Build my own PC?

Hi.

I have a customer who is tired of buying stock computers, Dell, HP, etc, because when they finally die, they're so proprietary that they often can't be fixed.

If we buy a generic tower, fit it with all the components, when eventually one dies, or we need to upgrade to stay up with technology will that afford us the ability to do that or do they become out of date as well?

Thanks.
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ButchDogAsked:
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
I don't think you can avoid the "advance of technology" in these things.  In 3 years, usually the available RAM and hard drives are going to be bigger and there will be new CPUs.  And the companies need something new to sell so they stop supporting things as soon as they can.

There used to be a company that said they would stock motherboards for 10 years (if you bought enough in the first place) but I think they're out of business.  Probably ran out of storage space for 486 motherboards.
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Carlisle_AgentCommented:
Computers are constantly being outdated because of the speed technology is changing. I myself have 5 computers I built myself. Choosing your own parts gives you the option to expand or upgrade as you please depending on the hardware you choose (motherboard wise). Ex: I have a computer I built back in '02, and I still have it because I'm able to upgrade the video card, RAM, and what-nots. Therefore, most stock computers (esp cheaper ones) dont come with motherboards that have the pci slots that are ideal for upgrading, and don't have the proper cpu socket. In close, you are at the mercy of the limits your pc is capable of when going with a stock pc.
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stevepcguyCommented:
I'm with Dave. Built in obsolescence is part of the marketing strategy. Moore's Law still applies: Computer processors double in power every two years. As long as CPU's are doubling every two years, along with advances in memory, storage, and video, old computers are going to be obsolete. Software is continually upgraded to take advantage of new computing power and new technology.

Years ago, I laughed at the though of any computer needing more than 2 USB ports. I laugh at myself now for thinking that.

With some planning and good hardware, you can make your PC last 5 years. After that, it's not worth keeping. New OS's, new networking, better video, more memory make a new purchase almost mandatory.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
>>> you can make your PC last 5 years. After that, it's not worth keeping.

Yes. But not likely Dell or HP. Think Lenovo ThinkCenter and ThinkPad. These will usually last 5 or more years and are serviceable for 5 or more years. My own T61p now running Windows 7 Pro will be out of warranty in April coming and shows no signs of dying.  

Good, commercial grade hardware is normally serviceable until they are not worth keeping anyway. Consumer grade hardware is normally cheaper and has much short life and serviceability.

White box or DIY suffers from the same obsolesence even though you might be able to upgrade some parts.

... Thinkpads_User
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
You're more likely to have issues with self built systems than you are with a major name brand. That doesn't mean you can't build a perfectly good system,  but you haven't done the hundreds of hours of quality assurance testing Dell or HP has on your specific selection of components. And that doesn't mean that a Dell or HP won't potentially fail either.  But the higher their failure rates, the lower their profits and while anyone can screw up QA,  do it too often and you'll be quickly out of business.  And consider your potential nightmare of RMAing a motherboard or troubleshooting an odd hardware problem where every vendor you talk to blames the other vendor.  If you want to build because You want total control over your own individual PC,  go ahead...  But be warned.   As for dating things, everything ages and name brand or not it will be obsolete.  I've used a specific Dell laptop for  7+ years which to me at least is impressive
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ButchDogAuthor Commented:
Thanks.
Great answers all.

I guess I'm just wondering if we buy a generic box, can we swap out the motherboard and/or processor, and/or ram when the one's we buy now die or become obsolete?

Good point, leew.  I hadn't thought about the trouble we could have putting together misc parts as opposed to letting major manufacturers, who have WAY more experience at this, do it for us.

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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Can you swap the motherboard? Probably. So long as the standards don't change. And they probably won't. But everything is so cheap, do you really care? If you swap the motherboard, you're almost certainly going to need new RAM, and a new CPU, so what's $40 on a case? I suppose you could go with a fancier case... I usually don't see the point though... Heck you don't even really need a case...
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
Nah, you need a case in case you spill your Jolt Cola...
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Not true - you could hang everything mobile like with fishing string... I did, just for the fun of it!
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
I had not thought of that...  Do you have a picture?
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ButchDogAuthor Commented:
So, Leew, what you're saying is that once you replace the motherboard, put in a new cpu and new ram, you might as well buy an entire new pc off the shelf?
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
>>> once you replace the motherboard, put in a new cpu and new ram, you might as well buy an entire new pc

If you get a well engineered PC, one that has warranty, is serviceable and lasts, then yes - when the board goes down the road, it is probably time to dump the PC.

.... Thinkpads_User
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Another thing to consider is the Business Case: You probably cannot construct a high quality PC for less money that a good manufacturer. So your customer may be wasting money on custom computers trying to stretch PC life (so as to prevent new capital).  ... Thinkpads_User
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Well, hard drives WILL fail (unless you get an SSD, but even they will fail).  And frankly, I don't bother with CD/DVD drives much anymore - I use flash drives. So what's left?  Video card?  If you're a gamer, you want that upgraded every year... or more often... if you're not, you don't care much (most likely) about the graphics performance.  

Sadly, no picture... that was about 10 years ago... should have taken one... maybe I'll do it again sometime...
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nobusCommented:
the only advantage that i see with building your own PC is that you will know what is in it, and installed on it
that reduces the massive commercial software loads on branded pc's, and also gives you better hardware handling possibilities and training
but i fear it costs a lot more (parts, hours, tools)
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davidlevans13Commented:
I haven't found building my own PC's to be very cost effective...  but it's fun. Which is why I do it.
I used to work on cars when young, now I do the same silly things with my PC.

If your customer just wants a PC to use and not play with then a pre-manufactured one is the way to go..  get one on sale. If they are going to break then they will usually do it within the warranty time.

When  my customers tell me they need a new PC I don't even consider building them one. Unless they wanted a high-priced fancy one.


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CallandorCommented:
I still do build my own PCs, but that's because I'm picky about what I put in them.  There's no reason an off-the-shelf PC won't cost less or run at 80% of the performance of one I build (it won't cost less less AND run at the same performance, though).  Things have gotten to the point where it isn't worth it to build for others, because components perform better than software that runs on them, and that's good enough.  CPU sockets change often enough that you're going to have to upgrade everything if you want something current, but the key factor is, does your hardware run the software you most often use in a reasonable manner?  If it does, there's no reason to upgrade; if it doesn't, it's time for a new machine.
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eagerCommented:
I've built a number of PCs, and purchased a few.  One problem I found with Dell (and presumably other mfgs) is that they cost reduce the manufacturing which makes the system difficult to upgrade.  There may not be room to add extra hard drives, and mounting may be non-standard.  Power supplies are sized for the sold product, not with upgraded memory or hard drives.  There are benefits to purchased system, lower cost and guarantee being two that come to mind, but generally future upgrades is not one.  

I frequently upgrade my systems incrementally. In one server, at various times I've replaced a dual-core AMD processor with a six-core processor, doubled the amount of memory, added larger hard drives in RAID configuration. It's the same system that I built a 2-3 years ago, sort of, but about ten times its original performance.

If I decide that I need to upgrade to a new motherboard, usually to support a new processor, I build a new box.  There may be some parts which I can reuse from an old system, but most are not.  There's technology creep -- the new MB is likely to need different memory (DDR3 vs DDR2), have better functionality (6Gbps SATA), or have different buss slots which make reuse more difficult.  
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LMiller7Commented:
Building your own computer gives you many options. But this is both good and bad. If you have done proper research, have selected good components, and you are lucky, you will have a reliable system that can be easily repaired and upgraded. But there are plenty of ways to go wrong, as many an expert has found out to their cost.

If you have considerable knowledge and experience in this field then there is a good chance that a self built computer will achieve your goals. Many have done so. But if you must rely on the advice of others the results are far from certain.
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algorithCommented:
Along the lines of thinkpads_user's comments above, generating a Business Case for this would help to clarify the issue for your client. Note that there is also a good chunk of time associated with the maintenance of what you are proposing, which might be as much as 1 man-month per year for each dozen systems. This is ongoing, after the initial capital outlay.  And, you can expect to become the goto guy for disk crashes, system incompatibilities, and general Windows nonsense.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
And the goat guy if you recommend parts that don't work well together -- and you may not even realize it for weeks...
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CallandorCommented:
In an enterprise-sized company, parts working together would be a concern, due to the sheer numbers and combinations.  But one PC?  There's a low probability that anyone who puts these together for a living will find incompatible parts.  It's been a long time that I read of a video card which wouldn't work with a motherboard.
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ComputerDudeLVCommented:
Buying a computer with the though of upgrading it a few years down the line is a concept that is outdated and don't waste your time. In a business environment buy computers a few steps below the current technology and when they die bury them. A machine should have a life of 4 to 5 years in a business environment.
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eagerCommented:
I'll agree with ComputerDudeLV.    The only time when it is cost effective to plan on upgrading a system in the future, rather than replacing it outright, is when you are building a system for your own use.  For customers or a user base in a business, purchase a system which comes with a warranty and service organization.  The last thing you want is to become a free service organization for each and every problem that your customer encounters.  If you are getting paid for this, that's a different issue.

BTW, there are a number of companies which resell systems from companies which have upgraded.  The computers don't actually end up buried in a landfill.  
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
The last two comments are close to what has already been posted. .... Thinkpads_User
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stevepcguyCommented:
I think we've all said pretty much the same thing: building your own pc is fun, but not cost effective. There is a built in obsolescence to pc's, which is built into the system. Best practice for non techs and small businesses is to buy a good system from a known manufacturer that has some upgrade capability, and plan on replacing every 3-5 years as part of your business plan or strategy.
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ButchDogAuthor Commented:
Thank you.
You all made your case very well.
I concur.

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