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Why would someone go out and buy a computer from a manufaturer like Dell or Gateway, when they could build a more powerful computer for less money? The answer, they do not know how to build it.

This may sound like a complicated process, but in all actuality, it is very simple.

This guide will help you build your very own computer.

I want to appologize in advance for the resolution of the pictures. I hope they are still easy to understand.

DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for any damage done to hardware during installation.

I also do not want to be contacted about computer problems. Go to your local repair shop (NOT GEEK SQUAD OR FIREDOG) and get it fixed. If the computer that is having problems was the one that you built (or tried to) then I will help. I just don't want a bunch of people who are asking how to fix unrelated issues.

I hope you enjoy building your computer. I did. In fact I'm using the computer pictured right now.

For those of you who think this is too hard or don't have the time to build a custom PC, I have set up a website that will allow you to choose the parts you want and I will set it up and mail it to you. The address is *EDIT, This site is no longer available, sorry*

If you want to build a laptop computer, check out my Instructable on that
 
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Step 1: Get parts!

Picture of Get parts!
This is the most expensive step. This is where you go and buy all the stuff for your computer. The thing about computers, is that you can't just keep adding parts and making it better until it works well. You need to buy all of your parts at the same time. You can upgrade those parts afterwords though.

In this instructable I will be building a very high performance computer. This is not nessesary at all.

I like to use Newegg.com because you can find some really cheap but quality items there.

The computer used in the demonstration:
Jetway 775GT1-LOGE Motherboard
4x WINTEC AMPO 1GB DDR2 Memory
2x eVGA GeForge 7300GT
500 Watt Power Supply
Intel Pentium D Processor 3.0GHz (Dual Core)
Genaric Ethernet Card
Seagate Barracuda 160GB SATA Hard Drive
2x Seagate Barracuda 80GB IDE Hard Drive
Samsung Lightscribe IDE DVD Burner
IDE Zip Disk Drive
Cooler Master Case - Not exactly, but it is screwless like mine.

Nice computer that is simular to the displayed one:
JetWay J775GT2-LOG Motherboard
2x WINTEC AMPO 1GB DDR2 Memory
eVGA GeForge 7300GT (buy 1 for good power and 2 for sweet power)
Seagate Barracuda 160GB SATA Hard Drive
ASUS DVD Lightscribe Burner
Intel Pentium D Processor 3.0GHz (Dual Core)
Genaric Case
500 Watt Power Supply
This computer costs about $395 and is way better than anything Dell will sell.

Step 2: Installing the I/O Plate

Picture of Installing the I/O Plate
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The very first step is to install the I/O plate into the case. The I/O plate is the little piece of metal with a bunch of different shaped holes in it. It will come with the motherboard usually.

Open the case.
The I/O plate snaps in from the inside. All you need to do is push it into the rectangular hole and make sure all sides are firmly in place.

Step 3: Installing the Power Supply

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Take the power supply (the big box with all the wires sticking out) and put it in the very top of the case where there is a hole for the fan and plug out the back. There are usually 4 screws to mount the power supply to the back of the case. Move the wires off to the side (ie. outside the case) because we won't need it until one of the last steps.

Step 4: Preparing the Case for the Motherboard

The case will usually come with a bunch of screws. In the Cooler Master cases (and many/most other cases) they will come with strange shaped ones that allow you to screw another screw into the top of them. You will need some kind of wrench to install them.

Take your motherboard out and line it up with where it will go in the case (with the ports on the back lining up with the holes in the I/O plate). Find the holes in the motherboard and put one of the strange screws under where a hole would be on the case. Screw it down and repeat for all the holes on the motherboard. If you do not have enough screws, make sure the outside of the motherboard is supported by screws and try to get as many in the middle as possible after that.

Step 5: Installing the Motherboard

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BEFORE DOING THIS STEP MAKE SURE YOU ARE EITHER GROUNDED OR HAVE TOUCHED THE CASE WITH THE POWER SUPPLY PLUGGED IT. DO NOT CONTINUE THIS INSTRUCTABLE ON CARPETING OR OTHER FABRIC! STATIC IS A VERY BIG PROBLEM TO MOTHERBOARDS.

I am doing this on my bed, but I am also grounded and am not letting the circuitry touch the fabric.

Be very carful with the motherboard as it is very sensitive. DO NOT PICK IT UP BY THE HEATSINK ON IT (the piece of metal with a bunch of fins sticking up).

Place the motherboard in the case and push the ports out the back (through the I/O plate). The I/O plate may need some holes to be poked open.

Make sure that the holes in the motherboard line up with the screws underneath and take the regular looking screws (that usually come with the case) and screw the motherboard down. Make sure it is tight but do not use power tools or excesive force. You do not want to crack it.

Step 6: Installing the Memory

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Next, the memory needs to be installed on our motherboard. Memory will look like a long rectangular circuit board with a bunch of black squares on top. It may have a heatsink (the memory in the links on the materials page does). The heatsink will make it look like a long rectangular piece of metal with a little circuitry sticking out of the bottom.

These will go in only one way on the motherboard. Refer to the picture to see what the slots might look like. Some motherboards have 2 slots, and some have 4. In rare cases, I have seen some with 3 slots. The motherboard pictured has 4 slots, but the motherboard in the recommended materials (second list) has only 2. If you can not find the memory slots on your motherboard, refer to the motherboards manual or quick start guide that came with it. The manuals will become your best friend in this process.

When installing memory, make sure the whole chip is lined up and that the notch in it is lined up with the notch on the slot. Push it straight down and make sure the clips on both sides push themselves in. When the clips go in, the memory is installed all the way.

If your motherboard has 4 slots, use the 1st and 3rd slots for 2 sticks of memory. If using only 1 stick of memory use the first slot (for all motherboards). If using 3 sticks, use 1st, 2nd and 3rd slots. If using 4 sticks, use all of the slots.

Step 7: Installing the Processor

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The processor is the piece of your computer that lets you use your computer. Therefore, it is very sensative and expensive. In other words, be carful. Take the same precautions as the motherboard (not that you shouldn't for everything else).

On your motherboard you will find a small metal square (Intel Pentium 4 and newer processors [not AMD processors]). There will be a small bar next to it. Pop that bar away from the square and up. This will loosen the metal square. Move the sqare on its hinge to an upright position and take out the plastic piece that is in it. Rotate the processor so that the notches on the processor line up with the notches in the open slot (part touching motherboard and not connected with hinge). Put the processor straight down on top of it and make sure it is place. If you did not put it in place the first time, PICK IT UP, do not slide it around, and put it back down.

Make sure the bar is still up and close the square. Push the bar back into it's original position.

For other processor types check the motherboard or processor manual. They should have a pictured set of instructions on how to install the processor. The above instructions will work for the recommended setup.

Step 8: Installing the Processor's Heatsink

Picture of Installing the Processor's Heatsink
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This is an important step because it keeps your processor cool. Without the heatsink, your computer would litterally overheat in about 5 seconds. Processors get very hot, and can get damaged without the proper cooling. The processors box should come with a heatsink and fan. The instructions are hard to describe for the heatsink, and I can't supply pictures (I am using water cooling instead). I suggest you look at the manual for the processor and/or the motherboard. It's pretty easy to do.

Some tips:
1. All heatsinks and cooling systems need thermal paste to conduct heat properly from the processor to the cooling system.
2. There are 4 types of thermal paste. Silver, ceramic, silicon and thermal pads. If using the stock heatsink, leave the thermal pad in tact. If using a different cooling methood, use silver or ceramic. Be careful with silver because it conducts electricity. Don't get it on any circuitry. Silicon is cheep and works well. If you can't find silver or ceramic, then buy the silicon.
3. Make sure it is installed correctly. Heatsinks should be really tight against the processor.
4. Make sure the fan is plugged into the fan slot. It will be a 3 or 4 pin connecter that can go on only one way.

Step 9: Wiring the Front Panel Buttons, USB and Audio

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This is another step where you will need to rely almost exclusively on the motherboard and case manuals.

Cases usually have 2 buttons (Power and Reset) and 2 LEDs (Power and HDD). Looking in the motherboards manual you should be able to tell where the wires leading from the buttons and LEDs go. The colored wire is usually the positive and the white or black wire is usually the negative.

Most cases usually have a headphone and a microphone jack in the front also. This is called the AC'97 panel. You should be able to find instructions on where the wires go in the manual. There is a wiring map below for the standard AC'97 panel. Newer motherboards will sometimes list this as Front Audio and HD Audio too.

Cases generally have USB on the front too. This one is easy. The motherboard will have 2 places for it to fit. There is only one way for it to fit, and it doesn't matter which one. Check the manual if you can't find it.

The system speaker should be somewhere near the buttons and LEDs. This is not required for any real opperation, except telling you that something is messed up in your computer.

Step 10: Mounting Hard Drives, Floppies, and Optical Drives

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This is a pretty simple step.

Take the front off of the case. Slide the optical drive (DVD burner/CD drive) in from the front. Screw into place with provided screws and mounting holes.

Slide the floppy drive (if you bought one) into the smaller slot below all the big slots. Again screw into place.

Slide hard drives into the 3.25" slots (under the floppy) from the inside. Once again, screw into place.

The display case uses a "screwless" system. This is pretty much the same, but looks a little different.

Step 11: Connecting Hard Drives, Floppies and Optical Drives

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Your motherboard should have come with a grey or black ribbon and a thin black or red cable.

The ribbon is an IDE ribbon and the cable is a SATA cable. (See pictures below)

Connect the IDE ribbon to the optical drive (CD Drive) by pushing it straight into the slot that it fits on it. Use the top plug on the ribbon if there are more than 2 on it. Connect the other end of the ribbon to the same looking slot on the motherboard. There should be only one way for this to fit.

A floppy ribbon is installed exactly the same as above, but uses a slightly smaller jack.

Hard drives can come in either IDE or SATA. The recommended one is a SATA. If it is IDE follow the instructions for an optical drive. If using a SATA drive connect the cable to the hard drive, and the other end to the motherboard. See pictures for better idea of where everything goes.

Step 12: Installing additional cards

This is where we will install graphics cards and other cards like internet and dial-up modems.

These are pretty easy. Just push them into the slots they fit in, and screw down the one screw near the back of the case.

The graphics cards go in the PCI-Ex8 or PCI-Ex16. (See picture) If you have only one graphics card, put it in the middle PCI-E slot (PCI-Ex16). If you have 2 graphics cards, put them in the first and third slots. Then connect them with the SLI bridge that came with the motherboard.

The ethernet (broadband internet) card will go in either the PCI or the PCI-Ex1 slot.

Dial-up modems almost always go in the PCI slot.


[PCI-Ex8 and PCI-Ex16 will look exactly the same. If there are 3 slots, the middle one is PCI-Ex16]

Step 13: Power!!!

Now we finally get to plug the whole thing in.

There are 5 power connecters we will use:
-Motherboard main
-Motherboard 12v
-Molex (for optical drives, some hard drives and some motherboards)
-SATA
-Floppy

The motherboard main will come in a 20 or 24 pin setup. The cable coming from the power supply will let you take off 4 pins to use in a 20 pin motherboard. Plug this one onto the motherboard first (check pictures for reference).

The motherboard 12v will come in a 4 or 8 pin connector. Again the power supply cable will allow you to take off 4 pins if nessesary. Both the main and the 12v will only go in one way.

The molex connector (4 pins in a flat and half round plug) will be used for the most applications. Most optical drives and IDE hard drives will use it. The motherboard might use one too. Just plug them in where ever you see a connecter for one. There is only one way to place them.

The SATA power is used only by SATA devices. They are very flat. Just plug them into your hard drive.

If your case fan is not yet plugged into the motherboard or a molex connecter, do so now. It may use a 3 pin fan connector like the processor fan. Use any available 3 pin connectors that look like the processors (pic below)

Step 14: DONE!!!!

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You should now be able to plug the power cord into the back of the power supply and hit the power button.

If your screen comes on (assuming you plugged it into the computer) then congratulations.

If you hear beeping (one beep is normal more is not) then check to make sure that the memory, processor and graphics cards are all seated properly. For any other error, contact me via instructables mail.

If I have missed anything, please let me know.

If you do this, I would love to see some of the finished computers. Take a picture and post it.

Step 15: Tips from the members

- Arctic Silver 5 is a good brand of thermal paste (warning: this is silver and has conductive properties)
-Some video cards require an additional power source. Some power supplies have a 6 pin connector for this
-When installing multiple hard drives, try to leave at least one space between them
-If you go to a local shop to get your computer fixed, be nice and they will treat you as friends and not customers
-Look around. Newegg.com isn't the only seller. Try others, like TigerDirect.com. Just make sure its compatible with your system.
-In motherboards where there is little support under the memory, install the memory before installing the motherboard to reduce stress on the board.
- Here is a nice guide to installing Windows
- Here is a guide to installing the free Ubuntu operating system
-For those looking to install Mac OSX 10.4 download it here install it with this guide and upgrade to 10.4.9 here (not saying that it's legal)
- Here is a nice instructable on water cooling.

Step 16: Other computers you can build

All parts will be from Newegg.com because I like them.

Low end (cheap):
Motherboard
Processor
Memory
Hard Drive
Case
DVD Burner
Power Supply
Windows Vista Home Basic
-$311.92
This is exactly the same as the Dell Inspiron 530s ($349) except that the custom one can burn DVDs.

Mid Range:
Motherboard
Processor
Memory
Hard Drive
Monitor
Case
DVD Burner
Power Supply
Windows Vista Home Premium
-$511.92
This is exactly the same as the Dell Inspiron 530s ($699)

High End:
Motherboard
Processor
Video Card
Memory x2
Hard Drive
Case
DVD Burner
Power Supply
Monitor
Windows Vista Home Premium
-$1340.90
This is exactly the same as the Dell XPS 720 Red - Epic Power ($2919)
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is it possible to use a case from a prebuilt computer? i have a couple old computers that need to be upgraded, i was wondering if i could gut them and replace everything with aftermarket parts

i think that you can

i think the part are in the same shape but better and lighter ;)

nerd74731 year ago

I would dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu 14.04 when it comes out or settle for 13.10 and upgrade later in April

Haha ,great
ssaldkar2 years ago
i wouldn't use windows Vista on the high end computing, i would use Windows 7.
nkutadinata6 years ago
Hey, I'm really new in building PC. In fact, I don't even understand which part is important whatsoever. Is there any instructables or books that I can read? Thanks
Nkutadinata, I have found an amazing site made to explain every part of your computer and give's you a few link's to some nice stuff!
Link: http://www.buildeasypc.com/hw/hardware.htm
another option is buying a barebones computer, in which case you need to buy much less stuff, generally: -memory (RAM) --look at what the computer/motherboard lists as its memory standard (i.e. DDR2 1066) and make sure that you get every number correct. You will get the best performance out of the highest rated memory for your comptuer. -processor (CPU) --make sure you get one that will fit in the motherboard's socket. AMD is almost always cheaper than Intel's equivalent, so if you are going for a budget computer, AMD is definitely the way to go. -CD/DVD Drive -- depends on what you need. Make sure that if your drive is Serial ATA (SATA) that you check the motherboard's specs to see if it has matching SATA ports. If it is listed as Parallel ATA (PATA or IDE) then you need to make sure that your motherboard has enough IDE ports. -Hard Drive -- much like the CD/DVD drive, comes in either SATA or IDE forms You must also check to see if the barebones PC has the following, which it generally has -Onboard video--if this computer is going to be a hardcore gaming computer, you might want a separate video card. -Onboard network card (or LAN card)--if the motherboard doesn't have one of these then you need to buy a separate card if you want to connect to the internet. Lastly, you will need to consider an OS -Windows--Expensive, but most commonly used. XP Home can be found for ~$85 on newegg -Linux--Most distros are free, but you will need to find one that is a good match for you. Most will not run Windows programs (executables) on a fresh install, but I have had some success installing a program called Wine which allows Windows programs to be ran -Mac--I'm not even going to go there
I like the last line... tsk tsk, silly Apple, when will they realize that they can't beat Microsoft?
kenobr100 rkr4 years ago
i don't think they are trying to beat them microsoft is unbeatable or at least currently unbeatable and i presume apple know that :)
And that's why apple decided to more or less ignore personal computers and attack the smartphone/handheld market
awang8 rkr5 years ago
Seriously, even Vista is faster than Mac. Can't they realize our new hardware is becoming faster and faster and more capable?
Not to mention Windows 7. Holy crap it is awesome (using it to post this!).
Every computer I use has 7 on it. Very fast, very power-conservative, and has never crashed for me (with the exception of one that happened because of a dead HDD... 2 days after I installed on it)
rkr Madrias3575 years ago
Yes, Windows 7 is by far the best operating system so far. Dare I even say better than what XP was for its time? Also, I know how to get it for free, so I had no trouble in deciding to switch.
bhjohnp1 rkr4 years ago
nah, Windows 7 hasn't been that much of a hit..at least not yet-QUICK! rumor is out! I,ve seen images and videos of a posibble Windows 2013!!!! Its looks really cool check it out on youyube for yourself and spread word!!!!!!!!
rkr bhjohnp14 years ago
Yes, Windows 8 does look like it'll integrate some cool concepts.
Madrias357 rkr5 years ago
XP, most people don't remember XP was as bad as Vista when it first came out, but it was better than Windows ME. Second was that a lot of early updates and SP1 cured XP's buggyness. 7 is probably the only 'box-stable' operating system they've made so far.
mrtape01 awang85 years ago
vista is the worst posible os just don't get it waste of money.
I wouldn't go as far as to say that, but Vista does certainly have its issues. Too bad my laptop is more or less stuck with Vista since Acer hasn't done a good job of releasing all of the WIndows 7 drivers needed to run 7 perfectly.
it does have issues i just realy don't recomend it i like 7 so fast. I had it before got way slow just from 1 use it was a tower to im just realy disapointed in MS big mistake just glad they learned from it. sorry bout my spelling.
REA rkr5 years ago
lol silly M$, when will they realize that they can't beat Linux?
rkr REA5 years ago
Funny, but I personally don't like how Linux can't run executable files.
REA rkr5 years ago
really, because the thing i like about the Linux distro i uses is that i can run windows executables.
Madrias357 REA5 years ago
Out of curiousity, which distro is that? Might switch if it's one I've heard of.
REA Madrias3575 years ago
any distro. theres a program called WinE(Windows Emulation) that allows Linux to run most Windows programs. its avalible for Ubuntu, Debian, RedHat, Fedora, CentOS, SUSE, Mandriva, Slackware, FreeBSD, PC-BSD, Solaris, and OpenSolaris.
Madrias357 REA5 years ago
Well, then it's going on my Ubuntu system. Still learning Linux, so things take longer to figure out.
REA Madrias3575 years ago
go to terminal and type "sudo apt-get install wine" or if youre running Lucid, go to Applications>Ubuntu Software Manager and type "wine" or system>administration>Synaptic Package Manager and search "wine" or DL the .deb file from the website and execute it.
Madrias357 REA5 years ago
I don't know which version I'm running (currently typing from Win 7 with the Dual Boot)
REA Madrias3575 years ago
well, the sudo apt-get command works for any version. so does synaptic.
Like REA mentioned, WINE is available for almost any Linux OS

An interesting OS is ReactOS. It isn't Linux, it is designed off of Windows XP but built from scratch. Basically it's a free, open source Windows XP.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReactOS

http://www.reactos.org/en/index.html
When building a PC myself I think of the following: 1. Processor Start with this. Which one ??? Intel or AMD ... Ff you're considering a hackintosh, Intel is probably the way to go. 1.a. Most intel processors need the LGA775 socket (dual core / core 2 duo / Quad core etc) For home rigs avoid the Xeon as they need special memory (more expensive) The latest i7 chipsets are very expensive and likely to come down rapidly in price -- get this only if you are really, really serious about gaming. For the rest stick with the 775. 1.b. almost all AMD chipsets come on the AM2 / AM2+ and AM3 - if you get a mb with AM3 support you can use any AM2 / AM2+ and AM3 processor. 2. Graphics Before choosing your motherboard you'll need to consider the graphics. First ask the question "do you want integrated or non integrated graphics?". For the non gamers the integrated stuff should be okay. I am very happy with the ASUS P5N7A-VM nForce motherboard that integrates the geforce 9300 graphics. The ATI cards appear (from the forums) to have better Linux compatibility but that said my Geforce works quite nicely. The intel integrated stuff is by and large the lesser option. Avoid SIS chipsets at all costs. If you're a casual gamer one card will be enough. If you can, you're better off choosing something more powerful (middle/upper range so that it lasts). If you're very serious, consider a dual or triple setup. nVidia have the older more established SLI standard while ATI have an equivelent called Crossfire. I don't think there is huge differences between nVidia and ATI.. You decide. 3. Motherboard chipset If you're more serious about games you'll want something that can take two or more graphics cards. As indicated above SLI is nVidia and Crossfire is ATI There are the Intel chipsets that have both nVidia and Crossfire compatibility. If I was a serious gamer I would consider these knowing that I will need to buy a separate (set of) graphics card(s). If you've got older hard drives or optical drives obtain a motherboard that has IDE interfaces in addition to the now standard SATA. 4. Power supply and case You'll need a case that is compatible with your motherboard... don't try putting an ATX motherboard into a barebones case... If you're set on a certain case this will have an impact on your motherboard choice. I wanted something standard but restrained in size so I chose a Micro-ATX case thus I was restricted to Micro ATX motherboards. If you can, try to obtain a power supply over 450 watts with a fan as big as possible - this makes 'em quiter. One with SATA power plugs is better. 5. Get your hard disks in SATA and your optical drives in SATA. If you've older stuff make sure that your motherboard supports ISA. Don't forget you'll need to ensure that for each drive you've a SATA cable and if necessary adaptors for the power supply (molex to sata). 6. Cooling First thing about cooling is to ensure that the processor has sufficient cooling and that it is possible for air to pass across the place occupied by the processor. If you've got a smaller case and or two or more graphics cards the standard intel CPU cooler won't be enough... Get a bigger design possibly with heat-pipes. You'll need to consider cable arrangement to ensure that this airflow across the cpu heatsink is possible. I think that should get you started.
Go to forums like Bit-tech.net and read up about these types of question Be sure to ask questions there too, they love to help people out
abran53 years ago
I would want to make an advanced computer (making 3d video games)for our company
gmouser3 years ago
Could i use a terra-bit external harddrive and use that for the main harddrive.
ardebot1234 years ago
i built one for only $115!!!!
Kerm7 years ago
Building a computer from used parts is not difficult, but beware the many variables between mother boards, power supplies, memory configurations, type and speed. It's great to bring a machine back to life. It's sad to look at stuff you just paid for that won't work for you. In the end, you cannot build an up-to-date computer from purchased parts less expensively than buying a new complete computer.
Exhibit A: I have recently built a lightweight PC (Net-top) that would have cost around $300 from a commercial manufacturer. You know what it cost to build? Around $60. I just saved 240 bucks by building it myself. There are even more testimonials below this comment.

Exhibit B: Your argument just doesn't make sense. Why would anyone build a computer themselves if it cost as much or more than a commercial one? Sure, maybe there is the DIY fun and personal interest, but if it cost as much as you said it does, next to nobody would be doing it unless they had the necessary money just burning a hole in their pocket.

Exhibit C: The manufacturers have to make money from building these computers. Therefore, the computer has to cost more than the sum of the parts. DIY computer builders are almost always building it for personal use, meaning that all they have to pay is the money for the parts. Parts + profit margin = less than just Parts? I don't think so.

-Y
I built an equivalent $1400 system for almost nothing ($600) At the time, the Core 2 Quad was the hottest thing on the market. I got a Core 2 Duo instead (E6600, last item purchased) to save on my budget I have 4 GB ot OCZ Reaper RAM. I wanted fast, I got it. I skimped on my mainboard (80 dollar board that does what I want) because I didn't need much. A GTS 250 from EVGA cleared up the Graphics department, and I had to install 3 disk drives (2 DVD burners and a Blu-Ray burner) just for fun. My 4 HDD RAID array is just a mess. I'm running both Striped and Mirrored on 4 250GB drives (cheap, efficient, and not a problem) What would I change today? I'd've built it in AMD's Socket AM3.
bensharn Kerm7 years ago
i have to disagree with you there, I've built some very powerful systems for about $165, and thats using all new parts and a free OS, Linux. That system is comparable to a $1000 Pre-built system. Think again, shop around, the internet is a big place.
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