If you’ve decided to buy a desktop computer, consumers have two options: build their own or purchase a pre-built one. Deciding which path to take can be a daunting task, particularly if you’re new to this area.
Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and making the best decision ultimately comes down to personal preference and budget.
In this article, we’ll explore both viewpoints (DIY build versus buying a pre-built machine) and provide information to help readers make an informed decision.
Build or Buy: Which is More Economical? Factors to Consider in the 2023 Cryptomining Era
While pre-built computers offer convenience and ease of use, building a computer allows for customization and potential cost savings.
One of the main advantages of building your own computer is the ability to customize it to your specific needs.
You can choose each component individually, ensuring that you have the exact specifications you need for your intended use. The build process can be a fun and educational experience for those interested in technology.
On the other hand, buying a pre-built computer can be more convenient and time-efficient, as all the individual hardware components are already assembled and the computer is ready to use as soon as you receive it. Pre-built machines also often come with warranties and customer support, providing peace of mind.
Factors to Consider
It can be difficult to weigh up all the different things to consider when deciding to opt for a pre-built computer or whether you should build your own PC.
To assist readers with making their decision, we’ve listed main factors which you may wish to consider.
Cost is probably one of the biggest factors to consider when deciding whether to build or buy a computer.
Pre-built computers are often more expensive than building one yourself, as manufacturers have to cover the cost of labor, shipping, and marketing.
However, building a computer from scratch can also be expensive, as you’ll need to purchase all the individual components separately.
We have not been able to make any general statements for whether building your own computer is cheaper than buying a pre-built one, as it really does vary depending on the offerings and prices of components at the time.
If getting the most bang-for-buck is important to you, then it’s critical to do your research and compare prices before making a decision. To do this, consider the cost of individual components versus the cost of a pre-built computer with the same hardware components or hardware with similar specs.
Depending on the specific case, you may find that building a computer is more cost-effective, or you may find that a pre-built version is cheaper. In our experience, it’s possible to save up to hundreds of dollars between similarly capable computers (comparing pre-built versions with a DIY build version; or even between different pre-built computers with similar hardware specifications), especially if you’re willing to shop around for deals and discounts.
Time and Convenience
After budget, the next highly-weighted factor we most commonly see is the consideration of time and convenience.
If you’re time-poor and just want a quick and easy solution, you’ll prefer a pre-built computer for sure. These will come ready-to-go out of the box, saving you time and effort in setting it up.
Building your own computer is much more time-intensive, as you’ll need to spend a bit more time researching parts, confirming compatibility, building the machine, and then setting it up.
Another super important factor to consider is what do you plan to use the computer for?
For example, a use case of just browsing the internet and occasional word processing and spreadsheeting will most likely only require a basic computer.
On the other hand, if your intended use case is to play the most recently-released computer games that are known to require decent processing and graphics power, you will need a more powerful computer.
One person’s needs may vary wildly from another persons’, and these should be factored in when deciding on what type of computer to buy (and also it’s particular specifications). This factor greatly impacts the computer specification that you need and also ties in closely to cost. If you want to have the most economical option, it’s important to match the computer with your intended use case and not over-spec or under-spec it.
Another factor to consider is customization of individual hardware parts, such as graphics card, processor, RAM, motherboard etc.
When you build a computer from scratch, you have complete control over the components you choose, as well as their manufacturers. This means you can build a computer that is tailored to your specific needs and brand preferences.
With pre-built computers, you may be limited in terms of customization options. Manufacturers often offer a range of pre-configured systems, but the combinations of these parts may not meet your specific needs or preferences.
It is worth stating that some manufacturers do sometimes offer customization options, so it could be worth exploring these if you’re interested in a pre-built system but want some level of customization. These offerings are not that common and typically would come at extra cost.
Warranty and Support
Warranty and support are also important factors to consider. When you build a computer yourself, you’ll need to keep track of and rely on the individual warranties provided by each component manufacturer. This can be a hassle if something goes wrong, as you’ll need to identify the faulty component yourself and then contact the corresponding manufacturer for support.
With pre-built computers, the supplier would usually offer a single warranty that covers the entire system. This can make it easier to get support if something goes wrong. However, it’s important to read the fine print and understand what is and isn’t covered by the warranty (often modifying or opening the pre-built machine would void any warranty, so this may not be great if you plan to modify your machine at a later date).
Skills and Experience
Building a computer from scratch requires a certain level of technical knowledge and experience.
If you’re new to building computers, you may find the process challenging and time-consuming (though we do have a great computer build guide infographic here to give you an idea of what’s involved in building your own computer). Others may instead find a DIY build to be a fun and rewarding process.
If you’re not confident in your ability to build a computer from scratch, a pre-built system may be a better option. However, if you’re willing to learn and have the time and patience to do so, building a computer can be a great way to develop new skills and save money in the process.
The Impact of Cryptomining on Computer Hardware Prices
Cryptomining is one additional factor that has been impacting the cost of computer hardware over the past decade or so. This has affected the prices of both build-it-yourself and pre-built PC options, so it’s worth understanding how this has come about.
Cryptomining is an intensive process where computers are used to solve complex mathematical problems in exchange for earning cryptocurrency. Cryptomining requires a lot of computing power, and people setting up cryptomining farms with powerful hardware has led to a surge in demand for high-end graphics cards and other computer components.
Essentially, as the popularity of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum has increased, so has the demand for high-end computer components like graphics cards and processors.
This surge in demand has caused a shortage of computer hardware, driving up prices significantly. In some cases, the price of a graphics card has more than doubled in just a few months.
The impact of cryptomining on computer hardware prices has been felt by both consumers and manufacturers – and therefore has affected both ‘build-it-yourself’ and pre-built computer options.
For consumers, the cost of building a computer or upgrading components has become prohibitively expensive. For manufacturers, the demand for high-end components has created a difficult balancing act between meeting the needs of gamers and miners.
Despite efforts by hardware manufacturers to increase production and limit sales to miners, the impact of cryptomining on computer hardware prices is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. As long as the demand for cryptocurrencies remains high, the demand for high-end computer components will remain strong.
Ultimately, the impact of cryptomining on computer hardware prices is just one factor that consumers should consider when deciding whether to build or buy a computer. While the high cost of components may make building a computer less attractive in the short term, it’s important to weigh the long-term benefits of customization and upgradability against the convenience of a pre-built system.
System builders (those who build and sell pre-built PCs) are not immune from this and also would encounter additional costs on hardware. They have to pass on any elevated costs of components on to the consumer, but they can often source graphics cards cheaper than consumers can since they typically purchase in bulk.
In general, building a computer from parts is more expensive than it was in the past because the surge in demand for computer hardware caused by cryptomining has driven up prices significantly. However, it’s worth noting that prices may fluctuate over time, so it’s important to keep an eye on the market and be patient if prices are high.
Building a Computer: Pros and Cons
Building a computer allows for customization and potential cost savings. Consumers can choose their own components, such as processors, graphics cards, and storage devices, to create a computer that meets their specific needs. Additionally, building a computer can be a fun and rewarding experience for those who enjoy tinkering with technology. However, building a computer requires technical knowledge and can be time-consuming. Furthermore, the recent surge in cryptocurrency mining has caused a shortage of graphics cards and an increase in prices, which can affect the cost-effectiveness of building a computer.
Those building a computer from parts have complete control over the hardware components selected. This means you can choose the parts that best fit your needs and budget. For example, you can choose a more powerful processor/graphics card if you plan to use your computer for gaming or video editing, or you can choose a more energy-efficient power supply if you want to reduce energy consumption.
DIY PC builders can choose components that are easy to upgrade in the future. This means you can extend the life of your computer by swapping out to a better graphics card, adding more RAM, or adding more storage drives as your needs change. With a pre-built computer, you may still be able to do this but you may be limited in your upgrade options depending on the original hardware.
Building your own computer from parts can sometimes be less expensive than buying a pre-built one, especially if the user already has some components, such as a spare storage drive or RAM which can be re-purposed in the new build. Additionally, you can shop around for the best deals on each component from multiple stores, which can sometimes add up to significant cost savings.
For those interested in technology, researching and building your own computer can be a fun and rewarding experience, as the user gets to learn about the inner workings of a computer, how the components work together and how to troubleshoot any issues that arise. This knowledge can be useful in other areas of your life, such as when you need to fix a friend’s computer or troubleshoot a problem at work.
Overall, building your own computer can be a cost-effective and rewarding experience that gives you complete control over your system. However, it’s important to carefully consider your needs and budget before deciding whether to build or buy.
- Requires technical knowledge and expertise, which may be daunting for some users
- Can be time-consuming to research and select individual components
- User will need to purchase and install an Operating System (OS) separately
- additional setup time is required to install OS software, drivers, etc. even after you’ve completed the build
- Hardware warranties are spread out across all individual parts and it’s up to the buyer to keep track of these
- Can be stressful – there’s a small risk of damage to parts during assembly if this is done incorrectly
- Building a computer may not always be cost-effective if the user needs to purchase all the components, depending on the market at the time of purchase
How to Decide if Building A Computer is For You
To decide whether to build or buy a computer, the user should consider their needs, budget, and technical expertise. If they have specific requirements for their computer and are willing to invest the time and effort into building it, then building a computer may be the best option.
However, if they need a computer quickly and do not have the technical expertise or time to build one, then buying a pre-built one may be the better option.
How to Get Started Building Your Own Computer From Parts
If you decide to build a computer, a good place to start is researching the components you will need and their compatibility with each other.
You should also consider your overall budget and whether you already have some components that can be re-used. Once you have all the components, you should assemble these carefully, following the manufacturers’ instructions and taking precautions to avoid damage to the components.
Buying a Pre-Built Computer: Pros and Cons
Purchasing a pre-built computer offers a largely hassle-free experience. Consumers can simply choose a model that fits their needs and budget, and the computer arrives ready to use, complete with an operating system such as Windows. Additionally, pre-built computers often come with warranties and customer support, which can provide peace of mind.
If you don’t have the time to research and build a computer from scratch (which could be anywhere from half a day to several full days depending on your level of knowledge and skill), the pre-built option is most likely your best bet.
However, pre-built computers can sometimes be more expensive than building one from scratch, as manufacturers often mark up the price of components and charge for labor.
Convenience and Time-Saving
The biggest benefit of a pre-built computer is the convenience factor. They come already assembled and ready to use, which saves time and effort. You don’t need to worry about compatibility issues or sourcing individual components. You can simply walk into a store or order online and have a fully functional computer delivered to your doorstep. You don’t have to worry about compatibility issues, installing drivers, or troubleshooting hardware problems.
Pre-built computers are typically tested and certified by the manufacturers to work properly, so you can expect a level of reliability which you might not achieve if you’ve sourced parts yourself and they happen to have compatibility issues. Theoretically, manufacturers should also use high-quality components that are designed to work together (though some less-reputable manufacturers may not always consider this), and this generally can improve performance and reduce the risk of hardware failures.
Peace Of Mind (Warranties and Support)
Most pre-built computers come with a warranty and customer support, which can be huge relief and time-saver if you encounter any issues. You can get troubleshooting help from the manufacturer or retailer, which can save you time and money. If something is wrong with the computer, it’s all covered under a single warranty.
Before cryptomining drove up computer parts prices, building a PC from parts used to typically be cheaper than buying a pre-built machine. However, these days, pre-built computers can also be quite cost-effective compared to building a computer (though it really depends and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis). Manufacturers can buy components in bulk and pass on the savings to consumers.
- Limited control over the components that are used. Manufacturers often use cheaper, lower-quality components to keep costs down, which can lead to a less powerful or less reliable computer.
- Pre-built computers can be more difficult to upgrade or customize. Some components may not be easily replaceable or may not be compatible with other components, which can limit your options for future upgrades. You’ll also typically void any manufacturer warranty if you open up or make changes to the PC.
- Can be more expensive if you’re looking for high-end components or customizations. Manufacturers can sometimes charge a premium for upgrades or customizations, which can quickly add up.
How to Decide if You Should Buy a Pre-Built Computer
When deciding whether to buy a pre-built computer or build your own, there are a few key factors to consider.
First, consider the factors we’ve outlined in this article and what your personal weighting on each is.
For most people, the highest-weighted factor is cost. In this case, consider your budget and what you need the computer for. If you’re on a tight budget or simply need a basic computer for everyday use, a pre-built computer may be the best option. However, if you need a high-performance computer for gaming or other intensive tasks, building your own computer may be a better option (provided you are willing to put the time and effort into this).
Another factor which is also often highly-weighted by consumers is their available time and level of technical expertise. If you’re not very familiar with computer hardware or don’t have the time to research components and build a computer from scratch, a pre-built computer may be the best option. However, if you’re comfortable with computer hardware and enjoy tinkering with components, building your own computer may be a fun and rewarding experience.
How to Select a Pre-Built Computer
If you’ve decided that buying a pre-built computer is the best option for you, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
First, do your research and read reviews of different manufacturers and models. Look for a computer that meets your needs and has a good reputation for reliability and performance. It’s worth considering if you plan to upgrade this yourself in the future, or if you’d just replace the whole machine.
Second, consider purchasing a computer during a sale or promotion. Many manufacturers offer significant discounts or free upgrades during certain times of the year (for example Black Friday sales), which can help you save money.
Cost Comparison: Building vs Buying
As mentioned previously, when it comes to building versus buying a computer, cost is often the most significant factor for most people.
Building a computer can be cheaper than buying a pre-built one, but it depends on the components you choose and the deals you can find.
As we’ve already discussed, building a computer allows you to choose each component individually, which means you can select the most cost-effective options. For example, you can opt for a cheaper motherboard or power supply unit, and put the money saved towards a better graphics card or processor.
Additionally, you can shop around for deals and discounts on individual components, which can further reduce the cost of building a computer.
That being said, buying a pre-built computer can also be less expensive if you’re not particularly picky about the components. Manufacturers can often purchase components in bulk, which means they can offer pre-built computers at a lower cost than the sum of the individual components.
We’ve already stated that most pre-built computers often come with warranties and technical support, which can be valuable if you’re not very tech-savvy.
There’s no way to say whether building or buying a pre-built machine is generally more cost-effective. Each offer needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
In summary, building a computer can be cheaper than buying a pre-built one if you’re willing to shop around for deals and select cost-effective components. However, buying a pre-built computer can be less expensive if you’re not too picky about the components and value the warranty and technical support that comes with it. It really does depend on what’s available at the time. The current cryptocurrency mining craze has also affected computer hardware prices, particularly graphics cards.
Ultimately, the decision to build or buy a computer comes down to personal preference and budget.
You can also take a hybrid approach where you purchase a pre-built computer as a ‘base computer’ that you later upgrade with individual parts to suit your needs.
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and it’s up to the reader to decide which factors are most important to them.
For those who value customization and control over their hardware, building a computer may be the way to go. This option allows for more flexibility in choosing components and can result in a more powerful machine for the same price as a pre-built one. However, building a computer requires time, effort, and knowledge of computer hardware, which may not be feasible for everyone.
Alternatively, buying a pre-built computer is a convenient option for those who want a machine that is ready to use right out of the box. While pre-built computers may be more expensive, they often come with warranties and technical support, which can be valuable for those who are not as familiar with computer hardware.
It’s also important to consider the current state of the computer hardware market, particularly with regards to cryptomining. The rise in popularity of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Etherium has resulted in a surge in demand for computer components such as graphics cards, resulting in higher prices and limited availability. This may make building a computer more expensive and difficult than it would be otherwise.
In conclusion, whether to build or buy a computer depends on individual needs, preferences, and budget. Both options have their pros and cons, and it’s important to do research and consider all factors before making a decision.
Let us know in the comments: Have you built or bought a computer in the past? What is your preference and why?