DIY

Should you build or buy your end users' PCs?


Over the years, it's been an ongoing consideration to provide our end users with either custom built computers or brand name, off-the-shelf models. Up until about ten years ago, I worked with a small computer vendor to build our systems, somewhat to my own specifications, but also depending on his preferred flavor of the day (and probably on whatever he could get the best deal on). That was in the early 286, 386, and 486 days, when the intricacies of the inside of a computer were a mystery to more people than it is today.

When the industry evolved into the Pentium era, however, the inner-workings of a computer became less of a mystery (at least to me) and more of something understandable and manageable. That's about the time I decided to start building my own. Not only could I save the company some significant dollars in doing so, but I could be more consistent with the individual components and more precise in adhering to my own specifications. No longer was I willing to settle for the argument, "this will work just as well."

During the years I continued to build my own, but we would continually compare prices and performance to the more common brand name computers -- the Dells and HPs of the day, or whatever other vendor might give us a call. Without exception, I could always build a machine equal to theirs (or even better), but for around a thousand dollars less -- IF it was built to my specifications. And in a graphics intensive environment like ours, having one built to my specifications was vital. We simply couldn't settle for the latest $499 special advertised in the Sunday paper.

Fast forward to today, when I've evolved my specifications past the Pentium era, and into the newer duo core or quad core technology, and again, I revisit the same question. Should I build or buy? For the first time in years, I could actually buy a computer that met my specifications for less than it would cost to buy the individual components and build it myself. And also for the first time in years, I actually bought a couple of pre-built computers off the shelf of my favorite computer mega store. In this case, however, I simply didn't have the time to build them myself, which would have also involved tweaking and testing my various "specified" components -- after, of course, a little research to define them in the first place.

But there are downsides, to say the least. The first and most obvious is the absence of installation media for the operating system. These computers, like most others, came with the operating system preinstalled and did not include the Vista DVDs, but rather relied on their built-in recovery process. Personally speaking, I believe that if a computer becomes unstable enough to require recovery, it's justification for a total and full reinstall. Another downside was that it didn't give me the option to install the 64-bit version of Vista. Although the hardware is 64-bit compatible, I have to settle for the 32-bit operating system. (And yes, my applications are also 64-bit compatible.) It would have been nice to have had that option.

I also had to settle for an alternate graphics card, getting the NVidia instead of my preferred ATI brand. And I probably already voided the warranty on the machines by doing my own memory upgrade, taking them from the off-the-shelf 2 GB to my required 4 GB. But considering the sales representative has personally sold me tens of thousands of dollars worth of computer parts over the years, including the memory for this particular upgrade and the computers themselves, I could probably convince them to still honor a warranty should it become necessary.

Nonetheless, it makes me wonder which option better serves the needs of my end users. Over the years, I would always have compatible (or even identical) replacement parts on the shelf should one fail. And since I built the computers myself, I always had an intimate knowledge of what they were and how they worked. Contrast that to the situation one faces with a brand-name or an off-the-shelf model. "Sorry, end user, but we have to call ACME tech support so we don't void the warranty; there's nothing I can do right now except give you this loaner machine." In my current case, that's simply not an option. Warranty or not, those computers are mine to do whatever necessary and whatever I deem appropriate. I might even install my own 64-bit version of Vista once things settle down around here (especially since a particular user has enthusiastically agreed to be a guinea pig for such a thing).

Cost notwithstanding, it seems to me that computers built by a company for that company and supported by that company could support an end user better. The reason is responsibility. Who's responsible for this problem? If the buck could ever be passed to another, I believe it's time to reevaluate.

62 comments
grosales
grosales

First time writer - I've been managing IT in the Architectural/Engineering field over 15 years and have built quite a few systems for admin, hi-end graphics & CAD users (350+ systems) and BLAH BLAH BLAH. I've found that buying ACME (Dell) save us time which results into $$$ and getting home to play with my kids. It truly depends on your situation (see previous postings).Yes, I???d love to know what MoBo, Chipset, Processor, Memory, Drive, ETC??? is in every system, but in the end WHY? Yes it's nice to build but in the end, what's it all for? Do you have the TIME? Who???s it for? And who really benefits? In summary, if you've got the time, do the deed - it's still fun but I have other things to attend to like family. Kudos to all of your communications ??? keep-up this great community and keep posting your opinions, this is how we learn from each-other.

scottdm
scottdm

I work for a municipality and with 2 (soon to be three) of us supporting 200 PC/Laptops/servers, it is easier to work with a company (like Dell) and have the PCs preloaded with the OS. In order to make is as easy to support as possible, we always try to purchase the same basic model and customize where necessary (the AutoCad users are the exception). I find that I have very few issues that I need to RMA back to the company. For us it was looking at the TCO for the life of the PC, not the initial cost.

Chug
Chug

Regarding the tech support and repair process, if you go with a single brand of PC and have enough volume with them to make this worth while enough to do, you can become your own fully warranty authorized repair center for your own hardware. My company has done this with both HP and IBM (before IBM sold their PC business to Lenovo). There are some tests you have to take to get certified but once certified you can do your own repairs and have access to their parts depot for warranty service. And, the vendor actually PAYS YOU to do the repairs.

cwhull
cwhull

managers love this idea as well, adds job security for your department

Joe_R
Joe_R

I'm much too small for that option to work for me. I simply don't have the volume. Some places would, however, and that could be a great option for them.

askidmore
askidmore

From all your comments above, I agree there are situations where you would prefer to build with a manufacturer's service level agreement of support rather than build the machines yourself. There are other situations like the company I work for where it is a rediculous enterprise. My company uses proprietary software and should actually be building their own rather than grabbing Dell's latest bottom of the line box. To those of you out there that posted about getting failures from motherboards and such building your own, well you obviously are picking motherboards from bottom of the barrel manufacturers that are most likely making the motherboards as OEM for the big manufacturers. (I only say this because purchasing from DELL and HP with my employer that is usually the first component FAILURE is the bottom of the line motherboard or power supply that they use) I personally think if you want a machine that is less likely to fail and be powerful and useful, then build your own, it is well worth the time. This endeavor does require research to find what you actually need and what works well together though. If you just want a vanilla MS office net box, then yeah, buy a preconfigured no frills box.

rob_annable
rob_annable

Dell are always my choice because they always include reinstallation CDs. Crap brands like Sony and Acer always have the recovery utility built in which as you said is useless, especially if a disc fails.

Ravnor
Ravnor

For a 'normal' business situation, where computer use is for email, browsing, and MS Office apps, I think buying a computer from a reputable brand is the way to go. It's the same argument as outsourcing for small businesses on processes that are not the core competency of the business. We use Dell Optiplex computers that are designed for a stable configuration, so that if we buy in several lots we will get identical machines. Having a couple spare machines and users on roaming profiles provides a 'hot swap' capability if a machine goes down.

bfreed
bfreed

Really, this depends on my time and what the priorities are. For my company (200+ workstations), I build for small buys, and will go to Dell, HP, or Lenovo for the really big buys. As much as I'd love to build 50 machines, I do not have that type of staffing or time. Building 4 or 5 is no problem, but the larger buys will need to come from somewhere else. I really don't put much stock in R&D from other companies - I prefer to do my own. I want to know what mobo is in a machine, I want to know what quality of parts are going into many of the name brand machines (many times they are worse than what I would use). I still think that I can build the to hardware level that ther big box folks use for alot less than they can, but not on volume.

bowdoinl
bowdoinl

I am assuming you have different specs for different user needs? I am a novice and have considered starting building. What are good specs for an office power user vs. a graphic designer? And then maybe a gamer spec would be helpful too.

Gennady
Gennady

I am working for a huge company, and, unlike expected, they buy ready PCs from Dell. I would expect the IT to service them locally, but no. Every broken computer is sent to Dell for repair. Previously, our computers were built by IT and IT was repairing them and replacing broken parts. Nowadays, the IT is too busy, so everything is sent to Dell. Too pity.

Hurell.Lyons
Hurell.Lyons

I have worked for big companies and currently work for a small but rapidly expanding company (60 employees and hiring every week it seems). Dealing with Dell is much easier then building...I can't imagine having to build the PC on top of getting all their AD, Phone (VoIP), email, building access, printer and other crap new hires seem to inevitably need). I call dell if something goes wrong....part arrives next day (and a tech to do it if I don't have the time) no muss no fuss. I will however build my next home desktop. I had one customer built a couple of years ago and I build them for others but I have never built my own. I want 8GB of memory just to be ignorant....LOL. I'm most likely going to build a regular desktop with 4GB of ram, 2 raptor sata 160GB drives for the OS and 2 (or three depending on which raid config I decide on) 750GB barracuda's....I'm waiting on the price of the latest Nvidia card to come down a little more (300 price range). I want a 22 inch flat panel too. This system would easily cost about 1500-2000. I'm pretty confident I can build everything for just about 1000....working part time at the Geek Squad for Best Bitche....I mean best buy has its perks.

FAST!!!
FAST!!!

The big companies, Dell, HP, etc, have the $$$ for R&D and QA to make sure that the components used are going to withstand the rigors of hundreds of thousands of systems that will be sold to end users. If they find something defective in all those systems, they will replace them at no charge. In my opinion you are taking a chance with custom built systems as the components, particularly the motherboards, can be a weak point. I would never even consider custom built for business and when ever anyone asks me about computers for home, I tell them to buy Dell. If they want to take a chance on a name brand at one of the big retailers, I'll bless that as well. But I always recommend to stay away from custom builts.

renegade.rivers
renegade.rivers

I totally disagree, and I could give you example after example. You point to Dell, I point to Gateway, you point to R&D, I point to customer service, and restore times. If a system goes haywire, its easy to repair, if a common set of items are used and kept in stock, if you buy built systems, you are at the mercy of the company. As for R&D, many of these systems are built with substandard motherboards, with proprietary subsystems. Oh sure it looks good, on paper, but in reality, it isn't nearly as cost effective.

douglaswlloyd
douglaswlloyd

Part II - spare parts galore Repairs handled locally and quickly - no shipping Auction the obsolete stuff (and many other advantages already mentioned by others) If you have the time, building is better than settling for what a vendor THINKS you need or want

douglaswlloyd
douglaswlloyd

It is easy to save money by building, if you don't have to have high end parts(AMD vs Intel CPU). You 'become one' with your installed hardware base. Most problems are routine and repeatable. Develop a stable config with testing, then go long on quantity when you order the parts - much cheaper. Techs need to build to gain confidence. If all you do is lease, you will never learn how to fix. Take a good look at some of the cheaper prebuilts from Dell - one fan with a big plastic shroud instead of the multiple cooling fans necessary.

bhanson
bhanson

there is no way you could build PC's when your looking at 10000+ pc's. You can custom order just about anything thru HP or Dell, so the hardware issue is really irrelivent. If you have a MS volume license agreement you already have the media anyway. Building PC's is a thing of the past, let the big manufacturers do it, and cash in on a 3 year warrenty with on site service should something break.

royhayward
royhayward

I have done both of these examples in my career. Company OO is a big company with hundreds of employees, thousands of computers and multiple locations. Showing up to work on my first day I am greeted by a cube with my name already on it, a package of paperwork from HR that includes a company logo'ed mug, and a PC (plugged in, setup and humming waiting for me to login and get to work). This company has standard images and standard hardware. You have to get a note from your doctor to bring in a ergonomic keyboard. And you are not allowed to install any personal software. (for Christmas we all received Ipods, but we were not allowed to install iTunes. D'oh!) Company WW has 45 employees. About 50 PC not counting servers. This includes everyone, (one of the QA guys also sits at the front desk and answers the phone.) Showing up to work on the first day, HR prints the forms for you and lets you fill them out while the desktop support guy sets a box, monitor and keyboard on you desk. Sitting on top of the box are a couple of options, you can install Windows XP, or Ubuntu, or Solaris 10. If you want to be creative you can dual boot your system, it is up to you. You don't get much real work done for the first couple of days and you are installing and configuring all of the tools that you want. The intranet has a variety of software on the shares that you are encouraged to go and get what you want and what you need. there is a page on the intranet outlining where the most commonly needed software is located by OS. Most of the other employees have personal hardware, USB drives with music and headphones plugged in and many have bought their own ergonomics to fit their needs. BTW, your name plate wont show up for a few weeks. Is one better than the other? No, not really. Did I enjoy working at one more than the other? No, not really. Would it have been possible to have the 'Wild West' approach at the Orwell company? No, not really. Oh well.

mary.hoerr
mary.hoerr

Most of my experience is at small companies (10-50 people). Often, these companies don't have any IT person on staff. The IT job devolves on whoever is willing to take it on part-time, supplemented as needed by a consultant. Under those circumstances, I clearly didn't have time to do my "real" job and build computers as well. And it wouldn't save any money to have a consultant build it instead. Even when I got to full-time IT, I was still the only one, and I'm not available 24/7. The people in my company had to have backup for when I was sick, out of the office, or even on vacation. It's much easier to arrange back up support for a bought system (phone call to Dell) than for a custom built system. In the company I work with now, here's the procedure for a new person. I start with a standard image and standard hardware, so the person starts with a running, functioning system as soon as they walk in the door. I spend one to two hours introducing them to all our systems and policies: where their space is on our network, team space on the network, backup policy, special company apps that everyone uses. As part of this orientation, they get a list of additional software we already support. They can install other stuff if they like, but if they don't let me know about it, I can't support it, and if I have to reimage their machines, they could lose it for good. So I guess I run IT for my company somewhere between Orwell and Wild West.

kungfu71186
kungfu71186

Its just not worth it anymore. If you need to build a personal computer then of course build it on your own. But when you get to over 200+ computers building them one by one is not worth it. Think about it. You order the parts. They come in. Then you have to spend an hour building it. Then another hour installing the operating system. This ends up costing another 200+ dollars on the machine. As far as upgrades, i have bought many hps and i have upgraded the memory, dvd/cd-rw to dvd-rws etc... They will still honor their warranty. But yes i totally disagree with building your own computers today unless its a personal computer for yourself.

jrensink78
jrensink78

Unless you only deal with a VERY limited number of new computers in a year, I don't see the benefits of building your own. Let's list some of the big negatives of this method. * Ordering the individual parts takes extra time. * Individual parts often don't all come in at the same time * Probably paying higher shipping. Especially if ordering parts through multiple vendors * once you get the parts, you pay someone a significant amount of money (their salary) to assemble and test these parts. * You will probably have an higher initial hardware failure rate by doing it yourself (can't beat the experience and controlled environment that the big manufacturers have). * Unless you keep extra stock of everything, you can't beat the next day service that you can buy from the PC manufacturers. * Don't like dealing with low-level support techs? Sign up for a service like Dell's Warranty Parts Direct where you can request replacement parts directly through the web without talking to a tech. Or have accesses to higher level techs immediately. * Want to save even more time? You can now have manufacturers ship your PCs with your own custom image already on the box. In the end, even after looking at everything, if you could save your company $50-$100 a box, is it still worth it for the amount of extra time that it takes (assuming you are part of a smaller company)? Why not take that time and invest it in something that makes your company more money or improves processes that gives an ongoing rate of return?

eastwoodgeek
eastwoodgeek

We've built two PCs out of the 150 or so we've replaced over the last six years. They are now in our server room waiting to be used as short-term spares in case one of the workhorses dies. Granted we're not GM, but we still look at costs and couldn't justify the ordering/stocking/building/loading/finance dept, etc, etc, expenses we racked up w/a bare bones + OS + apps system. We use Dell exclusively and buy off the Outlet whenever possible. When I'm consulting friends/etc on purchases, I also only recommend Dell. The hundred or so dollars you save on a build-it-yourself project evaporates the first time you have to crack open the box to replace a fan. I tell the folks I?m consulting for about Dell?s off-shore support issues and manage expectations up front. Anyway, it really doesn't matter because I'm usually their first level of support and I don't call Dell support unless it's a warranty issue (I?ve only had to twice in these six years). Personally, I'd rather spend my time educating users on how not to break equipment so that they can make us some money, instead of hiding from them in the shop making pretty boxes just to prove I can.

richard.n.carpenter
richard.n.carpenter

Build if you are eager to learn about the pitfalls of hardware and software harmony. Buy if you are eager to believe you will have the perfect machine - and never, ever want to open the case. It's a bad idea to open the case of a bought system - ugh!

johnross102
johnross102

For anyones information you can get the 64 Bit media for $10 from Microsoft (You still use the same product key, you just need the media

DomBenson
DomBenson

For personal machines, it certainly almost always makes sense to build rather than buy; for the many good reasons listed already, and for the further point that one can then take advantage of existing hardware. My 'main' system benefits over the course of its life from additional HDDs, RAM, better Video cards etc., but most of these can go into starting a new main system, reverting the old one to its original specs (which are perfectly adequate for its reduced load and usage) and making it possible to buy into a higher-end platform than would be available as a complete system at a comparable price point. For business machines, the same is unlikely to be true. In the case that the machines have particular requirements, I would say that it is better to build them, and get it right in the first place. If they are vanilla workstations then 'standard' OEM packages come in at excellent prices, and swapping one out and a new one in in case of failure is no problem at all.

Ian Lewis
Ian Lewis

Generally speaking I will buy in what I need. The range of machines available at relatively low cost is huge and the cost of buying in parts can easily exceed the pre-built market price. Most users in my present organisation need only a standard medium powered desktop with flat screen. The cost of this is a pretty small capital outlay, especially if you buy machines that have been superseded. Not many users require bang up to date technology. However there are a couple of users with limited vision who need, say, a dual screen computer with software like ZoomText. In this case I buy a reasonably powerful standard machine, add dual monitor card, software and two identically specified screens. The last time I did this it cost ~??600 which is quite reasonable for all that kit. Ian

smallbiz-techwiz
smallbiz-techwiz

In 1988 I bought an IBM P/S 2 Model 60Z with 4MB of RAM and a 60MB ESDI hard drive. It was a 286 running at 8Mhz and I paid dearly for it. That's what drove me to build the next one, and the next one, and the next one... until last year. I figure building vs. buying my last one saved me less than $100, not even taking into consideration my time because it doubled as a hobby. I tried to squeeze every bit of performance I could by overclocking. Mine are hot and loud because of all the fans. Now that its a business tool I don't have time to tweak BIOS settings and fan speeds. I need cool, reliable, and quiet. I still build for fun, but I buy Dell Optiplex for business use.

Fred123456
Fred123456

I always build my PC's, for myself and my immediate family. Its cheaper and I get a much more stable system. But for my clients looking to supply the small to medium sized office, I always go with a name brand. The support contracts are the key feature. I'm also a PC case mod'r and I get many novices asking me the same question and my answer is always the same. If this is your first build I usually recommend a "bare bones" system. This is where the motherboard, memory, harddrive, video cards, and other components are already installed and "burned in". Then user then can install the OS themselves. The only down side to building your own is having to work with the vendor directly to get replacements on failed items.

mousejn
mousejn

I build the PCs that I use at home but I sell my customers PCs that are built by a national white box company (Equus). The advantage over building it yourself is they offer a complete range 1 to 3 year warranties (i.g. On-Site, Depot or Part Replacement). The advantage over a major manufacture is the PCs don't come with all the extra garbage installed and you can custom configure them without the price jumping abnormally. By the way the PCs all come with full Windows installation CDs.

Genera-nation
Genera-nation

The same argument was posed on the above subject. Turned out neither was good for long term stability. You were better entering in to a lifelong agreement with proportional performance decrease (PPD) in line with your own.

royhayward
royhayward

Yes, I know that is a 'buzzword bingo' phrase to many but it does apply here. ' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzzword_bingo ' The real answer to this question is, 'It depends.' Each home user and business will have to figure out the cost of purchase and cost of maintenance and the cost of down-time into their decision. One answer will never fit all. As a home user, I always build my own. They live longer as I can fix things myself and know what is where. They generally cost less, as I can shop around. And the buck stops with me so there is really no responsibility ambiguity. But at work we had a project that entailed shipping hundreds of machines to remote locations and then remotely administering them every month, replacing failures with next day shipments and the like. It started out as a build, but we were able to provide our image to the hardware vendor and now they ship the machines directly to the sites. So on this scale working with an OEM is just more efficient. Our desktop machines are in between. Yes there are hundreds of them, but they don't all do the same thing. Our developers have needs that our sales people don't, etcetera. So we buy our laptops pre-build with our corporate image, and we build most of the desktops with unattended install scripts to keep us sane. When a laptop goes down, we RMA it, (just a sales guy or a manager anyway), and when a developer's box goes down, (normally their own fault), we fix it. One rule that I follow personally and professionally is that if a vendor gives me a hard time with support, they are gone. Any, "We don't support xyz hardware or software." on a machine that came with it or the like and I will never be talking to them again. We pay for professional level support, I can do the other myself.

JamesRL
JamesRL

But they are so cheap these days to buy. Case in point: Tigerdirect has a refurbished PC with a 3.0 Ghz Pentium processor, 160 GB HD, 512 MB of RAM and Vista Home basic. It costs $299 Canadian. A copy of Vista Home basic costs $119. Now you do have to scrap all the crapware off, but at that price there is no way to build something cheaper, and for things like websurfing and word processing, its more than adequate. Gamers, on the other hand, have some incentive to build their own. Personally, I am a gamer, but I found it cheaper to buy an off lease workstation (Dell Precision 470) than build from scratch. James

royhayward
royhayward

I won't be and haven't paid the MS tax for years. I have never been happier and based on my few run-ins with Vista I won't be going back any time soon. I don't want to turn this into a Bill vs Linus thread, but including the cost of a MS OS makes it hard to compare what we are talking about. At work, we have a corporate license for XP and install our image. At home I still have a copy of W2k that I have on one machine to run windows only apps. The rest are non-microsoft systems now. My kids only really need to be able to get to the web, word process and play a few games. I don't need to add a $119 to the price of a box for that. If you want to play lots of games? Well then you need to get and Xbox, Playstation, or Wii, not a PC.

mjwx
mjwx

But when I buy for the company I generally get prebuilt as I unfortunately don't have time to build machines from scratch and its good to have a warranty. We use Dell/HP for laptops and a Perth local retailer for desktops as I prefer being able to march into somebody's office when something goes wrong. That being said, I love building machines, all of my game machines over the last 5 yr's have been custom built. Dell's aren't bad if you are willing to sink $2500 AUD's into a latitude, with dell you get what you pay for, pay peanuts get monkeys.

cwhull
cwhull

my work machines are dells (hells) bad boards,junk power suppies,cheap cases the only good thing is there warranty

gzaha
gzaha

Building PC-s is a little of both worlds fun and pain. I don?t know what brands do you use, but from somebody that never had an OEM PC I can tell you that it?s not always easy to put together a fine machine. Sometimes the motherboards have trouble. I had a nice motherboard that at birth I added 512Mb and as aged I would had liked to increase to 1Gb and I couldn?t. The specs allowed for that amount, but there was no way to make it work. Intermittent lockups freezes and you name it. I interchanged e-mails with the manufacturer who after a while got tired of me and dropped the case (I guess because the motherboard was outdated), I changed brand names of memory, faster refresh rates, BIOS upgrades and finally I give-up, today, it still working with 512Mb. The ?big guys? have resources to match motherboards with other cards to achieve performance or iron out difficulties and incompatibilities, for us, is usually trial and error at our own expense and time. It is fine for personal use, but I think when it comes to make a bunch of PCs for work I think the loss of time and lots of aggravation in that kind of endeavor is more that I can bear. Unfortunately there is no forum that guides us to what to buy and how to match it with video, audio and media to achieve above average performance and stability. I would stick with a reliable vendor that listens to my needs and it?s here when I need them (if you guys have suggestions I listen). You may not have the supper PC, but I assure you will have less headaches (I said, ?less?!!).

Inkling
Inkling

I've since retired from gaming (15-month-old, new house, etc, etc...you know how it is), but I purchased an off-lease Dell for ~$700 (retailed for upwards of $4000), with the 19-inch FP monitor. Server in a desktop case. Thing works great. The best part is, when our apartment got struck by lightning two years ago and the thing got fried, I had a new mobo, power supply, RAM...everything, shipped to me in two days. I always encourage people to check out the Dell refurbs when looking for a new computer.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I spent $500 getting a Precision workstation that was off lease, 2 years old and retailled for about $4000 when new. When it came out it was one of the fastest desktops you could buy (3.2 Ghz Xeon hyperthreading, capable of dual CPU). Its fast enough for my gaming needs, rock solid and stable. Only pain is that RAM is not easy to find , and isn't cheap. The box really is a server in a desktop case. I've fixed a lot of Latitudes for others. I'm not a huge fan, but they work. I sometimes think Dell is trying to imitate the old Compaq model of quirky for the sake of being unique. James

timetrap
timetrap

I think you found the true reason to buy . . . "The reason is responsibility. Who's responsible for this problem?" Nobody is responsible, and nobody gets fired. Welcome to the world of business.

brian.mills
brian.mills

The build vs. buy decision gets a lot easier when dealing with the Graphic Design industry, where my wife works. You can't build a Mac. You can custom order them with certain options, but they are what they are and that's what you get. Of course Apple builds pretty reliable hardware, so there's not too much worry about components failing and needing replacement, and everything I've ever heard about Apple's customer service has been pretty good. Plus they don't do that recovery partition crap. They ship a DVD of the OS for recovery purposes. But as far as in the IBM clone world, build vs. buy for me comes down to what the machine will be used for and what it needs. For a basic business/personal machine, I say buy. They don't need the latest and greatest anything, so the off-the-shelf machine is cheaper than the parts and labor of building one. The cheap price also makes it fairly easy to have a spare around in case one needs to be replaced in a corporate environment. For anything high-end, I say build, because the extra time and effort of building it to your own specifications is more than worth it, and it's a lot cheaper to swap out components you've installed than it is to have a spare $4K-$5K machine sitting around until something breaks.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

I have always built my own desktops, ever since my first which I purchased custom made in 1990. My son learnt to take PCs to pieces when he was 12, (a little longer to put them back together). So what is stopping me from cloning a Mac and installing a copy of Apple's OS - is it just that the hardware is not available? Les.

brian.mills
brian.mills

To the best of my knowledge, drivers are only available for OS-X for hardware which is included in the machines Apple builds. So, you would need to purchase identical hardware to what is in the off-the-shelf Macs to use in your own machine, and as far as I know, Apple builds (or has someone else build specifically for them) the motherboards they use, so it would be extremely difficult to build one from the ground up. Plus, you'd lose out on the elegance of the Apple-built computer package, which is one of the selling points for their computers in the first place (at least to home users). It may be possible to install OS-X onto non-Apple hardware, but I'm sure that getting everything to work correctly would cost a lot more in time than the added monetary expense of just buying Apple hardware to begin with.

cwhull
cwhull

this machine(home built) is a quad boot XP64,XPpro,linux,OSX you will have to find and or build drivers then simply image to the others there is always a way

adamblevins
adamblevins

My advice: For a personal PC - I'm thinking of switching to a Mac. Easy for kids to use, stable, work well for what we need to do, and look good on a desk in the kitchen...so you can keep an eye on kids use. Sure, they cost a little more, but you get what you pay for. Professionally - I consult and advise mid to large size organizations to lease systems, and do refresh approximately every 3 to 5 on hardware and OS/Apps. SoHo's are fixed budget and work with what they have (also you don't normally get contacted until after they have purchased equipment). I advise all clients to run N -1 OS & Application versions and a standard image. This minimizes support & compatibility headaches (and expense) and provides added stability in the form of platform standardization. A business needs a tool for productivity, not a negative investment that requires un-necessary maintenance and downtime. Servers - I have been studying on up the feasibility and trade off's of a storage appliance versus building RAID 5 Linux servers for SoHo customers. AB

Lempesce21
Lempesce21

Joe, You covered the options very well. Until very recently, I always had desktop PCs custom built by local clone manufacturers. After my favorite builder close its doors, I decided to build my own and am in the process of building my second, a gaming system. Since I've always been in the supercomputing business, fast CPUs, large RAM and fast disks have always been requirements. My system will have 4 GB DDR2 and Ultra SCSI-3 (320 MB/s) disks. My experience with 160 MB/s Ultra SCSI-3 has been 100% positive.

Genera-nation
Genera-nation

That is not a supercomputer, just a high spec PC.

albert
albert

- Restricting Vista to 32-bit may be an indication that the OEM's 64-bit driver development has not yet matured. On the other hand, 64-bit drivers for many devices are still hard to come by, should you decide to build the system yourself. - It used to be that one could get the installation media -- even if sometimes you had to pay extra for it. But, not all OEMs offered recovery media. This could be problematic. If the hard drive fails, which contains a special recovery partition, you could have a big problem because the replacement drive they send will *not* have this special recovery partition. At least it hasn't in the past. What do you do then? With XP Pro, you could not use just any OEM installation CD. (I expect that the situation is even worse with Vista.) Although XP may accept the product key stuck on your chassis, you probably will not be able to activate Windows XP. That's because the recovery CDs provided by OEMs, along with their product keys, don't usually require activation. But, those disks have special coding to prevent the OS from being installed on anything but that particular brand and model. Without media, another option is to safely store a cloned drive with all your partitions, including the recovery partition for failed drive emergencies. So what's the bottom line? It doesn't make sense to pull something off the OEM's shelf and expect it to be a simple matter to customize that box without compromises. If the end-user needs specialized customization, it should be understood that in any industry, custom jobs have always been, and will always be more expensive. It's simply a matter of whether it is worth the cost.

Joe_R
Joe_R

On the 64 bit option, however, I just bought the parts for yet another machine (I'm building this one myself), and I'll be installing the 64 bit version on it. Not only should it be lightning fast, but I'll need a 64 bit test-box sometime along the way. And you're right about the need to compromise something with OEM boxes. There's almost always a trade-off. Thanks for the comments.

NetwareGuru
NetwareGuru

and the reasons are simple. 1) Full control over hardware. You know exactly who's board, ram, hard drive are in the box and if you use something like Intel box components you have 3 yrs of warranty. I'll never forget the pain a friend went through when they cracked open their 100 machine Dell order and found that they had 3 different motherboards, 4 different video cards and 3 ram configs. This was a 100 machine order for machines that all had the same sku. 2) OS version and downgrade rights. With XP Pro OEM you have downgrade rights to Win2k and Win98SE and with Vista Business Pro OEM you have downgrade rights to WinXP Pro. There's nothing like explaining to a department head that the $499 machine at Wal-Mart has Vista Home Basic on it and that he'll have to shell out cash for a retail copy of XP Pro or Vista Business Pro (which BTW don't have downgrade rights).

Joe_R
Joe_R

This last case was an instance where I needed a couple of computers yesterday, and I just didn't have the time to deal with them. It will, however, provide a sort of benchmark for me with my next one. Doing a current comparison, I've actually discovered that at today's prices, I can build a better machine for a bit less, and have the option to install the 64 bit operating system.

JohnnySacks
JohnnySacks

For my home use, I've always built. Price is close to OEM but I get what I want, have the OS media in hand, and know how to upgrade and maintain it. I can't see how building for general office use is worth the trouble, why abuse yourself. On the other hand, sounds like you're an AutoCAD shop. In my past life I was a power user and the go-to guy for a small AutoCAD dept. Certain hardware at the time, especially video cards, were optimized and custom developed for AutoCAD. We needed fast CPU's, good mice, high end monitors, memory, and a pretty specific short list of video cards. Sound cards were of no use to us and hard drives didn't have to be huge or zippy. Putting the boxes together worked well and was cost effective compared to the custom workstation builder prices.

Joe_R
Joe_R

That's what we do, and that's why I always prefered to specify and build my own. I could always build a bettter box than I could buy, and almost always for less. Moreover, whenever there were problems, I knew the computers inside and out (literally), and usually had identical replacement parts. (Been using and supporting AutoCAD since 1986, version 1.4)

chippsetter
chippsetter

If youdid not need large drives for Autocad you must have been using early Autocad. I have been an Autocad power user since 1988 and since 2000 that Autocad files have gotten huge. Autocad since version 2001 (when they did away with the DOS version) no longer uses their own video drivers either. They use Windows Drivers so you can use any video card windows does. While I do build my own home machine, in an office situation we have found it easier to deal with own warranty versus each individual part's warranties. Even when you buy top of the line parts you have to deal with failures. In addition, it you have to add licenses or upgrade software buying pre-built is cheaper way to go.

liquidxit2
liquidxit2

I recently purchased PCs for the CAD department here, and like all pre-built systems the video card choices were subpar. Now that we are dealing with ABS, the ATI cards (Terrible OpenGL support)and current hardware isnt cutting it (joys of specing PCs for a certain taks and then do another with them). So I priced out some new machines with the popular vendors, and still a decent price. But when I pick and choose the parts myself I get A LOT more power for the same price. Personally I think its more cost effective in the short term to build your own, but warranty loss may be a factor when deciding on a pre-built vs a "home brew". Personally the power we need for AutoCAD work just cant be had from a vendor at an affordable price currently.

texty32
texty32

But as far as in the IBM clone world, build vs. buy for me comes down to what the machine will be used for and what it needs. Message was edited by: beth.blakely@...

rmathis
rmathis

Considering I own a PC Company I always say build but being in the business I also see that manufactures can spank us with options for a decent price. Custom will always cost more but the preformance is normaly well above something the same price. Building also allows you to do one thing a true custom for the job that you are doing and trying to accomplish. As someone else said the OEM stuff sometimes more often then not will allow you to burn an image of the orginal install. I normaly do so then wipe the drive. 8GB is alot of music or about 4 good movies in a decent compression for backup or flights. The bottom line is OEM = Cheeper, Self = Expensive. Building for your self on a gaming machine is wonderful you will fell more connected and happy with the machine to come. You can also learn its limits on how far you can push the machine. I've been building systems since I was 13 years old when I got the money toghter and ever since have been doing it as a hobby. I'm still a kid in a candy store when I smell the new motherboard smell out of the static bag. Built It. It will be worth alot more to you then buying an OEM machine. Trust me on that there are some joy's in life and this is one. Its kind of like fixing your own car when it brakes the shop will charge you an arm and a leg and still not make it perfect. "I'm not like that btw".

Iconomize
Iconomize

Yes, it is more expensive, but I get to choose the parts. Four years ago I put together my dream machine, and I used what I considered to be the highest quality parts available as opposed to the cheapest and flimsiest parts that are made by the OEM manufacturers. (I will never forget the time I was upgrading one of those OEM machines and sliced my hand on their poorly built case, not to mention that I had to take out several parts to reach what I needed to get to.) I am still using that same computer today and it still far exceeds the minimum "Vista ready" requirements.

Malleable
Malleable

The last system I bought was a floor model HP. C2D, 2GB RAM, 250GB HD, DVD, Windows Media Edition 2005. It cost me $400.01 (yeah, .01). When I bought it, there was no way I could have bought the processor and RAM for $400, let alone all the other parts and an OS. A few months before that I put together a C2D system. It cost me $800, with the same processor. Better video, HDs, RAM, Windows Pro x64. No DVD player. Better system, but cost more. Before that I bought another floor model. Athlon 3500+, 1GB RAM, Gateway system. For $265 it was a great deal. Before that I bought a barebones Athlon 3500+. And again the parts were better, but it cost a lot more. Barebones let me pick out the main parts I wanted, at the price I was willing to pay. It came with a three year warranty - and I didnt have to worry about cracking my processor putting it together myself. Dropped in other parts I could purchase cheaper other places. So, I go through the cost-benefit analysis. When I find a super deal, it comes off the shelf. One thing to note. The shelf models all worked flawlessly out of the box; while my self-built ones always take a bit of work to get them up to speed. Mal

Iconomize
Iconomize

In my first post I stayed away from mentioning any name brands, but I also chose an Antec case...and I'm still extremely pleased with it. I have a tower case with 10 drive bays and a great power supply. It's very well made and as many times as I've gone inside, I've never cut myself.

dwayne.sealy
dwayne.sealy

I prefer to have the choice of what components I put into my systems as well ... here's a tip, avoid the cheap cases and go for Antec, I've had too much spilled blood to go near anything else!

Par-Pro
Par-Pro

In 2003 I also built the syswtem of my dreams. I looked around at customs built and at name brands. I wanted 4 harddrives so that put the price near 4,000.00 which I could not aford. I am still up to date and am able to do OS update. My total cost was 1,790.00 to where it would have been 7,500.00. More if I had to buy all the software which I all ready had. But build or buy is up to each person and what they wany to spend.

Langlier
Langlier

Just an FYI but most on hard drive recovery media will also allow you to burn copies of the disk image. Something I recommend to everyone. Others will provide you the option to burn recovery media that will allow you to select what programs are installed. Often these options aren't clearly accessable at first and require some hunting to find. But in most every case they are there.