Buying A Prebuilt Vs. A Custom Built Computer

If you are in the market for a new computer and are currently weighing the options between purchasing a prebuilt computer from a manufacturer (i.e. Dell, HP, Gateway, etc.) and a computer you build yourself, allow me to humbly weigh my thoughts on some advantages and disadvantages of each:

Prebuilt Advantages:

  • Usually significantly cheaper. 
  • Works out of the box, no worries with compatibility.
  • OS is preinstalled and ready to go.
  • Typically includes necessary utilities (DVD player software, CD/DVD burning, etc.)
  • Generally, the system as a whole is supported.

Prebuilt Disadvantages:

  • Usually no control over the OS available. 
  • Typically limited upgradibility.
  • No control over the quality of parts.
  • Many times components are proprietary and expensive to replace when off warranty.

For the most part the advantages and disadvantages of the custom built computer are the opposite of the prebuilt, so just to be thorough, here goes…

Custom built advantages:

  • You have total control over the components going into your machine.
  • Easy to upgrade and repair (since you built it).
  • You have your choice of the OS to use.

Custom built disadvantages:

  • The price usually ends up more expensive than the same components on a prebuilt system.
  • It’s up to you to make sure all the parts are compatible.
  • If you use Windows, there is an extra cost of the OS and some utilities (i.e. DVD player software, etc.).
  • No tech support, although you probably wouldn’t need it if you choose to build your own.

That’s about all I can really think of. If I missed anything, feel free to comment below.


  1. Ted Harding says:

    I think I get the ‘best of both worlds’. I agree the specification, components and operating system with my local computer shop who build it for me and set it up the way I want it. After-sales support is brilliant and the cost compares favourably with that of pre-built machines.
    Ted Harding, Northampton, UK

  2. Greg Arnold says:

    I went for the custom build, chose to do it myself using the guidance of the PC Mech build your own CD rom. By using the information I was able to put together a PC which would be able to expand as needed.
    I realize that it’s old now but I have an Intel 865 mobo with P4 3 Ghz CPU set up with 2 Gb of RAM and it is enclosed a case with 11 drive bays.
    Currently have 2 WD 80 Gb hds with lots of storage and the capability to burn either CDs or DVDs. My big concern at the time was to be able to keep track of the photos from a digital camera and to be able to download and burn music CDs. This system handles its tasks quite well and I am pleased that I was coached into allowing for expansion.
    By using the BYO principle I was able to save roughly $500 over the cost of a prebuilt and other than the software, Windows XP pro and Office 2003 pro, I am the support group. Great learning process and it also cuts the customer service umbilical.

  3. I totally agree with the basics of this article. I personally went through the struggle of deciding what to do when it came time to replace our old computer.

    My own biggest problem was having a budget (darn it!) and also knowing that in just a short while, there would be new components that would either be faster, bigger, better, cheaper or – all the above.

    So, I wimped out in the eyes of some. I went out and bought a computer. Time is money to a certain extent and, as Jason pointed out it was cheaper.

    I do have one argument in defining cheap, however. If instead I chose to build my computer, it really was going to be very close cost to purchase comparable components. Yes it would be more money, but not a lot and then I would have had the satisfaction of having built it myself and also all the advantages that Jason alludes to.

    What it really came down to was knowing that, if I built it, I would never be happy watching the components I put together become cheaper, faster, outmoded, etc. A computer becomes outdated so quickly, and my needs are fairly basic, that when I saw a good deal, I went and bought it.

    All that being said, I tip my hat to the guys at PC Mech for helping me actually realize what a good system would look like. So, make sure, at the very least, that you support them by buying one of their products and show that you appreciate all you do.

    In closing, I would like to point out that although my computer is less than a year old, it is already outmoded. Ah well, c’est la vie!

  4. Things have changed a little now. Plenty of custom PC builders out there that I can honestly say have all of the advantages listed above and eliminate ALL of the disadvantages. We do! Something worth looking into for you readers.

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