Custom Built Computers

Frequently Asked Questions

You didn't know you didn't know this!
I'm confused with some of the technical jargon used here. What does it all mean?

Well you could read the section of my web site that deals with building your own computer, although you may find it a bit too technical.

If you just want a "General Purpose" computer then read the descriptions on each of the pages, see if it measures up to what you think you might be doing with your computer and then look at any optional extras you may want (eg printer, scanner, joystick, camera).

Let's face it, when you buy a car you don't have to know about the number of pistons in an engine or its compression ratio do you? But computers haven't yet reached the stage where people just go and buy "a computer" - some people want to know the ins and outs of every tiny component used. If you are not interested then just ignore them. All computers today are fast - very fast. They each have more computing power than NASA did in 1969 as they were setting down the first men on the moon. So you can be certain that with a bit of guidance from me you won't be disappointed.


Can't you build a computer cheaper? I saw one in a store last week and it was 50 cheaper than yours

Frankly I'd be surprised if that were the case! Because we build to order, you get the computer at the most current price (usually cheaper than a store-price, unless there is a shortage of a component which pushed prices up again). Added to which there are thousands of permutations between different models of computer. Are you sure you are comparing like with like? Email for further guidance!


I want a screaming banshee of a computer to run games, games and more games! Will your budget entry level suffice?

Sorry, no! Games are the most demanding of all computer programs; indeed it is said that computer games' players are currently responsible for pushing the advancement of computer technology! So a top-end graphics card for a games player would probably cost as much as the entire budget level computer itself.

You don't buy a budget entry level car and then race at Brands Hatch do you? Sure, your budget car has four wheels, seats and an engine just like a Formula One racer - but they are completely different beasts which I'm sure you can appreciate. The same goes for computers. Certainly the budget entry level computer will do most things with ease - but intense game playing isn't one of them, although it will play an excellent round of Monopoly or Scrabble. Just not something that demands the ultimate in moving graphics.


I've got a slow old 486 computer I bought 5 years ago and it seems pathetic when compared to my work computer. Can I use any parts from it in my new one to keep the cost down?

I often get asked to cannibalise an old computer when "upgrading" to an new one. See our Upgrades page to see what we offer, but you may just have to accept that your old 486 has had its day, you've had your money's worth, and to replace it will cost you about 25% of what you originally paid for it, with something with about 10 times as much power and functionality.


I've heard that some old hardware won't work with Windows(R) XP. Is this true?

Unfortunately, yes, it can be true, depending on how old your hardware is. This happened to us too! We had a nice printer and scanner that just would not work under XP. So we took our own advice (see previous question) and replaced it with better equipment at half the price. We recovered some of the cost by selling on our trusty old equipment to a loving home - there will always be Windows 98 users out there looking for a bargain. But you won't know if your current peripherals are suitable until you ask us!


I notice that the Windows TM software is jolly expensive. What's the deal here?

M
icrosoft (MS) operate more or less as a monopoly so can peg prices at whatever they think they can get, without regard to what their competitors are doing (because there aren't any). So a full copy of Windows XP would cost you in the region of 150 retail, or about 80 if you opt for the "cheaper" version that system builders like myself are allowed to supply. The "cheaper" version is only for use on the system it is supplied with. Never, ever will Microsoft let you use it on another machine even if your current machine is scrapped. That's the deal and there is little anyone can do about it.

When you first use Windows XP, you will be required to "activate" it - by Internet, Post or Telephone. Failure to do this within 30 days will cause Windows XP to stop working. It's an attempt by MS to stop piracy. They take a "snapshot" of the hardware configuration of your PC. If another user tries to activate with the same key, the hardware will be sufficiently different to cause their activation routine to scream "Pirate!" and prevent that user ever activating their (illegal) copy of XP. MS won't send round the heavies. They won't send threatening letters. The fact that this other user will not be able to use their computer in 30 days is enough for MS to sleep soundly.

This also means you can't lend (or borrow) your copy of XP to (from) another person for the very same reason. Yes, they have us over a barrel. Yes, the cost seems disproportionately high. But yes, you need an operating system to run a computer.

Microsoft quote: "In general, a new license is required [or you are required to purchase a new license] with each new computer system because Microsoft OEM software may not be transferred from one computer system to another. OEM software cannot be transferred to a new computer system, even if the original computer system is no longer in use. This is true for all OEM software. The software cannot be separated from the computer system on which the software was originally installed."

And again: "If the motherboard is replaced, then essentially a new computer has been created and a new OEM system builder license is required. Note that you can upgrade all of the components on your customer's computers and maintain the original OEM system builder licenses with the exception of the motherboard. Additionally, if the hard drive fails, the original OEM system builder licenses may also be installed on a new/replacement hard drive as long as it is first removed from the old hard drive."

If you think Linux might suit you, talk to us and we can discuss an operating system that costs next to nothing (just the media and manuals really).


Why should I buy from you instead of [insert name of your favourite store here]?

Firstly, we only build to order. That means we give you the PC you want at the price you want, not a mass produced item combined with reams of useless software that looks good on the shiny box, but in reality will never be used. Except that you have, of course, paid for that software, so it's money wasted. Similarly, we can get you the printer, scanner or other peripheral that you really need - not just something that comes with Model X of a PC because the local store got a job lot at a cut price! Secondly we only build for local people in the UK. Whilst this web page could, we suppose, be read in Australia, we don't suppose I'm going to get an order from anyone in Sydney this week! That means we can give you the best possible attention with all my experience of building PCs over the last few years - in an English market.

I always give you a proper Windows CD (if you purchased that option) plus all CDs, floppy disks, documentation and manuals that came with any other hardware. It's yours, you paid for it, keep it safe, one day you may need it.


So how do I know what I need?

At last, the $64,000 question! Talk to us! We can advise whether it's better to spend more on a faster processor (unlikely) or put that money towards getting a better monitor (oh yes). Or a cordless mouse. Or multi-media keyboard (that has extra keys on it, to control the volume of music playing on your computer, for example). Alternatively just look at the description on each of my example pages to see if they marry up with your ideas of what you will be using a computer for. The exact specification can always be "tweaked" if required.


How long do you take to build a computer then, if it's all built to order?

Let's assume that we have agreed a build specification and price, and you have paid your 25% deposit. We aim to complete the build within 10 days, unless any item is out of stock with my supplier(s). We will always let you know if there are any delays. You might get it sooner, as we always keep some components in stock, so we would not expect the lack of a keyboard to slow down the build process!


Are you qualified in any way to do all this?

Well, I'm a dual certified CLP - which doesn't mean much to most people, but does mean that I'm a Certified Lotus Professional. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm any good at building computers but should at least give you confidence that I work in the computer industry and have been officially recognised that I know what I'm doing. Can you say the same about the sales "assistants" in your local Computers R Us?


What about support? Can you show me how to use my new computer?

When you buy a new car from a car showroom do you expect the salesman to teach you how to drive? He'll show you the main controls, deal with any immediate queries but then it's up to you to read the owner's handbook. He assumes that you already know how to drive - or, if not, you're probably in the process of learning with a qualified instructor paying him 30 per lesson.

So let's be realistic here. I'm not going to show you how to use your new computer. If you don't already know then there are thousand of books and study aids that claim to make it easy for you. Or evening classes like my ma and pa attended. What we are supplying is hardware with an operating system that allows that hardware to sit there ready to do something useful. Your hardware is covered by a 12 months return to base warranty. Basically, if there is a mechanical fault not caused by abuse or misuse then we will return the item to our supplier, get a replacement and fit it for you. On the other hand if Windows XP suddenly decides it doesn't want to play nice today that's your problem: what have you installed or "tweaked" that caused the problem? We can always provide a consultancy service but the cost is not included in the price of the computer!

And a mechanical failure won't cause you to lose any data, work or other important stuff because you are taking regular backups, aren't you. AREN'T YOU?!!


Both my son and daughter have a PC as well as me. How can I get them all connected?

Easily and cheaply. See our Broadband page for all the details!


I'm convinced! How do I contact you?

Using the "Contact Us" menu option on the left is the best way.

If you are a staff member of HBOS, just ring Ralph Bacon on extension 4952 in AOF2. Or email me using Notes or Outlook. Or contact us by clicking to send us an email in the workshop.

HBOS (HECM) employees qualify for a discount on the hardware (excludes the operating system) - just let me have your Shadow ID for validation purposes.

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