Should I Build My Own Computer Or Buy A Pre-Built Computer?

Aug 16, 2011

pre- built computer

Tech Tip Tuesday weighs both sides

In the age of computing that we live in, it seems that computer hardware is outdated the moment you buy it from the store. This has caused many people to look at ways of making the most of their computer purchases. Some feel that buying their computer systems from a manufacturer is the best option while others feel that if they build their own systems, they will save money. So, is there a better option? Let’s break it down and look at the pros and cons of a computer system purchase depending on which option you choose.

Build It Yourself


  • Parts Selection – If you build your own computer system, you are able to pick specific hardware manufactures with a fine-tooth comb. You can even choose who makes your computer case or the cables within the system. Also, by selecting your own parts, you can pick what is in your budget and adjust. If you wish to spend less on your hard drive but more on a graphics card, you can mix and match depending on your funding.
  • Time – If you’re purchasing parts individually, you can spend extra money and have parts shipped overnight. This might allow you to have a fully-functional customized computer system in a matter of a few days.
  • Support – As you’ve taken the time to build your own system, you know exactly what is in the computer system. Also, you will not usually risk voiding your computer’s warranty if you open up the case and poke around inside. If you need replacement parts quickly, you may even be able to find those parts the same day and be able to restore functionality to your system.


  • Parts Selection – Selecting compatible parts is crucial. If you select an older AGP video card for a new system, chances are it won’t have an AGP slot. This requires more research on your part to make sure it will interact with your system correctly. Additionally, if you are trying to use an older part, know that it will not necessarily work with a newer operating system, such as Windows 7.
  • Time – Picking out the parts for a custom-built system takes longer. Instead of selecting a computer based on your price range, you’re now finding each individual component and verifying that they work correctly together. Then you have to put it all together and make sure that the computer system starts up.
  • Support – While you know everything that is in your system, you are also stuck supporting it mostly on your own. If you have a problem with an individual component, such as a hard drive going bad, you then deal directly with the hard drive maker in order to resolve the issue. This means that instead of having a single point-of-contact for support of your system, you may have ten or more different companies you call for each of the components.

Pick It Out


  • Parts Selection – When picking a computer from a major manufacturer’s site, such as Dell, you can either go with a base system completely configured for you or you can do some limited customization of components like adding more memory. These parts are guaranteed to work with your system and are installed by Dell’s technicians prior to being shipped to you.
  • Time – In a matter of about ten minutes you can go to a computer manufacturer’s site and find a computer system that is within your budget and have it purchased. Even if you elect to customize some hardware, this still doesn’t take more than five more minutes. If you choose a pre-built system from a big-box store, you will have a fully-functional computer within the same day.
  • Support – This is where manufacturers usually win. No matter your computer skill level, if you have a computer system under warranty, you can call and get support on the system, generally on a 24×7 basis. Depending on your coverage level, you may also be able to have someone come to your home or office and fix the system for you at no cost. This could include replacing parts and reinstalling the operating system.


  • Parts Selection – While manufacturers try to give you some options when customizing a system, you are often limited to a brand of hardware or specific models. So, if you prefer to have Western Digital hard drives or ATI video cards, you might not be able to choose those. If you buy a computer from a big-box store, such as Best Buy, your customization options might be even more reduced, if any exist period.
  • Time – The purchase process of a computer is a very quick process. However, it may take three or four weeks for you to receive your computer system. The greater the customization, the greater the chance of taking an extended period. Bear this in mind when you’re trying to determine how quickly you need a computer system. There are ways of rushing a computer purchase, but this usually will cost you extra money.
  • Support – While support is available, you are frequently locked into the manufacturer’s support process. This may be frustrating for you if you have a computing background or if the technician has an accent which you are unable to understand. Also, after your warranty on your system expires, you may be unable to get support without the purchase of an extended warranty.

As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks for each option. Look at your timing, budget, and expertise when choosing which option to pursue. Happy computing!

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