Off The Shelf Or Self- Build? (Part 3)

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Pro: You Get A Longer Warranty

The extended warranty is probably the biggest scam going in the electronics world. Overpriced and over-sold, the reason you know it’s a bad deal for you is because companies are practically rabid over the prospect of signing you up to one. Some retailers will even sell extended warranties on individual DVDs. The reflex of turning one down cannot be honed enough.

Normally, you get anywhere from 12 to 36 months of cover for free, ensuring that should your hardware fail for no obvious reason, you can get a quick repair and/or replacement from your supplier without having to pay anything extra.

Normally, you get anywhere from 12 to 36 months of cover for free, ensuring that should your hardware fail for no obvious reason, you can get a quick repair and/or replacement from your supplier without having to pay anything extra.

The regular, non-extended warranty, however, is a different matter entirely. Normally, you get anywhere from 12 to 36 months of cover for free, ensuring that should your hardware fail for no obvious reason, you can get a quick repair and/or replacement from your supplier without having to pay anything extra.

However, if you put a system together yourself, the best warranties will normally run out after 12 months, giving you less coverage and less peace of mind as a result. It’ll also involve an inconvenient return-to-manufacturer process, which, while it won’t mean surrendering your entire PC, could leave it as useless as if you had sent the whole thing back to the shop.

Some components, such as RAM, may come with a lifetime warranty, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. The numbers are clear: if you get a pre-build machine from your supplier, you’ll have a safety net beneath it for much longer than if you build one yourself.

Con: You Can’t Modify Your System Without Voiding The Warranty

Unfortunately, warranties (extended or otherwise) come with one significant drawback: if you want to keep that safety net in place, you can’t open your PC. This means no upgrades, no repairs, no peeking of any kind inside your case until your warranty runs out, unless you want to forfeit your chance of a free repair job.

The reasons for this make sense: if you’d built a PC to the proper, working specifications and it broke at some point in the future, you wouldn’t want to take the blame for it without some proof that your customer hadn’t been poking around, loosening cables or trying to prise the RAM out of its seating without following the proper procedures. You’re guaranteeing to replace faulty hardware, not give people free license to visit all manner of havoc on their machine, safe in the knowledge that there are no consequences.

You Can’t Modify Your System Without Voiding The Warranty

You Can’t Modify Your System Without Voiding The Warranty

For users, the inconvenience can be high. If you want to upgrade your graphics card, you can’t do it by yourself. If you want to remove a drive to clone it… you can’t. If you want to clean the dust out because the vents are getting clogged… you can’t even do that. Security stickers on the case joins mean that if you want to get inside your system, anyone fulfilling the warranty will be aware that you’ve done it.

Some people will be okay with that, but others will wonder what good it is to buy a PC that can’t be upgraded for three years. It’s not a case of either position being inherently superior, but make sure you know what’s best for you so and then factor it into your decision.

Pro: You Get The Expert Touch

Again, we’re back to experience. It takes a lot of time to become truly good at building PCs, and we’re not just talking about selecting components, but the physical act of assembling them.

If it’s your first go, you can expect all manner of problems. Poorly positioned backplates. Loosened screws. Cables dangling everywhere. Your motherboard might rattle, your case’s internal airflow might be obstructed, and your power cables tangled. You haven’t truly built a PC until you’ve sliced open your finger on an unaccountably jagged section of the case.

An expert builder, however, will leave the inside of your system looking like an IKEA show-room. Fans will be tastefully and efficiently positioned. Screws tightened to just the right amount. Cables will hug the side of your case like they’ve been glued down. It doesn’t just look great, it can actively improve performance!

You Get The Expert Touch

You Get The Expert Touch

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that pre-builds, no matter how basic or complicated they are, have been put together by professionals. You wouldn’t try to do your own plumbing; that’s what a plumber is for. By the same token, while it’s possible to build a PC yourself, don’t forget that the option to have a professional do it is there, and you shouldn’t feel any shame for taking it! mm

Tricks For Lowering The Price

The ability to customise machines before you buy them means that as well as adding capabilities, you also get the option to balance your budget. Indeed, if you’re actively trying to lower the price, there are some areas where you can spend less without having a drastic effect on a system. In this box-out, we’ll give you some advice to help you save money.

Get a smaller hard drive

Here’s the thing. It sounds impressive, but a terabyte is a lot of space. Get one and it could take years to fill. Adding extra storage to a machine is a very simple procedure, and hard drive prices are dropping all the time. Save $48-$80 by getting a 500GB hard drive instead. By the time it’s full, you’ll be able to make up your PC up to 1TB (or even more), and probably at a lower cost. The golden rule applies: only buy what you need.

Get a slower processor… then overclock it.

If you like life on the edge, you can save money by buying a slower processor and better CPU cooler, then overclocking your chip it so that it gives performance resembling the one you downgraded from. This is a solution only recommended for experienced PC users and/or those who like a gamble, because an overclocked processor will have a shorter life-span and could burn out completely if you don’t take proper precautions when testing it. If you pull it off, though, you’ll have a faster CPU for less money than you would have had otherwise, and that makes it worth considering. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Get a slower processor… then overclock it.

Get a slower processor… then overclock it.

Remember to cannibalise your old PC

If you have an existing PC that you’re throwing out, don’t just chuck everything away. Some components are as good today as they were ten years ago. Okay, RAM, CPUs and graphics cards have probably moved on, and IDE hard drives have been replaced by SA TA ones, but some internal components, like DVD writers, network cards and sound cards can all be easily reused without too much internal fiddling. Obviously it’s nice to get a clean slate of new hardware, but if it means you can save $80 by removing those parts from your new PC’s configuration and using your old ones, it might be worth the extra work - as long as you don’t also invalidate a warranty…

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