Help me build a cheap (but good) PC

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by After G, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. After G macrumors 68000

    After G

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2003
    Location:
    California
    #1
    Sometimes, it is very hard for me to live without a PC, with all the engineering software that is Windows-only. For example, the professor in my FE class gave us a homework CD made with Macromedia Director that only works on PCs. I would use Virtual PC, but with the cost of that being high, and it running rather slow on my 1.2 GHz iBook, I figured I could build an actual PC for just a bit more, and be much happier with the performance, with prices the way they are (how do they get those $399 Dells?).

    So basically, what I am asking is for a complete list of parts, with prices, and where you would order them from. I tried asking my roommate who is a PC user about PC parts, but he was trying to get me to buy gaming hardware, and I know my requirements aren't that high. However, I do have a mind to upgradeability later on, if that helps narrow things down. I don't have that much money right now, so I'd say my budget limit is pretty low (a little below a Mac Mini)

    I know this is a lot to ask for, but I would really appreciate the help. I really don't want to buy a Dell :)
     
  2. iEdd macrumors 68000

    iEdd

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Location:
    Australia
    #2
    Maybe try and get some parts on ebay for good deals.. Check the sellers' warranty policies too. Nice cases can pop up on ebay.
    Also, try and match brands if you can. It might not do much, but I find it sorta neater.
    Sorry I don't know us stores.
     
  3. edesignuk Moderator emeritus

    edesignuk

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    Mar 25, 2002
    Location:
    London, England
    #3
    Quite honestly...I'd buy a cheap Dell if I were you.
     
  4. livingfortoday macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Location:
    The Msp
    #4
    Well, I would go for something like a Sempron or Athlon XP processor if I were you, especially if you want cheap yet decently powerful still. For the processor I would definitely look on eBay, and for everything else, newegg.com. They have a really good return policy, which is great if you're buying cheaper PC components which (imho) have a higher fail rate.

    Here's a decent estimate, all things from newegg.com:
    Rosewill Value R103A Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 350W Power Supply - $19.99 after rebate
    REFURBISHED: BIOSTAR M7VIZ-SATA Socket A (Socket 462) VIA KM400 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $26.40
    A-DATA 512MB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Unbuffered System Memory Model ADBGB1916 - Retail - $36.95 after rebate
    HITACHI Deskstar 7K80 HDS728080PLA380 -0A30356 80GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $53.50
    JetWay R9MX-AD-064C Radeon 9000 64MB DDR AGP 2X/4X Video Card - $27.00
    AOpen Black IDE DVD Burner Model DUW1616ARR BLK - $37.99

    A decent Sempron or Athlon XP will run you $40 on eBay. So, you're looking at around $250 total.

    Hope that's of some help!
     
  5. livingfortoday macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
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    The Msp
    #5
    I'd like to add that for about $10 more, you can get a motherboard that's Athlon 64 and Sempron compatible, if you're interested in upgrading towards that in the future. For now, though, I'd really stick with a Sempron or XP, because they offer such great value.

    Oh, and for the XP, I'd go for something past the 2500+, with the Barton core, just 'cause it's a few bucks more, but gives you the 333Mhz FSB.

    That is all.
     
  6. lasuther macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Haven, Michigan
    #6

    I agree. Building your own computer seems like a lot of work. Plus you might have compatability issues. Just find a Dell in the price range you are looking for.

    lasuther
     
  7. livingfortoday macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Location:
    The Msp
    #7
    It's really not that hard to put together a PC, and with a little patience it shouldn't be too much work. If his roommate knows a decent amount about gaming PC's, he probably knows how to assemble them, as well.

    And as far as compatibility goes, just make sure the parts fit right. I mean, make sure the motherboard can take the kind of RAM you get, or the processor with the speed FSB you get. Shouldn't be too hard if you just look at the specs listed on it.

    Seriously, if you want to build a decent PC and save a few hundred off of the price of a Dell, I would recommend just building your own. Plus, the knowledge acquired about just knowing how things work will come in handy later if you even want to just do something like install a new hard drive in your iBook or whatever.

    Also, that way you don't get stuck with a Dell that you have to hide in the closet every time company's over.
     
  8. NWAMacTech macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2005
    #8


    I agree with the others recommending a cheap Dell, with parts such as these a Dell will almost definately last longer and be a better machine.

    Biostar :eek:
    Jetway :eek:
     
  9. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    Dec 27, 2002
    Location:
    Location Location Location
    #9
    The parts in a Dell are probably worse.

    I don't think you'd build a horrible PC using those parts. Maybe 3 years ago, it would have been state of the art. ;) What was state of the art 3 years ago doesn't make a bad computer today. It only makes a bad computer if you're comparing it to todays computers, which means nothing. All your software will still run on a "slow" Athlon XP quite well. ;)

    Good luck.
     
  10. Roy Hobbs macrumors 68000

    Roy Hobbs

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    #10

    I would totally disagree on this, a Dell for $399 is going to be way less of a machine that you can build for $250. I have never bought a PC, building yourself is the way to go. From a pile of parts to a working machine takes all of 2 hours tops, and a lot of time invloved is loading your OS.
     
  11. livingfortoday macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Location:
    The Msp
    #11
    Oh yeah, you're going to want to leave the room when Windows starts getting installed. I can't speak for XP, as I've never installed it, but installing Win2k gives you the most hideous user interface I've ever seen. Oh man, Apple really does build a better OS from start to finish.
     
  12. NWAMacTech macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2005
    #12
    399 from Dell includes Windows, I didnt see Windows included in the 250 price quote
     
  13. carlos700 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2004
    Location:
    Omaha NE
    #13
    I have built sold and built several computers. For a good affordable machine use:

    At Mwave.com you can buy the BIOSTAR GeForce6100-Based M7 Motherboard with Sempron 3000+ Processor and 512MB RAM for $199

    That gives you;
    the processor, the memory, graphics card, and motherboard.

    Make sure when you build a PCI-Express-based (like the one above) computer USE a 24-Pin Power Supply.
     
  14. lasuther macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Haven, Michigan
    #14
    But then you need to get a Monitor, mouse, keyboard, operating system, turn in a bunch of rebates, and ship it all to you. Windows alone will push you over the cost of the dell. Assuming you get a pirated OS, you will be have to spend hours putting all of it together. And if one thing isn't done correctly, you'll spend hours trying to figure out what is wrong.

    Building computers is great for people who like doing that sort of thing and don't mind spending time finding the best price components, time putting it together, and trouble shooting issues. I have a lot of friends who do that just for fun. But they also don't mind spending hours figuring out why the pirated OS isn't working, or why they are getting memory faults all the time. If you are just looking for a cheap computer to run PC only apps, get a dell. It will save you a lot time and most likely some money.

    lasuther
     
  15. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #15
    I built a PC last summer. It was a roughly $825 Athlon box with a nice video card. My conclusion is, given the time required not only to construct it but to select the parts you will use, you probably won't save much if anything if the product is a low-end machine. Since you'll spend as much time building a low-end box as a high-end rig, on a strictly a time-investment point of view, you're not spending your time well building a cheap PC. Unless you're doing it partly for fun, of course.

    And as others have mentioned, don't forget the OS. Windows will cost you around $100 for an OEM package. Also, I don't know if the above suggested specs included a mobo with onboard video, but if it doesn't, budget another $50 for a video card. If it does, expect to be disappointed by the performance of the onboard video.
     
  16. After G thread starter macrumors 68000

    After G

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2003
    Location:
    California
    #16
    To those who are worried about the cost of Windows, I already have a Windows XP CD from the PC my sister used to use before I switched her to using a Mac. The reason I can't use that same PC, and am trying to build a new one, is that a lot of the components got messed up due to a power surge.

    I am wondering if I am allowed to do that though. I would think it is okay, because the computer got fried, and I am only using Windows XP on one set of hardware, but I'd like to hear people's opinions on this as well.

    livingfortoday: I'm impressed ... a complete PC for the cost of VPC. I might start off with what you suggested.

    I have a related question for everyone who has replied thus far. People are suggesting I'd be more satisfied if I spent more on quality parts. What parts should I spend more money on, if I have more to spend (doing extra hours at work), and which parts can I skimp on?
     
  17. japasneezemonk macrumors 6502

    japasneezemonk

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  18. livingfortoday macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2004
    Location:
    The Msp
    #18
    As far as I know, all the parts I listed are decent. You might consider a second 512MB RAM chip, to put you up at one full gig. If you do want to spend more money, ASUS makes really good motherboards, but they're a bit pricey. You might also want to upgrade to an Athlon 64 over an XP or Sempron, as it's 64-bit and the industry really as a whole is moving that way, but I think you need a 64-bit version of Windows for that. Might be wrong there, someone'll undoubtedly correct me. You might want a bigger hard drive, that shouldn't run you too much more.

    Other than that, you might want to go with a slightly better video card, though if you're not really using any graphics-heavy stuff, well, I think it's fine. I don't know, actually, what more you could get. It's a decent rig, and should do what you need nicely. It's not super-powerful as some have noted, but it's an inexpensive, low-end PC.
     
  19. captainwinky macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2005
    #19
    Do one of these 2 things:

    1) Go to anandtech.com's forums. Tell them you are a newbie at building PCs and want to build the best thing you can for ___<enter your use here>___ and that it does not need to perform well with games. You want to spend a maximum of ___X___ dollars. Be specific in what you need. Do you need a keyboard, mouse, monitor or the case? Speakers? Etc. The more specific YOU are, the more specific of an answer you will receive. You should be able to go to newegg.com or wherever with the parts list you receive.

    Expect to spend about 4-6 hours researching online and another 8 or so building and installing it.

    2) Go to fatwallet.com's "Hot Deal" forums and watch for deals on Dell machines. Look, Dell's aren't glamorous -- they are like McDonalds -- even though they are hideous and cheap and all of that, they do have their place. They are the best place to get a cheap PC ready to go.

    Good luck.
     
  20. Rob587 macrumors 6502a

    Rob587

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2004
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    #20
    building a "good" cheap pc is impossible. You could build a good cheap 17" imac though. ;)
     
  21. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #21
    If that copy of XP has been installed on another PC, forget it, you can't use it on another because it's already registered to the original hardware profile. You might be able to plead your case with Microsoft, but I wouldn't count on any sympathy.

    If you don't have any particular use for a DVD burner, skip that one. A vanilla IDE hard drive might save you a few more bucks. But there's so little difference in price anymore it's hardly worth it. A better video card is probably the best return on more investment, I think.
     
  22. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #22
    Yes you can do this as long as you have the registration number. Call microsoft and tell them that the current machine is no longer functional to get the registration deactivated. You are allowed to do this five times with a registration number. You may need to install it on the new pc first. Once installed the rep will get information about the current PC and issue you by phone a new activation code.

    ECS 755-A2 v1.0 Socket 754 SiS 755 ATX AMD Motherboard - $44
    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16813135151
    CHAINTECH LA-FX20-H Geforce FX5200 128MB DDR AGP Video Card - $36.50
    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16814145067
    Rosewill RV350 ATX 350W Power Supply - $21.99
    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16817182006
    AMD Sempron 64 3400+ Palermo 800MHz FSB Socket 754 Processor Model SDA3400BXBOX - $135
    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16819104231
    gigaram 1GB (2 x 512MB) 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) Unbuffered Dual Channel Kit System Memory Model GR1DD8T-K1GB/400/2.5 - $81.95
    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16820221027
    HITACHI Deskstar T7K250 HDT722516DLAT80 160GB 7200 RPM IDE Ultra ATA133 Hard Drive - OEM $75
    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16822145091
    LITE-ON Black IDE Combo Drive Model SOHC-5236V BK RTL - $27.99
    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E16827106992
    Linkworld 3130Z C8888U Beige Aluminum/Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - $19.99
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16811164069

    Since you said you can afford a little less than a mini. This setup would run about $450. I am assuming you have a mouse, keyboard and monitor to use.
    Though this setup up is relatively more expensive than livingfortoday's suggestion this would have the benefit of much greater speed.

    To be specific about what parts are most important. Get the sempron 3400+ CPU it is far more powerful than the Atlon XP 2500+, and it supports 64bit, SSE3 and 3d Now instructions. Get the Rosewill PSU regardless of what cheap case you buy, this supply is very stable and won't fry your system like some cheap PSU's included with low end cases. Get the ECS motherboard you will need it for the CPU.

    Less critical parts in my list include the RAM, Video Card, Hard Drive, DVD/CD-RW, and Case. You can get away with 512mb of RAM but this will impact performance if you have say Word, Browser, Anti-Virus, Firewall and iTunes running. The video card is about as cheap as you can go but it has 128mb installed which will be helpful if you plan to use Vista next year. I just suggested the 160GB hard drive since it's just $20 more than an 80GB model. The DVD/CD-RW is subjective if you want to burn DVD's newegg caries a nice dual layer burner from NEC for $40. As far as the case goes this is really cheap so whatever you want works.
     
  23. AP_piano295 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2005
    #23
    Going cheap id say look on newegg they have everything for slightly cheaper than dirt ive even seen some of their prices go below rock.
     
  24. maxterpiece macrumors 6502a

    maxterpiece

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2003
    #24
    if you live in a big city, just use craigslist and get a used PC. You can get a wicked deal... for what you are doing you don't need anything too powerful --
    here's a used P4 1.7Ghz for $120: http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/sys/103740491.html
    If you just need it to run these specific programs then the other specs, IE DVD burner, big HD, speakers etc, are unnecessary. And if you like you can invest in upgrading the processor. You could double the processor speed for under $100 via eBay.
     
  25. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #25
    Caveat: You'll get charged sales tax from newegg if you live in California. I figured, what the heck -- I'd pay the sales tax and use ground shipping and come out about even. Of course most of the parts were drop-shipped from New Jersey or some such place... Also I have found newegg to not be the least expensive on many items.
     

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