If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck when building a PC, you’re going to have to buy secondhand parts - there’s no denying it! Believe me, as someone whose net worth is defined primarily by electronics, you’re going to want to squeeze as much value as possible out of your limited cash. Unfortunately, there seems to exist a bit of a stigma around buying used PC parts that prevents people from considering this option. I’m here to advocate against this stigma, and to tell you that it is simply not true!
I believe that most PC parts are totally acceptable to purchase secondhand, with a few exeptions1. These parts are made to last years with proper care and usage. Proper care means not allowing a half-inch of dust accumulate inside your PC and on top of components (dust = no airflow = heat = bad), and proper usage means not overclocking components. I would say a large majority of PC users follow these guidelines, which means most PC parts are still, functionally, in great condition.
I wanted to see how many good PC part deals I could find in the Ames and Des Moines, Iowa area and build, in my opinion, one of the best bang for your buck PCs - the ‘Big Dealz’ PC! With my coffee within arms reach and a ‘LoFi beats to Study To’ playlist playing, I began to scavenge the depths of Ebay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace for those sweet, sweet deals. The first parts to fall into my hands were a CPU, motherboard, and RAM that I got as a combo on Facebook Marketplace. The CPU was the tride-and-true Intel 4770, an LGA1150 4C/8T processor clocked at 3.4GHz. The motherboard was an MSI H81-P33 microATX board, which had “Military Class 4” on the box, which means it’s a good one I guess. The RAM was a standard kit of Corsair Vengeance 2x8GB (16GB) DDR3 memory clocked at 1600MHz. All together, the CPU, motherboard, and RAM came to a total of \$190 USD. Not a bad start!
I went with the Thermaltake Frio Silent CPU cooler for its relatively low price, good cooling performance, and low noise. I picked it up for \$25 on Amazon. I know this goes against the secondhand-only theme, but there weren’t any good secondhand deals in my area :(
After a week or so of checking secondhand sites, I came across a great graphics card deal. It was a PNY XLR8 GTX 1060 GPU, which featured 3GB of video memory and LED lights! I managed to negotiate the price down to \$90, which was a really great deal for such a solid GPU.
With the CPU, GPU, RAM, and motherboard - the most expensive parts - out of the way, I began to hunt around for a power supply. I found an older Antec 500W 80+ certified power supply for \$20 not too far from my apartment. My only criteria for the PSU were that it had to be > 450W, had a PCIe power cable, and was in good contition. This one fit the bill just fine. I picked it up from a nice elderly lady, which wasn’t too strange. What did catch me off-guard, however, was that she could answer my questions about computers fluently. I guess not all granneies are computer illiterate!
For storage, I picked up a Samsung 840 240GB SSD from my friend Nathan for \$25. I had a Samsung 500GB hard drive laying around, which I figure was worth about \$20. Again, both pretty decent deals. For the operating system, I bought an OEM version of Windows 10 from Kinguin for around \$14 and slapped it onto the SSD.
Finally, for the case, I went with the Rosewill FMB-X2 uATX Mini Tower case, which I picked up for \$35 online. Again, I know this goes against the secondhand parts only theme, but there weren’t any good deals!
With all the parts in my posession, I began assembling the Big Dealz PC. Assembly went relatively smooth: the case had enough clearance to fit the CPU cooler and GPU, the motherboard fit fine, and it booted on the first try! Unfortunately, I did encounter one MAJOR problem. After completing the build, I began to wipe away fingerprints with 91% rubbing alcohol on a rag, which ended up being a HUGE mistake. I went to wipe down the front of the case, looked at my towel afterwards to see if there was any dirt, and realized it was jet black. I then frantically turned towards the PC case, and my heart dropped when I realized the entire front of the case had HUGE white streaks wherever I wiped with my rag. I guess the concentrated alcohol ate away at the cheap plastic and bleached the color or whatever coating the plastic had. I had the PC built and ready to go, but completely ruined the case. I then noticed that the streaks looked similar to white-bleached wood stain. Ah-ha, what a great observation that was! I decided that the best option to recover this case was to try and give it a wood texture. I diluted some rubbing alcohol with water and used paper towels to wipe the plastic front vertically. After a few rounds of brushing the case front with diluted rubbing alcohol, the result ended up looking halfway decent - a successful recovery!
After using this computer for about a month, I can say that this was a really great all-around computer. I never noticed it being sluggish, navigating through files was snappy, internet browsing and video playback were seamless, and all engineering software I used ran great. I do not play any video games, so I unfortunately didn’t test gaming performance.
I hope you found this build story interesting and useful. I would highly recommend building a similar computer if you are looking for a budget-friendly, reliable, and wholesome PC capable of office productivity work and light to moderate gaming.
Here is a list of the components I used in the PC along with a cost breakdown. Note that I built this PC in mid-2019. Many of the components were purchased secondhand. Retail prices may differ.
|Component||Make / Model||Price|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770 4C/8T||\$125|
|CPU Cooler||Thermaltake Frio Silent 120mm||\$25|
|GPU||PNY XLR8 GTX 1060 3GB||\$90|
|Motherboard||MSI H81-P33 uATX LGA 1150||\$40|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance 2x8GB (16GB) 1600MHz DDR3||\$25|
|SSD||Samsung 840 240GB||\$25|
|Power Supply||Antec 80+ 500W||\$20|
|Case||Rosewill FMB-X2 uATX Mini Tower||\$35|
In my opinion, CPUs, GPUs, motherboards, RAM, SSDs, case fans, and cases are totally acceptable to purchase secondhand without worry. However, I would stay away from buying hard drives and liquid CPU coolers secondhand, as those are notorious for wearing out and causing catastrophic failure. You don’t want to lose your data on a hard drive or have your CPU overheat! Power supplies can sometimes be a bit iffy, but I would generally trust them to function fine. ↩︎