How long does it take to build a PC together depends greatly on your level of experience and the complexity of the build. On average, it should take an experienced PC builder less than an hour to put together a rig.
If this is your first time, though, then you may need to plan for as much as 3 – 6 hours. It can take even longer if you run into any troubles or make mistakes.
Typical PC Building Times by Activity
Here’s a quick timeline of how long you can expect the process to take, broken down into each of the (typical) steps. Your actual situation/timeline may look a bit different depending on your:
- Level of customization
- Type of cooling system you choose
- Method of cable management you plan to implement
Getting Ready With Prep Time
If you get a case with some of the components like fans, pre-installed, that shaves off some of your build time. On the other end of the spectrum, if you go for something hard like a mini case with plenty of cable management then it’s inevitably going to run long.
Prep time can help, as you spend some time unpacking and ordering everything. Reading the manuals and going through build guides can also take long but saves you a lot of time later on. You should plan for an hour or two for prep time if it’s your first build. Make sure you’re acquainted with all the steps ahead of you–getting paste off a CPU is no joke.
Fitting Everything Together
You’ll typically start off with the motherboard and install the CPU, CPU cooler, RAM, and drives on it before attaching it to your PC case. Save yourself some time by pre-routing your cables before you place your motherboard in the case (trust me). Then comes installing the power supply and the GPU and making sure everything is plugged in properly.
I like installing the fans and other cooling components before installing the GPU because it tends to be bulky to work around. Whatever way you end up doing things, this part is going to take at least an hour if you’re new to the process.
Cooling–water Takes Time
Installing case fans, CPU fans, and all-in-one closed-loop liquid CPU coolers (AIOs) isn’t too complicated. You can expect that to take around 30 minutes. Water cooling, on the other hand, can increase the build time quite a bit.
That’s because water cooling is usually custom, has a lot of working parts, and requires a lot of testing. You don’t want any water accidentally spilling onto your new components! Expect to take anywhere upwards of 2 hours for water cooling.
Slogging Through Cable Management
You either really hate it or cable management is the best part of PC building for you. Either way, it’s probably going to take an absurdly long time if you do it properly. Plan for at least an hour to sort out your various cables, run them through the PC case, and fasten them. You might also want to take this time to double-check that everything is connected securely to your motherboard and power supply.
Everyone has their own personal preference when it comes to cable management. Some prefer to put in a lot of extra time to make sure it looks perfect, with cable ties and velcro strips. Others just make sure the cables are secured and out of the way and call it a day. Still, set aside at least 40 minutes for this even if you stick to basic stuff.
Installing OS and Drivers
The great test comes after getting everything installed and setting up your monitor and other peripherals, which should take all of 5 minutes. If your PC hasn’t coughed up its first death throws, you should see the BIOS appear.
Around 15+ years ago, installing the Windows OS took so long you could have a movie marathon with friends while you wait. Now, getting Windows set up takes all of 15 minutes. You can set aside about another hour max for installing all the necessary drivers for your various components.
Troubleshooting and Missing Components Extend Build Time
With the extreme variety of both PC cases and components out there, everything just isn’t made to fit perfectly together. You should have already thought about this a bit when ordering your stuff, but there’s still a chance that something doesn’t fit right on build day. I’ve seen people find creative ways of mounting their components to get them to fit.
Then there’s always the chance that something just doesn’t fit and you have to reorder other parts. Forgetting something that you then have to order afterward is also very common. This can extend the build time by as long as delivery takes.
Troubleshooting is an entirely different matter on top of that. Where certain things should slot in isn’t always clear, you’re missing a tool, or something small but non-obvious is wrong and you don’t know what it is. However you end up solving the problem, it can take a lot of time just figuring it out, as much as all day or worst-case even longer.
Finally, Time for Testing
Turning your PC on for the first can be nerve-wracking, but the true test comes when you make sure everything is working as it should. If something is terribly wrong, your PC will probably let you know pretty quickly. However, you should ideally still test your CPU, GPU, and RAM to make sure they’re working fine. This step isn’t strictly necessary though.
There are plenty of handy tools out there that can help you stress test your components. I prefer using Prime95 for the CPU, MemTest86 for RAM, and FurMark or MSI Afterburner for the GPU. Make sure you understand how these tools work before starting and keep an eye on your temperatures. Depending on how thorough you are, this step can take up to half a day.
Let’s be honest here, a PC build is never truly finished. You’ll probably be upgrading something in a year or two. You might even decide to just redo the whole thing in six months because you don’t like the cable management. It’s part of the fun though!