In the age of disposable electronics, it is absolutely still possible to build a computer that you won’t have to replace every five years. I’m fairly money conscious, so making what I buy last is important. A dollar saved is a dollar earned and all that. I don’t enjoy buying things for the sake of buying things, only to have to replace them a few years later. Money earned is much better spent elsewhere, as much as I do enjoy playing with new toys. Be it my retired car, my computer, or even my bicycle that’s generally been my philosophy. Do your research, buy quality within reason, maintain it, and you’ll get your money’s worth. This is absolutely how my old car lasted nearly 18 years, despite Quebec’s salty roads and aggressive drivers.
Nine years ago, a few friends and I got together to assemble the very computer I still use daily when not working. I’ve had to replace only two components due to failure, including a hard drive and a power supply in nine years. It still runs just fine. How is a computer quite this old still useful for fairly intensive computing?
Key Areas to Focus your Money:
1) The CPU (processor): this piece can easily be replaced, though the likelihood that you’ll actually replace it is fairly low. Buy a proven performer that is well liked in the overclocking community, even if you never plan to overclock.
I picked up an Intel Q6600 which was well liked in the enthusiast community (released back in 2007). It wasn’t the cheapest option, but it still performs well today and I see no reason to upgrade. Last generation games still work just fine. Good old patient gaming I guess.
2) The motherboard: spend a little more on a quality motherboard. Don’t skimp here – this is not something you want to have to replace. Buy a quality, name brand, well reviewed motherboard that meets your needs. Do not buy the lowest cost option, unless you fancy the idea of gutting your computer to replace this eventually. I never wanted to deal with this possibility, did a ton of research, and got a motherboard that was about $50 bucks more expensive than other options. Divide that across nine years, and yeah, it was totally worth it. Rest in peace, ABIT, may my motherboard continue well beyond the end of your company. These days, this probably means looking at a board produced by Asus, Gigabyte or MSI.
3) The power supply: yes, my power supply absolutely failed spectacularly with an audible pop. However, when it went, it didn’t damage any other components in my machine. A quality power supply is an investment in the other bits of your machine and can help prevent them from premature failure or damage.
The rest of the bits, such as memory or videocard are arguably less important to strategize over. I got a mid-range graphics card that I eventually replaced when a co-worker was selling his “old” card a few years ago. I paid $20 bucks to upgrade my mid-range graphics card to something far more modern and far more powerful. I paid about $100 for an SSD (Solid State Drive) which improved the overall feel of the machine. At those prices, why not?
Occasionally, I get the upgrade bug, but reason takes over. I’ve spent under $250 in replacement parts over the last nine years, for bits which actually broke down, which I think is pretty decent (under $28 bucks a year). I definitely haven’t had to spend $1,200 Canadian to assemble a brand new machine, harvesting old computer parts like something out of Frankenstein. I think that’s great value for my money.
Buy quality, do your research and spend your money where it matters most.
PC Part Picker Canada: Great resource when researching computer components, includes user ratings and pricing on parts, as well as suggested builds.
Reddit’s Build a PC Subreddit: Great place to see what other people are building, read feedback on suggested builds and get some advice.