Custom PC building sites or doing it yourself

A few days ago, after 8 years of loyal service, Papa Charlie’s memory started faltering and he just up and turned blue.

My power supply and GPU are still good so I’d rather buy a custom computer that doesn’t have them. I guess I could stand to buy another PSU but my GTX 970 is plenty enough for what I play.

My problem right now is that the custom building sites I’ve seen either make getting a GPU mandatory or presume that if you don’t want a discrete GPU, you want a low end CPU like an i3.

Many sites are more interested in getting you to pimp out your PC than in offering information about the quality of the components you can choose.

So, are there custom building sites that allow you to get mid-high end components along with no GPU?

Any sites you’d recommend generally? Does Alienware have a good twin?
The alternative is to just do it myself. I guess I could do that too although I’m apprehensive about the prospect of installing the CPU on the motherboard and then the paste and cooler. I will gladly pay $50 for someone else to do the assembly.

Any tips on actually building your own PC, especially the assembly phase?

A year ago or so, I was looking at buying a new PC and thought about getting a generic whitebox with some minor upgrades. I was surprised that I couldn’t find the sites that sold the generic whiteboxes any longer and all of the custom builders seemed to be aimed at building high-end boxes for PC gamers.

All the connectors, the CPU socket, etc are all keyed so you can’t plug them in wrong.
If I can assemble a computer without releasing the magic blue smoke, anyone can.

I mentioned this in the Game Room thread about PC building but Bitwit has a good tutorial follow-along video. Skip ahead two minutes to skip the pre-video advertising.

I noticed a while back that a lot of “Design your own” outfits wouldn’t let you get away with leaving out a GPU. It was doubly annoying because, at the time, I was trying to design a system around a Ryzen APU which is specifically designed to not need a discrete GPU. They offered builds with the chips but not without a GPU :rolleyes:

I’ve bought from AVADirect twice. They may not be the cheapest or fastest, but their web site offers a huge variety of parts to choose from. You can definitely buy a core-i7 system without discrete graphics. Though they won’t sell you a system without any graphics capability at all - you need to either choose a CPU with integrated graphics, or add a graphics card.

(Note that when you configure a system on their site, the default is no OS installed. If you want Windows, you need to go to the second page and add that.)

Perhaps hire the Geek Squad guys at Best Buy to help with the CPU install? Although you could do this yourself. The rest of the assembly is just plugging in cables and screwing in components.

I built a computer from scratch maybe fifteen years ago, but then then the next time I needed a PC, there was no cost savings associated with building one myself. In your case, though, where you have many of the parts already, you might save some money by just upgrading what needs to be upgraded.

I built my own PC last summer using the Tom’s Hardware PC-building guide and NewEgg video series on YouTube.

Previously, I’d never done anything more complex hardware-wise than install RAM or take a fan out of a case, so I understand your intimidation about applying the CPU to the motherboard. It’s actually pretty easy. If you follow the instructions in walkthroughs, and take the precautions they recommend, you’ll be fine.

Tom’s Hardware has a tool that lets you pick out your components, verifies that they all play nicely together, and then lets you price-compare across several sites. It was very helpful. I ended up getting most of my parts of Amazon and NewEgg.

Give it a shot.

At 8 years old, it’s time to buy a new PSU.

Actually, for low-end gaming, a quad core i3 8xxx is perfectly fine. AMD’s Ryzen may be better value, though.

You will likely find that building it yourself is significantly more expensive. You will pay multiple shipping costs and have to pay for a full price copy of Windows. OEM builders pay much less for Windows.

It’s really, really simple. The most difficult bit - for me, anyway - is placing the case jumpers - On/Off Reset, etc - the right way round.

You will likely spend far more time choosing components than you will actually building the thing. Choose a case you like. Choose the CPU, then a motherboard of the size required (ITX, mATX, ATX, EATX) with which it works, then a heatsink, then RAM which works with the motherboard. will help you with the last. Then choose a PSU of sufficient wattage - be sure to choose a quality PSU and not a garbage one - JohnnyGuru and HardOCP will help you here. You can get cases that cost $50 and cases that cost $300. Then add SSD, HDD, etc.

You do need to take some basic precautions when it comes to building the PC. Read the motherboard manual, particularly with regard to RAM placement. Lay everything out on your table. Banish alcohol and other fluids - even that mug of coffee. Ground yourself by touching a radiator or similar and start putting things together. Place the motherboard on its box - NOT the anti-static bag in which it came - and install the PSU, RAM, CPU, and CPU cooler. Hook it up to a keyboard and monitor and power it on. If it doesn’t work, you’ve done something wrong. If it does work, unplug the PSU and install everything in the case. If you aren’t wearing an anti-static strap, be sure to ground yourself regularly.

I can build a PC in under 15 minutes.

Yeah, it’s pretty much trivial these days. A lot easier than 25 years ago, that’s for sure. Everything’s keyed and nearly everything is set up in the BIOS (no dip switches or jumpered settings or BS like that).

Putting the paste and cooler on is also trivial- put a tiny rice-grain sized blob in the middle of the CPU’s heat spreader, put the cooler straight down, and clamp/screw down (however your motherboard does it). That’s it. It really is only a tiny hair more complicated than putting an extra disk in.

Most cpu/fan combos come with a heat sink pad. Put the cpu in. Take off the film and stick on the fan. Lock the fan down.

But sometimes it’s sort of tricky mounting the fan. So do some dry-test fitting before messing with the pad.

While all the connectors should be easy to put in right, the big issue for some people is forgetting to connect everything up, esp. the cpu fan.

I’ve been DIY computer building for mumble years. It’s not rocket science but you do have to be careful and thorough. A website showing all the steps helps.

As to price, yeah buying a bundle is going to be cheaper than DIY parts. But that’s mainly if you are starting over from scratch. If you are mainly in upgrade/repair mode that’s something else.

So the PC I’m using now started out as an XT clone a long time ago and has just been progressively upgraded here and there.

The difficulty with building a PC is what to do if it doesn’t work. If you do it all the time, you have a pile of parts that you can swap out until you find the bad or incompatible part. If you’re new to it and buy just enough parts to build one PC, it may be impossible to figure out why your newly built PC isn’t booting up.

Though if you are upgrading the PC, as the OP is doing, and the old PC has the same interfaces as the new (motherboard power connector, memory slot, etc), you can get around this dilemma by upgrading the system one part at a time.

I built many PCs in my day (1990s and early 2000s) but not anymore, partly because my time is more valuable now, and partly because I no longer have a drawer full of parts.

Heh… I too have a “Computer of Theseus”.

I have always been a big fan of

They also let you select from various common purchase sites.

We always called those “grandpas favorite Axe”

Sure its had 3 heads and 9 handles, but still his favorite axe.

Looking at their website, it seems to be a reference resource rather than a vendor of custom PCs, correct?

It does seem quite useful to check for compatibility issues.

I built a PC from the ground up not too many moons ago. I was wavering quite a bit at first because I was really hoping for, as said in the OP, a “good twin” of Alienware. But I wasn’t able to find anything to my liking, and I kept coming across lots and lots of posts from people who talked about how easy it is to build your own these days.

In addition to getting a couple of questions answered here on the 'Dope, I found /r buildapc on Reddit to be useful. I also liked pcpartpicker quite a bit. I also found a couple of other sites to be somewhat handy for getting an idea of what builds might be feasible: and They might still be useful.

I also googled up a few youtube videos on building a pc. That was very handy for me to not feel I was going in blind when it came to the hands-on building process. All-in-all, it was much easier than I had feared, and I’m still quite happy with my rig.

Linus from Linus Tech Tips assembles a PC with water cooling on the street in China here: Yeah, he’s a pro, but it shows how easy it.

I can assemble a PC in less than 30 minutes as long as I have the parts ready and laid out (never do though, always forget where I put something necessary). Installing Windows about another half hour max. Windows updates can take several hours depending on your download speed.

It you choose standard recommended off the shelf parts, from for example PCPartspicker, you shouldn’t have any problem with hardware and software issues.

If you’re not comfortable with swapping out parts if you have to hardware troubleshoot, everything has it’s own warranty and some parts are easy to put in, but difficult to take out once everything’s assembled), get a pre-built PC.

Yes, PCPartspicker is just a reference site with vendor links. They don’t sell any parts or pre-built PCs.

I remember on the triumph on the nerds (a history of computing up to the early 2000s)documentary series a guy builds a pre tower pc with cd rom and all the bells and whistles on camera in 8 minutes with nothing sped up… it took longer to install win 98 ……

I was considering the i5 8600K CPU which seems to provide that mid-high end sweet spot I’m looking for. I wasn’t even looking at i3s but the i3 8350K seems to give it pretty good competition for $100 cheaper:

Overclocking an i3 feels a little strange.

Does a gamer who wants to dabble with Blender and Unreal Engine 4 have much use for hyperthreading? How about 6 cores over 4?