Share this Build Guide
Finally booting into Windows may feel like a bit of a homecoming. For a new builder, the process of just getting the system built and configured can be hours – and that desktop screen feels relieving. It’s a reminder that, “hey, everything is working!”
That’s a good reminder.
Configuring PC Hardware Drivers
But we’re not done yet. The next step in the process is to configure our drivers. Drivers are the means through which computer hardware interfaces with the operating system. Without up-to-date drivers, performance will be limited, some components may not even work or be detected, and resolutions will not be fully populated.
The disc included with your motherboard will include most the necessary drivers. We’d recommend going straight to the motherboard manufacturer’s website to grab the most recent drivers, but that can be a challenge if the LAN drivers aren’t yet working. Windows will do its best to sort network connectivity; however, if Windows fails at finding a driver that gets you online, the included disc would offer an avenue to get those LAN drivers.
Without an optical drive, the best ways to go about getting a LAN driver are:
- Download to USB key on a functional computer/laptop, then use the USB key to install the drivers.
- Copy/paste the CD’s LAN drivers to a USB key (using a laptop or system with an optical drive), then install the drivers from the key.
Once that’s sorted, navigate to the manufacturer’s website and grab the chipset drivers (applies to AMD and Intel), management engine drivers (if present – mostly for Intel), SATA/storage drivers, USB3.0 drivers, audio drivers, and anything else relevant on the page. Watch out for bloatware and unnecessary software.
Finally, head over to the AMD or nVidia website for your video drivers. Be sure to keep video card drivers up-to-date, as optimizations are released fore very major game launch.
You can wait to restart until all drivers are installed. Definitely give the system restart after that’s all complete. Once you boot back in, you may want to reboot a second time – this will normally trigger Windows updates, which are critical for security.
Removing Video Card Drivers
Should the video card drivers prove buggy or need replacement in the future – maybe you’ve changed video cards – we strongly recommend blasting the drivers completely. Video drivers can be finicky with card swapping or driver uninstalls through Windows. Grab Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) from Wagnard Mobile, Launch the tool and select Safe Mode, then remove & restart. This will eliminate all trace of the current video drivers, allowing for a clean update (in the event that updating is failing) or clean uninstall for the next video card.
Video card drivers should be uninstalled and installed fresh for any GPU change, even if it is within the same family. – GamersNexus
The last few articles should have given an idea as to just how important system monitoring is.
Here are a few instances in which system monitoring is beneficial:
- Checking framerates (FPS) to better optimize gaming experiences with settings tweaks.
- Logging temperatures to better understand when cooling upgrades may be needed, as high thermals will cause throttling.
- Monitoring SMART HDD data to determine when a drive needs to be replaced.
CAM does all of these and more.
CAM is a free utility that is capable of logging framerates for future review (has performance improved or declined since the last time you played?), monitoring thermals, and keeping track of SMART data. All of this can be leveraged to the benefit of enthusiast system builders, especially when exploring new avenues of system performance tweaking – like overclocking, .ini modification, and game settings tuning. CAM’s FPS measurement can be plotted against time to create a “zoomed-out” log, stored to the optional user account for later recall and analysis.
Actively logging thermals and clock-rates also proves useful for similar functions. Active reporting supplies a means to determine whether the latest overclocking effort is actually applied and sustained, as opposed to silently throttling.
CAM’s not alone, though. AIDA64 offers a deep and granular component monitoring solution. AIDA64 could prove overwhelming to some users (in which case, CAM as a standalone tool is great), as it includes additional information on tertiary timings, voltages across the board, thermals, VRM temperatures, and more. That also makes it exceptionally powerful for overclocking – but the process of overclocking still requires more tools. However, CAM does provide a one-click overclocking solution for video cards.
CAM’s game tab produces averaged performance metrics for all the titles played (with CAM running), creating a “user benchmark” of sorts. For more benchmarking tools, we’d recommend playing around with 3DMark – if you’re into generating scores for your system – and Heaven or Valley by Unigine. All of these tools will help generate baseline scores that can be used for cross-checking against other machines (or against your own tuning and tweaks).
Sometimes, a more comprehensive solution isn’t really needed. For quick-and-dirty CPU temperature readings (and not much else), consider SpeedFan – another free utility. We like to use this one at GamersNexus because it is easy to deploy, and good for a quick “sanity check” on a brand new build. Once we’ve validated that the thermals are good, we’ll normally start installing more comprehensive tools (like CAM).
There’s more to monitoring than just the software, of course. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your brand new system’s average temperatures and performance. This will be useful if you ever experience instability or issues in the future, as it’ll allow quick validation against the fresh-from-box numbers. – GamersNexus
The purpose of a tool is to streamline or enable processes. For computing, most tools come in the form of automation or batch processing. We wrote about driver installation and uninstallation earlier, recommending Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) for automated removal of all GPU driver contents. There are also tools which streamline installation, though, and one of those is “Ninite.”
Software configuration on a brand new machine is time consuming. By using Ninite, a batch installer can be generated to the user’s spec. Select all the core applications you might want, like Steam, Notepad++, Chrome/Firefox, codecs, VLC, and more, and then hit the “get installer” button. This will generate a custom installer, which then goes out and auto-downloads each of the tools. Once downloaded, Ninite automatically install all the software and navigate through the steps independently.
For some recommended tools, we like:
- Alternative web browsers (e.g. Opera, Chrome, FireFox)
- Notepad++ (excellent for .ini tweaking, basic scripting/batch file creation)
- Java (you’ll need it at some point – just get it now)
- Filezilla for FTP or WinSCP for SCP
- Classic Start for operating systems with Metro overlays
- Media Player Classic or VLC as an alternative media playback utility
That’s about as quick of an install as is possible.
But it’s also only half the battle. We’d suggest grabbing the new version of Java and other popular software kits as it’ll save time later when installing games.
If you’re planning to play games available through Origin, uPlay, GOG Galaxy, or other services, also consider fetching those installers. This will quickly bloat the on-boot application launches, so we’d next suggest navigating to Task Manager (right-click the taskbar, select Task Manager) and then choosing the “Startup” tab. From here, you will be able to toggle all undesired applications from launching on boot. Be sure to leave alone any key drivers.
Keep Your Downloads Organized
Particularly important for SSD users, installation management will ensure that the limited space available on an SSD is not unnecessarily consumed. If you’re using an SSD + HDD configuration, we would suggest navigating into Steam and configuring your Downloads folder to add a new Steam Library to the HDD. Then, when prompted where to install games, only place the most important game (or two) on your SSD. That’s assuming the load times are really that noticeable, anyway.
Additional Utilities You Should Consider Installing on Your PC
We’ve already talked about CAM’s usefulness for framerate logging, temperature monitoring, video card overclocking, and other utility within Windows. To augment this, we recommend you download some useful apps to enhance your gaming experience like Forge and Discord. – GamersNexus