Have You Played… Building Your Own PC?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

OK it’s not a game, but I make the rules here, dammit.

If you haven’t ever built your own gaming PC, you’re selling yourself short.

I’ve just been talking John through what parts he should pick for a new system, and he’s going for the pre-fab option rather than DIY option. I feel frustrated, even though it’s not my money or my challenge, because I feel as though it’s wasteful. Granted, shop-built PCs – if you pick a sensible site such as PC Specialist – do not necessarily involve the vast markup they once did, but you’re still going to spend at least a couple of hundred quid more than you would if you price-checked every part and put it all together yourself.

It’s not just about money, though. It’s about challenge, and understanding. The game of research, the game of construction, the game of holding your breath when you hit the power button for the first time and pray that this thing you’ve cobbled together really does spring to life. What a wonderful feeling when it does; a mini-miracle, as though some arcane heart surgery has been survived.

And, of course, doing it once results in a flood of understanding, and the certainty that you will be able to do it again. It is not hard, especially not in an age where full-motion, fully-narrated reference materials are available on every corner of YouTube, but I appreciate that is does seem galling to hold the fate of so much expensive circuitry in one’s uncertain hands. Do it once, and that fear dissipates. The knowledge will never leave you. Any future upgrade will be a cakewalk.

It’s like learning to ride a bike, only with more PCI slots and thermal paste.

Do it, just once. It’ll change your whole relationship with your PC.

Image credit – sgtspike on Reddit.

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110 Comments

  1. piercehead says:

    So much replay value.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Yeah and if you do it well, you don’t need to buy any expensive “DLC” for years. Also, it should go well with the Minecraft fans, because you can say it’s Mine and I crafted it.

      Personally, I’ve never built a PC and don’t know when I’ll get around to it. I just bought a PC a couple of months ago from a trading site and it didn’t cost more than my almost 5-year-old dual-core laptop, yet it can play The Witcher 3 at recommended settings.

  2. PopeRatzo says:

    Next up:

    Have You Played…Raising Children?

    • Premium User Badge

      InfamousPotato says:

      Personally, I think it’s a bit too expensive.

    • Pharos says:

      I’m rubbish at co-op games.

      • BarneyL says:

        So are children.

        • Buggery says:

          Not enough love for this comment. Please accept my hearty chuckle.

      • Premium User Badge

        Grizzly says:

        I have a great deal of respect for people who manage to do it solo, though it is significantly harder.

        • Premium User Badge

          Marclev says:

          It’s really unbalanced in single player mode, the difficulty just doesn’t scale and you get these random difficulty spikes that make Dark Souls look like it goes too easy on the player.

          It’s especially unfair as you automatically get dropped into either single-player or turn-based competitive play when whomever you were playing with drops out of the co-op game.

          • polecat says:

            Overall I find this one very compelling, but agreed. There is unquestionably too much grind in the early game. The lack of official manual is a real omission, and the unofficial ones are generally pretty annoying and unspecific. Like VR it can also make you feel ill a lot more often, especially once you reach the ‘school’ level. Some report the ‘nursery’ side quest to be even worse. Those two also have some MMO elements which can be good but usually detract from the main focus of the game.

          • Geewhizbatman says:

            Yeah and note: There’s no way to turn off the higher level of character barking during the “teen” stages either. I get what the voice actors were trying to do but, it wears thin really quickly. Turning on any of the mute options crashes the whole thing :(

    • dangermouse76 says:

      Does that qualify under the Steam refund policy ?

    • Ejia says:

      Raising Children is the Dark Souls of life sims.

      • Don Reba says:

        I think you need another analogy for something pretty much anyone can do, and the outcome is is largely RNG-based.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Second player, press start.

    • aldo_14 says:

      The intro level is fantastic, but then it takes ages loading.

      • HothMonster says:

        I try and play the prologue a few nights a week but don’t really have any interest beyond that.

      • Dangerous beans says:

        On my system it always crashes after the intro level…

    • mattevansc3 says:

      I did. The free to play element is good but the premium DLC is crushing.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aitrus says:

      Best comment thread ever.

  3. malkav11 says:

    “I feel frustrated, even though it’s not my money or my challenge, because I feel as though it’s wasteful.” This has been my experience whenever I talk to people looking at a new PC. Especially if they then go for a laptop when they have no actual need to travel with their computer. I’ve built and hand-upgraded every iteration of my gaming PC but one – a Pentium 100 that was a handmedown from my grandmother back in the late 90s. It’s really not particularly hard, it saves money, it ensures you get exactly what you want out of the experience and it means you’re comfortable going in there and swapping stuff out as new tech comes along, which will save you loads more money and keep your computer loads more current in the long run. My mom did it (albeit only once, since she’s one of those laptop people now – as far as I can tell mostly to avoid clearing out her office). And she’s not a tech person to speak of and nearing 60. So if she can do it, so can you.

    • Nogo says:

      There’s a caveat to the whole “you can save about 200-300 doing it yourself” that seems ignored: “you can also cost yourself way more than that.”

      If anything goes wrong you’re out several hours right there. For someone with limited free time you’re basically already losing money at this point. God forbid it’s something stupidly nefarious or requires RMA’ing. On top of that, you essentially need a similar, fully functional computer to do proper troubleshooting. Like you described, there’s usually some starter computer or ‘friend’ involved when you hear about PC building.

      If it goes well it’s an afternoon of high-stakes pegs and holes. If it goes poorly it can be an expensive, stressful mess that pushes you to your wits ends. $200 to put that worry and gamble on someone else is frankly a bargain in my book.

      That said, the knowledge I got from doing it taught me how ripped off people are with prefabs, and has forced me to find small businesses run by one haggard looking guy in a garage. It’d be nice if there was a larger company that really helped build and maintain custom PCs for sane prices, since the best computer is a ship of Theseus kind of thing.

      • malkav11 says:

        There’s some value in having a cheap, small laptop lurking around for basic internet/computing functionality and the rare occasion most folks might actually need to take a computer on the road. Or a similarly low spec desktop. It’s probably not worth building that sort of thing because they can be had at such low prices and the demands that will be placed on it will be so minimal that all you really want is to be sure it’s not going to catch fire spontaneously. I’ve found that sort of thing valuable as a secondary device doubling as a backup in emergencies.

        But I think laptops are a terrible trap for the enthusiast who wants to do high end computing like gaming and even with a desktop you’re better off getting comfortable with the insides to keep it up to date. I won’t lie, things can go badly. But it’s pretty hard to actually screw it up yourself if you’re paying any real attention and checking guides, and harder as time goes on or you go with higher end components, both of which introduce more user-friendly features at a regular clip. This last go-round of putting in a new motherboard and CPU was dramatically easier than my last stab at that task (when allowing for the fact that I was using an aftermarket cooler for the first time ever and teething pains there), purely through improved design. But yeah, you might have bad components. Which is why you shop with a reputable vendor like Amazon that will replace that sort of thing for you (warranties also help, but are a lot slower). Even that’s not that common.

  4. Sakkura says:

    That first time installing the CPU, hearing the scary noise as you lock the CPU into the socket… it’s a little emotional rollercoaster.

    I like the extra control and customizability you get. Plus you’re not going to run into any nonsense with proprietary connectors like on some prebuilt systems (which could prevent you from eg. upgrading to a more powerful graphics card that also requires a beefier power supply). Upgradeability is awesome.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jekadu says:

      The fact that you’re taking something which operates on the nanometer scale and essentially just pushing it down with a lever, with no particular precision involved… the slight scrape is certainly scary.

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      Back when I was in high school, my computer lab administrator got a bunch of us nerds together to build a computer. Somehow we completely destroyed the bracket that was supposed to hold the Pentium 2 processor in place.

      The administrator told us that the only important part was making sure that the contact points touched the motherboard pins, and showed us how to fix the processor in place with a piece of baling wire.

      Since then, I’ve never been terribly afraid of putting together my own computer.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      flick-CLACK!

      Holy shit did i just break that? I’ve had similar experiences installing RAM, where the little fucker won’t go then suddenly CRUNCH – deep breath, press ‘on’…. Whew!

  5. Premium User Badge

    Awesomeclaw says:

    The actual tech involved in being able to grab a bunch of off the shelf parts, plug them into each other, push the power button and be booting into an operating system an hour later is really incredible.

    Just remember, whenever you push that power button, there’s an army of engineers and researchers behind you working to make sure that everything is able to talk to everything else.

  6. pendergraft says:

    I’ve built three now and every time there’s been one moment where I had to stand up and walk away for fear that I might, in a shrieking fit of frustration, just pick up the whole thing and throw it against the nearest wall.

    In other words, I am my father’s son.

  7. Hyena Grin says:

    I have never actually purchased a pre-built computer that wasn’t a mobile device of some variety. I grew up using my dad’s office computer, and a computer of my own was one of the first major purchases I saved up for when I started working from my parents’ house. I ordered the parts online and put it together myself, and never looked back.

    I’m glad I did it in my youth, because there’s a part of me that feels like if I hadn’t, I’d probably be a bit less confident in my ability to put one together myself without breaking it, and I think that might dissuade me from trying. I’m glad that’s not the case, because building your own PC is magical, and it gives you a sense of ownership and familiarity and responsibility over it that just can’t be achieved otherwise.

    I imagine it’s a similar feeling to how some people feel about the car they restored, and that sort of thing. Putting in money is one thing. Putting in time, effort, and understanding, makes all the difference.

  8. Wulfram says:

    “You’re still going to spend at least a couple of hundred quid more than you would if you price-checked every part and put it all together yourself”

    Can you show me how I could build something with (say) a GTX 960 and a i5 for £300, then?

    • tuzgai says:

      I mean, sure. That budget’s a little tight for specifically an i5 and a 960, but it can be done (at least in the US, I know pricing is different in the UK).

      link to pcpartpicker.com

      This took about 5 minutes to put together, I’m sure there’s better builds out there. One thing to note is that ideally you will not be paying that much for the 960 or the i5. I checked and found a 960 sold for $80 on ebay and processors regularly go on sale for at least a ~$30 discount. Repeat the finding-sales part of the process for each part and you’ll juuuuust hit your budget.

      If it were me with your budget I’d go slightly lower-end and get an i3, then spend the extra money on the AMD 480 that’s coming out any day now – it’ll be a big step up from the 960 and you can upgrade the processor if you find you need it.

      On the other hand if this was a snarky thing about a pre-built deal you saw, I’d love to see it – sounds like a decent deal!

      • tuzgai says:

        I’m not a big reddit fan, but if you’re interested in learning to build a pc, /r/buildapc and /r/buildapcsales are your friend. I just built my first a few months ago and the worst part is that I now have all the knowledge and no funds or cause to do it again.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Going low-end I find it’s better to get a cheap video card and pour the money on the CPU, the video card is much easier to swap in a year or two than a CPU.

        • bananana says:

          Going low-end *don’t* get a video card unless you know you need one. Get a CPU with integrated graphics. An AMD APU should work just fine, put the extra money towards maybe memory and an SSD for the OS. You can actually get SSDs cheaper than mechanical drives.

      • Wulfram says:

        I appreciate the effort, but the US vs UK thing changes things pretty dramatically. Looking on partpicker, the CPU and GPU I mentioned are basically £150 each.

        I was being fairly snarky. The deal I had in mind was link to ebuyer.com, which seems about the same sort of price you’d pay for the parts – £500

      • Whelp says:

        Never get an i3. They suck for the price.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      He said 100/200 quids not 500.

  9. HefHughner says:

    I always bought pre-built pcs because im barely capable to assemble an Ikea shelf without losing a finger. The problem is: I have to upgrade my pc and the shop I always took my pc to upgrade or buy a new one closed.

    So… I think i will try – for the first time in my life – to install the upgrades myself: 1070 for my 660ti, another 8GB Ram to have 16, and a SSD. I watched every possible Youtube tutorial – it looks really easy, but I still have the feeling i will ruin this somehow.

    • malkav11 says:

      Those three things are all almost 100% plug and play. Video cards involve nestling it into one of (probably) two long slots on the motherboard and hooking a power cable or two in. RAM you just have to put in pointing the right way and then push down (firmly but carefully) until it clicks into place. Hard drives are the finickiest in that they typically involve screws to hold the drive in its bay, but after that it’s just a power cable and a data cable (probably SATA). It’s motherboards and CPUs that are the trickiest. (And they’re still not that bad.)

      • malkav11 says:

        Okay, come to think of it there’s usually a screw holding the video card stable too.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          Just into case. It’s standard for PCI/PCIE slots but realistically you’ve got the monitor cable holding it in place as well as the other back plates restricting movement to a couple of millimetre’s either side.

  10. Jetsetlemming says:

    I’ve only been able to afford building a PC fully from parts once, a $300 build based on extreme sales of even at the time fairly old components in the 2008 Newegg July 4th sale. Other than that, I’ve always gotten a hand-me-down Dell or bought one surplus for $50 from a college, and then modified it.

    My current PC is the guts of a Dell workstation stuff into the case of that 2008 PC, as the Dell only had the space for a single hard drive. The Dell motherboard *still* doesn’t respect ATX standards though, so it can’t plug into my PC case’s fans or buttons. Had to jury rig parts of the Dell case ripped out and duct taped into place. Ugly, but it works, and hey, I upgraded from a Pentium Dual Core to a Core i7, so worth it.

  11. Ejia says:

    There’s probably a game out there about building your own PC, though.

    I haven’t done it myself, out of fear of frying my components, frying myself, or both. I’ve stuck to the easier bits of sticking in RAM, video cards, and the odd drive or two.

  12. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Oh I’ve had some fun in my time.

    1. Constant reboots due to tightening the CPU fan on too tightly.
    2. Snapping a graphics card fan wing off, by testing whether it was spinning whilst turned on (it was).
    3. Snapping a memory slot clip off (this wasn’t as bad as it sounds).
    4. Unplugging a hard drive power cable whilst the machine was on. (Yes it didn’t work after I did that).
    5. Using too much thermal paste before I knew it was possible to use too much thermal paste.
    6. Leaving a loose screw underneath the motherboard.
    7. Pending the pins on a CPU by not inserting it the right way around, then attempting to bend them straight again by using a micro screwdriver. Snapped one pin off.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      I’m guessing that HDD was IDE then. I’ve hot plugged SATA HDDs a few times to see if the port, cable or drive is faulty.

      • Premium User Badge

        caff says:

        Yep I think it was an IDE one. It made an interesting clicking noise when I unplugged it.

    • Bremze says:

      The Incredible Hulk’s computer assembly woes

    • xfstef says:

      oh wow … mmm yea that never happened to me and I’ve been screwing PCs apart and back together for almost 20 years now

      I guess you’re just one of those people… those people that just break stuff even when they barely touch it.

    • Jetsetlemming says:

      I commend you for not giving up after any two of those things happened, let alone the whole list.

    • melnificent says:

      But have you managed to put the RAM in the wrong way round by forcing it in anyway and burning a trace out of the motherboard?

      • Premium User Badge

        caff says:

        No I haven’t done that one yet. They’ve made it harder recently by making the sticks longer on end than the other. I’ll give it a go though.

    • Buggery says:

      I would love to see you putting together flatpack furniture. All yakety sax playing in the background while you do the Mr Bean flail, for some reason firing a nail gun in the air, one foot in an uncooked turkey and your head in a vase. Meanwhile all the pieces of a 5 piece table with 8 bolts sits, untouched, on the floor.

  13. JonClaw says:

    I’ve built two in my life so far. It’s a rewarding and frustrating experience. I still use the first one I built, the only originally part left is its 9-year old case (which will be replaced soon).

    • frogulox says:

      As long as you dont change all the bits at once its still the same computer…

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        If SATA cable count then I’m still using the same PC from 10 years ago.
        Pretty much everything else has been changed at least twice since then though.

  14. waltC says:

    The great thing about building your own is that it never dies because you can perpetually upgrade it, component by component. In that sense you never *stop* building it because you are always upgrading it–which is far, far cheaper in the long run than buying a whole new box every three-five years and giving away the old one. Desktop PCs that you build yourself and perpetually upgrade year after year (one year a new GPU–the next a new SSD, the next a new mboard–then ram & cpu, etc.) are hands-down the best values going in the computer tech market.

    • Moonracer says:

      Over the years I’ve upgraded my PC less frequently and found the opposite to be the case. A new graphics card will jump from needing a PCIx8 to PCIx16 slot, so I need a new motherboard, Except my old ram doesn’t work with newer motherboards either. I end up needing to do many hours of homework and having to upgrade more than I wanted to. If you make upgrades every year or two it probably isn’t so bad.

    • bananana says:

      I built my current PC almost 5 years ago. I’ve since maxed the RAM, shuffled HDDs around (not sure if any of them were originally in the system), transfered the OS to an SSD (the original OS drive was failing *and* PATA), bought a newer GPU which in turn required a new case (not enough ventilation; expected that but I had to see if I was right) and a new PSU. As it is, after a new GPU I’m not sure when I’ll be changing the CPU/mobo/RAM, because with the current OC there just isn’t all that much that’s faster. Well, not much that’s any sensible price anyway. Bulldozer may be suboptimal but at 4 GHz it’s still quite nippy (and it’d likely go higher if I cared to try, the cooler is up to it).

  15. fabrulana says:

    Many times, only thing I hate is that there is only one level : Nightmare. It is hardcore… if you lose a life, you have to start all over again.

  16. TechnicalBen says:

    Thankfully I literally cannot kill most of my gear. With the exception of a PSU being short/dying.

    I’m not sure what others do that destroys tech that I am not. But then again it’s the same for most phones etc. But they cannot really be fixed any more as it’s all glue together. :(

    “I want to upgrade my PC” and prebuilt systems tend not to go hand in hand. Unless your system is made from off the shelf parts, and even then often they choose the one model with no extra sockets (Uncle just purchased a cheap bundle board, and it had one, yes ONE, USB port internal connector. :( ).

    • mattevansc3 says:

      I bought my dad’s PC from CCL Online. They give you the part numbers as part of the specifications and their warranty allows self upgrading too.

  17. mattevansc3 says:

    I’ve built and upgraded my PCs for years but after I upgrade the GPU I think all my PCs after that will be shop built.

    My last build was a bit of a nightmare. Did my research, went with brands I knew, balanced my specifications, etc. First problem was the cooler, a Corsair all-in-one CPU water cooler. The cooler itself wasn’t faulty, the motherboard couldn’t power a 8″ fan via the CPU fan socket. I was able to go through one of the other cooler sockets but of course that didn’t have a thermal detector which meant the PC wouldn’t boot until I installed the stock cooler, went into the BIOS and switched off the over heating warnings.

    It was only after that I found the mother board was faulty. RMA’d it and got another one…which was also faulty. Ebuyer were nice enough to swap it for a similar mother board from a different manufacturer. That was also faulty as one of the SATA ports didn’t work.

    I just sodded it at that point and worked around the fault until I won an Intel motherboard in a competition, sent it back stating the port fault and got a credit note I put towards an i5 CPU.

    At this point in my life I’d rather pay the extra and have someone go through that hassle for me.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Yeah, my current attempted build sits in pieces in a corner. First there was the faulty power supply. Got a new one Then the basic setup (MB,ram,cpu,SSD) where it will only power up 1 out of 10 times. Days of unproductive troubleshooting, leading to the eventual banishment to the corner. Til I have a weekend to start over from scratch.

  18. C0llic says:

    Many times. Theres always that horrible anxiety, no matter how many times you’ve done it, that something will go horribly wrong. Thankfully, this is followed by huge relief and satisfaction.

    I still remember the first build I did with my dad, with parts bought from Aria (remember them?). It all seemed to be going well, until it failed to spring into life when it was all done. My dad took it to a local computer shop, and we discovered we’d done everything right, apart from properly seating the CPU. It was sat on top of its pins with a honking great heatsink weighing down on it. No damage was done, thank god.

    I also have many distant memories of incompatible RAM bought online, only to be replaced by locally bought cheap generic modules when the thing failed to leap into life. Things usually go smoothly these days, either because I now know how to research better, or compatibility has improved

  19. Geebs says:

    Honestly? Given how modular desktop computer parts are, the whole PC-building thing seems to me to be very expensive Lego with driver conflicts, and the money saved picking out parts isn’t worth the time spent doing the research. I’ve fixed my fair share of electronics and it’s not really any more intellectually stimulating than using a stick to poke at termites.

    I might end up doing it given that my preferred manufacturer seems to have lost interest in my money and the off-the-shelf options where I live are wretched, but I certainly won’t enjoy it.

    • malkav11 says:

      You don’t really have to do much research (though you can certainly go down a rabbit hole if you really want). There’s plenty of places that will recommend builds or parts. My last build I checked PC Gamer’s regularly updated trio of rigs and then mixed and matched for the parts I was updating versus my budget.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Intel Processor
      Nvidia Graphic
      Asus Board
      Samsung SSD
      No conflicts whatsoever.

    • bananana says:

      It’s not so much driver conflicts as simply driver availability these days, and if you use Windows you’ll likely find them. Granted, I *do* have some old hardware that works perfectly on Linux but there are no Windows drivers, but such is life. (They are various IDE or SATA cards, so nothing you’re likely to need.)

  20. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Three years ago it was even difficult to get a SSD on affordable PCs in the 1k Euro range and I didn’t want to buy alienware or similar expensive items. By that time it was clear noone should ever buy a disc-based PC again.
    Custom building is the best way, the way you want it, custom OS-installation, no junk. The board you want, the RAM, the processor, the graphic card and a shiny shell.
    It’s not even really difficult – if you stick to contemporary components everything fits together like last year board, last year processor probably fits.

  21. BlackMageMario says:

    Built a new PC over the November/December period. Has a GTX 970 and an i5 4790k, so naturally I’m extremely happy since I can run most games at their highest settings (specifically Doom – it runs so well!)

    For those that are considering it, the Reddit community r/buildapc are amazing in helping people with their builds, recommending good brands of parts and acessories (such as monitors, etc.) There is also pcpartpicker.com which allows you to pick parts and see if they’re compatible with each.

  22. municipalis says:

    In my experience building your own PC doesn’t actually save you very much (if anything at all). But that’s because pre-built PCs often come with some ungainly combination of components (chosen by the builder to maximize margins), which makes direct dollar-for-dollar comparisons difficult. The real advantage of building your own is being able to allocate your spending proportionally and maximizing component quality.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      There are also specific OEM rebadges/custom GPU models that don’t make their way to retail.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      I respectfully disagree with that statement. I built my PC for 860 quid, and ended up for a PC with (as you say) better quality components than Prefabs I’d seen sold for well into the 1200s, and that’s if you go with the wet as fuck no name OEMs, not the so called ‘gaming’ towers that people get roped into buying.

      • Jetsetlemming says:

        I think they were referring to cheaper PCs, ones at roughly half that price point. There’s a minimum that prebuilt machines can reach that custom built machines can’t, at the cost of a sacrifice in quality, especially motherboard/PSU/case quality. They don’t tend to live nearly as long, and tend to be way more annoying to deal with.

  23. frobishlumpkin says:

    Just playee this for the first time over the last week-ish. Don’t think I’ll ever go back. What a rush! And there’s so much tinkering to be done… fan placement, fan curves, better cable management… It’s a blast.

  24. kud13 says:

    I kind of did, but I cheated: I started by odering a “barebones kit” that had the box, the mobo, CPU, RAM, HDD and DVD-drive all come in one package.

    since then i’ve replaced about half of those components via upgrades, as well as adding in a GPU or 3. But not sure if that initial build counts. Did save me a lot of money though.

  25. Bookdust says:

    I’ve played the game twice. Once, because I wanted a top… Eh more like upper-tier shelf gaming PC instead of another console, but I enjoyed doing all the research and building the thing that I actually ended up convincing a co-worker to let me help him build his rig as well.

    It’s not as difficult as it seems. When I tell most people that I built my own PC they look at me like I must have a degree in computer engineering that I’m completely wasting working in fast food. It’s really just a complex puzzle of getting all the right pieces to fit together the right way. Youtube, Reddit, and PCPartPicker cut down on any really extensive research you might need to do. I think the best part about building your own PC is that you are giving yourself the opportunity to be surprised at what you can accomplish with a little effort.

    Correction: The REAL best part. is when you push that power switch after a couple of hours of painstakingly putting the whole thing together… And it doesn’t power on, and at first, you panic, oh my god did I break it? And then you start troubleshooting, and fixing problems you missed or created as you come upon them, and finally, the thing starts. In the moment it’s frustrating and nerve-wracking and if you’re anything like me, you want to throw the whole thing out a window and declare yourself a failure about as much as you want to fix the damn thing, but the cooler, rational side wins out, and you walk away knowing a little more about fixing computers, which is a must, since self-built computers have no warranty, and any problem is one you have to fix yourself.

    I feel like maybe I’ve just convinced a lot of people that this is the worst thing ever, and for some it probably is, I’m not gonna sit here and claim that building a PC is for everyone. If you don’t enjoy the time and effort doing the thing then don’t do it. For me, tinkering around and finding out how it all works and goes together, is one of the most fulfilling experiences you can get out of life. I spend more time doing things to my PC (more software/OS based than hardware) than I do actually playing video games on it. Because all of that messing around with the insides is a game in itself.

  26. trjp says:

    I think you sell the really hard parts short

    Building a PC is easy

    Speccing/choosing/ordering parts requires some skill (and the ability to ignore most of the advice you get)

    Dealing with issues once you hit the power button (from then and forever) is where the real skill lies tho

    I’ve lost count of the people who’ve ordered bits, slapped-em-together, hit the button and “NOTHING” – and who’ve just frozen at that point, or proceeded to break everything…

    If you aren’t logical and systematic about stuff – just buy a PC or at least buy a pre-chosen set of parts people know work together – you’ll save yourself grey hairs…

    p.s. low-med end gaming PCs are cheaper premade than built from parts anyway – as well as being more likely to work…

  27. Premium User Badge

    The Almighty Moo says:

    Alec, if you don’t mind me asking, what did you spec? I’m looking to do the same at some time in the not too distant.

  28. Premium User Badge

    Marclev says:

    Have done this since the days were if you didn’t plug the hard disk cable in with the red strip facing towards the 1 you’d get a toxic plume of white smoke coming out of the PC upon switching on.

    The real story is that it amazingly actually worked fine when I then plugged the cable in the right way.

    These days it’s too easy, you can’t even plug things in the wrong way. Like there should be Hard mode to chose from for those of that don’t like the hand holding.

  29. Don Reba says:

    Ah, that awkward moment, when your PC boots up for the first time and immediately quizzes you on how many cylinders its hard drive has. Thanks, FreeBSD!

  30. aircool says:

    I used to build my own, but now I get those nice people at SCAN to build it for me.

  31. Solidstate89 says:

    I wish I could play it more often then I do, because I love taking some time out of my day and slowly and methodically assembling it. However I always make a high-end build, so I can’t do it too often.

  32. Stevostin says:

    I don’t want to destroy your dreams but if DYI PCs are cheaper than your gaming PC shop, you’re buying from the wrong PC shop. Margin are the same ratio over separate items or grouped items but bundles , as always, allow reseller to cut margin for the sake of raw profits – this, volumes and support reduction largely covering for the assembly cost. I’ve build quite a few PCs and I still upgrade them but flat acquisition is much better with pee made those days, unless you have very specific needs IMO

  33. uh20 says:

    I am a speculative pc-building nazi.
    The best deal is to wait forever. All pc components are inferior.

  34. K_Sezegedin says:

    Doesn’t surprise me that John ‘couldn’t set up a Vive’ Walker is going prefab. Keep working on him Alec.

  35. Konservenknilch says:

    Always. Usually I like to splurge, but due to recent, um, economic troubles, I decided to replace my ailing laptop with an ultra-low-cost machine just to keep things running. Went with an AMD A10-7860K (100 €), 8gig RAM, reused SSD and Win10 licence. Little buddy runs like a champ, no problems with Diablo or slightly older games like Fallout 3 or Skyrim. Even Dragon Age III is playable, though the load times are a nightmare. Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised.

  36. surethingbud says:

    I build all my own PCs. Otherwise you don’t get exactly what you want. Unless you pay some neckbeard to do it for you. In which case you’re worse than women are with cars. (Not that I could change a tire if I had to).

  37. tonicer says:

    I build PC’s since i was 10 or something, that’s 23 years ago man i’m old.

    Anybody wanna buy a working 3dfx voodoo 3 3000? nah jk i keep that sweet thing for myself. :P

    • Buggery says:

      My friend, never sell that beautiful card. Build a little shrine for it and enjoy it forever.

  38. tkioz says:

    Honestly? Speaking as someone who use to build PCs for a living and was really into designing and putting together my own systems… I just brought a per-assembled one during my last upgrade.

    Granted the company I went through had a system builder tool that let me choose all the parts I wanted and then charged me for the labour, but for $75AU I felt like I came out ahead, no stuffing around with cords and screws and juggling parts and cable ties, just open the box, plug it in and go.

    I do recommend choosing the parts yourself if you can, but there isn’t anything wrong with paying someone to build a system for you, it simply comes down to hassle verses cash. On the other hand if you actually enjoy putting a system together that is fine as well, but I’ve build so damn many of the things over the years (must be the high hundreds) its nothing but tedium for me.

  39. TheSplund says:

    My first PC (in ’95) was a ready-made Viglen as I was new to it. This had several upgrades, including mobo, to the point that it was pretty well just the case and PSU left so I was adept at building by then. I messed around with another bunch of spares as a side project but when it came to the next big push I actually found that Multivision (just before they went bust) could build a PC that near enough matched my requirements but at around £15 more so I went for that (probably why they folded). Again, I heavily upgraded it over time (with just the case and monitor remaining) but my last two major builds have been homebrew jobs that have been a cinch – on reflection, I would say that the process is easier now.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Sinomatic says:

    I’d love to learn how (I’ve never done much beyond putting in a new gfx card or RAM), but my financial situation is such that it takes me years to save for a PC (I start saving again as soon as I buy one). The thought of something going wrong and a part (or worse, the whole system) going kaput is utterly terrifying. Going by what I’ve read and watched, I should be able to do it just fine, but that inability to just ‘buy new parts if I screw it up’ puts me off every time.

    I’ve bought my previous rigs from pcspecialist and chillblast, and been able to customize (and request) the parts I want, and get a warranty on top. I know it’s a little bit more expensive to do that, but when hardware things have gone wrong, it’s been covered, returned and fixed.

  41. melnificent says:

    I bought my first machine from Atlantic around 95/96. I wasn’t sure how easy they were to put together and as someone else mentioned above it was easy to get something wrong and release the magic smoke. But I upgraded everything but the motherboard/cpu over the next couple of years.
    So I took the plunge and built a PC from scratch, from there built and repaired them at college. Worked for a shop for a while doing the same.

    Now PCs are so easy to put together that a 6 year old can do it… mine helped build a PC for a friends child.

  42. Hobbes says:

    I’ve got to the point that simply running the OS setup isn’t challenging enough, noooo nononono. I need to get into audit mode before the OS is done and run half a dozen XML scripts to make sure that the Swap file is on a different drive (and not the SSD), the documents and userspace folders are on a different drive (and not the swapfile drive OR the SSD) and everything is neatly set up with GPEdit so everything behaves itself right from the get go.

    MSCE muscle memory means my sysprep scripts are things both of beauty and of terror. I could probably run the entire thing in unattend mode but that takes the fun out of getting down and dirty with the computer.

  43. Cederic says:

    I could build my own PC, but there are a few UK suppliers that give you a list of highly discounted, validated to work together components, let you choose the exact mix you want, and build it for you.

    Naming one specifically: I just placed an order with Cyberpower for a £2k PC. It meets my needs exactly, it’s precisely what I’d have gone for had I built my own. It has a drive configuration nothing prebuilt would offer, it mixes high and low-end components appropriately to how I use the system and where I need reliable performance, it doesn’t waste money on things I don’t need or wouldn’t use and it’ll combine top-end graphics and games playing with sub-35dB noise levels.

    What they’ll do is handle all the procurement, test the individual components, assemble them professionally, wire the thing in a methodical, efficient and attractive way that my personality type wouldn’t permit, install the OS, install the drivers, run burn-in tests and give me a one-stop support line for any warranty or return issues.

    Well worth the 5-10% markup they’ll charge for the service.

    Next year when the next graphics cards come out I’ll upgrade the graphics card myself, but in the meantime I’ll save myself a weekend of stress that I wouldn’t enjoy and get a working system out of the box.

    • Amatyr says:

      Thank you for this pointer. I’ve just placed an order with Cyberpower because of it for a similarly priced PC. The spec I was toying with didn’t appear to look available without building my own but it seems they’ll do everything I want (and more!)

      • Cederic says:

        To be fair, they’re one of many. I considered Chillblast, Scan and PCSpecialist too, and indeed I have had great experiences buying from PCSpecialist in the past.

        It’s not a large market place but there is choice, and I balance between the manufacturer that will meet my obscure demands and the price they’ll charge me.

  44. Sojiro84 says:

    After building it myself for years I bought a pc from a webshop that built it for me with the parts I picked.

    I will never build it myself again. That sweet cable management I got in my PC is so much better than if I had done it myself.

    I also hate the part about putting in the cpu cooler and the motherboard in the chassis and all those small things that are really annoying to do in a small confined space.

    No, I shall easily spend 150 more give or take if it saves me a few hours of frustration and in return I get a sweet looking box with nice cable management.

  45. syllopsium says:

    Have to say for the vast majority of people I’d recommend buying from Scan or Novatech. They’re reasonably well built and have a decent warranty.

    The main reason to self build is when something very specific is required, and suppliers can’t provide that exact configuration.

    Having said that, motherboards are so integrated these days building is much easier than it used to be if all that’s required is a basic PC.

  46. gsilver says:

    I can’t imagine *not* building my PC, once I’ve got one already. Stuff like the case can basically last forever, and a HDD is on a different upgrade cadence than a video card, as well as the CPU.

  47. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Used to build’em myself, but these days I usually just invite one of my friends who work in IT over to handle it for me. There’s nothing worse than sitting there one-on-one with a dead pile of metal that refuses to come to life. A trip back to computer shop is less boring with a friend too.

  48. hpoonis says:

    Have never ‘bought’ a stock PC. All but one of my home computers in the last 20 years were all self-determined, and even the one which was a second-hand unit, I fiddled with to up its specifications.

    In truth, one rarely saves money building a custom unit, as those companies offering semi-bespoke systems probably get a nice discount for being 1. a business, 2. buying in bulk.

    However, most of those who do make a custom unit are not doing so to save money but to have the system that they desire (or close to it).

    My latest unit is less than a year old. I deliberately compromised so as to maximise (Geez RPS! I thought you were a UK site: ‘-ise/ize’) ‘the bang for my buck’. I still have a useful system for gaming but it is not leading edge yet I do expect the bulk of the components to last a few years. In practice though, this is unlikely to be the case. Modern software has never been efficient compared to 1980s gaming. Those original coders had to be both creative and efficient to get their code to run on the limited hardware available. The modern version has a different ethos: you will need faster/bigger/better/stronger/harder/super hardware to be able to run this code.

  49. coogee78 says:

    I would have built around 7 PCs from the ground up in the last 15 years (3 mine and 4 for family and friends). Generally the builds for myself have been mostly enjoyable except for:

    PC 1: when I turned it on nothing happened. Having gone over everything else carefully I had managed to connect the cases’ power header backwards.

    PC 2: realising my CPU tower cooler back plate and the cutout in my case were not in fact compatible. So the motherboard had to come off.

    The builds for other people are always kind of terrifying once they are done. Fortunately none have died or under performed yet. So it seems that I know what I’m doing (and\or PC components not being as fragile as they are made out to be).

    I really don’t like the idea of someone choosing my motherboard, RAM and especially my PSU. If any of these are of substandard quality the PC is going to have problems.

    I think you need to want to build a system or have someone who knows what they are doing to help handy. I can see for many people paying a bit more would be worth avoiding the hassle of building it.

  50. Neurotic says:

    There’s always an element of expensive doubt doing it yourself. Makes it more exciting. :D