Windows Middle East electronic edition 5th July 2005

Buying an off-the-shelf PC is a perfectly fine approach for users in need of a system that covers the basics well. But if you’re a specialist user or enthusiast looking for the perfect machine, you can’t beat going the DIY route.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  July 4, 2005

Real tech-heads do it themselves…|~||~||~|Buying an off-the-shelf PC is a perfectly fine approach for users in need of a system that covers the basics well. But if you’re a specialist user or enthusiast looking for the perfect machine, you can’t beat going the DIY route. Building your own system not only gives you exactly the PC you want, but the process itself is packed with valuable technological lessons. It also lets you choose from every component on the market and can even save you some cash if you’re careful about where and how you shop. One issue users sometimes face when buying off-the-peg is what we’ll call ‘component niggle’. A machine’s specifications might read well enough on paper, but there can sometimes be one missing element. A low-end graphics card maybe (no good for gaming), a tiny hard disk (just where will you put all your MP3s and movies?) or little RAM and not much room to add more. Of course it’s easy to call a vendor and get a machine configured differently; maybe ramp up the RAM or squeeze in the best graphics card ATi or nVidia have to offer. But if you take the bull by the horns and start from scratch yourself you can tweak every other component too to really get the best fit for you. Rather than going for what’s right for you, right now, you can also pre-empt your future needs. If home video editing is your bag for example, you’re going to need hard disk space and lots of it. Build your own PC and you can slot in the biggest disk you can afford (or more than one, if employing RAID technology), as well as going for a PCI Express-based mainboard (for faster video data transfer) and getting precisely the right video card for your work. Again, in fairness to those PC firms that do offer tailorable systems as per your requirements (i.e. most of them), you could simply specify all these components. However, this way you're restricted to choosing from the components they have in stock or those offered by their partner firms. Do it yourself however and you can slot in whichever goodies tickle your fancy. In terms of dollars, DIY can even save a little cash (though don’t get carried away dreaming and expect to walk away with enough spare change for a vacation). There is, of course, the argument that brand name vendors buy components in bulk and thus can offer cheaper PCs as a result, but in fact users often make up the difference by paying for the firm in question to fit all these parts together and for the privilege of buying a known brand. Of course such vendors do offer you a warranty too (which I must point out you certainly won't get building your own system), but then if you're techie enough to have read this far, the likelihood is that you might invalidate such a warranty anyway by upgrading and overclocking your power PC. The biggest advantage of doing it yourself though – and this point really can’t be overestimated – is that you can learn so much from getting your hands dirty. (Well, it’s actually best they're clean, and you first ‘ground yourself’ to avoid static shock, but you know what I mean.) The nitty gritty of how to go about creating your own monster machine is explained in the last three issues of Windows Middle East (look for our exclusive ‘Build Your Own PC’ mini-series). Next month - in our September issue - we’ll bring all this info together in a step-by-step photo guide. All you have to do then is grab your copies of the mag (or you’ll find our first three articles on www.itp.net under ‘Features’) and splash some cash on the components you want. And who doesn’t enjoy shopping for trick kit? Enjoy. ||**||

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