Should you build or buy your new PC?

One of the most contested subjects among PC owners – and indeed gamers in particular – is whether it's better to build or buy your machine. On one side of the aisle is the DIY gearhead who only constructs systems from scratch. This do-it-yourselfer believes that anyone who buys a prebuilt system is wasting money. On the other side is the person who is looking for instant gratification and wants his system now. He values his time as money and disagrees that he's wasting any when buying a prebuilt PC.

DIY’ers can indeed save some money, though this approach requires knowledge, skills, and patience – plus a heavy amount of advance research hunting down deals. (Check out a few of our favourite sites for component shopping: Overclockers, Ebuyer and Scan). Also, don't forget that the actual construction time can take hours or even days to complete. And if you fry a component when installing it, then you’ll need to buy another one. An additional drawback of going solo is that troubleshooting your new system, routing the cables so they're neat, and installing an operating system correctly will add even more time to computer setup. And support? Well, you're on your own there, too. Let's face it, building isn't for everyone.

Moreover, there's no denying that sweet feeling of instant gratification when you buy a system in a big-box store. Likewise, you get more customer service from an online dealer or phone sales rep than you would experience hunting for components. In fact, a good rep can guide you through choices, making sure you're neither overspending nor selling yourself short by failing to spring for forward-looking components that'll keep your PC fresh for years.

And you get ongoing technical support from your retailer, too. Also, these days some of the online retailers you can buy custom systems from aren’t charging massive amounts over the collective price of the components – or at least, the price you can get those components for (they get them in bulk and cheaper than your average punter, of course).

Be that as it may, when people ask me whether I buy or build – and many, many do – I proudly say: "I build." I do it to save money and because it's my hobby. (I've built four of the five Windows PCs I currently use, including a notebook). Some people have hobbies like gardening. I build PCs.