Aftermarket PC Upgrades Alive and Well for Do-it-Yourselfers

by Reads (2,924)

by David Barbosa

To a lot of people who are seriously into desktop PCs or use applications that routinely demand the latest technology, this is more than a well-worn idiom. It is the operational mantra for by-passing ‘off-the-rack’ computer systems and click-and-pick online ordering, and building your own PC by selecting individual chips, boards, controllers and other parts that deliver a powerful and customized solution.

If you want something done right, do it yourself
The market for do-it-yourself hardware and PC upgrades is surprisingly healthy in this down economy – with sales reaching nearly $10.5B annually worldwide, according to Jon Peddie Research. Much of this activity is fueled by activities in the PC gaming market, where having the latest and greatest is mandatory as games become more sophisticated and demanding.

Fig. 1. What type of component or improvement have you made to your PC?

A survey conducted earlier this year by TechnologyGuide.com, found that more than 93% of the people responding had upgraded or enhanced their computer system with additional RAM, hard drives, a new processor, or other components in the past six months. Most opted for more memory (25.65%) or an additional or replacement hard drive (25.54%), although roughly 4% took a more serious route and replaced the system processor.

Close to 80% of those taking the survey were serious DIYers, admitting to building their PC from scratch by acquiring the components separately and then installing them on the PC’s motherboard.

Taking a personal approach
The TG survey was launched in April and generated several hundred responses from people associated with the Build Your Own Desktop forum in DesktopReview.com. Discussion threads in the forum routinely range from tips for that first build to the benefits of installing more than one video card or GPU. Most queries concern getting the maximum performance for the least amount of money.

Fig. 2. Where did you obtain additional/replacement parts for your PC?

Not surprisingly, most of these customized PCs were built for personal use, with about 36% targeted for both business and personal applications. Less than 1% of those doing it themselves were doing it strictly for business. In fact, more than 90% of the people in the survey described themselves as computer hobbyists.

Most of the respondents bought new PC parts from electronic retailers (38%), while roughly 26% turned to online auction sites like eBay and approximately 24% resorted to mail order. Only 11.59% ordered additional or replacement parts directly from the manufacturer.

Fig. 3. Was this custom-built computer primarily for personal or business use (or both)?

A third of the survey takers did say they were involved in their company’s IT department or activities, and close to two-thirds claimed responsibilities for evaluating and recommending hardware purchase at their place of business. Half the respondents worked at companies with 100 or more employees, according to the survey results. Most of the respondents in the survey agree that upgrading the majority of desktop computers isn’t very difficult – manufacturers have adopted modular designs with many of these systems, and consumes are a lot more ‘technology savvy’ than they were in the past.

Finding the right components can be challenging
“Manufacturers are making it completely possible for just about anyone to build, maintain and upgrade their own PCs, completely free of any outside expert assistance,” said one respondent when asked to comment. Many vendors are also color coding components and wiring, making it easier to swap out and replace parts, adds another respondent.
Things can get a bit more challenging when it comes to finding critical parts, however, such as a specific CPU for a particular motherboard. In this case, you may need some help from professionals, or at least advice from the DesktopReview discussion forums. Finding the lowest price for a component can also be a challenge, said another DIYer.

Fig. 4. Are you involved in IT at your company?

Too much information can also be a challenge since it can make finding the right bit of data more time consuming, points out another survey taker. “There are is literally thousands upon thousands of guides all across the Internet that range from changing your desktop background to building a computer from scratch,” he noted.

The questions raised on DesktopReview,com’s Build Your Own Desktop forum range from the very basic (tips needed for a first build), to more complicated queries involving power supply voltages and tweaking the individual power consumption of each component.

Fig. 5. Do you have responsibilities for evaluating and recommending hardware purchases at your company?

Sister site NotebookReview.com also has a do-it-yourself forum, called Hardware Components and Aftermarket Upgrades. This also offers up basic queries posed by newbies (some words of wisdom on purchasing a secondary hard disk drive), as well as more complicated questions, like how do you enable the temperature sensors on individual cores in a multi-core system?

Questions and replies often touch upon very serious concerns such as the impact of undervolting (a process which reduces the excess “voltage” given to the CPU using software) on a manufacturer’s warranty. In fact, NotebookReview.com forum members have posted very complete guides on such topics that provide a wealth of information and useful tips.

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