Do-it-yourselfers pay for high performance

Adrian Northrup

Sophomore Dillon Probst needed a computer when he came to UW-Eau Claire in fall 2005, but instead of purchasing one at a store or online, he said he decided to opt for something a little different.

“A high school buddy of mine built his own a few years before going off to college,” Probst said, adding that he thought he had a good understanding of computers.

While there are hundreds of Web sites out there, Probst said he purchases most of his parts from Newegg.com or Tigerdirect.com, two online marketers of computers components and accessories.

Among the parts that Probst said are required to build a basic computer are a motherboard, a hard drive, memory, a processor and operating system software. All these components then go into a case to create the central processing unit.

“Some people get nice cases with lights and stuff in it, and some get a plain case,” he said, adding that while most cases usually come with a power supply, some don’t.

“The sky’s the limit on what you can spend,” Probst said, explaining that while a basic computer with the bare essentials will cost about $400, he spent more than $1,000.

The additional cost comes in when adding other accessories, such as optional sound and video cards, he said.

“There used to be more people doing it to save money,” said Chip Eckardt, chief information office and manager of desktop computing for the university’s Learning and Technology Services.

“I’ve seen (that number) drop substantially over the last two years,” he said, explaining that as the price of computers, especially laptops, have declined, the benefit of building a computer at a reduced price has all but disappeared.

“Most people who do it aren’t after saving money nowadays,” he said, explaining that gamers or people who want really fast, high-performance machines make up the majority of do-it-yourselfers.

In addition to the Web sites Probst uses to find parts, Eckardt said other electronics retailers also carry some compo, including hard drives.

While there is a sense of pride that comes with building a computer, Eckardt said one of the disadvantages is the absence of a warrantee and technical support.

“You are your own tech support,” Probst said. “I can’t call up Dell with a computer I built myself.”

Because of this and the decreasing prices of laptops, Eckardt said he foresees a future, in which only the “die-hards” will continue the hobby.

“There’s always going to be a market for the people who want a very high-end performance, but I’m definitely seeing a decreasing interest in it.”