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Build a Quality Budget PC to Beat the Recession for Less Than $500

written by: Jordan Salvi•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/23/2011

With such low prices on computer components these days, you can actually get a great 64-bit computer for under $500, including a 19 inch monitor and a copy of Windows Vista.

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    The Basic Platform

    CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 7750 ($60)

    Motherboard: PC CHIPS AM2+/AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard ($45)

    While Intel makes some great processors, especially in the high-end, AMD has a much better budget lineup. The Athlon 64 X2 7750 2.7GHz dual core CPU is amazing for the low price of $60. The 7750 actually uses the same chip as AMD's quad-core Phenom processors, but with two of the cores disabled. Clock for clock, the 7750 is better than older Athlon X2s, such as the 5800+. In addition, this CPU can overclock well, with many users regularly hitting in excess of 3.2GHz with the stock cooler.

    The PC Chips AM2+ motherboard is pretty standard fare for the low end. Being an AM2+ motherboard, however, means that it can use the Phenom and Phenom II line of processors, and it is also compatible with AM3 CPUs.

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    RAM and Video Card

    RAM: Crucial Ballistix 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 800 ($41)

    Even budget builds can afford 4 gigabytes of RAM these days, and this deal for only $41 fits our budget perfectly. 4 gigabytes of RAM is sufficient for any application right now, and for the foreseeable future. To fit our motherboard's 2 memory slots, we chose 2 2GB sticks rather than 4 1GB sticks, though it actually ended up cheaper this way.

    Video Card: SPARKLE GeForce 7300GT ($26)

    Our budget can't afford the best or newest mid-range video cards, but this 7300 GT is still better than most low-end video cards, especially in this price range. This card uses GDDR3, which is a much faster memory technology than is found on most budget cards, and it really provides a nice performance boost. Being a GeForce 7-series card, it doesn't support directX 10, but it can still play nearly any game if you're willing to turn down a few graphics settings.

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    DVD and Hard Drive

    Hard Drive: HITACHI Deskstar P7K500 500GB Hard Drive ($50)

    This Hitachi 500GB (half a terabyte) hard drive is an amading deal for $50, as you get 10 gigabytes for every dollar. This amount of storage will be plenty for nearly anyone, unless you're downloading hundreds of HD movies.

    DVD Drive: LITE-ON CD/DVD Burner ($24)

    This Lite-On DVD burner is a fairly standard model, but it serves our purposes fine.

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    Case and Power Supply

    Case and PSU: Rosewill ATX Mid Tower Computer Case with 350W PSU ($40)

    All of our components will fit easily into this Rosewill mid tower case. It has dual colored LEDs on the front for looks, as well as two front mounted USB ports for ease of use. The 350 watt power supply is more than enough to keep all of these components running, and it won't cost much on your electricity bill either.

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    Monitor

    Monitor: Hanns·G 19" 5ms Widescreen LCD Monitor ($100)

    The price of LCD monitors has dropped drastically over the past few months. This monitor would have cost over $150 at the beginning of the year, and at $100 there's no reason to choose anything else. The 19 inch widescreen provides a large viewable area, which is good for both work and games. It also has a low 5ms response time, which means that movies and games will appear more fluid in motion.

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    Other Components

    Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic SP1 64-bit ($80)

    Vista home basic is the lightest and cheapest version of Windows Vista, but all of the essential elements are there. You really don't need the higher end versions as Home Basic provides all the features that most people use.

    Keyboard and Mouse:Logitech Keyboard and Optical Mouse Combo ($13)

    This is a standard PS/2 keyboard and USB optical mouse combo from Logitech.

    Speakers: Logitech S-150 1.2 Watts USB Speaker ($12)

    Our speakers are also from Logitech. Don't expect the highest quality sound here, but at $12 you can't really complain.

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    Total: $491 (Before Shipping)

    This guide has shown that it's possible to put together an extremely decent budget build for under $500. Your $500 can easily buy a complete system, including monitor and operating system, that will perform better than most store bought systems. This PC will be able to watch movies, play games, and get work done fast and efficiently.

    Feel free to add or change components around to fit your budget or needs. For example, if you play games you might choose a more powerful graphics card, or if you watch movies you might get a larger hard drive. The great thing about building your own PC is that you can endlessly customize it to fit you perfectly.

    This system was built completely from components found at www.newegg.com.