Hardware

DIY desktops are dead in business and dying in the home

Declining PC sales, fewer discrete components, and the proliferation of mobile devices are pushing the homebrew PC market into obscurity.

As an IT pro, gamer, and someone who's built PCs for both business and personal use, I was really excited to moderate ZDNet's Great Debate, PC homebrewing and white-boxing: Dead or alive?

Jason Perlow, Senior Technology Editor at ZDNet, argued that the days when building a PC made sense are long gone:

"While there still exists a cottage industry for building "White Boxes" and supporting the homebrewed PC enthusiast, this industry is not a healthy one. The homebrewing and White Box industry is on the verge of extinction."

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, a ZDNet contributor, argued the opposite position:

"While there's no doubt that big-box PC OEMs have driven computer prices into the dirt - so much so that it's hard for the OEMs themselves to cut a profit - there's still room in the market for DIYers who want to build their own PCs."

Arguments for and against

As moderator, I focused the debate around three themes--building PCs for business, DIY desktops for the home, and the effect of PC sales/manufacturing trends on the homebrew market.

Note: Our debaters were arguing the pros and cons of building vs. buying desktop PCs. They weren't addressing custom-built (i.e. whitebox) network and datacenter hardware, such as Google's Pluto Switch, or open networking technology, such as Facebook's Open Compute Project (OCP) or Google OpenFlow protocol.

Building PCs for the business

Adrian believes businesses can still benefit from building their own machines. DIY desktops can be customized to meet specific business needs. Upgrades and repairs are easier. And you can ensure the quality of every part that goes into the machine. "Bottom line," he wrote, "with a brand-name system you have very little control over what goes into the machine."

Jason countered that DIY desktops won't save the business money (due to the commoditization of desktop hardware) and don't offer better support options (as OEMs offer onsite support plans). "Time is money," he wrote. "Do you want your highly-paid IT staff wasting valuable time playing PC tech, or to focus their energies in support your line of business applications and infrastructure?"

DIY desktops at home

For the average consumer, Jason doesn't believe there is any advantage to building a PC:

"If we are talking about a typical consumer with a capital C (and not a Hobbyist, or a Gamer) someone who browses the web, engages in social networking, and uses productivity and typical multimedia applications, and plays games casually, then you should never consider building a PC."

First, there's the added cost of an operating system license. Second, it can be difficult to source quality retail components. Third, PC homebrewing takes a significant amount of time and effort. Lastly if you have a local PC shop build the machine for you, there's a very real chance it could go out of business and leave you without support.

Adrian acknowledges these downsides, but believes they shouldn't deter people from building their own machines.

Declining PC sales and move to mobile

In April, IDC reported that PC shipments fell 14 percent in the first quarter of 2013--the worst year-over-year decline since the company began collecting the numbers in 1994. Data from Gartner and even Intel show a similar downward trend. Many attribute this decline to the proliferation of mobile computing devices (tablets, smartphones, wearable computers, etc.) and the growth of cloud-based software, services, and storage. I asked each debater how the the overall decline in PC sales will affect the homebrew PC market.

Jason believes this is the real "meat" of the debate:

"Movement towards low-cost SoC-based and APU-based devices, whether they be Ultrabooks, tablets, smartphones, convergence devices, wearables, shifts computational power and infrastructure from the desktop to the datacenter and Cloud and also software from a purchased/licensed to a subscription and SaaS/DaaS model. So building PCs will make far less sense than ever before."

When asked if the move away from discrete PC components would put additional pressure on the homebrew market, Jason continued:

"In summary, we're moving towards a model where PCs are no longer going to be serviceable, whether it is a notebook computer with soldered-on everything or a PC mainboard that is simply a just a glorified SoC with onboard GPU, RAM and networking. I don't see how a PC building ecosystem can continue to be viable in that way."

Not so fast, Adrian pointed out:

"While there has certainly been a shift towards reducing the number of discrete components inside PCs - for the sake of making them easier to build for the OEMs - the major players (such as Intel and AMD) have all reaffirmed their commitment to the enthusiast market. In other words, it's going to be possible to build PCs for the foreseeable future."

Dead in business and dying at home

Most debate voters (90 percent) and forum participants believe there's still plenty of life left in the homebrew PC market. And Andrian made an impassioned argument that homebrewing is still practical--but only in a few very narrow business situations and for the PC enthusiast.

"First off," Adrian wrote, "while I'm a huge DIY PC advocate, I'm not suggesting that business build every PC they need." Adrian also acknowledges that off-the-shelf PCs are less expensive, writing that "if you want a bunch of cheap PCs for regular desktop usage, then it's always going to be quicker and cheaper to buy these off-the-shelf than it is to build them."

Along with price, other trends are pushing the homebrew market further into obscurity. PC sales are declining. Component manufacturers are slowly but surely moving away from discrete hardware. And consumers are migrating en masse to mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) and laptops.

This doesn't mean the homebrew market will disappear tomorrow or even within the next decade. As Jason noted, there are individuals who are "permanently fixated in a DIY worldview who can never be convinced to buy systems from OEMs." But this group of PC builders is a "small and ever declining portion of the PC using population."

For all intents and purposes, the homebrew PC is dead within the business and dying (albeit slowly) within the consumer market.

For more on Jason's and Adrian's arguments, check out their follow-up articles on the debate:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

152 comments
dhwolfer
dhwolfer

I still love to make home brew computers. The main reason I believe for the slow down in sales of components is due to the fact we are in one of the worst economic depressions since the great depression. In case you cannot figure it out, if people do not have jobs or have been down sized or hours cut the money that used to be available for these types of things is no longer available. I can tell you from personal experience and from a lot of my friends who would still be building computers no longer consider this a priority over something so frivolous as say eating. 

Daruka
Daruka

I get sick of the MAC nutters saying how 'great' a MAC is but are always asking me where I can find a driver for this or that. 

The most least tech savvy people on earth. 

Daruka
Daruka

I am currently playing around with my Samsung Galaxy S4 and bought a media dock with HDMI and mirror the phone to my 27 inch monitor.  Using a very tiny powered USB hub I have 4 devices plugged into it and the phone recognizes them all.  Unifying receiver for keyboard, mouse, 500GB  USB hard drive (ex fat) and 2 64GB  flash drives.  Not enough power to run Adobe Photoshop but for everyday surfing and small tasks its excellent.



Daruka
Daruka

We have our own Dutch type Ebay site here in the Netherlands.  You would be surprised how many people sell year old PC's dirt cheap.  Then I soup them up with a few components. 

Best way to upgrade any PC is get a SSD drive. 

Daruka
Daruka

I asked a friend if he wanted a new blazing fast computer for 100 euros.  He said ''sure'', So I bought him a SSD, installed it in his old computer and he was amazed.   Best 100 euros he said he ever spent.  



Daruka
Daruka

I built a blazing fast PC for 300 euros and its very easily upgradeable.  The money I save I invested in very hi end display and wireless Keyboard and Mouse.  The case sits under desk and I clean it about twice a year with a leaf blower after taking the side off. 

People who buy laptops or PCs out of the store are saddled with crap bloatware from the builder.

With a store PC I always format the HD immediately and install my own OS.

Sure Linux is free but so is Windows if you know where to look (torrents). I also disable Windows Update in services immediatly after install.  Worthless 

texadactyl
texadactyl

[pre] "First, there’s the added cost of an operating system license." Open source operating systems are always legally free of charge. For example, a lot of DIYers use Linux, FreeBSD, or some other POSIX OS. "Second, it can be difficult to source quality retail components." Say what??? I can source parts that are of equal or better quality than HP and Dell. "Third, PC homebrewing takes a significant amount of time and effort." I agree. It's a labor of love. "Lastly if you have a local PC shop build the machine for you, there’s a very real chance it could go out of business and leave you without support." Why would I do that? The key acronym was "DIY", yes? Peace. [/pre]

jsargent
jsargent

while I pour liquid nitrogen in mine.

garyfenton
garyfenton

I was building PCs since the early 80s. Back then it was cheaper to do it that way. Pick your components and off you go. It is no longer feasible to do it. Cost is a big factor. Today I would rather buy a cheap PC like a Dell and soup it up myself.

GuntherGump
GuntherGump

There must always be a market for home builder, DIY guys. If we let the box makers build and design all the rigs, we're all at their mercies for pricing and upgrade costs with no competition.

GuntherGump
GuntherGump

I agree that for most users, a boxed PC from a boxed store is sufficient. But, if you attempt to custom order a rig from a major market player, it's robbery. Forget about attempting to upgrade those PCs too! My home brew beast when configured on Dell, HP, and another vendor was a $3,600 monster. I built it for $1,200. I'm sure all of you builders know that $1,200 worth of components (no monitor) will build an amazing machine! Oh, yah, and Apple wanted to tag on an additional $700 for the RAID configuration option. Uh, yah. Dream on. Buy boxed PCs, don't plan any upgrades. Build your own, dutifully, and your possibilities are endless. If you buy and build right, all builders know they can have a cutting edge machine for years in a row with minor upgrade costs that pale in comparison to new PC prices.

Miroslavr
Miroslavr

The decline in pc sales is clearly visible, but I have also noticed that the number of PCs is keeping stable. They just reached a ceiling and their number will not rise any more. The sales now depend on the replacement of obsolete hardware. Everyone today uses a smart phone or several. Many people carry around pads, many of my friends have two or even more, but when at home, nearly all people I know still prefer to sit in front of the big screen, proper keyboard, with a fast response, given even today only by a desktop. The discussion on the demise of the pc is artificial, maybe even dumb. Similar statistical data could be found concerning car sales. yet no one talks of the demise of automobiles.

jck
jck

I work in an 800+ PC organization. We're not moving at all away from desktops. We use tablets to supply function in the field (inspectors, etc.). If there's anything we're going to move away from it's Windows when Win7 support ends in 2020. That's about it. At my place of work, people that are mobile who are getting laptops also have a desktop in their office. I was one of those who got a laptop, but not as a replacement. It was so that if there is a support issue afterhours, I can do it from home. I don't have to drive to the office. Provides better response time to needs of people within our organization. As for it going away in the home...really? I've yet to see anyone I know exclusively using a tablet or phone to do all their computer-based activities. The people I know who use laptops do so sitting by the pool or in their recliner, since they can't haul their PC around in a bag. People still like that 20-25" monitor and keyboard and mouse. I don't think the sky is falling on PCs. I think that it will slow, but that's because some people will buy into more mobile devices at first. But I think as people see that you'll never get bleeding edge speed from a GPU or CPU in a portable that you do in a PC, they will keep upgrading their PCs. But it's not the end of the PC world. I can tell you I won't spend $4000+ on an Alienware laptop with the same power as my desktop that cost me $1400 just to play games or develop applications away from my desk.

jck
jck

[i]"Jason countered that DIY desktops won’t save the business money (due to the commoditization of desktop hardware) and don’t offer better support options (as OEMs offer onsite support plans). “Time is money,” he wrote. “Do you want your highly-paid IT staff wasting valuable time playing PC tech, or to focus their energies in support your line of business applications and infrastructure?”[/i] 1) Any good IT department of any considerable size has staff PC techs, so DBAs and Systems Analysts don't have to play Tech. Smaller shops will always have staff who have to multitask as a "techie". 2) I work for a public sector organization with over 800 deployed PCs, and we have been looking at a *significant* cost savings in buying parts and building PCs. Why? A techie can assemble a PC and load the OS in less than 2 hours. Here, that's about $20 in labor. With government discount on parts, we can buy the parts for a machine equivalent to a major OEM maker and save about 40% off their government pricing...on average, about $200. 3) If we forecast future upgrades, we are able to have part availability longer into the future and at lower cost vs. buying an (sometimes proprietary or hard-to-find part) upgrade from the OEM. 4) We cycle PCs on a 5 year rotation. If we build PCs ourselves, we look to save more than we would spend on hiring a full-time PC tech to deploy, configure, and maintain them. And, we can not get same-hour support from OEMs (or their warranty support sub-contractors) like we can with our own staff PC techs. And from a personal aspect, I can attest. I can buy parts retail online and build a system that is faster and cheaper than most OEMs can...especially when I build something with better than a base configuration. I think the days of big shop OEMs having a lock on lowest pricing is over. And, I think eventually (if conditions stay the same) that sizable shops will realize that the $500-600 you pay for a base system then the $100+ you pay for "on-site" support makes shopping around for a better deal and having near-instant support a viable alternative.

4nier
4nier

I'm pre-historic; but agree with the "saturation" theory. Most users that need/want a computer scour the internet (Ebay, etc) for that special deal. Oh, they're out there, building and learning; just not buying new. There are so many companies refurbing everything these days. You can throw that old box in the trash, and "someone" will grab it. The company I work for will purchase well over 100,000 pc's in the next few years, but I think once desktop virtualization hits mainstream, you might then see ThinClients come on strong in the work environment and PC's begin to slow. It's like global warming: what "really" causes it? All the microwave cell towers slowly cooking the atmosphere or that can of Raid you just sprayed at that nest!!

TNT
TNT

I believe the primary reason for the decline in PC sales is due to people holding on to their aging hardware longer. In a down economy people don't buy new gear unless they need to, and few will need to since Windows 8 runs with fewer hardware requirements than any previous version of Windows that has come out this century. Also, SSD drive's have come down in price and give older PC's startlingly great performance - surpassing most new PC's with traditional drives. While most consumers may be buying off-the-shelf products now, they may still be interested in performing upgrades on their own to squeeze more life from existing systems.

mks2005
mks2005

I cant recall ever working for a company that would buy custom built PCs. In my current job we always buy ready made desktops and laptops in nothing else. We tend to replace PCs every 3 to 4 years. My home use is of course different, I am a gamer so always build custom PCs to suit my needs.. but usually every 3 years and maybe a graphics card update in-between. Either way I never seen the custom PC market as a business thing more of a home power user thing. I don't think the Desktop PC market is going to die any time soon sure some home users may have picked up a tablet instead this year but they will buy a desktop or laptop again at some point and tablets will never replace the desktop PC in the workplace.

spacepioneer
spacepioneer

Obviously, the government and Industry are succeeeding in convincing people that mobile is better, but in reality, it is only better for them to be able to have more control over the internet and people's computers. Besides not everyone can or wants to migrate to mobile devices only. this would be a very serious mistake.

_Matrix_
_Matrix_

Expandable and airflow: Cannot get that in tablets and laptops. When I am chatting, I love a normal keyboard so I can type faster and easier. Power: Mobile devices are not that powerful. A Galaxy S2 or any lesser smart phone is good enough for those needing to send and receive emails on the go. If I have serious work to do, give me my all powerful desktop. Parts cheaper to replace and are stocked. Laptop parts, people tell you they have to order before it can be fixed. Depending on what is wrong you may need a new mobile device. Less likely with a desktop. Leave me with my desktop at home. Microsoft??? Who pays for that stuff? Linux does what I need and there is more control when it comes to making the OS your own.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I think the DYI vs retail box concept is actually a lot simpler than it appears. IN 2001, retail desktops and notebooks were generally weak, wimpy builds in order to keep cost low. By the time you upgraded them to run your business apps, it was cheaper to build your own. Now, with retail boxes offer 8GB of RAM and Terrabyte hard drives with good graphics cards (or even the newer chipsets) there's no need to build a box, unless you are a hard core gamer or graphics publisher where specific upgrades are needed. Basically, the retail builds are now adequate for business, at one time they were not, and of course they have better support and techs in retail outlets are more capable, for the most part. Declining PC sales, in 2001 XP ruined people's hopes of Microsoft having a better system than Win2K. XP failed at its goal of gaining a home user base and leaving Win2K for business use. Several years later, XP became SOMEWHAT stable and drivers for older hardware was available. People FINALLY upgraded from ME and Win2K to XP and it has run well ever since. Those newer boxes, 5+ years old, are also able to run Win7 or 8 if needed, even if not optimally at least the enhanced security is there. So people already HAVE boxes and don't need new hardware, as they did several years back in order to get XP to work. I think people ignore the obvious and seek out other reasons that numbers and stats change, when really the answers are very simple.

rgeiken
rgeiken

I never build one myself, but was always thinking about doing it. I currently have 2 W7 Lenovo i7 computers. My Desktop with 8 gig of ram, and my Laptop with 6 gig of ram. Without a doubt, they are the best computers that I have ever had, but don't see any need to replace them anytime soon, since they can do anything that I want to do quickly. This may be one of the reasons for lower PC sales is because the computers built in the past few years are so powerful that people are content to keep them longer than previous models. Also Window's O/Ss are so complicated, that people are retreating to Apple and Android Tablets. Their O/Ss are much simpler and the ease of keeping them going and healthy is just what the Doctor ordered for Windows weary users. Basically Windows computers are great in business where all the extra security is a plus. For home users less so as many can attest to when they are trying to resurrect their O/S so they can get going again. I have a Nexus 10 and have used Samsung Android Tablets recently and can attest that they are much more user friendly. This may be a large part of the decrease in Windows sales along with W8's hostile reception. If you don't feel comfortable with Windows computers by all means look at Android and Apple Tablets. Once you get them set up, they are virtually problem free for most people.

info
info

Was just at a fair sized local vendor that pretty much exclusively deals with white-box sales to businesses. I told him about this article, and he indicated that's definitely not what THEY are seeing... Business is good!

mistercrowley
mistercrowley

Home machines will always be around... what mobile device has 1 TB local storage? What happens to all your connectivity when the cell tower goes down? No access to cloud if you aren't around wifi and you can't connect a phone to a LAN via hardware... there is no way to do that. I don't care about "the cloud and and cloud storage" if there is no network. I only use the cloud to share, not store critical files... people are stupid to allow others to become stewards for their memories and mission critical data. Power grid fails..... your billion-dollar database is inaccessible.... your business just went bankrupt.... World War Z begins.... ;)

jk2001
jk2001

I know they're not in the business market so much anymore, but I see a lot of PC repair in the lower-income areas. They fix PCs, iPhones, video games, etc. Many seem to just be a desk that does intake, and the repair is done at a central location. So you see them attached to beauty salons or tax preparer shops. They're competing with GeekSquad, who like to push for expensive repairs. You also see people making gamer PCs and working at these places. Not crazy ones, but $500 and $600 ones that they just add on to over time. They do double duty as a PC, so you can say it's for education, and get away with the purchase :) To put these DIY prices in comparision, a car costs at least $1,500 these days. That's a junky car for a teenager. So, this PC is a bit cheaper than that. And like I said, it's for school, too. As far as using $300 desktops and $400 laptops. LOL LOL LOL. I'm seeing way to many broken laptops with loose hinges, fried disks, and PCs that have burned out. They just don't last, and they take the data with them. It's just sorrow.

andrew232006
andrew232006

DIY PCs were never popular with the typical consumer. And in my experience DIY PCs haven't been popular in business either. So I don't see how you can extrapolate a trend from a niche market turning into a niche market.

jk2001
jk2001

I buy Optiplexes and some whiteboxes for work, and they cost around the same: $800 or so, 3-5 yr warranty on site, and regular mini tower cases. Windows 7 Pro. I've tried smaller boxes, but now I say screw them. The more generic, the better. They're quieter, and there's room to add another hard drive for redundancy. (That's my next proposed upgrade.) There's also the interface: when you're doing detailed work on a big screen full of data, you need a keyboard and mouse. Touch is just not going to work because your fingers are too fat. Sure, the managers may be fine with tapping out notes onscreen, and pushing buttons, but when you're copying and pasting code, or using a spreadsheet, or doing artwork, or editing video, a finger is painful to use. With a mouse, you can cross a 1900 pixel monitor by stroking the mouse across a 2 inch square area, and then click a 4x4 pixel target. With touch, you're limited to gross movements until they figure out how to put an arrow onto the tablet's screen. With a keyboard, you can have around 50 shortcuts on the keys. With touch you have several gestures -- which you can also execute on your fancy new touchpad.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I would never buy a PC when I can build my own. Store-bought PC's come with a bunch of crapware that can be cumbersome to remove. I can choose my own components, and drivers will never be hard to find, like they are for my wife's Gateway laptop. If the motherboard dies out of warranty, I don't don't have to worry about whether a replacement will fit in the case. Plus, it's just plain fun...

thomas4442
thomas4442

As an African American from the hood, and a techy, I see the need of the "off the shelf" purchase as well as the DIY. Many under privileged folks need the el-cheapo off the rack, while there are many who are becoming more and more tech savvy and realize the long term savings of a little research plus the adventure and great feeling that comes with building one themselves. The small business owner who's aware of the importance of a solid networking plan, will also go down the DIY path. Building your own PC gives insight into problem resolution in the future. As a consultant, I would give this advice. As a help desk agent, there's nothing like having a client call with a problem, have them describe the symptoms, and be able to say; "oh, that beeping is a bad ram stick, just start at the CPU, swapping out ram till the beep goes away, the last one out is the problem, replace at your leisure",.......and they say; "ok, thanks"! Just knowing what the parts are called, where they are and how to R square them is a tremendous help to the HD agent and particularly the client.

ian
ian

As a very small retailer of more than 20 years I can say that I am building and selling more PCs than ever before. We build what the clients want. The secret is that we support those machines 100% including user created problems and software problems. They have problem, we fix it. Our machines are not cheap and our clients are generally 40 years plus. They are the ones that aren't moving to tablets as their main device and they are the ones who are possibly less computer litterate, they just want it to do what they want to do when they want to do it. My experience is that the under 35 age group love tablets and phones and that satisfies what they need. They are also more price oriented, whereas the older folk are more service oriented. As the big box shifters drop out, the niche market grows. Maybe that isn't showing up in CPUs sold, but then I don't know where the statisticians get their figures. They don't get figures from white box builders, just the big boys and possibly the component manufacturers.

morg
morg

I am part of a small company. The others are mobile types and I am a desk top type. Anything that needs to be done which has depth falls on me from market searches, technical research, etc to letter composition. I build, configure, diagnose, fix, and upgrade my own. I have a Tab 2 10.1 w/Jelly Bean, which takes me several times as long to do anything. I can't attach a keyboard nor a mouse to it. The screen doesn't have to change before I think of it. I delete all games that arrive in any form. It is a business and communications machine. Therefore a reasonably fast computer with a good net connection will last me a very long time as I keep upgrading hardware and replacing shot power supplies, etc. And yes.. XP works nicely for me and will for a very long time.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

would that be why Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, to name a few each have hundreds of different models of motherboards to choose from? just because sales are slow doesn't indicate death just the low point in the cycle that has occurred since the beginning of the PC there are several factors slowing the upgrade treadmill if there is no compelling reason to upgrade then no upgrades happen win 8 is not an option in some cases even win 7 doesn't offer what's needed to actually get work done etc. so my stack of 2002 - 2006 win XP boxes will do just fine even if one dies it's still cheaper to buy parts or have the motherboard recapped etc. than to buy or build a whole new system it looks like some of the "Future proofing" actually worked keeping P-4 & up systems running is a fairly simple task even having a motherboard recapped by an electronics tech will be cheaper than a whole new build with new OS and new software that works with the new OS

rod
rod

It must be a 'slow news day' for you guys !1 Have you really nothing better to write about ???

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Prior to the proliferation of the tablet and assocoated interfaces needed for touch screen on portable devices, we all had notebooks/netbooks and used aircards for wireless internet on phone/cell links. Now all that surfablity is in a tablet and kind of works like a large smartphone. Thediehard compter user is hanging on to their desktops and laptops but still using them, just not buying UP to the next level of technology now.

grnbomber33
grnbomber33

First, those ugly towers aren't going away. Real work gets done on a PC with a full-size keyboard and mouse. I consider a laptop a PC for the purposes of this discussion, and of course, they run PC operating systems, but it takes an *TX form factor to really get the heavy lifting done, Cloud connected or not. The trend towards ever cheaper and capable packaged systems has had a negative effect on money making potential potential for system builders, and if that is you, you would do well to find new opportunities, but also to continue to preach to your customers the many benefits and overall satisfaction of paying you to build them a custom pc that will fill their needs well into the future. What you have to offer, more important than ever, is expert consulting and customer service that they can't get from the big box stores. These are some of the points you might want to make, stressing of course, that you will support it all, either as needed, or better yet, a reasonably prices service contract. You might want to include this in the price of system setup regardless of the PC origins, because your local tech support is going to beat phone and email tag any day. For example: Recommending a system for a FPS gamer? Ever notice how woefully inadequate the GPU is in the packgage systems, even when they are advertised as gaming systems? That is an important component and a large expense, so it rarely shows up in package systems, unless you customize it at Dell or whatnot, raising the price. Now you are treading closer to the question of, "Well, why not customize all the parts, including the case, to build myself a system without any really cheap parts or a built-in bottleneck and room to work in, with individual parts warranties, many allowing for overclocking, without needing permission from an industry technocrat when you want to upgrade a few things, but still retain your overall system warranty? Furthermore, you can do this one paycheck at a time, until you have my dream system, taking advantage of regular price drops along the way".

brandon
brandon

While I just finished building a three sli AMD 8 core with 32 ram, 20tb etc. I will continue to build my own machines. However as a business owner of a computer business for over 8 years we've had to make the transition to managed services and commercial as there is no repair of newer machines. Even a virus removal of $150 with many people buying a $300 laptop it's hard to get a customer to approve. Apple repair was a huge market of ours, now with integrated ram, hard drive, everything on the logic board there is no repairs available. So I'm in agreement with the tablet and integrated market there is very little money in the break / fix model and stores. I've been in the break fix market since 1994 and seen the changes over the years. The effects of big box low cost machines and laptops have always effected us, but now it's become even more prominent with the integrated systems. So outside the enthusiast I would say the DIY is dead.

spiralingcrazies
spiralingcrazies

The business for custom PCs has opened up again. I've had clients both home and business users asking for Windows 7 and the big manufacturers dropping the ball and offering these machines only with Windows 8. As long as there as dodgy releases from Windows, modding and DYI will still be somewhat healthy.

Druegan
Druegan

I build DIY desktop PC's casually.. it's not a job, I don't advertise, but I've actually had an *increase* in requests in the last 6 months. Not high end enthusiast or game rigs either.. those have been puttering in at about their usual rate. No, the increase has actually been for budget machines. It's not that I can build them cheaper than somebody can get from Wal-Mart or Best Buy.. it's that what I build is inexpensive, works well, isn't choked down with crapware, and most importantly, doesn't totally go to hell on them after a couple months. I take the time to find out what my customer uses their machine to do, and build them a rig that suits them. I explain why I choose what parts I choose, the methodology behind my builds, and I do it in a way that one doesn't have to be a tech geek to understand. The message is really simple. "Quality doesn't have to be really expensive, but it's rare to find quality at a truly bargain-basement price." I spend time talking to my customers, and I even have service agreements with a fair number of them. It's rare I get a call, and when I do, I don't just fix the problem and walk away (although 99% of the time it's nothing to do with the hardware).. I fix the problem and educate my client as to why it happened and what can be done to prevent it happening again.. (usually some "common sense" internet safety education prevents a lot of repeat calls.) I could completely make a living at this, and it's mainly a "quality and service" sell. I just have other things I want to do with my time.

jk2001
jk2001

I've done both the DIY and onsite thing, and it seems to be a wash. If you buy a warranty, it's around $100 a year. It's worth it for laptops, which are less generic than PCs. But onsite requires the over-the-phone diagnosis and that someone wait for the tech to come over to greet the tech. And you pretty much need to buy warranties for all machines if you're going to shed skilled staff and use onsite service. So it's not really cheap. If you have staff who can do the repairs, it's cheaper to just go into a more preventative maintenance mode. Just buy spare parts, setup more redundancy DIY style, and you'll have less downtime. I am on the fence about using whitebox versus buying business-class name brand, because the prices are similar and warranties are a little better on the whitebox.

Zorched
Zorched

As long as there's crapware slithering onto commercial PCs, I'll build my own. Yes, they're not supposed to have them. Yes, you can take an hour or two and uninstall them. Why should I have to? So the manufacturer can make a few more bucks? Charge me a few more then. The sheeple can have their crap machines. I won't argue for many that's all they need. All I can say is that not one of the machines I've built failed in the entire time I owned them (other than a DVD drive- I have no idea why I wear those out so fast). I can't say that about my friends that bought commercial machines. Even the ASUS laptop I bought failed, THREE times.

ZTedster
ZTedster

and build my machines. For a gamer anything less would be...vulgar.

lk_bellsouth.net
lk_bellsouth.net

Bill, I've read many well written and very informative articles authored by you and have enjoyed and profited by them all. Thank you for all your ongoing hard work for all of us. Now having said that, it seems that every technical IT writer is jumping on the bandwagon to kill the desktop and custom built PC market as swiftly and permanently as possible. In many instances a powerful desktop unit will enable peak productivity where all other devices will fail. It's really that simple. Try as you all collectively will to kill it, the desktop, custom built unit will not go out of existence. This style of unit does too many things far more efficiently than all the gadgets to ever fade into oblivion. Agree or disagree? That's your choice which I respect. But that's the rest of the story. Again, thanks for all your contributions for all of us. We sincerely appreciate it.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It costs more to buy a cheap Dell and upgrade it then it does to just build your own. You still have to replace the cooling, because it will be awful, probably the case itself, the power supply, the video card. You will probably also have to add RAM. Maybe an SSD. In the end, you don't really save anything. Maybe you saved on the OS license costs? That's it? And your stuck with a cheap micro board and cheap processor.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I've upgraded plenty of retail boxes. Same ports, cables and connectors as a whit box. Why not? Sure if you are referring to one with upgrades installed at the retail level, but who does that? I have a PC wholesaler that bring me business class boxes form major manufacturers for a fraction of the retail costs, that doesn't mean you can't upgrade for a far price though, just don't expect it from Future Shop or Best Buy. Even those you can upgrade yourself though. not many people selling small form factor PC's retail these days.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Too true. until mobility supersedes desktop performance, the PC/MAC will always be needed. It reminds me of the paperless office binge that took flight 10 years ago. "My office is completely paperless! I don't need paper for anything!" Well that lasted a few months, for MOST anyway, before people realized that they still needed forms, printers and paper trails. Today it's "I'm Mr. Mobility! Look at how I can play Angry Birds while eating lunch outside, see how cool I look in Starbucks (gottta get that front window seat) with my iToys prominently displayed, I am a hip and trendy mobile user, indeedio!" My God society has become so pathetic and needy of peer approval !

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I bet that if Apple took a full size desktop or, more appropriately, one of the half form factor PC's that are almost impossible to upgrade, packaged it with a full size car battery and 110 inverter, a 15" LCD monitor from 2002 and put it all in a big white carry bag with an Apple logo on it, they would successfully market it to Apple fans as the next in their cutting edge line of market leading, mobile products. [b][i]"At only 165lbs, it packs a punch like no other! Instead of those tiny, useless mobility screens that are so commonly found with competitive products, Apple is now the first to bring you the power and convenience of a full sized desktop solution in a mobile friendly device. The first 1000 customers to line up outside each Apple store gets a free furniture dolly to easily tote it around with.[/i][/b] There would be LOOOOOOONG lines outside Apple THAT day ! THEN they could really go to town with marketing and claim that all PC manufacturers copied them but have yet to get their solutions off the desktop! I wonder if Apple could resurrect the Motorola DynaTAC too and sell it as a 9600 baud rate MOBILE MODEM for it too! [i][b]squeeeee, bing bing bing bzzzzzzzz, ding ding ding...YOU ARE NOW CONNECTED TO THE APPLE MOBILITY NETWORK, ENJOY YOUR iTUNES![/i][/b] I guess the funniest part would be all the Apple customers going to bat for them and claiming it was cutting edge and that Windows losers just wouldn't understand it. Or they could just take their phone and remove the phone functionality, essentially making an iPod into an iPhone, and then convince users that the iPhone was superior because nobody actually needs the ability to dial and talk live with a phone anyway.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Wow, I know where to get my next PC built! 2Hrs to build a box, for a labour cost of about $20? That wouldn't get someone to open the boxes here. BC is SO FREAKING EXPENSIVE!!!!! It's stupid really, we have major refineries and are the shipping centre for the west coast, we have all this natural gas, we have more electricity than we can possibly use so we sell it to California and Oregon. We have a MASSIVE lumber industry, for now, eventually they will ship ALL our trees to China and softwood to the USA. We still pay the highest price for fuel in the country, actually I can safely say in the whole of North America (at least twice the US price and certainly has to be a lot more than in Mexico too). Our homes cost a mint, seriously, a TOWNHOUSE is over a million in Vancouver!! http://bcrealestatetoday.com/vancouver-west-side-real-estate.html/details-31688564 Yeah you can get really low end, extremely poorly built townhomes in a suburb for a half million but they are TINY TOWNHOMES! Our more 'affluent areas' as seen on Real Housewives of Vancouver (I think) run into the 20 million plus range, and these are NOT Aaron Spelling's mansions, just homes with a breathtaking view...which you can see for free if you drive 20 minutes from your cheap east side dump. Here's a cheap one, 27 years old and only 4.3 million, not a very special looking house, no real theme or plan, just upgraded over the years. Pics 13 and 14 show why the 4million plus price tag though. http://bcrealestatetoday.com/recip.html/browse/details-31595679 My point is that, people here charge too much for their valuable time but still don't earn enough for giving up their valuable time. I make just over $35/hr and it's still a scrape making it to paydays! That PC build, from me, would START at $70 for 2hrs labour. I've had friends in the UK say HOW MUCH DO YOU MAKE?!?!? As if I am rolling in it but actually, even at 8 pound an hour, they make out better than I do. Well that was a nice morning rant, thanks for not paying attention, while I quietly release some steam. Well, I tried to be quiet, there are a few CAPS LOCK moments too. Guess I'll do some work and see if I can pay next months bills now. :)

Slayer_
Slayer_

I like knowing my components are all designed to work together and be upgradable.

Daruka
Daruka

@aidemzo_adanac ROFLMAO.   Actually Apple nutters WOULD line up for hours to buy one.  idiots

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