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PRESENTS

Hardware Components 06
Regardless if you’ll be gaming or web browsing, a great
PC needs great parts. We’ve done all the heavy lifting
for you providing plenty of recommendations that will
suit a variety of tastes and budgets
How to Build the Perfect PC 42
Use our step-by-step illustrative guide to avoid
fumbling through the building process
Install Windows 8 Like a Pro 60
A complete, easy-to-follow guide for properly confg-
uring a fresh Windows 8 install
How to Set Up a New PC the Right Way 66
A detailed list of proper optimization techniques and
must-own apps for all PC gamers
Fix It 74
Having problems with your network? Does your
videocard have a case of the Mondays? Check out this
reference guide for how to solve the most common PC
user woes
Gaming on a Budget 86
Building a new PC is pretty expensive—luckily these
incredible games are not
Hottest Hardware 94
Every consumer CPU and videocard ranked in PC
Gamer’s exclusive lustworthiness chart
The Tech Support Cheat Sheet 96
Use this convenient tear-out sheet to keep your
hardware’s vital info at hand in case you ever need to
contact tech support or replace defective hardware

06
60
INSTALL
WINDOWS 8
LIKE A PRO
BUILD YOUR OWN
GAMING PC
FALL 2013
HARDWARE
COMPONENTS
www.pcgamer.com
2 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013

GAMING ON
A BUDGET
FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 3
www.pcgamer.com

4 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013
T
he most exciting thing about building
your very own PC is that you’re in
complete control of everything that
goes into it. From general use budget parts to
a high-end gaming components and
everything in between, there are limitless
customization options—the hard part is
figuring out where to begin.
Start by answering one very important
question: What do you intend to use your PC
for? If your answer is web browsing and light
gaming, we’ve specced out an inexpensive
build that’s sure to suit your needs. If you’re
wanting a powerful gaming setup, that sexy
PC on the front cover of this very copy offers
powerful performance at a decent price. Or, if
money’s no issue, we’ve even picked out parts
for a high-end rig that’ll laugh in the face of
any game on maxed settings.
But regardless of your intended usage, this
issue is all about the building experience, and
how to properly take care of your fancy new
machine once it’s put together.
In the opening pages, you’ll find a detailed
explanation of every component that makes a
PC tick, with expert advice on what to look
for when shopping around for each. Of
course, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you
and specced out no less than four different
builds designed to cater to a variety of tastes.
Then, we’ll help you put the whole thing
together with our illustrative step-by-step
build-it guide, as building a PC can be a
daunting experience for newcomers. But what
if something messes up along the way? Don’t
panic—dead-on-arrival components are a
very real possibility, but we’ve also included a
whole how-to guide for fixing the PC’s most
commonly recurring problems. Finally, we’ve
also put together a list of incredible games
you can pick up for an equally incredible price
so you can put that new PC to work.
So grab that screwdriver and get ready to
find out why building your own PC is the
most rewarding experience an enthusiast can
have. We’ve got your back.
BUILD YOUR OWN
GAMING PC
FALL 2013
EDITORIAL
Editorial Director Logan Decker
Editor-In-Chief Ryan Taljonick
Contributors Alexandra Hall, Connor Sheridan,
Katherine Stevenson, Gordon Ung, Josh Norem, Jimmy
Thang, Alex Castle, Tom McNamara, Marco Chiappetta,
David Murphy, Nathan Edwards
ART
Art Director Boni Uzilevsky
Photographer Mark Madeo
BUSINESS
Vice President, Content and Brand
KellyCorten, kcorten@futureus.com
Publisher
Ace St. Germain, astgermain@futureus.com
Vice President, Sales & Business Development
Nate Hunt, nhunt@futureus.com
National Director of Sales
Isaac Ugay, iugay@futureus.com
Regional Sales Managers
Brandon Wong, brandonwong@futureus.com
Stacy Gaines, sgaines@futureus.com
Jen Doerger, jdoerger@futureus.com,
Tad Perez, tperez@futureus.com
Advertising Coordinator
Heidi Hapin, hhapin@futureus.com
MARKETING
VP, Marketing & Sales Development
Rhoda Bueno
eCommerce & Fulfillment Director Lisa Radler
Newsstand Director Bill Shewey
PRODUCTION
Production Director Michael Hollister
Production Manager Larry Briseno
Production/Print Order Coordinator Jose Urrutia
FUTURE US, INC.
4000 Shoreline Court, Suite 400
South San Francisco, CA 94080, (650) 872-1642
www.futureus.com
President Rachelle Considine
Vice President, Finance & Business Management
Lulu Kong
Vice President / General Manager, Digital
Charlie Speight
General Counsel Anne Ortel
SUBSCRIPTIONS
To Subscribe: www.pcgamer.com/subscribe
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1-800-865-7240
This Special is available only on newsstands.
Future US, Inc. is part of Future plc.
Future plc produces carefully targeted
magazines, websites and events for people
with a passion. We publish more than 180
magazines, websites and events and we
export or license our publications to 90 countries around
the world. Future plc is a public company quoted on the
London Stock Exchange (symbol: FUTR).
Future Plc
30 Monmouth St., Bath, Avon,
Ba1 2bw, England
www.futureplc.com
Tel +44 (0) 1225 442244 (Bath)
Tel +44 (0) 7042 4000 (London)
Non Executive Chairman Peter Allen
Chief Executive Mark Wood
Group Finance Director Graham Harding
RYAN TALJONICK
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Ryan Taljonick
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


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Download the free Microsoft
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© 2012 Future US, Inc.
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42 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
Case
Cooler Master Storm Stryker $160
CPU
Intel Core i7-4770K $340
Motherboard
MSI Z87-G45 $155
RAM
Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB DDR3 $75
Videocard
Asus Radeon HD 7870 $240
Optical Drive
Asus DRW-24B1ST $20
Hard Drives
Corsair Force GT 120GB $130
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB $90
CPU Cooler
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO $35
Power Supply
Corsair HX 750W $130
Operating System
Windows 8 64-bit OEM $110
TOTAL $1485
*LISTEDARETHECURRENTSTREETPRICES, WHICHMAYDIFFERFROM
THEMANUFACTURERER’SSUGGESTEDRETAILPRICE. ONTHEBRIGHT
SIDE, STREETPRICESAREUSUALLYLOWER!
Parts and Price List*
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www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 43
We show you how to build a
powerhouse rig in just 14 steps!

by Ryan Taljonick
N
ow that you’ve got all the components for your new
computer, it’s time to piece them all together. Yes,
this part can be scary, and yes, it’s possible to screw the
whole thing up—but don’t panic. Breathe. Oh, and punch
your pre-building fear square in the face, because the end
result of the next several pages means you’ll have one of
the baddest PCs on the block.
You’ve got all the instructions you’ll need within arm’s
reach. Follow our 14-step guide and you’ll be booting up
in no time. We suggest reading through this guide now so
you have an idea of what to expect ahead of time.
Also, grab your case, motherboard, and cooler
manuals—you’ll need them for specific installation
instructions. Plan to build your rig on a flat surface with
lots of room, and don’t forget to discharge static from
your body by touching a piece of metal inside your PC
case before you begin.
If you chose to go with one of our alternative builds (or
a build of your own), this guide will still walk you through
the basic steps of PC building. Take note that there may
be some differences in setup depending on your selected
components. And finally, have some fun!
PERFECT
PC!
It’s time to build the

44 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
STEP 1
CRACK THE
CASE
A

Ready? The first step
couldn’t be easier: remove
both side panels of your case.
The left panel opens the main
cavity where all your hardware
will go. The right panel gives you
access to the back of the moth-
erboard tray and hard drive bays.
B
The only thing that’s in
your case at the moment
is a box full of drive bay brackets
and this rats nest of wires. These
connectors power your case’s
front panel and fans, but they’re
one of the last things we’ll hook
up. For now, just tuck them
behind the case so they don’t
interfere with the assembly of
your system.
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www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 45
STEP 2
PREPARE THE
CHASIS
C

Included with your chassis will be a
bag (or box, in some cases) that con-
tains various screws and other accessories. In
the case of the Cooler Master Storm Stryker,
there’s an included toolbox in the bottom
front portion of the case. Find this, then grab
the little standoff screws pictured above.
These screws prevent the motherboard from
making direct contact with the tray while
powered on—which is good because your
mobo would short out otherwise. Refer to
the case manual to determine where these
should be placed. Our mobo requires an ATX
configuration. To properly seat the stand-
offs, twist until they’re tightly in place.
D
This thin metal plate, called an I/O (in-
put/output) shield, comes packaged
with your motherboard. Its purpose? To pro-
tect the motherboard’s rear ports from dust
and Cheetoh crumbs. The I/O shield is
installed through the rear interior of your
case; just grab it and snap it into place, mak-
ing sure the six round ports, reserved for
audio inputs and outputs, are on the bottom.
C
D

46 PC GAMER PC BUILDER’S BIBLE FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
STEP 4
CPU COOLER PREP
F
Before you can insert the moth-
erboard into the case, you’ll
need to affix the backlplate of the
Hyper 212 EVO to the board. That cool-
er’s pretty heavy, and this plate will
give it plenty of support once you
stand your PC on its feet. Place the
cooler’s backplate on the back of the
motherboard, with its insulating tape
(located on each of the four legs)
facing the back of the board. Find the
four screws and nuts that come pack-
aged with the cooler.

You’ll put these through the front of
the motherboard and through the
middle anchor point on each of the
backplate’s four legs (assuming
you’re following our exact build—this
may change depending on your moth-
erboard). Be mindful of the flat por-
tion of each screw and leg; you’ll need
to line these up when placing them.
Secure the backplate in place with the
nuts on the backside. Refer to the
cooler’s instruction manual for step-
by-step details if necessary.
STEP 3
INSTALL THE
POWER SUPPLY
E
The first component you’ll in-
stall into the chasis is the power
supply, which feeds electricity to the
rest of your hardware. Take it out of
the box. Notice the modular connec-
tor ports; these let you attach addi-
tional component cables as needed to
avoid having a billion wires suffocat-
ing the airflow of your case. Drop it in-
to the bottom of the chasis with the
cables resting on the inside and the
power cord connector facing out. The
PSU’s fan should be facing the top of
the case, which allows it to blow hot
air toward the rear exhaust fan to
keep it from overheating. Screw the
PSU in place with the four screws in-
cluded in its box. Finally, run the ca-
bles through the cable routing outlets
on the bottom of the motherboard
tray to move them out of the way.
E
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GAME AT THE NEXT LEVEL
WWW.COOLERMASTER-USA.COM
/coolermasterna /r/coolermaster /coolermasterna

48 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
STEP 5
MOUNT THE MOTHERBOARD
G
Now that the prep work is done, it’s time to insert the motherboard into the chassis. The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that your
case is resting on its side, with the main cavity facing upward. Look over your motherboard—sometimes they come with stickers attached to
certain areas. If you see any, now’s the time to take them off. Gently insert the mobo at a slight angle so that its connector ports fit into the I/O
shield. You might feel a bit of resistance here, but that’s normal. The motherboard should rest on the standoffs that you installed a few minutes
ago, and the screw holes in the board should line up with them. If not, be sure you installed the standoffs into the correct holes. Next, screw the
board in place with the included screws. If you’re not sure which ones to use, double check the case manual. Don’t over-tighten, though, or you’ll
risk cracking the board.
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www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 49
STEP 6
SEAT THE PROCESSOR
H
That wasn’t so bad, was it? Now it’s time
to seat the CPU; be sure to hold onto its
packaging after you’ve taken it out of the box
and plastic casing, as you’ll need these should
you have to return a defective unit. To install, lift
the lever of the CPU socket shield on the moth-
erboard and remove the plastic placeholder
protecting it. With the metal lever all the way up,
carefully lower the CPU straight down into the
socket. It needs to be aligned so the little golden
arrow on the CPU matches up with the arrow on
the socket shield—the arrow should be pointing
down toward the PSU if placed properly. The
CPU should drop in without any effort, but be
careful. If you attempt to force a misaligned CPU
into place, you could damage the processor and
motherboard. Note that Intel CPUs don’t have
pins on their undersides, while AMD CPUs do—
be very careful not to bend any pins on either the
motherboard socket or CPU.
I
With the CPU in place (again, make sure
it’s properly aligned!) lower the socket
shield and secure it by clamping the metal lever
into position. You’re going to feel some resist-
ance. Scary, to be certain, but normal.
H
I

50 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
STEP 7
INSTALL THE CPU
COOLER
J
Seeing as heat is the worst enemy
of any CPU, you’ll need to provide a
few lines of defense to protect it. The
first of these is thermal grease, which
improves the heat transfer between the
CPU and its cooler by filling in microscop-
ic holes on the heatsinks of each. With
the CPU in place, apply a small, pea-sized
dab of thermal grease to the center of
the processor’s heat shield, but don’t
overdo it. A tiny syringe of grease is
included in the cooler’s packaging.
L
Finally, grab the heatsink fan that
you removed in the last step, and
reafix it to the side of the heatsink clos-
est to the RAM slots. If you look closely at
the sides of the fan, you’ll see arrows
depicting the direction the fan blades
spin, as well as where it will propel the
hot air expelled from the heatsink. This
placement ensures the dissipated air will
get blown toward the exhaust fan on the
upper back portion of the case. Once the
fan is in place, plug its power cable into
the fan connector on your motherboard.
This should be located near the proces-
sor socket and DIMM slots, and is often
labeled “CPU_FAN.”
K

The second line of defense your
CPU has against its arch nemesis is
the cooler—its own, personal air condi-
tioning unit. Before inserting the cooler,
you’ll have to remove the giant fan from
the side by gently bending the plastic
clips that grip the heatsink. Next, grab
the X-shaped brace that came packaged
with the cooler. This needs to be screwed
to the mounting bracket you installed on
the motherboard earlier. By default, the
brace is set to an LGA 775 configuration,
so you’ll need to adjust it to the LGA
1150/1155 mode first (refer to the manual
for specific instructions). Thread the
brace through the cooler between the
heat pipes and the heatsink in a cross-
star pattern. Now, put the entire heat-
sink/brace combo on top of the CPU so
the heatsink is parallel to the RAM slots
and rear panel ports. Screw the brace
into the mounting bracket one corner at
a time, and tighten each corner evenly
until all four screws are in place.
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www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 51
STEP 8
INSTALL THE RAM
STEP 9
A HOUSE OF CARDS
M
The next few steps are easy
compared to dealing with a
bulky CPU cooler. First up: the RAM.
Locate the four DIMM slots (or memo-
ry slots) on the motherboard. They are
the four thin, vertical ports adjacent
to the CPU. You’ll want to install these
into alternating slots (refer to your
motherboard manual for specific in-
structions) so you can take advantage
of the motherboard’s dual-channel
memory configuration. To place the
RAM, prop open the locking clips at
the end of each slot, and insert the
modules. Be sure the notch in the slot
aligns with the notch on the bottom
of the module before locking it into
place. These can only be inserted one
way: the right way.
N
It’s time to install your comput-
er’s two PCIe expansion cards:
the videocard and soundcard(s). Grab
a Phillips-head screwdriver, then
unscrew and remove three of the PCIe
slot shields from the back of the case.
You’ll only need to remove the ones
blocking the slots required to fit these
cards. Hold onto these in case you ever
need to remove a card.
P
Grab the ZXR soundcards.
The bigger of the two is the
mainboard; insert it into the second
PCIe x1 slot (one of those mega tiny
ports). Gently press until it snaps into
place, and secure it with a screw. The
smaller card (or daughter card) does
not require an expansion slot, and is
powered by the mainboard via the
included ribbon cable. Place it into an
expansion slot, secure with a screw,
and connect it to the ZXR mainboard.
O
First up, the videocard. Insert
the GPU into the first PCIe x16
slot on the motherboard. Next, push
the card straight down until the reten-
tion clip snaps into place. Finally,
screw the videocard into the PCI slot
bracket. If you ever have to remove
the videocard, don’t forget to release
the retention clip first!
M
O
P

52 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
STEP 10
SECURE THE
HARD DRIVES
Q
Nowadays, most cases feature
toolless drive bays for hard
drive and optical drive installation.
Grab two drive caddies from the box
that came in the Stryker chasis. Plant
the WD Caviar Black inside one of
them and secure it into place by lining
up the drive’s screw holes with the
caddy’s pins. Repeat the same pro-
cess for the Corsair Force GT, but know
that you’ll have to physically screw
this one into place via the holes on the
underside of the caddy. Note that the
drives’ connectors will face the rear of
the case, as to not clutter the front
side with additional cables.
Q
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54 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
STEP 11
INSERT THE
OPTICAL DRIVE
R
With the hard drives in place, it’s
time to secure the optical drive.
Remove a bay cover from the front of
the Stryker by pressing the retention
clips. It doesn’t really matter which
one you choose to remove, as your
optical drive will fit in any of them.
Simply slide the optical drive into the
case’s newly formed opening and
push it back until its screw holes line
up with that of the drive bay. You’ll
need to screw it into place to secure it.
R
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www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 55
STEP 12
CONNECT SATA
DATA AND POWER
S
Now you’ve got all your compo-
nents seated and locked into
place—great work! Now it’s time to
connect your drives to the mother-
board and feed them power. Start with
the hard drives and optical drive. Each
requires two connections: one for data
and one for power. Data is fed to each
via the SATA cables included with your
motherboard. Grab three of these
cables and connect them to the open
SATA ports on the mainboard. Next,
feed the cables through a routing
grommet so you can connect their op-
posite ends to your hard drives and op-
tical drive. If your GPU blocks access to
these ports, remove the offender until
the SATA cables have been locked into
place. Don’t worry about plugging
these in the wrong way—the grooving
on the cords and connectors prevent
misalignment. Stil, be careful, because
you could accidentally snap the plastic
connector if you’re too rough with it.
T
That takes care of the data
cables, but now you have to
feed power to each drive. Locate a
couple SATA power cables (included
with your PSU). They’re longer and
wider than SATA data cables. Attach
as many as you need to your PSU (two
should suffice) and feed them
through one of the case’s cable man-
agement ports. Connect one to your
optical drive. You’ll also have to con-
nect one to both of your hard drives,
which you can likely accomplish with a
single cable, as each comes equipped
with multiple connectors.
S
S
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56 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
U
Remember those front panel connectors you set
aside at the beginning of this build? Now’s the
time to round them up. Separate the small ones that
correlate with the front panel LED and power switches
from the USB and HD Audio connectors. You’ll want to
refer to the motherboard manual to find out which
connector goes where, an admittedly annoying but
necessary process. Plug each connector into its appro-
priate port on the motherboard, and take care not to
bend any of the board’s tiny pins.
V
Now it’s time for the USB, eSATA, and HD Audio
ports. Plug the USB connector into the internal
USB port on the motherboard, located near the front
panel connector ports. (Be sure not to plug a USB cord
into a FireWire connector!) Plug the front panel audio
cable into the HD Audio port located on the left interior
of our MSI board, and the SATA data cable into a free
SATA port. Finally, plug the large USB 3.0 cord into the
appropriate motherboard connector. You may have to
remove your videocard or the soundcard’s daughter
board first to properly install some of these.
W
The Storm Stryker comes with several fans to
keep your system cool, but they need to be
plugged into the motherboard to work. Attach a four-
pin molex connector cable to your PSU, then attach it
to the appropriate connector affixed to the case. Refer
to the motherboard manual if you’re having trouble
locating any of the above-mentioned ports.
STEP 13
AFFIX THE
FRONT PANEL
CONNECTORS
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www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 57
Congratulations, you’ve done it! For now, keep
your case’s side panels off until you’ve powered up
the system. Once it boots properly, go ahead and
close up your case, grab a celebratory drink, and in-
stall Windows. Welcome to the DIY system build-
ers club!
STEP 14
THE END’S IN SIGHT
X
You’re almost done! The last steps of the
build involve feeding more juice to your rig’s
power-hungry parts: the videocard, CPU, and moth-
erboard. High-end GPUs require a lot of power, and
our 7870 requires two six-pin PCIe power connec-
tors. Grab one such cord, attach it to your modular
power supply, and feed it to the graphics card.
(Don’t forget to take advantage of the case’s cable
routing features!)The cords will be labeled, and are
keyed to prevent incorrect alignment.
Y
One of the cords that came attached to your
power supply from the start is an eight-pin
ATX power cable, which feeds steady electricity to
your CPU. Sometimes these connectors are labeled,
but if not, it will look similar to the PCIe cables you
plugged into your videocard. Plug this into the cor-
responding port on your motherboard up near the
CPU socket. It will only fit into the port one way.
Z
Finally, grab that humongous 24-pin power
connector, which powers the entire mother-
board. Plug that beast into the main power connec-
tor on your board. Again, it only plugs in one way.
X
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58 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
Y
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www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 59
PC won’t boot?
Stay calm!
(It happens to the best of us)
You’ve labored over every component,
attached all the cables, and plugged the
power supply’s AC cord into your wall out-
let. You’re ecstatic. You’re salivating. You
anxiously push the case’s power button
and...nothing. Zippo. Nada. It doesn’t
boot. Or it sounds like it’s booting, but
your monitor mocks you with a blank and
empty stare. But wait! Don’t take a ham-
mer to your videocard. Instead, review our
checklist of possible failure points to in-
vestigate and troubleshoot the error. The
list is ordered from simple faults to more
complex mishaps, but all of them are eas-
ily addressed (and each of them are readi-
ly solved without you chucking your new
PC out the second story window).
Check that the power supply is
switched on and plugged into a working
outlet. Also, if you’re using a power
strip—and you should be—make sure
it’s switched on as well.
Reseat the ATX 12V connector and the
main power connector on the mother-
board.
Reseat the RAM modules and ensure
the RAM sticks are in the correct slots
for dual-channel configuration.
Check the case’s power switch wiring
to the front-panel connector or use the
power-on switch on the motherboard.
Check to see that the DVI/HDMI/
DisplayPort cable to the monitor is
properly connected to the videocard,
not the motherboard.
Reset the BIOS by pulling the CMOS
battery. Unplug your power supply
from the wall and then pop the circular-
looking silver battery out of the moth-
erboard. Wait five minutes and then
re-insert.
Reseat the videocard with the PC
turned off and unplugged.
Remove the CPU cooler and reseat the
processor. Make sure it is aligned cor-
rectly in its socket (don’t forget to reap-
ply thermal paste if you do this).
Remove and reseat the motherboard,
checking that the standoffs are cor-
rectly aligned with the otherboard’s
mounting points .
Pro Tip: A PC should be able to turn on
and reach the BIOS screen with only the
CPU, RAM, and videocard plugged into the
motherboard. If you don’t see the BIOS
screen after powering up, check these
three essential components first.
Troubleshooting Checklist

www.pcgamer.com
Step 1:
Configure your BIOS
When installing an operating
system the first thing you’ll need
to do is navigate to your sys-
tem’s BIOS (Basic Input/Output
System). First, turn on your PC.
While it’s going through its POST
(Power On Self Test), you’ll need
to hit the corresponding key on
your keyboard that either pulls up
your system’s boot menu (the key
varies) or your motherboard’s BIOS
(often the DEL key).
If the latter, navigate on over to the
menu that contains your system’s
boot priority list (it might be within
something called “Advanced BIOS
Features”). Set your optical drive
to boot first. Next (assuming you’re
installing the OS to a solid-state
drive), you’ll need to enable AHCI
SATA mode; this, too, is located in
the BIOS settings, typically in the
“Advanced” menu. Once AHCI has
been selected, hit enter, and then
Save Changes and exit your BIOS.
Your PC will now reboot.
N
ow that you’ve got your PC set up and ready to go, it’s time
to install an operating system—a necessary step if you
actually plan on doing anything with that fancy new rig. You’ve
got a few options when it comes to the OS, but the two most
popular ones for modern machines are Windows 7 or 8. Seeing
as Window’s 8 is Microsoft’s latest initiative, that’s what we’ll
be covering in this step-by-step guide. If you have a copy of
Windows 7 on hand, though, feel free to install that instead.
Before you take the full plunge into Windows 8, be sure to
have your serial key ready. Unlike its predecessor, Windows 8
requires that you have one on-hand during the installation. No
trial for you! Before we get started, we’re also going to assume
that you’ve backed up any data you want to keep. Otherwise,
you might want to do so before you perform the unrecoverable
process of wiping your drive and installing Windows 8 from
scratch. Now, let’s get started!
Bring your new PC to life with Microsoft’s latest OS by David Murphy
INSTALL
WINDOWS 8
HOW TO
1
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Step 3:
Entering the Windows 8
setup wizard
3A. Here we go! Once you see the official Win-
dows 8 “Windows Setup” screen, click “Next”—
you likely won’t need to adjust language, time
and currency, or keyboard input settings. Before
you do so though, a note: Windows 8 presents a
more automated, faster installation experience
than what you might have previously seen when
installing a Microsoft OS from scratch, especially
if you’re slapping Windows 8 onto an SSD. Don’t
expect to go make a fancy dinner or watch your
favorite sitcom while the installer runs; you won’t
need to.
3B. Similar to the installation routine of
Windows 7, you’ll now see a screen with one of
two options—a big, fat “Install now” button in
the screen’s center and a smaller “Repair your
computer” link in the lower-left corner. If you
find yourself having issues with your PC, you’ll
want to remember the latter. Otherwise, click on
“Install now” to continue forward with Windows
8’s installation process.
Step 2: Boot from the DVD
Whether you set your boot priority in your BIOS or specifically
selected to boot from your optical drive via a separate option during
your motherboard’s POST, you’ll want to keep an eye out during your
system’s boot process—specifically, be on the lookout for your screen
to prompt you to “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD…” When
that happens, do just that. It’s OK if you miss your chance: Just wait
for your computer to boot into your existing OS (or give you an error
message like “No Operating System Found”), restart, and try again.
Assuming all went well, you’ll be shown a black screen with a blue
Windows 8 icon in the center and a spinning “progress bar”—really,
a wheel—on the lower-center portion of the screen. The Windows
8 setup utility is loading and might take a bit of time before you’re
taken to the primary screen depending on the capabilities of your
particular system. Hold tight.
3B
3A
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Step 5:
Agree to the software license
Legalese gives us a headache. If you want to read the entire
license agreement for the version of Windows 8 you’re install-
ing, go right ahead. Ninety-nine percent of your peers will simply
click the “I accept the license terms” checkbox, and then click
the now-available “Next” button in the lower-right corner to
proceed forward with Windows 8’s installation. In short: You get
one key and copy of Windows 8 per computer. Ta-da.
Step 4:
Enter Your Product Key
In previous versions of the Windows operating system,
Microsoft gave you a choice: You could either enter your prod-
uct key at the point of installation (why not!) or defer until
later, which gave you a “trial period” of sorts—free rein within
the operating system for 30 full days from the point of instal-
lation, and a limited version of the OS for stragglers after that.
Windows 8? Not so much: If you don’t have a product key,
this is where your installation journey draws to a close.
Step 6:
Choose your installation type
If you want to install Windows 8 on top of your existing operating
system and let Microsoft handle all the details—replacing the OS;
preserving some files and settings; telling you what you need to
install (or uninstall) to make the process run smoothly—you can by
selecting “Upgrade” at the top of the Windows Setup screen.
If you’re ready for a clean slate, then the “Custom” installation is
your ticket, and it’s what we’ll focus on for the rest of this how-to.
Click the option and the installer will ask you where you want to
install Windows. If you’re installing on a brand-new hard drive,
odds are good that the program will recognize its big, empty chunk
of unallocated space and allow you to click “Next” to continue sans
issue. If your drive is full of data and you want to wipe it clean first
to free up as much space as possible (which you should do), the
installer can help you out there as well.
Highlight your drive (or drive and data partition, depending on how
you’ve set it up) and click on the “Drive options (advanced)” link in
the lower-right. Click on the “Delete” option to delete the partition,
and you’ll see that the drive’s total capacity has been converted
into—you guessed —unallocated space. Repeat the process for any
other partitions you want to clear out, and then click on “Next” to
continue forward.
We should also mention that you can use this screen to set up new
partitions from your giant pool of unallocated space, in case you
want to save some space for a secondary operating system down
the road (for example). Click on “New” after you’ve selected your
unallocated space and you’ll be able to specify the size of your new
partition as you see fit. If you’re just slapping Windows 8 on your
SSD (the smaller of your drives), just select that and click “Next.”
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Step 8: Configuring Your System
8A. Naturally, the first configuration screen that
Microsoft will send your way is one where you’re
asked to pick a color for your system and assign it
a name—do that and click “Next.”
8B. You’re now given a fun choice: You can let
Microsoft set up most of the standard Windows
options for you, like automatic updates; allow-
ing apps to your system’s location, name, and
account picture to personalize your experience;
and turning on network file sharing. Just click on
“Use express settings” to do just that if you’re so
inclined.
If you’d like a little more control over your Win-
dows experience, however, you’re going to want
to click on the “Customize” button. For the sake
of this guide, we’re going to assume that you’ll be
doing that—and we’ll help you quickly navigate
these configuration waters in the next step!
Step 7: Let Windows Roll
Sit back, relax. Windows 8 is now copying the necessary files to
your hard drive, installing features and—if you happen to have
your system connected up to the Web—installing any updates
that it can pull down. Your system will automatically restart
whenever Windows needs it to do so.
Depending on the speed of your components (optical drive,
whether you’re putting Windows on a mechanical hard drive or
an SSD, et cetera), this total process could take a few minutes.
While Microsoft has worked to slice time out of the installation
process as a whole—especially compared to previous versions
of the OS—you could still be spending as much as 30 minutes
installing windows on a less-speedy system. Thankfully, you
won’t be required to input any information until the Windows 8
installer is good and done with the bulk of the heavy lifting.
8A
8B
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9A. First off, we recommend you
leave Windows update set just
as it is—to automatically install
updates as they arrive. If you don’t
want to have to fuss with install-
ing new drivers for your system’s
components, you can also have
Windows 8 grab those on your be-
half. However, you’ll likely be able
to acquire them faster if you just
scan the websites of the manu-
facturers that make your system’s
parts from time to time. Leave the
setting on, however—that was just
an FYI.
Step 9: Customize Your System
You’re free to edit your system’s configuration as you see fit, but there are a few variables
that you might want to set in particular ways to ensure that your system remains healthy and
secure. Additionally, Microsoft’s thrown a few new options into the mix that warrant a bit of
explanation if you’re going to be editing these initial settings all manually anyway.
9B. SmartScreen Filter is an
Internet Explorer feature that
helps protect you from phish-
ing and malware; feel free to
flick it off if you’re not an IE fan.
Windows SmartScreen filter
protects you from running un-
recognized apps that might be
harmful, which could be useful
or summon a pop-up when you
try to install legitimate apps.
Your call there. Do Not Track is
great for IE privacy; leave that on
and click “Next.”
9B
9A
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Step 10: Wrapping it Up
Give yourself a user name, password, and password hint, and you’re
almost ready to start tinkering around in your brand-new operating
system. While you might have heard about the operating system’s
ability to use your existing Microsoft account to log into Windows
8, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for keeping your data,
preferences, and apps synchronized across multiple computers, you
don’t set that up on this screen. The user name and password is the
standard Windows account that you’ll use to sign into your system
until (or if) you decide to switch over to Microsoft account-based
authentication instead—unless you decide to use one of Windows
8’s more unique password setups, like its brand-new picture pass-
word functionality.
As soon as you click “Finish,” Windows 8 will take a moment to
finalize your settings and, while doing so, it’ll provide you with a little
instructional video on the raw basics of Windows 8.
9C. The next screen of options
relate to just what information
you want to send Microsoft. Only
you can decide what you’re com-
fortable with here. The same
goes for the following screen’s
worth of options, which includes
settings that allow apps to use
your name and account picture
and prompt you for your location
as needed. Make the decision
that best reflects your personal
privacy on each option, then
hit “Next” when you’re ready to
continue!
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NOTHING HOLDS MORE promise than a brand-new PC. The hardware is fresh and full of potential,
the OS is clean and clutter-free, and you have nothing but pure, unadulterated storage space awaiting
your precious data. It’s an exciting time, indeed. But before you start dumping old files onto your new
rig willy-nilly, and downloading every shiny bauble of an app that catches your eye, take some time to
consider a more measured approach to moving in. After all, you only have this opportunity once.
The way you set up your new PC now will have a lasting impact on your experience over time. Do it
haphazardly, and your experience will be plagued by disorder and regret. Do it thoughtfully, though, by
following the course of action we prescribe on the following pages, and you will have a machine that’s
primed and ready to meet your every need from the start.
—THE RIGHT WAY
HOW TO
SET UP A
NEW PC
WHETHER YOU JUST BUILT OR BOUGHT A NEW PC, IT
PAYS TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SETUP FROM THE START
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CHECK YOUR SPECS
STRESS IT OUT RTFM
TechPowerUp’s GPU-Z will tell you what speed the PCIe is running at.
Inspect CPU-Z’s memory tab to see if your RAM is configured
correctly for double- or triple-channel (whichever you chose to
run), and that the frequency is set to the level you paid for.
Any new PC should be able to run Prime95 for at least a few
hours without issues.
If you’ve just built your rig or unboxed a sparkling-new PC, it’s al-
ways a good idea to verify the hardware specs to make sure all parts
are actually performing as they should be. We’ve seen simple BIOS
misconfigurations downclock chips by hundreds of megahertz.
First download CPU-Z (www.cpuid.com). This excellent free
utility will query your CPU and report the model number, cache
size, and clock speed of the chip in real-time. To test your CPU’s
speed, put a load on it using, say, Prime95 (www.mersenne.org/
freesoft) and run a stress test. CPU-Z should report the correct
clock speed for your chip. While you’re here, pull up Task Manager
by hitting Ctrl+Alt+Del. Select the Performance tab and make sure
that each of your cores, virtual or real, is represented. Believe it or
not, we’ve seen Hyper-Threading turned off occasionally on some
systems.
Turn off Prime95, but keep CPU-Z open. Click the Memory tab.
You should see the memory frequency reported under DRAM Fre-
quency. This is the base clock, so you should double it to get the
frequency of the RAM. For example, if your DDR3/1600 is reporting
as 667, your RAM is actually running at DDR3/1333 speed.
CPU-Z will also report graphics speed, but we prefer GPU-Z for
more detailed info. Download it at www.techpowerup.com/gpuz.
GPU-Z will generate a CPU-Z-like interface. Pay particular atten-
tion to the default clock speed and memory speeds for your GPU.
If you paid for an overclocked GPU, check that it is running at the
speeds you paid for. GPU-Z will also tell you if SLI or CrossFireX
is enabled or not and also at what speed the PCIe slot is running.
Yes, it's possible that a new machine will have the GPU running in a
slower slot, which may impact performance.
If a component is going to fail, you want it to fail while it’s un-
der warranty. For CPU stress tests, we prefer the free Prime95
(www.mersenne.org/freesoft). Just download it and run the in-
place stress test. A properly configured and cooled stock-clocked
system should have no problem running Prime95 for hours on end.
For GPU stress testing, FurMark (www.ozone3d.net/benchmarks/
fur) is still quite popular, or you can run Unigine’s Heaven bench-
mark (www.unigine.com) in a loop for a few hours. Keep in mind
that stressing the GPU will also stress your PSU and cooling, so any
shortcomings may crop up there, as well.
Did you know your motherboard has a special USB port
that allows you to make BIOS updates without a CPU be-
ing installed? No? Well it’s right there in the frakking
manual. One of the first things you should do with your
new machine is to read the documentation, particularly
the motherboard manual, that came with it.
Once you’re done building a new
PC, collect the extra modular
power cables, drive rails, special
sound-dampening drive screws,
and put them in one place. You
could even store the extra parts
in your case, as long as there’s
room to spare and it won’t block
airflow. You won’t thank us now
but you will in three years.
STORE YOUR
EXTRA PARTS
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DECRAPIFY
YOUR PC
GET DRIVERS
IN ORDER
SET UP YOUR
SECURITY
PREPARE FOR
DISASTER
Thanks to AVG’s free AV app, even cheapskates can be safe
from malware.
When you build a new PC, you have full control
over the software that gets installed. Not so when
you buy a system, which is practically guaranteed
to host a number of apps you have little use for, or
that slow your PC’s performance, or that constant-
ly pester you with pop-ups. Get rid of that crap with
PC Decrapifier (www.pcdecrapifier.com). The free
tool walks you through the process of removing
unnecessary programs, startup items, and icons.
If you installed the drivers from the disc that came with
your motherboard, your drivers are already way out of
date. Any new PC should be paired with the freshest
drivers available for the platform, as updates can add
performance, enhance compatibility, and fix the wonki-
ness that usually occurs with the first drivers to ship.
The freshest drivers are usually available directly from
the manufacturer of the component, so the best source
for updated drivers for an AMD motherboard is AMD. If
you’re running a fancy gaming mouse or keyboard, you’ll
also want to install the matching drivers for them. These
drivers unlock the full functionality of the mouse or pe-
ripheral beyond the built-in Windows 8 HID drivers.
There’s no point in taking the time and care to set up
a new PC just right if you don’t also make security one
of your first priorities. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of
time before some form of malware gets in your system
and mucks up the works, possibly even requiring a re-
install. We found Norton Internet Security ($80, www.
norton.com) to be the best AV suite for purchase, while
AVG Anti-Virus Free 2012 (www.avg.com) proved to be a
very capable free solution. Before you do anything else,
be sure to do this.
With Windows 8, everything you need for data backup and sys-
tem repair is right there in the OS. Combine that with a large hard
drive, and you have no excuse not to establish a full-fledged data
recovery plan. With a secondary drive in place (either internal or
external), head over to Control Panel, then System and Security,
then Backup and Restore. Choose Backup Your Computer, then Set
up Backup. Select the drive that backups will be saved to, choose
the files to be saved, and set a schedule. Next, choose the option
to Create a System Image, an exact copy of your drive—OS, system
settings, program files, etc.—to use in the event your drive fails or
your system stops working. Finally, opt to Create a System Repair
Disc. This disc will save your bacon should your machine not start,
allowing you to boot your computer from the optical drive and then
retrieve the system image and backups you’ve dutifully created.
High-end peripherals
should be paired with
the latest drivers
to unlock all of the
device’s functionality.
FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 69 www.pcgamer.com

GameSave Manager hunts down all those weird
game save directories and lets you back them up
easily.
TRANSFER YOUR
FILES, EASILY
TIPS FOR TRICKIER
FILE TRANSFERS
Hold Shift while launching iTunes to manually select
your library file.
It’s time to sully that pristine PC with craploads of junk from
your old PC. Power users normally go manual by popping the
old PC’s drive into a spare SATA port on the new rig. This lets you
pick and choose what’s really worth moving. If you’d rather just
do it on autopilot, check out Microsoft’s free Easy Transfer utility.
It’s meant for newbies, but it can make the move to a new ma-
chine fairly painless. Run Windows Easy Transfer on your new
PC (Search > Windows Easy Transfer), and it will give you op-
tions for the move: USB hard drive, the network, or an optional
USB cable. The utility will ask you to insert a USB key where an
executable will be installed. Run this executable on your old box,
and it will package up all of the files into a single file that will be
stored on an HDD or moved across the network to your new PC,
where everything is unloaded into its proper place.
STEAM GAMES
On your old PC, go to your Steam folder (C:\Program
Files\Steam, by default) and copy the steamapps
folder and its contents to your external drive. On your
new computer, install Steam and launch it once, then
exit it. Go to the Steam folder and delete everything
in it except for steam.exe. Now copy the steamapps
folder from your old PC into the Steam folder on your
new PC, and launch steam.exe again. After a brief
self-update, Steam should show your games as in-
stalled. You’ll have to do a quick file-verify as you
launch each game for the first time, but that’s a lot
faster than downloading them all over again.
GAME SAVES
Not all your games come from Steam, and not all
that do have Steam Cloud to manage their saves. And
it seems every publisher has a different method of
storing saved games. That’s where GameSave Man-
ager (free, www.gamesave-manager.com) comes in.
Run GameSave Manager on your old computer,
and it will auto-detect the games you have installed,
find out where the game saves are, and back them
up, all via the Backup Gamesave(s) menu. Once you
have a backup archive (a .gsba file), you can move it
to your new computer and use GameSave Manager to
automatically restore all your saves.
Moving documents from one computer to another is usually
just a matter of copying-and-pasting onto an external hard
drive and then to your new PC. That’s fine for office docs and
photos, but what about apps that build media libraries, like
iTunes and Steam, or saved games, which go wherever the
publisher feels like putting them?
iTUNES
If you’re using an iDevice, you might be stuck with iTunes as
a media manager. Here’s how to move your music and other
media (and keep your ratings, playlists, etc.) without having to
rebuild your library.
First, open iTunes and go to File > Library > Organize Li-
brary > Consolidate Files. This will ensure that all your music
is in one place. Once done, exit iTunes. Copy your iTunes folder,
which should be under My Music (unless you’ve moved it) to
your external drive. If you’re decommissioning your old PC, be
sure to deauthorize that computer from your iTunes account.
Open iTunes again and go to Store > Deauthorize This Com-
puter. Enter your Apple ID and password.
Install iTunes on your new computer, and then copy the
iTunes folder from your external drive to the Music folder of
your new computer. Next time you open iTunes, hold down
Shift while you double-click the launcher. You’ll be prompted
to choose an iTunes library; look for iTunes Library.itl in the
folder you just copied to your PC. You should now have your
library, with ratings and playlists intact, on your new PC.
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CONFIGURE
AUDIO
CALIBRATE
YOUR MONITOR
DISABLE ACCESSI-
BILITY SHORTCUTS
ADJUST YOUR
POWER SETTINGS
By default, most motherboards and soundcards come con-
figured for stereo speaker output. By default, most gamers
today play with headphones. The problem is that most ad-
vanced audio cards feature algorithms tuned for the output
mode. Cool features such as head-related transfer functions
(HRTFs) and other filters that greatly enhance sound for head-
phones don’t get used unless you set the driver accordingly.
To do this, just dig into your soundcard’s control panel and set
the default to Headphones for the best experience.
If you got a new display with your new PC (or if you’ve
never taken the time to adjust your old monitor), it
might be badly calibrated, degrading the image qual-
ity you see. For a quick-and-dirty fix, you can run the
calibration software built in to Windows by click-
ing the Search button, then entering DCCW into the
search bar. The program will run you through several
simple calibration exercises, and adjust your monitor
appropriately.
For a more thorough calibration, we recommend
that you use high-quality calibration test images,
such as those found at www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/.
Windows comes with a host of accessibility features that can
be a great help for people with disabilities or other difficul-
ties using computer hardware. There are keyboard shortcuts
for some of these options, but the shortcuts are easy to per-
form accidentally, and can pop up unwanted dialogue boxes.
These shortcuts are:
> Press shift five times: StickyKeys
> Hold right-shift for eight seconds: FilterKeys
> Hold num lock for five seconds: ToggleKeys
You can disable each shortcut individually by performing it,
then choosing to turn off the shortcut, or you can disable
them all in one fell swoop in Control Panel > Ease of Access
Center > Make the keyboard easier to use.
Whether you’re looking to save the environment, or
just your battery life, you should pay a visit to your
new PC’s power options. If you open the Control Pan-
el, then select Hardware and Sound, and then Power
Options, you’ll see the available power profiles. You
can select one of the available profiles, or change
your screen's brightness from this menu, but if you
want more control, you’ll need to select a profile and
click the link that says “Change plan settings.”
A new menu will pop up, where you can change how
long the computer waits before it dims the display, turns
off the display, or goes to sleep. Even more options can be
found by clicking the advanced power settings button.
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MUST-HAVE APPS AND UTILITIES
NO PC IS COMPLETE WITHOUT THESE KEY PROGRAMS
Routing
cables behind
the mother-
board tray
(if possible)
can lead to a
much cleaner
and cooler
build.
Sloppy
wiring can
create
pockets of
hot air and
dust in your
case.
TIDY UP YOUR
INSIDES
Your computer has a lot of cables inside, from front-panel con-
nectors to SATA and power cables. If your case doesn’t have a
window, it might be tempting to just leave a rat's nest of wiring
inside, but there are substantial benefits to an uncluttered chas-
sis—better cooling and less dust, for example.
If you bought your PC from a boutique builder, it should have
come with a decent wiring job, but if you built your own or bought
an off-the-shelf system, there’s likely room for improvement.
Many modern cases have cable-routing cutouts in the moth-
erboard tray, and room behind it to route cables. You should
route as many wires as you can behind the motherboard tray—
usually your motherboard power cables, at least, can go back
here. Route as many power cables from your PSU behind the
motherboard and bring them back out near where they need
to plug in; you can dramatically reduce clutter in your case this
way.
If you don’t have any cutouts in your motherboard tray, you
can still use zip ties to keep your cables organized and out of
the way. You can also buy stick-on organizing clips to keep your
cables attached to your motherboard tray, not hanging out in the
middle of your case.
If you have a modular power supply, disconnect (and keep in
a safe place) any cables you’re not using. If you don’t, use zip ties
to bundle unused cables together, and try to keep them out of the
way of your fans’ airflow.
GOOGLE CHROME Google
Chrome remains the single-
fastest web browser out
there. Couple that with
exclusive apps and a fully
customizable web interface,
and you’ve got a browser that
no PC should be without.
www.google.com/chrome
STEAM This is a must-have
application for PC gamers.
Through Steam, you can
download just about any title
(often for a good deal!), and
it stores all your games and
save files in one convenient
location.
www.steampowered.com
DROPBOX If you find yourself
using more than one comput-
ing device daily, Dropbox
makes it easy to share docu-
ments across all those de-
vices, including smartphones.
www.dropbox.com
KEEPASS Using top-of-the-line
encryption algorithms AES
and Twofish, KeePass acts as
a password manager, allowing
you to store all your pass-
words (e.g., email, Facebook,
online banking) in a single and
secure database that can only
be accessed by you.
www.keepass.info
REVO UNINSTALLER These
days, it’s simply not enough
to use Windows to uninstall
your programs, as harmful
remnants can be left behind.
Enter Revo Uninstaller, a free
app that not only uninstalls
software, but allows you to
manually remove additional
data left behind.
www.revouninstaller.com
SKYPE Installing Skype allows
you to talk face to face with
anyone, anywhere, so long as
they have the software and a
webcam. Skype also allows
you to set video conference
calls, call mobile devices, and
make international calls for
additional fees.
www.skype.com
SUMATRA PDF Sumatra PDF is
a free PDF creator and viewer
Revo Uninstaller
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Provide a consistent airflow pattern for your case. Here, cool air
enters at the bottom and exits through the top and rear.
Hot Air
Cold Air OPTIMIZE YOUR FAN
SETUP
Your components will last longer if they run at lower tem-
peratures. They will run at lower temperatures if they
have sufficient airflow. That’s science.
Your case should have both intake and exhaust fans.
You’ll need at least one front intake fan and one rear ex-
haust fan. Many cases have additional intake fans on the
front or left side, and additional exhaust fans at the top
of the case. This helps keep hot air moving up and out
of your case. You should have roughly the same num-
ber of exhaust fans as intake fans, and you should make
sure they’re in places that make sense, to create obvious
paths for the air. Don’t create dead zones where hot air
can stay trapped. If your case has filters for its intake
fans, clean them regularly. If not, dust inside your case
regularly with canned air.
Many motherboards offer fan control in their BIOS set-
tings; you can set your fans to ramp up when your system
gets hot and ramp down when it’s cool, or you can wire
your fans to a fan controller and set their levels yourself.
Most motherboard manufacturers also offer a desktop
fan-control utility for use with their boards. Simple fan
controllers just offer speed control; others, like NZXT’s
Sentry series, also include temperature sensors, which
you can use to automatically control fan speeds based on
the temperature of various parts of your system.
for Windows. It’s a relatively
small file, starts up extremely
quickly, and is tremendously
easy to use. It can also read
XPS, DjVu, CBZ, and CBR files.
bit.ly/aHICnC
7-ZIP 7-Zip is a fast, free
file archiver that can pack
and unpack a huge range of
files, from ZIP to TAR files. It
features an extremely easy-
to-use interface that presents
users with all facets of the
unzipped file, automatically
organized by folders.
www.7-zip.org
FILEZILLA If you need to
connect to an FTP server,
FileZilla is the best way to
go. It’s easy to use and highly
customizable—you can even
configure your own transfer-
speed limits and transfer up
to 4GB of files.
www.filezilla-project.org
DIGSBY With Digsby you can
consolidate all of your instant
messaging accounts into one
centralized hub, supporting AIM,
MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, and Google
Talk. It’s also a handy notifica-
tion tool for personal email.
www.digsby.com
MALWAREBYTES’ ANTI-MAL-
WARE Yes, you already have
an AV program (right?), but it
never hurts to have a second
opinion or line of defense. For
us, that’s Malwarebytes’ Anti-
Malware Free. It doesn’t run
auto scans, so it won’t conflict
with your other AV solution.
www.malwarebytes.org
SUPERANTISPYWARE You
could say that SuperAntiSpy-
ware is the third prong in our
three-prong approach to PC
security. Like Malwarebytes’,
it provides yet another line of
defense. And it’s free, so why
not avail your PC of this extra
layer of protection?
www.superantispyware.com
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
Digsby
Skype
FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 73 www.pcgamer.com

74 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
WINDOWS WON’T BOOT. YOUR HARD DRIVE WON’T SPIN
AND YOUR INTERNET IS SLOW. NO THIS AIN’T NO COUNTRY
SONG, IT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THINGS ON YOUR PC
BREAK. WE TACKLE THE FIVE MOST PRESSING PROBLEMS
IN EACH MAJOR COMPONENT CATEGORY!
I
t’s happened to us all. You get home from a long day at work
and you want to blow off some steam with an hour of gaming
or maybe browsing the web, but when you tap your mouse
button or punch the power switch, the unthinkable happens.
You’re SOL.
Whether the system is red-lining, the OS is BSODing, or your
Internet is crawling on all fours, this frustration is familiar to any
person who drives a PC. You’re faced with a problem that stops
you dead in your tracks. If you’re a salty self-tech, you run through
your proverbial checklist of areas to look at. But not everyone is
so experienced, and even old hands have holes in their trouble-
shooting repertoire. So, in the interest of providing the most useful
advice to the greatest number of people, we’ve compiled a list of
the top five problems that could impact each of your computer’s
major hardware or software subsystems and our best advice on
how to fix them.
FIX
IT!

www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 75

76 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
Storage
PROBLEM: HARD DRIVE DISAPPEARS
SOLUTION: If it’s a drive that was previously visible, the first
step is to see if the drive shows up in the BIOS (check under Boot).
If not, swap out the SATA and/or power cables. If the drive shows
up, run CHKDSK on it by right-clicking the drive in My Computer,
choosing Properties, then the Tools tab, and then “Check now”
and “Automatically fix file systems errors.” If the drive continues
to give a ton of errors, and is behaving erratically but is visible in
Windows, copy all data off it immediately if you can, or run Data
Recovery on it STAT. If the drive is not visible in Windows, your op-
tions are limited to the Freezer Trick (an hour or so of extreme
cold sometimes sets things straight) or expensive forensic-style
data recovery.
If this is a brand-new drive that’s not showing up, you need to
initialize it first. Right-click My Computer and select Manage, then
Disk Management and follow the prompts.
PROBLEM: OPTICAL DRIVE DISAPPEARS
SOLUTION: This classic conundrum involves either a missing
drive or one that stops functioning suddenly. Put on your big-boy
pants and type regedit in the Start menu search box, then navi-
gate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\
Control\Class\{4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}.
If you see an entry named UpperFilters, delete it. If you see an en-
try named LowerFilters, delete it. Once you’ve done this, exit Re-
gedit and reboot your system. In most scenarios, your optical drive
will reappear and/or magically begin working again. Note that you
may have to reinstall software that accesses the optical drive (e.g.,
burning software) to get back to 100 percent functionality.
PROBLEM: DRIVE NOT REPORTING FULL
CAPACITY
SOLUTION: This is usually an issue with 3TB or 4TB drives,
as 2TB drives should have zero issues in Win7 (WinXP users
might have to download a utility from the drive’s manufacturer
to allow for a drive with 4K sectors). Out of the box these 3/4TB
drives are typically MBR disks, which limits a partition to 2TB
(actually, 1.8TB or so) relegating the rest to a separate partition.
If you want the full capacity in one partition, you need to convert
the disk to GPT. To do this, type cmd at the Start search box; at
the prompt type diskpart, then list disk, then select disk X (sub-
stituting X for your drive number), then convert GPT. Now go to
Disk Management and create your massive single partition.
PROBLEM: SSD PERFORMANCE IS SLOW
SOLUTION: If you’re using a hard drive and it feels slow,
don’t worry; that’s how they are for the most part. If you’re using
an SSD and its slow, there is a problem. If you’re not sure if it’s
slower than spec, download CrystalDiskMark and see what kind
of sequential-read/write speeds you are getting. Second, make
sure the drive is connected to the native SATA 6Gb/s ports on the
motherboard. You can’t rely on color, only your mobo manual, to
tell. Third, go into the BIOS and make sure the SATA port for that
drive is set to AHCI mode instead of IDE mode, as that will usually
give you better performance.
PROBLEM: AHCI CAUSES BSOD
SOLUTION: Sometimes, people install Windows 7 without
AHCI enabled, only to find out that enabling it after the install causes
a BSOD. To fix this, you have to edit the registry. Press Windows
+ R key, type regedit, then navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\
SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\msahci. Then right-click the
word Start on the right-side and click Modify. Change the val-
ue in the window to “0” and click OK. Exit Regedit, reboot the
system, and change your SATA controller to AHCI; you will boot
right into Windows.
What to do when your hard disk is
dying and your SSD is sputtering

www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 77
USB What to do when it won’t plug nor play
PROBLEM: SOME USB PORTS DON’T WORK
SOLUTION: Nonfunctional USB ports could be caused by a
few things. If the ports are front-mounted, make sure the internal
cables are connected properly and that the requisite USB header
is enabled in your system BIOS. If the ports are soldered on the
motherboard (and enabled), open up Device Manager and see if
any USB root controller or hubs are reporting a problem. If so, a
driver update/reinstallation may resolve the issue. It’s also possi-
ble that the physical connectors have been damaged (or a fuse has
blown), in which case you’ll need to replace your motherboard—
hopefully it’s still under warranty. If the USB ports are associated
with a third-party controller, be sure its drivers are installed, be-
cause Windows may not recognize the controller automatically.
PROBLEM: SLOW FILE TRANSFER OVER USB
SOLUTION: Windows Vista and 7 have some known USB per-
formance issues, so the first thing to do is run Windows Update
and make sure your OS is fully patched. We’d also advise installing
the latest drivers for your motherboard’s chipset and any discrete
USB controllers. You could also try setting the USB drive to perfor-
mance mode. Open Device Manager, right-click the USB drive, and
choose Properties from the menu. In the resulting window, click
the Policies tab and tick the option labeled “Better performance.”
Please note, this feature will enable write caching, so you’ll have
to use the Safely Remove Hardware option when disconnecting the
drive to prevent any data loss.
PROBLEM: USB HUB DOESN’T WORK
SOLUTION: This problem is almost always caused by insuf-
ficient power being supplied to the hub. If the hub came with an
AC adapter, make sure it’s plugged in and working properly. And
if you’ve got the hub plugged into a front-mounted USB port, try
connecting it to a rear port that is soldered onto your mobo. Rear-
mounted ports can usually provide more power (or more stable
power), which can resolve some issues with finicky hubs.
PROBLEM: CHARGING PHONE OVER PC’S
USB PORT TAKES FOREVER
SOLUTION: Standard USB 2.0 ports connected on a root hub
have to share 500mA of current (USB 3.0 powers up to 900mA).
If you’ve got a bunch of USB devices connected and the port your
phone is plugged into is competing for limited power, it will take
much longer than normal to charge. Try plugging the phone into
a different port (preferably USB 3.0, if possible) or disconnecting
other USB devices while charging.
It’s worth noting that some motherboard manufacturers—such
as Gigabyte—have begun incorporating high-powered USB ports
that can deliver up to 2.7A of current onto their boards. If you want
to rapidly charge devices while they’re connected to your system,
it may be worth checking out one of these boards.
PROBLEM: USB DEVICE IS NOT RECOGNIZED
SOLUTION: USB devices are usually as plug-and-play as you
can get, but if a particular device isn’t recognized properly, it may
be incompatible with your USB controller or require drivers to be
manually installed. Compatibility is very good with USB control-
lers native to modern chipsets, but we’ve seen some incompat-
ibilities with some discrete USB 3.0 controllers that are yet to be
resolved. Should you need to install drivers for the device, plug it
into a USB port, then go to Device Manager, right-click the device,
and choose Update Drive Software from the menu. Then, you can
search the web for drivers automatically or point the wizard to any
drivers downloaded from the device manufacturer’s website.

78 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
Video Cards
PROBLEM: GPU IS SLOW
SOLUTION: If your GPU is lagging, the first stop on the road
to redemption is a driver update. Both Nvidia and AMD are en-
gaged in a drivers arms race, with each company updating its
drivers with an OCD-like frequency that’s impressive. So always
check to see if there’s a new driver before you launch a brand-new
game. You can find your driver version easily in both Catalyst Con-
trol Center under Information/Software, and in the Nvidia Control
Panel. Overheating can also cause the GPU to throttle its clock
speeds, so monitor your temps using the software provided by
your GPU manufacturer.
PROBLEM: MULTICARD SETUP NOT WORKING
SOLUTION: Dual-card setups can be problematic for a num-
ber of reasons, and getting them recognized by Windows is the
first challenge. If CrossFireX/SLI isn’t an option you see in the
software, ignore your motherboard’s color coding and move the
second card to a different PCIe slot. Games are a different story,
as the drivers have to include a profile for a certain game, bench-
mark, or application to allow both cards to function, so there is
usually a bit of a wait after a game comes out for a compatible
driver (EVGA uniquely offers temporary profiles for new games).
Assuming dual-card mode is enabled in the drivers, and the game
has been out awhile, your SLI/CrossFireX bridge could be faulty,
but that is rare. You can try forcing dual-card mode via the Catalyst
Control Center or Nvidia Control Panel, but success is hit-or-miss
when doing this.
PROBLEM: SCREEN CORRUPTION AND
ARTIFACTS
SOLUTION: Graphical corruption is usually due to one of two
things: a video card that is either overheating or dying. First, check
your temps using software like MSI Afterburner, EVGA Precision
X, Asus GPU Tweak, GPU-Z, etc. Anything below 80°C is fine but a
well-cooled card typically doesn’t exceed 70°C. Second, take your
GPU out of the case and give it a good cleaning with compressed
air, and after you reinstall it, put some cool air on it by removing
the case door for a bit, or manually turn up the fans to 100 percent
using the above-mentioned software. To see if your card is dying,
try running it in a friend’s system to test; conversely, use his or her
card in your system. Also, if you are overclocking, immediately go
back to stock speeds.
PROBLEM: DISPLAY AND RESOLUTION ISSUES
SOLUTION: While not as common, you should never over-
look a cable/connection issue as the cause of your problem. If you
are running 2560x1600 resolution, you probably need a dual-link
DVI cable (and therefore a dual-link DVI port on the video card,
as well—some DVI ports are single-link, so check). DisplayPort
also runs at 2560x1600, but VGA and single-link DVI do not. Also
double-check the input source for your LCD, as that’s a mistake
that even non-rookies make. And double-check the cable you’re
using—swap it out if possible.
PROBLEM: SECOND DISPLAY NOT RECOGNIZED
SOLUTION: First, make sure you are running the latest driv-
ers. Many systems that are running the default Windows drivers
have issues with this. Second, make sure you have gone into the
control panel of the drivers to enable the second display. Third,
some DVI ports do not work if you are using a VGA-DVI adapter,
so if there are two ports on your card, try them both. If you have
everything set normally in the drivers, make sure your Windows
settings are configured properly, and that you have multiple dis-
plays enabled.
Gee, pee-yew!

www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 79
CPU It’s usually not the culprit
PROBLEM: CPU IS OVERHEATING
SOLUTION: Don’t assume that high temps automatically war-
rant a new heatsink. The cooler is likely dust-clogged (try cleaning
it), or the fan is dying (requiring a replacement). Or the heatsink
has been poorly installed—remove it and remount it with new
thermal paste. (Incidentally, degraded thermal paste alone can be
the culprit). Other possible causes include the case fans—clean
and check them. Or a newer, hotter GPU could have swamped your
case’s ability to stay cool. A BIOS update could also change the fan
profiles from what you had set. Also keep this in mind: If your CPU
is seemingly running “hot” but the machine isn’t blue-screening or
throttling clock speed, you probably don’t have to sweat it.
PROBLEM: CPU IS SLOW
SOLUTION: CPU performance issues typically come from
misconfiguration in the BIOS or overheating. First, verify your
chip’s clock speed by running CPU-Z (www.cpuid.com) while run-
ning a CPU load in Cinebench 11.5 (www.maxon.net). If the clocks
are correct (remember, chips don’t Turbo under heavy loads on
all cores), compare your Cinebench 11.5 scores with others on the
Internet. The scores should be within a few percentage points of
others. If the scores are close, the CPU is not “slow;” it’s some-
thing else in your system. If the scores don’t match, you may have a
thermal issue. Check that your heatsink hasn’t come loose, reap-
ply thermal paste, and clean the heatsink and fans. A BIOS update
could also be needed, as well.
PROBLEM: CPU IS UNSTABLE
SOLUTION: CPUs rarely “go bad.” They typically work or don’t
work. Usually, it’s everything around them that breaks. If you’re
overclocking, stop. Try to isolate CPU problems by running a CPU-
intensive app such as Prime95. If it blue-screens, check thermal
issues first (see “CPU Is Overheating”). Also check your RAM with
Memtest86+ (www.memtest.org). Check your power supply con-
nectors to the mobo and GPU. If the PSU is overheating and fail-
ing, it could cause crashes. Failing PSUs cause power sags, which
can look like a bad CPU, too. If you have a known good PSU you
can swap in, do so. Oddly enough, a failing GPU can resemble a
CPU failure, so if you have a spare GPU or an integrated option, try
switching to it and testing again.
PROBLEM: CPU IS ALWAYS UNDER A
HEAVY LOAD
SOLUTION: Heavy CPU usage can be a sign of malware, so
make sure your AV is updated and run a full system scan. Also con-
sider running a secondary scan using Malwarebytes Free (www.
malwarebytes.org) and any of the free web-based scanners such
as those from Trend Micro, Bit Defender, or ESET. Also check to
see that your own AV app isn’t thrashing the system by doing a
scan—check the running processes in Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt +
Del, Start Task Manager, select Processes.) Click the CPU column
to sort by usage and begin searching the Internet for each suspi-
cious process name.
PROBLEM: CPU ONLY WORKS IN SINGLE-
CHANNEL MODE
SOLUTION: First, make sure the RAM is OK by running Mem-
test86+ (www.memtest.org). If the RAM clears, check the slots for
debris and swap out the DIMMs for known good RAM. If crash-
ing persists when put into dual-channel mode, you likely bent a
pin installing your CPU. We’ve seen this on LGA1366 and LGA1155
platforms several times. It can be fixed by taking a sharp knife
and carefully straightening the pin in the socket (or on the CPU in
AMD chips).

Network Why can’t it just work?
PROBLEM: INTERNET CONNECTION DROPS
SOLUTION: The most likely culprit is your ISP, so prepare to wait
on hold. Before you do, though, try some basic troubleshooting.
If your system(s) connects through a router, connect the system
directly to your modem to see if the router has a problem, and also
cycle the power on your broadband modem. But don’t just quickly hit
its power switch or reset button. Unplug it from power for a few sec-
onds. Plug it back in and wait for the modem to resync with your ISP’s
network before testing the connection again. If you find yourself re-
setting your modem monthly or even weekly to resolve Internet con-
nectivity issues, a call to your ISP is in order. There may be an issue
that only a modem replacement or a service tech can fix.
PROBLEM: FILE DOWNLOADS TAKE FOR-
EVER, PING TIMES SUCK
SOLUTION: Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t any tweaks
that will significantly speed up or improve Internet connection speeds.
If your connection is usually fast, but slows during peak hours or only
when connecting to certain sites, there may not be much you can do.
You should certainly run a broadband test to see where your speeds
actually are. ISPs usually have a guaranteed speed band that, if you’re
under, they will either fix or charge you less for. Also, power cycle
your modem and router. Check your router’s log to see if you have
an unauthorized guest sapping speed. Streaming Internet cameras,
or streaming Netflix to multiple devices will also sap performance.
PROBLEM: CAN’T ACCESS NEW SERVER/
NAS/PC FROM OTHER SYSTEMS
SOLUTION: There are a number of things that could cause a new
system/NAS to be inaccessible from other machines on a network.
First, make sure the new system is definitely connected to the LAN
properly and that its network controller is active. And also check that
the system’s configured with the correct IP address. If the server or
NAS is on a different subnet, for example, it may appear to be con-
nected to a network, but it won’t be visible to your other systems.
With a standalone NAS device, you’ll have to log into its configuration
menu, navigate to the LAN settings, and then enter the proper IP ad-
dress (or set it to DHCP). To change an IP address on Windows 7 sys-
tems, you’ll want to go to Network and Sharing Center, click the Local
Area Connection, then click the Properties button, highlight Internet
Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4), and then click Properties again. You
can change the system’s IP address on the General tab.
It’s also possible that your client PC has network discovery dis-
abled or an overzealous firewall that won’t let the system see other
devices, so check that, too.
PROBLEM: SSID APPEARS BUT CAN’T
CONNECT USING WI-FI
SOLUTION: Wi-Fi connectivity problems are almost always
caused by interference or firmware and/or driver incompatibilities.
The first thing to try is to simply reset your wireless router in case
something’s gone wonky that a reboot might fix. Pull your router’s
power cord, wait a few seconds, and then plug it back in. Once the
router has fully booted, try to connect again.
If the issue persists, the wireless channel being used by your rout-
er may be congested. Download a utility like Insider (www.metageek.
net) to your laptop, or Wi-Fi Analyzer to your smartphone, and scan
the wireless networks in the area. If your router is using the same
channel as many others within range, log into your router’s configu-
ration menu, navigate to the wireless network section, and change
the channel to the one that’s least used in the area.
If that doesn’t help, try updating the router’s firmware. Hit your
router manufacturer’s website and check for a firmware update. If
one is available, download it, and then log into the router’s configura-
tion menu and apply the update (this process will vary from router to
router—consult your manual). Once the firmware update is installed,
configure the wireless network settings and try connecting again.
Updating the drivers for your wireless network controller is worth
a shot, too.
PROBLEM: INTERNET CONNECTION IS
UNRELIABLE
SOLUTION: Unreliable or intermittent Internet connections are
usually the result of a hardware or signal problem at some point be-
tween your PC and the web. Some of these problems you can fix, oth-
ers may require a service call from your ISP.
The first thing to try is resetting your modem and router and swap-
ping out the network cables between them. Kill the power to your
modem and router, wait a few moments, and then power them back
up. Also, be sure to use known good cables to connect the devices
together. We can’t count how many times a faulty cable has caused
funky issues on a network. If the problem persists, give your ISP a
call and have it run a diagnostic to check the signal strength and qual-
ity on your line. Should your ISP find a problem, odds are it can be
fixed by a service technician.
80 PC GAMER PC BUILDER’S BIBLE FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com


82 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
LET'S SAY YOU can get your computer
to perform its POST (power-on self-
test, which ends with a single, short
beep from your motherboard if you
have a speaker installed on it), but
Windows itself won't load. Before
you start sweating through Google
searches, sometimes the problem
is temporary and random; simply
restarting your PC can make the
problem go away.
If your PC tells you that a file
called NTLDR.exe is missing, the
problem may be more serious.
Sometimes you can just create a
new version of this file. For Win-
dows 7, reboot and hit F8 just before
Windows would start loading. This
loads a troubleshooting menu, from
which you select Repair Your Com-
puter. This is mostly an automated
process; you follow a few onscreen
instructions and let Microsoft take
the wheel. For Windows 8, you boot
from its installation disc to access
repair options, or you may have a
Recovery Drive on a USB stick. To
make your computer boot to those
devices instead of Windows, con-
sult your motherboard manual for
the keyboard shortcut that can open
your boot menu during the POST.
WHAT TO
DO WHEN
WINDOWS
WON'T START
Windows
What’s made of 50 million lines of
code and rarely breaks? Nothing
PROBLEM: WINDOWS IS FREEZING
SOLUTION: The biggest culprits here are usually malware
(malicious software, whose favorite installation method is through
browser exploits) or high temperatures in your case. With mal-
ware, there are no real standards for quality, so badly written ones
can cause all kinds of performance issues. The stuff is also de-
signed to be hard to find and hard to remove, so your antimalware
software (Norton, McAfee, or Malwarebytes) might not remove it.
In which case, you may need to reinstall Windows.
But before you nuke it from orbit, how dusty is your case? The
stuff insulates whatever it's collected on and will clog fans over
time. But a can of compressed air held upright and triggered in
short bursts should take care of most of it.
Case vibration over time can also loosen cables and cause ran-
dom loss of signal, so make sure those are all squared away (and
not chewed up by gremlins).
Lastly, if you're overclocking your CPU or GPU, you may just
need to tone that down a bit.
PROBLEM: BLUE SCREEN ERROR
SOLUTION: The usual villains are beta GPU drivers and over-
clocked CPUs (but feel free to Google specific error messages).
GPU drivers see the most frequent changes in enthusiast PCs, and
beta versions are sometimes shaky. You can uninstall these driv-
ers in the Add or Remove Programs section of your Control Panel
(Programs and Features in Windows 8), where the files are labeled
according to your brand (usually Nvidia or AMD, sometimes Intel).
Then reboot and install an older version of the driver obtained
from the manufacturer's website, preferably the drivers labeled
"WHQL" (for Windows Hardware Quality Labs), Microsoft's seal of
approval. Didn’t write down the BSOD info? Check out BlueScreen-
View (www.nirsoft.net).
PROBLEM: WINDOWS SLOWS DOWN
SOLUTION: The most common source of this problem is a pro-
gram eating up your CPU power or RAM. Sometimes it's a memory
leak, which means that a program isn't releasing RAM that it's no
longer using, which can snowball over time to occupy all available
memory. Restarting the program should fix the leak temporarily,
but the long-term solution usually requires the program's creator to
produce a new version. Other times, it can be a scheduled virus scan
running in the background, or even a virus or other malware.

www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 83
Sometimes, you can still boot into
Safe Mode to diagnose the problem.
This is a stripped-down environ-
ment—only the minimum necessary
services and drivers will load. For
Windows 7, this is accessed via the F8
menu mentioned above. For Windows
8, you must also hold down the Shift
key when pressing F8. It may take sev-
eral tries to get your timing right, be-
cause your window is small. This will
load Windows 8's recovery mode. Once
there, click Troubleshoot to get a num-
ber of options, including loading a re-
store point, recovering from a backup
drive image, accessing the command
prompt to enter text commands, and
altering Windows startup settings. It's
not a bad idea to try the restore point
or drive image options, if you created
those recently. If not, then click the
Startup Settings button, then click
Safe Mode. Once this mode has loaded,
you can try running a virus check or
uninstalling recently installed pro-
grams or drivers.
It could also be a loose data cable on
the storage device that contains your
Windows installation, making it invisi-
ble to your PC. You'll want to shut down
your rig, open the side panel, and do a
spot check.
It's also possible that the drive
Windows is installed on is dead. Stor-
age devices usually do not give much
warning of imminent failure. At most,
you'll hear some crunchy sounds or
clicking before they give up the ghost.
If you install the drive in another com-
puter and you still can't "see" it, it's
probably a goner.
To check background programs, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc, which
opens the Task Manager. You can click the labels at the top of each
column to sort alphabetically, or by CPU or RAM usage. Save your
documents or whatever else you were working on at the time.
Then, if a program is eating up your resources and you don't rec-
ognize it, Google its name to determine its danger level. If it's not
supposed to be there, you may need to manually run a virus scan to
remove it. Or you may just be able to right-click the program in the
Task Manager list and select End Process. In some cases, simply
rebooting can make sluggishness issues disappear.
PROBLEM: WINDOWS UPDATE HANGS
SOLUTION: First, is the time and date right on your PC? Mi-
crosoft has a "Fix It" file available on its support page that talks
about this issue, Article ID 2700567. Just run that, and it may fix
your issue. If not, you may have to use System Restore to reset
Windows to before it hung on Windows Update. In Windows 8, you
get there by restarting your PC, clicking the power icon on the log-
in screen, holding down the Shift key, and selecting Restart. That
will load a screen with some troubleshooting options. Select Trou-
bleshoot, then Advanced Options. When you click System Restore,
your PC will reboot in the Restore mode. Select your account, se-
lect Next on the next screen, choose your Windows drive, hit Next
again, then wait for the restore process. You can hit Restart when
that's done, then redo WIndows Update.
If your system isn’t booting in Windows 7 and you need to re-
store, you need the installation disc and access to an admin ac-
count (home desktop users have this account type by default). Pop
in the disc, reboot, and press any key when your PC prompts you
to (shortly after the POST, but before your current Windows in-
stallation would start loading). Click through the CD's language,
time, and input settings, select "repair your computer," and follow
the onscreen instructions. The most recent Restore Point should
work. After this process reboots your computer, try Windows
Update again.
PROBLEM: LOW MEMORY
SOLUTION: If it's not a memory leak (see "Windows Slows
Down) or other program hogging your RAM, you can try increasing
your virtual memory, which is a cache that Windows stores on your
hard drive. Right-click the Computer icon on your desktop and select
Properties. (In Windows 8, switch to Desktop Mode to see the icon.)
Click Advanced System Settings on the left. In the section labeled
Performance, click the Settings button. Click the Advanced tab and
click Change. Uncheck the box at the top and select Custom Size. A
good rule of thumb is to set Initial Size and Maximum Size to 1.5 times
your amount of RAM (listed on the Properties window you opened
earlier). More than that can actually slow down your PC. Click Set
and then click OK.
Editing high-def videos, high-res photos, or large audio files can
eat up gigs of RAM, too. If that's something you do, adding more RAM
is not a bad idea, assuming you have available slots on the mother-
board and you can find sticks of the same type and speed.

84 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
Sleep Even PCs can get insomnia
PROBLEM: WHEN PC GOES TO SLEEP, I CAN’T
WAKE IT BACK UP

SOLUTION: Systems that don’t wake up after going to sleep
usually have a device connected or an internal component that
misbehaves when the machine enters the sleep state. If you’re
lucky, the device is throwing an error before the system hangs and
you can ascertain the culprit by checking out Event Viewer (click
your Start button, type event viewer in the search field, and hit En-
ter. Then check the system log for critical errors). If your system
isn’t providing any clues, though, run Windows Update to ensure
the OS is fully patched and also try updating your device drivers,
especially for components like graphics cards, chipsets, and stor-
age controllers.
It’s also possible that a device connected via USB is the root
cause of the problem, so try disconnecting any nonessential de-
vices until you figure out which one’s at fault.
PROBLEM: WAKING PC CAUSES CRASH
SOLUTION: A vital component or driver that doesn’t reini-
tialize properly when the system is coming out of the sleep state
is most likely the cause of the crash. More often than not, driver
and/or firmware updates can resolve issues like this one. A flaky
piece of hardware, like a bad stick of RAM, can also be the root
cause, but software issues are much more likely, especially if
the system is stable and behaves normally otherwise. Add-in
storage controllers and older graphics cards are commonly the
cause of sleep-related instability, so make sure you’re using the
latest drivers and firmware for both. Installing the latest BIOS on
your motherboard and using the latest drivers for your chipset
are also recommended.
PROBLEM: PC CRASHES WHEN IT GOES TO
SLEEP

SOLUTION: The most likely solutions to this problem are
virtually identical to the previous question, so follow our recom-
mendations above. Also keep in mind that if the crash results in
a memory dump and an event being written in the system log,
checking out the details in Event Viewer can help quickly sniff out
the offender. Googling the actual error codes or using a utility like
BlueScreenView can also come in handy to help pinpoint the cause.
PROBLEM: SYSTEM KEEPS WAKING FROM
SLEEP
SOLUTION: A few things can cause a system to constantly
wake from sleep. One of the more common problems is a pesky
malware infestation that triggers some sort of scheduled task, so
run a scan on your system to be sure it’s not infected.
A component in the system can also be the culprit. To find out
exactly what caused your system to wake up, open a command
prompt with elevated privileges (type cmd in the Start search,
right-click and Run as Administrator); at the prompt type:
powercfg /lastwake and the utility will list the device or ser-
vice that last woke the PC. If it turns out it was a nonessential
service, you can simply disable it. If a system component was the
cause, open Device Manager, find the component, right-click it,
and choose Properties from the menu. In the window that pops
up, click the Power Management tab and uncheck the field la-
beled “Allow this device to wake the computer.”
PROBLEM: PC WON’T GO TO SLEEP
SOLUTION: If your PC won’t go to sleep, check that you’ve
got it configured to go to sleep in the first place. Click your Start
button, type power options in the search field, and hit Enter. Then
click the “Change plan settings” link for the plan you have se-
lected and make sure there is a value in the “Put the computer
to sleep” field.
If you’re certain the system is configured properly for sleep,
but it still won’t power down, open a command prompt with el-
evated privileges and at the prompt type powercfg /requests
and hit Enter to see a list of items that are preventing the system
from going to sleep. Once you’ve found the culprit, disable it (if
it’s nonessential) or change its Power Management settings (see
above) and your PC should go to sleep.

www.pcgamer.com FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 85
1. PAUSE YOUR OVERCLOCK
Overclocking is indeed a wonderful way to get free perfor-
mance, but when you are troubleshooting a mysterious issue,
put a pause on your extracurricular clock-pushing.
2. DO NOT USE MICROSOFT AS A BOOGEY MAN
It’s easy to point fingers at Microsoft for everything from the
JFK assassination to, well, the Modern UI, but usually OS
problems can be traced to buggy applications and drivers
rather than the OS itself. Don’t get us wrong, there are still
many, many bugs in Windows’ probably more than 50 mil-
lion lines of code, but blaming Microsoft while throwing your
hands in the air with defeat, rather than really investigating
the problem, is a cop-out.
3. UNPLUG IT
It’s common to begin working on your system with the PSU
still plugged in or switched on. People forget that when the
PSU is hot, power is still running through the RAM and PCIe
slots. It’s very little power but there’s still a small risk of
damaging components when removing parts from the moth-
erboard, so switch off your PSU before you tinker.
4. CHECK YOUR CONNECTIONS
The thing about wires—and even expansion cards—is they
don’t always like to stay put. This especially holds true if you
move your PC every now and then, as momentum can jostle
them out of place. When things go wrong, always check to see
if your PC’s connections are secure (after grounding!).
5. ALWAYS BE GROUNDED
Granted, donning a grounding strap or ESD smock just to pull
out a stick of RAM is a tad overkill, but you should at least
touch a large metal object such as file cabinet to discharge
any built-up static before touching any sensitive electronics.
6. AT THE FIRST HINT OF TROUBLE, BACK UP
When your drive makes one mysterious click or when even a
single NAS fan fails, do a complete backup rather than wait-
ing and potentially feeling remorse that you didn’t act sooner.
7. WHEN IN DOUBT, REBOOT
Rebooting will fix more things than you can imagine, espe-
cially for those folks who put their PC to sleep rather than
shutting down.
8. RETRACE YOUR STEPS
If something just broke, it’s usually the last thing that you did.
So, if you installed a new AV program, a new stick of RAM,
or mucked with the registry to improve performance, put the
truck in reverse and beep your way back.
9. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME FOR MAINTENANCE
Your term paper is due tomorrow morning, so it prob-
ably isn’t a good time to flash your BIOS and firmware and
resize your disk partitions. Rather than turn a standard
repair job into a critical emergency, choose the right time
for maintenance.
10. MOST HARDWARE PROBLEMS CAN’T BE FIXED
The sad thing about integrated circuits is that 80 percent of
hardware issues can’t be fixed by you. Sure, you can replace
a burst capacitor or bend back a socket pin, but a fried CPU,
bad stick of RAM, or disabled SSD can’t be fixed no matter how
many hours you burn on it. Sometimes, it’s better to just know
when to fold ’em.
THE 10
COMMANDMENTS OF
TROUBLESHOOTING
Important life lessons for dealing with a broken PC

86 PC GAMER BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC FALL 2013 www.pcgamer.com
Pick up a lot of games for not a lot of money
by Connor Sheridan
Y
ou fretted over which components to buy, waited in agony for
days or weeks for them to arrive, and put them together with
migraine-inducing care (perhaps suffering a few thermal-grease
related scares along the way). Now you’re ready to play some
video games.
Just one problem: Buying all that stuff left your cash reserves
dangerously low. If you were a console gamer, you’d have to get by
with just a game or two: all dressed up with no mobs to kill until
your fiscal vital signs stabilize. But you’re a PC gamer, pal, and if
there’s one thing you have, it’s options.
The next few pages lay out a small sample of the deals you can
score in the wonderful world of digital distribution, and where
to find them. These games will keep you clicking, shooting, plat-
forming, looting, sneaking, leveling, perma-dying, and
low-Earth orbiting on the cheap for months to come. You
better get playing.
Gaming
on a
Budget
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Surviving is one thing, but living with yourself is another
in Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead. Its survivors skirt
around the comic and television series, telling a new
story of the zombie apocalypse come to Georgia. A
smattering of adventure game puzzles and action seg-
ments bow to its adaptive narrative—this game is all
about making choices. Characters live and die by your
words and actions; who appears and what happens in
each episode depends on who you help and who you
forsake. It’s up to you to decide what’s most important,
but remember, a little girl is watching and learning
about how to live in the new world.
A good heist needs a bit of planning, plenty of communication, and a
touch of intimidation to end with duffel bags full of cash. A bad heist just
needs ample ammunition and body bags to clean up the mess. Robbing a
well-secured institution involves many moving parts—not just squirming
hostages. Keep in mind that Payday 2’s extended scenarios track your per-
formance over multi-mission arcs, rewarding your team for precision strikes
with less police interference, friendlier criminal cohorts, and more cash.
Ever looked at a space shuttle and thought, “I could do better?”
Well, it’s time to put your rocket science where your mouth
is, buddy, because Kerbal Space Program is all about putting
adorable little green dudes on the moon. Or at least in orbit.
Or at least somewhere above the... oh, nope, they just crashed
into a plume of fire and broken dreams again. KSP is goofy and
challenging; chances are, you’ll fail dozens of times before finally
building a space-worthy rocket. But that doesn’t mean you won’t
feel like Neil Armstrong and Elon Musk rolled into one when your
Kerbal crew leaves its first boot prints on an alien world.
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Overkill Software
Publisher: Squad
Developer: Squad
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
The Walking
Dead
Payday 2
Kerbal Space
Program
When the dead attack the living,
there are no easy choices
Pull off the perfect heist
Build, fly, and watch the fiery
demise of custom rockets
At least the
zombies won’t
attempt to guilt
trip you.
GAMES FOR $30 OR LESS

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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive doesn’t fix what isn’t broken.
The original CS helped propel competitive PC gaming to its
industry-defining state today, so a graphical overhaul, a few
equipment tweaks, and some new modes are more than
enough to modernize the lethal classic. Veterans of de_dust
and bomb-defusing neophytes alike can find a lot to love in this
update. Classic modes like hostage rescue and bomb defusal
remain intact, but an official Gun Game mode (called Arms
Race here) should be enough to get anybody on board. Don’t let
the terrorists win. Unless you spawn as a terrorist.
Counter-Strike:
An old dog learned some new tricks
There are jump scares, and then there are dark, quiet horrors
that tie stomachs in knots and submerge their sufferers in
nauseating suspense. Amnesia: The Dark Descent generally
goes for the latter. Despite inspiring a renaissance of first-
person horror, Amnesia’s penchant for producing boundless
dread remains unmatched. Players must balance physical
health, mental fortitude, and all-important lantern oil as
they explore a dingy castle full of unsettling sights and
freakish monsters. Fighting its native horrors is out of the
question, so you’d better keep an eye on the nearest closet or
dark corner to hide in... and hope you’re alone in there.
When a guard sees his partner strung up from a chandelier just
in time for the lights to go out and 180 pounds of ninja to land
on his chest, you begin to wonder why stealth sucks so much
in every other game. Mark of the Ninja takes the simple act of
sneaking around in a 2D environment and builds, polishes, and
simplifies until it’s more or less a lifestyle choice.
You don’t have to stay quiet in Mark of the Ninja if its gratuitous
combat beckons, but you seldom need to bloody your blade if
you prefer wearing the shadows. Whichever path you decide
to take, a generous checkpoint system and ample replayability
means each scenario can (and should) play out a dozen ways.
This is easily one of the best ninja games ever made.
Publisher: Valve
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Frictional Games
Developr: Frictional Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Amnesia:
Mark of
the Ninja
Hide for your life and sanity
Stylish sidescrolling stealth
honed to a shuriken’s edge
GAMES FOR $20 OR LESS
None who see your sweet
ninja moves may live to tell
the tale.
The Dark Descent
Global Offensive

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FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 89
In this brilliant fusion of lethal Castlevania-inspired
exploration and persistent RPG advancement, you can
get rich and die trying. Every hero that delves into Rogue
Legacy’s sidescrolling dungeons will find a treacher-
ous new layout to map and plunder. But death is just
an intermission: you can begin again as one of your
character’s descendants, who benefits from all the cash,
equipment, and abilities his or her forebears found and
purchased. Each descendant has a distinct class and ge-
netic quirks like color blindness or gigantism, so getting
to know your new character is almost as fun as exploring
the ever-changing environment.
You need to do a few things to
survive in the tunnels under Moscow:
scavenge everywhere and everything,
always keep a few gas mask filters on
hand, and try to save the good bullets
for special occasions. Metro 2033’s
wrecked tunnels and brief, terrifying
surface interludes make a unique set-
ting for a grim first-person shooter.
Its story of tenuous survival in a
nuclear winter (which destroyed the
surface world and produced scads of
deadly mutants) is based on a Rus-
sian novel, but this ain’t no Tolstoy.
Teleglitch looks like Doom fan fic-
tion. Instead of a first-person romp
through a moon base, it’s a tense
top-down shooter with scarce am-
munition and plentiful enemies.
Fortunately, your lone survivor is
clever, and junk like tin cans and nails
can be crafted into deadly weapons.
Teleglitch’s randomly generated en-
vironments are pixelated, but subtle
perspective shifts and distortion cre-
ate a surreal sense of motion. Mind
your woeful line of sight and you just
might make it to the exit.
The Witcher series has a complex
story with many significant charac-
ters and compounding player choices.
But main character Geralt of Rivia is
an amnesiac, anyway, so it’s not like
anybody can expect you to remember
them if you didn’t play the first
game. You, on the other hand, will
remember The Witcher 2’s intricate
towns, deep plotlines, and intense,
fight-for-your-life battles. You’ll also
remember how good it is to be a PC
gamer when you get all this for just
shy of $20.
Publisher: THQ / Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Cellar Door Games
Developer: Cellar Door Games
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: T3P
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Rogue Legacy
Metro 2033
Teleglitch The Witcher 2:
Each ancestor’s grave is just a
stepping stone to success
Post-apocalyptic Mos-
cow’s horrors mostly don’t
go in the subway
Build guns and set traps
in this top-down shooter
roguelike
Enter a dark and memo-
rable fantasy world
Build a better
dungeon-diving
future for your
offspring.
Enhanced Edition

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Who knew the story of a sad little boy fleeing from his
filicidal mother could be so entertaining? The Binding
of Isaac looks like a cartoonishly disturbing take on
The Legend of Zelda’s dungeons, but it plays like a
top-down shoot-em-up through legions of disgusting
hellspawn. Power-ups scattered throughout random-
ly generated layouts turn Isaac’s tears into powerful
weapons, and secrets beckon behind every wall. If
you manage to reach the end, a new dungeon full of
freshly unlocked secrets will be waiting next time.
The Binding
of Isaac
The most gruesome of roguelikes
There’s no time to get frustrated by adventure game logic
when each scenario explodes in twenty seconds. MacGyver
wannabe McPixel defuses his way through dozens of tiny
puzzles, each with only one solution that doesn’t end in
everyone’s demise. Chunky sprites, crunchy tunes, and end-
less potty humor make this send-up of the early Infocom
and LucasArts adventuring days seem like a hot mess, but
McPixel’s boundless determination to defy expectations
makes it impossible to put down.
Publisher: Edmund McMillen
Developer: Edmund McMillen
Publisher: Mikolaj “Sos” Kaminski
Genre: Mikolaj “Sos” Kaminski
McPixel
Save the day in 20 seconds or
less
GAMES FOR $10 OR LESS
Origin
The only place to play current Electronic Arts
games on PC is Origin, so at least it hosts its own
social features and ties in with your EA account.
Nothing about Origin bests Steam, but it’s mostly
harmless.
Steam
PC gamers need Steam. It’s home to more games,
players, and crazy-good seasonal discounts than
any other service, and it even hosts some compel-
ling social features like game communities and
guides. Consider the other services auxiliaries.
Good Old Games
A DRM hater’s paradise of new and classic games.
Its seasonal savings are second only to Steam,
and its selection of classic games puts Valve’s
store to shame. GOG is a lightweight one-stop
retro shop.
WHERE TO FIND DIGITAL DEALS
When the going
gets tough, the
tough get kinda
creepy.

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FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 91
Hotline Miami is a 2D top-down shooter, but it’s more Drive
than Smash TV. Buildings laid out flat like flashing, nauseating
floorplans become horrific crime scenes as your character shoots,
stomps, and smashes his way through dozens of faceless goons
at the behest of a voice on his answering machine. Which is a lot
harder than it sounds—this game is tough as nails.
Hotline Miami’s unflinching violence is a puzzle as much as it is
a test of twitch reflexes: can you shoot a guard to death then
take out his friend across the hall before he splatters your brains
across a pool table? Can you dodge bullets long enough to find
and aim a fresh assault rifle? Don’t expect any easy resolution to
the stomach-turning tasks from its stark, ambiguous narrative.
Two doctors have
a single mission: to
fulfill the last wish
of a dying man.
Before they can
grant his desire—to
go to the moon—the
two must rewrite his
memories and work
backwards through
his life to find out
why. To the Moon
looks like a SNES-era
RPG, but its flawed,
funny characters and
understated music
will build a little
lighthouse in your
heart.
This Kickstarted
space-roguelike
will satisfy all your
ship-to-ship combat
fantasies, but don’t
get too attached
to your vessel. One
slip-up and it’s gone
for good, and you’re
back to the begin-
ning. Fortunately,
a randomly gener-
ated selection of
ships, galaxies, and
enemies to fight
means you’ll always
find fresh obstacles
to best and spoils to
salvage.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Dennaton Games
Publisher: Freebird Games
Genre: Freebird Games
Publisher: Subset Games
Genre: Subset Games
Hotline
Miami
To the Moon
FTL
Hyperviolence at its best
A bittersweet journey through a
dying man’s memories
Space roguelike with a penchant
for blowing up your ship
Green Man Gaming
You can download and trade games through
Green Man Gaming’s native service, but it’s also
a frequent middleman for cheap Steam codes.
Some truly mind blowing deals come through
every now and then, so keep your eye on it.
Desura
An easy way to install and play dozens of lesser-
known standalone titles and mods, Desura’s a
godsend for PC indie gamers. Don’t expect to find
the latest cinematic shooter, but you are liable to
dig up something deliciously different.
Uplay
Ubisoft’s dedicated PC portal has less going for
it than Origin. Still, it’s an improvement from the
publisher’s old DRM policies. You can even use
points earned in console games to unlock bonuses
in PC games, and vice versa.
Get your invite to the Electric
Kool-Aid Murder Fest.

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If you try this game first, there’s a good chance you’ll never
install another game onto that rig you just built; you’ll be too
busy learning the interplay of more than a hundred heroes and
drinking in victory after hour-long struggles against five of
your worst enemies. League of Legends may have cribbed its
notes from Defense of the Ancients, but its streamlined battle-
field mechanics and rotating lineup of free champions made
it the biggest game in the world. Clear out a few afternoons to
learn its ways, and watch the rest of your free time disappear.
The definitive class-based multiplayer shooter is easily the
oldest game on this list, but you wouldn’t know it from the
patch notes. Team Fortress 2 shows no signs of slowing down
after more than six years online, and it gets as deep as you
want it to be: a newbie soldier who doesn’t know a rocket jump
from a spy check can still blow flag runners to smithereens, but
a devoted scout with equipment customized to perfection can
dance around his helmeted noggin for a dramatic comeback.
Oh, and there are bout a billion digital hats for you to collect.
League of Legends Team Fortress 2
The world’s biggest MOBA is an
unbelievable value at $0
Gib your friends in the best class-
based shooter ever
Three factions. Three continents. Thousands of players. One
hotspot where you could make the difference. It’s one button
press away in PlanetSide 2, where the battles are tremendous
and every single muzzle flash comes from some other player’s
first-person perspective. Fortunately, this battlefield is
newbie friendly: instant action teleports you wherever you’re
needed and enlists you in a platoon of squadmates. But it’s
a good thing taking over the world one hexagon at a time is
so fun, since improving gear and abilities takes a long time
without spending cash.
Publisher: Riot Games
Developer: Riot Games
Publisher: Valve
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Sony Online Entertainment
PlanetSide 2
A massively multiplayer world that’s
yours for the first-person conquering
FREE GAMES
Find your niche on one
battlefield with hundreds of
players.

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FALL 2013 BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC PC GAMER 93
Publisher: Valve
Developer: Valve
MOBA greatness
requires discipline
Valve’s take on multi-
player online battle are-
nas is a Scorsese thriller
to League of Legends’
Bruckheimer blockbust-
er. Exacting mechanics
and truly distinct heroes
make LoL’s learning
curve look like a bunny
slope. But once Dota 2’s
complexity clicks, it’s a
sport of kings.
Publisher: Grinding
Gear Games
Developer: Grinding
Gear Games
A world of random,
customizable loot
Action RPGs are always
about the items, anyway,
so why dally with restric-
tive classes and struc-
tured progression? Path
of Exile’s dark world is
full of randomized loot,
monsters, and other
players, and it boasts
one of the deepest
character advancement
systems ever devised.
Publisher: Digital
Extremes
Developer: Digital
Extremes
Time to raid
Blades, swords, and
creepy robo-ninja suits
await in cooperative
action game Warframe.
Think of it like any other
sci-fi romp where you
raid hostile bases and
mow down legions of
enemies with special
abilities, but this time
you do it with a bunch of
your friends.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
A galaxy full of
stories
Star Wars: The Old
Republic could have
easily been Knights of
the Old Republic 3. And
4. And 5. Whether you
find MMOs appealing or
not, dozens of elaborate
stories waiting to unfold
make it worth playing for
Star Wars fanatics and
dialogue wheel wizards
alike.
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Three Rings
Design
Top-down brawls in
dungeons
Customize your futuristic gun from
stock to muzzle, load out your soldier
with top-of-the-line equipment, and
send him or her into fast, frantic first-
person battles against other players or
zombies in Blacklight: Retribution. That
fancy visor can see through walls, but it
can’t stop a rampaging hardsuit.
The jet boosting, slope skiing classic
returns in a slick update. Capture the
flag is still the star of the show, but a
host of new classes boost the tempo
of every high-speed firefight. Your PC
hasn’t lived until it’s hosted a desperate
spinfusor duel across frosty peaks and
ski-friendly valleys.
Third-person tower defending isn’t just
the sport of the future in Super Monday
Night Combat: it’s a deep, thrilling take
on MOBAs. More than a dozen customiz-
able characters can compete online,
and—even if you’ve had it up to here
with lanes and creeps—shooting mas-
cots stuffed with cash never get old.
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Developer: Zombie Studios
Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
Developer: Hi-Rez Studios
Publisher: Turbine
Developer: MMORPG
Blacklight:
Retribution
DOTA 2 SWTOR
Path of
Exile
Spiral
Knights
Warframe
Tribes:
Ascend
Super Monday
Night Combat
Feast on some fast, futuristic first-
person shooting
Momentum and fancy guns are
your best friends
Claim the lanes in third-person
scrums
The Legend of Zelda:
Four Swords and Diablo
III had a baby, and they
named it Spiral Knights.
Team up with strangers
or pals for randomized
dungeon dives and score
sweet new gear and
weapon combos. Just
put aside a couple bucks
for extra energy—you’re
going to need it.

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VIDEOCARD MODEL/TYPE:
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SERIAL NUMBER:
serial number—that’s inside your case.
Let’s avoid that. As you unbox each item,
record on this page its identifying infor-
mation as well as the technical support
number from the documentation. Then,
cut this sheet out and keep it in an easily
accessible place, like a filing cabinet.
Should anything go awry, just consult
your cheat sheet for help. But remember
to keep your boxes, packing material and
receipts for at least the length of each
component’s warranty.
PC Gamer’s clip-out guide to...your PC
It’s bad enough when a part goes kaput two days after your
first boot-up. But it’s even worse when tech support asks for a
THE TECH SUPPORT CHEAT SHEET
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