Budget bytes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 August, 2009, 12:00am

Building your own computer may seem like a daunting task, but for hardcore gamers and people who are serious about computers, building one themselves or having one custom made is the only way to go.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) computers can be 25 per cent cheaper compared to their branded counterparts, says Dragon Lee Ka-ming who has been custom building computers and helping people put together their own in Sham Shui Po for more than 10 years.

Another advantage is self-built machines can be tailor-made to fit a user's particular needs or preferences.

'Most companies offer limited customisation options, but building your own computer allows customers to configure their own hardware to their own demands. When you buy a branded computer, you are also paying for labour costs and marketing expenses,'' Mr Lee says.

Putting together a PC only requires a dozen or so components: a case, processor, motherboard, RAM, hard drive, power supply, operating software, a CD or DVD player and peripherals such as keyboard and mouse.

Using a mix of new and old components, an internet-ready computer could be put together for as little as HK$999, Mr Lee says. If users have a lot of data they need to store, such as pictures, MP3s or movies, they can opt for more storage space with bigger hard drives. If they want to do some serious gaming, they should get a better graphics card.

Mr Lee adds that people can save even more on higher-end computers.

'To cover the costs of competitive entry level sales, the price of mainstream and enthusiast products are significantly higher than self-built computers,' he explains.

'It's a misconception that self-built computers are less capable than branded computers. While entry level markets are very competitive, DIY computers dominate the mainstream and enthusiast market when compared to branded computers.'

Mr Lee suggests, apart from keeping up with the latest hardware developments, one should shop around for parts to find a good deal.

Sham Shui Po is the best place to get hardware, and customers should check out a store's return or exchange policy in case what they buy have defects.

When assembling machines, Mr Lee says people should find a clean, dust-free area, preferably without carpeting because of electric shock risks which can damage components.

Touching anything metal that's grounded, for example, a water tap, will lessen the risk of short-circuiting anything, and - as with all electronics - it is important to be sure the entire unit is unplugged before working on it.

The case is the shell of the computer, and most motherboards come with instructions on how to attach the processor, RAM, hard drive, media readers and a power supply. Install the motherboard and you are ready to go.