The downsides of building your own PCs

Summary:There are huge upsides to building your on PC, but it's not smiles all the way ...

I’m a big advocate of building your own PC as opposed to putting your money (and faith) in a manufacturer that has them rolling off the production lines by the thousands.  Don’t get me wrong, given the numbers of new PCs being made and sold every day, the failure rate is amazingly low and the prices are hard to beat.  For me, it’s just that these mass produced PCs lack a soul.  They feel cold and sterile and, well, mass produced. 

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Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to introducing thousands of people to the joys of owning a custom built PC without having to pay custom built prices, and once you’ve built your own PC you’ll never look at mass-market PC in the same way ever again.  It’s a bit like getting the opportunity to test drive a Bentley or Aston Martin and then driving home in a Honda, Ford or Peugeot. Or going to a jewelers and strapping on a Rolex or Omega and then having to hand it back and then go back home wearing your Timex.  There’s nothing wrong with a Honda, Ford, Peugeot or Timex (in fact, there are upsides), but a quality, hand-crafted bit of kit sparks that portion of the brain that made ancient man create that better spear or sharper flint axe.  Mass produced PCs feel thrown together, when in reality the parts need to be coaxed gently.  The number of stripped threads, chewed up screws, and (the worse sin of all) hot glue that I’ve seen inside OEM PCs shows that the right amount of care just hasn’t been taken during assembly. 

As you can tell, I’m pretty enthusiastic about building PCs!

But there are downsides.  Three to be exact.  They don’t put me off building PCs, but they certainly annoy me.  Actually, annoy is too strong a term.  Irritate is better. 

The first irritant is the volume of trash that building a PC generates.  In fact, the last two PCs I built created such a volume of waste that I was really appalled.  From what I can tell, building a PC with parts sourced online seems to mean that you end up with enough cardboard and styrofoam to fill the box that the case came in.  It’s not too bad because 99% of the trash can be recycled (so the process is pretty guilt-free) but you do need the space in order to be able to store the parts and work, and I’m certain that over the years that minimum working space that you need has increased.

The second thing that gets me emotional is the quality of SATA cables and connectors.  Why is it that when you buy a quality board like an ASUS or Gigabyte you end up with poor quality cabling that it inflexible and has massive end connectors that make it difficult to route the cables in a tidy fashion?  Why not just not bother to supply cables? Or, better still, supply decent quality cables with a decently-priced board?  I’m buried here in SATA cables.  I have dozens laying about the place.  I don’t throw them away because they “could come in handy one day” but they never do.  To top that off, why do the plastic SATA connectors on a motherboard need to be so brittle and flimsy?  Do they really need to break that easily?  Might it be possible to design a connector that can actually hold the cable in place?

Finally, what’s the deal with that patch of thermal compound that’s applied to stock heatsinks?  I understand why it’s there (convenience and all that) but it’s a major annoyance for anyone wanting to remove the patch and use their own thermal compound.  If you do decide to use the stock thermal compound, it’s not that good and makes disassembling the heatsink/CPU a major pain.  In short, it’s a time-saving gesture that costs me time.  Sweet.  It’s because of this hassle that I usually throw out the stock heatsink and fan assembly and replace it with a different model (preferably one that fits onto the existing motherboard fittings, anything proprietary usually means that I have to remove the motherboard if I need to replace the heatsink).

Still, all that said, these downsides are more than acceptable when you consider the upsides.  And anyway, buying a PC would still leave me with a pile of rubbish to get rid of, the same poor-quality cables would be used inside and the CPU would be gummed to the heatsink thanks to the use of the pre-applied thermal pad.

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Do you build your own PC or buy them ready made?  If you build your own, what do you see as the downsides?  If you buy your PCs ready made, what’s holding you back from building your own?

Topics: PCs

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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