PC, you'll want to look for a motherboard that has ample slots for the amount of memory you wish to use.

Also, if you plan on installing two or more graphics cards, be sure your motherboard supports SLI or CrossFireX (NVIDIA and AMD terms for multi-graphics card configurations).

More information on motherboards can be found here.

Memory

This component is often referred to as RAM (which stands for Random Access Memory).

What computer memory does is provide space for data that can be accessed by the CPU. Modern computers typically need a minimum of 4GB of memory, although high end computers can support up to 48GB. The more memory you have the better. One aspect you'll want to consider when upgrading the memory in your computer is speed. But before you run out to purchase 1866MHz DDR3 RAM, be sure your motherboard supports higher speeds.

For more information, check out the guides on laptop memory and desktop memory.

Graphics Card

A vital component to a gaming PC is the graphics card. This is the meat and potatoes of the visual experience when you run games. There is a huge selection of graphics cards on the market today from budget models that run around $50 all the way up to extreme multi-GPU solutions that can easily cost $600 or more. If you're just starting out playing games on your PC, look for a graphics card that has at least GDDR3 video RAM (GDDR5 is even better) and supports DirectX 11. Most, if not all, video cards offer these features.

For more information, check out the guides to laptop video and desktop video cards.

Hard Drive

When you read PC reviews, you might hear the term SSD or RPM. What do these terms stand for, you ask?

SSD stands for solid state drive. This type of drive has no moving parts so it's great for laptops as these portable systems are often moved around while the drive is spinning, which can lead to file corruption and loss of data if you have a hard drive without shock absorption. SSDs also work well in desktop computers because they offer faster boot times and greater file transfer speeds.

RPM stands for rotations per minute. This figure represents how many revolutions the platter can spin in 60 seconds. The faster the RPMs, the better: 7200 RPM drives are common. On the other hand, SSD's retrieve and present data faster yet.

While SSD's are still expensive, one of them could be a good investment that will gig your rig current and state-of-the-art a little longer. 

For more information on hard drives, check out the guide to laptop drives and desktop drives.

Conclusions

Remember, your first gaming PC doesn't have to cost a fortune. Technology has improved so much that even gaming systems with the new integrated graphics on Sandy Bridge and AMD APU chips can run World of Warcraft. But if you want to play games, such as Call of Duty and Crysis 2, you'll want a dedicated graphics card so you aren't left with slow performance and subpar frame rates. A graphics card will also help you run games with higher graphics settings and/or improve frame rates at lower settings.