How To Save Money When Building Your Own PC

Computers are expensive, and every dollar counts if you're building one on a budget. If you pick the right parts, shop in the right way, and use a few simple tricks, you can save quite a bit on that new PC.

Pick the Right Parts

Saving money on a home-built PC starts with picking the right parts. We've already talked about this a lot before, so we won't get into the nitty-gritty details here, but it's the first place you should look for savings. For example, when it comes to desktop PCs, processors don't matter all that much anymore. Buying Intel's brand-spanking-new Haswell processors won't make a huge difference in your build. If you want to save some money, check out last generation's Ivy Bridge processors and motherboards instead. They're similar in features, but you can often get them at a lower price.

You don't need a high-end (Core) i7 processor with hyperthreading to build a gaming PC. Very few games take advantage of the extra four threads, so an i5 offers the same performance for less money. You also won't need 8GB of RAM, unless you run a lot of virtual machines or perform other RAM-hungry processes.

Lastly, you may find that as you shop around, you see multiple parts that would all fit the bill in your computer. Maybe you don't care what brand of RAM you buy, or what kind of hard drive you get, as long as it's the right speed. Heck, you may even find one or two similar motherboards that will work in your build. In that case, monitor them all, so if one goes on sale, you can grab it and know you're getting the best deal.

Just remember: as you shop, don't buy something just because it's cheap. Pick your parts first, then shop around based on price. You don't want to get stuck with low-quality components just because you bought them on mega-sale.

Plan for the Future Now

Think about future upgrades when you design your build. Many people will buy brand new, expensive, top of the line parts in the name of "futureproofing", but that isn’t how futureproofing really works. For example, buying a super-expensive video card or hard drive now may make increase your computer’s lifespan, but it will cost you more in the long run than if you had bought something appropriate now and upgraded it later. On the other hand, you don't want to buy something really cheap with the intent to upgrade in the near future, since it will cost more than if you had just purchased a nicer part now. It's all about balance.

So, think about when you might need to upgrade this computer next, and make sure you buy compatible parts. For example, if you think you'll upgrade to an SSD the next time around, buy a motherboard with SATA 6GB/s support so you can take full advantage of it. If you plan on adding a second graphics card (which we don't always recommend), make sure you have enough PCI slots, a motherboard that supports SLI and Crossfire, and a power supply with enough wattage.

Lastly, many parts will last you multiple builds into the future. If you buy a nice case the first time, you can keep it around for years and years to come, which will save you money in the long run. The same goes for power supplies, CPU coolers, and other accessories. We've talked about all this before, but it's worth mentioning again. Check out the video above for a more in-depth explanation on how you can plan for the future and save money in the process.

Choose Your Suppliers Wisely

Shopping around is a vital money-saving tactic. We're big fans of staticICE for price comparisons from Australian stores. For some components, shopping overseas can save money, but the shipping costs on larger items such as cases can make that a deal-breaker. It's also worth searching on OzBargain for any current deals.

Once you've found the lowest price for each part, you may be tempted to buy them all from individual stores. Ignore that urge: when you buy from many stores, you pay a lot in shipping. Try and find a store that has reasonable prices on most of what you want, and see if it offers price-matching to reduce the overall bill.

You can buy your parts all at once easily, but if you're the patient type, many people recommend waiting. If you buy your parts separately over a two-month period, you can monitor their prices more closely and get the best deal on each one.

Buy Used (But Be Careful)

Lastly, if you're really hard up for cash, some builders recommend buying used parts online. This is just as risky as it sounds: you could end up with a broken part, you'll have a shorter warranty, and you don't get to see the product before you buy.

That said, if you want to go this route:

  • Don't buy from sites like Craigslist. Buy from hardware-focused sites like Hard Forum, AnandTech's classifieds, the Marketplace, or Reddit's /r/hardwareswap. Again, keep location in mind.
  • Buy from a store with a "reputation" feature (eBay being the obvious example) and ensure that the person you're buying from has lots of positive feedback.
  • Look for parts that still have the manufacturer's warranty, and that it supports owners beyond the first.

You may want to poke around those forums and ask for more advice buying used as well. Use your head and be careful.

These are just some things I've learned from personal experience and digging through forums, but they aren’t the only ones. Just remember that your time is worth something too. At a certain point, it stops being worth it to spend hours looking for deals just to save just a few bucks. For more great tips, I recommend checking out Tom's Hardware's guide to buying PC parts, Reddit's guide to saving money when you build, and Tested's guide to properly budgeting your next PC. And, of course, be sure to check out our complete guide to building your PC from start to finish as a starting point. Good luck!

Images remixed from Tele52 (Shutterstock) and Logan Ingalls.


    Never, ever buy a used CPU. Some people overclock the bejesus out of them.

    Plus, GFX boards do a lot of the heavy lifting in 2013. Games certainly use them the most, but a lot of apps are using CUDA to utilise them as a math co-processor.

      I wouldn't buy any internal component second hand, personally. There's too much that can go wrong with a second hand part and no way to know what condition it's in, most of the time.

        Same. But I sell all my 2nd hand components. And I OC the bejesus (the zombie jesus?) out of everything.

        But I don't really over-volt and have good cooling, so I don't think I'm shortening the lifespan of my parts by much.

    For the extreme budget, ask your friendly IT dept if they have spare PC parts. Often with larger organisations they tend to throw away perfectly good machines after a few years, sending them off to the recyclers.
    I’ve scored numerous cases, and half decent hardware over the years and all free (Grabbed a Quad Core with 4gb DDR2 last year).

    Even dead hardware with blown caps can be a win if your handy with the solder. Normally IT dept’s just throw & replace rather than repair. So it’s a great way to both recycle & keep you relatively in the tech loop.

      That's how I built my HTPC. Completely free, perks of the job I guess.

    RAM is so dirt cheap these days that if you're building your own rig there's really no reason to not just fill up the slots in your motherboard.

      apart from the fact 99% of people will not even get close to using 8GB there is plenty of reasons to not fill them up
      Stupid recommendation

        I slapped 16GB into mine, sure I wont ever probably use it, but I wont have to ever worry about not having enough all the way until I get a new PC, also every single other part of my PC cost more than all my RAM. I think it was <60 dollars all up.

        I think WhitePointer's point is valid especially with DDR3, it's so cheap you may as well fill it up. If only to prolong the life of your machine with future OS's and software/game requirements (yes the whole future proof argument). Sure most people may not use anything near 8gb now, but peoples needs change and at the price one may as well.

        As for older tech like DDR2 that's fairly expensive often 3 to 4 times the price of DDR3 for a 2gb stick of ram. And lets face it DDR3 will go down the same track of DDR2 shortly anyway with price increases.

        Disagree. WhitePointer has a point.
        Besides, the excess RAM can be used as a RAMDisk.

          You'll get better performance from two matched modules in dual channel mode than filling all four slots (Unless you have Triple-Quad channel ram, which if your on a budget isn't likely).

          So, Get some decent 2 pack kit of ram. And favour the faster good-brand 8gb kits over the cheaper 16gb kits.

            While I don't disagree, given the nature of RAMDisk I'd rather sport the extra RAM than the extra speed for that purpose.

              Ok, I'll bite

              What are you using your RAMDISK for exactly? Since a RAMDISK is by it's nature a volatile storage medium it would be ill-suited to actually loading applications from or storing data, so that really only leaves it's use for a scratch drive.

              And, if your using it or a scratch drive you would be better off letting said application use as much RAM as possible in the first place (Unless you were using software so old or x32 that it couldn't do this) before it needs a scratch drive.

              Finally, I'd take a stab in the dark that most advanced user's would rather an SSD if they need performance I/O over the headache that RAMDisks can sometimes leave, and everyone else just wouldn't bother.

              Ramdisk's were cool in 99 but seem a bit OTT on modern hardware

        It depends on the mobo. If you've got a socket 2011, they're designed to run best with 4 banks filled. So if you only have 4 banks (like me), then it's not stupid at all to fill them.

      Yah. I've got 16gb in mine. But I do a lot of video editing so I still max it out. I'm gonna step up to 32gb at some point.

    One thing I would say from experience is to pick the biggest RAM modules you can get at the time. and only fill up half the slots. Also, don't buy a $60 motherboard with only 2 slots.

    Shelling out a grand on a Video card that can put out 200fps when the human eye can only tell the difference up to about 50fps is also a huge waste of money (also most monitors have a limit of 60hZ). A $150 graphics card will usually play most games at decent resolutions for a few years on modest settings. I still use my 6850 today with no issues.

    Case selection and power supply are important, do your research. It may seem cheap to go and buy a shaw case for 30 bucks and use the power supply that comes with it, but it isn't so cheap if it grenades the rest of your system. Cases and power supplies can be re-used.

    Seems like somebody gave up localising the article before they got to the end. Started off with StaticIce and Ozbargain links, but then towards the end we have Craigslist, Hard Forums and We do have trading forums on the local OCAU you know...

    I think building your own is more personal satisfaction rather than cost saving. The actual cost saving is only about 10% of the total cost. Don't forget that PC manufacturers buy their parts in bulk at significant discounts. You need to really shop around for manufacturers who have excess parts on hand to get a really good deal.

    The interesting thing is that the "plan for the future" never really works if you're trying to save costs as well. Plan for the future often means that you'll be upgrading within 12 months - hardly cost saving given that you're shelling out more money. Total cost of ownership for those parts are definitely lower, but you're parting with more cash than had you bought something decent to begin with. Also, the tech moves so fast that you're always behind - so you're upgrades are merely just deferring more expensive items to a year's time, when those parts are now mid-tier.

    Having built a number of computers over the years, I haven't really upgraded them much, because the tech has moved. So if you build, be happy that you've put together a machine all on your own (you've saved on the labour cost) and don't worry about "future-proofing".

    Letting my partner off the leash to build our PCs certainly isn't saving us money :\. Water-cooled this and top-end that, and more spent on a video card than I'd spend on the entire machine. SIGH!

      Wow, glad I'm not married to you...
      Building computers is fun and if your partner enjoys it who are you to take it away from him?
      P.S. your partner sounds cool

        Wow, judgemental much? I fail to see how me having an anonymous grumble about his spending, on a website he doesn't read, is in any way 'taking it away from him'. I'm sure when the time comes for me to build my next quadcopter, he'll be anonymously grumbling about how much I'm spending, on websites that I don't read.

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