Building a PC in 2017


Got a teenager here who wants to build her own PC. I don’t think she sees this as something she really wants to learn but rather as a way of getting a better gaming PC on the cheap.

She has about $1300 but her mother said she could spend $500 on a new PC. She doesn’t need a monitor or speakers, but she needs everything else.

I’m a bit dubious about the $500 price. I don’t think she can get a lot for that, especially when she needs to buy Windows.

I don’t want a lot of detailed recommends, but rather just a feel for if $500 is even enough? We can buy the parts from a local Micro Center and they will assemble for an extra $100. Frankly, I’d toss in the $100 just to avoid becoming tech support, as long as the teen isn’t determined to do her own build. If she is, more power to her.

Just curious what you folks think about that price-point for building your own.


I think that’s borderline doable. You could check out the Dell outlet to save some hassle. They’ve got Skylake i5 desktops for under $500. The challenge is getting a good graphics card in that budget.


First, yuck! Windows 10 is freaking $120 for Home? When are they going to jump on the $50 bandwagon?

Now to the PC question. Assuming around $400 left, I’d say you’re looking at a VERY barebones PC. I mean, it’ll work and be functional, but it won’t FEEL like a gaming PC that you’d recognize. It’ll feel like a kids gaming computer. I did roughly this price point for a PC for my kids (7 and 9), minus quite a bit of dough because of some leftover parts, and it feels cheap. I mean, it’s fine, sure. But I wouldn’t recommend it for a teen who needs to know the burgeoning love of the PC gaming hobby. :) Another $200 or $300 (I know, I know) and you really start to feel like a first-class citizen though. I usually put the sweet spot of price/performance around $750, but maybe that’s just because I have some mental model of that being the right price. Let’s look at builds.

Two resources which help answer your question:

This slick website (which sadly doesn’t get a cool preview box):

And then NeoGAF’s build a PC thread. The google doc link is dead but the embed is still there.

General recommendations at the ~$700 range (hopefully also apply at ~$400):

  1. For GPU, go with AMD (480 4GB or 470, or 460 for super cheap). Don’t do the 3GB Nvidia cards. FreeSync monitors are a cheap future upgrade. G-Sync is expensive. AMD is good at the low end.
  2. Favor 16GB of RAM, even if you need to cut somewhere else. 8GB really won’t feel like enough unless she’s only doing one thing at a time. 20 chrome tabs and a game and 8GB will choke. “Well, then don’t do that!” doesn’t work with a teen. Teens are busy multi-taskers and you can expect a lot of things happening.
  3. Spend some money on an SSD, even if it’s only 120GB. Pair it with a larger magnetic disk and put the OS on the SSD. Or just go with a 256GB SSD and add a HD as a birthday present later. Most everything is online now and you can share a folder with her to grant her disk space if she needs more.
  4. You don’t need to overclock the CPU. “But it’s so easy with Intel!” So what. The locked CPUs are cheaper and plenty fast.
  5. You don’t need a 750W PSU. What is with people these days? I had a 450W Thermaltake survive 4 or 5 different builds with various hardware, including power-hungry AMD CPUs along with power-hungry AMD video cards. It’s fine. Budget the power you need and then exceed it just a little.

Edit: Rearranged the links because NeoGAF is a little outdated. To highlight:

Edit 2: This is the best site for building, suggesting, and sharing PC builds:

Edit 3: Apparently I forgot that pcpartpicker also allows for sharing and ranking builds, so from their list of builds I found this one for $550 right near the top:

With pcpartpicker, add some money if you don’t want to buy from like 5 different stores to get the cheapest price. :/


You can get region-free Windows 10 Pro OEM keys for under $30 if you’re brave. ;)

I got one for my parents’ cheap PC from Play-Asia for example. I had to ring Microsoft Support to activate it, after which it was fine.


I’d say $500 is a bit too low on the price performance curve. Spending say $750 gets you a bit more flexibility and a well rounded system. For example a quality case and PSU (not crazy, but say $130 for the 2) will be worthwhile compared to finding the cheapest out there.

Get a core i3 (the new 7750 looks great), and maybe a GTX 1050, and 16gb ram.


This is an excellent idea. Have her set up an account there and start piecing together her own PC. It will make it fun for her and help her budget the build.


I’d donate a couple hard drives to the cause if you are trying to keep costs down. We’re lousy with drives around here (used but in good shape and all)


man, i used to start one of these threads (and build the thing) every 6-9 months around here. wonder why i’m not anymore?


You can derive a certain amount of joy out of building a PC for sure, but these days you’ll hardly even notice a difference upgrading a 3 year old machine. The sweet sweet payoff of yore is gone. At least, that’s why I stopped upgrading so often, personally.


I was completely unable to do it for $500 without crippling it with a magnetic hard drive, etc. Here’s a $617 build, then add on $30 for a Windows 10 license from Or just use an old Win7/8 key to activate Win10, if you have one.

When it comes out, get the brand new core i3-7350K, not the i3-6100.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: Intel Core i3-6100 3.7GHz Dual-Core Processor ($117.89 @ Jet)
Motherboard: MSI B150M MORTAR Micro ATX LGA1151 Motherboard ($75.28 @ Jet)
Memory: Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR4-2133 Memory ($48.11 @ Amazon)
Storage: Samsung 750 Evo 500GB 2.5" Solid State Drive ($134.55 @ Jet)
Video Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB Video Card ($139.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Fractal Design Define S w/Window ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: EVGA 500W 80+ Certified ATX Power Supply ($40.99 @ NCIX US)
Total: $616.80
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2017-01-04 13:07 EST-0500


yeah there hasn’t been any big leap in performance lately (see the other intel cpu thread) and my recent desires for making compact mini-itx and/or whisper quiet machines have been quelled by just using headphones and steam streaming.


I’ve got a previous gen Gigabyte Brix laying around that I’ve used as a Steam streaming box to my TV. Currently SteamOS (ugh). I’d like to throw Windows on it, but have been holding off due to price. How reliable is Kinguin? Have you used them? And do you recommend a specific seller on there?


I buy games from Kinguin all the time with paypal, it’s totally reliable. I don’t recommend a specific seller, but buy from one with lots of transactions and pay the extra buck or whatever for purchase protection.


Chiming in as another data point, I picked up a Win 10 key for my living room PC off Kinguin and it installed without a hitch. Will definitely use them again whenever I finally pull the trigger on a micro build.


Thanks everyone! Lots of great info here!


I second @stusser’s recommendations, they are solid.


Sweet. Key ordered; hopefully the install goes smoothly this weekend. This will make life simpler.


Not disagreeing with stusser’s list, but I’d posit that if necessary you could go with a smaller SSD and get a decent amount of HDD space to go with it for near the same price, depending on storage needs.

I don’t think it is doable without unreasonable sacrifices elsewhere, but couldn’t you go from a GTX 1050 to an AMD 480(?) for about $40 more? Or is that not really much of an upgrade? (I tend to fall out of touch when not currently shopping for upgrades myself).


PC Gamer has three build lists for Budget, Mid-Range and Price is No Object (not the actual name of the build) that they update once a month or so. I’ve found that to be a pretty good resource, and several of my current build components were recommended on one of the two higher end lists (I’ve just been upgrading, so the full list wasn’t necessary).


You’d have a lot of trouble finding a RX-480 for $180. I’ve never seen one that cheap.

$200 is barely doable if you’re lucky, even though that’s MSRP. And yes, it would be a substantial gaming upgrade if you can afford the extra $60.