David Behrens tries the build-it-yourself way to a PC.
THE market for desktop computers is drying up as more of us opt instead for laptops, tablets and netbooks. The traditional Windows tower PC may soon be one of those artefacts, like the photocopier and water cooler, that you see only at work.
But in the meantime you can turn the falling demand to your advantage, because prices have dropped to such an extent that it’s now possible to buy a complete desktop system, bit by bit, for just over £200 and put the bits together yourself.
You need a little technical acumen to do this – or better still, the assistance of a willing teenager – but once you know which part goes where, it’s not (quite) rocket science. No, really – it’s no harder than assembling an Airfix kit. A few hours’ work is well worth it when you think of the money you’re saving.
PCs – even the ones you buy off the shelf – are nothing more than metal boxes full of parts made by other companies: a processor, main circuit board, memory, hard drive and DVD writer, for a standard model. These can all be bought separately from scores of web-based retailers, some of whom sell partly-assembled kits you can customise as you please.
The case itself costs around £30 and includes a power supply unit, fan and all the cabling you need to connect the other bits to each other. The processor, main board and memory can be bought pre-assembled and bench-tested, ready to screw into the case. The hard disc and DVD drives just slip into the slots provided.
I spent the other weekend putting together a PC in this way; the whole process took just over two hours, plus around a half-day to install the software. The latter adds considerably to the bill, with Microsoft making you buy a new £70 copy of Windows for every PC you own, even if you’re replacing an old one. This is a bit like Slumberland insisting you buy a new duvet cover when you replace your quilt, but such is the world of licensing.
The risk with doing it yourself is that the thing won’t work when you turn it on, or worse, take out your ring main. But mine not only sprang into life at the first asking, it is so far more reliable than any factory-built PC I’ve bought. My tip: plunge in and have a go. You’ve nothing to lose, and unlike those Airfix projects, you won’t have to spend the week picking glue off your fingers.