Building Your Own PC: Why you should consider buying used parts


bitspc

It might look a mess, but it means something.

Many of us buy used cars because we don’t have a choice. Our pockets aren’t deep enough for the shiny new twin turbo with go faster stripes, GTX stickers and creamy leather seats. The same can be said for most acquisitions really, whether they be cars, houses, domestic appliances and yes, computers.

But why would we even consider building a machine with used components? What are the factors that would push us in that direction? Quite a few as it happens.

If I’m honest, I won’t pretend to be a tree hugging eco warrior, but even I can see the sense in extending the life span of hardware that others may simply toss in the bin.

dump

There’s gold in here, if you look carefully.

Simple economics is also a major factor in spite of the fact that many may say that this line of thought equals false economics. Of course this is nothing new; folks have been buying and selling used kit for generations, I hear you say.

And you’d be right. In fact, buying used components to rebuild them into reconditioned machines is how I first got my business off the ground.


You have a choice

Imagine  that you live in circumstances that deem it financially prohibitive either to buy a new PC or even to assemble one from new components. It may be a scenario of brutal import restrictions, harsh exchange controls, rampant inflation, and a local currency that loses value on a daily basis. And even if these seemingly apocalyptic conditions don’t apply to you, this is definitely a choice worth considering

If I could show you how to build your own machine entirely from used components, you’d be interested wouldn’t you? I know I would.

Check things out

Once you’ve decided on the type of machine you want to build, put together a minimum specification and stick to it. At this stage you can afford to be a little generous to yourself, after all, you will be making some significant savings along the way.

 

20131109_130425

Every component in this gaming machine is used.

 

 

  • Join computer forums and clubs.
  • Find out who is buying used parts and acting as a wholesaler.
  • Talk to friends and acquaintances.
  • Search online sites such as eBay or your local equivalent.
  • Think local as it helps with face to face contact.

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve established where to find most of your used components, buy a few inexpensive parts as a trial and test them out at home. Some good examples of this could be memory and DVD drives as being easy to test out and not expensive when bought used.

So you now have a good idea of which components you need and it’s time to strike some bargains. Remember that people who are in the business of supplying used parts, are doing just that, they are running a business. They need to turn over products on a regular basis, they know their margins and are usually open to a certain amount of bargaining.


The same could be said for the casual seller who may be selling parts of a PC as they are upgrading to new.

amd7950

This GPU is big. It’s also used.

Be firm

The major components you will be buying will be motherboard, CPU, memory, DVD drive, graphics card and very possibly, the hard drive. Always insist on the seller showing you that the components actually function without any problems. If it’s a graphics card, ask them to run a game for a while.

If it’s a motherboard or memory, get them to load up the operating system and run a few programs. You must be satisfied that you’re not buying turkeys.

Ask questions all the time. Ask the vendor to put a small label on each item showing the date and possibly a reference number.

Extra care should be taken when buying used power supply units. These usually have a date stamp on the label and if you find that the non tamper area of the label has been broken, don’t buy it.

Here’s an example

Recently I came across someone who was upgrading their system, but in order to finance the build, he needed to sell his current components. Luckily he hadn’t taken the machine to pieces when I went to see him, so I was able to check the entire system for myself.

After we’d struck a deal, I walked away with the base components for a top notch gaming machine.

mainbench

Bench test me.

  • Intel Core 2 Exteme QX 6850 quad core CPU
  • ASUS P5N32-E SLI motherboard
  • 8 Gb DDR2 CRUCIAL memory
  • EVGA 8800 GTX GPU
  • ANTEC 650W PSU

When new, the combined total for these components will have been around $2000. The CPU alone on release was about $1000. I was able to get the lot for $200 and build a very fast computer capable of handling most of today’s applications and games.

This isn’t an isolated example, but it is a lucky one. Lucky because I found the right seller who was keen to sell.

Conclusion

There’s no denying the fact that buying anything second hand carries risks. However, I have found that the benefits far outweigh those risks by a long shot.

  • Ask the vendor for a minimum warranty at the very least. I always ask for this and usually get it.
  • Test all the components as a complete system when you get home and run several programs.
  • Consider selling the completed machine and using the profit to fund a better build with components bought from your new friends.
  • Keep in touch with your vendors; after all, trust is the single most important element in any relationship.

Most of all, have fun!

 

About the Author

Marc Thomas

Marc is an avid traveler, motorcyclist, entrepreneur, and gamer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His interest in computers and technology began in the early 1990's when he was introduced by a friend to a Zenith Data Systems computer running DOS. In the years following he has experienced all versions of the Windows operating system, built hundreds of systems, and fixed many more for his customers. Marc also has an interesting forum you might like to check out at Argentina Expats

8 Comments

  1. Unrelated to your topic but my computer shuts off when I am gaming. Not all games, but some do affect the PC.
    Battlefield 3 does not but Dead Space 3 does, so it is not about the games being heavy on the graphics.
    I think I should just change the PSU because the GPU and CPU don’t really climb up on the heat, but I am unsure if the mobo is culprit.

  2. Thanks for your comment Megaman.
    It may help you to post your problem in the hardware section of the DCT forum, if you prefer.
    Crashing during gameplay is not uncommon, but difficult to diagnose without a full picture.
    If you could post more details about your PC in the forum, I and others would be happy to assist.
    Thanks
    Marc

  3. Nice article Marc. I used to buy second hand computer years ago, when prices were through the roof. As a matter of fact, the 486 (for DOS) was purchased in the early ’90s, was used as a slave, bought 2 for $70 CDN then, scrapped one for parts, and the other is still working, That’s over 20 years of service. Can’t say that about the modern windows bases computers, which have a much shorter life span, Mindblower!

  4. Good point MB.
    As a matter of fact I’m running a Pentium II 266 at the shop which I’ve been lugging around with me for years.
    Still works great with Win 98 as does the Compace power supply, which must be nearly 20 years old by now.

  5. Good article. I built a really fine XP machine from an old E-Machine my neighbor gave me. With only 1 gig of ram it still runs XP pretty well with the Socket 775 Pentium CPU.

  6. I know XP is on the way out but I have a retail version of XP Pro, so might as well put it to work. I mostly use it to run Audacity and record audio from all my cassette tapes to the hard drive. Doesn’t have the flash of Win 8 but it still works. Don’t know where our desktop computers are headed, and I still am not a fan of the gadgets everybody calls a computer. Daniel

  7. Fair point Daniel.
    I also run XP Pro on a machine in the shop, which is mainly for compatibility and testing purposes, but one could say it’s for sentimental reasons. Maybe a combination of both.
    Hey, if it works for you and you’re happy, who’s to argue?