Alert from CNET Staff

 Attention forum users:  We want you to try out the new CNET forums platform! Click here to read the details. Thanks!

Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: 4/22/05 Should I buy or build a computer?

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) April 21, 2005 10:12 AM PDT

Like this

0 people like this thread

Staff pick

4/22/05 Should I buy or build a computer?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 4/21/05 10:12 AM

Happy Friday everyone!

Thanks to all of you who contributed to this week's topic. Many of you wrote some outstanding answers to Kenny's question. And I hope these opinions, recommendations, and tips from our members will prove to be helpful when it comes time for any of you to decide whether to buy or build a computer. So read them all!

Members, if you have more questions, or additional advice on this topic, by all means feel free to post them in this thread below. Its all up to you as a community to contribute and learn from one another. So keep on posting.

Thanks everyone and have a great weekend!
-Lee Koo
CNET Community


I have been using the same PC for the last four years. It's time to upgrade. I'm considering just buying an off-the-shelf computer, but I'm also thinking about the challenge of building one myself. Are there any outstanding benefits to building one yourself? Will this save me money? I've done hardware upgrades in the past (adding RAM and a network card), but I'm a bit apprehensive about starting from
scratch. What are your recommendations--build or buy? Any tips or advice are appreciated.

Submitted by: Kenny C. of Olympia, Washington


Kenny, the short answer to your question about whether building your own computer will save money is generally no. Off-the-shelf OEM builders buy trainloads of components directly from suppliers at prices you and I cannot touch.

What you get from building your own system is the satisfaction of owning and operating a machine you built yourself, as well as a greater understanding of your system and the knowledge you gain during assembly, construction, and operating system installation.

If you are a die-hard eBay aficionado, you can scour the web for great deals on components at prices that will begin to approach what you might pay for an off-the-shelf model; however the big caveat here is that you may have little knowledge of the quality of the parts or whether they will all work together in your new system. One of the advantages of buying an off-the-shelf system is that the manufacturer has already assumed the responsibility for ensuring that all the component piece parts are tested and confirmed to all work together, with all the correct drivers either already installed or supplied on a CD that comes with the system. Furthermore, when you buy an off-the-shelf system, the manufacturer also supplies you with a guarantee and warranty in the event you have a component failure within the warranty period. If you build one yourself, you have little or no such protection.

Having said all that, there is tremendous satisfaction from building your own system, and you can mix and match components precisely to what you desire. For example, many OEM systems use motherboards with integrated sound, video and Ethernet. You can even buy one of these motherboards yourself if that is what you choose, but let's say for the sake of argument that you want a Turtle Beach sound card, a 256Mb Radeon graphics card with analog, digital and TV out, a 3-Com Gigabit Ethernet LAN card, a Seagate 300Gb SATA hard drive, and a Plextor CD-RW/DVD-RW Dual-Layer optical drive. Finding all of these components in any single off-the-shelf system is highly unlikely and a DIY custom-build option is about your only recourse.

You might also consider what you intend to use this new computer for, whether you build it yourself or buy one off-the shelf. If your usual computer time is spent word processing, medium internet surfing, email and organizing the family photo album, you probably don't need a "killer" machine. Depending on the components you purchase and install, custom-built machines can sometimes be "twitchy", temperamental, and somewhat less-reliable than a good-quality off-the-shelf system.

Another factor for you to consider is what I call "time to liftoff". If you purchase an off-the-shelf system, you can usually be up and running, surfing the internet in less than an hour from the time you first open the box. On the other hand, should you choose to build a system yourself, you first have to choose, purchase and assemble all the components you want; then comes the fun part: putting it all together and making it work. This can take days or even weeks. Given what you describe as your limited familiarity with getting into the guts of a computer, the risk of error or potentially damaging one or more components is somewhat higher than for someone who does this all the time and has experience.

If you decide to build one yourself, I would highly recommend that you do extensive research on various hardware forums and blogs, both to help choose the right mix of components, and also to familiarize yourself with as many of the pitfalls, tips and pointers you can before you first pick up your screwdriver and plunge in.

Good Luck!


Submitted by: James S.

Forum Icon Legend

  • UnreadUnread
  • ReadRead
  • Locked threadLocked thread
  • ModeratorModerator
  • CNET StaffCNET Staff
  • Samsung StaffSamsung Staff
  • Norton Authorized Support TeamNorton Authorized Support Team
  • AVG StaffAVG Staff
  • avast! Staffavast! Staff
  • Webroot Support TeamWebroot Support Team
  • Acer Customer Experience TeamAcer Customer Experience Team
  • Windows Outreach TeamWindows Outreach Team
  • DISH staffDISH staff
  • Dell StaffDell Staff
  • Intel StaffIntel Staff
  • QuestionQuestion
  • Resolved questionResolved question
  • General discussionGeneral discussion
  • TipTip
  • Alert or warningAlert or warning
  • PraisePraise
  • RantRant

You are e-mailing the following post: Post Subject

Your e-mail address is used only to let the recipient know who sent the e-mail and in case of transmission error. Neither your address nor the recipient's address will be used for any other purpose.

Sorry, there was a problem emailing this post. Please try again.

Submit Email Cancel

Thank you. Sent email to


Thank you. Sent email to


You are reporting the following post: Post Subject

If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.

Offensive: Sexually explicit or offensive language

Spam: Advertisements or commercial links

Disruptive posting: Flaming or offending other users

Illegal activities: Promote cracked software, or other illegal content

Sorry, there was a problem submitting your post. Please try again.

Submit Report Cancel

Your message has been submitted and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.


Your message has been submitted and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.


You are posting a reply to: Post Subject

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to the CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to CBS Interactive Site Terms of Use.

You are currently tracking this discussion. Click here to manage your tracked discussions.

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

Sorry, there was a problem submitting your post. Please try again.

Sorry, there was a problem generating the preview. Please try again.

Duplicate posts are not allowed in the forums. Please edit your post and submit again.

Submit Reply Preview Cancel

Thank you, , your post has been submitted and will appear on our site shortly.