Due to the rapid rate at which technology progresses, the price of computer parts drop substantially over short periods of time. With this in mind, it is certainly possible to build a Linux PC for under $200. Granted, you won’t have all the bells and whistles of more expensive machines, but you will have a decent machine that is able to run Linux sufficiently.
To begin, it’s necessary to purchase every component of the machine individually. Building a machine yourself reduces the cost by a large margin. You won’t be stuck paying the marked up prices that computer manufacturers need to charge in order to make a profit. To complete this build, we’ll need to focus on cheaper hardware that still offers decent performance while remaining in the guidelines of the $200 budget:
1. ECS GeForce6100PM-M2 Motherboard – Currently, this board is listed on TigerDirect for $41.99. It’s a favorable board due to the price, built-in video card, and the fact that it is upgradeable in the future.
2. AMD ADH4450IAA5DO Athlon X2 4450e Processor – Listed at $34.99, this processor is a great addition. You could get a single core processor for even cheaper, but the performance of this machine will be significantly better with a dual core. You will also need to purchase a CPU fan separately since this is an OEM processor. Currently, the Masscool CPU Cooling fan is listed for $9.99 which will work well for this specific processor.
3. Crucial 1024MB PC6400 DDR2 800MHz Memory – Crucial has a reputation for producing quality memory. At $19.99, this is one of the better options available on TigerDirect.
4. Seagate ST3250318AS Barracuda 7200.12 Hard Drive – 250GB – Listed at $37.99, this hard drive by Seagate should be ample considering the type of machine it will be going into. It also has a 3 year warranty which is a nice bonus if anything were to go wrong with it.
5. Power Up Black ATX Mid-Tower Case—This case also comes with a 400-watt power supply which makes it a steal for $39.99.
6. PNY P-FD2GBATT03-EF 2GB Flash Drive — Price: $8.99. If you don’t currently own a USB Flash drive you will need one in order to install Linux without a CD-Drive. 2GB is more than enough, and you could decide to purchase a 1GB drive instead and save a few bucks.
This comes to a grand total of $193.93. Keep in mind that I chose http://www.tigerdirect.com to purchase all of these parts, but there are alternatives out there. TigerDirect and NewEgg are two of the most reputable stores for buying computer parts online, and I have had good experiences with both of them.
Once you have all the parts you need and the machine has been assembled, you can move on to installing Linux. There are a variety of different distributions to choose from, but one of the most popular is Ubuntu and it is pretty friendly when it comes to installing it:
1. Download a 64-bit(or 32-bit) ISO image from http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/get-ubuntu/download.
2. You also need to download Universal USB Installer from http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3. This program will format the USB flash drive correctly so that the computer is able to boot from it and install Ubuntu.
3. Once you open the USB installer, you will have to choose Ubuntu from the drop-down menu. Additionally, you need to select the ISO image that you downloaded in the next drop-down menu followed by clicking ‘Install’ to complete the process.
The USB drive should then be correctly setup to install Ubuntu. You just need to plug the drive in, and access the boot menu in order to have the machine boot directly from the drive itself. This was done by pressing the ‘ESC’ key right after turning the machine on with the motherboard purchased from TigerDirect. If you have a different motherboard, it may differ. The computer will then boot from the USB drive and bring up the Ubuntu installation screen where you can complete the installation.