How Much Money Can You Save Building Your Own PC?

My first PC was an eMachines system purchased back in 2000. I dumped it 3 years later and have been building my own ever since. I'm now on my 4th build. I spent around $1600 on it including OS, PSU, case, mouse, and keyboard. $1930 including my monitor, which was $330 at the the time. It probably would have easliy cost $2500+ if I bought it pre-built. I've never had a catastrophic hardware failure, so a system warranty doesn't justify the extra cost for me.
My last pre-built was an IBM PC back in 1983. I used that for several years--constantly upgrading it--and then built a 386 system.
Does an All-in-One count? :D

I got it only to do conventions and shows since it meant a lot less to carry around. Not the most impressive machine, but gets the job done.
Currently using a Dell XPS I got back in 2011ish.

900 bucks with shipping, still running great. Probably will upgrade the graphics in a year or so.

Prior to this the last few PCs I had were all home built.
Excluding laptops, the last pre-built computer I bought had the name "Commodore Amiga" on it. :D

Same here. Unless you count the one I helped my mom pick out a couple years after that and made use of on occasion. Then it would be about 1993.
You really cannot save much on a standard build, but on a performance workstation, you save a ton.
If we're talking about for personal use, then I haven't bought a pre-built computer since I was 13.

Sometimes I have customers that are looking for cheap office systems though, and it can be difficult to beat the the subsidized/sale prices on some pre-built systems at places like Fry's. Sometimes I can make more profit by simply taking cheap pre-built systems and re-installing the OS on them to get rid of all the pre-installed trash, perhaps even add an SSD vs building systems completely from scratch. This only really applies on the low-end though. I can't recall the last time I bought a pre-built that wasn't using integrated video.
Hmmmm...1993. It was a Packard Bell 486.

I think the only premade I ever had was a 386 from Ambra. Before that I guess my first machine was came form the dumpsters at IBM in Thornhill and off the shelf components.

Back then we used to mount new components with a soldering iron though.
A long time ago I used to be able to build better PC's for less money than a pre-built. These days I can match or come in slightly below if I use low end parts. I can build a better PC still, but it costs about $100-$200 more depending on the parts.

It's to the point now that I only build PC's for myself and close friends that won't bother me with support issues. For others I'll find them a decent pre-built and steer them that way. They usually aren't gamers and want cheaper PCs, and they can get something decent with a single contact point for support. One warrantee and not a dozen from various manufacturers, and they don't need to trouble me with support calls if something fails early on.

As for me, my First x86 box was a Packard Bell. a 286/12 with 1MB of RAM a massive 60MB HD (MFM). From then on I built my own. Not because I could build better, but because I could build much cheaper in those days. Eventually it became more of a quality and feature thing. Once Discreet Video Boards became a must for gaming PCs OEM boxes were to proprietary to reliable upgrade components. Power supplies and available slots became a big issue.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I am in no way saving money anymore, but I do enjoy the building process a lot. I especially love playing around with different form factors. I have built a few M-ITX systems over the past year and love them. I remember my fist home built in a full size tower case and how massive and loud it was. Now I can build a great and quiet gaming rig in a 16x9.5x8 inch case complete with 16+GB, SSD + Massive HD, Optical Disk, beefy power supply and a top end Video board.
I can honestly say I've never bought a store-built PC, then again I haven't been into it that long. All thanks to a friend in high school who talked me out of buying one from, and instead saying he will help me build one for far less. He was right, and we ended up building up a P4 3.2 GHz Northwood for way less than ibuypower wanted. I got that around 2002-2003-ish? And been building my own ever since. I owe it all to my buddy show steered me away from pre-builts.:) The only ones I buy from a store are laptops for my fiance.
I only buy OEM, because I am not into building my own laptops and I left desktops behind years ago.
Compared to the gaming PC "manufacturers", I gave up comparing a couple of years back, but on average I was seeing anything from $300, $800 being saved, by building it yourself.
as others have said, i don't build my own PC to save money.. i do it for the customization and satisfaction of knowing i built it
depends on if you want a gaming pc or a cheap pc.

cheap pc buy will be cheaper and gaming pc building yourself will be cheaper
The last time I bought a computer from a store was my very first computer which was a P2 350 with an I740 video card with 8 mb ram! Since then, nothing but custom builds by me.
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.

I have never built a PC with saving money in mind.

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

I don't know about "several times", but I don't build a machine to save money. I build it to get a rock steady machine with high quality parts that will survive much longer, and run much better then a similarly priced or spec'd pre-built would.
I never got into the pre-built scene do to never having enough money. Started with a hand me down computer (Pentium 120Mhz), and built off that to learn about hardware. From there on I only built my own systems.

I avoided laptops for ever till Netbooks arrived. Yeah I really hated pre-built computers that much!
First pre-built (barebones) computer is my Nettop.

DIY will hopefully always exist. It's good for the consumers, its good for OEMs.
I don;'t think I've ever bought an assembled PC. Mac's, yes. PC's, no. I've built from the start.
Well, back in the days of my K6-2 building my own was the only way for me to afford a pc.
Now a days, I spend more building my own than getting one from someone like Dell because when I build, the sky is the limit and I only buy quality parts.
Since giving up gaming (again and hopefully for the last time now that I grew out of it) I don't need anything faster than a netbook so I don't think a desktop matters anymore. You can't build a laptop, though both of my Dell notebooks were either put together from ebay parts or bought with bits replaced by stuff from ebay, but I don't think that counts. I'm trying to never, ever...ever build another desktop again. Such a waste of time, effort and money when you can get an old used ex-business laptop like a latitude for almost no money at all from online and get something a lot more reliable than a bunch of random parts you get new.
The first PC i ordered from a catalog was a Micron 233Mhz pictured below. I think i paid around 2k for it and it lasted me a while. I remember putting a Voodoo in it later and then putting in a new MB and CPU. The case was actually really well built. I have built all my PC's since then.

When my parents wanted a computer, I found the cheapest Dell that was on sale just so I didn't have to deal with any of it. Just plug that shit in, and here you go, now leave me alone... except for tech support unfortunately which I don't like.
Last bought computer was probably around 2000, a HP with a celeron that became slow and outdated too quickly.
Not only is it cheaper to build your own but for me I cherry pick the best parts so they will last instead of having cheap OEM parts that generally do not.

OEM cases generally do not have good airflow to items like the HD and they like to use proprietary items like Dell with odd sized fans you cannot replace.
Last 2 computers I've bought have been dells that were on slickdeals/fatwallet.

Its not even close. Getting one thats on sale is much cheaper than buying parts.
Depends. On a lower cost PC you will likely save money, mainly in the cost of Windows. I am talking about $500-650. And the people who buy those PCs tend not to need it for gaming so the difference would be unnoticeable. Once you go over that price range and want real performance, you should build your own.

My current PC is partially pre-built. Bought some parts from NCIX and paid them $50 to assemble and test them. Got a GPU, PCI card and Windows elsewhere. I have since upgraded it many times and now the only thing that remains original are the HDDs (back up drives) and some of the case fans. Went through two CPUs and I am on my third GPU. I will likely continually upgrade part by part whenever I have a need or find a good deal.
Last pre-built.. hmm... Atari ST for me! :D

I build what I want, how I want it, that's all.

Laptops, I favor APUs in my laptops so I can work and play when I want. I'd build them too, but... might be a bit bulky without custom components.
A friend of mine compared his built system to an almost identical one on and his barely can in cheaper. By less than 10%. YMMV, of course.
Since giving up gaming

What's wrong with you? :eek: A netbook? :mad:

You'll be back - not sure why you're even torturing yourself with these foolish fantasies. Build a bad arse rig, come here and show it off, make us all jealous. Bask in your glorious nerdiness!
Depends. On a lower cost PC you will likely save money, mainly in the cost of Windows. I am talking about $500-650. And the people who buy those PCs tend not to need it for gaming so the difference would be unnoticeable. Once you go over that price range and want real performance, you should build your own.

Agreed 100%. When people ask me to build them a new machine - I tell them that I won't bother for any price tag under $1000. You can't compete with the mass production at the lower end of the scale. But once you start approaching 4 digits - you can blow em away with a custom rig. It's amazing what $1200 will buy you today.
What's wrong with you? :eek: A netbook? :mad:

You'll be back - not sure why you're even torturing yourself with these foolish fantasies. Build a bad arse rig, come here and show it off, make us all jealous. Bask in your glorious nerdiness!

Well mostly I like to write these days. Novels and whatnot are so much fun to create....buuut enough about that. I have a Dell Latitude D620 and a Latitude 2100 and I mostly use the 2100 (Atom n270, 2 GB RAM, 160 GB 5400 RPM HDD). I think they both have GMA 950s or whatever in them but it's good enough. It doesn't feel like torture because I get a lot more things done during the day if I'm not spending a lot of time gaming. Besides that, I just haven't really found many games that interest me. You can only make your Sims woohoo so many times before it gets boring and the expansion packs cost way too much money. Aside from that, most computer games aren't really appealing to me, though my kitty is upset he doesn't get as much lap time now that I'm doing other stuff.

But that said, there's nothing wrong with building your own computer. I would just rather spend my time doing other things and it seems sort of a pointless thing to do for someone who wants to carry their pumpkin with them to write for a few hours outside by a lake while listening to birds chirp. (I swear they're actually cussing each other out.)
Last machine I bought off the shelf was a Dell desktop in 2001. With the exception of laptops, I've built my own (and ones for family/friends) ever since.

I agree with a lot of folks here, though - I can't say I've ever saved a thin dime building rather than buying. I get a much nicer machine, but its usually much more expensive too.:p

I bought a gaming PC from a local computer store in 2009. It was $100-$200 more than if I got the parts myself. Since then I've been upgrading parts gradually to keep it updated:

GPU upgraded twice
Hard drive upgraded to ssd, mechanical drive switched to data drive
Added sound card
Switched PSU
Switched Case
Switched Heatsink and fan on the CPU

At some point I figured the ram would need updating but no troubles with 6 gb so far.
I just bought a Dell XPS 8700. The Intel Core i7-4770 model was $550+tax through various deals they had going on.
Sorry but building your own is NOT about "saving money", save in an off-handed way.

The big-name OEMs will KILL you on price, pretty much every time.

Building is about CONTROL of what's in your system.
You can cherry-pick best-in-class or "best in price range" parts.

As such, you wind up with a machine where you know every major component that's in it.
And, in many cases, you'll see better and more stable performance out of it than you would from a prebuilt.

Additionally, you'll have the option of building in more "headroom" than most pre-builts have.
Larger case and more powerful PSU can accommodate more powerful coolers and many more additional drives than some of the 250-350W atrocities that ship with many pre-builts.
Going with two sticks of memory in a system with 4 memory slots leaves you with room to increase memory later on if necessary.

In general, it's just much easier to economize in a system you build yourself. With OEM systems, you basically take what you're given with little (if any) room to customize.

If you have a set budget and you NEED to be able to squeeze a specific video card and CPU in, you can do so by starting with less RAM, going with a smaller hard drive, maybe a more modest motherboard, possibly starting with a more modest PSU, etc.

So you build a system tailored to YOUR needs, YOUR desires and within YOUR budget.
Budget computers can't be built cheaper than an Oem due to the OS costing so much.
Try building an i3 based machine for $399 with an OS.$pcmcat212600050008&cp=2&lp=5
I grabbed the cheapest parts on newegg and just the OS, CPU, HD, and mobo are $321. I still need 6gb of ram and a case and psu, and only have $79 left, what do you do?
My rig in my sig cost me $4400. My Amiga 3000/Video Toaster 4000 setup (last prebuilt I bought myself) was $6k in 93/94.
Never. I saw my dad build one for my younger brother and got into that groove. I bought the parts and he helped me put it together. Cyrix 300 PR233 and an SiS chipset with 48MB of RAM, 4MB reserved for video. Later, an ATi Rage card made it in the mix until Christmas gave me the Voodoo 3 3000 AGP.

Never looked back and have been swapping parts since then. Even though I'm nowhere near top of the line, I still enjoy tinkering with my stuff.

Now, the obvious exception are laptops and the sort. Not a whole lot you can do to custom build your own on those areas.
In the article, they are referring to British pounds. So in the UK it's even more beneficial to do it yourself. Places like Australia, doubly so.

Factoring that, unless your unskilled with technology and couldn't do it yourself- It's far better to DIY.

The average person probably doesn't care enough and premades are enough for them.