I was reading The Simple Dollar where there was an interesting post on the cheapest fully functional PC a person could use. The post was sparked by the author's own experience of building PCs for people and just where you can cut costs. He says you can get a computer for less than $100. Here's how:
Hardware: Trent (the author) suggests scouting around garage sales and social networks specializing in giveaways to find free or cheap hardware. This includes the CPU with a CD or DVD drive, a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. He also threw in speakers. His theory is that people are forever upgrading their computers and usually get rid of good quality equipment for free or at a throwaway price. According to him, this is the only step of the process that involves spending money.
Software: For the OS, Trent recommends the Linux distro Ubuntu. Like most Linux distros, this one is a free download or you can have the Ubuntu folks mail you an installation CD. Ubuntu comes with almost all the programs an average person needs on their PC.
My thoughts: While Trent's PC building post suggests that a cheap PC is possible, I'm not so convinced. For one thing, picking up hardware at a garage sale can score you a good deal, you also have no idea what you're getting. Not to mention the havoc someone can wreck with a hard disk that hasn't been wiped clean.
My other source of hesitation is the choice of Ubuntu. While I have no problems with it, I don't think it's effective for computer novices, who are the recipients of this kind of PC. Thirdly, old hardware components are notoriously power-hungry. There's no point in building a cheap PC if it's going to feast on your power bill.
Overall, I think it's possible to build a cheap PC but you may just get more than you bargained for. What do you think of these PC-building suggestions? Would you want to use a computer built this way? What's the cheapest you think a PC should cost for a novice user? Let me know in the comments.
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.