The pros and cons of building your own computer

The first part of CNET's guide to building your own computer will explore if the process is right for you.

Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To
Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.
Dan Graziano
3 min read

Sarah Tew/CNET

We may be entering into a post-PC world, but that doesn't mean the desktop computer is dead. Smartphones and tablets can be great for basic gaming, checking your email, and keeping in touch with friends and family, however you can still get more functionality out of a traditional PC.

Despite the push towards touch screens in recent years, nothing beats having a mouse and keyboard. Typing is quicker, navigating the interface is seamless, and the user experience is far more enjoyable, at least in my opinion.

Laptops are in a weird transitional phase, with companies now beginning to push hybrid devices that combine the portability of a tablet with the functionality of a laptop. Desktops, however, have remained unscathed by the ever-changing market. While demand has dwindled in recent years, desktop computers can now be had for cheaper than ever.

Build vs. Buy

For basic word processing, Web browsing, and video streaming, a computer from your local Best Buy will do just fine. In fact, you may be better suited for a low-priced laptop than a large and clunky desktop.

Looking to play the latest and greatest PC games on max settings? Now we're talking. While you can purchase high-end computers from companies such as Alienware, you can probably get better bang for your buck by building your own.

Building a computer from scratch isn't for everyone, though. The process can be long and stressful if you don't know what you are doing, and can turn into an endless money pit.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Pros and Cons

As with any tough decision, there are both pros and cons to buying a PC versus building one. Buying a PC from a manufacturer like HP, Dell, or Lenovo can be very cheap. Prices have been driven down to all-time lows (basic desktops and laptops now start at around $300) and you will have a device that just works, in most cases, out of the box. Not to mention that these computers also come with tech support and a warranty.

Things get a bit more expensive when you start looking for better equipped models, or begin to add newer and faster components. Companies make their money on things like added memory, more storage, and upgraded video cards. A top of the line gaming computer can run as high as $3,000, but it doesn't have to cost that much.

Building your own computer allows for complete customization and gives you the ability to upgrade the internal hardware whenever you please, something that cannot be done with most pre-built models. You can create a powerful desktop for less than those pricey high-end models, with the tradeoff being that you are on your own.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Individual components carry warranties, but it's on you if something goes wrong. Computer doesn't power on? Tough luck. A specific component isn't being recognized? There is no 24/7 tech hotline for you to call.

I'm not trying to scare you away from building a PC, but rather ensuring you know the risks involved. If you take your time and do the proper research, building a PC isn't all that scary. Not only can it be a great learning experience, it can actually be pretty fun.

For information on what components you need and where to get them, be sure to check out part two of our three-part guide to building your own computer.

If this all seems a little above your skill level, remember there's no shame in buying a new computer. Scan our lists of the best laptops and best desktops you can buy right now. We won't judge.

Build your own desktop computer
Watch this: Build your own desktop computer