Here's our Hardware Tip for.. January 22, 1999
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PC's - Buy or Build? Part 3
In our first two Hardware tips, we talked about buying PC's locally and buying PC's via mail-order. This time, let's have a closer look at building your own system.

Build your own: This method is only recommended for those users who are familiar enough with the state of computer technology, that they feel thay can tackle this job without help. Building your own system can easily be the most cost-effective way, while making sure you get exactly what you want and need, plus the satisfaction of having done it yourself. Virtually all of the components required to build a killer system can be had in any number of ways. Parts (everything to cases, power supplies, hard drives, etc.) can be purchased at local vendors, via mail order, direct from manufactures, and even at local "swap meets" or PC shows.

The biggest advantage perhaps, of building your own system comes with knowing everything there is to know about what's in the box. You hand-picked each part, insured its compatibility, and brought it all to life, doing everything from setting up the initial CMOS to configuring the IRQ's. This familiarity also comes in handy whenever you're going to have to make that inevitable "upgrade", and trust me, sooner or later you'll need to upgrade something. I bought all of my systems (4 in the last 8 years) from mail-order vendors, but several of them have undergone so many hardware upgrades that they bear practically no resemblance to when they first arrived. One machine in particular has undergone four motherboard upgrades (386->486->Pentium->Dual-Pentium), countless hard drives, memory upgrades, bigger, better and faster video cards, modems, soundcards, controllers, etc...

Whichever path you choose, don't be afraid to learn about your hardware. It isn't as hard as it may seem, and if you're lucky enough to have a neighborhood PC "guru" living next door, you'll be surprised at how much of the maintenance and upgrading you can actually do yourself once you see how it's done. Also, there are tons of very good self-help books available, we highly recommend "Upgrading and Repairing PC's" by Scott Mueller.