After Hours

The debate between home-built and vendor-made machines

In this week's Member Debate column, Ed Engelking opens the debate over home-built and vendor-made computers. Come in and join the debate with other TechRepublic members.


Being the PC junkie that I am, I have always enjoyed a good heated discussion over whether custom-built machines or vendor-made computers are the best.

To let you all in on a secret, I have personally always been in the home-built camp. I have been building my own computers since my first Pentium-based machine, and wouldn’t trade any of my custom PCs for an expensive vendor counterpart. However, I must admit that there are some very persuasive arguments for purchasing a vendor-made machine. And that’s just what makes this debate so interesting.

But for this article, let’s forget the arguments for each side and focus strictly on the negative.
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The cold, hard facts
The custom-built machine: It’s all yours, including the problems
The lure of the custom machine is obvious: You know its every component inside and out, it was created with only you in mind, and its pure genius is all thanks to you. But before you start planning out your next computer creation, remember that with a home-built machine, you have to take the good with the bad. For example, when you build your own machine:
  • You—and only you—are responsible for your computer.
    If you have issues after building your own machine, they’re issues that you have to resolve alone. You don’t have the luxury of tech support to help you out when your machine won’t boot.
  • Quality parts can be difficult to find.
    Unless you’re willing to spend some big bucks on components, you’ll frequently have to settle for low-grade computer parts. One tip for avoiding this issue: Vendors often have OEM parts that are acquired at a bulk rate.
  • Replacement parts can also be hard to come by.
    Unless you have a warranty with a specific component vendor, you’re out of luck if a part on the machine blows up. That means the money that you spent on that expensive hard drive or memory chip has gone down the drain.
  • You risk getting electrocuted.
    Did you know you could get shocked when putting together a machine? Most individuals who build their own computers often don’t consider using an ESD strap, which means that they’re not grounded properly. And if you’re not grounded properly and your body is in the wrong position when a current goes through a machine…ZAP!

Read more about building a computer at TechRepublic
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The vendor-built machine: Does that price include many limitations?
Buying a machine straight from the vendor is both easy and time efficient. But the price you pay usually includes some limitations that many techs would rather avoid. For example, when you buy a vendor-dealt machine:
  • You are usually provided with limited choices.
    Unlike building your own machine, computers that are preassembled in a computer store often don’t have all the equipment that you may be looking for in a machine. Even when options are available, they are often options that simply don’t meet your needs.
  • The warranty is often limited.
    While it’s true that you do get a warranty when you purchase a computer from a vendor, keep in mind that these warranties often expire after a short period of time. If you want to continue your computer’s warranty, then you generally have to pay a premium for continued coverage.
  • You have to watch out for actions that can void your warranty.
    Have you ever noticed those little metal sticker tabs that are located on the back of the machine? If you remove them from a machine, you will immediately void your warranty. What those stickers represent is the fact that if you want to have your computer serviced, only a qualified technician can do it for you. Otherwise, your coverage is void. Having special technicians to service your machine can often be costly, especially when you already have purchased an expensive piece of equipment to go into your machine.
Now that you’ve read some of the arguments against both home-built and vendor-made computers, I want to know which option you prefer—despite the drawbacks listed here. Leave a post below or send us a note and make your case for the best way to acquire your dream machine.

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