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Have you ever built your own computer?

by Marc Bennett CNET staff/forum admin / March 23, 2006 5:20 AM PST

Have you ever built your own computer?

Yes (tell us about it)
I tried but failed (how so?)
No, but I'm considering it
I've never considered it (why not?)
Does rebuilding one count? (tell us about it)
The word build and I don't belong in the same sentence
I want to, but I'm afraid (why?)

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Buiding your own PC is great fun.
by shopper911 / March 23, 2006 5:52 AM PST

It is also a great way to know more about the innards of your PC. I have built several PCs in the past, And I have enjoyed knowing the fact that I got just what I wanted that was within my budget range. If you're brave enough to build one, I would highly reccommend that you do it.

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Yes, it's definitely a learning process
by 3DProf4online / March 23, 2006 7:47 PM PST

I really enjoyed building my current PC but I was quite nervous with my first "build", its predecessor. There are lots of sites and magazines with helpful advice.

It?s easier if you have internet access on another working PC in case there are any awkward drivers to download. Not essential though and staying with mainstream components pretty much guarantees Windows support.

While I would thoroughly recommend building a PC I don?t think I saved all that much money overall; box-shifters sell PCs so cheaply now that margins can be negligible. However I did get exactly what I wanted and the process gave me lots of confidence about upgrades. Next step will be a media center, I reckon.

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My computer cannot scare me anymore
by bgrayesq / March 24, 2006 12:38 AM PST

I learned so much when I built my computer - for instance, don't rest your magnetized head screw driver on the motherboard. In fact, don't use a magnetized head screwdriver at all. Building my own gave this grandmother an understanding of the workings of a computer, so that with minor exceptions I can troubleshoot my problems, Saved a little money - not much. The big savings is in not needing a $60 an hour techie to come to my office and do a fix. I'd do it again.

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Building in the dark ages
by flytdeck / March 24, 2006 3:14 PM PST

October, 1975.. purchased a kit from a hobbyist who was in over his head. Result, a barely functioning, LED flashing, toggle-switching Altair 8800. Learned more from that one machine about hardware, firmware, and software than any since (instructions marginal, part supplies erratic, and upgrades limited only to the available technology, imagination of the builder, and adaptability of the budget). Eventually had a whopping 4 KB of memory (an achievement after the initial 256 bytes) and scammed a paper tape reader from an old DEC (fingers and patience worn thin after flippin? the togs too many times? tape reader the best peripheral purchase I have EVER made).
Next was a jump in technology, bare Apple motherboards destined for the UK but jobbed to wholesaler in LA. Pounced on this deal as cut the price of the Apple II by 1/4. Population of the board, building of the case (had to make from wood and couple to a DEC keyboard, ugly as sin but as they say, necessity is the mother of abominations) and "borrowing a copy" of the ROMS took a little sleuthing and subtle wangling. All worth it once this ugly machine actually booted (in APPLE BASIC of course... disk drives came MUCH later). An amazing 8 KB of memory! High living.
Building computers can be a hobby, passion, necessity, or simply a passing whim. It is, however, a means to learn a little of how everything works together; a journey through the mysterious but logical hallways of technological social intercourse. Add software, and one now has a functioning model of world politics.

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Build Your Own & Save Money
by ceceliaPalmer / March 24, 2006 6:18 PM PST

I wanted a gaming machine but thought commercial products rather expensive. I built my own buying some of ther parts on ebay the others either shoping online or through my local store. I got the computer spec I wanted and controlled the price. This is the first computer I have built from scratch but I did learn the basics taking apart old systems.

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No problem. Almost no problem.
by Chxnce / March 23, 2006 3:48 PM PST

I built the one I am using now and I love it. I reasearched the process and found some great sites that detailed each step. Putting it together was still a hassle as I didn't know how much to force some things that didn't want to be installed. And there were wires everywhere. The biggest problem was installing Windows since I screwed up my partitions and eventually had to reformate the hard drive which took 8 hours. Looking back, I would do it again with a smile.

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I built my current one, but I got some expert help
by david.llewellyn / March 23, 2006 6:26 PM PST

I built my current machine, but I persuaded the chief expert from my local computer store to help me do it. The store supplied all the parts, allowed me to use a space in their workshop, and the expert kept an eye on what I was doing and explained the next step. I learned a lot, and am very satisfied. Obviously, for my next machine, I will return to the same store.

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I always do!
by bderou2 / March 23, 2006 6:52 PM PST

I won't buy a computer 'off the shelf' or one from an OEM, such as Dell, or the like. They put too much crap on there, and won't send a real operating system disk. I'd rather build my own and that way I have control over what goes on it.

Now admittedly, I usually get a friend of mine to help...just to make sure I don't screw it up, but he usually just gets involved with checking my work, just to make sure I don't blow things up. But every time he's checked it out for me, it's been fine.

I have had soem friends want to buy a computer from me, but I say no to that. For their purposes, they do better to buy from someone that can offer them a warranty. I don't want them coming back to me every time some little thing goes wrong. Go bug Dell or the like, and their outsourced tech support that doesn't understand English!! (grin)

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Building your own computer
by Lloyd Stuber / March 23, 2006 6:54 PM PST

I have built many systems, for myself and for other people, just as a hobby. It is actually not all that hard to build one, as long as you do your research (taking the free course from Cnet helps as well!) and read the instructions. It will take way longer (days even) to install all of the software than it will to build it. The biggest thing that, I think anyway, that you will get from building your own system, aside from the ''I did it myself!'' feeling, is that you will lose that overwhelming fear that you will destroy your computer by pushing the wrong button! It will give you the confidence (and remove that sense of panic) and knowledge that you will be able to fix a problem when one crops up (and it will), either by understanding what's causing it or by asking for help from the forum's when you don't. It will also remove the fear of having to open the side panel and looking inside to see what's in there plus it will save you a bunch of money by not having to take it to a computer store to have it ''fixed'' when something is wrong.
I have lost count of the computers that I have worked on that people have just gotten back from the so-called ''professionals'' and they either did the same thing or had new problems. The last one I worked on that came back from a shop, the CD drive had been disconnected and they had put a jumper on the harddrive so it would not work at all! The people (who did not know better) just went out and bought a new system (they came to me after buying the new one) and wasted a bunch of money.
I know there are a lot of people who will argue which is better, buying from a store or building one, but, if you think you have the confidence and ability, do it! You will not be sorry. As they say, knowledge is power and above that, it's just plain nice when you can fix your own problems.

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I build mine too - and I'm 57
by Treker / March 23, 2006 10:30 PM PST

I totally agree with you. Building your own pc relieves the fear that most people have with computers. It's not that hard, but you do need to be on top of a few things, like: reading instructions, getting help if you need it and taking some of the Cnet online courses - they're great. I made some "expensive" mistakes already, but rest assured, I won't make them again. My most recent pc had a SATA hard drive and I never had one b4 and didn't know how to format it (it took an F6 key to install drivers - new to me). One thing I see as I go along is that things change so drastically, so fast. My recent one is a 64 bit motherboard and processor, but it's already "low-end" but will take me where I need to go for quite a few years - but there's NO END to the learning end of it all, but it's fun. I also agree with you in the respect that people I know end up spending so much money with the "professionals" and sometimes they are just in it for the $ and don't really help people. I've learned alot helping other people troubleshoot and fix their pc's. It's fun!

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Yes i have and found it easy peasy.
by marcus.jbl / March 23, 2006 7:08 PM PST

I built the 1st 1 over a year ago and loved the challenge, it was most interesting learning all that goes into it. I took my time over it (about 2 days) to make sure it was done properly and bingo i was thrilled when it all worked perfect 1st time, not bad for a middle aged lady who only knows the basics about pc's. So if i can do it anybody can, you dont know unless you try and its very rewarding having the specs that you want yourself. I find that these days its just as cheap to buy 1 as it is to build, it all boils down to learning at the end of the day and i loved it, now i can say I can do that lol.

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Another middle aged Mama does it too!
by mlzielke / March 23, 2006 7:38 PM PST

I've been building computers for a few years, as a result of repairing the computers of underprivileged kids for several years for free. I also have rehabbed old computers to give away. So I've done a lot of tearing down and rebuilding.

It really is pretty straight forward, and I didn't take any classes. If I run into a problem, I just hit the net, and have always found the answer. I'm in the over 50 crowd, so this should give some of you younger folks a bit of confidence to try it.

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Join the crowd
by h.mckinstry / March 25, 2006 3:09 PM PST

I also am amongst the middle-age women that enjoy messing around with computers and about 6 years ago took a course so that I've been putting together computers since then. It really is pretty straight forward and really anyone could do it himself. Still I have a lot fun boasting to the unitiated that an old lady like me can do what they can't!;-)

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6th Grade easy
by jimcat1 / March 23, 2006 8:16 PM PST

If I can build a computer any one can. Really, it is not that hard. If a person can count to 10, read 6th grade primers, and know how to use a screwdriver, they can build a computer.

Few tips though, when purchasing the parts, make sure they all mesh. Example, when selecting a mother board, what processor are you going to use? Is this motherboard compatible with the processor?

What abot memory? 256? 512? 1024? Make sure you purchase memory that is compatible with the mother board as well.

How do you know what is compatible or not? Most Manufacturers of Motherboards, processors. etc have a list of compatiblity, for their products. Stick to the list and you will have a lot less problems after you build it.

How long does it take to build a machine? I can put one together in about an hour or less.

Now installing the Operating system and other software and getting updates takes the longest.

How many have I done now? over 20 Happy

Enjoy Happy

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Where to start for an older build
by Jean Guy Nadeau / March 24, 2006 11:52 AM PST
In reply to: 6th Grade easy

I have posted 'Build an old pc' in the pc Hardware Forum. Do you have a suggestion for me as to where to start if I want to build an older cheaper computer?
You must have a format from one of your previous builds?

Phil R.

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Where to start for an older build
by Clydar / March 24, 2006 1:58 PM PST

Phil, I have had the best luck finding older parts, etc. by hitting the flea markets. Also check the garage sale listings in the local paper. Now and again I find some pretty good stuff in those 2 outlets.

Good Luck with your parts quest!


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Will build again
by eladttobba / March 23, 2006 8:54 PM PST

I recently purchased a new desktop PC system from a high end company. Very disappointed in quality and performance. I've built my own PC's since modifing my Commodore 128 to bring it up to 2 meg of ram. Too much junk software for advertisers,included with new system, not enough memory, poor video output. I'm convinced that I will be selling soon and clearing my work bench for a new project!

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There's really nothing as nice as a custom, self-built PC
by adkmom / March 23, 2006 9:32 PM PST

Period. You can review & shop for all parts individually. You can pick the case YOU like- to match your intended useage. I use Skype & do remote assists from my PC frequently, so front headset/mic is critical for me- yet many PC's that are pre-made no longer have a front microphone port.

Probably the most critical part of a PC is the motherboard- the base for the entire system. Here, again, you have complete control. For those who have ever had a chance to see the BIOS of their ''acme-brand- insert name here'' PC, you would be astonished at the user settings that are removed (at the vendors direction) from your PC. Check the BIOS of a home-built unit & you'll see what I mean- generally, there are 3-4 times the amount of customizeable settings- settings which are important & yet stripped, from pre-made units.

You buy a full or upgrade (still full) version of XP rather than being stuck with the anemic ''restore discs'' (assuming Windows). Many times, a vendor's ''recovery'' plan is to wipe your entire drive. I've seen many PC's that have no way to do what is called a ''repair'' install of XP- which can fix issues in the OS without losing your own, created data. Ditto using the recovery console on these units- no way to do it.

If Linux is your thing, you have many excellent choices- most of which are free for the taking (downloading). Quite a lot of info is available on the various distibutions regarding compatible hardware choices- so you once again have a way to make an informed choice as it relates to hardware.

The actual construction of a computer is such a wonderful learning experience. I've built many- the last two with the help of my two kids (6 & 11). They enjoyed it immensely & asked a lot of very good questions throughout. They're very proud to say they "help mom build computers" to their friends.

For those considering it- don't be intimidated. It is not difficult to assemble a PC. I'd say the hardest part is deciding the components & then the ''tweaking'' of the system (to your liking) afterwards.

Enjoy, have fun. The sense of accomplishment afterwards is difficult to describe.

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Yes I have built my own computer(s) - AND THEN SOME!
by fomh / March 23, 2006 9:34 PM PST

My first 2 PC's used CPM - That was way before IBM ever had a PC. Both of the CPM systems were ''store bought''.
My first DOS-based PC I built from the ground up - literally. I bought a naked Mother board (Nothing on/in it) and proceeded to populate it with all the decrete componants, soldering all of them on both sides as required.
And by the way - it WASN'T a KIT. I sourced and bought every last chip, processor, resistor and cap it needed.
Bought a case, power supply, display card (COLOR)and Monitor ,Floppy controller, I/O Controller and 2 5 1/4'' fill height SSSD Floppy drives. Copied the BIOS from a true blue and off I went.
Since then I have NEVER had a ''store-bought'' machine. I've built every one from scratch and it's been quite a few!
I wouldn't have it any other way.......

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u still soder up your motherboards?!?
by konwiddak / March 23, 2006 11:50 PM PST

When you say you still build computers from scratch do you still solder up a motherboard? Just interested because I would like a challenge like that.

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That was a long time ago...
by OldGrayGeek / March 24, 2006 2:24 AM PST

To my best recollection, that option pretty much went away with the Intel 386. I have a fully socketed 286 that I could have bought bare but my time is worth more than that.
The surface mounted components today require new skills and tools but the total absence of vendor documentation is the ultimate killer.

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No, I don't -
by fomh / March 27, 2006 9:45 AM PST

Heavens no! By the time I upgraded to a 286,fully populated/tested MB's were all over the place.

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Teaching my children about how computers work .
by sven804 / March 23, 2006 10:07 PM PST

We uncased an IBM clone for a 2 MB RAM upgrade and this lead us to building an Intel based 286. We've purchased some over the years, but the bug hit us again and we turned out a dual processor PII-450. We have slowly become the knowledge base for many high school kids who send their parents to us for upgrading them into the techno world and grandparents too. We've fried a brand new P4 2.8HT chip, but that has been our most expensive disaster so far. Overclocking, etc. leads to more computers, spare parts to help others and hard wiring a house for CAT5e and now wireless routers. We know we can count on CNET editors, staff and other users to help us with problems & solutions for those mystifying times. Now I find my kids and their friends come over to the kids from college & tell me I'm falling behind them. Makes me happy that some of them are now CNET diehards.

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ITs not my job man
by KerryA / March 23, 2006 10:17 PM PST

I prefer to spend my computer time actually doing my work. The idea of building and then troubleshooting is just not a task I feel like spending my time on.

That may mean that I take more time between new computers because of the cost but its a price I'm willing to pay.

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It's My Hobby
by rafal16 / March 23, 2006 10:32 PM PST

I have been rebuilding and building computers for friends and family for a number years. I actually became A+ certified about three years ago. A co-worker was the one that told me about A+. I didn't know that there was a certification for what I considered a hobby.

I have two kids now so I haven't had much time to build as I used to. But I am building a new system for my family in the next couple of months. I'm building for the long term, so this system has to last for the next 5-8 years (most people I know replace their computer about every 2 years). Here are the specs for the new system:

Case - Coolermaster CM Stacker (STC-T01)
Power Supplys - Two Antec NeoPower 480
CPU - Intel Pentium D 830 (Dual Core, 3GHz 2MB cache)
Motherboard - Asus P5N32-SLI Deluxe
Memory - Two 1GB Corsair XMS 2 Twin2X
Hard Drives - Five Maxtor DiamondMax 10 300GB SATA
STATA RAID Card - XFX Revolutions 64 5-Port controller
DVD Burner - Plextor PX-716A/SW
Video Card - PNY GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB
Soundcard - Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum

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Worked fine but...
by ralphguay / March 23, 2006 10:42 PM PST

My first and only attempt worked great, but the OS still irritated me, after ten years of Windows...imagine that.
I've had a Mac for about a year and a half and it seems easier to navigate with. YMMV

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Building your own computer
by SScarrJ / March 23, 2006 10:48 PM PST

I've built 4 or 5 and the first was definately a task, but a fun one. I learned a great deal about hardware and some about OSs (how the heck do you spell this)and software. Go for it.

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I took a series of classes through work, then built my dream
by austinii / March 23, 2006 10:53 PM PST

After successfully completing Computer Troubleshooting and Building classes, paid for by work, I built a "Shuttle", small form factor, system over 4 years ago. It is still, my main system, is used daily and doing a great job. I used an "Athlon- Barton" core 2.8ghz processor and 1 gig, (two Cortez 512 Meg) Ram, matched Platinum cooled, Sticks. I installed a TDK 440N DVDRW writer/player, an external floppy and just recently attached, (Firewired), a Lacie 250 Gig by "FA Porsche" External Hard Drive, to keep my 120 Gig internal Western Digital uncluttered with Data Storage. I partioned my internal hard drive when I installed my XP Pro Operating System at "C" 22-Gig and "D" 98-Gig. I recommend learning as much as one can, before attempting, building a computer to help understand the myriad of choices and price differences, so; what you want is what you build, cost effectively, (so you don't feel ripped off after you are done). It cost me $2100.00 initally with operating system and other software. I want to upgrade my processor and DVD and will do so in the next month or two. I occasionally build systems for friends/family and really enjoy the process. I love troubleshooting, what I do for a living, on Aircraft, and can usually find the time to help friends and family ,(DAD) with keeping their systmes, I bulit running effectively. Even though I understand electronics at a technical level and have many years experience with Acft. Systems troubleshooting, I could not of built these Personal Computer Systems wihtout the knowledge I gained in the classes I attended. It makes my job easier now, as I can intelligently discuss systems design and integration with Engineers at work and I have become a better troubleshooter as a result. I think work realized this when agreeing to pay for the classes. Any added information learned about personal computers is beneficial and becomes a requisite to moving forward no matter what your job is. Interfacing with Computer Systems is and most likely will always be a fundamental baseline for most all careers and learning all we can about them an intelligent choice.

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I build all my home computers.
by AlbertL / March 23, 2006 11:04 PM PST

Having had variable experiences with purchased computers, in the past, I now configure, build and upgrade my own systems.
I start with an upper limit on speed and heat extraction. I never go for the fastest video card, memory or motherboard.
Magazine component reviews, and selecting components from suppliers I trust are important, as are their sites containing user comments, on the parts I am interested in.
Hardware from case, power supply and cooling are important considerations, in that they determine sensible computer noise and power consumption.
Lastly, if any component fails it is a simple matter to return it for a refund or replacement. This avoids me waiting for someone to do an onsite repair or worse still a return to base.

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by mrcheeks / March 23, 2006 11:07 PM PST

The best part about computers is, somebody else makes them. It's like pumpkin pie filling - you buy the can instead of making it from scratch.

If I wanted to build a computer, I would need to:
1)research components on CNET (this would be ok, i could do it from work)
2)shop at Fry's. Arrgh! Scratch my eyes out!
3)futz about all weekend with components that were never meant to work together (that's why they're sold separately!)
4)troubleshoot arcane problems for the entire lifecycle of my computer.

It can be fun to assemble a custom computer. But the only reason it is difficult is because the component manufacturers abdicate all responsibility for making sure their hardware and software plays nice with others. It's too hard to fix these problems after the fact. I don't need a battle of the minds in which I pit my brainpower against the laziness of engineers around the world. My time is too valuable to me.

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