It is increasingly popular to build your own computer. In most cases, it saves money, and it guarantees you get what you want. It also assures you avoid proprietary designs many companies use to keep you coming to them for new parts. Best of all, having built the system yourself, you become very familiar with that system and with computers in general.
People from all walks of life today build their own PCs. Executives, engineers, students, housewives, they all do it today. But, at the same time, pre-built PCs have come down in price quite a bit. Today, one is left to wonder whether it is best to build a PC yourself or to simply buy one off the shelf. I’ll address that here.
If you are a real PC enthusiast, this question may be a non-issue. The answer may be as obvious as the color of the sky. This is predictable, of course. When one builds their own PC, they are able to not only understand their PC better because they built it, but they are able to choose each component that goes into their PC. There is really something to be said for choosing your own components, and I’ll go into that further below. There is also a certain sense of satisfaction with having built a PC. One spends a few hours (or less for those more familiar with the process) to put the thing together. Then comes the moment of truth when one hits the power switch for the first time. If it works on the first try, its beer time!
But, besides the joy of it, is it worth it? Is it a practical use of your time? Will it really save you money? The answer to that question today has become a bit gray. A few years ago, the answer was obvious. Pre-built PCs were typically built from OEM, cheap components. The performance was average to simply awful. The choice was obvious: If you wanted a decent PC, you better build it. Today, the line has blurred. Where many off-the-shelf PCs today still use cheaper components in an effort to save money, there are more pre-built PCs today which do use quality hardware and whose performance ranks up there with the best of them.
Let us look at some of the key areas of interest in this:
Most commercial PC buyers (except for the ones who build higher end models) do not make a big deal of which components they use. They will, of course, tell you the specs of the system, but often do not elaborate on the brands of the equipment they use. Most lower to average priced pre-built PCs use more or less generic hardware. It gets the job done, but what you get is what you get. Upgrading can be a problem for this reason. In contrast, building your own PC means you can handpick all components in your system. You can ensure you get good, name brand hardware which will have proper manufacturer support and driver support. Most importantly, you can ensure you get hardware that will perform. One aspect of pre-built is that compatibility issues are taken care of by the manufacturer, but there is a tradeoff made in that guarantee.
In general, you can get more bang for your buck building your own PC. In many cases, you will find equally priced and comparable PCs, where one is pre-built and one would be homebuilt. You can buy PCs cheaper than you can build them, but when you consider the hardware choices within, the price is offset in favor of homebuilt. One thing to consider here is the value of your time. If you are a very busy person where time is money, then you most likely want to buy a pre-built PC. If you don’t mind taking the time, though, you can do better doing it yourself.
Available support is a key concern for do-it-yourselfers. When you build it yourself, there is nowhere to take the PC for service. You can’t say “Here, make this work.” On the other hand, pre-built machines typically do come with manufacturer support. But, support is anything but consistent. Some manufacturers have questionable records on support whereas some are quite good at it. Having support for your PC is no guarantee of having a problem-free user experience, and it is certainly no guarantee that they will take responsibility for your PC if it doesn’t work. The good news for do-it-yourselfers is that the community of people who do this kind of thing themselves is increasing. There is a lot of data on the internet, and community sources for assistance. I’m compelled to mention our own forums where a community of thousands is available to help you out on your PC.
On pre-built PCs, there is typically a warranty on the whole system, and in many instances, you are offered an extended service plan at the time of purchase. Home built PCs do not have full system warranties, of course, but if you buy good name brand hardware, most of the components will themselves have warranties. So, really, either way, you can be covered here.
Pre-built PCs often come with much software on it, most importantly the operating system itself. The actual price of the software is pretty good, because manufacturers get great deals on this software because they buy in bulk. On the flip side, though, these PCs sometimes come with too much software, meaning garbage that you do not want and just clutters the hard drive and bugs you to buy stuff. It can be quite annoying. On homebuilt PCs, you might pay a little more for the software per unit, but you will get what you want and only what you want, plus you can set it up how you want.
In general, I’m a big fan of the homebuilt PC. I’ve never used a PC I didn’t build myself. I think its a huge money saver. In my case, I built it myself, and then as technology progressed, I incrementally upgraded the machine. This saves a lot of money in the long run, because with a pre-built commercial machine, once it goes out of date, you pretty much need to start anew with a new PC.