With a massive library of games available, complete flexibility over your gaming experience, and being able to have the best gaming experience possible, PC gaming is stronger than ever. 

But jumping into PC gaming is not a cheap or easy decision to make. Unlike buying a console, where you have two decisions to make (which console to buy, and what model type of console to get), there is a host of big choices to make: What kind of graphics card to get, how much storage you’ll need, the quality of peripherals you want, and so much more. 

The biggest decision, though — especially for those wanting to get into PC gaming for the first time —  is: should you build your own PC, or buy a pre-built one.

Cost: No Longer Cheaper to Build Your Own

For years, the biggest reason to build your own PC was because it was cheaper. Hands down, no matter how high-end a PC you were building, it was cheaper than buying one at the store. 

Sadly, this is no longer the case. 

Thanks to high demands cause by both cryptocurrency miners and PC gamers, the costs of graphics cards has skyrocketed. Additionally, costs for RAM have also gone up thanks to this demand, as well as a shortage of the materials needed to produce it. 

In many cases, building a mid-tier gaming PC is actually more expensive than purchasing one from an electronics store. This is because PC manufacturers like ASUS and Intel can get their hands on RAM and graphics cards in bulk, lowering overall costs. 

If you have $800 to spend on a PC, you’ll get more for your money through buying a pre-built one than building your own. If cost is the biggest determining factor for you, right now, buy one from a store already built and ready to go.

Customization: Getting the PC You Dream Of

One major benefit of PCs over consoles is the ability to customize and upgrade them overtime. If you want five terabytes of storage on your PC, you can do it! 

When it comes to purchasing a pre-built computer, there is some customization but not a lot, depending on where you buy it from. If you go to an electronics store, what you see is what you get. If you buy through a gaming PC retailer, you might be able to choose different things ranging from color of the desktop tower to how much RAM it has. 

With building your own PC, you can customize it as much as you want. As long as the pieces all work together, you can go wild on customizations. You could choose to have a glass case and make every piece of the computer have RGB lighting to make it really shine, if you want. Or build the entire computer inside a styrofoam cooler if that floats your boat. 

Customizations aren’t just cosmetics either, it includes the actual hardware. With pre-built PCs, often you can’t choose specific components to be included — you get what they build. This may or may not match what you want out of your gaming PC. With building your own, you are the master. You could get massive amounts of storage, ridiculous levels of RAM, or whatever else matches what you need. Another example is wanting the right balance of SSD and HDD for storage so certain programs load faster than others. Build it yourself, and you get to pick how much storage each kind has, or even go solely on one type of storage drive. 

Technical Understanding for Building and Running

It’s a good idea for anybody getting a gaming PC to understand the basics of a computer, including components, troubleshooting, and how it works. But if you want to build a computer, you’re going to need a bit more understanding. 

Building a PC from the ground up requires a lot of research into each individual part and then understanding how those pieces fit together. The act of putting pieces together isn’t too hard, especially if you follow a guide closely, very much like building a complex model or LEGO set. 

If you don’t want to do the research, gain the knowledge, or go through putting it together, definitely go the pre-built route. It’s still good to learn a little bit about computer components, though,  in case you need to fix something and to be educated in your purchase. 

Warranties: Either Per Part or as a Whole

Computers are complex pieces of technology, and things can go wrong with them. Pieces break, wear down, or just stop working for no reason. Warranties are common in buying products, and computers are no different. 

When you build a PC, you’ll focus on what warranty each individual piece has, but you’ll also need to be able to identify what’s broken when something goes wrong. Your computer as a whole is not covered, each piece is. Then, once you know what is wrong, you send in the single broken piece.

Conversely, buying a pre-built PC comes with warranty options. There should be a limited warranty that covers if the PC breaks on its own that lasts for a year or two, but you can also buy extended warranties and service coverage. That means if something breaks, you can just send in the whole computer and let them figure it out and fix it. 

One downside to pre-built PCs and warranties is that often, if you upgrade or change out pieces on the PC, it voids the warranty. Some might even void it if you open up the casing or something similar. 

Every person wanting to get into PC gaming has to pick whether to buy a machine or build one. For some, they swear by building their own machine as a rite of passage, but don’t feel embarrassed or bad if you buy a PC instead. Buying a PC comes with fewer headaches, more protection, and usually extra benefits, like a matching monitor or pre-installed software. Just be sure to pick what you want, and then research or shop around to make sure you get the right machine for your gaming needs.