After my article on building a desktop computer, Reader Ralph Bain wrote:
Hello: Thank you for another informative Newsletter Terry. I read with interest the short article "Building a New Desktop PC" because I wish to do exactly that but really haven’t had the courage to jump in and do it. Could you recommend a "Do it yourself" guide for us amateurs? Also I would like to learn the bottom line in terms of the cost for the hardware and software for the system described in your article. I read your Newsletter every week and always find something of interest and use – thanks again – Ralph
In another article, I showed and discussed the individual components of the new desktop Windows 7 computer that I built for my wife. This was replacing her 6-year-old AMD Athlon 2500+ home-built computer with a brand new Intel Core i5-750 home-built computer.
There’s one thing that is best explained about building your own computer. You can build as fancy or inexpensive a computer as you choose. For example, the case that I chose for my wife’s computer was $59. On the other hand, the case that I used for my home theater PC a few months ago was $240.
By the way, both of those cases were still without power supplies. The power supply for my wife’s was another $105, while the HTPC’s was $115.
In other words, if you’re thinking of building your own computer as a way to save money — that’s not the way. You build your own computer for the sense of accomplishment, for the flexibility of the system, for the expansion space in the case (for example, the ability to add 3 or 4 more hard drives, or a second video card). You don’t do it to save money.
In this desktop’s case, the expensive items were:
- Windows 7 Professional Retail, $269
- Intel Core i7-750, $195
- 8 GB of DDR3-2000 SDRAM, $300
- Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3P motherboard, $160.
Why did I get the Retail version of Windows 7 Professional instead of the System Builder version, which is only about $140. The problems are the license and the lack of flexibility.
The System Builder license if licensed only for use in building a computer that will be sold, not for your own use or given to a family member.
The other reason, flexibility, is that the System Builder version is licensed only for that one particular computer — and Microsoft is defining the computer as the particular motherboard and CPU combination. You can replace with the same thing, but an upgrade is "a different computer."
The grand total on the desktop, with Windows 7 Professional as the only installed software, was $1,334.
So, what did I get for that price, when I could have bought a Dell Studio XPS 8100 for only $649?
I got an upgraded processor (+$50), Windows 7 Professional (+$130) — and I got the retail version that’s transferable to another computer, not licensed solely to that specific computer — 8GB RAM instead of 3GB(+$190), 1TB hard drive instead of 500GB (+$150, an increase that’s more than the total I paid for the 1TB drive), and a lot more flexibility with the motherboard, available PCI-E and PCI slots, available hard drive 3-1/2 inch drive bays, more available 5-1/4 inch externally-accessible drive bays, much better CPU heatsink and fan, bigger power supply, better-looking case, and a happy wife (as Visa says, "Priceless!quot;
Frank’s other question was about where to find a Do-It-Yourself guide. The best ones I’ve seen have been in Maximum PC and Computer Power User magazines. Maximum PC seems to redo and publish theirs about once a year. You may be able to find it at your local library.
You can also search Google for
how to build a pc
and variations on that concept. Google will give you a lot of choices, some of which will be very helpful. There are even some videos.