Buy or build a new computer

A client came to see me yesterday with problems on windows 11 and Photoshop, neither of which do I claim to be an expert. The problem was memory or rather lack of it. She had 8gb memory but only 32 GB free on her disk so Photoshop has reporting errors. She is a photographer and works with big images and does lots of memory swapping.
My answer was buy and install more memory which I await delivery off, plus move older images to external disk to free space to work.
Her computer is only 3 years old and has SSD at 500 GB.
Cost of upgrade to 1 tb disk, buying windows, memory, and then my time to install it all and set her up …

So question she asked me buy a new computer or could I build her one to a better spec.

It’s 20 years since I built to a new spec so bit out of touch as now I cheat and spec via a main production line hp dell or similar as that way client buys direct and gets 2 year cover.

Question to you all…
Buy or build ?
Is cost saving worth it ?
If you do it commercial how do you offer cover on faulty parts

Just as an aside I did suggest Linux, gimp, and a great price with her existing laptop but she is so indoctrinated in the Microsoft camp not an answer. Plus Mac would be better option but costly.

My 2 cents here:
-when buying parts for not myself, I ask for an invoice from the seller/provider in the name of who that part really will have/use.
So he/she can do the things with the warranty, if it is necessary, but still can ask me to do it as well.
-if your client refuses to try a more frugal (on resources, not on abilities) ecosystem, should pay more for the wasting ecosystem :wink:
(When I’m asked to build/update/upgrade computer, usually offer something Linux based, as it’s free, fast, and frugal on resources, so lower spec. computer can be sufficient too… the bill to pay is cheaper so, it’s up to the “client” to decide what is affordable.)
-you should have mentioned RAWTherapee, I think it’s the best tool for processing raw images. :wink:

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Build!! Not because it is cheaper but you get to install the hardware that is needed for your client!!! From what you say, your client is in need of a fairly decent machine and 8GB of ram is not enough, I have 32GB, on my last W11 machine I built, running with an Intel i5 cpu on an MSI MAG mobo, running two 1tb nvMe drives, and a 1tb HDD drive with several partitions for my data, and a 4tb drive for local bkups and all other data storage.
It sounds like, if your client can afford it, is in need of a i7 cpu and a mobo that can support the i7. Do not undersize the PSU!!!


I chose to buy from HP. The purchase process allowed me to customize and the resulting machine is covered by warranty. If you have a local component retailer who will be in business for five more years, you can probably do the same thing locally. If you build it, you’re providing the warranty, so beware. And yes, 32G and 2T is a reasonable target for a photographer.



Have several old HP PC’s laying around, good for running Linux!!!

I build for myself, so I am the warranty. Still running one machine I built 10yrs ago.

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Either build or purchase HP or Dell will work I’m sure.

As far as the Windows vs Mac vs Linux wars…

The software needs to dictate the direction. This user is familiar with whatever software they’ve been using and it would be counterproductive to start from scratch on GIMP even it would do the job. I’ve had to support Macs in the past and they were all religious zealots.

My quote from 25 years ago was true then and maybe less true now.

“Anything you can do on a Mac you can do on a PC. The reverse is not true.”

These users chose to use a Mac for whatever reason. Some may be Mac lovers but most are more like Windows haters.

Let the job/software dictate the platform. Linux is very close to being at feature and user friendly parity with Windows. It’s just not quite there yet. Lots of the stories I read on here from people who are much more expert than me show there are struggles even for them. For some of us, the struggle is fun. If this person is trying to get work done. I say just get the work done. Use the old machine to demonstrate a future option of Ubuntu/GIMP/whatever.

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Here’s my computer-building resumé: Over the years I’ve replaced every part of a desktop computer and I’ve built one from scratch about 6 years ago. Building is not hard but it is tedious. There are just a few parts that you need to build a desktop machine: case, power supply, motherboard, CPU, RAM, SSD, CPU cooler, GPU. Maybe a BlueRay disk burner so your photographer can deliver images to her clients that way.

Despite the small number of pieces needed to build a computer there were some issues that caused me problems. For example, the motherboard has headers where you plug in the fans. The headers had four pins sticking up. The fan plug had three holes. An experienced builder knows that this is OK, just plug the three hole socket onto the four pin header, it only fits one way and the fourth pin is unused. However, I didn’t know this and spent some time and worry over the issue. I had a similar problem with the liquid CPU cooler. It had a connector that looked like a data connector (to control the pump and fan speed, I thought) but was in fact the power connector. This was not documented ANYWHERE, even on the manufacturer’s web site. Again, an experienced builder would know this but I did not.

I recently priced out the cost of my possible next desktop for a build vs. buy decision. I could save about $300 (US $) by building it myself. It’s hard to get an exact number because the professional builders don’t necessarily use the exact brands of hardware that I would choose. I also estimated that it would take me 10 to 15 hours to collect all the hardware and assemble it assuming all went well, which for me would be unusually lucky. My personal superpower is to make every possible mistake on any project I undertake.

If you do decide to build it I’d suggest NOT getting bleeding edge hardware. Use stuff that’s been on the market a while so that any bugs are fixed and the hardware is supported in the kernel, etc. I ran into this issue when I built my desktop machine. It took me a few hours to figure out that I had to install the daily build of Ubuntu LTS, not the point release.

As others have pointed out, if you build it for your client she’ll come back to you for repairs and support if any are necessary.

When I need to replace my current machine I’m going to have it built for me. The money saved by building it myself is not that great an amount, especially when amortized over 6+ years. I am proud of the machine I built and it was, in the end, a satisfying thing to do. But as the saying goes “Been there, done that.”


Many thanks for all your input and comments all very helpful and informative. A positive thing on this site is the information from a variety of sources and the helpfulness of everyone. I appreciate your contribution.
Hopefully will get the memory next week and that will be enough to satisfy the client. The technician selling her the existing machine had a thing for games machines and the spec was based on that which is not the same as photo resource requirements. I suspect that after investment in the memory plus my charges she will go away for some time and the requirements will change.
For myself it’s Linux and gimp. But most of my art clients are Mac users … Who said more money than sense. Plus the rent Photoshop, lightroom, and other related Adobe products hmmm

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Linux and gimp work really well, compared to Mac. Totally agree, Paul.

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Sure a “high end” Mac will be more expensive than an “alleged” high end PC from Dell or HP or Lenovo - but - when it comes to Laptops - I find MacBooks pretty level on price with higher end laptops from Dell and HP…

My daughter did media studies and marketing in a double degree - and extensive photography (analog and digital) and I trust her judgement that Apple and Mac is better at doing this stuff than Windows… as a Mac user myself - I vastly prefer it to using Windows - but then I’m also a Linux desktop user and gamer… I prefer gaming on my Linux PC to arm64 MacBook Pro (I have my own, and work issued me one)…

I just prefer Apple OS about 10,000x more than anything Microsoft because it’s UNIX under the hood…

I’m a shithouse mechanic, but a fair hardware support “engineer” - and - I enjoy building a PC from the ground up… No idea why - I just enjoy it **.

My most recently “decom’d” desktop machine, I built in 2011 from bits sourced from different suppliers around town, an AMD Phenom II x6 (6 cores) - and when I retired it in 2021 - it was still pretty useable for most games (some games struggled on it) - 16 GB DDR3, NVidia GTX1650, 256 SATA SSD and 1.5 TB SATA HDD… I think I stopped dual booting it around 2012, when Steam was released for Linux with some top shelf titles and I bought a GTX650ti OC GPU for it (mostly ran Ubuntu LTS releases on it).

My current main desktop is a Ryzen 7 (3700x) with 32 GB of DDR4, 1 TB NVMe SSD and Radeon RX 6600/6600 GPU with 8 GB DDR5 - started life in early 2021 - built from scratch - parts from different local suppliers… I moved the NVidia GTX1650 Super GPU into it when I first built it - but last year I replaced that with the Radeon GPU…

I prefer the flexibility of a “generic” ATX case to those poky little oddball cases from big name suppliers like Dell or HP or Lenovo (note : for “ethical” reasons I avoid HP like the plague - I won’t go into those ethical reasons other than to hashtag #BDS - which is somewhat hypocritical as my NAS is a HP N40L Microserver running TrueNAS/FreeNAS - but I bought that in 2011 before I voluntarily boycotted HP).

** last weekend I got fed up of my system making an awful noise when gaming - only happened under a gaming “load”. So I removed it from its secluded nook on my desk - took a good look at it - took it out to my garage and gave it a good BLOW from a leafblower - then used cable ties to keep ALL cables out of the way of any fans - reseated everything (apart from the CPU and heatsink - this is the part I HATE the most about PC builds - plonking the heat sink down and securing it in place) - so after all that - no more annoying rattling when gaming…


My own MacBook Pro is running Linux as main system due to age and with 12 GB memory runs a treat
I was thinking Mac mini for small foot print but not fixed yet

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When Apple were still sourcing their CPU from Intel - I didn’t see the point - I’d previously created a Hackintosh on a Lenovo desktop machine - seemed like a lot of work to get UNIX to me - haven’t bothered since - but - with the arm64 Apple Silicon M1 - I was sold, UNIX on a RISC computer… With Intel (or AMD - given most of my Linux/BSD machines are AMD) I’m happy to run Linux or BSD as my “UNIX under the hood”…

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Come back Motorola 68030 chip set and the se30 … did have the ownership of a Next box for a very short while to learn that system
Age is a great thing at times