Build an 'Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim' PC for under $1,000

This build would work just as well for Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 too!
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

'Your mission, should you decided to accept it, is to build a PC capable of running the new 'Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim' game at 'High Quality' graphics setting or better for under $1,000.'

Seems my readers love the new 'Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim' game a lot. I've had more questions about building new PCs and upgrading old ones to run this game than I have had for Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 combined. It seems like it's a popular game, and one that I suspect will be the game of the year.

Note: This PC would work just as well forBattlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 too!

OK then, here goes ...

Note: As usual, I won’t be recommending a case or peripherals … there are too many possibilities, and personal choice/tastes are far too varied.

Looking for a review of 'Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim'? There's a good one over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.


There's a temptation here to go for top-end, but it's unnecessary. There's also a temptation to go with the latest release over the tried-and-tested, which I think is a mistake.

RelatedHow to: Stress test your new PC to shake out any faults

With that in mind I'd going for the AMD Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition. Not the latest or greatest, but it's a tried-and-tested piece of silicon that;ll give you 3.5GHz out of the box and up to 4.0 to 4.2GHz if you're happy overclocking it.

Note: If you're planning to overclock, you'll need to replace the stock cooler with something better.

The video below is of the AMD Phenom II X4 955 being overclocked to 7GHz. Don't try this at home!

Price: $140


I don't believe is spending too much on a motherboard, but i do think that it's a good idea to keep an eye on the future. This is why I've gone for the ASUS M5A99X EVO AM3+ AMD 990X board featuring a UEFI BIOS and 2 x USB 3.0 ports.

Nice, solid, reliable board with lots of features.

Price: $150

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Graphics card

Here's where you need some decent horsepower ... but if you buy wisely, you won't have to remortgage your home and sell you first-born!

Skyrim will run on 'High Quality' on systems running NVIDIA's GTX 260 (I know, I've tried it), but I want something more modern and with a bit more power.

I've gone for the XFX HD-687A-ZHFC Radeon HD 6870 featuring 1GB of GDDR5 RAM.

A solid, reliable card.

Price: $170


Since RAM is pretty cheap (you can pick up some really good deals if you know where to look) let’s pack 16GB into this build.

I've gone with Patriot Extreme Performance 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) which you can pick up for around $99 if you shop around.

Note: You will need a 64-bit operating system to make use of more than 4GB of RAM.

Price: $99


If you want performance, then SSDs (Solid State Drives) are the way to go. The don’t offer anywhere near the $/GB value that hard drives do, but the performance from even the cheapest SSD is spectacular.

120GB OCZ Solid 3 will set up back around $185, which is more than a 2TB hard drive would cost, but the performance from this is blazing.

Don’t skimp on the storage, get an SSD! Install your OS and programs on this drive. If you want more storage, get a cheap 1TB hard drive like the Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARX for $140. [UPDATE: Fixed error in hard disk pricing.]

Power Supply Unit

Here I’m going with a CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX650 V2 650W unit which retails for $95.

Total Cost

Here's the final price list:

  • AMD Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition - $140
  • ASUS M5A99X EVO AM3+ AMD 990X - $150
  • XFX HD-687A-ZHFC Radeon HD 6870 - $170
  • Patriot Extreme Performance 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3 1600 - $99
  • 120GB OCZ Solid 3 - $185
  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARX - $140
  • CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX650 V2 650W - $95


Add to that total the price of a copy of Windows 7 64-bit (Home Premium will set you back around $99), and you're good to go.

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