Build a retail-grade Windows 8 PC for under $500!

Are you a geek? Are you a TECH geek?

If you’ve ever taken apart anything mechanical because you were curious to see how it worked, you might be a geek. And, if it actually worked when you got it all back together, you’re a smart geek as well!

If the things you like to take apart are tech-y devices, then you’re probably a tech geek.

I remember attending an Atari Computer Users’ Group meeting back in 1985. One of the guys there was complaining that he was going to have to repair the internal plastic threaded posts of his Atari 800XL with JB Weld. These were the things that the metal screws went into that held together the parts that made up his machine. He had taken the computer apart so many times, probably to make homemade modifications, that he had stripped the plastic threads. That guy was a stereotypical tech geek.

It’s really not hard to build a computer. I’ve done it many times…to give you some insight, I got into repairing cars when I was in my teens, like most guys did in the halfway point to latter quarter of the 20th Century. It’s still a hobby, although working outside–even in a garage–is still not as comfortable as on a workbench in your home. From the 90s until today, I have disassembled, reconstructed, bought the parts and built from scratch working PCs. I’d now rather do that than something as simple as even a routine tuneup of my car. See, building a PC is much more relaxed and requires far less physical energy, and it really doesn’t require a doctorate from MIT or Stanford or Cal-Poly.

If you have ANY interest in this activity, read on. Short of using woodworking tools and making your own furniture (something I wish I had learned to do), there are few things more satisfying. Fixing a broken vehicle that won’t start, idle, or even run properly gives you an enormous sense of pride as you drive it around town. So does sitting at a table you made–on a chair you built.

So does constructing a speedy new PC from scratch that you–or someone close to you–would be able to use for hours every day.

The breakdown for this project is found in this PCWorld article. While I’m going to include an excerpt below, you’ll need to open the above-linked page and probably print it for reference. If you’re fortunate enough to have a Fry’s Electronics near to you, then you could be all set as far as parts (but a word of caution: I haven’t looked to see how much of the listed parts Fry’s stocks in their stores). If Fry’s doesn’t have it you might have to do some Internet searching as well to find what you need.

Another word of caution: the $500 price tag does not include the cost of the Windows 8 OS. The good news is that Microsoft has said Windows 8 will be available to early adopters for just $69.99. This price is good until January 31, 2013, when it will go up to $199.

It also doesn’t include a flatscreen monitor…but prices on them have come down drastically in the past few years. Perhaps you could use your old one.

Here’s the excerpt:

Whenever Microsoft releases a new desktop operating system, users inevitably ponder the purchase or assembly of a new system. Although Windows 8’s controversial interface changes and obvious accommodations for mobile hardware may cause die-hard desktop users to approach the new OS with trepidation, Windows 8 offers many enhancements worth an upgrade.

First and foremost, Windows 8 is streamlined to perform well on lower-end hardware than its most recent predecessors. Its minimum requirements are similar to Windows 7, but Windows 8 uses less memory, consumes less disk space, and its UI elements aren’t as graphically rich.

Windows 8 also leverages most GPUs to accelerate more OS elements in hardware than does Windows 7. All of these changes in Windows 8 culminate in an operating system that simply doesn’t need high-end hardware to run well.

Knowing that, we set out to build a speedy Windows 8-ready system for under $500. With such a limited budget, dedicating a significant amount of money to any single component isn’t a possibility. With the right balance though, half a grand should be plenty of cash to put together a nice Windows 8 system with minimal compromise.

Good luck, and remember: it’s not just the destination, but the journey that counts. You’re not getting paid to do this as if it was your job, so take your time and enjoy it. Don’t rush, and you’ll make fewer mistakes. In the end, you’ll have something to be very proud of.


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