This site really took off when I wrote my tutorial on building a PC. That tutorial, today, is ranked #1 in Google for building a PC. But, that tutorial was written some time ago. In this day and age, the question should be asked: is building a PC worth it anymore?
I have written several times in the last few weeks about the changing nature of technology. Emphasis is shifting to the world of mobile computing and the Internet. Social media, blogging and other similar activities are now part of the mainstream. Our computing activities are happening more on the Internet than locally on our hard drives.
When I recently ran our reader survey here on PCMech, one thing stood out very clear: you guys aren’t much interested in these things. You guys care, primarily, about your PC and making it work well. My tutorial on building a PC and the popularity of it has, no doubt, played a very large role in building up the audience that we have here at PCMech.
The personal computer is now no longer a novelty. It is a commodity. It is an appliance. The price of the PC has gone down considerably. You can take a trip to your local Best Buy or Circuit city and pick up a fully stocked, ready-to-go PC for around $500 or less. If you go higher than that, you’ll get more power and better quality. But, the point is: they’re cheap.
That affordability leads to the commodity nature of the computer. You can buy one, use it until it breaks, then go buy a new one.
Prices for individual hardware components have decreased as well, but in many cases you will actually pay more to build your own box than you would to simply buy it. Plus, you have the hassle and the time taken to assemble it, research which parts to buy, etc.
The market for PC self-assembly isn’t going anywhere, but it is getting smaller. There are plenty of people out there who prefer to build their own. They like being able to choose the exact hardware which goes into the box. Gamers, for instance, are pretty picky about their hardware. Gamers will probably be primarily system builders for some time. For everybody else, the choice is more murky.
In my case, I have stopped building PCs. Of course, I also switched to the Mac and when you go Mac you don’t build your own. You can’t. But, even before I switched to the Mac platform, I stopped building my own PCs. I am a business owner. I need a computer that just works and allows me to make money. My computer has to be dependable. Every dime I make for my family involves my computer in one way, shape or form.
My computer requirements are usually stiffer than the standard, retail system. The last PC I actually bought was a Gateway. I ended up installing a second hard drive to it as well as adding a second video card (for my multiple screens). But, this is a lot less time consuming that building the entire system. And regardless of the fact that Gateways really aren’t the best machines in the world, it served my purposes and you wouldn’t be able to tell a real-world difference between it and any self-built PC I would have built.
When I went with my Mac Pro, I again had to install a second video card as well as an additional hard drive. It was incredibly easy.
So, in all instances, I used a retail computer and simply added additional storage and another video card. This could easily be done with most retail systems on the market. The only issue might be making sure it does not void whatever warranty might come with the machine.
In this changing world of technology, then, I am really no longer the kind of geek who professes the benefits of building a computer. It is really only worth it for gamers or those people who just love the “fuzzy feeling” that comes with having done it yourself and knowing your hardware intimately. For everybody else, just buy the thing.
This is my opinion, of course.