That 5am wake-up. “Get Up. Get Up! He was here – Santa came to our house!!!” It’s one of the most magical and exciting moments for parents who celebrate the tradition of Christmas gift unwrapping.
Today, I’m going to show you a step-by-step approach to giving the gift that is a blast for both parent and child. Building a gaming PC. It’s something I did years ago and my son and daughter still talk about today.
Before you say “No Way, I could never do that!” understand that building a PC is very easy. You just need patience and a bit of guidance. A lot of reddit helps too.
The Ultimate Gift of Time and Money
A lot of us go big at Christmas. You save all year to splurge on that magical day. Building a PC is something I learned how to do in high school and really came in handy over the years. One of the top holiday presents for your child, tween, or teen is a desktop, laptop or gaming console.
Following the PC building steps creates a memorable day, is a ton of fun, and something many don’t realize: can be overall much less expensive!
On top of that, a real sense of accomplishment comes with a completed PC build. You also won’t be challenged every year about what to buy them, because there is always an upgrade available.
Christmas obviously isn’t about the gifts or spoiling your children, it’s about the time you spend with family.
But let’s be honest, it’s also about giving and getting gifts – and the PC building process will give you a series of about a dozen or more presents to unwrap. Most importantly, it will give you guys the rest of the day together – teaming up to put it all together. Added bonus, they will probably never ever buy a pre-built PC again.
Still following? Then let’s go! You will be fragging in no-time!
Don’t worry, you can do this
The prospect of building a PC from scratch is a daunting one for many.
On the surface, it sounds like only something a “techie” can do, but both the buying and building experience is actually quite simple. Reddit has a community dedicated to it, and when I built one for my kids years ago, I went there first. The shared, crowd-sourced knowledge from the system-building community is absolute gold.
How to figure out what PC you want to build:
It’s the most important, and probably the most challenging, step.
With literally hundreds of components to choose from and dozens of great PC part vendors, the buying process can be both fun and confusing. Don’t fret, PC Part Picker has been the go-to resource for years for the PC building community.
So where to start? Well, for most, just copying a great system build is likely the easiest way to choose your components. Why reinvent the wheel, when you can read the feedback of successful PC builds? Since w love you, we won’t make you search for them. Check them out here and read the comments!
Now, a huge DISCLAIMER: GPUs (graphics processing units – which are also the priciest parts of a build) are in a worldwide shortage. It’s very difficult to find one right now, so call around to your local computer parts stores and make sure you can get either the one you want, or something that is decent and compatible. If you really want to make life easy, the /r/PCBuildHelp community has laid out some pre-builds here.
Another important thing to budget for: future-proofing your PC. Build by using the latest technology you can afford. Whether it’s to be able to game at full FPS, or being VR-ready, don’t skimp on the motherboard’s future upgrade-ability. That doesn’t mean splurging for the most expensive components, but ones that can accommodate new components as necessary. Below are some great pre-built selections from reddit that will cover these needs.
The pricing tiers
And remember, these PCs won’t just be great for gaming, but video editing, creative applications and more. For the power you’ll get, the value is outstanding.
*Note, due to the GPU shortage, the ‘live’ pricing on the graphics units in these lists may be currently elevated, but hawk-eyed consumers can usually stay in touch with suppliers and act fast when new shipments come in.
On a Budget – during normal stock, this can be under $700
This build is a great foundation for some solid gaming performance on a budget of around $700 before choosing a case. Need more juice? Just upgrade it later.
A Solid 1080p AMD Gaming System (1660 Super):
Budget+ – under $800 in regular season
A Solid 1080p Intel Gaming System (1660 Super)
A solid build can be seen here, if you are spending over $1000. The 2080 Super Upgrade – please note at this time some components are just impossible to find.
List of parts you want to purchase before building your PC:
You want a bunch of little presents under the tree for the family to unwrap? Well, this answers that. Before purchasing ANYTHING though, keep reading below this list.
You are going to want to get the best price on your build, and PC Part Picker and your own research will help with that.
I have been using NewEgg to source my parts for years and it has always gone superbly well. That being said, at PC Parts Picker they will compare prices found online at various online retailers. Pro-tip: familiarize yourself with what each piece does, and it will make a great conversation as you install it with your child.
- Case (Go big on your case and get those LED lights if you can, you want it to look good with lots of airflow)
- GPU (Video Card) (Note: they may be hard to get in 2021, but build your PC for when they arrive)
- Storage (Choice between mechanical Hard Disk or SSD). Go with the much faster SSD, you want extra boot time and low heat.
- Power Supply – Don’t skimp, future-proof your power needs.
- Computer Monitor
- Keyboard Mouse
- Optical Drive isn’t 100% necessary (DVD/CD ROM) but get a good external backup drive
- Network Interface Card
- WiFi Card Desktop Case
- Extra PC Case Fans (optional)
- CPU paste – The right thermal paste will improve performance.
- Operating System (recommend Microsoft Windows). If you build a good system it will work with the new Windows 11
- Phillips head screwdriver and other accessories
- Anti-Static Wrist Strap
Take 30 minutes to watch a proper PC build before tackling your own
After you have decided on your budget, had the good folks at reddit give you some advice, or stole one of their own PC builds, you should be brimming with that confident “I can do this” feeling.
To really amp up that feeling, I highly recommend watching a video of someone actually building a PC.
Do this before building your new gaming rig and watch it while you are building it too. Have your kids watch it with you on Christmas morning and pause it at the appropriate moments in the video when each component is ready for installation.
There are many great videos on understanding and building a PC but some of the legacy videos put out by Gigabyte are quite helpful. I recommend watching them. Here are the 3 categories you will want to know about. Pick, Assemble and Install: Video Guide
The relatives and friends of your kids can chip in too
Now, one of the HUGE bonuses of building a PC is the sheer amount of gifts under the tree. Everything from CPU paste as a stocking stuffer to that huge LED-lit case. This is a great opportunity to have relatives buy accessories. A mouse and mousepad, an LCD monitor, a pair of gaming headphones or a STEAM gift card to get in on the winter sale which will start December 22nd until sometime in January. Don’t forget to license a copy of Windows from Microsoft. You will need it.
Take your time and do it right
Building a PC is simple. It’s important that you take your time with it though – every piece that you put inside your case matters, so handle them with care. Explain to your kids what each component does. This is more than a gift, it’s a life long learning experience.
Once your children do this once, they will never turn back, they will never want to buy a pre-built PC again. Doing it this way not only saves money but it gives a sense of accomplishment for the entire family throughout the entire process.
From researching, pricing and buying your parts, to unwrapping each one and starting to build your new addition to the family, you will enjoy the holiday in a new way.
Take it from me: this will likely be one of the greatest experiences you have with your kids. Stay calm, don’t get frustrated, and if you are at all lost, head on over to reddit and ask away. You’ll likely find the answer in a previous thread or have a bunch of helpful folks give it to you within minutes. Yes you can build a gaming PC this Christmas.
Good Luck and have a Very Merry Christmas you PC builder you.