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My Experience Building a Computer

Nate Dobbins

Do-It-Yourself projects – whether they be repairs, improvements, or brand new creations – are often highly regarded among sustainably-minded people, and for good reason: getting into the habit of ‘doing-it-yourself’ will lengthen the life of your possessions, thus reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ you consume. It also affords you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how your things work and how they’re put together. These DIY projects can be anything from mending a tear in your jeans, to building a compost bin, to building a deck. My latest DIY project was building a computer.

I decided to build a computer for a few reasons: 1. to take the place of a number of my older electronics (video game console, stereo, television, and previous desktop computer), thus minimizing and simplifying (I then gave away old electronics to a secondhand store); 2. to gain a better understanding of how computer hardware works; 3. to save money (buying a prebuilt computer with the same specifications would be far more expensive); and 4. to give me a better sense of ownership over my computer. These can all be reasons to do DIY work on any number of projects.

When choosing the parts I wanted and learning how to put them together, I utilized many online guides and forums; depending on your project, you can oftentimes find many video- and written-guides and many people willing to help you online if you’re comfortable doing so. Obviously, you need to use discretion with who you trust, but the internet can be a great tool for hooking you up with people with lots of experience who are more than willing to help.

It’s hard to say in real terms just how much more ‘sustainable’ building my computer was than buying a prebuilt computer would have been. Some parts were packaged in recyclable materials, others weren’t. Some I was able to pick up used from local stores or Craigslist, others had to be delivered long distances. What does make it sustainable, however, is that I now have the knowledge I need to upgrade my computer incrementally as-needed rather than buying new computers (or other electronic devices that my computer is replacing) whenever my current system starts becoming dated. Ideally, this will allow my computer to last a few decades, which is many times longer than most computers last.

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