The Pros and Cons of Building Your Own Linux PC
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Building a Linux PC comes with a slew of benefits. From working with hardware and software to monetary savings, it’s a gratifying experience.

However, a do-it-yourself (DIY) Linux computer has its downsides, while a pre-built Linux PC offers its advantages. Learn the reasons why you should or shouldn’t build a Linux PC!

Reasons Why You Should Build a Linux PC

Building a Linux PC, whether a full DIY configuration or simply installing a Linux distro on a laptop or desktop, you’ll find a bevy of advantages. Lacking a paid license, you can save money.

A self-built Linux PC provides ample opportunity to reuse parts. With lightweight Linux operating systems, it’s feasible to increase the longevity of aging hardware. You’ll benefit from total control with tons of choice in hardware and software. Certain Linux OSes even require compiling a kernel.

Additionally, Linux fosters a fantastic learning space for delving into basic programming, or learning about how computer software and hardware components interact.

Reasons why you should build a Linux PC:

  • More economical
  • Reuse old hardware
  • Total PC control
  • Educational experience
  • Software flexibility

Let’s look at these benefits in more detail.

1. Monetary Savings

Why you should and shouldn't build your own Linux PC - Monetary Savings
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You can traditionally build a computer for less than the price of a pre-built system. Because the cost of an off-the-shelf system includes parts, labor, and software, you’re paying a premium. However, when building a PC, you merely pay for the components. Since you can shop around for parts, you can purchase parts on sale and shop for deals. Plus, you can snag second-hand or refurbished hardware.

Granted, there’s more work involved. Not to mention the ample troubleshooting which may be required. But the monetary savings make building your own Linux PC totally worth it.

2. Recycle Old PC Parts

Why you should and shouldn't build your own Linux PC - recycle

Similarly, you may reuse old components or even full rigs. This further adds to the financial savings reaped by opting for a DIY Linux PC. When I purchase a new computer, I typically relegate my previous computer to a Linux machine. After upgrading to an HP Omen for a Windows machine, I designated my aging HP Envy notebook as a dedicated Linux laptop. Ubuntu installed like a champ!

As such, you can squeeze more life out of your PC. I took an ancient Asus Aspire One netbook which was utterly unusable with Windows 7, and successfully breathed new life into it with Lubuntu. Lightweight Linux distros 5 Lightweight Linux Distros Ideal for an Intel Atom Processor PC 5 Lightweight Linux Distros Ideal for an Intel Atom Processor PC Don't let your Atom-powered netbook or low-specced laptop gather dust in a closet -- install a lightweight Linux distro and start enjoying mobile computing once again! Read More offer the potential to rejuvenate aging hardware.

My first ever Linux PC was an ancient Shuttle XPC which was slated to be scrapped. I rescued the Shuttle which I discovered lacked an operating system. Whether utilizing your own hardware or parts upcycled from various sources, building a Linux computer affords the opportunity to reuse components.

Though this is fantastic from an environmental perspective, it yields monetary savings as well. You can still recycle with Windows, but because of the numerous flavors of Linux, it’s easier to accomplish.

3. Total Control Over the System

Why you should and shouldn't build your own Linux PC - Total Control
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With Linux operating systems such as Gentoo How to Gain Total Control of Your PC With Gentoo How to Gain Total Control of Your PC With Gentoo Gentoo is a true Linux operating system for power users, but with the right knowledge, anyone can gain control over their PC with Gentoo Linux -- even you! Read More or NuTyX Go Nuts With Nutyx: A Customizable Linux Operating System Go Nuts With Nutyx: A Customizable Linux Operating System As a Linux distro, NuTyX is aimed at Linux fanatics. But because of its command line interface, it's a pretty bare-bones but functional OS. Is NuTyX right for you? Read More , users benefit from complete control over their OS. Likewise, when building a PC you can choose your hardware and tailor it to your needs. For instance, you can create a gaming PC, server, cryptocurrency mining Mine Bitcoin on Linux With These Best Free Apps Mine Bitcoin on Linux With These Best Free Apps If you want to mine your own Bitcoins on Linux, here are the best free apps to do it. Read More rig, or general use computer. Your needs dictate what hardware you select.

Therefore, you can pick out the proper parts for specialized builds. Maybe that’s a RAID array, crossfire multi-GPU set up, or water-cooled system. Regardless, you have complete control over your computer hardware.

When running a Linux distro, hardware compatibility is essential. Though you can purchase a pre-built Windows or macOS computer and dual boot 7 Risks of Dual Booting Windows and Linux Operating Systems 7 Risks of Dual Booting Windows and Linux Operating Systems Dual booting Windows and Linux is a productivity boost, but isn't always plain sailing. Here are seven dangers of dual booting that you should be aware of before installing a second operating system. Read More , you may run into compatibility issues. Thus, building lets you create a customized PC and find the best parts which remain in harmony with your Linux software. Specifically for Linux, hardware and software compatibility means that total control is essential.

4. Linux Is Educational

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Getting hands-on with hardware and software is one of the best methods to learn about computers from a software and hardware perspective. There’s no substitute for a tangible look at how parts fit together and interface with software. Since Linux operating systems often require a bit of fiddling with drivers, you gain a better understanding of how the software and hardware interface.

Moreover, with projects such as building your own laptop or making a PC out of a Raspberry Pi 7 Tips for Using a Raspberry Pi 3 as a Desktop PC with Raspbian 7 Tips for Using a Raspberry Pi 3 as a Desktop PC with Raspbian The Raspberry Pi 3 makes an ideal desktop replacement for productivity purposes. But are you getting the best performance? Try these seven tips to improve the experience. Read More , you can use the process as an educational experience. In this way, a DIY Linux PC is much more a maker project than a Windows-based build, since you’ll likely dig into the command line almost immediately post-installation.

If you’re not already a Linux command line master Become a Linux Command Line Master With These Tips and Tricks Become a Linux Command Line Master With These Tips and Tricks Whether you're brand new to Linux, or a seasoned Linux veteran, the command line offers a bevy of uses. Try these tips for mastering the command line. Read More , you’ll quickly learn your fair share of Bash.

5. Linux Distro Flexibility

Building a Linux PC - Distro Flexibility

When it comes to flexibility, building a Linux PC is unparalleled. There’s the choice in hardware, but specifically for Linux, you get tons of choice with distros.

Although many companies provide pre-built Linux computers What Type of Linux Desktop or Laptop Should You Buy? What Type of Linux Desktop or Laptop Should You Buy? What kind of Linux desktop or laptop should you buy? Many powerful machines exist that come designed specifically with Linux in mind. We've covered all bases, ranging in price from $650 to $2,700! Read More , even vendors that provide a choice of Linux operating systems don’t offer the full slate of Linux OS options. When building a Linux PC, you can start with a barebones desktop or laptop (which just requires an operating system), build from the ground up, or anything in-between.

With Windows, you’re limited to a few options. The choice of Linux operating systems you can install makes building a Linux PC a truly customized experience. You can find everything from Linux server operating systems 12 Best Linux Server Operating Systems and Who Should Use Them 12 Best Linux Server Operating Systems and Who Should Use Them Building a server? Linux is ideal, typically offering enhanced permissions, increased flexibility, and stability. But which one should you choose? Check out the 12 best Linux server operating systems and who should use them. Read More to gaming distros 5 Best Linux Operating Systems for Gaming 5 Best Linux Operating Systems for Gaming Linux isn't ideal for gaming, but it's absolutely possible! Here are five Linux distributions made specifically for gaming. Read More and everything in between.

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Build a Linux PC

While building a Linux computer carries a slew of benefits, a pre-built system is sometimes the way to go. Notably, for troubleshooting you’re on your own, warranties can get confusing, and it’s far simpler to purchase a machine that’s ready to go out of the box.

Reasons why you shouldn’t build a Linux PC:

  • Lack of tech support
  • Complicated or non-existent warranties
  • Convenience

Though building a Linux PC is basically as easy or complex as you make it, you’ll want to think about the downsides prior to investing the time, energy, and finances.

1. Troubleshooting Difficulties

why you should and shouldn't build a linux pc

Whether you’re starting with a prebuilt system and installing Linux on it or a complete DIY configuration, expect some degree of troubleshooting. This might be as simple as installing a few drivers or a complex problem which requires a romp through forums. While an off-the-shelf Linux PC often comes with a warranty, you’re on your own with a do-it-yourself machine.

Though I’ve predominately experienced nearly flawless compatibility with Linux, a few devices required much delving into subreddits and forums. Notably, an HP Envy notebook’s Wi-Fi card simply wouldn’t function with default drivers in Ubuntu.

Eventually, I remedied the connectivity problem but it required a few hours of searching online until I discovered the relatively simple fix of blacklisting a driver while downloading another. Once I spent two hours attempting to fix a non-responsive track pad, spending hours in the forums… only to discover the ribbon cable was disconnected.

Prepare to ask friends, post on forums, and inevitably be called a noob over and over again.

2. Lack of Warranties

Similarly, there’s no warranty. Though individual components may arrive with some basic warranty, it’s not all-encompassing. Moreover, while a manufacturer’s limited warranty may apply, most of the time you can’t purchase extended warranties for single parts. I’ve successfully RMAed parts and even a laptop which I used as the foundation for a Linux PC. But particularly when buying refurbished or used parts, and especially with a full build, warranties can get pretty complicated.

You might encounter a hardware-software compatibility issue because you’re using a Linux OS. It can be tough to return parts on the grounds that they don’t function with open-source software.

3. Convenience

Why you should and shouldn't build your own Linux PC - convenience
Image Credit: www_slon_pics/Pixabay

Although you may save money, learn much about Linux hardware and software, plus gain control over your PC, building is far from the most convenient option. If you seek a Linux computer which works out-of-the-box, a pre-built system is the way to go.

Even for hardware with dedicated Linux images such as the Raspberry Pi, you may encounter problems. For example, when switching to a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ board How to Decide If You Need the New Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Model How to Decide If You Need the New Raspberry Pi 3 B+ Model The new Raspberry Pi 3 B+ has been released. How much does it cost, what hard specification does it have, and will it improve your existing projects? We've got answers. Read More from a Raspberry Pi 2, I was unable to use the RetroPie Jessie release I’d been using. Instead, I had to seek out a beta Stretch iteration. Sure, it was easily diagnosed but a Linux computer with a pre-installed operating system comes immediately configured for first use.

Building Your Own Linux PC: Final Thoughts

Ultimately, building your own Linux PC is an incredibly rewarding experience which can save money, educate, and afford maximum control. However, there are certainly some cons. Building a Linux computer isn’t for the faint of heart or those without patience. I’ve cobbled together several Linux PCs, from Raspberry Pi boards running Raspbian to Linux laptops, and my beloved Plex server.

If you plan to embark on a journey to build your own Linux PC, select the proper hardware. Just as important as picking the right physical components is choosing the best Linux distro for your needs.

Need some help finding the right Linux operating system to use? Check out these Linux distros for every kind of user The Newest Linux Operating Systems for Every Niche The Newest Linux Operating Systems for Every Niche Linux operating systems are constantly updated, with some are more substantial than others. Not sure whether to upgrade? Check out these new Linux operating systems and to see if you should try them. Read More and get started building your Linux PC today!

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  1. Mariusz
    May 2, 2018 at 5:32 am

    I install Debian GNU Linux on all new computers and servers. Sometimes Windows users lead me to tears. The convenience of using Gnome 3 exceeds MAC and Windows. Many Windows programs can be run without problems with help. I think that Apple and MS pay companies such as Adobe not to compile applications under Linux because who then bought these systems

  2. Hildy J
    May 1, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    I've never built a Linux PC but I have built a Windows PC and it was a PITA when I did it and the situation has gotten worse. Trying to get new parts to work together is hard enough, trying to get old parts to do it is worse. Plus, the cost savings are minimal, if they exist at all, because manufacturers don't have to pay retail for parts and you do.

    If you have a working computer that's old, putting Linux on it makes sense. But if you don't, go to a manufacturer's outlet store (most have them). I just checked Dell's outlet and you can get a computer with a one year Dell warranty starting at $100. Most outlet computers come with Windows but you can add Linux.

  3. CommandLineHero
    April 30, 2018 at 1:43 am

    1) Technical Support: there are literally hundreds of forums where experts and newbs alike talk and share tips and help.
    2) If you're savvy enough to run Linux, you are your own warranty. Otherwise, get ahold of the techy person that installed it for you.
    3) Refer to 2.

  4. John
    April 28, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Always enjoy extending a PC's life with Linux because Windows 10 while pretty efficient is bloated with stuff I do not use and don't care to have installed. Especially on a PC a few years old that really I just want to run a browser or two and maybe watch video content once in awhile. I think because many users feel afraid even today about installing Linux that I believe some would be surprised at how easy it is and how simple it is to learn. I keep Windows running on a system that still is in warranty as much of PC support is completely unfamiliar with anything running Linux. None of the diagnostic software can run on Linux so anyone support trying to help you will only request you install Windows. So either duel boot Windows/Linux or wait until your warranty is up. Or you feel you won't require service.

  5. dragonmouth
    April 27, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    You use specious reasons to justify NOT building a Linux PC. The very same reasons also apply to building a Windows PC, a Hackintosh, or any other PC. In fact, those reasons apply to any DIY project.
    When you're building anything from parts (not a kit) and you run into trouble, nobody wants to know you.
    Understandable warranties are few and far between. When you put the project together and there are problems, the manufacturer of each part will claim that their part works and it is the others that are at fault.
    No DIY project is convenient.