Perhaps it's my love of science fiction movies, but when I think of building my own desktop PC, my mind flashes to images of lightning streaking across the sky, a giant green monster lying on a metal bed with electrodes connected to his neck and Dr. Frankenstein, wide-eyed, screaming out, 

"It's alive, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!" I can relate to Frankenstein's excitement. There is something rewarding about taking a collection of parts and melding them together into a purring, living machine. The first time you fire up a computer system you've put together, you'll be hard pressed to stifle your excited "it's alive" screams. Let's just hope your creation is nicer to villagers! Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, not everyone has seemingly bottomless pockets to spend on a creation. Thus arises the question as old as the microprocessor: Do you buy or build a PC? If you are wondering about building your own desktop computer for the first time, here are some things to consider so you get the most bang for your buck.

Building Your Own Isn t Always Cheaper

I can hear the collective knee-jerk reaction of outrage at the claim that building your own computer doesn't always save you money. Before you crack open the email account and rapidly fire off an outraged response, consider the facts. There are many hidden costs associated with building a computer system.

When you purchase a computer from manufacturers, they are throwing in many "free" items: keyboards, mice, virus software, cables and, most expensively, the operating system. If you build your own system, you will have to spend money on each of those items separately.

Furthermore, think about how many of each component you're going to buy   just one. Manufacturers keep their costs down by buying in bulk. Even the most diligent bargain hunter spending hours scouring the internet for deals won't match the cost savings the big manufacturers get from buying their supplies in bulk. Can you save money by building a desktop PC yourself? Yes, but how realistically feasible it is depends on what kind of computer you want.

What Level of Computer Do You Want?

This seems like a silly question. What level of computer do I want? The best! Bigger is always better. Do you know what is better than bigger? Even larger. We all want the 900-pound gorilla of computers beating its chest in dominance; however, remember we don't live in the unlimited money, Dr. Frankenstein universe. So take a moment and ask yourself: What do I want out of my computer?

Home Computer

If your answer is an all-around computing system for internet browsing, running Microsoft Office, light photo editing and basic gaming, then the economic decision is to buy your computer. There are great systems from a variety of manufacturers that give you enough computing muscle to achieve low-power tasks at a lower price than what you could build on your own.

Will there be some trade-offs associated with simply buying? Yes. One of the biggest is bloatware. Preloaded bloatware is the computer world's equivalent of a bad tattoo from a terrible relationship: You didn't want it to begin with, it is tough to get rid of, and every time you see it you're reminded how miserable it makes you. Luckily, some companies have ditched bloatware and give you a clean version of Windows, so there's still hope.

Gaming Computer

The cost savings for building a gaming PC won't be on the front end of the purchase. Gaming PC manufacturers can still give you more computing muscle for less. The real savings comes when you start upgrading your system. PC games have superior graphics and adaptability than console games, but that means to maintain a graphical edge, more computing power is continually needed. The result is you ll constantly need to upgrade your system in order to take advantage of increasingly better graphics. Building your own system offers you the ability to plan to expand, lets you know you'll have the right power source to power future cards (a common problem with pre-manufactured computers) and helps you save money because you can find components on sale over time.

Where Can You Turn for Help?

If something goes wrong with a purchased computer, you have a help line to call. The manufacturer offers warranties. If something goes wrong with a computer you built yourself, where do you go? As bleak as it sounds, you are on your own, but that really is half the fun of building a computer. You shouldn't fear the build, or your lack of techno-speak. If you set off on the bold course of building a PC, there are places online to help you with the process. YouTube is full of informational videos showing exactly how to install components. Websites like Tom's Hardware are perfect, even for new PC builders, for getting detailed and informative answers to problems in easy-to-understand language.

While building a computer isn't always the most economical, it is always a very rewarding project. If you want the most bang for your buck, consider what you want from your computer and what type of computer you really need. If you decided to build a system, don't fear what you don t know. The best way to learn how to build a computer is to build it.

More Top Stories