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Building your own computer from parts


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Too often, people purchase a prebuilt computer because assembling one yourself seems like a hassle, or because it's hard to pick out exactly what kind of parts you want. At the same time, if you're both frugal and demanding about computer performance, putting together your own computer can yield a much better machine with a longer warranty, for a lot less money than you pay to the prebuilt guys. The advantage is compounded if you would be buying a prebuilt computer with Windows already on it, then wiping it off and running Linux. In many cases, prebuilt computers sound like a great deal because they have a large hard drive, a flat-screen monitor, etc. However, these apparent advantages can backfire if the manufacturer cheaps out on crucial, but less glamorous, parts like the case fan, power supply, etc.

If you'd like to assemble a fast, powerful and relatively inexpensive computer from parts, an excellent resource is the website of Daniel J. Bernstein, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (cr.yp.to/hardware/advice.html) In techie circles, Bernstein is better known for challenging the U.S. government's regulations about the export of encryption software, and you can read about that on his site too. As far as building your own computer, Bernstein has put together specifications for what he calls "the standard workstation," a very fast and reliable machine costing US$629.00. His page gives you the exact specs for each part, the price, the warranty, the wattage, and where he bought the part. So, you can know literally nothing about how to build a computer, and order these parts yourself online.

Then, you can either pay someone, such as the online retailer, about US$50.00 to put the computer together for you, or, you can jump to Bernstein's additional page, "Assembling a computer from components" (cr.yp.to/hardware/assembly.html), and see a very user-friendly set of instructions, with photos, of how to assemble your computer. Seriously, these directions include things like "Unscrew the big screws on the back of the case." and "Take the rubber band off the power cables from the power supply." The photos are incredibly detailed, so even if you don't know what a DIMM slot looks like, you can easily identify it on your computer's motherboard.

A useful point of information is that most people who buy prebuilt computers don't actually read the warranty information, and therefore assume that the warranties (usually one year) are longer than they are. So, if your hard drive fails after 366 days of use, you're often out of luck, and few of us would replace our hard drives more often than that. By building a computer from parts, you can often get a three year warranty on the components for less money than you would spend on a prebuilt model.


 

 

 


This article may be freely reproduced or redistributed
for non-commercial use with attribution to the author
Copyright 2005 by Corinne McKay









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