After you have built your new Gaming PC, you’ll need to install the Windows 10 operating system so you can play games. As part of this process, you’ll learn how to create a bootable Windows 10 USB drive, download and install drivers (software which tells the hardware how to function) and ensure Windows 10 is up to date to ensure you have the latest features, bug fixes and security patches.
How to create a bootable Windows 10 installation USB drive
The first thing we need to do is create a USB drive that contains the Windows 10 installation files. This needs to be created in a specific way so that the USB drive is bootable (i.e. your computer sees the drive and can initiate the installation process). For this process, you’ll need a USB drive with at least 8gb capacity (something like THIS is ideal) and access to another Windows PC.
Microsoft makes this process extremely easy by using the Windows 10 Media Creation tool. Click on “Download Tool Now” to get started.
Find where you download the file to and run it. You’ll have to accept the license agreement.
You’ll next be asked whether you want to upgrade the PC to a newer version of Windows or create installation media. Pick the 2nd option.
The next prompt allows you to choose whether you want to change the language, version of Windows and the architecture (32bit or 64bit). I’d suggest sticking with the defaults.
Now you can choose what you will do with the installation files. The easiest and most straight forward option is to allow the tool to create this for you by selecting “USB Flash Drive”. Ensure your USB drive is plugged in at this point.
Now select the drive you have inserted, be aware that any data on the drive will be erased so ensure it’s either backed up or not required.
The tool will then download the files required for installation. This will depend on the speed of your internet connection, it took about 5 minutes for me.
Once complete the files will be written to the drive. I found this took around 10 minutes.
You now have a USB drive ready to install windows with!
Downloading the drivers and copying them to the USB drive
This next section is optional but it can save a lot of time. The drivers are software which tells the hardware how to operate/function and are crucial for a stable and high performing Gaming PC. Most of the drivers we’ll need can be downloaded from the manufacturer of the motherboard’s website.
I said previously that this step is optional as during the Windows 10 installation process drivers will be installed but these won’t be up to date. They’ll be the minimum you require to get going. In most cases a driver will be found for your ethernet or wifi devices allowing you to download the drivers after installation. However, if Windows doesn’t identify the correct device then you could be stuck in a position where you can’t access the internet to download drivers and you may not have access to another PC. You may want to learn from this mistake that I have made on a number of occasions!
Firstly you’ll need to identify your motherboard, mine is the MSI B550 Tomahawk so I googled “MSI B550 Tomahawk drivers” before ending up at the MSI Support website. I then specified that I was looking for Windows 10 64 bit drivers to match the bootable USB drive we created. I was then able to download all of the different drivers required for the system directly from the MSI website.
I then repeated this process for my graphics card, downloading the latest Nvidia driver for my RTX2070 Super from the Nvidia website.
You may also require drivers for your keyboard and mouse, any additional wifi cards etc so now might be a good time to download these too.
I then copy all of the drivers for the new Windows install to a new folder on my USB drive which I call “Drivers”. This ensures that you have them available and to hand once the installation of Windows completes.
One thing to note is that your motherboard might have newer firmware than your board has today. Firmware is similar to updating your drivers but it’s a more permanent update. Updating the firmware of a motherboard provides fixes, stability improvements, support for other processors and new features that have been released since your motherboard shipped. I strongly suggest you carefully read the instructions to update your motherboard firmware as well. This can be downloaded from the motherboard support website like the drivers but will have a different process to apply the downloaded file.
Checking the BIOS
When you first start your PC you’ll see a logo appear with some text at the bottom of the screen. By pressing either the DEL key or F11 on your keyboard, you’ll get access to the BIOS or device boot menu. The BIOS is software that controls the operation of the motherboard. Within the BIOS you’ll have access to different options and configuration which can change how the motherboard operates. You can make changes to some of the components plugged in to the motherboard such as the CPU, memory and hard drives. I’d strongly recommend not making changes within the BIOS unless you know what you are doing.
You may notice that the message to enter the BIOS only appears for a short amount of time (around 1-2 seconds). If you miss it, simply restart your computer and try again.
The purpose of us entering the BIOS is to ensure that our components are being recognised. The MSI B550 Tomahawk BIOS is very clear and easy to use, I can see from the first screen that the CPU, memory and hard drive have all been recognised. The only change I made here was to ensure the memory was running at the correct speed (3600MHz). I did this by applying the A-XMP 1 profile. This is a preset configuration that tells the motherboard to run the memory at the speed it’s intended for. I also checked the time was correct as well.
We can then press F10 to save the changes and move to installing windows.
Installing Windows 10
Make sure your USB drive is plugged in and switch the computer on. Press F11 to enter the boot menu (I hammered the F11 button to make sure I didn’t miss it!). You can then choose the USB drive where the installation files are located to start the process of installing Windows 10.
We are now guided through the installation options. The first prompt should be adjusted based upon your language.
Select “Install now” on the next prompt.
The following prompt will ask for a Windows key to determine which version to run. You may have one or you may intend to buy one at a later point. You can use Windows without a key but it will not be activated and you’ll lose some of the functionality. I pressed “I don’t have a product key”.
I actually had a Windows 10 Pro key tied to my Microsoft account so I selected this option at the next prompt.
At the next prompt select “Custom: install windows only (advanced)”.
We can now choose the hard drive to install Windows on if you have more than 1 or format the drive if it has been used previously. This will delete all of your data so think carefully. I choose the primary partition (the largest) and clicked format so we start with a clean slate.
I then pressed “Ok” to confirm I was happy with the data being deleted.
Windows will now go through the process of installing all of the files you need for your operating system. This process is very quick and takes a few minutes at the most.
Once this has finished your computer will restart and you’ll be able to configure your Windows experience, keyboard layouts etc.
I’m not going to show every stage here as there are perhaps 10-15 different prompts to work through ranging from entering your Microsoft account if you have one through to trials of Microsoft office. Eventually you’ll have completed these and Windows will start to be set up for you.
At this stage don’t turn your PC off and the process will finish shortly after. You’ll then see your new, freshly installed, Windows desktop!
Install the drivers
You can now access the folder you created on the USB drive earlier which contains your drivers. Install these one by one, covering the following:
- Any other accessory or expansion card you are using
Update Windows 10
It’s important to keep Windows 10 up to date primarily to ensure you have the latest security patches which hackers or individuals with malicious intent could use to comprise your PC.
Press the start button, type in “Update” and run “Check for Updates”.
The process will then start and will contain all of the important updates. You may also have the option to add any drivers which you may have missed or are newer than what you already have installed. The updates will be downloaded and installed one by one. This can sometimes a while, mine took around 10-15 minutes.
Once all of the updates have been completed (i.e. they all say “Pending Restart”) you can restart your computer for them to be fully applied.
This article covers the basics to get you up and running with your new Gaming PC before you start installing games. Future articles will cover optimising your PC and ensuring it’s running at optimum performance.
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