Should I build a PC?


I'm going with a PC using Cubase for my home studio. The computer is going to be used for audio and video (Vegas Video) editing only. No internet or home office applications. Should I build my own or get a Dell, HP, Gateway, Sony, etc?
The problem with buying an off the shelf pc is being limited to the parts the manufacturer provides regardless of price or quality.

If you build a pc you can choose each part and be able to replace them much faster if need be.

My Dell has been a pretty good machine, but Dell as a company has serious issues that discourage me from making any more purchases from them.

I wanted to add a second harddrive, but Dell refused to sell a new one, offering nothing but a refurbished (used/rebuilt) one with a 60-day warranty. Since Dell uses standard drives, I purchased a new one somewhere else for the same price that came with a one-year warranty.

Same deal with extra memory. I wanted brand new quality sticks from a preferred manufacturer, Dell offered nothing but a no-name refurbished product. I ended up getting Kingston memory from someone else.

My power supply started acting up a month after my warranty expired, and failed completely a few months later. I had no choice but to get a refurbished supply from Dell. I paid $30 plus $19 in shipping and handling for next-day delivery, only to receive the supply nine days later.


Build your own. It may be frustrating and complicated at first, but you learn A LOT, and can customize things to your liking. and both are great places to get parts. I built one with my brother, specifically for recording, and it runs really well...and fast.... :)



Depends on how computer savvy you are. I built one from scratch to use as the center of a home theater playback system and it cost me twice as much as a Dell. No warranty on the whole piece (individual warranties on each component, of course) and no tech support. I've been dealing with computers extensively for 23 years and my home made computer failed in a way that I can't figure out. I'll have to take it to a specialist and pay them to troubleshoot the problem.

Also, depending on how elaborate you make this computer, there could be compatibility issues to be concerned with. If you're only going to use it for a very limited purpose with only a few applications, you'll be better off.

The good news, as you surely know, is that you can design it to be exactly as you need it - nothing more, nothing less. And it will be more modular than a pre-built, so you won't be stuck with a video card or network card, etc. that's built into the motherboard and unable to be upgraded. You can add and subtract components as necessary.

If you do go this route (and I'm still not suggesting that you do), is a good place to shop. I've had to return two components to them (both for the PC I mentioned above, and a real headache to troubleshoot) and it was relatively hassle-free.


Originally posted by elambo
my home made computer failed in a way that I can't figure out. I'll have to take it to a specialist and pay them to troubleshoot the problem.
Don't pay a professional. I'll bet a few of us here can help you diagnose and fix the problem(s) you're having. At least it's worth a try before spending $50/hr (or more) to have someone who's so-so at fixing computers reformat your drives and replace a simple part.

To ratkent, if you like 0 maintenance in general (and I understand the need for 0 maintenance sometimes), then you should get a PC from a co. like Dell and get their extended warranty. It's just plain easier. (I would stay away from HP/Compaq PCs though, they're pure crap, and I don't think they have much to offer by way of support).

Building your own is rewarding, it's a learning experience, it's a personal accomplishment of which you can always be proud, but it's also not for the faint of heart. There's nothing like wondering if you just zapped the CPU you spent $300. on, or the $150. stick of RAM, etc. etc.

However, if you're a maniac for performance (and don't have $3000 - $5000 to spend), then the only way you're going to get a really killer machine is to build your own. Plus you can pick out a cool case with all the bells and whistles, a glowing PS, crazy lighting, fish tanks, CPU refrigeration units, etc. etc. It's pretty amazing what you can do with a rig.

I would third the recommendation for Newegg, they're great, but I also compare them against and also go to But be careful with pricewatch, there are shifty vendors with misleading advertizing, so it's best to look the vendor up on (a sort of ebay feedback system for parts vendors) before purchasing from them.

Good luck with your decision.



Guitar Player
Platinum Supporting Member
pricewatch is where I shop for pc parts.

Assemble your own. You can pick things like the mb & firewire chipsets that are confirmed to work with your audio hardware. You can also save $ by not paying for things you don't need, even though the PC will cost about the same in the end. Some parts, like ram, have prices that change constantly, while the big PC makers charge a premium for ram upgrades.

I've supplied my office with Dell pc's for years and I can't remember ever using their tech support. You'll have to decide what that service is worth to you.


Silver Supporting Member
+1 to build your own. Buy a barebones off of ebay and just get what you need. Plus they come in cool neon colors too!

The soundcard, harddrive(s), burners, etc...


++1 for home grown system and Newegg. I've bought serveral components( hdd(3),1394 firewire card, memory, cd burner and case, camera, Clie for the wife ) from them and they are always positioned well on price and provide great delivery times;-)

As mentioned above, are you compter savy?

The new HW is way easier to install and configure. Keep your existing connection hooked to the internet for any driver/config/install/compnent questions or driver downloads. Go to the Cubase forum and get a sample of user's homebrew machines- they will have an opinion for build options.

FWIW- I am a Dell user(3 workstations and 2 servers-no desktops ), but I have assisted friends on building up DAW's( 6 maybe ) both for audio and video editing. No sweat- the new hardware is no where near as fickle as hardware from the mid-90's or before;-)

My opinion and of course YMMV.


Gold Supporting Member
Here's a link to check out

I have purchased alot of equipment here in the past (servers, workstations etc.) and have not had any problems with the stuff. One item was a brand new IBM Intellistation dual Xeon workstation for around $2K. If you can wait for the right piece to come along you can do much better for the same money than with Dell. One reservation is that I haven't bought anything there in a couple of years

If not, the build your own approach is the way to go. I am not very technically inclined but I have built 3 of them for myself, son and daughter with no problems and now I feel very confident in taking them apart and fixing them. The advantage with this approach is that you get to pick premium parts rather than have to take what the manufacturer gives you with a packaged PC.

I have had good success with ASUS motherboards, Crucial memory, Intel P4s, Western Digital and Maxtor drives and Matrox and ATI graphics cards. I would get an onboard gigabit network interface to open up another slot for expansion.

Second DKaplowitz in that there is really not much to go wrong and I would certainly be willing to assist if you run into problems.

It's important to remember to unplug and discharge any static E before you mess around with the components.


I built my own and got he parts from Newegg... about 4 months ago. Kicks butt over any off the shelf PC.

You can hand pick all the premium components and gain a better understanding of the 'guts' of the computer.


AND.. once you're all up and running, upgrading the system is SUPER cost effective. I've been building my own PCs since college days.. in 7 years I've only had to completely replace my PC twice. I've managed to maintane great performace via upgrading over a 3.5 to 4 year period.

I've had great results with Abit and Asus motherboards. I've used both AMD and Intel CPUs.. both good.


but it's not always cheaper, just more rewarding.

I'd recommend at least some of the following:

on-board Gigabit Ethernet

800Mhz + FSB

ECC DDR Memory Support (400Mhz / PC3200)

I like Intel CPU's, but AMD systems are good, be sure to get good power supplies like an Antec TruePower or Seasonic.

I also like tool-less drive bays and PCI slots.

Scott Peterson

TGP Co-Founder and Administrator
Staff member
I built my own and would do it again in a second.

Like noted above; it is a pretty easy operation compared to 10 years ago.

Mine is fast, quiet and once it was settled in (normal quarks of building a system and loading all the software, etc) it has been two years of perfect 100% uptime.


When I was at Microsoft doing Excel support, we used to always cringe when customers called in with the Dells, Compaq's and heaven forbid, HP's. They all had non-standard OS ports and we couldn't support them when they crashed (typically due to virus issues).

What's more, I heard so many stories of mediocre support from all three. The best way to go is with a custom built system with parts on the Windows hardware compatibility list (HCL). The problem is that you'll have to buy an OS stand alone and that's what drives the price up. In the end, you'll have a more reliable machine though.

The advantage of building your own is that you installed the OS and drivers so that if it does get a virus or something, you can FFR it and you're back and running in an hour. With the main three, I'm hesitiant to just wipe it because I'm not confident that all the drivers are there or with customers, that they even got their OS disks and stuff. Half the time, I think they just misplaced or threw away critical disks that came with the computer.

The ASUS motherboard has an excellent reputation. Both Intel and AMD have good CPU's. Get one of the mid range gaming video cards and you'll have more than enough for most recording apps. Also, you can opt for the super quiet cooling fan power supply--a must in studio environments.

Another trick, take a college class and then take advantage of the low prices on the OS and Office that you can get with your student ID card at the student store. For example, Office 2003 for Students and Teachers was $50.00. XP was marked down significantly also. Limit one per student though. They have other software titles that are about 1/3 the price such as Macromedia. I can't remember if I saw any recording software there though. Check with the vendor and ask about student pricing.

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