*** HONORABLE MENTION ***
Is there a particular reason for the need to update? If you have specific needs that are not being met by your current configuration in spite of your upgrades, then you should take inventory of the features you absolutely need and start shopping around. Once you define your needs (or wants!), you can do some research on CNET to find out the prices of components such as CPUs, motherboards, storage and optical drives, etc. Soon you will have an ballpark estimate of what your dream system might cost, as well as a point of reference for examining pre-configured systems that might suit your needs. In all likelihood, you will also realize that budget constraints will necessitate a reassessment of needs and priorities.
As a general rule, building a computer from scratch will cost you more money, but you have the advantage of getting exactly what you want (or need). Moreover, the challenge of building your own system can be quite rewarding in itself. Having said that, you must realize that this task will be significantly more complex than adding memory or a network card. Trial and error might end up costing you a lot of time and money.
Here's a suggestion: Go to http://courses.help.com/ and check out the Build Your Own PC course. It is available for about another week, or you can choose to enroll the next time it is offered. This is an excellent introductory course that should give you a fairly good idea whether or not going solo is the way to go. At the very least, you will learn about the different components you will need. Some of them are not as obvious as you might think!
Even if you feel you are not up to the challenge at this time, or that building a custom PC from scratch would be economically implausible, you still have some choices. Do not think you are restricted to "off-the-shelf, " pre-configured systems readily available at computer and electronics stores, or even local mass-merchants. While it is possible to find models that suit your needs and for the right price, keep in mind that these types of systems often represent compromises. You might be sacrificing some useful options and/or severely limiting the capability for later upgrades. You will be saving money now, but you may "pay" for it later.
Companies like Dell and Gateway allow you to customize a system quite a bit, often times at significant savings. Sales and special offers appear weekly, so take your time to gather information and examine different configurations, then wait for the right offer. (Hint: You already know how to add memory, so skip those costly memory upgrades at the time of purchase. Also, realize that "double your memory" offers tend to be worthless since they take up all your memory slots. To add more memory, you will have to remove one of the chips!)
In some instances, you will have enough choices that you should be able to build as powerful a system as if you had built one yourself from scratch, without the hard work and with the added bonus of knowing everything will be compatible. Check CNET for reviews of the latest systems offered by these and other companies. You might discover many worthy PCs and learn more about the pros and cons of many "off-the-shelf" systems you might be considering.
Hope this helps!
Submitted by: Miguel K. of Columbus, OH
Well Kenny, many customers ask me if they should build or buy their next computer? The price of computers has dropped so much that you can get a low end computer for $500 now. To build a similar one from scratch could run you almost double that price. The biggest advantage to building your own computer, besides the experience and enjoyment, is that you get to configure it exactly the way you want. Another advantage is that you may be able to reuse some items from your old computer. And finally, having built it yourself, you may be more likely to be able to repair or upgrade it in the future. For example, without searching all over the internet for deals or reverting to eBay for components, here is a rough breakdown of a typical entry level computer built from scratch: (If you really search, you can do better)
Computer Case w/ Power Supply $ 90.00
Motherboard Intel $150.00
Processor Intel P4 2.4ghz $169.00
Memory 512meg $ 89.00
Hard drive 120 gig (WD or Maxtor) $ 99.00
DVD Combo CD-RW Drive (Sony) $ 80.00
OS Window XP Home (Full Version) $199.00
*Note Motherboard contains onboard Video, Audio and Network ports.
On paper, the specs here pretty much look the same as some computers advertised for $500. However, the component quality of this home built version is likely to much better. Usually, the lower end computers will use No-Name components, Lower cost Celeron or AMD processors and generic or proprietary motherboards. In the example above, all the components are name brand and may result in a long lasting, trouble free system. If you wanted you could add or change any part of the system to match your needs, creating the ideal computer. You have probably noticed that I choose the Intel platform, it is not to say that Intel is better, but over the years I have built many computer systems and have found that I get the best results, especially in reliability and compatibility, with all Intel parts. If you don't mind a little tweaking and experimenting, there are a lot of other choices that may result in higher performance. But if you are looking for reliability and compatibility, I suggest Intel for your first build.
If you are not real comfortable with starting from scratch, there are some companies that sell kit computers or something called bare bones systems. These systems may come pre-assembled with a case, power supply and motherboard. All you have to do is add the memory, processor and hard drive, saving you the hardest part of installing the motherboard.
If you decide to build your own, you will need a check list of components. Keep in mind that some of these items may come in combination with some other items. For example: Some computer cases come with a power supply, some don't. Some motherboards, have built-in video, audio and networking, others you would have to purchase additional cards for these functions. Here is an example check list of items you will or may need depending on your requirements:
1. Computer Case - Keep in mind room for future upgrades
2. Power Supply - (Some Cases come with one)
3. Motherboard Make sure you check to see what is included on the motherboard so that you dont purchase duplicate items.
4. Processor Processor must be appropriate for the motherboard.
5. Memory I would recommend 512meg min
6. Video Card - (Some Motherboards have built-in Video)
7. Audio Card - (Some Motherboards have built-in Audio)
8. Network Card - (if you need it, again some Motherboard have it)
9. Wireless Network adapter - (if you need it?)
10. Special Purpose adapters - Depending on your needs, you may want additional cards such as Firewire, Extra USB ports, TV or Video Capture.
11. Hard Drive - 80 gig min
12. Second Hard drive - Depending on you needs, you may want a second hard drive for backup, Music or video storage.
13. Some form of CD drive to install software. This could be in the form of a CD or DVD burner or combo drive depending on your needs.
14. Operating System - Windows XP Home or Pro
15. Display - CRT, LCD (you may already own one)
16. Floppy Drive - (if you want or need one?)
17. Memory Card slots - If you use a digital camera, you may want to add card slots.
18. Keyboard - Wired or wireless
19. Mouse- regular, optical or wireless
20. Application Software - You will want some form of Antivirus software as well as some programs such as Office.
21. Cables - Printer, scanner or any extensions you may need.
22. Surge Suppressor or UPS to plug everything into.
1. Never work while plugged in - Anytime you are working inside the computer, be sure to disconnect the power cord and all other connections to printers, network and external equipment.
2. Static Electricity - You should wear an ESD wrist strap to prevent static electricity from damaging your components. Avoid working on or in a carpeted environment. Never place components or cards on the rug or other static generating surface.
3. Reusing old Parts - If you plan to reuse some old parts from a previous computer, watch for compatibility issues. Even though an old hard drive may work, it may slow down the entire system. It will be unlikely that you will be able to reuse much more than your keyboard, mouse, display, floppy drive and maybe a CD drive. Avoid trying to reuse internal components such as Memory, processor, power supply and motherboard.
4. Get Help - Often times I find that Motherboard and Case instructions are rather poor. If in doubt about pin locations and orientation, check the manufacturers web site for more detailed instructions or seek help from others. Don't guess...
5. Install one at a time - If you are building a high end computer with lots of upgrades and additional components, get it up and running with the basics first before installing the extras. Once you get the basic system up and running, start adding in the additional components, installing and testing one at a time.
6. Powering up for the First Time - I can not stress enough the importance of double and triple checking all connections and cards before applying the power. I have seen many a motherboard destroyed because a memory card was not seated properly when the power was applied.
7. Take your Time - I know you are anxious to get your computer up and running, but take your time and do it right the first time.
Go ahead, build it yourself, enjoy, have fun and ask lots of questions.
Dana H. of Wayland Computer, MA
The choice of building your own pc and buying a pre-built one is a tough one. One of the things you should consider before you make the decision is are you a heavy gamer. If you are not, then you are probably better off sticking with the pre-built variety. The reason I say this is because one of the main reasons people build their own pc's is so they can customize them and have the flexibility of changing their configuration later down the road, when the components become outdated and ready for upgrade.
Another consideration when it comes to building a pc is your level of technical knowledge with pc's inner components. If you can't tell the difference between a RAM chip and a motherboard, then you probably shouldn't be building your own pc. On the other hand, if you've done the process before, then I would highly suggest it.
I've gone down both roads before. I bought a Dell system for myself a few years back. This is still a high quality machine and very fast. About a year ago, my mother decided she wanted a machine of her own. Knowing I have had previous experience in building machines, she asked me if I could build her one, because she thought it might save her a few bucks. In the long run, depending on your specifications and brand of parts, you could very easily spend quite more on a machine you build yourself, compared to a comparably equipped pre-built one. My mother's machine that I built for her had the exact same specs, with the exception of DDR RAM instead of RDRAM-- only because that was the latest thing out at the time. Her machine's bill ended up being several hundred dollars more than the one I had purchased through Dell.
There are other advantages of buying pre-built systems as well. For example, most pc manufacturers use top-quality parts in their systems and they stand behind their products with a warranty in case anything goes wrong. They will do their best to see to it your machine gets repaired in a timely manner. They also normally provide some sort of technical support via telephone, internet, and other ways-- granted this may not be the best in quality, at least it's there.
If you decide to build your own machine, be sure and plan, plan, and plan some more. You can never do enough planning. The best place to purchase your parts is through an online auction site. This is where you'll save money on your parts. Don't go to a computer parts store like CompUSA or Best Buy. They will end up ripping you off. You can save a considerable amount of money online.
The basic parts you will need to build the pc will be a motherboard (I recommend Intel), processor (with an Intel motherboard, you will have to get an Intel processor chip-- these are small, 1 1/2" sqare chips-- P4 3 GHz is the norm-- Hyperthreading technology recommended), video card (I recommend GForce or ATI Radeon), sound card (not required), network interface card (NIC for short-- also not required, but highly recommended) or wireless LAN card, case, 56K modem (highly optional), hard-drive (60-80 Gigabytes are the norm these days), RAM chip (512 Meg to 2 Gigs is the norm), CD-ROM drive, floppy drive (highly optional), and your peripherals. Please keep in mind that some motherboards come with some of these components integrated in them like the NIC card, sound or video cards.
Even if you don't build your own machine, it's helpful to be familiar with the components in the above paragraph because when you're discussing with a sales representative your pre-built machine, you'll want to have some kind of idea what you're discussing. As this is out of the scope of this topic, you can write to me at a later time if you'd like me to go into detail regarding any one of these components and I'll be happy to.
In the meantime, good luck and I hope your decision is a good one.
Submitted by: Vince D. of Western Springs, IL
To build or not to build, that is the question.
I think before you do anything, you may want to consider a few things. You stated that you have made some upgrades in the past, (RAM and a NIC card), however building a computer requires more than these (no offence) simple hardware upgrades. One has to consider what kind of computer to build. Will this be for home applications such as a home office and Internet surfing, which you could get by with a more economical processor and a motherboard with onboard video/sound card, or will this be for a high power gaming or home entertainment system, which would require more muscle from a processor, surround sound, and a video card. Then there is the question of the type of case to get, power supply considerations, CD/DVD/RW choice, hard disk size and configuration, vintage hardware, etc, etc, etc. Then you need to consider the software to go with it. Have you ever configured the BIOS or an operating system before? Do you have the expertise to make the whole system work when something goes wrong (and something usually does)? If you can say yes, then you are ready for the challenge of building your own system.
If the answer is no or not yet, then I would stick with the off the shelf system. They may cost a little more (maybe), but they are usually well built. With the major manufacturers, you could also get the latest software bundles, customer support, and a nice warrantee if something goes wrong (think Murphys Law here).
Submitted by: - Alex C. of Grafton, WI
Advantage of building own pc:
*You can select exactly what you want. If we buy PC, we will have to compromise somewhere. For example I purchased my pc 3 years ago. It came with free 16 educational CDs & Antivirus software which encouraged me to buy this PC
But it came with only 64 MB Ram & onboard sound & graphics which I beleive not good for playing games
*save money: Building our own PC save some money. But nowadays savings are minimal. Its quite possible that Assembler (computer company) or Computer brand purchase comphonents in bulk and they might get comphonents at a cheap rate compared to we home buyers.( We will buy only one comphonents) Hence savings tend to be minimal.
*Knowledge :Building own PC help us to understand how pc works.
*Satisfaction :A friend of mine treats self built PC as own baby while shop offered PC as an adopted baby
Advantage of buying PC:
*We at India have two options for buying PC (a)Branded PC (b)Assembler. They are authorized dealer for brands like HP, Samsung etc. They also sell branded PC Home users usually prefer Assembled PC as it comes cheap & offer us customization
You may read review of branded PC on internet , computer magazines etc
*Warranty : Most of the company offer us one year onsite warranty on parts & service charge. I mean the technician will visit home & fix pc parts for free onsite. After completion of warranty period they will charge accordingly for fixing the problem.
Most of the well known assemblers have enough hardware knowledge & we don't see any compatibility issues
I believe this is not possible with self built pc.We may see problem due to incompatibility between various hardware components.
*Due to competition most of the assemblers offer educational CDs, internet hours , softwares etc with a PC. Some of them are very helpful.
(A)I'll Go for a self build PC if I have enough hardware knowledge I'll download manual of my motherboard if available online & study it carefully for an explanation of various motherboard settings. I'll go ahead if I understand them:
For example are you aware of the advantage of p4 & Althon XP *Can you set jumpers at back of drive to make it master or slave *Are you aware of possible configuration setup if you go for more than one hard drive, zip drive & CD drive?
*can you set correct FSB for your processor?
*We need to get a motherboard that has same socket as processor A pc case with p4 system should come with p4 compatible psu I believe p4 processor comes with heatsink & fan while AMD or Celeron user should get themselves fan & heatsink. Fans are rated for certain speed of processors
These are few examples of compatibility issue
*Knowledge of BIOS settings are required. If something is wrong it'll warn with series of beeps.
(B)Comapre the price difference between self built PC & branded PC and take decision accordingly
I recently compared price difference between self built PC & shop offered PC. It came to Rs 6000 (I believe 45Rs is equal to 1$) I can get free support for one year plus 12 educational CDs and free internet 25 hours if I buy shop offered PC (i.e by spending more Rs6000) In my case I'd prefer shop offered PC
This site offers advice regarding static electricity
You may type -build your own pc in google and may find interesting tips!
With Best Regards
Submitted by: Ashar B. of Maharashtra, India
The question of whether to buy a new computer or build one from scratch is a tough one to answer and depends on several factors. Having done both in the past, I feel I might be able to offer some relevant input.
I'll start by saying that I feel it is better decision to simply buy a new system rather than build it yourself, but both options have their pros and cons.
Building a system from square one does give you the benefit of really learning how the parts of a computer work together, but you will have to do your homework because some components work better together than others.
I am a firm believer that you really can't save any money by building it yourself. Dell and HP have incredible leverage when it comes to buying components at the lowest price. To compete, they keep their mark-up low and count on selling millions of computers each year to make a profit.
In other words, you can get a system already built from a large manufacturer cheaper than you can buy all of the components yourself and put them together. Some will argue that you can find cheaper parts if you look hard enough, but that seems like a lot of work to me.
Software is a big area where you will lose money by building it yourself. A copy of Windows XP costs $200. That is a pretty big expense when you can get a new mid-level system with Windows pre-installed for less than $700. Of course, you could use software such as Linux to lower the total cost of your home-made system.
Another 'pro' for a computer purchase is that it will generally come with a warranty for anywhere from 90 days to 3 or 4 years. If something goes wrong with your home-built system, you will have to figure it out.
In short, the only reasons for you to build your own system instead of simply buying a new one are:
1. You want to learn how a computer is put together or relish the challenge of building one yourself.
2. You already have some free components from an old computer or a friend or family member, or....
3. You already have some high priced components that you want to use, for example, that 180GB hard drive and $400 video card.
4. You want a really high-end system that is not readily available by a large manufacturer.
My advice, if you are wanting to upgrade just a standard computer, is to buy a new one from a large vendor.
Submitted by: Bret M.
Kenny, I believe the greatest benefit to building your own is the knowledge gained about your own system: if you were the one who built it, you are the one who can -- and should -- repair it. The advantage of that becomes obvious when you realize, at some point in the future, that you no longer have to leave your computer (with all of your personal files, etc.) at some shop for repairs. That, in itself, is a big plus in this age of identify theft.
On the other hand, in spite of all the articles on how easy it is to build your own, there are pitfalls and glitches that can only be avoided by knowledge and lots of experience. Finding answers to such problems can be very time consuming and frustrating; humiliating, too, if it should become necessary to cart your computer to a repair shop. It's said that all of a computer's plug-ins and connectors will only work one way -- the correct way. No so. Recently, I disassembled my (non-proprietary) computer and rebuilt it into a new, larger case. Much to my surprise, I learned that the motherboard connector for the floppy drive will plug in the wrong way (plug it in the wrong way, and the drive's indicator light is always on, and the drive won't work).
Money-wise, sure, you can save a few bucks by doing it yourself. For example, if you happen to find a really good buy on, say, a HDD, you'll be confident that you can install it yourself, as a stand-alone or a slave.
But if the drive should prove to be faulty, or just go gunnybag (yeah, that happens), then you are the one stuck with the hassle and expense involved in getting it replaced. When I had to replace the above-mentioned floppy drive, I found one at New Egg (marketed by Sony) that cost a little over $10
+ about 90 cents freight, by FedEx. Out of the box, the drive was
defective, and had to be returned. After going to the hassle of getting an RMA from the web site and packaging the drive, which had to be shipped the same way it was sent (FedEx), I learned that shipping the drive would actually cost over $13! Not worth it.
Thus, one way to go is to have your computer built to your own specifications by a custom builder. In my opinion, that's a far better way to go than buying any proprietary system. It's only a matter of finding a builder who is extremely knowledgeable and honest. Some of the better ones will do a simple repair or install while you wait and watch. Whatever goes wrong with that computer or any of its drives, etc., the builder has to stand behind it, make replacements, etc. But you do have to physically transport your computer back to his shop.
Bottom line, if you believe that you are really capable of doing it (you most likely are), build your own. Best alternative: custom built.
Submitted by: Ray T.
First lets look at a custom built system.
When you tally up the total for the components you can save significant amounts of money and you will have longer warrantees. But not only do you have to assemble these parts yourself you may run into compatibility issues between vendors. Vendor A has a great video card but you may have issues with the Motherboard from Vendor B. Another issue I have run across is if a component goes bad. Many manufacturers are very willing to assist in your replacement but some may prove more challenging. Also there is the issue of time. You may find yourself waiting for weeks for a Hard Drive replacement. Finally there is Tech Support, or lack thereof. When you build systems YOU are the tech so when an issue arrives be prepared to deal with it yourself.
Now lets look at pre-assembled systems.
While it may cost more money up front, when it arrives you will be up and fully functional in 10 minutes. Pre-built systems from major manufacturers are all pre-tested and pass rigorous standards. One issue that always takes a beating is Tech Support. You may experience long waits and people you have difficulty understanding, but at least you HAVE a support structure available. If you hang in there you WILL get support, and depending on your warrantee you may have a Tech arrive on-site the next day.
Now there is a major negative to pre-assembled systems. What I have found on many occasions is if a system comes with a 1 year warrantee thats what you get. Vendor A may offer a 3 year warrantee on a component that they sell individually, but when you punch in the product code it may look out of the ordinary. Instead of the normal XXX0000 code you may see XXX0000C, where the "C" indicates the system manufacturer that pre-installed the component. You will often find out that Vendor A does not warrantee pre-installed components and refer you to the system manufacturers warrantee.
It all boils down to your comfort level. If you feel comfortable with your skill set then by all means build it yourself and pocket the dough. If you have any doubts then error on the safe side and purchase your system pre-assembled. I hope this information is useful and I wish you well.
Submitted by: Tracy P.
Here's my answer to Kenny C. of Olympia, Washington:
I would highly recommend building your own PC. I've built several myself, but also use pre-built off the shelf computers. To be honest, the cost savings of building it yourself are likely to be small given the aggressive pricing of many pre-built systems, particularly those purchased online.
However, the benefit of learning the nuts and bolts of the entire system, and the satisfaction of seeing your creation boot up for the first time, are worth their weight in gold.
Your best resource at this point is the internet. There are web sites and message boards dedicated to DIY computer building where you can learn what motherboard chipsets work well with what video cards, what hard drives offer the best bang for the buck, etc. Spending a few days searching the internet for information will be worth it in the long run.
The first thing you should do, though, is determine your goals. How will you use the system? Are you building a high performance gaming machine? Will you be doing any video processing, turning your home movies into the next Hollywood blockbuster? Will you be storing lots of digital photos and music?
Or, is this primarily a machine to use email, access the internet, and type an occasional letter? Determining how you'll use the PC will help determine what parts to buy, and in what areas you can save money. For example, if you won't be playing games or doing any video work, you probably don't need that $250 high end video card. But, if you plan to share your home movies with friends and family, you better be sure to get a DVD burner (DVD-R). Also, if you're going to be storing digital photos, music, and home movies, be sure to get a large enough hard drive. (You can always add more storage later, but starting off with a good size will save you the hassle down the road.)
Once you're ready to begin, create a parts list and start shopping. One time and cost savings tip I can offer is to look for a barebones system to use as your starting point. A barebones system usually consists of a case, motherboard, and CPU. The motherboard will already be mounted in the case, saving you the potential headache of doing it yourself. You then supply the RAM, hard drive(s), CD/DVD drives, network card, and possibly video and sound cards. (Some motherboards have video, sound, and even network cards built-in. You don't have to use these, though, if you desire better performance from an add-on card.) Another type of drive you should consider installing is a multi-card reader. You can get an internal 11 in 1 reader for around $40 or less that will read a variety of formats (SD, CF, Memory Stick, etc.) so you'll be set no matter what media your digital camera or PDA uses.
So, figure out your goals then start searching the internet for information.
Here are two resources to get you started, but by all means, search around for more:
Submitted by: -Tony C. of Sacramento, CA
Building your own PC
Dear Kenny C -
>Are there any outstanding benefits to building one yourself?
You can pick the hardware and their features that you really want, with your decision on compromises. For example, you can make decisions about SATA hard disk drives, media readers, quietness of your machine, peripherals such as printers and scanner, and, whether you build normally or RAID.
For me, the biggest benefit is feeling good, especially the first time you fire up your built machine. It is similar to building a hotrod at a smaller scale. Yes, you could buy an economy car, but you do not get a machine that looks special and can feel its fun running down the highway entrance ramp.
As my cable provider installed my high speed connection on my RAID 0+1 machine, he said, Wow, this is the fastest computer that I have ever seen.
That made me smile.
>Will this save me money?
Generally, you cannot beat the cost of the top retailers, but by searching on the Internet, you can compare known component sellers (for safety sake), and not pay retail of most the components. But, of equal consideration is what are your needs and wants. Are the compromises to buy retail worth it?
As a percentage, I believe that components have not gone down as much as retail boxes, but these individual components have also gone down in price.
>What are your recommendations--build or buy? Any tips or advice is
I recommend building your own, if your needs and wants are not met enough with the retail box. You may decide to build a PC once, to see what you can do, but I must warn you that it maybe hard not to build your own in the future, knowing and using the benefits.
A couple of years ago, I was so far behind work, that I went to a big retailer to buy a replacement PC but arriving, I could not find what I thought that I needed, even though the big retailer covered the entire city block. As I exited, I saw a David vs. Goliath small personal computer shop across the street. Because of that visit, I ended up buying and building a small soapbox-sized system during Presidents Day. The next month, one of the personal computer magazines had a major article that such machines maybe the future of PCs. Cool.
1) Focus on the motherboard and what case will hold it all (RAID takes two identical hard disk drives for RAID 0 and four for RAID 0+1). There are several places on the Internet evaluating components; read several.
2) Next consider the CPU. I had always bought the CPU and the motherboard one lower than the top, to get the biggest bang for your buck.
3) Proper memory chips, compatible with the motherboard (considering its memory slots, its chipset, its bus architecture, and your suggested CPU); I consider 1 GB at least, since I tend to keep, and often can, make the homemade system last longer than retail bought; maybe, because of my average four-year ownership, there is a yearly cost-of-ownership that is less.
4) Save, and when needed, print out, any instructions from the component website (not often is much included in their boxes). I always read through these twice, making sure that I do not miss anything in those instructions.
Using Toms Hardware Guide (http://www.tomshardware.com) to include relevant information, I write down a sequential set of things to do to follow, physically and throughout software installation.
5) Decide what the additional compatible components are, properly add up all the component electrical use ensuring that you have a power supply that can properly meet or exceed the total electrical requirements (exceed - especially - if tend to upgrade components in the future), and only then, place your component orders.
6) After all hardware and software arrival, build your machine and install your operating system. Then, install properly your peripherals, and finally close the case. Next is connectivity to the Internet and your network, then your other purchased software.
7) And, most important of all, use an anti-static device such as a anti-static wrist strip to prevent ruining components, at all times until your machine is closed.
While it does take time, may you find building your own enjoyable!
Submitted by: Alfred Z.
Build-your-own vs. off-the-shelf:
In the "old" days (mid-90's) the argument for building your own was clearly supported by the $$ savings that could be realized, compared to buying an off the shelf unit from a mom & pop store or a large builder (Dell, GW2K (then), or a dozen other biggies (at the time)). FWIW I haven't bought an off the shelf system since 1994.
Today the cost savings argument isn't going to be won by building it yourself. What you will gain by building your own system is two-fold: it will be configured the way you want/need it, and it will built with standard parts that can easily (and cost effectively) be replaced or upgraded.
In the early to mid 90's if you built it yourself, you had to pay a lot of attention to compatibility between parts, such as a sound card and CD-ROM drive. Certain items were very expensive. For example, EDO RAM had just come out. A 16MB stick sold for $625. God forbid you didn't have something of value, RAM-wise, to trade in toward that 16MB stick.
If you build your own today you'll get exactly what you want in it, part by part. You'll also have the satisfaction of knowing you built it. And, when you have an issue with it, the knowledge you gained from the build will make it a lot easier to troubleshoot it. You'll also have a basic OS CD that will give you a lot more flexibility in installing and reinstalling, compared to the plethora of "recovery" installs currently popular with the build builders.
Lastly, you'll have many "communities" that can support you in your build and operation. C|Net, Anandtech, HardOCP, Tom's Hardware Guide and Lockergnome forums are but a few of the resources you have available to you to guide you and offer solutions to problems you might encounter.
Once you build one yourself, you'll never go back.
Go for it,
Submitted by: Jeff H.
In response to either buying a new computer off the shelf or building one. I have done both. The first thing that must be decided is what you want in the computer. Then I would suggest that you do some comparing as to cost. Can you get one either off the shelf or through ordering one through an OEM the way you want it and if so how much will it cost. Then shop around and find out how much the parts you want will cost. Also in this you have to decide if you are going to use any of the parts you already have in the old computer, such as case with power supply, memory, drives and the like. If you are going to reuse any of the old parts, subtract them from the cost of building. The compare the cost, also be sure to add what you think is a fair value for your time if you decide to build. Someone who has done it before can probably build one and have it working in 2 or 3 hours. If it is your first time, it could take longer
If you decide to build, the first and main question is: Do you think you can do it! If you are worried about your skill level, can you find someone to help you. Building a new computer is not hard but you do need at least a basic skill lever in hardware before you try or you will just get frustrated and give up.
If you decide to build then go to the hardware store/stores and get the parts you need. Do not hesitate to ask the people there if you parts you want will work together. Also if you are getting a new systems board with CPU and memory, make sure they test it at the store to make sure it works. Nothing is more frustrating than to buy a board and find out later it is bad (doesn't happen often but does happen). Tell them to leave everything on the board. This will save you having to do it later. Just be careful carrying it home.
When you get the parts and get home, open the new case if you bought one, and then read the manual on the system board to learn where all the connectors go. Put the system board into the case and connect the power supply. If the new board has an on board video connection, connect the monitor and power, turn on the system and see if the monitor comes on. If it does, turn off and disconnect the power cord from the computer.
Next I would install and connect any drives I have bought. Once it or they are installed and connected to the systems board, Reconnect the power cord and then install whatever OS you are going to use. If you are reusing drives you had before, they may or may not boot up. I have had both happen. If they do boot up, you are lucky. If not you will have to format the drive and reload the OS.
Once you have the OS loaded and the computer will boot. Then install any new cards you have selected, one at a time, install any software that came with the card and again test. Do this until you have everything installed and working. Doing it one part at a time takes a little longer but if this is the first time you have done this, it makes it easier to troubleshoot if something doesn't work.
Once all the parts are in and working, you can now set it up for your Internet use and then get any updates your OS and other parts might need or have. Again do them one part at a time and test.
Once everything is working to your satisfaction, then close up the case. Locate the computer where you want it, if you haven't already, then lean back and admire the work you have done.
Building one does give you a sense of accomplishment and you know exactly what parts and software went into the computer. But with the cost of computers being what they are now, you may want to think long and hard about if the satisfaction is worth the cost. The last time I built one for myself, after I bought everything I needed or wanted, I could have bought one already make for about the same cost.
But if you decide to build, do your homework, look for the best deals, take your time and then enjoy.
Submitted by: Richard H.