CHEAP Workstation?


Feb 22, 2012
This PC will prob be used for Surfing, Word and Excel sort of stuff, emails. Videos once in a while but no editing or the sort. No CAD programs, no photo editing.
I'm thinking of under $500, 750 on the most. Next upgrade will probably be in 3 to 6 years, so make it futureproof.
What I'm thinking about:
Motherboard with built in graphics, AMD Processor, small PSU, wireless network card, 4GB of RAM/8 if possible. Noise is not a huge problem but heat is a little issue, although it is not very important.
Any suggestions are welcome.


Jun 17, 2011
EASILY, EASILY for under $500 I should have thought.

CPU: i3-2100 $125
MOBO: ASUS P8Z68-V LX $125
RAM: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1600MHz $50
PSU: SeaSonic S12II 520 Bronze $70

GPU: ?? Spend as much or as little as you like here (its not a necessary component sine Z68 has integrated graphics)

HDD: 7200RPM - whatever size you think you'll need
SSD: Maybe grab a nice 60/64GB SSD to put your OS on and web-browser + few other applications you use regularly.

Case: Any fairly decent mid-tower ATX will be fine, don't spend too much of your budget here.

CPU Cooler: Grab a nice quiet after-market cooler for LGA Socket 1155. It's not "necessary" but it will improve noise level and cooling over the stock cooler supplied with the mobo.

Future Upgrade options include:

More RAM
Graphics card if you start gaming
i5/i7 CPU or Ivybridge 1155 CPU's when they're released
SSD if you don't include one in your initial build



Sounds like my wife's computer which is used a lot for what you are describing, and it is blazing fast for it and is only a Core2Duo. The trick is to get an SSD.

In the sub $500 market it is often cheaper (after the cost of OS, case, keys, mouse, etc) to get a cheap Dell or HP with a restore disc ($20), then purchase an SSD and use the restore disc to install to the new drive. This way you get a warranty, a smaller case, and do not have to muck with it as much as a custom build. That being said, if you want to do a custom build I think the links others have provided look pretty good and I would be the last person to stop you, but if you want to save a few $ the prebuild PC could be an option.

Keep the old drive for data storage, but put your OS and programs on the SSD. My wife has a 60GB SSD and with windows and all of her programs (office, some music writing software, a few utilities I require, plus web browsers and stuff) only takes 30GB. So a 60GB SSD will do just fine. I would suggest an M4 as they recently had a price drop, but we are using an OCZ drive and it works just fine.

For an idea on speed; My wife's Core2Duo turns on from a cold boot, and can be on the internet before my computer even wakes from sleep (much less a cold boot). Her computer is far inferior to mine in all respects except for the SSD, it makes a huge difference. Her wake to sleep time is ~5 sec, and her sleep to wake time is ~3-5 sec, cold boot is somewhere around 15sec. Outlook on her origional HDD took ~20sec to open (I dont think she has ever deleted an e-mail lol), after the SSD it takes 1-2 sec. If that is not future proof enough then I don't know what is!

Also, be sure that whatever motherboard you purchase has UEFI/touchBIOS instead of a traditional BIOS. It will help support newer equipment like SSDs better (granted my wife's system runs fine without one), and will better support future OSs like Windows 8.


$55, space for GPU upgrade if needed, only SATA2 which means you will bottleneck a SSD, but if you see my wife's post, those numbers are over SATA2, so SATA3 isn't really worth the extra $50-80 for a p67 or z68 mobo on this type of build.
$135 Duel core with hyper-threading and the premium HD3000 graphics package. This is way overkill for your system, so if you want you can go down to a Pentium G840 with HD2000 graphics for $85
$36 8GB of ram is way overkill, but heck it's cheap.
GPU (Integrated HD3000, it's overkill and the HD2000 may be good enough if you want a cheaper CPU)
$75 after rebate, 60GB SSD, should be plenty of space for OS Office and office documents. If you need more space for media (music/videos) then I would suggest moving up to a 120GB version, or a 500+GB HDD
ODD: Any cheap $20 DVD burner
$118 I fell in love with this case when I saw it. It's way overkill, but to have 2x120mm fans in such a small form factor with a decent PSU should have lots of upgrade potential and run absolutely silent. There are smaller/cheaper cases out there, but this once looks pretty sweet and has plenty of space for more drives/cards if they are needed.
Power Supply: (380W integrated, plenty for this build, but be careful if you upgrade to a dedicated GPU)
$100 Win7 Home Premium 64bit, the standard staple for any PC

Grand total: $539, and you can go much cheaper on the case, CPU, and only 4GB of ram if you want.


compare above with:
$300 stock unit
$37 for 8GB of ram to max it out
$75 for SSD system drive, and keep the HDD that it came with as a documents drive (may have to be creative, but it will fit in there with no problem)
$20 restore CD

Grand Total: $432 Includes a decent warranty, and would be almost as fast, and much smaller than the build I posted above. Like I said in the first post, sub $500 it is a real toss-up for office rigs
(edit) also, this comes with Keys and mouse which my original build did not include.

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