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View Full Version : Generally, building PCs with Linux OS cheaper?



Darrin
October 27th, 2005, 10:04 PM
Do most here build their own PC's or buy prebuilt? I put together mine and was curious what the average user linux may spend to build a new PC with linux OS. In general does a linux running PC require less performance hardware than windows? Whats the average spent on a linux desktop system?

Malphas
October 27th, 2005, 10:09 PM
I build my own, but I always have XP in mind first and foremost as it's my primary OS (actually I have a sandbox PC that I use for Linux distributions).

Lovechild
October 27th, 2005, 10:23 PM
Depends, I have Linux running on an old Pentium 90MHz - beat that Windows XP, of course self built, but it's a fileserver, I don't need much.

Generally I find that Linux performs better than Windows for my tasks, but my selfbuilt desktop is more than 6 years old - performance isn't really as important for my task set and I'm broke.

Retail Windows price compared to retail Linux price indicates.. buttload of cash vs. zero (well Fedora was the cost of 5 cds so minimal at least)

dspp
October 27th, 2005, 11:00 PM
Do most here build their own PC's or buy prebuilt? I put together mine and was curious what the average user linux may spend to build a new PC with linux OS. In general does a linux running PC require less performance hardware than windows? Whats the average spent on a linux desktop system?

I piece togther my computers. Why do so? The answer depends on what you want to do with the box. I look for the same things now (using GNU Linux only) as I did in 2000 (when I built my previous box for Windows 98 ) - solid performance and life at the cutting edge of obsolescence (c;

In other words, a solid box that does basic stuff like Internet, web development, video, audio and word processing. Nothing spectacular, yet made with reliable components. I have yet to have major hardware trouble and I built my last box for under $400. FWIW the Win 98 box converted flawlessly to a Linux box because of the hardware choices.

The more interesting choice is what the next box will be for me. I tend to think boxes for regular use are done for me. I will likely use laptops from now on and build boxes only for servers. That's another topic for another thread, but luckily this is the forum for digressions run amuck (c:

Darrin
October 28th, 2005, 12:04 AM
I have an extra computer that was given to me. Old Gateway running winme with a p3 I believe. I put linspire on it for my wife and daughter to use it and it runs soo much better than it did with winme. Maybe after I get the hang of ubuntu more Ill put that on it.

towsonu2003
October 28th, 2005, 12:38 AM
Do most here build their own PC's or buy prebuilt? I put together mine and was curious what the average user linux may spend to build a new PC with linux OS. In general does a linux running PC require less performance hardware than windows? Whats the average spent on a linux desktop system?

I use prebuilt: don't have enough knowledge to biuld a laptop for myself :)

the requirements would change according to the distro u use (puppy vs. slackware vs. suse)

xequence
October 28th, 2005, 02:06 AM
I have never bought a computer. The only one ive used alot was the families that I got when we got a new computer.

I am planning to buy a new one. You can get a barebones system (everything but hard drive, RAM, and CD/DVD) and add some stuff to it and get a good system.

You can get a good barebones for 200$ I think... Plus a gig of ram, 130$. Plus a 300 GB HDD, 200$. Plus a Dual layer DVD rewriter, 30$. Thats about 600$ or more for a 2000$ computer ;)

The gig of ram and dvd drive are at futureshop, the hard drive is at canadacomputers and the barebones is... I dont know :P

mstlyevil
October 28th, 2005, 03:32 AM
You can now buy one pre-built for cheaper even with windows already installed than build your own. I build mine because I like the fact that I control what components are put in my box and I do not have to deal with some manufactuers pre-loaded crappy software. If a component breaks on my system and it is still under warranty, I just have to get it replaced and do not have to send off my computer to some factory in Japan like I did my Toshiba lappy. I would say you can buy one for cheaper then replace windows with Linux if cost is your only concern.

Darrin
October 28th, 2005, 04:39 AM
Got that right with all the junk they preinstall. Its been a couple years since I even looked at a store bought pc. A friend purchased one and I cant believe all the junk they throw on. Trials for just about everything. Im sure they get a lot of kickback for it. He had to spend more time uninstalling than anything. How annoying.

az
October 28th, 2005, 11:32 AM
Do most here build their own PC's or buy prebuilt? I put together mine and was curious what the average user linux may spend to build a new PC with linux OS. In general does a linux running PC require less performance hardware than windows? Whats the average spent on a linux desktop system?

I doubt that a lot of people build their own. I like to tinker and buy really cheap things and make them work, but I am not normal.

About performance, Windows 95, 98 and 2000 were really light. They did not do much and take up very little ressources. Windows XP is more ressource-hungry.

I think that you get a better performace box running linux in comparison to windows, if you compare a modern linux with modern windows. I think Ubuntu does more with 128 megs of ram than windows Xp does. You can comfortably run Ubuntu with a 400 MHz processor and have things go along nicely.

poptones
October 28th, 2005, 12:36 PM
You can now buy one pre-built for cheaper even with windows already installed than build your own.

I still doubt that's true. You can buy a machine made from cheap parts cheaper than you can build one of your own - that isn't the same thing. You buy a HP or GW or something, the peripherals may be the same as you would buy elsewhere but you are getting a machine made with a lowball (and usually proprietary) motherboard of conservative design so as to allow them to claim a high clock rate, and a cheap and weak power supply (how many emachines, GW and HPs die from bad power supplies? It's a common failure). These prebuilt machines usually do not perform even close to the capabilities of a custom built machine made from quality parts.

look here (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=GW3250-BB&cat=SYS) at these GW bare bones systems - socket 915 motherboards with PCI-e and several drive bays in a box with a 350 watt power supply!

I have seen a LOT of machines like this die - the owner buys another hard drive and perhaps some more ram expecting (reasonably) the machine can deal with it - and it does, for a year or so. Over time they notice it becoming more tempermental and acting "odd" so they resintall windows only to discover it didn't really fix anything - but they go on blaming windows because everyone knows windows sucks. Then one day the machine is completely dead - and replacing the power supply gets them back up and running, but then they notice it's still acting sort of odd... because the stressed out power supply has stressed out the motherboard, which is also now on its way out. If you have a GW or a Dell with an extended warranty this may or may not directly affect your pocketbook, but those warranties are not cheap and free replacement parts do not make up for the frustration caused by a neurotic computer and then having to tear the thing apart on the kitchen table while the tech on the phone tries to walk you through a repair.

Look at this $600 refurb HP (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=PY028AAR&cat=SYS) - a 2.9GHz intel system with a dual layer dvdr and 512mb ram. At the same place you can buy a M7VIG motherboard (http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=M7VIG400-2600-N&cat=MBB) (via and S3, both of which work well with linux - there's even an open source 3d driver for the video) WITH a very overclockable XP2600M for less than a hundred bucks. Add 512MB ram for fifty bucks, a pioneer dual layer dvdr for 70 bucks, a 30 dollar mATX case with PSU, a seventy dollar hard drive and another twenty bucks for keyboard and mouse and you are still not up to four hundred bucks - and you have a better performing machine made from new parts.

crypto178
October 28th, 2005, 12:54 PM
When I bought my first comp, it was already built (had little computer knowledge at that time, only regulary played the atari at a friend's place when we were kids). It was assembled and sold at a small computer shop in the neightbourhood, and it was running (aka. coping with) windows 95.
But since that time I simply upgrade the same old box.
When some part becomes too old and start to be a bottleneck to performance, I make some research on what could be the best replacement price/performance wise, and order it online.
It started a kind of cycle where every year I upgrade something, generally alternating between a new processor and motherboard, a graphics card, or a new hard drive.
Eventually, I end up sending around ~250 a year on average. But that's because I have to keep up with friends to play recent games. Thinking about it, it seems that I have to spend (much) more money than before, maybe I fell a little too far behind at some point.
As my computer now doesn't share any more pieces with the original, I could say that I somehow built it myself... :p
Note that this isn't purely a linux computer, I'm quite a recent convert, so this may be quite off-topic. The hardware requirements for ubuntu are lower than for windows XP, but that doesn't mean you don't benefit from a more powerful unit. I guess it's more a matter of what one is ready to spend. But it's certain that linux (& friends, bsd, etc.) can scale to a really cheap computer for a specific use.

Price put aside, I think the best advantage of building your own is that you get to choose exactly what you want. I sometimes read catalogs when filtering junk from mail, and I have the feeling that desktops sold as a whole often have things that I would not have chosen myself, unwanted features or weak spots. Plus I can choose stuff that goes well with linux (this is slowly shifting to my n1 concern).
The price advantage of a linux box seems pretty obvious as there is no license to pay. I said "seems" because I unfortunatly can't say I have noticed a dramatic price drop from the few shops that sell linux boxes here in belgium.
As to 'building it yourself', I'm not sure hardware pieces taken individually cost less, I guess it's the opposite, but with carefull choices the price goes down fast, and there is no need to pay for the man's hour of work used to put the computer together.

Darrin
October 28th, 2005, 01:08 PM
My mother purchased a PC from costco. Looking at the specs, one would think it would be faster than mine which I built myself. All specs either beat mine or were equal to when looking at it on paper. I was surprised to see that everything is a bit slower on it than mine. Mine launches the same programs considerably faster.

mstlyevil
October 28th, 2005, 03:22 PM
I wrote in my previous post that if price was your only concern it was cheaper to buy pre built than if you built it yourself. The quality of the parts and the overall performance was not being considered there. Those cheap machines would do well what most linux users use a computer for. Gamers and power users should never buy one of those machines for the reasons you stated poptones. My system cost be about $1000 US to build and is really overkill for what most computer users need. If a person does not abuse those cheap machines, I have seen them last more than 5 years. You do get what you pay for though, that is why I never build my PC purely out of concern for price.

Malphas
October 28th, 2005, 07:15 PM
Yeah, for a PC for general office tasks, Internet, etc. you are cheaper going with a pre-built from one of the large vendors as they're able to buy the components in bulk for much less than the retail prices. If you're a gamer, want to edit video or use CAD or something then you're better off building it yourself.

poptones
October 28th, 2005, 09:00 PM
If a person does not abuse those cheap machines, I have seen them last more than 5 years.

It has nothing to do with "abuse." An cheap power supply is a cheap power supply no matter what.

Also, and I neglected to mention this, another common player in the numbers game is the hard drive. I remember once buying (at the behest of a CEO swayed easily by branding) a Sony multimedia system. It was one of the first to have firewire and all that stuff built in and came with video editing software and so forth. it also came with a large (for the time) 60GB hard drive. Its performance was terrible in large part because they stuffed the largest, cheapest - slowest - hard drive in the case they could get to fit their price point.

Remember all those branded system sold with 2.4 or even 3ghz cpus and 128MB or 256MB of RAM? The people who bought them got a machine with a current gobbling CPU being fed by a cheap overworked power supply when a lower power system with more memory would have performed better and would be more likely to last. But these computers are not designed to last. They are not made to be upgraded or even to be particularly repairable (I have seen many branded systems from GW and HP end up in the trash because a proprietary form factor part was no longer available) - they are designed to "work" a year to 18 months before being made "obsolete" by new software.

aysiu
October 28th, 2005, 09:05 PM
I've generally found that pre-built computers last for several years until we "needed" to get a new computer anyway. Now that I know more about Linux, I doubt I will get a new computer when our current one gets "too slow." I'll probably just keep using XFCE or some lightweight window manager. If we need more hard drive space (terrabytes instead of gigabytes), I'll just buy a new hard drive.

mstlyevil
October 28th, 2005, 09:54 PM
If a person does not abuse those cheap machines, I have seen them last more than 5 years.

It has nothing to do with "abuse." An cheap power supply is a cheap power supply no matter what.

Also, and I neglected to mention this, another common player in the numbers game is the hard drive. I remember once buying (at the behest of a CEO swayed easily by branding) a Sony multimedia system. It was one of the first to have firewire and all that stuff built in and came with video editing software and so forth. it also came with a large (for the time) 60GB hard drive. Its performance was terrible in large part because they stuffed the largest, cheapest - slowest - hard drive in the case they could get to fit their price point.

Remember all those branded system sold with 2.4 or even 3ghz cpus and 128MB or 256MB of RAM? The people who bought them got a machine with a current gobbling CPU being fed by a cheap overworked power supply when a lower power system with more memory would have performed better and would be more likely to last. But these computers are not designed to last. They are not made to be upgraded or even to be particularly repairable (I have seen many branded systems from GW and HP end up in the trash because a proprietary form factor part was no longer available) - they are designed to "work" a year to 18 months before being made "obsolete" by new software.


I agree with you on all those points. I personally never recommend a person buy a PC because it is cheap. The only people who should buy those PC's are those who are too poor to afford any thing else. Now had the question had been is it better to build a PC for Linux, then I would have posted something entirely different. Cheaper is not always better in the long run.

poptones
October 28th, 2005, 10:09 PM
I'm not sure my point is getting across clearly: those premade systems are NOT cheaper! Look at the example above: slightly under $600 for a refurbished HP desktop with a ninety day warranty vs slightly more than $300 for a custom built system made from NEW parts (1 to five years warranty on various parts).

For $350, the best Dell has is a Celeron D system with half as much RAM and a CDRW drive. I'm not sufficiently motivated to visit gateway's site but I would venture they are roughly the same.

A better system, with better performance and more features, can be built for less than the price of a new boxed system. What the box manufacturers offer is someone to talk to on the phone when you have a problem (note this doesn't necessarily mean a fix for the problem, only a consultation) and financing - GW will give financing to just about anyone, for example, while the finance company computer geeks uses is more strict about it.

Brunellus
October 28th, 2005, 10:14 PM
my old computer, nosferatu, is a bottom-of-the-line HP from around 2001. Celeron 800, 256MB RAM, nothing fancy.

Nosferatu still runs happily on ubuntu. The power supply has not yet flaked out. We paid very little for it when we bought it originally (hell, we even bought it *used*).

There's "good" and then there's "good enough". For most purposes, "good enough" is exactly that.

mstlyevil
October 28th, 2005, 10:19 PM
You can buy a PC with windows at Wal-Mart for $407. I cannot build one with the same configuration for that price. It does not include the monitor or speakers. I have to dissagree with you that it is cheaper to build your own.

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=4267952

aysiu
October 28th, 2005, 10:35 PM
eMachines has always been the cheapest I could find for a good deal.

poptones
October 28th, 2005, 10:38 PM
http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produ...uct_id=4267952

Look at the system I described on the previous page: it has more features (dual layer dvdr, 512mb ram) than the system you linked to (which, BTW, is ALSO more expensive than the $350 Dell system I just described).

The 3100 (1.8Ghz) Sempron with 256K of cache doesn't even have the 64 bit extensions. The only thing it offers is "hyper transport" which is pretty meaningless on a cheap chinese motherboard with 256MB of RAM.

again, don't be fooled by the numbers (http://www.hwspirit.com/reviews.php?read=7&page=2). You are comparing a low end, poorly built system (that likely comes with a 90 day warranty) to a more feature rich system covered by 1 to five years of warranty.

WildTangent
October 28th, 2005, 10:58 PM
So far, my primary computer is worth approximately $1200 CAD. What did I pay? Around $800 :D I love working in a computer store :)

For those interested, here's the full specs:
AMD Athlon 64 3000 (socket 939, Venice core)
MSI RS480M2-IL motherboard (Radeon Xpress 200 GPU/chipset, 10/100 ethernet, 6 channel audio, SATA, firewire)
1GB (2x 512) Kingston DDR-400 RAM
2x Western Digital 160GB SATA hard drives
LG 52x CD-RW
LG 16x dual layer DVD-RW
Creative Soundblaster Live
Enermax 535W powersupply

I'm planning on adding a BFG Geforce 7800GT after Christmas :D

-Wild

aysiu
October 28th, 2005, 11:07 PM
I'd rather buy something like this eMachines computer (http://www.e4me.com/products/products.html?prod=eMachines_T5010) for US$500 than build me own. Maybe it's just me, but eMachines have never let me down, and they're a pretty good deal. My first one (from 2001) is still kicking.

nastya
October 29th, 2005, 12:31 AM
For me, eMachines computers are rather hit or miss. My first one from 2001 is still running fine, but one that my mother bought a year ago is on its way to die as it's slow no matter what is done to it, cdrw and floppy are dying, and the usb ports only work sometimes.

xequence
October 29th, 2005, 04:30 AM
Generally, from what ive seen, you can get it cheaper by getting pre-built if its a budget computer. If you want a medium or high end computer, building your own is cheaper. You can get a 1500$ for 800$ if you build it yourself.

sbassett
January 18th, 2006, 03:59 PM
You can buy a PC with windows at Wal-Mart for $407. I cannot build one with the same configuration for that price. It does not include the monitor or speakers. I have to dissagree with you that it is cheaper to build your own.

http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=4267952


I disagree, between newegg and crucial, the same specs run about 322.61. No monitor or speakers.

fuscia
January 18th, 2006, 04:14 PM
i'd probably forget to put a fan in...

http://www.defendingthenet.com/Images/ComputerJokes/meltdown2.jpg

mcduck
January 18th, 2006, 04:24 PM
i'd probably forget to put a fan in...
Buahahaaa. That must have had Pentium 4 inside :D

I prefer to buid my machines myself. That way I can choose parts with the features I want/need and I don't have to pay for anything I don't need.

Also, pre-built PCs usualy come with windows pre-installed, and loads of software that I have no use for. Even if I'd use Windows, I'd rather install it from my own win2k desk, and instead of lots of trial software I'd install some freeware/OSS softs.

And building your own machine is fun. And you'll know every detail of your computer, that makes solving possible problems easier.

BSDFreak
January 18th, 2006, 04:25 PM
I build my own, but i get an OEM XP Pro with some piece of hardware since i'll need it anywayz.

In general, i think it's a good thing to understand the hardware part of it too, (for troubleshooting it helps immensly to know what hardware you have got in it and if you have built it, you know) it's gotten a lot easier since the days when there were 912 jumpers and 52 switches that had to be set right for the voltage, bus speed, memory speed and clock multiplier.

Today it's like building lego, if it fits in one place, it'll work.

If you build it yourself you can make sure that every part you get is compatible with the OS(s) you intend to run on it too, so no more complaints about the cheap ass usb wireless pre standard card not working.

mstlyevil
January 18th, 2006, 05:02 PM
I disagree, between newegg and crucial, the same specs run about 322.61. No monitor or speakers.

You left out shipping charges and to make it fair you should include a purchased Linux distro since there are Linux pc's at Wal-Mart. I spent online $332 USD before adding shipping and a operating system. Shipping charges are $33.27. I picked Suse 10 because it gave you more for your money. Xandros is $33 USD and Suse 10 and Linspire are $50 USD. The total comes out to $415.44 USD.

This proves my point it is no cheaper to build a low end system then to buy one. I have been building my own PC's for quite awhile now and if price is the only factor in my decision to build a low end PC then I would just shop and buy one. Building a mid range to high end PC is cheaper but then that is where the pc manufactuers make the bulk of their money. The biggest reason to build is to have control of what goes into your PC and to get the best components possible for the best price. It is also a way to make sure you have components that are compatible with Linux. If you are building purely on price alone you will end up with the same cheap, outdated substandard components that the budget PC's are built from. You will be ultimately dissapointed by shopping that way. If you shop for both quality and price, you will spend between $600-$1000 to build your PC.

poofyhairguy
January 18th, 2006, 06:06 PM
It is also a way to make sure you have components that are compatible with Linux.

Thats why I now recommend it.

Gudanov
January 19th, 2006, 05:22 PM
I find I cannot match the price of pre-built PCs building my own. If you factor in having to buy an OEM copy of Windows, then it's even worse, not that this is an issue anymore. However, I still like building my own becuase I can choose components that won't give me trouble and I know that I won't run into any problems if I want to upgrade part of the computer. Also, once on the building your own path, I find I never buy everything at once which is an advantage over pre-built as well.

Mr_J_
January 19th, 2006, 07:08 PM
Well!
I think that depends on the person buying the PC, but it can be cheaper.
If I get a person that just wants the bare minimums it's much cheaper.

This statement is true until the higher end computers.
Windows computers nowadays is have to be ready to incorporate Vista and they are already pitched to cost more and more.

Linux people can have the luxury of not spending that much because our minimum never changes.
To use it in an confortable way is a little bit higher, but never as much as windows if you don't want a braggable machine.