Building A $200 Linux PC

Lab notes on constructing a super-cheap desktop.

Penelope Truce
Penelope Truce
Oct 16, 2010
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Times are still tough out there, but our needs and desires don’t always flag just because the economy does. If an accident or an equipment failure has punched an unexpected hole in your computing life, you may be in need of a system—any system—to fill it. You may be tempted to drop $500 or more on a budget desktop at Costco or Wal-Mart.

But even if you need a computer right away, there are plenty of good reasons to build one rather than buy one. But what can you build quickly and cheaply? To answer this question, we spent hours researching possibilities, making .swaps, compromises, and last-minute changes until we had all the parts for our system that, amazingly, came in under our drastically low $200 budget.

With our budget and ground rules set, we shopped Newegg and picked up the following components: a Foxconn A6GMV motherboard ($39.99), a 2.9-GHz AMD Athlon II X2 245 processor ($58.99), 1GB Crucial CT12864BA1339 RAM ($24.99), a 160GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST 3160318AS hard drive ($38.99), and a Rosewill R424BK case with a 350-watt power supply ($29.99). Finally, the operating system, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS , didn’t cost us a dime. Because of our tight budget, we left out a graphics card and optical drive. Our final total was $192.95.

The build took less than a half hour and presented no major challenges. We benchmarked our Linux PC against the eMachines Mini-e ER 1402-05 nettop, which had more RAM (2GB) and ran Windows 7. Our system cold-booted faster and copied a 2.18GB folder much more quickly. And our system consistently came out ahead in system tasks and applications, proving that a little time and effort can get you a useable backup PC on the cheap.

Keywords: Matthew Murray, Building A $200 Linux PC, Newegg , budget , build , cheap, Foxconn , desktop , Wal-Mart, AMD , Windows 7, Barracuda , Ubuntu

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