1. It depends on the spec - self builders tend to go to a higher spec than the same money will buy.2. It depends on your skills3. It depends on where you are in the world4. On the good news side you will know just how it is made and how too mess with it.It can't be that hard I did it. (mind I bought my last PC bare and fitted a new graphics card and sound card and PSU and operating system and CD and DVD player)
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If you count your labour / time as free (no cost), that is a saving. However, you don't have bulk purchasing power, and the margins / shipping&handling cost on the the bits may not be any smaller. If you can find someone trying to move built-systems at cost just to get rid of them, you might get a better deal. L
It has gone back and forth over the years. Component prices are sometimes pretty volatile. If there is a spike on something, like ram, then the parts will cost more. But because the big guys like Dell buy in volume in advance and on contracts their prices are more stable. Although they can lose really big if they buy a lot and then the price crashes. One of the big server makers almost went broke because they stocked up on a lot of RAM that was high priced and withing a month the price dropped by half. They lost millions on that. So if there is a big upswing in prices then they might have the advantage for a little while. Also they get sweetheart deals from Microsoft on the OS. But buying the full OEM version and having the disk is usually better anyway. When you make it yourself its from stock components that can be upgraded or replaced if they become defective. Some of the over the counter machines have custom parts that can't be replaced with stock parts so its more expensive to fix. A custom mini power supply will cost 3 times what a stock one will. Building your own makes it possible to conform it to your needs/wants rather than trying to adapt some runt stock machine. They can also look a lot more impressive. The only thing I have bought stock in many years is a notebook. The big thing is figure out how much you can spend and then figure out what you can get for that amount. Then find as much on sale as you can, and don't overlook rebates.
Depends on how savvy and patient you are about finding good prices, what you want out of the computer, what sales are currently in progress on off-the-shelf computers, phase of the moon...Generally, assembling it from components is more useful if you have specific needs that you can't easily get from an off-the-shelf box.