Building a sub $250 PC (summer 2013 edition)

Building a sub $250 PC (summer 2013 edition)

Summary: Sometimes you just want a cheap and cheerful PC to handle some simple tasks. This build – excluding Windows, a display, and peripherals, comes in at under $250.

TOPICS: Hardware

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  • (Image: Lite-On)

    Optical drive

    I've gone for the cheap-and-cheerful — but thoroughly reliable — Lite-On iHAS124-04 CD/DVD burner. Excellent drive at a very affordable price.

    Price: $20

  • (Image: Rosewill)

    Chassis + PSU

    Since this is a budget build, there's no need to go spending big money on a chassis. And for the first time, I'm recommending a cheap chassis and power supply unit (PSU) combo from Rosewill.

    The R103A is a mid-tower chassis that comes with a 350W power supply fitted as standard. The PSU is not the best in the world, but from both my personal experience of these, as well as what I'm hearing from other owners, they're fine for low-powered systems.

    Price: $50

Topic: Hardware

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  • Windows 8 is not free

    How much for OS?
    • Windows 8 64bit

      Windows 8 Pro is $80 I believe at Amazon.
      Dreyer Smit
    • There are free OS's

      as long as you're okay with "not windows."
      Jacob VanWagoner
    • Yet another BFD article from Adrian

      WTF? By the time you add an OS, display, etc. you might as well just buy a tablet - more mental masturbation by Adrian
      • It is reasonable choice

        Ubuntu does not work on XP compatible PCs having 512Mb of RAM. But they already had 17' monitors with keyboards and mouses. So $250 it is excelent upgrade price for all PC. Install Ubuntu and go.
        Regular desktop PC is much better then tablet for home or business. If you need mobile device take smartphone. If you need portable device take high end notebook. I just crashed iPad and I am not going to buy it anymore. It is unhandy tedious to operate crap.
      • So when...

        ...are you going to publish?
  • Will the UEFI BIOS lock out Linux?

    • No; Linux OK with UEFI, just disable Secure Boot

      Linux should be OK with UEFI, just disable Secure Boot (which should be a separate setting).

      UEFI can also be disabled, and I'd do so where there are no > 3G hard drives to compel the use of GPT rather than MBR partitioning. Given price scalability, I'd go for a larger hard drive and 450W PSU, then 4G RAM, in that order, before boosting CPU.

      UEFI makes life harder for boot discs etc. than it needs to be, and while current UEFI systems are still dripping amniotic fluid, I'd avoid the risks.
  • Cute little appliance PC

    Check your e-mail, monitor your toaster, do a shopping list on, remind you to brush your teeth.
    • but that's not all, folks

      For a little extra, you can replace the DVD drive with a Blu-ray drive. Llano integrated graphics are sufficient to play HD video at high frame rates. The thing can already replace you DVD player.

      For a little extra, you can add on a tuner card and use it to record TV and use the thing as a media center PC.

      If you're interested in playing games from the early 2000's, this computer will run them just fine at high settings with very fast load times.
      Jacob VanWagoner
  • Windows 8 ?

    If you want it for the money, you'll have to use Linux. Unless we promote pirating of software. You can use your 80" TV as a display.

    The cheapest way would be to create one more virtual machine on your home server.
  • OS

    Put Puppy Slacko on that and you have a low end PC running fast!
  • Nice build for the price, but my minimum build needs USB 3.0

    I'll admit that adding a USB 3.0 capable MB will add about US$40.00 to the total cost of the system, but it gives much better support for future external peripherals.
  • Why bother?

    Considering that today Microcenter has 13 off-lease refurb PC's for $65-$120 INCLUDING Windows. Sure, most come with 2GB and in most cases they take DDR2, but still ...
    • Yeah the system build here will only get through maybe 2 or 3 years anyway.

      Unless the particular motherboard can handle more then just 2GB and putting a better PSU in it i think building this system is about the same as getting a refurbished system. I wouldn't waste my money on parts that are not going to last very long in the new condition. In the new system i built the only thing i reused was the dvd drive and the video card as well as the monitor. Built it for $1,000 and it's good for years to come. Using it for gaming and it'll be good for future runs, just replace the video card as needed and i'm good to go :). Later on once it no longer handles the latest gaming (it'll do good for a Linux system for years to come).
      • Plus

        DDR2 is twice as expensive . . . I know from experience
  • @ac1234555 ... Will the UEFI BIOS lock out Linux?

    No, Linux is on the UEFI Board, the problem is the technology is still being sorted, if you put Windows first or last in the "Boot To" list, your setting will be saved and you can boot to Linux if that's your prefered Boot To, ... grub does not work on these devices, the Firmware handles that and should be in a better state soon.
  • Fun article to read.. but a cheap PSU powering that WD drive?

    I would just go with a Seagate or other cheap hard drive if your looking to lower cost. Might lower that cost *looks through sites, finds only refurbished hard drives*.. heh, well i guess the cheapest one is $50. I'm surprised that Seagate doesn't have anything cheaper and i don't recommend getting a refurbished one as those are not good for OS's let alone a backup drive. If anything just don't spend anything more than $10 on them as they will usually fail within 6 months. Surprised that newegg would even think of selling them.. wait.. no i am not surprised as newegg has been selling junk lately. Whatever you do don't go the cheap route when choosing newegg. Read the reviews first. Anyway just go with the $50 WD hard drive for a cheap replacement and a 'reliable power supply'. I wouldn't trust that thing in that tower, unless it still works good within a 5 yr period. Might be more expensive but in the end you won't be paying for new parts in the future along with a new PSU.
    • Re refurbs

      Refurbs from Microcenter are off-lease. Generally, those are only 3 years old. And they're not just taken out of service, given a good dusting and sold. Joy Systems, for instance, does a pretty good going over. They come with Windows 7 and usually a new keyboard and mouse. You can expect them to last 3-4 years minimum with moderate use such as Adrian describes -- check email, kitchen PC, etc. I still regularly use a 2003 Dell here at work that was used from 2003 to late 2011 about 45 hours a week. All I did was bump up the memory (DDR) and I eventually upgraded the video card when we got 16:10 monitors. Not a refurb, but still works well and is now running Win 7 Pro. (Somewhat slowly, since I took out some of the RAM I added, so now it only has 1GB. Speed was fine with 2GB.)
  • You may regret that Chassis

    Looks like a decent build, but I've had some bad experiences with the Power Supplies included with the Rosewill Cases. Definitely keeps the price down, but can be total garbage. Hit or miss in my experience.