Update: Article updated for 2023
I’ve been streaming on consoles for quite some time. But I really wanted to get into PC streaming. With so many more games to play and streaming options, it was the next logical step. But there was one problem: I didn’t have a streaming PC. I needed to build one. And build one for a low cost. But what exactly are the “real” minimum requirements for Twitch streaming on PC? I set out to investigate…
What are the minimum specs for streaming PC? The minimum specs will depend on your desired streaming video resolution. For 1080p, I recommended a Hex-core CPU, 16GB of ram, and an AMD RX 6600 XT graphics card.
Now you’ve got an idea of the minimum PC specs you’ll need to play games and stream. Next, we’ll do a deep dive into the overall PC specs needed depending on the video resolution you want to stream at. Then we’ll move on to look at each PC component individually. This way you’ll get a feel for what sort of hardware you’ll really need to kick start your streaming career.
A Streaming PC’s minimum Specs are dependent on the resolution of the stream
As touched on in the answer above, the minimum specs for streaming on Twitch are dependent on the video resolution you wish to stream at.
The resolutions you can choose from are:
- 720p @ 30fps
- 720p @ 60fps
- 1080p @ 30fps
- 1080p @ 60fps
- 2K @ 30fps
- 2K @ 60fps
- 4K @ 30fps
- 4k @ 60fps
Generally, the higher the resolution, and the higher the frame rate, the better components you’ll need to ensure smooth streaming.
If you have low-end components, you’ll suffer from a number of these issues:
- Low frame rates
- Low-quality sound
- Poor picture quality
Just to stream, Twitch recommends the following:
- CPU – Dual Core CPU
- RAM – 4GB of Ram
But there’s one problem with Twitch’s minimum specs: They are for Twitch alone. They do not take into account the game you are playing.
To get a real-world idea of the minimum specs for a streaming PC, you should add up the recommended specs of the game you prefer to play, for example, Fortnight, to the minimum specs of Twitch.
Do not use the minimum specs of the game you wish to play. Instead, use the recommended specs. After all, you don’t want to be playing at the minimum resolution with no graphical frills.
Let me explain with an example assuming we want to game at 1080p:
Fortnight’s recommended specs are:
- CPU – 2.8Ghz Core i5 or better
- RAM – 8GB DDR3 RAM
- Graphics Card – GTX 660 or AMD 7870 or higher with 2GB Video Ram
That would be a high enough specced PC to play Fortnight on high settings at 1080p @ 60fps. Not bad.
But if you started streaming at the same time, your PC would be overwhelmed.
So you need to get a higher spec PC.
After we add the extra power for Twitch, we get a new set of specs:
- CPU – AMD Ryzen 5 3600 – 6 cores: two cores are always available for streaming.
- RAM – 16GB DDR4 RAM – the extra Ram will enable smooth gameplay and streaming
- Graphics card – AMD RX 6600 XT – A more modern graphics card for a very low price that will allow consistent smooth gameplay with plenty of overhead.
The above specs should be more than enough for you to game and stream smoothly while playing Fortnight.
However, please remember, if you want to play or stream at a higher fps or resolution, you’ll need even better PC hardware.
Thinking about building a dedicated streaming PC to compliment your existing gaming PC? I’ve written an article that takes a look at the advantages of a dedicated streaming PC. Take a look at it here.
Now that we have an idea of what hardware you’ll need, let’s take a look at each component in more detail.
What CPU should I use in a minimum Spec Streaming PC?
The CPU is the heart of any gaming PC. If you don’t have a fast enough CPU your gaming will suffer from low frame rates, dropped frames, and worse.
But why is it so important for streaming?
The CPU is used to encode, in real-time, your stream into the video that is sent to your viewers.
So what do I mean by encoding? Encoding is the means by which all the sound and movement on your screen is captured and then turned into a digital video file. This file is then compressed and sent over the internet.
At the viewer’s end, their PC, TV or console, receives the encoded stream, decodes it, and plays it for you.
All this magic takes place in milliseconds, and it’s all thanks to your CPU.
But the problem is, this encoding process is very resource-intensive. It can easily take up 90% of a dual-core CPU processing power to encode a stream that is running at 1080p @ 60 fps.
So when you buy a CPU, you need to get one that’s powerful enough to run your favorite games and stream at the same time.
For a beginner streaming PC, I recommend the AMD Ryzen 5 3600.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is a 6 core CPU that is, for the price, the best mid-tier CPU currently available.
There is more than enough CPU power in the Ryzen 5 3600 to power through any modern game. And there’s more than enough processor headroom to do the streaming encoding on top.
If I were building a streaming/gaming PC on a budget, this would be the CPU I’d be buying.
Don’t just take my word for it! Check out the thousands of 5-star reviews for the amazing Ryzen 3600 on Amazon here. (Yes, it’s an Amazon link. We have to pay to feed the office parrot otherwise he starts swearing!)
How much, and what type, of RAM should I use in a minimum Spec streaming PC?
For a PC to run smoothly it’s essential that you have plenty of RAM. And it needs to be fast.
But what is RAM? And why is it so important.
Well, RAM is basically the working area for your computer.
Think of your PC as a wood workshop. And think of programs as tools.
Now, you could have all your tools stored away in locked cupboards. This is like your Hard Drive.
You have plenty of storage. You have lots of cupboards, and each has lots of shelves.
The problem is whenever you need a tool to work with, and you need a lot of different types, you’d have to go into the cupboard, get the tool out, plug it in, use it, put it back. And do the same thing again with another tool. And another.
RAM, however, gives you a workplace to store your most-used tools. In our wood workshop, that workspace might be a worktop or a tool rack.
This lets you have access to all your tools quickly. They are all plugged in and ready to use as soon as you pick them up.
You don’t have to go looking for them, and you don’t have to mess around with them. They are just sitting there ready.
This is how your, RAM works. Everything your PC is currently using, IE games, streaming software, is held in your RAM ready for instantaneous use. Anything not currently being used is held on your hard drive, such as other installed games.
The problem is, RAM has two limitations:
- It’s expensive compared to hard drives.
- You can’t have as much of it.
But you need enough of it to be able to have enough room for your programs. You need a big enough workspace.
So I’d recommend a minimum of 16GB DDR4 RAM. I’d recommend Corsairs 16GB RAM as it pairs up well with the Ryzen 5 3600. Check out the stunning reviews for this 16GB Corsair RAM pack on Amazon here.
What graphics card should I use in a minimum Spec Streaming PC?
When it comes to streaming, the graphics card is not so important. It’s not really used for encoding.
However, the graphics card is vital for playing the game at a good resolution and frame rate.
For game performance, the graphics card is easily the single most important component in your gaming PC.
The problem with graphics cards though is that they can get very expensive, very quickly.
For example, the new Nvidia RTX 4080 is over $1000. Complete overkill for what you need from a gaming PC.
If I were aiming to build a PC that was capable of running Fortnight at 1080p @ 60fps Id being aiming at something far less expensive.
Fortunately, many mid-tier cards will cater to the gamer looking to build a PC on a budget.
In steps the AMD RX 6600 XT 8GB GPU (Graphics processing unit or graphics card).
The RX6500 is a fantastic card for 1080p gaming.
First, the GPU packs 8GB of GDDR4 RAM, more than enough for a minimum spec 1080p build. This is RAM dedicated to graphics tasks.
Without the extra RAM, the GPU would struggle to run the game with modern hi-res textures.
Additionally, the GPU has 2048 stream processors giving the cards 10.6 Teraflops of computing performance. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same power as a PlayStation 5!
Plus, the 6600 XT has 32 Ray tracing accelerators for enjoying next-generation ray tracing in games.
Each stream processor is like a tiny CPU designed to do a specific graphics job.
Check out the RX 6600 XT, and it’s thousands of 5-star reviews, here.
What Hard Drive do I need to Stream?
A computer can’t function without some kind of long term storage for the software it will run.
That’s where a hard drive comes in handy.
A hard drive is like a library. All the books you’ll ever need are stored there, orderly and easy to find. Then, when you want to take out a book to read. You search the library, open the book, and read it.
That’s how hard drives work too.
They store massive amounts of information until it’s needed.
They also come in different types. You have traditional hard drives, which have magnetic disks spinning around inside them. And you have Solid State hard drives (SSD). These have non-volatile (they don’t forget things when you turn the power off) memory chips inside them.
But what does this all mean for streaming? Do you even need a hard drive?
You do need a hard drive, even if it’s just for storing your computer operating system, games and streaming software.
But if all you do is stream, you’re in luck: You don’t need a lot super-fast storage.
Because while your streaming your not storing any information. Your video stream is being encoded by the CPU in real-time and sent over the internet to your viewer. No footage of your gameplay is stored locally.
However, there are some situations when you may need a lot of storage.
If you intend on saving your stream for the purpose of creating youtube videos, you’ll need a large hard drive.
Streams can rapidly take up a lot space on your hard drive. A 1080p@60fps stream will stream at 750 KBs per second. ¾ of Megabyte. That doesn’t sound like a lot.
It’s nowhere near enough to overwhelm even an old hard drive for speed, so you don’t need a super-fast SSD.
But you do need size.
If you stream for just one hour at 1080p@60fps, your resultant video will take up 2.7GBs of space on your hard drive.
So, if you stream for 3 hours a day, 7 days a week, you could be looking at filling 56.7 GBs of your hard drive. Per week!
You’d quickly find a standard hard drive running out of storage space.
To avoid overflowing the space on your hard drive, I’d recommend getting a multi-terabyte hard drive.
I’d recommend the WD Blue 4 Terabyte hard drive. With 4 Terabytes of storage, you won’t need another video storage drive for years.
What other hardware do I need to consider?
When it comes to PCs, the component game doesn’t end at RAM, Hard Drives, CPUs and GPUs.
No, there’s a whole lot of other components you need to think about before you have a streaming PC.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the other components you’ll need to think about when building your streaming pc.
The Motherboard, or mainboard, is what all the other components get plugged into. Without one, you don’t have a PC.
Motherboards are usually chip maker specific. So there are different motherboards for Intel and AMD. Additionally, there’ll be different motherboards depending on the age of the CPU you buy.
When buying a motherboard, ensure the motherboard is compatible with your CPU. So in the case of the AMD Ryzen 5 3600, the motherboard has to be compatible with Socket AM4.
The socket is the size and shape of the CPU holder on the motherboard.
If you want a well-priced motherboard for your Ryzen 5 3600 CPU Check out the ASRock MicroATX Motherboard (B450M PRO4). It’s a top-performing motherboard packed with features.
For starters, it’s a small motherboard, so it’ll fit in any gaming PC case.
It also comes with 4 RAM slots to its easy to upgrade.
Plus, it has two graphics card slots, so if you ever start making millions from your streaming, you can easily add a second graphics card.
Go check the ASRock motherboard out here.
Power Supply Unit (PSU)
The PSU inside your streaming computer is what feeds electricity to all your components.
Without one, nothing would work. Buying one is an essential part of building any PC, never just mind a streaming PC.
However, not all PSUs are born equal.
You see, there are 2 main features you need to keep in mind when buying a PSU:
- The Total Watt output eg. 500w
- The Power efficiency eg. 80%
The total watt output of the PSU determines the maxmimum power output of the PSU. Generally speaking, the dedicated graphics card inside a PC draws the most amount of power.
Most modern PCs with dedicated graphics cards will need, at a minimum, a 500 Watt PSU.
In our case, the RX 570 needs a PSU with a power output of 450 Watts. But it’s always good to go slightly higher than the minimum recommended watt level.
The second point, power efficiency, determines how much power the PSU must draw from the electricity grid to actually supply the stated wattage.
Take our 500 watt PSU as an example. If it has an efficiency of 80% it would actually draw 625 watts from the grid to supply the stated 500 watts. The better the efficiency, the less energy used to supply the stated wattage, and the lower your electricity bill at the end of the month.
The PSU I recommend is the EVGA 500w 80% Plus power supply.
It does everything you’d expect of a PSU, plus it comes with 3-year industry-leading warranty.
I’ve used EVGA PSUs in all of my PC builds for over a decade. In fact, I have a 750 watt PSU powering my GTX 1080 ti build about 2 feet to my left as I type this.
Keep in mind, if you want to build a streaming PC with a more powerful graphics card, you will need a more powerful PSU
Check out the EVGA 500w 80% plus here.
If you want a more powerful PSU for a better graphics card or future upgradability check our the EVGA SuperNOVA 750w Modular PSU (The one I use) here.
The monitor is what you see all the glorious gaming action through. So it makes sense, to get a decent one.
However, because we are aiming at a resolution of 1080p. The monitors we’ll be looking at will be vastly cheaper than, say, a 4k monitor.
For a gaming monitor, I’d say the most important first factor to consider is size. When it comes to monitors, bigger is better.
I game on a 27-inch monitor and it’s perfect. It’s big enough so I can see all the UI without squinting, but small enough so I don’t have to turn my head to see the edges. It sits about an arm’s length away from me when I game.
Other than monitor size, most monitors at this “minimum spec” price we are aiming at will offer good response times of 1ms, and good max frame rates of around 75fps, and good color reproduction.
There are two things, at this price point, you don’t want to worry about…
- 4k screens
- Super high frame rates eg. 144hz
Let me start with 4k screens. However much marketing teams want you to believe that 4k is better, you will not notice the difference between a 4k monitor and 1080p monitor when side by side and game is in motion. And I can testify to this. I have a dual monitor setup. I use a Philips 27 inch 1080p monitor, and I have my iMac’s 5K monitor.
At normal viewing distances, IE. Arm’s length, the two screens look identical. And that’s with my new contact lenses on.
Plus 4k is a massive resource hog. At identical graphics setting and frame rates, you’ll need a grpahics card that is 4 times more powerful and which will costs 4-6 times more.
For example, our RX 570 can happily handle most games at 1080p 60 fps. But to play the same game at 4k, you’d need an RTX 2080 Super. A Card that costs 5 times more! All for a resolution you won’t even notice!
For a minimum streaming pc purpose 4k is over kill.
What about frame rate? Well, some of you may be quite sensitive to frame rates. Personally, I can’t tell the difference between 60fps and 120 fps. Your mileage may vary, but generally, 60fps is the sweet spot. Any higher is just taking up GPU power needlessly.
Again, keep in mind the marketing department’s need to figure out a way to sell you a new monitor as often as possible. And one of those ways is to tell you that unless you using 4k/144hz, youre living in the stone age… And your a loser.
That is Rubbish!
A 27″ 1080p, 60hz monitor is more than enough for your minimum streaming pc setup.
To that end, I’d recommend the Philips 27 inch monitor, the beautifully named (HA!) 276E9QDSB. Seriously, who names these!
For a minimum setup, it offers everything you need. Great colour reproduction, good contrast levels, good resolution, and good frame rate.
And it’s cheap for this monitor size.
Cooling your PC is one of the most important things you can do for your PC’s short and long term health.
Without adequate cooling, your PC will overheat and crash. At worse it could overheat and self destruct.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, I suggest a number of cooling fans should be used throughout the PC case.
Fortunately, the Ryzen 5 3600 comes with a cooler. And GPUs always have a cooler built into them. So that’s one less expense when building your Streaming PC.
The PC Case
The case is what holds all your components and the motherboard. Depending on what you want to attach to your PC, you’ll likely need a medium-sized case.
I’d recommend the Thermaltake V21. It’s not like your traditional tower case. It’s what’s called a cube case.
However, cube cases are incredibly versatile. Every side of the case can be taken off, then the entire case can be disassembled. Then it can be reassembled however you like.
You won’t need this versatility when you start. But you’ll be glad you invested in a cube case once you start investing in larger cooling solutions, or more powerful Graphics cards.
Seriously, I think the Thermaltake’s V21 is so good I use them to make all my custom Gaming PCs. And, if you read a few of the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see why.
Again, just to remind you, these are my recommended minimum specs and components for a streaming PC:
- CPU – AMD Ryzen 5 3600 – 6 cores: two cores are always available for streaming.
- RAM – 16GB DDR4 RAM – the extra Ram will enable smooth gameplay and streaming
- Graphics card – AMD RX 6600 XT – A more modern graphics card for a very low price will allow consistent, smooth gameplay with plenty of overhead.
We’ve looked at the minimum requirements for a streaming PC and explored CPUs, RAM, Graphics cards, and more.
But, when it comes to building Streaming PC, there is no doubt that the most important component is the CPU. Without a modern multicore CPU, you’ll encounter problems.
Anything from stuttering gameplay to poor video stream output will ruin your streaming career before it ever takes off.
So be sure to grab that AMD Ryzen CPU. Don’t skimp as you’ll just have to buy another CPU 6 months later.
Build your streaming PC now, and build it right, and it will reward you with the gaming career you dreamed about.
Hold on! Before you go, you should consider buying a used gaming PC for streaming. After all, gaming PCs are getting more and more expensive, plus going used is good for the environment. Take a look at my super-in-depth used gaming PC buyers guide here.
What’s the minimum internet connection speed for streaming? 5Mbs is the recommended minimum connection speed you need to stream. However, a minimum connection may affect gameplay if you play online.
What was that CPU you mentioned called? It’s called the Ryzen 5 3600, and it can be bought on Amazon here.
What other software do I need to stream games on PC? You can stream by simply downloading the Twitch client. However, it is recommended that, as a minimum, you download the Open Broadcast Software.
Now I’ve got a good idea of the best streaming hardware. But what Accessories will I need? I’m glad you’ve asked because I’ve written an article dedicated to answering it. You’ll find everything from the best microphone to the best green screen in the article. Check out my recommended streaming accessories here.