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How to Build Your Own Computer

My computer is about 8 years old. In a time where technology can become obsolete on a monthly basis, I have been fighting this for far too long. It’s time to get a new PC. I’ve taken my computer about as far as it can go. I upgraded the memory and kept it clean of viruses, but it just isn’t performing at the level that I require anymore. I could just go out and buy a ready-made PC and be done with it, but that’s just not my style. Plus, I can take you handsome readers along with me as I build my own PC. This can be a great way to stay on budget if you’re paying off debt.

You could avoid credit card debt by building your own computer for less.

You could avoid credit card debt by building your own computer for less.

I decided to go forward with this project after a few discussions with one of our IT professionals at ACCC. That’s really all it took. A once complicated idea now seems relatively simple and, with a little help, I’m confident that I can build a really nice PC for a price far less than what I would pay at a store. Here’s how to do it…

Go to the website of your choice. There are several sites that specialize in computer components like Newegg.com, TigerDirect.com, and Frys.com.  Here you can search for components based on your requirements and place them all in your shopping cart, painting a picture of what your PC will look like and cost.  Here we go…

  • First I pick my processor.  The processor is the heart of any computer.  For my needs (which include digital photo editing and graphic design) I’m going with the AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition.  AMD’s are not quite as reputable as Intel processors, but this one is more than up to my needs, is priced right, and it has excellent reviews.  It’s a quad core processor, which is good for running multiple robust programs such as the Adobe Creative Suite (which I use).  $94.99
  • Next, I pick my motherboard.  Motherboards are where you attach all the components of a PC (Processor, RAM, Hard Drive, Disc Drive, Power Supply, etc.)  They are built differently for different processors, so I have to make sure I find one that matches the AMD that I have.  My processor has an AM3 socket, so I found a motherboard that matches that, while also matching my other needs like maximum RAM capacity and number of USB ports.  I chose the ASRock 960 GM/U3S3 FX AM3+ AMD 760G SATA 6GB/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX. $54.99
  • Now onto memory.  RAM is basically what speeds up processes on your computer.  So, the more robust programs you want to run, to more RAM you want.  I’m going for 8GB  in the form of one 8GB stick of RAM.  This will plug into the 240-pin socket on my motherboard.  Make sure your  RAM matches the type of RAM socket on your motherboard.  Most motherboards will have at least 2 slots for RAM, so you can always add more.  I chose the G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB 240-Pin  DDR3 1333.  Most store-bought computers will have 4 to 6GB of RAM. $34.99
  • Graphics Card. These are usually more important for playing video games on your computer.  Video cards supply the greater refresh rate that your screen needs for many fast-moving games, movies, and videos.  I don’t necessarily need that, but I’m told that an inexpensive card can help with some of the rendering I need in my design work.  It’s not a must, but could be helpful.  I chose the MSI R6570-MD1G/LP Radeon HD 6570 1GB 128-bit DDR3. $54.99
  • Hard Drive. The hard drive is where everything is stored.  All my documents, images, music… everything.  I’ll be using this as my everyday PC, so it will have personal files, music, and pictures as well as any digital design projects I work on.  So, I need a good amount of space.  I chose the Western Digital RE2 750GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Hard Drive. The 750GB offers a lot of space, and the 7200 RPM will provide fast writing time.  This model is also refurbished, so I got a great deal. $54.99
  • CD/DVD Drive. I want to be able to play CD’s and DVD’s, and also burn data onto discs, so this is a must-have. The good news is that these are not very expensive components.  I chose the ASUS 24x DVD Burner. $16.99
  • Power Supply. Now that all of the major components are selected, I need to make sure I give this puppy enough power to run properly.  Make sure the connector matches what your other components require for power and connectivity.  You can find that in the item descriptions.  I chose the Thermaltake TR2 W0070RUC 430W ATX12V V2.2. $39.99
  • Case. I need something to hold all of this stuff.  I’m not really looking for anything too fancy or attractive, so I kept it simple.  Make sure the case fits the requirements of your motherboard, because not all boards fit in all cases.  I chose the  XCLIO 320 ATX Mid Tower.  My motherboard is categorized as Micro ATX, and this case will fit that size.  $34.99
  • Operating System. I’m keeping it simple and familiar and just installing Windows 7.  $99.99
  • Extras. I already own a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and speakers from my current computer, so I won’t purchase new ones.  But that’s something to remember if you don’t already have them.  Also, desktop PC’s can be wireless.  If you have a wireless router in your home, then you can get an adapter so your PC can connect without wires.  That way, you can set it up in any room with a power outlet.

Everything I chose was based on both price and quality. I only chose items that had good reviews. I spent more on the areas that mattered most to me, and skimped a little on the things that didn’t. That’s the beauty of building it yourself. You get everything you want, and nothing you don’t, all while controlling the costs.

When it comes to assembling all the pieces, I recommend either having a friend with experience help you, or seeking out tutorials online.  There are a lot of resources on the web since the people who usually do this are tech savvy.

Total spent =   $486.91

Estimated retail value = $650.00 to $700.00.

To compare…

A PC with  similar features to what I’ve built could be purchased at a store like Best Buy for $800.00 -$900.00

A PC with the same price as my home-made machine could also be found at a store, but with far inferior features.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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