Behold: my roommate’s Intel octa-core, GTX 1080 SLI with 64 GB of RAM intended to run yet-developed PC games that only cost me three easy payments of $1,399.99 and, possibly, a quart of blood.
That’s cool and all, but I just built my PC on craigslist for about $420.00. It will probably run most games on high or ultra at 1080p.
But the flames on your PC look cool, though.
Yes, building a PC at Micro Center or Amazon is in fact the easiest way to buy a PC. However, we didn’t choose to do so because it was going to be easy — we did it because our mothers didn’t hug us enough and because, damn it, we wanted to.
The quest begins
Following Christmas 2015, I came back to my dorm and saw my roommate’s brand-new, gaming PC from the future. It was glorious.
As for me, I was gaming on my Surface Pro 3. I had a fan blowing air at the top right corner of the tablet/laptop hybrid to cool it in order to run games at 1080p on low settings.
The sparks of jealousy were so primal that I felt my brow grow about an inch. I heard a low grunt escape with my next breath. Thoughts of murder and theft began invading my brain.
Instead of breaking the law, however, I forged an iron-hard determination to build my own PC. It was a mission I created many times before, but this time I had a roommate to one-up—and keep alive.
I immediately went on Amazon to build the PC of my dreams, $1735.49. OK, new plan. I cleared my cart and started building the PC of my rational dreams, $845.85. OK, how much is an Xbox One? No. Focus, man. I wonder how much PCs go for on craigslist?
What to search for
So if you’ve never been on craigslist, just know that it’s eBay’s lowly brother with great local deals. But first, I had to make a list of what I was looking to buy new and used.
- Power supply
- SSD (hard drive)
- Keyboard and mouse
- Mouse pad
- Processor (CPU)
- Processor cooler
- Graphics card (GPU)
I quickly went on Amazon and picked out an adequate power supply 600W Bronze, 256 GB SSD, mouse and keyboard (with quality ergonomics, variable PPI and LEDs that would make enthusiasts scoff and turn their heads — no regrets) and a sensible trackpad.
Everything was in my shopping cart. They were ready be ordered at a moment’s notice with Amazon’s 2-day delivery within one hour of searching.
I added the power supply and SSD I chose to PCPartPicker, an indispensable tool when building a PC as it checks compatibility and reviews for the specific part you’re adding to your build. I then opened a new tab and went to craigslist.
Now this is where this process took a turn for the unpleasant, infuriating and rewarding.
First, the hard part: finding a processor/motherboard combo that are compatible and won’t throttle my graphics card.
Let’s go with a classic, say, a relatively new Intel quad-core i5. On the first page, I found a $150 i5 (slightly used) and the prices just went up. None of them were close to budget and none of the resellers were willing to let go of one for $80.
What’s AMD up to? Oh wow, so many options for under $100! Let me mix-and-match and see what’s compatible. Option 1? No. Option 2? No. Option 3? Yes! But the PCIE express socket is not “fully functional?” No, then.
This went on for a few days and morale started wavering. I need a break. Let’s see what my roommate is up to?
“Hey bro, whatcha up to?”
No reply. I ask again, but louder.
“HEY BRO, WHATCHA UP TO?”
“Sorry, man, I didn’t hear you. I was playing a new video game on ultra settings while watching some Netflix and having 34 Chrome tabs op–”
I walked back into my room and started searching craigslist again, this time with a vengeance.
Booting up victory
After a few more days, I found a AMD hexa-core and a motherboard combo for $110. Great deal!
I contacted the seller and agreed to meet at his house. He lived with his mom and after witnessing a quick exchange about why he’s inviting strangers to her house, I walked away with a motherboard, CPU and CPU cooler.
The graphics card (GPU) was a bit easier to find. Within 2 days I stumbled on it, a case and RAM combo for $140. I got to the agreed location and only had $134 in my wallet. The seller, however, said it was cool and even included a red LED strip.
Two exchanges were all that I needed to find all the parts.
I assembled the PC and summoned my roommate. I turned on the PC and awaited glory. A black screen, and subsequent panic, greeted me instead.
I checked all the plugs. I didn’t plug in the CPU. My roommate started laughing and there went that sense of glory. I plugged in the PC again and pushed the power button.
Behold: my sense of glory was rebooted when I saw the motherboard screen and the BIOS prompted me to select the bootable drive.