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how easy (and cheap) is it to build a computer?

post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 
I'm pretty much retarded when it comes to computer hardware. I understand electricity at the subatomic level, and that is the extent of my hardware knowledge. I am slightly better than an idiot when it comes to software. I can code in a handful of languages and use math nerd software, but I can barely string together a Powerpoint beyond text and photos.

I need a computer to do a project I'm interested in, on my own time outside of work.

This won't be a "home pc". Rather it will be a scientific workstation. It may run Linux, I haven't decided yet, but it will have a variety of compilers, math software and physics software installed and will have to crunch numbers over extended periods of time (potentially up to a week straight).

So, can I actually put a computer like that together myself? If so, is it cheaper to just buy one or to build it myself? Anyone have some suggestions?

I do know a few things: more slower processors can be better than fewer fast processors (highly parallel), and RAM won't be a HUGE limiter. I will probably use an NVIDIA workstation graphics card since that is what I'm most familiar with.
post #2 of 67
I've built two computers, including the one I'm typing this on. It's not hard if you do the research and follow a guide how to put all the pieces together. For the parts you'll be able to buy OEM, you'll get a better computer for cheaper, although it may not seem like that (if you have a monitor already, the price drops even more).
post #3 of 67
Thread Starter 
I do have a monitor, keyboard and mouse I can use.
post #4 of 67
If you don't know what you're doing, and don't want to invest the time to read up on it, then I'd save yourself the man hours and just buy something from Dell or the like. If you're picky about parts or want a specific build then do it yourself.
post #5 of 67
I'll let the experts like G33k give you advice on specific parts, but if you're doing multiple processors, I will say to not spare money on your power supply or cooling.
post #6 of 67
It's very easy these days as you don't have to deal with jumpers but you still have to make sure your ports are compatible.


It's like LEGO but for adults.
post #7 of 67
If you don't have the time to do all the research of building one yourself, and you're picky about parts, probaby best to buy the components from a reputable computer shop and have them assemble it. It's the best of both worlds...you choose the parts and they put it together. Shops around here charge about $50 to put systems together, and that includes testing and installing the OS.
post #8 of 67
Just wait for a good sale and buy a Dell or HP. It'll probably be every bit as nice as one you'll be able to cobble together on your first attempt.
post #9 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rambo View Post
Just wait for a good sale and buy a Dell or HP. It'll probably be every bit as nice as one you'll be able to cobble together on your first attempt.

Quoted for hilarity.

Ignorance is truly bliss.
post #10 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rambo View Post
Just wait for a good sale and buy a Dell or HP. It'll probably be every bit as nice as one you'll be able to cobble together on your first attempt.

+1

I've built computers before, but I don't see the point nowadays, unless you really enjoy doing it. It's easy to do, but not especially cost effective.

Most of the time you can get HP or Dell computers cheaper than if you bought to parts separately. That's not even accounting for the time you'll have to spend to research the components and actually build it. I bought a HP Pavilion slimline for $300 once from OfficeDepot on a big sale. In fact, I'm still using it, though I've upgraded the crap out of it. I like HP's build quality and the slimlines are neat small little things. You won't be able to use an nvidia workstation card on the slimlines though, since it requires half height graphics cards.

If you do decide to build one, http://www.hardforum.com is a helpful website if you run into any trouble.
post #11 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Piobaire View Post
I'll let the experts like G33k give you advice on specific parts, but if you're doing multiple processors, I will say to not spare money on your power supply or cooling.

I'll take this further.

DO NOT spare money on your power supply or cooling. A sweet l33t box is worthless if it overheats every ten minutes, or if a flaky PS can't reliably deliver juice to bits what need it. To me, making sure I've got good overhead in cooling and power is the foremost reason I'd bother building my own these days. Dell/HP/et al are too focused on their bottom lines to worry about that sort of thing.
post #12 of 67
Thread Starter 
Okay, so some good points have been brought up, especially with regards to my time. . . my billing rate should probably factor into this.

I see HP workstations going for well north of a grand with multicore processors and that is for a dual core (which I have in my laptop and is entirely too little processor for this). The quad cores are substantially more.

Lenovo seems a bit more reasonably priced. Sun apparently doesn't exist anymore in the workstation market now that Oracle bought them. Shame. . . I liked the Suns I used in the past.

Do they make multiprocessor boards anymore or have multicores eliminated that?

Would it be better to buy a server in tower form and stick a video card in it? I see a decent one on tigerdirect for like 500.

Other ideas?
post #13 of 67
I'm too lazy to read the replies or even the question itself, but I've built about 5-6 top-of-the-line computers for work and I can provide some input.

Basically, it's very-very easy once you know what you're doing. The problem is to get to the point when you're experienced enough.

There are some things to look out for. All the parts that you buy must be compatible and optimal for each other. It's not as simple as getting the video card with the most amount of RAM etc. There are subtle specifications for certain parts (like read and write times for RAM) that are as important as the major specs. The way you select the RAM, for instance, also depends on the BUS speed of your motherboard and your processor, etc.

You need to get the right case, the right power supply and enough fans to cool down your system.

If you have no idea how to build a computer, you most certainly can try, but your first couple of attempts aren't gonna be the best. But with a little time spent online and some trial and error you will be able to build a super-fast computer for the price of an average Dell PC.

Yes, it is much cheaper to do it yourself. Also, you know exactly which parts you put into it. Those 2 points are crucial for any tech.
post #14 of 67
I believe JD May created the definitive home-built PC thread. I would find it but I'm as lazy as the OP.
post #15 of 67
Don't forget the operating system and software in your cost-to-build estimate.
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