How to Be Thrifty When Looking for Computer Components
written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 5/21/2011
If you are going to build or modify your computer you have already saved yourself some cash. But you can save even more cash by carefully shopping for each computer component you are thinking of purchasing. This guide will help you find the cheapest computer parts.
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Don't Spend Money You Don't Have To!
Building a computer is a great way to save money, and the reason it is a great way to save money is that you can shop around in order to find the cheapest computer parts and save money. If you're looking for cheap parts, there are many resources which you can consult.
Of course, the parts that you need will depend on what you are building. This guide will help you find the cheapest computer parts no matter what kind of computer you are trying to put together.
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Building a Cheap General Purpose Computer
If you're building a computer for general home and office use you're in for a pleasant surprise. While computer hardware is advancing as quickly as ever, the programs which you run on that hardware are not much more demanding today than they were five years ago. Running Microsoft Office doesn't require a supercomputer.
This is good news because it means that cheap parts are completely adequate for the construction of a basic home and office computer. In fact, you shouldn't have to spend more than a few hundred dollars if you are building a basic computer for productivity applications. That means you can keep money in your pocket for other things, such as a better monitor or keyboard.
PC gamers often are intimidating by the prices of gaming computers and don't realize how much money they can save by building a gaming computer themselves. PC gamers also often over-estimate the hardware they need. A decade ago it was indeed true that you needed to have the very best hardware available. However, that is no longer really the case. While there are a few games that will really tax a system, most games are built for a variety of systems.
This means you can build a nice gaming computer for a very low price. When looking for parts for a gaming computer you need to isolate how much of an impact each part is going to have on your gaming experience. PC gaming computers are very heavily reliant on just a few components.
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Cheap Home FIle Server Parts
Home file servers are becoming increasingly popular. The enhanced network features found in Windows 7 make it easier than ever before to create a home file server which will quickly connect to computers throughout your home. The popularity of file servers is also being enhanced by the fact that other devices, like game consoles and even some HDTVs, can access network storage.
If you are thinking of building a home file server you'll be happy to know that you can do so for a relatively low price. File servers do well with cheap computer parts because they usually don't require the best processors, and graphics is a complete non-issue. The most important components are the networking hardware and the hard drives, both of which are usually inexpensive.
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Are you looking to build or upgrade a computer? If so, you are probably looking for the least expensive computer parts which accomplish the goals you're shooting for.
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Inexpensive Parts for Upgrading Computers
The best part of a desktop computer is the fact that you can upgrade it. Doing this is often less expensive than buying an entirely new computer, and you can pick and choose your upgrades in order to address specific areas of weakness in your computer. For example, installing a graphics card is very easy, and can greatly increase your ability to watch movies and play games.
Of course, part of the reason you might choose to upgrade instead of buy new is budget, so your upgrade might be limited to the least expensive components on the market. Thankfully there are a lot nice upgrades available for under $100. To find out your best upgrade options read our article "Top Value PC Upgrades."
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The Least Expensive Computer Parts - The Ones You Already Own
If you are looking for cheap computer parts and you already own some older computers, they can serve as a source for parts.
This may not make sense at first, but in fact there are many things which can be recycled from an older PC, providing you with inexpensive - or rather, free! - computer parts. Some computer parts which can be recycled include hard drives, optical drives, computer cases, Ethernet controllers, WiFi cards, and USB cards. You might even be able to use an older graphics card if you don't intend to play games.
You can also recycle computer parts from a laptop. There are fewer components that you can use, but if you simply are going to trash the laptop there is no reason you can't at least use the hard drive. Laptops also provide a fun way to experiment with computer parts in an inexpensive way. Ever wanted to try building your own LCD picture frame? Well, now is your chance.
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Inexpensive Sound Cards
Our final focus in this guide to inexpensive computer parts is the sound card. People don't spend as much time thinking about sound cards as they used to because many motherboards include on-board sound. For this reason it is easy to pay too much for a sound card when a less expensive model would do. There simply isn't as much solid information available about sound cards.
Sound cards come in a wide variety of products. The most basic ones are only meant to enable sound on systems that don't have onboard sound (of which there are few today) but there are many advanced sound cards which are meant to drive surround sound systems up to Dolby 8.1. For information on the best inexpensive sound cards read our sound card guide.