Table of Contents
As such we will begin by addressing the statement “I can do it myself for less money.” Generally, that is true, and that makes sense. With a company building a machine for you, you have to contribute to their staff paychecks, their rent payments, their taxes, all the way down to the grounds for their coffee machine! With this overhead, it certainly makes sense that you can do it yourself for cheaper. But don’t forget that the parts store you go to has its own employees, rent, taxes and coffee as well. The only difference is that they have to do less work to fill your order — they have to put the part in a box, and ship it out. They don’t have to give you consulting time, assemble your computer, test it, install it, update it, or support it. So while they have their own overhead, you’ll definitely save a buck or two. In the end, it comes down to who you buy from. There are some really great deals out there if you take the time to find them. Buy from the wrong place, and now you’re not only building your own computer…but you’re paying more than you would have as well!
The question is, if you do save some money by finding good deals and building yourself, is it worth it?
Of course, this article assumes that you have the knowledge necessary to actually build a computer. Although any intelligent person can figure out how to do it, it is common sense that your first build will be plagued with problems, delays and frustrations. That’s true with just about anything! Remember the first time you tried to change your oil? Not quite the 10 minute task it should have been! It is the goal of this article to point out that even experienced computer people have troubles.
Finding the Deals
Instead of receiving a single shipment from a single vendor, you now are scavenging…finding a good deal on each part where you can. Shipping costs will be slightly higher, but time is the main factor here. If you’re one of the unfortunate (or fortunate?!) ones to be without a job, then no problem! You’ve got the time to burn on searching the net for deals, placing your orders, tracking the shipments, and sitting at home every day waiting for the UPS trucks to roll in.
At this point, you’ve already spent countless hours on research, late night web searching marathons, and you can now recite your credit card number in your sleep. How much was that time worth? It’s tough to place a value on time unless you’re the insanely busy, “my time is worth $60 an hour” type executive work-aholic. How much is your time worth?
- A double wide GeForceFX 5950 Ultra video card will not fit in a Shuttle mini PC?
- The Thermaltake LanFire spaces its fan mounts so close together that if you get LED case fans, they won’t fit?
- Supermicro motherboards will not accept OCZ memory?
- Koolance video card water blocks will not mount correctly on Matrox video cards?
- CoolerMaster only makes one model of Xeon fan that will clear all the capacitors on the Asus PC-DL motherboard?
- There is no way to mount a Mitsumi flash reader in a Lian-Li PC6077 case without drilling your own mounting points?
Those are just a few off the top of my head that we’ve encountered in the last few months. I could go on and on. All those issues above are not correctable — you’ll have to go out and buy another part to fix it. They are also all things that are incredibly difficult to find out beforehand, no matter how much research you do. With any computer build, these are problems that are just going to happen. They happen to us all the time as we build our custom machines. The difference is that if you build yourself, it’s your problem. If we build it…it’s our problem! We usually end up giving upgrades to our customers to make up for it. If we have to order in different parts, then *we* are the ones stuck with the parts that didn’t work, not you. This is the single largest reason not to build yourself.
You need to have confirmed working parts on hand to be able to troubleshoot. In the example I just gave, I would first check the wiring, it sounds to me like there’s a short somewhere. It could also be the power supply. If it is the power supply, you’re never going to know until you try another power supply. What if you buy another power supply, and it turns out that you just didn’t have one with enough wattage? Now you need to buy a third. What if you buy all three, and find out that it was a wiring problem all along? The power plug to your floppy drive was just offset by one pin. How frustrating!
- Asus motherboards will not post in an Enlight 7237 case when the PCI cards are screwed in?
- The Asus A7N8X-VM motherboard gives memory errors with OCZ memory in the second slot?
- Sound Blaster sound cards will cause hard drive corruption in Windows XP when in the first PCI slot of an Asus motherboard?
- The Asus PC-DL motherboard will only POST with a Mitsumi flash reader when it is updated to BIOS revision 1004?
- MemTest86 3.0 will not run on 64 bit systems (it makes you think there is a memory problem when there isn’t)?
- Windows XP will not boot properly with a revision 1 Radeon 7000 video card unless you use another card and install the drivers first?
Again, these are all things that are virtually impossible to predict. Just like the other problems, if you build it, these are all things you’d have to figure out and fix.
Choosing a Company
- Is the company reputable?
A few months ago, we posted information about companies that were copying our content. Take a look at our “Too Good to be True?” page. It is very easy on the internet to put up a good image. Use places like ResellerRatings.com and BizRate.com to see what customers who ordered from the company are saying about their experience. Look up the company with the BBB. Be cautious!
- How fast will the computer be built?
How long will it take the company to build your computer? Many people don’t realize that the industry average is 2-3 weeks for a computer build. If you’re in a hurry, this is something you need to know.
- What does the company do to help prevent shipping damage?
At the very least, make sure that all your packages are fully insured. If there is damage, will the company take care of it, or do you have to arm wrestle the money from UPS? I’ve dealt with UPS many times, it is extremely extremely difficult to get any money out of them. When you can, it takes about four weeks. If the computer company will fix the shipping damage for you even if it’s not their fault, that’s a big deal.
- What is the company’s return policy?
If you don’t like the computer, do you have the option of sending it back? Is there a restocking fee? With all the vendors I’ve dealt with, I can tell you that a vendor with a poor return policy is no good to you, they might as well not even have a policy at all!
- What is the company’s warranty policy?
If you have a part that fails on you, how long are you covered under the company warranty, and what loops do you have to jump through to get the part replaced? Who pays for shipping?