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How to build a gaming PC for $550-ish

Prices might be going up, but you can still build yourself a capable PC for around $550.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Kerry Wan
AMD Ryzen 5 4500 6-Core/12-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Stealth Cooler | Recommended CPU
AMD Ryzen 5 4500 6-Core/12-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Stealth Cooler
AMD Ryzen 5 4500 6-Core/12-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Stealth Cooler
Recommended CPU
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PowerColor Fighter AMD Radeon RX 6600 | Recommended GPU
PowerColor Fighter AMD Radeon RX 6600
PowerColor Fighter AMD Radeon RX 6600
Recommended GPU
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Gigabyte B450M DS3H WiFi | Recommended motherboard
Gigabyte B450M DS3H WiFi
Gigabyte B450M DS3H WiFi
Recommended motherboard
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Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 | Recommended RAM
Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 DRAM
Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4
Recommended RAM
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Samsung 980 SSD 500GB PCle 3.0x4, NVMe M.2 2280 | Recommended storage
Samsung 980 SSD 500GB PCle 3.0x4, NVMe M.2 2280
Samsung 980 SSD 500GB PCle 3.0x4, NVMe M.2 2280
Recommended storage
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Thermaltake Smart Series 500W | Recommended Power Supply Unit (PSU)
Thermaltake Smart Series 500W
Thermaltake Smart Series 500W
Recommended Power Supply Unit (PSU)
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Rosewill Prism S500 | Recommended case
Rosewill Prism S500
Rosewill Prism S500
Recommended case
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Show more (2 items)

Sure, you can buy a PC in pretty much any configuration you desire, but by building one for yourself, you can make sure you're getting maximum value for money.

But with prices rising across the board, every buying decision matters: don't waste your money on PC components that won't contribute to your system's overall performance.

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To help, I've assembled this $550-ish hardware build; all you'll need to add are your own peripherals and operating system of choice. If you want Windows, you can buy a Windows 11 license here.

Why $550-ish? 

First, prices fluctuate daily, sometimes hourly. Once, you could put together a parts list and the only way prices would go was down. Nowadays, prices can go up, too. 

A reader got in touch with me with their $1,000 build, and by the time I'd got back to them to say it looked good, the price of the parts had gone up by almost $150 (I suggested they wait a few days, and sure enough, the prices dropped again).

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Another problem is availability. 

Products come in and out of stock, so I always have a few backups. But again, price variations mean that whatever goal price I set may be busted by a few -- or few tens -- of dollars.

Finally, I'm also going to start giving some options. If you think 16GB of RAM is going to suit you better than 8GB, then go for it. 

If you want a different graphics card or slightly faster CPU, that's also fine -- but it will mean more money. Be prepared for that $550-ish PC to end up being $700.

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Building a PC is less a case of "how fast do you want it to be?" and more "how fast do you want to spend money?"

Another factor to consider: I'm going to point to components with decent availability from brands and retailers that I have had a good to excellent experience. You might be able to find cheaper options by shopping around or picking a more budget brand.

Finally, I want to cover the issue of "used," "refurbished," or "second-hand" parts. 

Sure, you might be able to save money taking this route, but in my experience, it's a path fraught with weeks of headache-inducing hassles. These challenges include mislabeled parts (almost always mislabeled as the higher-model, higher-priced versions), fake parts, busted or blown-up parts, and even empty boxes. 

If you want to take this path to a cheaper computer, you might be better off buying a second-hand PC, because it's easier to argue that a whole PC is dead on arrival or missing than it is to manage all the bits separately.

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I recommend videoing the unpacking/unboxing/initial examination of all your parts (because it makes dispute resolution a lot easier). You should also document everything.

Oh, and get familiar with your bank or credit card company's chargeback policies and PayPal's dispute feature. Because you'll likely need them. Now, on with my recommendations.

This is a solid performer, offering 4.1 GHz of max boost power and 11 MB cache. This comes close to what you'd expect from the 5600X, but at half the price.

You get a 6-core CPU and a cooler, making this a fantastic sub-$100 bargain.

Want to spend more? The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G offers more performance, more cache, and a built-in GPU. 

The graphics card is where it's possible to spend the entire $500 budget on a single component, so we need to be smart to keep the build price manageable.

This GPU from PowerColor is a fantastic option for a little over $200, offering 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, support for two monitors with HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, and dual cooling fans.

Want to spend more? I'd go for the Sapphire Pulse AMD Radeon RX 6700, an overclocked graphics card with 10GB of RAM, but a good $120 more.

This is where it's easy to blow a few hundred dollars and not see much of a return. Here I've gone for the Gigabyte B450M DS3H WiFi because it supports the AMD CPU I've gone for, can accommodate both SATA and M.2 storage drives and take up to a whopping 128GB of RAM, and it's reasonably priced. 

Oh, and there's built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, so you'll save some money on adapters and dongles.

There are a lot of RAM brands out there, and Corsair is one of those brands I find myself using a lot in gaming systems as it is a company that offers a good balance of quality, reliability, and affordability when it comes to memory.

And for $40, this is a deal that's hard to beat.

Installing an SSD (solid-state drive) rather than an older HDD (hard disk drive) makes sense because it will unlock more power from any build. But here I've found a 500GB M.2 drive, which offers greater performance for under $30.

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Sure, you can get much more storage for your money going for an HDD (about 2TB, or four times as much as you're getting here), but there's a huge performance hit. In this case, the sequential read speeds go up to 3,500MB/s and sequential write speeds are up to 3,000MB/s, and a really long lifespan of 600 TBW (Terabytes Written).

This drive is an absolute steal.

Want more? The 1TB version is only $45!

This power supply unit has enough power to keep everything running, and a large, quiet cooling fan to dissipate heat.

This is not a modular power supply, meaning that all the cabling is attached and can't be removed and customized to your needs. This can result in an untidy build and poorer airflow. If you want a modular PSU, it's going to cost you, and I recommend the MSI MPG A850G.

Here's an affordable yet cheerful case that will hold all the components in this build. For around $60, you wouldn't expect any fancy lights or fans on this tower, but think again. This case comes with RGB LED strips down both sides and four cooling fans with awesome RGB lights. There are also plenty of vents for heat management.

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