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 The Computer Buzz May 20th, 2010     

Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Factory

Designing PCs

Last month we invited our readers to view a web site,, that compared the performance of CPUs. It was an eye opener for many. Suddenly, designing a PC isn’t so difficult. We’ve had several customers come to us in the past weeks for a quote on a “custom PC” they designed themselves.

At the lower end ($500 to $700), a “custom PC” will cost $50 to $100 more than a similarly advertised “retail package.” Low end “packages” are cheaper because they’re designed and mass produced offshore using the cheap components. Tech support also comes from low wage third world locations. The higher quality, more reliable components and face-to-face tech service offered by “custom PC” builders simply costs more.

Another practice that keeps low end “package PCs” cheap is the lucrative game of “shovel ware.” “Shovel ware” is the industry term for the dozens of trials, ads and pop-ups that clog new PCs. Dell et al get as much as $100 per PC in windfall profits from these advertisers.

Higher end “package PCs” ($700 up) lose their cost advantage over “custom PCs” because the more sophisticated, pickier high-end PC user won’t tolerate “shovel ware” or bottom end components.

In designing a PC there are six basic components. The motherboard, CPU, memory (RAM), optical drive (DVD/CD), hard drive, case and power supply. Once the CPU is selected, the rest is easier. Choose the amount of RAM and the size of hard drive, the motherboard and RAM types are dictated by the CPU selection. There are some integrated feature options to consider when choosing the motherboard (Hi-def, fire wire, sound, video, Ethernet, etc).

To ball-park the cost of your new high-end “custom” PC, first select and price your CPU. Use the benchmark table at to select and then price the CPU by going to an on-line merchant like Then add $30 for each Gigabyte of RAM (your choice, somewhere between 2GBb and 8GB) to the price of the CPU. Then select your hard drive, 500GB =$60, 750GB = $75 and 1.0 terabyte = $110. To these results add $400 to cover the cost of the other components plus labor and you will have a fairly good idea what your new “custom PC” should cost before you select an OS (operating system).

The operating system cost depends on what you want or what you already have. Win XP and Win 7 versions range from $100 to $160. If you already own an XP, Windows 7 or even a (yuk) Vista you may be able to avoid the cost of a new OS entirely.

There may be additional features or options (multiple optical or hard drives, special “gamer” video cards) or the transfer of files from an old PC to the new one that will add some cost.

There you have it. With your PC specification in one hand and your wallet in the other, your next step is to pop in and pick a case style that complements your décor.

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