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It used to be a commonly held belief that if you wanted the best bang for your buck in a PC, then you had to build your own. But times change.

PC prices have plummeted and people have started buying laptops as appliances, using them for up to four years before buying replacements.

So does that mean there’s no value in building your own PC any more? Or is still possible to get a high value system for less money? If there are savings, are they enough to be worth the effort? Let’s take a look at some prices to find out.

What the Average PC Needs

Before we start pricing parts, let’s do a quick check of everything we need. Note: We won’t go into the details of which exact parts to get or how to fit them together. Check out our comprehensive guide to building your own PC How To Build Your Own PC: The Easy Guide How To Build Your Own PC: The Easy Guide With the complete amateur in mind who has no technical knowledge whatsoever, we are going to show you how to build your own PC! Read More  for that.

intel core i7

Processor

The CPU is the brain of your system and is the first component you should choose (unless you’re building a gaming PC, in which case you might want to start with the graphics card).

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There’s a mind-boggling number of processor options So What's the Difference Between Intel's Haswell and Ivy Bridge CPUs? So What's the Difference Between Intel's Haswell and Ivy Bridge CPUs? Looking for a new computer? Those shopping for a new Intel-powered laptop or desktop need to know the differences between the last and the latest generation of Intel processors. Read More available, but for most users, the choice usually boils down to either the Intel Core i3 (entry-level), i5 (mid-range) and i7 (high-end) processors.

Typical Price for CPU: $100-$500

motherboard

Motherboard

The motherboard is the backbone of your system and the part to which all your other components attach. It also contains USB ports and other ports, and possibly Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. You need to ensure that your motherboard is compatible with all of your chosen parts and that it fits in your computer case.

Typical Price for Motherboard: $50-$200

ram

Memory

RAM is one of the areas that PC manufacturers are notorious for skimping on, which is sad because it’s one of the most effective and most affordable upgrades How To Upgrade Your Laptop In a Flash: Add a New Hard Drive & Increase RAM How To Upgrade Your Laptop In a Flash: Add a New Hard Drive & Increase RAM Laptops are not as easy to upgrade as desktops. Many components are simply soldered on to the motherboard and others, though technically replaceable, are restricted by technical skill and cost. There are, however, two upgrades... Read More you can make to your PC. If you want extra RAM in a pre-built machine, it’s almost a given that you will pay way over market value.

Typical Price for Memory: $60-$90 (8GB)

gtx 970

Graphics Card

Depending on the type of system you’re building, the graphics card may be optional.

If you’re building a gaming PC, then you should pick a good graphics card Can Shared Graphics Finally Compete with a Dedicated Graphics Card? Can Shared Graphics Finally Compete with a Dedicated Graphics Card? There are two kinds of graphics cards for PCs: dedicated and shared. Read More first so that you can build the rest of your system around it. For non-gaming PCs, modern Intel and AMD CPUs have integrated graphics support and will suffice. Most low-end to mid-range PCs make do with this.

Typical Price for GPU: $60-$500

hard drive

Storage

For storage your choices are between a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) — cheaper, much higher capacity, slower — and a solid state drive 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD The world of home computing is moving towards solid state drives for storage. Should you buy one? Read More (SSD) — smaller, lower capacity, much faster.

Some higher end systems make use of both, with the operating system stored on the SSD for best performance and data stored on the larger but slower HDD. For the average user, it’s enough to get one. Whether you should pick HDD or SSD will depend on your personal preference.

Typical Price for Storage: $30-$300

power supply

Power Supply

The power supply is another area where it’s easy to cut costs. The benefits of paying more include getting a modular unit (which improves airflow within the case) and greater energy efficiency (which may give you savings in the long term Can You Really Save Money By Building A Green PC? Can You Really Save Money By Building A Green PC? Read More ).

Most importantly, you need to have the correct wattage for your hardware. This tool on the Asus website helps you identify how much power you need to sustain your intended system.

Typical Price for Power Supply: $40-$200

fan

Fans

You may or may not need extra fans to help keep your system cool. Most computer cases come with at least one fan, and most processors and graphics cards and power supplies each have dedicated fans as well.

If your computer case ends up being too poor at circulating air, you can always install more fans at a later time.

Typical Price for Fans: $20-$100

pc case

Case

There are a huge array of case sizes. The most important thing is that it fits your motherboard and all the components attached to it.

Typical Price for Case: $50-$300

dvd drive

Extras and Optionals

On top of the basics, you may need to add a few additional items. These could include a wireless card (if your motherboard doesn’t have one built in) and an optical drive (e.g. a DVD drive) but only if you need one How to Play DVDs & Blu-Rays on Windows 10, Even Without a DVD Drive How to Play DVDs & Blu-Rays on Windows 10, Even Without a DVD Drive With the removal of Windows Media Center, it has suddenly become more difficult to play DVD and Blu-ray discs on your computer. Fortunately, you have alternatives, including third-party tools or virtual drives. Read More .

We’re going to assume you already have a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, but if you don’t then you’ll have to factor in the price of those, too.

windows10

Operating System

When pricing up your custom-built PC, you mustn’t forget to include the cost of an operating system to power it. You can run a Linux distro Distro Indecision: A Cheat's Guide to Choosing a Linux Distribution Distro Indecision: A Cheat's Guide to Choosing a Linux Distribution This guide is all about how to pick the right distribution, and how to test them before you actually commit to using it, arguably one of the most difficult steps in getting into Linux. Read More like Ubuntu for free, but if you want Windows you’ll need to pay retail prices for it — and retail Windows isn’t exactly cheap.

Windows 10 Home costs around $100 for consumers. In comparison, PC makers were thought to pay between $15 and $50 for a Windows 8.1 licence. A big discount, but not so big that it forces you to decide one way or another.

Typical Price for OS: $100

How Much to Build Your Own?

So, you know what you need to buy and roughly how much each part costs. Let’s now take a look at three actual systems and see how much it would cost you to build an equivalent machine.

We’ll get our pre-built PCs from Best Buy and compare them to individual component prices listed at PCPartPicker.com, which also checks for compatibility issues.

Entry-Level System: $449 vs. $503

The Dell Inspiron Desktop (model I3847-6162BK) is one of the top-selling entry-level PCs at Best Buy. It has an Intel Core i3 processor at 3.7GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive storage, and integrated graphics. The normal price is $449.

entry level price

We were able to price up an equivalent self-built PC for $503, not including the keyboard and mouse that Dell PCs include.

Performance System: $729 vs. $679

Next, the HP Envy desktop (model 750-114) which is for sale at Best Buy for $729.99.

mid range

Here are the prices for the key parts:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 3.2GHz — $175.88
  • RAM: 12GB 1600MHz — $69.99
  • Storage: 2TB 7200rpm — $67.89
  • Graphics: Integrated — $0
  • OS: Windows 10 — $93.89
  • Case: Mid-tower — $68.69

Add in a CPU cooler, motherboard, optical drive, mouse, and keyboard and we’re able to put together an equivalent system for $679.34. That’s a $50 savings, and if you choose Linux over Windows it’s closer to $150.

Gaming System: $1299 vs. $1023

Finally, a gaming system. The Asus model G20AJ-B11 has an i7 processor, GeForce GTX 960 graphics card, and 16GB RAM. The regular price on Best Buy is $1299.99.

Here’s what we get for individual parts:

high end price

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 4.0GHz — $317.99
  • RAM: 16GB 1600MHz — $74.99
  • Storage: 2TB 7200rpm — $67.89
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 960 — $209.99
  • OS: Windows 8.1 — $86.89

With the other parts, including motherboard, power supply, case, and so on, we were able to get the price to $1023.63. This savings of $276 would enable us to double the RAM or upgrade the graphics card to one even stronger.

If we opted to build a Steam Machine Steam Machines Are Finally Coming! Here's What You Need to Know Steam Machines Are Finally Coming! Here's What You Need to Know Read More for gaming instead of using Windows, we’d be able to get the price well below $1000.

Our Recommendation Is…

The pattern seems clear. At the budget end of the market, the margins are so low that it’s difficult to undercut the price of a pre-built PC, and any savings you can make on the hardware will likely be cancelled out by the $100 price of a copy of Windows 10.

When you move toward the mid-range, savings become possible. It may not be enough to warrant the extra effort involved in building your own PC Eco-Friendly Computing 101: Buy or Build Silent and Green PCs Eco-Friendly Computing 101: Buy or Build Silent and Green PCs Computer fans clog with dust, make horrible noises and waste energy. Why put up with that when consumers can go silent and green? A huge number of options popped up for setting up highly efficient... Read More , but it’s certainly worth exploring.

build a pc

It’s at the top end of the market where the benefits of building your own PC become pronounced. Not only are you able to make savings on equivalently-specced machines, but you also get to tailor the specs to your exact needs. Broadly speaking, the more niche your PC requirements, the better off you’ll be building your own.

Of course, this is all based on you starting from scratch. The real beauty of a custom-built PC is that you can easily build in future upgrade paths. This enables you to update individual components as needed and keep your PC running for longer than a store-bought model ever could.

Have you ever built your own PC? Would you ever consider doing so? Tell us all about your experiences in the comments below.

Image credits: setting a video card by Mny-Jhee via Shutterstock, Intel Core i7 via intel.com, Motherboard via MATSUOKA Kohei, RAM via crucial.com, GTX 970 via nvidia.com, Hard drive via William Warby, Power supply via corsair.com, Fan via Laineema, PC case via corsair.com, DVD drive via yoppy, Build a PC via StooMathiesen

  1. matt
    October 8, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    I've been building my own PCs for over a decade now and can't imagine doing it any other way. I do have a need for specialized performance systems however, that require high end graphics cards and lots of RAM. I use my boxes for numerical simulations and occasional gaming.

    What I've always seen with the prebuild options is that certain components will be underpar, and then there might be extras that you don't need. For example I don't need a WIFI adaptor and I don't need monitor and keyboards usually etc. This means that for the quality of the equipment you are paying a premium for higher end prebuild PCs.

    I do need quality memory that can be overclocked and I do need an unlocked processor that can be overclocked and I do need high performance cooling. (I prefer fans). I also want a case with a good ventilation and room for additional drives and so forth.

    To support all this you also typically need a gaming motherboard that supports a high end processor. If you start building a box like this at one of the gaming PC websites you will pay quite a large markup. Thus build your own still rules.

    For mid to low end boxes it probably doesn't matter. I just usually pass on my old builds to my family members when I'm done and get a few more years out of them anyway.

  2. Jay
    August 31, 2016 at 7:47 am

    What people are also forgetting is that a lot of builders do not start from scratch. Usually there must be something you are carrying over. Even if its a generational leap, you may still be taking along your RAM and HD, which already may save you $100+. To me building is not even about the cost, the abiility to upgrade and OC is the deal breaker, functions that are often limited or even absent is prebuilts. For example I saw a nice $500 dell inspiron with an i5 6500 on amazon. But realized it had a b150 MB and non-upgradable 300W. the only upgrade will be may be faster i7 (still non OC) and low power 750TI

  3. Robert
    August 23, 2016 at 4:41 am

    In the super low budget range, you're better off buying used parts/systems.

    Right now in my area on Craigslist, there's a guy selling an i7-2600 with stock cooler, a R9 270X 4 GB graphics card, 16 GB DDR3 memory and an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard in a Corsair Air Cube case (albeit with 2 missing drive bay covers) for $80 total.

    Even if you bought the rest of the parts new ($60 PSU, $15 drive bay covers, $70 SSD, $50 HDD, $100 Windows 10 -- which some people can get free through work/school) you're still talking only $375 for a super solid workstation/gaming box. And it would definitely be possible to shave a few bucks off that figure by buying other parts used. So you'd be looking at something like $250 if you can get Windows free or use Linux. That's an insane value.

    Of course your mileage may vary. Buying used requires more patience and running around, and if everyone started doing it, prices on good parts in the secondary market would go up. Overall though it's definitely the best option for savvy folks with more time than money. Penny pinchers need to make depreciation work for them rather than against them.

  4. Liz
    July 21, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I always have and always will build my own pc's. Just prefer being able to choose exactly what I want in it and what software to use. Usually, Windows 7 Pro.

    Currently using a Core 2 Solo homebuilt PC to view this.

    Nvidia GT170 graphics card
    2 GB RAM
    Windows server 2008 r2
    120 GB HDD

  5. Jake
    July 11, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    why are you putting a 750watt psu in a machine with no gpu?

    also buying a separate cooler adding $30 to the price when the stock will work fine for a non-oc build.

  6. Kovalenko
    June 28, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Just look at prebuilts now, especially from big corps like Best Buy. Total the parts and you'll likely pay more if you bought the same stuff separately. Many builds from stores are getting better - I.e. you're looking at insignificant improvements from getting any other hardware, so that standard i7 build (especially with OS discount) is probably better from a store than buying separately.

    PC builders need to face the reality that their hobby is becoming more hobby than useful. Sure you can tweak a lot more but if you actually think you're competitive with a store (even small businesses that build PCs), you keep having your fun and being ignorant of how times have really changed.

    • Robert
      August 23, 2016 at 5:24 am

      It is my hope that you're right, or that you will be someday. Last I checked, building still offered an overall better value, but it certainly ought to be the case that economies of scale and volume discounts let big box retailers offer good-quality PCs at a much better price than what hobbyists could manage on their own. If and when that potential is realized, it will be a win for all gamers, including hobbyists who continue to build their own.

      Right now when I go on Best Buy's web site and choose the "pick it up today" option for my local store, I get two low-end Cyberpower PCs and a somewhat unbalanced Asus Rog system with an i7-6700 (locked multiplier), GTX 970, 16 GB of RAM (speed unspecified), 2 TB HDD (no SSD), and unspecified cooling, motherboard and PSU components for $1450.

      I was able to easily price out a system that more than matched and significantly exceeded it part-for-part for $1401 total (i7-6700k, GTX 1070, 16 GB DDR4-3000 CL15 RAM, Cyrorig H5 Ultimate CPU cooler, a premium Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD5 motherboard, EVGA SuperNOVA P2 750W 80+ Platinum fully modular power supply, a NZXT 630 case and Windows 10).

      Maybe if I went into the brick and mortar store I'd find more competitive builds. Overall though I think building is still, for the time being, somewhat more economical.

      At the lower end, pre-builts are more competitive, especially if you can't get Windows 10 free or discounted through your work or school (which many people can). However, at the low end, the absolute best value involves buying used. Higher-end hardware from two or three CPU/GPU generations depreciate a lot in price but still have outstanding performance compared to new entry-level builds.

  7. bjshepp
    April 4, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    The HP desktop isn't a good comparison. That comes with a mouse, keyboard, anti virus, an optical drive and a wifi card. None of which is included with the authors custom build because he knows it would add up to the same price as the pre built model or higher.

    I love how these elitists brag about how much money they're saving by building their own PC, when in reality they aren't saving anything. They're just paying for less features that come standard with prebuilt desktops.

    • 71937
      May 17, 2016 at 7:29 am

      With a custom built PC, you get the ability to easily upgrade specific components when required, and when parts break, you don't have to replace the whole PC. Less features you say? You can overclock on a custom built PC (depending on the CPU you choose). Can't do that on a prebuilt. Also, some motherboards have inbuilt WiFi anyway. Don't forget that antivirus is included in Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 for free (Windows Defender). Building a PC is fun and easy, too. All you need is a screwdriver, no other tools necessary.

      • Joe
        May 28, 2016 at 5:15 am

        Most of is call all those extras you're talking about bloatware. Lol

        I build custom pcs all the time, it's not about saving money ( which you do ) it's about the experience, and the fact that you custom choose each part to do what you needed it to do.

        On a gaming machine, there are literally so many ways to save money on some parts, so that you can spend it in other areas and get the best bang for your buck.

        I just built a pc, it cost me about 2 grand, if I had bought the same pc already put together by a company it would have cost me 2700 bucks.

        700 dollars for an afternoon of my time? Yep well worth it.

    • jim
      August 10, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      I bought a brand new Gateway gaming i7 back in 2010. The mobo died within 2 years. I have built PCs ever since. Forget the money. Its the only way to make sure you have quality components.

    • Robert
      August 23, 2016 at 5:35 am

      Mouse/keyboard combos can be had on amazon for under $20 and are likely to match the quality of anything that comes bundled with a pre-built machine. Beyond that, for many people mouse and keyboard selection is a personal thing, so when those parts are included in a system, enthusiasts would often just discard them anyway -- if they don't already have a mouse/keyboard around that they can use.

      Antivirus software is generally not worth the trouble. Free antivirus software is available through a few different vendors, including Microsoft, which bundles Windows Defender in with Windows 10. You don't really need any antivirus at all though. A good adblocker like uBlock Origin will do much more to protect your PC than some resource-hogging payware antivirus software.

      Optical drives are pretty much obsolete -- you might as well complain about prebuilts not having floppy drives. If you want one, it adds $20 to the cost of your system. Everyone I know uses thumb drives and downloading/streaming. Even my HTPC doesn't have an optical drive and it really has nothing to do with cost.

      A wifi card is, again, not everyone needs (and not all prebuilts include). It's best to connect your main PC via ethernet for speed and stability. Add $11 to your build if you need a wifi dongle.

  8. JacobZon
    March 14, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    do u guys think i would regret building an expensive pc or is it a no regrets situation?

    • Kevin Favilla
      August 18, 2016 at 6:34 am

      If you invest well in parts that will allow you to upgrade you will save alot of money in the future and in that case there is no way you would regret it

  9. Sinbad
    February 22, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I've always built my own systems. Recently though pricing out parts and comparing the cost to a boutique builder (choosing similar parts) it seems to be close to a wash when you factor in shipping. I have also fou,d that when building your own you often come across the inevitable bad part (ram, cpu or mobo) which can be a real head ache diagnosing and swapping out. By contrast most boutique builders test the system with a 24-72 hour burn in period(especially useful if you intend to oc the system parts), this is great especially when paired with some of the overnight service plans some offer. Over all I feel depending on the mark up it seems more cost effective to customize your system from a builder and let them deal with any innevitable problems that arrise when pairing 20 or so high end parts together. I say this after over the past 15 years having built probably 15 to 20 systems for myself and others.

  10. Dudeguypersonthing
    February 21, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    I've built my own, and it was well below $500. For a similar build pre-built PC, it would've cost me upwards of $700. I highly recommend building your own PC, especially if you're gaming on it, since then you can customize everything with it.

  11. Michael Weldon
    October 13, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    i3, i5 or i7? I take it you're an Intel man.....no time for AMD, huh?

  12. Jonathon Krueck
    October 13, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    I'm sure others have said it but building your own can save you money in the long run too. Instead of replacing an entire machine, you can recycle parts into your next one.

    I've only bought 1 pre-built and that's a laptop. When ever I have shopped for a new pc, it always come being much much cheaper for me to build my own because I can re-use parts.

  13. Courtney Stacey
    October 13, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I have several desktops at home and replace or rebuild them regularly. Buying a ready built computer is definitely easier and less likely to result in headaches. If you factor in time to build and set up a home built PC, then a ready built PC is hard to beat; particularly at the lower end.

    However, bargain hunting and using on hand parts, like a previous case and power supply, can swing the balance toward build your own. I have put together higher end machines and saved over 50% compared to buying a similar ready built PC, even going with all new parts.

    For me it very much depends on each particular situation. However, I will say that over the years the computers I have been the most pleased with have been the ones that I built myself.

    • Andy Betts
      October 13, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      I think it's definitely a project you have to want to do for reasons other than just saving money. But the ease of rebuilding a machine instead of throwing it away and buying a new one is one of the biggest benefits.

  14. A41202813GMAIL ..
    October 13, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Get A LIAN-LI PC-A79B ATX Full Tower Case.

    11 Expansion Slots,

    12 5.25 External Bays,

    Compatible With Lots Of Motherboard Form Factors, And My Favorite, ...

    ... A Slide Out Motherboard Tray.

    Expensive But Worth It.

    Cheers.

  15. David Patterson
    October 13, 2015 at 4:23 am

    Another reason to build your own PC is that it is easier to upgrade it every 2 or 3 or 4 years. With a standard case, power supply and motherboard form factor, i.e. ATX, it is easy to just upgrade the CPU and mother board.

    Occasionally you might need a new type of RAM, but everything else is reusable.

    Recycle and reuse!

    • Andy Betts
      October 13, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      Absolutely! The initial build is the hardest, but after that you can just do incremental upgrades and keep the same PC running for years.

  16. Kennedy Parker
    October 13, 2015 at 3:50 am

    I have built many computers. Best part is I am using one of my old AT/ATX conversion full towers. I had my Windows 7 for school that I did not use thanks to my last board went south, 59.99 for the AMD 970 Motherboard,R7-240 68.99 for my graphics card, 8 gig ripjaws ram from a prior build that the motherboard died, FX 6 core 3.4 for 99.99, SSHD 1TB ror 79.99, 42.90 for my Blu Ray burner, 17 for a dvd burner, salvaged all in one card reader and 1TB hot plug HD, 7bucks for a front 3.5" four port usb salvaged upholder with lighter, 750 PS on sale for 69 new and salvaged Digital and analog TV card. The cost not counting parts from by last build that I reused equals 437.86. Yes, I budget shopped. I refurbished plenty of systems too. I have a old AMD 3500+ Skt-A that needed almost all its capacitors changed, I changed them all out anyways. It is maxed out with two gigs ram, a 120gig IDE HD, six SCSI 9gig HD, a 9200 all in wonder graphics, changed out original beat up case that looked like a heavy persion used as a stepping stool to a full tower. That old thing still runs good I still have my 486DX4 120. A few K6-2s I have been starting to take apart to recycle. I used two slightly cut down Pentium ii heatsinks to replace the poorly designed heat sink on my current system. I usually use older fans because they still work where the newer ones may start making funny noises after a few years of use. It really depends if one has a older system that has parts compatible to the system you want to build. OEMs are nothing more than starter systems except really high end. I use multiple OSes, so recycling saves me big time. At least I am not salvaging techshop rejects like my first two builds, but it is so much cheaper to upgrade and reuse where one can.

  17. likefun butnot
    October 13, 2015 at 2:52 am

    My argument for a low-cost white box PC rather than an OEM comes down to this: My lowest-cost $350 (yes, including the Windows license) PC will still have an SSD. PC Manufacturers treat SSDs like they're more precious than gold, but a 240GB drive can be had for $70 nowadays.

    Quickly: an AMD A6-5400 CPU, a Gigabyte F2A88XN motherboard, 4GB DDR3, a Rosewill ITX chassis and whichever 240GB SSD is on sale this week. Should be at $250-ish as of mid-October 2015. Add $20 if you think you need a DVD drive. I'd suggest moving up a bit to something with an Intel CPU, but that's a solid general-purpose PC for the money. The Windows license will cost between $70 and $100 for home edition, though grey-market CoAs for Windows 7 cost as little as $30 and Linux is free.

    My build would also have a quality power supply and a standard and upgradable internal configuration. HP and Acer have recently been shipping what are basically laptop systems inside mini-tower cases for at least some of their low-cost models, machines that can't have an expansion card or an disk drive installed even though the space exists to install one. I also find desktop form factor machines with notebook-class CPUs occasionally.You truly don't know what's being shoved in the OEM vomit box.

    The white box also won't have a bunch of crapware installed. MUO has an article about how to get rid of that stuff what? Twice a month? One of the best ways to get a machine without the bloat is to load Windows for yourself.

    Is it a pain in the butt to build a PC? It takes a normal human about 20 minutes to stick all the parts in a case and screw everything down and Windows loads in about 10 minutes off a USB drive. Everything else is just screwing around with settings, something you would probably be doing regardless of what computer you picked.

  18. Robert Backlund
    October 13, 2015 at 1:45 am

    Oh I did forget one thing with respect to my new PC, I had an ISO image for Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit and when I was building my system Make Use Of had an article concerning the free upgrade offer from MS to upgrade to Windows 10. In this article they mentioned several sources where you could buy legal licenses for different versions of Windows so I purchased one, I think it cost $50 for Windows 7 Ultimate and I used this when installing the OS on the new PC. Once all of the updates were applied I was invited by MS to upgrade to Windows 10, I also have a free upgrade on my older system but have not decided if I am going to do it or not as I have found several older games that do not run correctly on Windows 10. So currently my new small form factor gaming PC runs Windows 10 and the Steam OS (which is based on Debian Linux).

  19. Robert Backlund
    October 13, 2015 at 1:22 am

    I have been building my own desktop gaming/workstations ever since 2001 and have always gotten much more bang for the buck building my systems than buying a prebuilt PC. However I have always built fairly high end systems for gaming and digital art creation along with digital music. If your needs are more typical of 90% of all PC users, checking email, social media and using a word processor and printer then you will do better buying from an OEM. I just built a new small format system in June which cost a little over 1200 USD to build. However the closest prebuilt system with approximately the same components would have cost me around 2200 dollars if purchased from an OEM. There are two reasons I build my own, the first is I have been a dual booter with Linux as my primary OS along with some version of Windows currently Windows 10 Pro on my new PC and Windows 7 ultimate on my older PC. There are no OEMs anywhere that will set this up for you and another reason is I make sure that all the components I buy are Linux friendly. The other reason I build my own are warranties. 99% of all graphics cards as well as mother boards have 3 year warranties from the manufactures, hard drives vary with respect to the length of time their warranties are good for. Some are only good for 2 years fewer have 3 year warranties and some still have 5 year warranties. If you purchase SSDs the average warranty term is 3 years and if you want a 10 year warranty then buy a Samsung 850 pro SSD. When you buy any PC from an OEM even if they contain the exact same components that you would buy (which they don't they opt for the very cheapest that they can get) you only get a one year warranty. Even if you have a Western digital drive that if purchased separately would have a 5 year warranty you still only get one year from what ever OEM you chose. 99% of all ram memory today when purchased to build a PC comes with lifetime warranties. In all the years I have been building my own desktop PCs I have only had one mother board that failed and one video card that gave me problems. The most frequent component that has needed replacement have been hard drives and they are not made like they used to be however today they are priced like the rest of the commodity electronics that you know are only going to last for a short time and then you just throw them away. Knowing this it is wise to keep a current backup system image so when you C drive dies you can quickly get back up and running without loosing any data. I just saw a Segate 1TB HD for $44 USD on Newegg dot com it only comes with a 2 year warranty which given its very low price is amazing that it has any warranty. I own a collection of Samsung external USB 3 hard drives that I use for video and music files along with doing backups of my two desktops PCs. I currently have 5 2 TB drives and 2 5TB drives some purchased back in 2013, the oldest drive contains my Steam game library and has been powered up 24/7 since its purchase, my main work station is on 24/7 and I have not had any problems with any of them. I opened up one of them and they all contain Segate 3.5" hard drives oh and all of these drives have 3 year warranties and despite the fact that they are external USB 3 drives are cheaper then if you purchased the same drive for internal installation. Right now the 2TB drives on NewEgg are only $69 and the 5TB drive are only $129.

  20. Jason Dupuis
    October 12, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    I'd like to put another spin on this story. Warranty. Everyone shrugs it off. Warranty on components (outside of store return policies of roughly 30 days) are manufacturer direct and one year in most cases. Take your part, pay to ship it, wait for its return. My last bad video card was out of my hands for over a month. All components are not made like they were 5 -10 years ago. I did build my own PCs for years but it's more economical, in most cases, to buy a full pic, configured the way you want than it is to build one

    • likefun butnot
      October 13, 2015 at 2:08 am

      Almost all PC components have a three year warranty. OEM computer systems typically only have a one year warranty. Truth be told, by the time a part is three years old, it's probably not worth the $20 it'll cost to ship back to where you got it, but if you're backing the wrong horse if you're suggesting the OEM PC would be better for that reason.

  21. hildyblog
    October 12, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    I've built PCs and I've bought PCs and I'd offer the following. There are two reasons to choose to build a PC. First, because you like to build things. If you don't, you will probably get frustrated. It's not hard but it's not a Lego kit and there's a lot of detail work. Second, because you want something different. It could be just a case or lighting. A better reason might be internals. I did it because I wanted a basically cheap design with a RAID array.

    If you're just trying to save money, look at manufacturers' outlets for refurbished PCs.

  22. Andrew Kelley
    October 12, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    I have built uncountable PC's over the past 12 years or more for both myself and for others. I will have to admit that the prices from the big brands are much more competitive now than they once were. The one fault that I find with the big name OEM's is the insistence of loading Windows on all the PC's they put together. It is a really presumptuous quirk they have. I have to still rely on building my own because they load Windows on them without giving any thought to the fact that some would-be customers may not want Windows on the PC they buy. The ones that do have to pay for it anyway, so why not give everyone the Option instead of simply charging forward. I let all my clients decide for themselves when I build their PC for them, if they want Windows, I charge them accordingly. When I first started building Windows was the preferred platform but I dare say that now I have about 60% that opt for A Linux distro, usually either Ubuntu or Fedora.

    • fcd76218
      October 13, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      At one time, Microsoft contracts with OEMs provided that MS be paid on the basis of the number of PCs shipped, not the number of O/S copies installed on those PCs. This forced OEMs to install Win on every box that went out the door. If I am not mistaken, these types of contracts were declared illegal by the DOJ.

      You and I and other PC enthusiasts/hobbyist are not the primary market for PC manufacturers. The vast majority of people who buy computers would be totally lost if that computer had no O/S. PC manufacturers cater to that vast majority. Also, the extra few dollars they can charge for each box with Windows installed, generates a lot of revenue for them.

  23. Zhong Jiang
    October 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    What about the comparison between laptops? Even though laptop are much weaker than its counterparts, how do they fare among PCs with similar specs?

    • fcd76218
      October 13, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      There are very few possibilities of building one's own laptop. You may update/upgrade a laptop but that is a different subject.

  24. ej mattocks
    October 12, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    @f71e84e8, I have the skills needed to build my own PC, and I've purchased a Windows XP license back in the day, and would do it again if needed (although I wouldn't need it, since I'm now 100% Linux on all my computers and have no use for Windows). What I don't understand is why anyone would choose to pirate instead of not purchasing a legal copy, and expose themselves to potential legal trouble. If you don't want to pay, use Linux or BSD and be happy. If you need/want Windows, pay your dues. It's that simple.

  25. fcd76218
    October 12, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Building your own gives you an sense of accomplishment. It is also an invaluable learning experience.
    Building your own allows you to choose the exact components you want. It allows you to cut back on components you do not consider important and splurge on those that you do.
    Building your own allows you to cut costs by using refurbished parts. Or keep costs the same and use better parts.
    Building your own gives you the choice of close to 300 Linux, BSD and Solaris distros instead of only 3 Windows versions (7, 8.x & 10)

  26. f71e84e8
    October 12, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Oh, please, who pays for windows anyway? I've been running Linux since 2004, but the last time I heard of someone actually buying windows was probably 5 years earlier

    • Justin Pot
      October 12, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      So are you saying you don't know anyone who builds their own PCs, or that all the people who do are pirates? Or do you somehow only know Linux users? I'm confused by your entire comment.

      • f71e84e8
        October 12, 2015 at 8:40 pm

        I've never met anyone who paid for a windows license, and I never felt the need myself since 2004. I seriously doubt anyone with the skills needed to build a PC would pay for windows, most of people I know to build PCs do that also to save money on that crap.

        • Justin Pot
          October 12, 2015 at 10:58 pm

          So none of the people who build their own PCs are doing so to play Windows games?

    • Kelsey Tidwell
      October 13, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      Let me introduce myself...
      Hi! I'm Kelsey! I built a high-end (for the time) gaming system almost three years ago and gladly bought a Windows license (Win 7) because:

      A) I'm not a thief, and

      B) I like Windows games.

      Oh...C) after playing around with Linux distros for a while, I discovered that I don't have the smarmy self-righteous attitude for it.

      I built my own PC (as I've done many, many times over the last 20-odd years) because I DIDN'T want to skimp on the hardware, not because I was trying to build something out of nothing. Three years later it's still a powerhouse, and the money was VERY well spent...on the hardware and the software.

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