The Perfect PC: Don’t Buy It, Build It

Parts List: $500 PC

Here are the components we used to assemble our $500 home-built machine.
It's not easy to build a PC for just $500 in parts. No matter how you slice it, you're going to have to make some sacrifices. That said, we were impressed at how much computing power we could get for $500. Here are the parts we chose for our $500 PC build, along with the reasons we picked them. The prices listed here are ones we found at reputable online stores; the numbers may have shifted by the time you read this.

AMD Athlon II X3 445 (3.1GHz)
At the low end of the price range, AMD's processors provide really good bang for the buck. What's more, choosing this CPU enables us to use an affordable motherboard with very good integrated graphics.

CPU Cooler
Stock part (see below)
The AMD Athlon processor that we chose comes with a stock CPU cooling fan, so we don't have to spend any extra money to get this component.

Biostar TA890GXB
Built on the MicroATX design, this motherboard offers AMD's latest chipset, support for the full range of AMD processors, and Radeon HD 4290 integrated graphics (one of the best integrated graphics options available).

Crucial DDR3 1333MHz (two 1GB modules)
We'd prefer 4GB of RAM, but our budget won't allow it. Crucial makes reliable RAM at a fair price, and this pair of 1GB DDR3 memory sticks will get the job done.

Rosewill R102-P-BK
It's not the best case around, but it fits our MicroATX-based motherboard nicely, it's inexpensive, and it's not ugly. On our tight budget, that's about as much as we can hope for.

Power Supply
Cooler Master Elite 460W
With the components we're using, we don't need a power supply with a lot of wattage. Instead, we need one that is inexpensive and reliable, and Cooler Master's 460W model fits the bill.

Radeon HD 4290
(integrated into motherboard)
In lieu of a graphics card, we're relying on the motherboard's integrated graphics. If you're a gamer, you'll want to invest $100 in a decent graphics card--but that would take us way over our budget.

Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB
Hard-drive storage is amazingly inexpensive these days. This 7200-rpm drive from Seagate performs quite well, holds half a terabyte, and costs about half a C-note.

Optical Drive
Asus DVD-E818A6T
This is an extremely simple and basic DVD-ROM drive. It reads DVDs and CD-ROMs, but it doesn't burn discs, nor does it play Blu-ray discs. It costs only $17, which is perfect for our tight budget.

Operating System
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (OEM)
Linux costs less, but we want compatibility with mainstream apps. Despite having just 2GB of RAM, we opted for the 64-bit version of Windows 7, for its slight se­­curity edge, and for future upgradability.

Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000
Shopping carefully online, we found this perfectly adequate keyboard for an astonishingly low $15. At that price, it's a steal!

Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 1000
It isn't our favorite mouse, but it's better than the generic low-cost mice that ship with most prefab $500 PCs. And because it's dirt cheap, it helps us keep our system's overall cost under $500.

Total = $493

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