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Building Computers, Saving Money

written by: John Hewitt•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/21/2009

Get more for your hardware dollar. Build the precise PC you want for less than buying from a large PC vendor.

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    Do It Yourself PC

    Building your own computer can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on hardware costs. You give up a little convenience and a one stop source of customer service, but you also gain the special satisfaction that comes from creating something from nothing but parts, using your own hands and simple tools. Additional shipping costs are rarely a factor when you buy most of your parts from the same vendor. A website like Newegg or TigerDirect will have all the parts you need and ship directly to you. You will need to have some basic knowledge of the inside of a computer and how to install all parts. The only step that's particularly tricky is installing the processor and heat sink, but so long as you keep your cool, you can do it.

    People who are nervous putting together their own computer often take between two and four hours to put it together. An experienced technician can easily build a desktop in under 20 minutes. If you are not confident that you can put together your own PC for any reason, that's no reason to stick with the large PC vendors. You can just buy the parts on your own and then hire someone to put it together for you. The going rate for that kind of work is approximately $50 an hour. Advertise or look for a local computer technician in your area, and they should be able to do it for you in short order. Learning how to put together your own computer will also help you get better at maintaining them later on. The confidence you gain from learning about every part of the computer inside and out will also help you trouble shoot should problems show up later on.

    A difference between buying a complete computer off the shelf and building it on your own is that all of the parts are not tested to work together. The hardware industry has worked hard in recent years to reduce the rate of incompatibility between components that come from different manufacturers, but it is still a factor. Pair each part that you are buying with the type of motherboard that you're using in a Google search to check for any serious incompatibility issues. If you need to return a part because it is incompatible, you almost always will be charged a restocking fee, and will pay your own return postage. The website will probably not accept it without prior notification via the Return Material Authorization (RMA) process. If a part you buy turns out to be a dud, you should be able to return it via the RMA process for another one free of charge. Each website will list their return policy on their site, but shipping costs and restocking fees should not be an issue with a defective part. They will want you to notify them ahead of time when you are returning a part, to get a RMA number or code to attach to the outside of the package. Check each website's policy on the length of time you have to return a defective part before you purchase from the site- some of them give you very little time. Some sites want you to check monitors for damage right when you receive them from the shipper, so they can decide if the damage was caused by poor shipping. This could involve opening the box while the delivery person stands there watching you, waiting for you to sign. Try to open all boxes in such a way that there is no damage to the box, and they can be resealed easily.

    In our next article in this series, we'll give you a checklist for the hardware components you'll need to build your own PC.

    computer components will take you to a series explaining the different components found in the PC.