$450 System Hardware Wrap-up

In two earlier posts I spoke about a PC I built for a client last month. The whole system costs about $400—$450 in parts. The goal was to spend about $60 per part or less. The basic parts needed to build a complete system were:

  1. a motherboard (also called a mainboard)
  2. a processor. For $60 I could get a good basic dual core processor. The best thing is in the next year or two the client can upgrade to a faster, more modern processor for about the same price. Currently a quad core processor will set you back about $130.
  3. RAM (memory). For around $60 I used 2 GB of RAM, but the mainboard and 64 bit operating system will allow this system to be upgraded to 4 or even 8 GB if the client chooses to do so later.
  4. a hard drive for storage or programs and other files
  5. a case (to put all the parts above into) with a power supply. This part was only $35 in my budget.
  6. an operating system. For this system I used the new Windows 7 Professional 64 bit edition.
  7. an optical drive, or in this case a combination CD and DVD burner. I didn’t have to buy this part; I just reused the one that was installed in the client’s previous computer.

Apex Mid Tower CaseSeagate SATA hard driveIn my second post on this system I recommended some parts available from Tigerdirect.com to cover the first 3 items on the list above. Please note the client will be reusing the monitor from their previous computer system. You can probably do the same.

Here are my recommendations to cover the final 4 items on the list, and I’ll add on a DVD drive just in case you don’t have one, but you’d like to build a similar system.

  • Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 500 GB SATA driveicon ($50)
  • Case and power supply: Apex PC-375 Black Mid-Tower Case with a 300 watt power supplyicon ($35)
  • Operating System: Between all the hardware I’ve only spent $283 before taxes and shipping. So I’ve got about $167 left for the Windows 7 operating system. I have two flavors to choose from in my budget: (1) Windows 7 Home Premium edition (32 bit)icon for $110 or (2) Windows 7 Professional (64 bit)icon for $150. The 32 bit system will limit my future RAM potential to 4 GB, while the 64 bit system can upgrade to 8GB. 4 GB is fine for most systems. I went with the Pro version.
  • DVD Burner: Samsung SH-S223C DVD-RW Driveicon ($25) This one burns CD-R discs, too. The client had a Sony DVD burner from their previous system. A similar Sony model would cost about $50 to $60. If you already have a DVD drive from your previosu system, you can reuse. Windows 7 comes on a DVD, so that’s why your need a DVD drive. A CD drive will not do.

So that’s all the parts. Now comes the assembly once you’ve got them all. Tomorrow I’ll tell the steps in brief for putting it all together.


  1. Michael Fortunato says:

    Hi Rob –

    I did not see mention of a graphics card. These will typically run $40 – $60 for lower end cards (cards still capable of running Windows 7 with aero and running all applications). Upper end cards designed for hi-end gaming and 3D graphics will run between $200 – $400. But in a low-cost PC, this is unnecessary. You can surf the web, edit documents, photos and videos on the lower end cards. Just don’t expect to be playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare on the lower end cards.

    – Michael

    • Thanks for the comment, Mike.

      You’re absolutely right, this isn’t meant to be a gaming computer. The system will be using the video circuitry which is integrated into the board. If this was to be used for playing 3D games, such as the ones you mention, then I definitely consider spending at least an additional $175 for a quality video card. Are there any video cards you particularly like these days?

      Thanks again!

  2. Ortalon says:

    It was a very interesting post thanks for writing it!

  3. Michael Fortunato says:

    I feel that the best bang for the buck right now is the ATI Radeon 4870. It’s last year’s generation but is still blazingly fast and sells for around $170 – $180.

  4. I really like the Radeon cards. Most of my cards have been Radeons. For years and years I only paid $170 for my cards, but the last time I splurged and bought a pair of ATI Radeon’s cards in their Crossfire series. Set me back $700. Today those cards are worth about $200.

    I was just poking around at TigerDirect. I couldn’t find a 4870, but this Sapphire Radeon HD 5770 Video Cardicon for $170 looks good to me.

  5. FYI, Mike, you mentioned Windows 7 and the Aero feature in your first comment. I was surprised to see that Aero worked with the onboard video for this system. The onboard video had what Windows needed to make it work. Not too shabby if you ask me.

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