What’s The Advantage To Building Your Own Computer?

I’ve Always Wanted To Know:

Why Do People Build Computers Vs Buy Pre-Made?


There are two ways to buy a computer:  pre-built from a large manufacturer like Dell, HP, Apple etc… or building your own. I’ve built my own computers for over 15 years.  Recently, I was asked,  “Why did you build one instead of buying a Dell like I did?” I thought it was a particularly good question, so let’s explore the advantages of both methods.

Case for building your own: Customization and Price. When you build your own computer, the experience is similar to designing your own house. You get to choose every component from the motherboard and processor to the color of the cables and case design. If you want to get an I7 processor, but with dual solid state hard drives, or an Antec power supply, or perhaps a RAM with heatsinks that look like jet engines all in a neon red and matte black case…  Well,  you would find it nearly impossible to find pre-built.

Pricing on pre-built systems generally runs higher for any customization than it would cost you to buy the hardware separately. For example, at the time of the writing of this article, a 16GB memory upgrade from the included 8 GB for a Dell 8600 cost $175.  16 GB of high performance memory can be purchased for as little as $69.99  That’s a $105  fee to install 2 memory chips. The pricing difference between a highly -customized pre-built system and a home-built system with the same features can be over $1000.


Case for buying pre-built: Price and Support. You just read about how a customized system can cost a lot more, so how can a pre-built be cheaper and more expensive at the same time? The simple truth is, the base systems, especially during sales, will be sold at very near the cost of production.  PC vendors make most of their profit on customizations, warranties, software and add-ons, not on the base configuration. If your needs are simple and the pre-built machine meets them, you’ll probably get it for cheaper than you could build a custom machine.

The other major advantage is the support you receive. If you build your own computer, you have no one to call if something goes wrong.  If a component fails or you accidentally damage something, you’re on your own. Pre-built computers generally come with at least one year of manufacturer support. Read the terms and conditions carefully though, as some warranties require you to mail in your computer for service and others do not cover accidental damage or electrical surge.


P.S. A common argument for building your own computer is the quality of components. A pre-built manufacturer is looking to sell you the cheapest possible computer with the lowest cost to support. The result may be a power supply that isn’t as reliable as a high-end Antec power supply, but costs the OEM significantly less. If you want the highest quality components, you need to build it yourself or go to a pre-built supplier specializing in high-end customized computers.

Do you have a general technology or electronics question you always wanted to know like “How does a Microwave work?” or “Why do LED’s last so long?” Write me at Tim@WorldStart.com and your question may be answered in an upcoming “I Always Wanted To Know.” For specific computer support questions ask our writers by clicking here.

0 thoughts on “What’s The Advantage To Building Your Own Computer?

  1. Hi Tim,

    Your analysis is interesting. Yet, you’ve left out many issues in building systems on your own. One is the issue of knowledge and skill.It might be the standard practice, and a child’s play for geeks like you. But, this reader’s question arises among laymen who knows only a little. What about the technical evaluation and errors that may arise in building anything oneself without experience that might lead to difficult problems. I’m sure, you would have also gone through this initially!

    You’ve not talked about the compatibility issues among components here, which is another major issue. And then, one cannot avoid some amount of trial and error in this route. The savings become less if you calculate the time and efforts (enquiring, comparing, studying and commuting) during purchase and assembling. As you have rightly pointed out that it could be profitable only in high end systems. Even for that my sincere advice is not to venture into it if you’re not a geek / not guided by a geek.

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