Here’s which computer parts are the most expensive when building a PC:
Usually, the most expensive parts of a consumer-grade computer are the graphics card and motherboard.
Ultimately, you can find very expensive versions of any component, so the parts you choose will have the biggest impact on how much they cost.
So if you want to learn all about building a computer from scratch, then this article is for you.
Let’s jump right in!
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What Parts Does a Computer Need?
The best place to start is pretty simple.
Let’s list the components you need. I’ll explain what each component does later.
For now, let’s just get the basic information.
If you’re building a computer from scratch, here’s every piece that you need:
- Graphics card
- Processor (CPU)
- Storage (hard drive)
- Memory (RAM)
- Peripherals (like mouse and keyboard)
- Operating system (like Windows)
How Expensive Are the Computer Parts? (10 Parts)
So, that covers the parts you need.
Now, we can get into listing how expensive they are.
For the most part, I’m going to be listing them in descending order of price, so the first one you see is the most expensive.
That said, this isn’t simple.
Each part has a wide range of potential prices depending on a whole lot of factors.
So, I’m mostly basing the order on the average prices I got from Newegg.
If you shop elsewhere, you might see some variance, but the gist should still remain.
#1 Graphics Card
Ok. To talk about graphics cards, I first have to explain something.
Every computer needs a graphics processing unit (GPU).
This is what sends information to your screen in order for you to see stuff.
But, we can break GPUs up into two kinds.
There are onboard GPUs that are physically part of the motherboard, and there are discrete graphics cards that are independent components that can be purchased individually and swapped in and out of computer systems.
So, every computer needs a GPU, but not every computer needs a graphics card.
When it comes to prices, I’m only talking about graphics cards here. Onboard GPUs are part of motherboards, and they’re included in that pricing.
And, to be clear, not all motherboards have onboard GPUs, so it’s something to consider.
With all of that said, if you want to enjoy a video experience on your computer beyond basic Netflix streaming, having a graphics card goes a long way.
If you want to do professional video editing or play high-end video games, you need a pretty good graphics card.
Now, let’s talk about prices.
You can get an entry-level graphics card, and you’ll be paying in the ballpark of $200.
It will let you play some games without trouble, but $200 is nowhere near the high end of graphics card pricing.
If you want to get into more resource-intensive gaming, you’ll be forced to spend $500 or more.
The best current consumer-grade graphics cards start at around $1000.
That’s just for this one component, and you can spend considerably more if you really want to.
You have a massive range of options when it comes to processors.
There are multiple manufacturers, and they each have a bunch of different lines of consumer-grade processors.
Among each line, you’ll find dozens or more individual options.
For the most part, PCs use AMD or Intel processors.
You can go with older or lower-performance models that save money, and you can find effective processors that are going to start at around $100.
You can make a functional computer at that price point.
Unlike graphics cards, processors scale up pretty linearly with performance.
So, if you want a mid-level processor that can handle gaming and heavy computer usage, you might only spend $200 to $500.
You can go higher end than that, and processors can cost multiple thousands of dollars for a single unit.
But, for consumer use, that’s never necessary.
The truth is that very few personal computers that are used for non-professional reasons need to spend a full $1000 on the processor.
From here on out, it’s a lot harder to place components in order of cost.
The specific items you choose will affect the price a lot more than what type of component it is.
Graphics cards and processors are easily the most expensive part of building a computer.
Everything else is all about how much money you want to save or what kind of performance you’re after.
The motherboard price is mostly determined by the processor you choose.
Each processor is part of what is called a chipset.
That chipset is made to a very precise set of dimensions, and the motherboard has to match those dimensions so that the processor will fit correctly.
Remember when I said that each company has multiple series of processors?
Any given series is going to be compatible with a specific chipset. Knowing that, you can pick a motherboard that fits the chipset.
In general, more expensive processors require more expensive motherboards.
Within that distinction, you can get extra bells and whistles that drive up the cost of your motherboard considerably.
All of that said, you can get a motherboard for a PC usually between $80 and $300.
Even if you get a high-end processor, you can usually get a good motherboard for under $300.
That said, if you get a fully loaded motherboard, you can spend thousands.
Cooling is especially tricky in this whole thing.
Every component needs to be cooled, but the bulk of cooling is handled by the computer case (which is covered later).
Very hot components like the power supply, graphics card, and processor need additional cooling.
Again, that’s often included.
When it comes to purchasing cooling for a computer, you’re mostly looking at processor cooling.
You can also upgrade or expand case coolers, but it’s never truly necessary.
That’s more about aesthetics and personal preference.
So, this section is going to focus on processor cooling.
For the most part, cooling fans are included with AMD processors.
So if you go that route, you don’t have to spend any additional money just on cooling.
Meanwhile, a lot of Intel processors don’t include fans.
That means you need to purchase a fan for those systems. You’re looking at a ballpark of $50 for a competent fan.
But, there’s more to this.
If you want to do anything with overclocking or pushing the limits of the computer, then you need better cooling.
Advanced cooling systems get a lot more expensive, and a mid-level cooling system is going to run between $80 and $150.
If you want truly amazing cooling, it gets expensive pretty quickly.
For the most part, you don’t need to spend more than $200 to get a cooling system that functions properly for even advanced PC builds.
First, let’s clarify storage.
If your computer has a hard drive, that’s the storage for the computer.
These days, you have a lot of options, but we’re talking about the part of the computer where you save files.
Speaking of hard drives, they’re cheap, and back when they were the only option, this was often one of the cheapest parts of a computer.
You can still get a cheap hard drive and spend $50 or less on your computer.
It works fine, and it holds a lot of data.
But, the emerging standard for PCs (especially custom PCs) is an NVMe drive.
These cost a whole lot more, but they’re also orders of magnitude faster, which is nice.
For NVMe storage, you’re mostly looking at $80 to $150 for enough storage to do standard consumer stuff.
It can hold some movies and pictures, but you can’t download entire movie servers on these drives.
If you need larger storage, the prices for NVMe drives go up pretty quickly.
The computer case holds everything together.
It’s important, and you can pretty much pick how much you want to spend and then find the case that matches your budget.
Used but functional cases start at $20 to $30.
A perfectly acceptable new case might range from $60 to $100, and keep in mind that all of these come with case fans for cooling.
You don’t have to upgrade or add to this cooling for the vast majority of computer builds.
But, if you want a super awesome case, you can have modular designs, a built-in liquid cooling system, and even custom elements.
As you might imagine, you can push case prices into thousands of dollars if you push the envelope.
#7 Power Supply
Every component of the computer needs power.
The power supply is responsible for distributing that power all around the computer.
The thing about a power supply is that it is going to support a maximum draw (measured in watts).
Your maximum draw on the power supply has to match the power draw for all of your components combined.
For the most part, that really comes down to the processor and graphics card.
Take the draw for each of those components (it will be mentioned on their respective boxes) and add them together.
Then add another 15 watts for everything else, and that’s the minimum power your computer needs.
When buying power supply units, wattage usually ranges between 500 and 1000.
A standard 800W supply is fine for more than 90% of PC builds, and those start between $100 and $200. If you need to get up to 1000W, then you might have to spend around $250.
Power supplies that cost more come with extra guarantees, but they don’t really impact performance.
This is also called RAM.
They are the same thing when talking about computer components.
This is yet another component where costs are hard to pin down, but RAM is a lot cheaper than it used to be.
If you’re saving money, 8 to 16GB of RAM is enough to get the job done, and you can get that for around $50.
If you want high-end RAM that really helps to maximize computer performance, you’re going to have to spend more money.
And, as you add more total memory to the system, the price goes up.
Technically, peripherals aren’t part of the computer, but you still need them for the whole thing to actually work.
Peripherals can include a mouse, keyboard, speakers, webcam, microphone, monitor, headset, or anything else you use to interact with the computer.
Chances are, you already have some of these peripherals, and in the vast majority of cases, your old peripherals will work with the new computer.
So, you don’t necessarily have to spend money on any of this.
But, if you do need some new peripherals, then their costs are all over the place.
You can get a new mouse for $20, or you can spend over $100 to get a high-performance gaming mouse.
This kind of disparity exists for each peripheral, to say nothing of monitors.
You can spend thousands of dollars on a single monitor.
I’m going to simplify all of this and say that how much you spend on peripherals is a choose-your-own-adventure story.
#10 Operating Systems
The operating system isn’t a physical component of the computer, but it is very much essential.
The good thing about operating systems is that you don’t need an expensive one. At all.
In fact, there are a bunch of different Linux systems that are completely free.
If you have an Apple computer, the operating system is free there too.
But, most PCs run Windows, and traditionally, Windows is not free.
Microsoft does run discount programs.
Sometimes you can get a discount for being a student or a teacher.
If you look around, there are all kinds of discounts.
You might even know someone who works in IT and has a free license they can give you.
At worst, you might have to pay the full retail price for Windows.
In that case, it’s $119.98, and that’s been the price for over a decade.
And yes, this is the price for the most current version of Windows (Windows 11).