How Much Money Can You Save Building Your Own PC?

HardOCP News

[H] News
Joined
Dec 31, 1969
Messages
0
When is the last time any of you bought a pre-built computer from a retail store?

There are a multiple facets to this question, and I have found that PC users are generally more willing to spend a lot of money on pre-built systems at large retail chain stores, rather than put in the time and effort to build their own for a much lower cost (and often better performance)."
 

MrCaffeineX

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Aug 22, 2011
Messages
1,472
The first computer I ever bought was from a retail store, but it was not a major OEM computer. I used that platform as a springboard to start performing upgrades and maintenance on my own. I haven't looked back.
 

JethroXP

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Oct 2, 2003
Messages
1,181
Other than a laptop, the last pre-built PC I purchased was a 368DX-33 from Micron Computers back in 1992 when I was in college. However being older now, with a wife, kids, and a job I was considering buying one simply because I thought I didn't have the time to thoroughly do all the research into specific components like I used to. But once I started looking at pre-built systems I found myself doing all the same research to understand the capabilities of one vs. the other. Now I'm looking forward to building another PC, mostly because I think it will be a fun thing to do with my oldest boy who has never had that experience before. Have to train the next generation :)
 

BOTA:49

Limp Gawd
Joined
Oct 5, 2013
Messages
155
I want to say it was some time around 2001-2002ish (unless you count bare bones systems for my HTPC and home server). VPR Matrix!
 

Dekoth-E-

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Mar 23, 2010
Messages
7,599
The first computer I ever bought was from a retail store, but it was not a major OEM computer. I used that platform as a springboard to start performing upgrades and maintenance on my own. I haven't looked back.

Yep, same here. Bought a pre-built and had a sound card and video card upgrade for it before I left the store. Within a week had torn it apart and started messing with the dip switches and found out that my Pentium 166 could in fact run at 200mhz...and that was the start.
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2013
Messages
3,634
I have never built a PC with saving money in mind.

I spend several times what an off the shelf machine would cost.
 

XBarbarian

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
1,366
well.. I did just solve my persistent support call issue with my neighbor.. bought him a dell refurb from the egg for $200.. c2d 3.0, 4gbram, 240 gb hdd win7pro

for years trying to keep his ancient pent 3 syst going became just to consuming.

but ya.. on a lark the last time I bought a built rig was from maingear in 08 or something..just becasue I had the cash and felt lazy. top notch. cant say enough good stuff about maingear! they rock! just the same.. Im a system builder..and I tinkered with it in short order.. so..ya.. only build my own again..
 

Riccochet

Fully [H]
Joined
Apr 11, 2007
Messages
24,208
I'd say 1996'ish. Bought a Micro Millenia P-Pro 180 with 128MB RAM, Diamond Stealth 3000 vid card, Adaptec SCSI card and dual 2.1GB SCSI drives. Loved that PC. Last one I even bought whole though.
 

one swell foop

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Nov 16, 2004
Messages
1,091
I bought a prebuilt desktop computer my senior year in highschool, so 1999. I wouldn't buy another because, while I would certainly spend less on a prebuilt machine, it would probably have proprietary components that were nowhere near the quality of the components I build with. Were I to order a prebuilt machine that used the components I would use, it would be ridiculously expensive.
 

Ducman69

[H]F Junkie
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Messages
10,540
Never went with a prebuilt desktop. Usually its not a cost thing for me, but rather a quality of components thing. I can ensure that everything I buy is top-shelf stuff, whereas a manufacture is naturally encouraged to spend the money only on things that a end-user would read off a spec sheet, and skimp whenever possible. Yes, it may have a 128gb SSD, but it'll be some last generation slow crap, because the average user doesn't know the difference.
 

ryuen

Limp Gawd
Joined
Nov 2, 2005
Messages
326
21 years ago I had a local shop build my first PC, in a sense that was also the last PC I ever bought as I haven't bought a full new system since.

Add some RAM, replace the video card, add a bigger HDD, swap the CPU, another video card replacement, add an optical drive, swap memory + motherboard + CPU but keep the rest etc etc... you know how it goes ;)
 

plupien79

Limp Gawd
Joined
May 7, 2013
Messages
238
I've never bought one off the shelf.

However... I don't really save any money, I do have a much better PC though.

My current machine is 6 years old and still runs like a champ.
 

TechLarry

Can't find the G Spot
Joined
Aug 9, 2005
Messages
30,295
It's not so much about saving money as it is getting precisely what you want with as little money as possible wasted on things you don't care about.
 

Domingo

Fully [H]
Joined
Jul 30, 2004
Messages
18,678
Hmmmm...1993. It was a Packard Bell 486.

I've probably never saved a dime making my own builds, but I've always gotten exactly what I wanted. That's far more important, IMO.
I have save my wife a little $ here and there, though. Microcenter CPU/Mobo deals combined with some existing parts I already had.
 

maademperor

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Oct 19, 2005
Messages
1,442
yeah, I dont pretend I'm going to save any money anymore but I know I'm going to get exactly what I want and support it with a lot less headache than what HP or someone would give me for part failure or the limitations a Dell machine would put on future part upgrades.
 

octoberasian

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 13, 2007
Messages
4,082
It really depends.

If the parts for a computer are for sale (with/without rebates and/or coupons), open-box or refurbished, you may be able to build a gaming PC for less than the retail OEM ones.

However, OEM companies like Falcon Northwest, Dell/Alienware, and many other companies enjoy something us consumers don't have: The ability to buy in bulk and at a lower price per unit, so as to sell for a higher price for profit.

If a video card retails for $599, an OEM company could get get such parts for nearly $100 less or so in bulk orders of 10, 100 or even 1000 units. I almost went into the PC retail business several years ago, and at a reseller's website, I could literally buy 10 Nvidia cards for nearly $100 less than MSRP per unit in bulk orders of 10 cards. I've spec'ed out a lot of prebuilt PCs with the prices and if I sold a prebuilt PC at what it costs per unit for each part, I would have come in at a few hundred dollars less than a similarly spec'ed computer I configured through Newegg.

Another issue is the cost of the operating system when it comes to Windows. Depending if you buy the OEM, retail or upgrade copy, you're looking at an additional $100 to $200 on top of your costs of building your own PC if you don't already own a copy of Windows yourself.

Windows takes up a good fraction of any hand-built computer build. If you aren't buying your Windows product keys at those websites that sell just the product key, a $500 budget gaming PC will mean you have to sacrifice a good video card (or processor or board) for a mediocre one just to squeeze in that operating system.

If only Microsoft would price their operating systems at less than $50, then building a Windows PC--gaming or not-- would be less busting on that seams on your budget.

The last thing here that home-built doesn't have compared to OEM pre-built is this: warranty.

If you don't consider a warranty service like Square Trade, you are left with the factory warranty for each part in your computer. And, that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and if the part is retail, OEM, or open-box/refurbished. These will then vary from 30 days (lowest I've seen) to 5 years (very few parts like hard drives have these). Even more rare are lifetime warranty from some manufacturers. With OEM pre-built, you have the default one year warranty on both parts and labor, including at-home service, and can be renewed each year or extended.

So, to answer the original question: Can you build a computer for less than a pre-built?

Yes, but depends on how lucky (and patient) you are with finding a sale.

No, especially if you are buying from within a state in the United States that charges taxes to your online orders. Then, you are looking at a computer that may cost more than a similarly spec'ed computer sold by an OEM company.

If an OEM company can squeeze in a 22-inch-plus monitor, keyboard and mouse along with a good video card and processor under $600 and you can't, then you simply can't build a PC for less than a pre-built one because of the one advantage they have over us-- bulk orders.
 

maademperor

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Oct 19, 2005
Messages
1,442
to answer the question though, it was my first personally owned machine in '97. dumped it and built my own a year later.
 

Stoly

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jul 26, 2005
Messages
6,714
My first windows PC was an PII Acer with 64mb ram and 4gb HDD IIRC, the only reason I bought it was because it included an ATI 3d rage pro video card. Back then I couldn't get a 3d card locally.

A few months later I sold it and built my own as the ACER wouldn't run with my Riva TNT2.
 

Ashbringer

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jan 25, 2010
Messages
5,522
Last time I bought a pre-built desktop was in 1995. It was also my first computer. But I have enough experience with pre-builts that I have a list of reasons why not to buy pre-built.

#1 It's built out of shit. The CPU is the only quality component in the machine. Everything else looks like super sub quality parts. Have a friend that had a problem with his XPS machine, and it has impressive specs, but the motherboard and ram looked like bargin basements stuff. But hey, it's an i7 with a Radeon 5750, so that must have bene worth over $1k? :rolleyes:

#2 The more powerful the machine, the more expensive it gets. Building your own desktop is far cheap when it comes to getting powerful setups. Pre-builts tend to over price these machines. They figure gamers are willing to pay.

#3 The parts aren't always standard. Just cause it's a computer, doesn't mean it obeys ATX or power supply physical standards. So if the motherboard or power supply does go bad, you can't take a retail part and stick it in.

#4 The PCI-Express slot is omitted. Boggles my mind why some OEM do this. Worse yet, there's usually a place to put a 16x slot on the motherboard. Without it, you can't turn a cheap computer into a gaming capable machine.
 

Stiletto

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jul 13, 2008
Messages
6,433
Ever since I started buying gaming laptops from Asus and Alienware, I haven't built another machine.

DAT WARRANTY.
 

kbrickley

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
May 13, 2012
Messages
7,514
The mainstream companies like Dell, HP, and Lenovo have become too lowest common denominator on the consumer side and too business centric on the Enterprise side for their systems to be good for gaming ... some of the many boutique suppliers now available are attractive though (Digital Storm, iBuyPower, Cyberpower, etc) ... you get more selection of components and configurability but you also get the full protection of a company warranty ... I will likely go boutique with my next PC purchase
 

Wshmaster0

2[H]4U
Joined
Jul 11, 2007
Messages
3,564
Wait wait wait wait wait....

I get the article is trying to say.. but I do have to add that, at no point whatsoever in my time of building custom PC's have I saved more money. In fact, I've spent an exuberant amount more because I had different options to do this or that.

Sure we can compare store bought / oem pc's prices vs their equivalent custom built price.. but I know when I build for someone, I tell them to give me their budget which they usually opt for better parts. SO in essence, I don't think that you save any money by going custom.. you just get better quality or more high end parts for the money.
 

octoberasian

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 13, 2007
Messages
4,082
The mainstream companies like Dell, HP, and Lenovo have become too lowest common denominator on the consumer side and too business centric on the Enterprise side for their systems to be good for gaming ... some of the many boutique suppliers now available are attractive though (Digital Storm, iBuyPower, Cyberpower, etc) ... you get more selection of components and configurability but you also get the full protection of a company warranty ... I will likely go boutique with my next PC purchase
Yeah, I've been tempted to go down this route with a gaming PC, especially one from Cyberpower since I consider them to be the most affordable among the "boutique" companies like Falcon Northwest and Digital Storm.

That and they generally use normal retail components that aren't proprietary like some other companies-- Dell I'm looking at you and your BTX cases and your 90-degree CPU air vent-shroud-thing...
 

TexasAg05

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Mar 21, 2006
Messages
1,216
The last computer I bought was a Dell XPS 8500 in 2012.

...but only because I won a $1k gift card from the Micrsosoft Store and it was the cheapest way to get that new gaming computer I'd been wanting :) Otherwise, I absolutely would have built one on my own.
 

octoberasian

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 13, 2007
Messages
4,082
If not counting a laptop, my last pre-built PC was a Headstart PC 8088 XT computer back in the 80s.

12-inch CGA monitor at 640x480 resolution and a 4.77 MHz (9.54 MHz turbo) 8088 CPU with 128 kBytes of RAM, expandable to 768 kB, and a 40 mBit (5 MB) hard drive that was as loud as my Panasonic dot-matrix printer.
 

nutzo

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Feb 15, 2004
Messages
7,380
well.. I did just solve my persistent support call issue with my neighbor.. bought him a dell refurb from the egg for $200.. c2d 3.0, 4gbram, 240 gb hdd win7pro
for years trying to keep his ancient pent 3 syst going became just to consuming.

Dell Refurbs are my solution for relatives/friends who just need a basic computer for surfing the web/email. I especially like the business line from the Dell outlet store. Solid machines that will last far past the time they are obsolite.

As for me, other than my laptop, I built all the systems at home. Just added an SSD and made a minor video card upgrade to my system (passed the old video card down to the kids system).
 

amddragonpc

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Sep 20, 2012
Messages
1,996
Last time I purchased a pre-built computer was 2001. In 2007, I built my first computer for my son for gaming. In 2009, I built a computer for myself to replace the 2001 pre-built. I will never buy a pre-built desktop computer again. I had alot of fun building the last two and they just work better than that pre-built.
 

Ur_Mom

Fully [H]
Joined
May 15, 2006
Messages
20,335
I don't see it as saving money, I see it more as it's my hobby and it's fun. Last time I bought an off the shelf was a 486/DX33 from Micron PC. It went through a ton of upgrades, too (eventually ending up a 486/DX4 100 overclocked to 133 with 8MB of RAM.

But, I do save money. Sure, I could by an off the shelf, OEM Dell or HP or whatever. But, the system that I build would be more comparable to the Falcon or Alienware or those style of PC's, which cost a bit more than a standard Dell.

Business, though - I'd never build my own. Support is very key there. I'd say that the support is the majority of the cost vs. the actual PC.
 

Tuxon86

Limp Gawd
Joined
Oct 19, 2012
Messages
198
Last year. I bought a Dell XPS8500SE to replace my main computer, a home build SB i7 that went south on me. I didn't want to take the time to shop for parts and I like the waranty on the dell.

My next computer will probably not be an off the shelf model, but it won't be a DIY kit either. I'm saving to buy myself an HP z6xx or z8xx serie dual xeon workstation for my main graphical workhorse.
 

NickJames

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Apr 28, 2009
Messages
6,679
I only ever bought 1 pre-built desktop, an old emachine from 2002. I eventually upgraded it with an Nvidia 5200fx and some RAM. Then I started researching parts and seeing how much it would cost to build a full gaming rig. The next year I built my first gaming rig at 13 and hadn't built a new PC since.
 

NickJames

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Apr 28, 2009
Messages
6,679
I only ever bought 1 pre-built desktop, an old emachine from 2002. I eventually upgraded it with an Nvidia 5200fx and some RAM. Then I started researching parts and seeing how much it would cost to build a full gaming rig. The next year I built my first gaming rig at 13 and haven't purchased a pre-built desktop since.

Err fixed*
 

Saturn_V

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Sep 24, 2008
Messages
1,724
I've been rolling my own since 1997, but the closest thing to a pre-built I bought was a Shuttle XPC I picked up in 2004. (you install RAM, CPU, HDD, Optical)

That Shuttle box is still going strong.
 

jflail2

Gawd
Joined
Jun 1, 2005
Messages
646
I buy pre-built laptops, but never desktops. I like having exactly what I want under the hood.
 

Youn

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jan 22, 2007
Messages
5,710
I save at least a few hundred bucks each build, and yea I do the math and try to save money each time. I've never bought a pre-built PC, including my laptop
 

WaltC

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Mar 5, 2010
Messages
1,128
My Last OEM box was a Micron in 1995--which cost me $4700, IIRC...! (Illustrates wonderfully what great, fantastic buys PCs are today.) Since then I always build my own--and it's not saving money that motivates me as much getting superior components and peripherals, with superior drivers and superior warranties. Although, saving money actually does come into it, too, as I don't buy whole systems anymore, but rather upgrade the hardware piecemeal when the mood/need strikes. Yes, if you do it that way, you get the best of everything and you pay substantially less at the same time than the guy who builds/buys an entire brand-new box every couple of years whether he needs it or not.

Putting together your own box is *so easy* today--like Lego blocks. Millions of people are doing it--just look at the robust component selections available at excellent prices from Amazon and Newegg, just for starters (and then all of the other little guys.) Without a very robust market there's no way this kind of selection and pricing would exist for the individual PC components needed to roll your own box. This is one *big* statistic that isn't ever figured into the quarterly "PC sales" numbers we see making the rounds. Because of that, every PC-sales estimate for every quarter is lower than it should be by anywhere from ~500k to ~3M units, imo! I'll bet it's at least 10-20% of the whole worldwide PC market these days. Has to be.
 
Top