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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Requirements Analysis | Buying, Building and Upgrading ]

Benefits Of Buying A New PC

Purchasing an already-assembled PC is the way that most people choose to get a system. The reason for this is pretty obvious: most people never even consider other ways of getting a machine, and building a PC requires time and some expertise. Home-built PCs are a relatively new and still "underground" hobbyist phenomenon. Probably over 99% of PCs are purchased fully assembled.

There are several advantages to buying a PC compared to building one from components:

  • Simplicity: Building a PC isn't brain surgery, but it takes time and some expertise to do. In contrast, buying a PC takes considerably less.
  • Speed: Unless you are already an expert, buying a PC takes considerably less time than building one. (People keep telling me that I am an expert, and it would certainly take me much less time to buy a PC than to properly build one!) If your time is limited, or if "time is money" to you and you're, well, on a budget, buying a PC is a better choice.
  • Less Knowledge Required: You don't need to spend time learning as many details of how PCs work in order to buy one as you would if you were to build one. You don't have to do as much research. You also don't have to deal with the sometimes tricky documentation that comes with components.
  • Technical Support: Most new PCs come with a period of free technical support included; you don't have to be good at troubleshooting, and there's no "finger pointing" between manufacturers since you bought everything at one place. (With a homebuilt PC you can get some assistance from the manufacturers of the various components, but otherwise you are the technical support department, albeit assisted by the considerable online resources available today.) Bear in mind that this can be a double-edged sword: often the technical support offered by big PC makers is good, but often it is abysmal--long hold times and seemingly clueless tech support people can make you wonder why you bother at times. (See here for more.)
  • Warranty Service: Most pre-made PCs come with at least a one year warranty; if there is a problem, you drop the machine off and let someone else worry about fixing it. With a homebuilt PC you have to fix it yourself. Again here, this is a bit of a double-edged sword; delays waiting for repairs, and additional costs (for shipping in the event of a mail order PC) can eat away at this benefit; while replacing failed components yourself is more difficult, it can sometimes be faster and in the end, more effective, unless you buy from a very good company. Don't expect service miracles from someone selling you a bargain-basement machine.
  • Bundled Software: This is one of the biggest benefits of a new PC over one you build yourself: new PCs typically come with software that would cost hundreds of dollars to buy separately. If you need that software this can make the decision by itself. See here more details on bundled software.
  • "Known" Quality: You can gauge the quality of the system by the brand name and the price you pay (as a general guideline). If you buy a high-end system from a good company you will usually not have to worry about getting a piece of junk, or sloppy assembly. When you build your own PC, the quality of the end result is entirely up to you, which can be good or bad depending on how you do it.
  • Resale Value: A good quality brand-name PC will have better resale value since most buyers trust a name they have heard of before more than a "no name". Bear in mind though that most people never end up reselling their used PCs since they depreciate rapidly.
  • "Hand-Me-Down" Systems: If you have an existing system and buy a new one, you can often make use of the old system. For example, make it into a file or print server, give it to a child or relative, or donate it to a school. When building, you'll be tempted to take components from the existing system to save money on the new one, which is fine, but will likely leave you with "leftover" components that aren't of much use to you.

You'll notice readily that most of the advantages of buying a pre-made PC relate to saving you time and hassle: it's simpler and easier than building a system. If those are your primary concerns then you probably do want to buy a system rather than building one, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

In fact, there are ways to get some of the key advantages of building a new PC without having to do all the "dirty work" yourself. One of the most important is getting the exact machine and components you want. If you buy from a small PC shop that is willing to custom-build to your specifications, you can in many cases get components that are similar in quality and customization to what you'd get if you built a system. Of course your choices are still limited, since most shops won't order anything under the sun for you; but some will. Of course, TANSTAAFL--this costs more and takes more time than buying off the shelf.

Next: Benefits Of Building A New PC

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