A Conversation for Building Your Own PC

Why build your own?

Post 1

Caveman, Evil Unix Sysadmin, betting shop operative, and SuDoku addict (Its an odd mix, but someone has to do it)

I'll add my tuppence worth; it's been a while since I wrote anything worthwhile (if you count http://www.h2g2.com/A307964 - Paranoia, as worthwhile)

Personally, I wouldn't necessarily recommend to your average Joe User that he builds his own PC. I would, however, recommend that he speaks to someone knowledgeable about what he wants his PC for, what he wants in it, and what he actually needs.

The average user wants a PC for 'Word Processing' (which means he wants it for games), 'Email' (which means internet and games) and 'Educational use' (meaning games, email and more games). Virtually all builds I've done are for friends and relatives who all start by saying 'I want to write letters, and send and receive Email' only to ask me six months down the line how you get past the end of level 26 of Mutant Zombie Mildly-radioactive Killer Bikers from Hell.

A 'knowledgeable person' in my view immediately discounts any person working in a high street computer show. Very few actual technical people are actually allowed to meet customers. Those that do are usually school leavers, and all have been trained to sell. Sales are the most important thing in their lives. No amount of company rhetoric will change my mind on that.

No offense meant to school leavers. I know several kids who will make great computer science gurus, given enough experience. However, the big companies are not interested in getting a technical solution, merely a till receipt.

There are, of course, exceptions, and I'm interested in hearing from the two people who work for high-street stores who actually know what they are talking about.

Computers in the high street are sold by processor power. Anybody who beleives that a 1000MHz (to use a marketing term, a technician would use 1GHz) PC is twice as fast as a 500MHz PC is in serious need help. These people need technical folk who can explain, in a language that Joe User can understand, why this isn't the case.

Anyway, back to the plot...

The advantages of building (or having built) a PC for your own use are threefold:
1. You get to specify exactly what you want
2. You get to avoid having to pay for what you don't want.
3. You save money.

Many of the high-street deals out there include seemingly amazing 'value' items like "Over a Thousand Pounds worth of free software", and "Free printer, scanner, digital camera". The bundled software is part of a high-volume discount, and you won't use most of it anyway. The printer, scanner, and digital camera are between them worth just over a hundred pounds. Subtract this from the selling price of the PC, add a reasonable profit margin for the company concerned, and you have to ask yourself how they can sell at that price.

The reason they can sell at that price is partly volume discount, but is mainly due to their using the cheapest parts available. In many areas of computer building, you get what you pay for. Compare 'all-in-one' mainboards with brands like SuperMicro or Abit, and check out the reliability figures. Look at whether or not things like video and sound are built into the motherboard, or are seperate components. Nothing dates faster than onboard video, and when you need to upgrade, will you need to buy a whole new machine?

Anyway, time to shut up. I'll leave (for now) with this summary:

1. Build your own PC.
2. If you can't build your own PC, find someone who can, that you trust, and discuss exactly what you want to do with your new PC.
3. If you aren't entirely sure, ask an expert. Look at uk.comp.homebuilt for example.

Finally, if you really must buy a brand-name or high-street PC, read and understand the results of the PC Magazine Reliability survey, which you can find here: [URL Removed by moderator]

Pay particular attention to the figures for D.O.A. and lifetime failure on page seven: [URL Removed by moderator]


Why build your own?

Post 2

Fruitbat (Eric the)

I echo a lot of the sentiments in your piece. I'd also add that because a PC is Microsoft-based, the OS is inherently unstable (I was told that by an MCSE grad, although reality has demonstrated the same) and building a computer from the box up is asking for problems even with experience.
(I'll come clean and say that I'm a happy Mac user who started computing on Windows boxes; I know something of what I speak.) Unless you're a determined geek and love technical headaches, follow the presented advice: figure out PRECISELY what you want to use the machine for, do some research about what's REALLY needed to make that happen, and then take someone knowledgeable with you to fight off the hyper-salespeople....

PS: make sure that the primary buss is compatible with both the components and the motherboard. There's no point in having a G4 processor on a 266Hz buss (if that makes any sense to you).


Why build your own?

Post 3

Researcher 167022

As a recovering computer tech of long experience, I must echo the sentiments expressed previously. The current state of the art in computer design has all but eliminated the end user from upgrading their own computer let alone building one.

The best advice, in order: when you get the urge to build your own computer, sit down in a dark place, and listen to soft, soothing music until the urge goes away. They days when you could do this without much pain are long over.

The next step is link up with someone who does know what they are doing, and be prepared to PAY for their advice. Define your problem, and figure out exactly just what you need the computer for, and more importantly, what you don't need the computer for. This will save you in the long run. Possibly the best sources for this information are local user groups. Talk to people who have built their own, and specifically ask whether they would do it again, and what they would do differently if they would do it again.

I could go on in this vein at great length, but while this is a useful article, it does describe an activity that can be frought with peril.

Why build your own?

Post 4


Shheesh.... some of the above is true but......Building a pc / server is not difficult...really it isn't, I have put together several machines ranging from 233mhz firewalls to twin processor server class boxes (running windows / Freebsd / solaris).

Key thing....get to the manufacturer of your chosen (high quality) components and ask em...does this work with xyz (component / os). Make sure everything is compatible with everything else and handle your users expectations honestly. Tell 'em what they can do, what they can't, what you will be responsible for and won't and most important of all


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