Tech Talk: Should you buy or build your own PC?

By Derek Cain


I have had quite a few friends and family members ask my about new computers. Usually they have looked at premade computers or laptops and when they saw the prices, they will look at me and ask what they need. For the most part desktop computers will offer you more power per dollar. So at that point I’d look at the person asking and ask if they needed their computer to be portable.

Examples of why you’d need portability would be if: you’re a student bringing your computer to class to take notes as you would want a computer that’s portable and one that can play games. (You won’t be able to play games on high graphics for long. I’ve had two gaming laptops since I’ve been going to SMCC and you’ll be lucky to get that level of power to last a year). Or you will need something portable to use for work.

If you fall under any of these categories, you will want to buy a premade laptop because for the most part, unless you are a very talented case/computer modder, you’re not going to be able to build your own laptop. So if you fall outside of these categories I mentioned then you should look at desktops. For the most part (unless you don’t need any power on your computer ie. you will just use it to check email surf the web ect.), you will spend a lot less money building your own computer.

This can be a very daunting task, however if you need something now and spending more money isn’t a problem to buy a computer factory made where the whole computer is covered by warranty, then by all means go for it. However, if you want to get the most out of your money and aren’t afraid of a little research (youtube is an amazing place for this channels like Linus tech tips and Jayz two cents are invaluable for such endeavors. I’m almost done with my computer tech degree and I still learn tons from these guys), then this really is the way to go.

The hardest part is shopping for components. You NEED to make sure that your CPU and motherboard match up (for this you look at something called socket type). The next thing you’ll need to look at is ram. This one can be tricky they’re a few kinds out at the moment. The main ones you’ll be interested in are ddr3 and ddr4 (ddr4 is the newest kind of ram for desktops). After that you’ll need a hard drive. The two that you’ll need to decide over are hhd and ssd (hhd is the older but more reliable kind that have metal spinning disks but are a lot slower than ssds, but they won’t last as long and if the power suddenly goes out you could lose all the stuff on them).

At this point you will need to decide if you want to get a graphics card. If you don’t play video games or do any sort of video production, then for the most part you’ll be fine with the graphics module that come in most CPUs. This can very easily be one of the most expensive parts of your build so keep your budget in mind.

Then you’ll need to look into a power supply. This one’s pretty simple if you don’t add a graphics card you’ll be, for the most part, fine with a 500 watt one. Lastly you’ll need to get a case. For this you’ll need to look at the motherboard again, this time for its form factor (most of the time it’s one called ATX). The only other thing you’ll need is something called thermal paste to bond your CPU to the heatsink. So basically, if you need a computer but you’re on a short budget look into building a computer, because once you get a few basic themes down it’s not nearly as daunting as it might first appear.

Derek Cain is a Computer tech student at SMC who hopes to get a job in computer security


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