Here's why you should build your next PC

Intel Motherboard

Custom PCs like Alienware used to be regarded as seriously overpriced hardware, but the price of pre-built PCs have actually decreased somewhat in recent years. Bring in discounts, promotions and competitive pricing and you have more affordable options. That said, it's still relatively difficult to locate a read-to-order system that can match the price, configuration and expandability of a rig you put together yourself.

Why should you build your next PC?

ZOTAC GTX 1070

Zotac GTX 1070

The main reason people enjoy building their own PC is it enables them to go shopping for components, as opposed to a single system that can be lightly configured. You'll be able to pick and choose exactly what will be inside the very chassis you end up selecting. It's an incredible feeling, knowing that a full batch of PC internals are on their way to your doorstep. The time arrives to prepare the workshop and brush the dust of the trusty screwdriver.

As well as picking parts out, going for a custom build enables one to get really creative when it comes to cooling components and adding personalized elements to the system. Think custom water cooling with colored coolant, LED lighting effects, high-quality case fans, and preparations for an overclocking environment. There are some magical PC designs out on the web and at various gaming and technology trade shows.

The custom build is also likely easier to upgrade and swap out new parts. Some pre-built systems could be designed in such a way to discourage the owner to remove the side panel and take a peek inside to throw in upgraded RAM or a new GPU, without having to go back through the company. That and putting everything together yourself ensures you know exactly where each component is located, not to mention having cables managed exactly how you wish.

It's also cheaper. Even taking into account Windows licensing, peripherals and other extras, packing in some serious hardware will save you some cash if you put it all together and don't go through a third-party. You're also likely able to go for more advanced components and enjoy features like overclocking, which may not have been available with a similar pre-built system.

Finally, a PC you put together yourself is quite the object to show off. Go on, be proud of your hard work.

Why you perhaps shouldn't

PC Build

It's not all good news when it comes to building your own PC. If you're looking at this option for the very first time and have little experience under your belt, you'll need to take note of a few reasons as to why pre-built can be the better option. If you do not have the knowledge in putting together a PC and know no one who does, simply shopping for components can be quite the daunting task.

What do you need? Is a Core i5 processor overkill? Will it work with an NVIDIA GPU? What the hell is TDP? These are just some of the questions that will likely fill the mind. Luckily, there are some handy guides available to walk through the installation of components, and there are even calculation tools that can tell if components will be compatible and if everything will work when you hit that power button for the first time.

Alienware

Alienware X51 R2

The whole process takes more effort too. Even for those who know exactly what they're doing, putting together a PC can take some time, especially if there's an issue or component that's DOA (dead on arrival). This brings me to the next potential downfall for building your own PC — warranties. Instead of having a warranty arranged with a retailer or company that supplied a pre-build PC, you'd be dealing with a manufacturer of an individual component, and that's after you work out which part is causing the problem.

Companies that churn out pre-built systems often buy components in bulk and enjoy better pricing on licensing for operating systems and optional extras. When one takes into account promotions and more aggressive pricing by companies like Dell, you could find a pre-built PC that cost around the same as picking out parts and throwing everything together yourself. It all depends on the type of machine you're after, but usually speaking you'll save some pennies going out on your own.

What's best for you?

Insomnia PC

If you don't have the time, don't care about potential savings (or find a seriously good deal on a unit), don't know what you're doing, or simply do not trust your own judgement when it comes to picking components and installing everything, pre-built or all-in-one PCs are the ideal option for you. You'll be able to configure the machine you want to a degree and simply turn the PC on when it arrives. Job done.

For everyone else, custom PC building is still considered the more affordable and enjoyable route. That and it's rewarding to witness the end result.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

72 Comments
  • That's what I had in mind until Surface Studio came along. Not so much of a gamer.
  • I hope that the Xbox Wireless chip becomes available for those that want to build their own PC and connect Xbox accessories without having to take up a USB port with the adapter. 
  • They new Xbox controllers have Bluetooth support.... And there are options to easily add Bluetooth to a pc...
  • 1) I don't trust Bluetooth to be stable enough for a controller.  2) I already own an Elite controller, and there isn't a Bluetooth option for that yet. 
  • I'd go wired then. Wired wont ever let you down.
  • Isn't the DualShock 4 a Bluetooth controller? Seems to be just fine there.
  • Are there motherboards with native Bluetooth already though? Xbox wireless could well begin becoming a standard.
  • Even a low-end MB I picked up for my folks 1,5 years ago had BT built in
  • Some do, but getting a PCIe one means you can get wifi and BT support, newer versions, and father range than built in, due to electrical interference, metal cases, or no antenna. You also have more options.
  • um... they do. https://goto.walmart.com/c/1943169/612734/9383?sharedid=159229&subId1=UU... Buy one Xbox for PC controller and it comes with the adapter for up to (I think) 8 devices. But the new controller have BT built in which is much easier to attach to a PC
  • I don't want the USB adapter, I want it built in chip. Lenovo's Cube PC and the Surface Studio both have the chip built in. Again, there's nbo Bluetooth Elite controller, and even if there was I'd rather pay $25 for the chip instead of $150 for a new controller. 
  • If it's a matter of aesthetics, you could probably use the motherboard's USB headers to wire one up inside your case. 
  • Are you really that lacking in USB ports? My case has six on the front and probably eight on the back. I think the most I ever have in-use is six (mouse, two for keyboard, Game Golf, phone charger, and a wildcard option).
  • Depends on what you use your computer for. As a video professional, I use a lot of USB ports. Mouse, Keyboard, dongles for video editing and titling software, USB 3 drives for video projects, etc.
  • Of course it varies by the user, but how many are you realistically using at a time? Are you actually having to make decisions and sacrifices on devices because you lack USB ports (in which case, a USB hub is always an option)? If you know you need a lot of USB ports, it makes morse sense to plan ahead at build time and get a case and board with enough ports (part of why I picked my case is its 6 USB ports up front). It'd be nice if we could get boards/cases/expansion cards to the XB1 wireless, but I'd argue they are not necessary, and it would be more economically friendly to buy a USB hub or expansion card, plus a $20-25 wireless XB1 adapter, rather than hoping MS makes an overpriced add-on to be placed inside the PC.
  • Not everyone has your set up. I have 10 ports and they are just about used up. 2 for keyboard, mouse, webcam, mic, guitar interface, phone charger, card reader, rocksmith cable, and one for adding external storage options.
  • "Not everyone has your set up." That sentence is the reason you're such a displeasure to talk to, and why I rarely reply to your omments. Without that sentence, your commentis reasonable explanation of a different use case. With it, it's judgmental garbage that states the obvious, wastes words,and is generally condescending for no reason. I never said everyone had my setup. I asked him a questio and explained what I have, stating I have way more ports than I need. You're just being a jerk (have to pick  word the overly sensitive filters on this site won't take out) and make the discussion worse with that tone. What's more, you didn't even get to a point where my point (that running out of USB ports on my PC is hard to do) is disproven. Now that I'm home, I checked, and I have a dozen USB ports--6 front (which I know is a lot for most, it's usually 4, but it's part of why I picked a case that fits my needs) and 6 back (which is about standard, maybe even a couple fewer than newer boards). So, thanks for essentially supporting what I said wle being a complete tool, as you often are.
  • Actually your initial statement of "are you really that lacking in USB ports" is the judgemental @$$ statement. You don't know what he has what he uses, or even why USB is an issue for him. You just go off about what your set up is with the assumption that either you're the average when it comes to enthusiast builds or that he is below average (which is fairly typical of your comments, your way is the right way) You regularly fail to understand that different people have not only different needs, but just different wants. You are nobody to even question how many ports he has/needs or what he plugs into them. He knows what he needs and why, plain and simple.
  • Can't everyone just state they are too lazy to unplug something? That's what this comes down to. No one has shown they use five million ports all at once. And a hub is an option. I'd much rather get the motherboard that has 99% of what I want as opposed to limiting my choices immediately because I can't switch out a plug.
  • I'm not a xbox controller fan so hope they can get the ps4 controller working wirelessly. I can plug and play with wire but wirelessly nothing in windows 10.
  • You want DS4Windows. Once setup and paired via BT, Just press the PS button to connect the controller.
  • This is what you need, lol. Even comes with black, red, or green PCB: https://m.newegg.com/Product/index?itemnumber=N82E16815166038&cm_re=pci-...
  • Building PC became as a kind of competition here, in Russia. There you have massive forums with huge threads, news about new components are like Second Coming - they starts became usual fights and argues from Intel/AMD/NVIDIA fans. And new people, who want to get cheaper way by building their own PCs, meet help from experienced persons. So, yeah, building PC is life, building PC is live. No alternatives. Even my laptop is modded.
  • Used to be like that here too. My last build looked like a v8 mopar motor....liquid cooled EVERYTHING. Even had the MB chips LC'ed. Nice UV lighting etc. I just got sick of the Noise of 50 fans going because I had it overclocked to the moon. So, I went with an antec sonata case, added extra noise suppression, super quiet coolers and fans, and when that machine was workin hard, I never even heard it. MUCH BETTER. I am thinking about building another since I never did it in years!
  • The one thing I find with these prebuilt machines, is the motherboard is always a crock of s***. It's always a part that's custom and is stripped bare. Things like USB bandwidth are always tight and there is often a lack of ports for upgradability. That's biggest difference between buying pre-built and building yourself.
  • Always nice to open one up and find it has just two RAM slots or no USB 3.0 header or asinine cable management that requires complex dismantling to replace a bad PSU.
  • I like gaming on my PC, but I don't need the latest and greatest components. I was able to get a prebuilt HP desktop at a great price and much cheaper than I could build it for. However, I now want a better graphics card and I'm hesitant to do so since I don't know the components and I want to swap an Nvidia card in place of my current ATi card. I would definitely build my PC if I wanted the best available components.
  • Hi, I recommend a rx 460, or gtx 1050ti. But those cards are only aimed at 1080p. But first check that you have a PCI-E 16x Slot physically on your motherboard, and there is no physical restrictions.
    Also get cards without external PCI-E power connectors. Many a time have I upgraded a pre-built, and its mostly easy.
  • Thanks for the info. I'll have to do some research.
  • I built a lot of machines this year mostly 400ish pound builds with overclocked componants, you save loads.
  • On the warranty note yes you don't have a central warranty but often the individual component warranty outstrip any Pre-builts.  Hard Drives can run on 3-7 year warranties; processors can be up to 5 years; video cards can be a lifetime warranty and same with RAM; so yes its a bit more of a hassle having multiple companies to deal with but its certainly longer then any pre-built PC's warranty without paying for it and even then they usually won't go past 3 year warranties.
  • Plus there's the fact that not everything's going to blow out at once, so you'll only ever be dealing with one warranty at a time. Maybe 2 if your unlucky. Also on the plus side, if something breaks, you don't have to send your whole PC off, just the broken part, which you can also replace in the meantime for the cost of just that part. Then sell it or possibly even return it when the repaired part comes back.
  • Also nice to have my SSD go out and slap in my old one I keep as a spare while the bad one is sent back. Beats taking the whole machine to Best Buy and waiting a week or something.
  • I can't wait to show off my first custom water loop!
  • Do they still sell small shuttle boxes? I'm looking for a small out of the way desktop/tower for my wife's office
  • They do! There are different system form factors, ATX (standard size), Micro ATX (considerably smaller) and ITX (about the same size as Micro ATX). Be sure to take a good look at the case you're buying since an ITX motherboard won't fit in an ATX or Micro ATX case and vice versa. I suggest using PCpartpicker to compile a list of components, since it will filter out incompatible components. Quick warning: smaller PC form factors are quite a bit more difficult to build, so getting a friend or family member with experience to help out would be a great idea!
  • Thanks!
  • There are many options out there from various manufacturers.  From Shuttle-like boxes to something tiny like the Intel NUC.  You'll just need to figure out what type of options your wife needs.  You can also build a computer in cases the size of breadboxes complete with a full sized video card.
  • I'm amongst those who prefers custom-built PCs, specially since I can do most of my work from home (when I can't I also prefer a Surface Pro to a laptop. It's thinner and lighter and does all I need it to do on the go). Not only I am free of the programmed obsolescence that laptops bring, I can literally upgrade any component without having to buy an entirely new machine.
    And of course, it also allows me to keep the same computer for years and years, thus reducing the upgrade costs. However, I never assemble my PCs. It's something that requires patience and care and I normally lack both.
    So I pick up all the parts for the computer from the tech retailer I normally use and then have it assembled for me. That immediately solves the problem of warranties as I immediately have the 2 year legal warranty over every single component I pick. Even when upgrading I take the PC to them for them to upgrade it, thus keeping always all warranties. For those who don't know much about PC building, some tech retailers also help there. For example, if I wanted I could write the store I normally buy from and tell them "I want a PC build for this, this and this" and they'll present me with several options of different builds with different prices.
  • I'm more than likely going to build a PC next year, and my plan is to ask one of the component stores if I can build it in their spaces, that way if I have any questions they are on hand to help me. 
  • There are pros and cons, definitely, to building your own systems. For me, there are more pros than cons, usually. I've been doing it for many years  (though I veered away when I went with a Surface Pro 3 as my primary machine for well over a year). One thing you neglected are the occasional incompatibility issues you can run into with components that should in theory work together but just don't. All motherboard manufacturers have their lists of tested "compatible RAM" -- for some stupid, stupid reason, certain brand