Author Options:

Buy or Build a PC? Answered

I'm having some trouble deciding whether to buy a bare bone kit computer for less and build it, or buy a more expensive pre-built one.

Here's one of TigerDirect's bare bone kits-


I like this one but the main problem is that I'm worried i will get all the connections messed up (serial cables, pin connectors, etc.) But it is about $100 less than this pre-built one below


So here's the whole thing in short- the bare bone kit computer i might screw up, but it is a lot less than a pre-built one (I'll probably trust the pre-built one more).

Please help me decide which one.


I think you should stop trying to choose components if you don't know what you're doing, it's probably better for a first timer to get the kit you mentioned.

You're up to over $350 with no OS and no monitor... Your motherboard has onboard video, and yet you spent another $100+ on a better video card. I would rate the motherboard as the weak point; not enough RAM slots, not enough PCI slots, not enough USB.

oh i didn't notice that it already had video-thanks, i have a usb hub at home but I'll look for another one anyway

Consider looking for a case with a power supply, normally I don't shop online for them but If I can get a case with a 500 watt power supply for $69.99 at a big box store, you should be able to find one in the same range or better.... But I also wouldn't use a 300 Watt (( and I wouldn't ever buy a 300 watt, when a recycle center will give them or better away for free ))

It seems like that should work. You may need a bigger PSU if it overloads, but it seems like it should would work fine.

. Depends on what you're going to put into it. I'd go with a bigger PSU, but that's just me, I like to load 'em up with 2 opticals, multi HDDs, &c.

I've had a lot of problems with my Compaq; I'm not sure what's wrong with it. Does anyone know why there is a sort of clicking noise coming from it? It recently broke down because we somehow got a virus and had to get a new one. Now I have an Acer, not sure what model but it was around $750. I love it.

so i would need to get the CD of Ubuntu? Because if i don't have an OS installed there will be no interface showing no programs such as the internet to download Linux from.

You can burn an Ubuntu CD. You need to use an ISO burner, though. Or you can order one for free from them, although this takes up to 10 weeks. I got mine in 4, but still... They will ship you some for free, or you can burn it to a CD on your own using an ISO burner.

. Just to clarify, there's nothing special about an ISO burner. Just tell your burning app (I use Nero Express, YMMV) that you are using an ISO image for the source.

. Download and burn on the computer you are using now. Put the CD in your system when you turn it on the first time. If you burned the CD properly, it will boot and then you select install from the menu that pops up. . You may have to adjust the boot sequence settings in your BIOS, but most systems will automatically look for the CD if the HDD is not bootable.

i think I'll go with emuman4ever's idea, linux would've been hard to install via USB or CD any way

. Most modern versions of Linux are not hard to install. With a fresh HDD, no more complicated than installing WinXP. If you build your own system, a free version of Linux (Ubuntu seems to be the most user-friendly) is the way to go.
. For general-purpose use (ie, non-gaming), it's hard to beat a turnkey system from one of the major vendors. $600-700 will get you a decent setup with kybd, mouse and OS. Might even get a small monitor for that price.
. If you are wanting to learn more about computers, I can't think of a better start than rolling your own. Getting a kit (such as the one from TigerDirect in your OP) will save a LOT of compatibility headaches. If this is your first build, I do not recommend selecting parts on your own.
. As far as getting the connections screwed up, you'd have to really try to mess things up. Most of the connectors are unique (eg, you can't plug a disk drive power cable into the data connector) and polarized (ie, you can't plug them in backwards). Get a knowledgeable friend to check everything before you apply power.
. Whichever route you take, get lots of RAM - 1GB minimum; 2GB is better; 4GB is not too much.

Yes, I wouldn't reccommend selecting parts yourself if you haven't built a PC beofre.

Ubuntu about 30 mins from putting the disk into the computer to surfing the web... (( and it will ask you very similar questions windows setup will ask ))

Erm... Hardly. If you are going to use it for anything other than booting up, I would say to build it.

the problem is that Vista is an expensive operating system, and so is XP, but the Compaq already has vista. Also, does anyone know what a non OS interface will look like, will there be any thing or do you have to have an OS for it to boot up? So the main problem is the expensive operating system, can anyone help?

did you say "yep" Big Bwana to me saying the thing about the USB part?

yep to you and yep to the USB thumb drive idea you have, or you can run it right from the CD if you like as well ..... (( you need at least 384 meg of memory if you want to run the live CD version ))

Use Linux, I recommend Pardus Linux (google it) for starting off. and you'll need to burn it to a CD (there should be an Instructable on How-To)

Without an OS, you will not have a GUI. If you want an inexpensive OS, you should consider linux (which is free).


10 years ago

I dunno. I don't much go for the cutting edge of technology, but I pretty much gave up on building my own systems for a couple reasons (this is all for expenditures < $1000; frequently much less):
  • Bundles. I couldn't compete with Dell/etc bundles that included a discounted LCD and MS Office. Or similar.
  • Windows. Just when you think you're done with your homebrew, you have to go and spend $100+ on a legal copy of windows.
  • Noise. pre-built systems tend to carefully match a ducted CPU fan to the case, resulting in a much quieter overall box than a homebrew box with "random" fans plus the cpu fan.
  • "more powerful" irrelevant? It's easy to get carried away adding powerful components to your homebrew that you probably don't need. I prefer to start with the pre-built version at cost similar to a homebrew, and upgrade components as it becomes obvious that it's needed.

Yeah, the bundles got me. The best part about Dell's included LCD's is that you can opt-out and get a fairly large discout.

If its just for office use just buy a pre built one since they usually have software already in there that would cost more if you built one. If your gonna use it for gaming build one, save you thousands.

isn't Linux online? and if there is no GUI, how can i get to the internet?

Linux is an OS just like Windows and Mac, except it is free. Linux does have a GUI. If you do not install an OS, there will be no GUI. Good luck.

can i save the Linux download on a USB stick and boot it up if its the first time booting up? Also, does Linux mess up any computers?

If your BIOS supports boot from USB, you will be able to. I have Linux installed on one of my hard drives, and it did not mess up my computer. If Linux does somehow mess up your computer, you can post it in a Linux forum and they will help you solve your problem. Here is a passage describing OS's and their vulnerability to viruses, Trojans etc. There are also several guides on installing Linux from a USB stick already, so you can just search for a guide. I wish you the best of luck.

hey thanks, also check out my list of parts below


10 years ago

Build your own, but only if you know how, or have a very good idea about what to do. <That includes plugging bits in, and installing an Operating System, and don't try unless you're not afraid of screwing (the hardware part) up, and buying replacements. =)

If you would like to build your own computer I recommend messing about with old 'puters first.


10 years ago

If you've ever done anything like this before... then BUILD! Building your own computer has a lot of advantages, mainly the price. It also allows you to customize your hardware, etc. Even if you aren't too good at building things, this wouldn't be too difficult.

You could go either way. If you are going to build it, it wold be hard to mess up, unless you damage the parts with static, plus you'll learn a few things about computers while you're at it. If you are going to buy it, all you have to do is plug it in and start using it.

If you don't know about building computers, I would go for the pre-built ones, OR you could go to a computer store, repair shop, or something and ask them nicely if they could put together your computer kit for you... Over here in UK, you can just take the computer kit to one of the maplin stores, ask them nicely to put your computer kit together for you and they will do it for you for free!

Build it, you can't mess up power connectors they only go in one way and the the IDE cables while you can plug them in backwards it doesn't matter the drive just won't respond and all you do is flip it over, You won't damage it... And if you go SATA drives they only plug in one way ..... So go on and build it .... And you'll learn upgrading later will be ease and more cost effective, you can save on things like 802.11 b/g wireless cards by getting used ones (( like $10 or less )) and even look at recycle centers or on freecycle dot org for free parts .... (( who knows you might need more then one Ethernet connector ... ))

if you build it you can get a much more powerful computer for cheaper yet with a prebuilt one it's like plug and play