best $500 home office pc build

Looking to build the best possible home office PC for $500? No problem! This guide lists all the parts you'll need to put together a balanced computer that has the power to handle any office task. And luckily, while the gaming PC market has been turned upside down due to the lack of video cards at retail, this office PC's built-in video means you can get your system up and running today, no waiting around!

For March 2021, the $500 Home Office PC Build features Intel's Core i3-10100 quad-core processor. It more than matches AMD's best, and more importantly, it's actually available, unlike the CPUs that AMD paper launched to compete! Plus, it has built-in graphics, which saves you a whole lot of money and hassle if you're just using this system for home office use.  Also on board are 16GB of RAM (which we now recommend as a minimum for any PC) and a 256GB PCIe-based solid-state drive, which is lightyears ahead of the hard drives you'll find in most off-the-shelf office PCs. The $500 Home Office PC Build is housed in an ultra-compact case and powered by a cost-effective power supply. No matter what you use this system for, it will provide years of top-notch performance, along with plenty of opportunity for upgrades down the line.

Need to accessorize your new Home Office PC Build? Just scroll down to the end of this guide for our top picks! This includes a wireless networking card, a 24" monitor, a professional-grade webcam, and other great accessories to round out your build.

If you're interested in seeing how this system has changed over time, flip to the $500 Home Office PC Build Archive. Note that this guide provides direct links to Amazon or Newegg in the US, and Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Germany, for our readers in those countries. If you decide to purchase any of the products we list, please use the links provided, which helps support continued development of these guides. 

The $500 Home Office PC - March 2021

  • The Budget Home Office PC:

    Acer Aspire TC-895-UA92

    We know a lot of people want to get their home office up and running as fast as possible, which means buying a pre-built PC is the way to go. And there's no better option than Acer's Aspire, which simply cannot be beat in terms of price. The most important component on the spec sheet is the 512GB solid-state drive... yes, we do mean SSD, not hard drive, like every other PC in this price range. Also onboard is an Intel Core i5-10400 six-core CPU with Hyperthreading (which adds an additional six virtual cores), 12GB of RAM, and the latest WiFi 6 and Bluetooth built-in. It even has a memory card reader and USB Type-C port built into the front. The best part: it's actually around the same price as the DIY PC we profile below, despite better overall specs!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This is one seriously-good deal. While it's around the same price as the DIY build we recommend below, it's also more powerful, thanks to 50% more cores and double the SSD capacity, making it a better buy overall unless you really want to build your own!

The Build-Your-Own Option

  • CPU:

    Intel Core i3-10100 @Newegg

    While AMD has ruled the budget sector for a while, Intel has come roaring back, and its Core i3-10100 is simply unbeatable at the price, thanks to its 4 cores, 8 threads, high clock speed, and built-in graphics. It doesn't hurt that Intel's CPUs are also in stock, while AMD has fallen prey to constant stocking problems. What a turn of events!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that you must use a Socket 1200 motherboard for this processor, such as the one below.

  • Motherboard:

    ASRock B460M PRO4 @Newegg

    This board is the perfect choice for a low-cost build. With three PCIe slots, six USB ports, two RAM slots, and six SATA ports, it gives the system room to grow, and it has a PCIe M.2 slot, which you'll be taking advantage of with this build's SSD! And note that thanks to Intel's built-in graphics, you can use any of this board's video outputs (HDMI, VGA, or DisplayPort).

    The Guru's Tip:

    Don't make a mistake here and buy a B360 (old Intel socket 1151), B450 (AMD), or B550 (AMD) motherboard. Yes, they all sound similar, but they are not!

  • Memory:

    G.Skill 2x8GB Ripjaws V DDR4-2666 @Newegg

    This RAM kit will allow you to get the most out of your Intel processor - in fact, DDR4-2666 is the fastest RAM it will support! Note that using a pair of 8GB sticks rather than one 16GB stick allows for "dual channel" operation, which we consider critical when using built-in video chips. 

    The Guru's Tip:

    We want to be clear about something - we no longer think 8GB of RAM is enough for typical users, which is why we recently updated this build to 16GB.

  • Solid-State Drive:

    Sabrent 256GB Rocket NVMe

    We now recommend that all PC builders choose an SSD over a hard drive for their main storage drive. The responsiveness of a system with an SSD is so superior to systems with a hard drive that you shouldn't even consider building a PC today without one. And among all budget drives, this 256GB PCIe-based drive blows away the competition in terms of performance per dollar!

    The Guru's Tip:

    You'll need a jeweler's screwdriver to install this drive in the motherboard's M.2 slot. Luckily, no cables are required!

  • Case:

    Rosewill FBM-X2 w/ 400W PSU

    The FBM-X2 offers plenty of features at a bargain price. It has two big 120mm fans for cooling, while three USB ports are easily accessible on top. It's also very compact, thanks to the micro-ATX form factor. And most amazing of all is that included in the price is a pre-installed 400W power supply, which is perfect for this system!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Nearly all low-priced cases have sold out over the past few months, making this case's bargain price all the more amazing. Grab it while you can!

  • Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 on USB @Newegg

    Windows 10 offers excellent usability and security, along with lots of fine tuning under the hood to make the best use of modern components like the ones used in this system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The USB version of Windows 10 is no longer sold by Amazon, so we're linking to Newegg here. You can also save about $10 by going with the downloadable version from Amazon as long as you have an 8GB or larger flash drive available.

Optional Components

  • Wireless Card:

    TP-Link Archer T5E AC1200/Bluetooth 4.2

    Need to run your PC on a wireless network? Then pick up this powerful expansion card, which will add high-speed 802.11ac wireless networking to your PC!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This card even has built-in Bluetooth, perfect for use with Bluetooth-enabled headsets and other devices!

  • Hard Drive:

    Seagate Barracuda 2TB

    If you need extra space for bulk storage of media like photos, videos, and music, add this bargain-priced 2TB hard drive to your build. Coming in at just $10 more than most 1TB drives, it's a tremendous bargain.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Using an SSD for the operating system and main applications, along with a hard drive for data, provides an incredibly-responsive user experience along with plenty of storage capacity. Read our SSD Setup Guide to learn how to make sure they're running optimally.

  • The Basic Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Combo:

    Logitech Wireless Combo MK270

    While you may have an old keyboard and mouse sitting in your desk, treat yourself to a new wireless setup from Logitech, the MK270!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This combo uses a single tiny USB receiver to connect both peripherals!

  • The 24-inch General-Purpose Monitor:

    BenQ GW2480 24" IPS

    Offering mind-blowing value in the mid-range segment, this monitor packs in all the features you've come to expect from $150+ monitors, but for a lot less money. That includes a high-quality 24" IPS panel for great color and viewing angles, a 1920 x 1080 resolution, and built-in speakers.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This model can accept HDMI, DisplayPort, or VGA inputs, but not the older DVI input.

  • Webcam:

    Logitech C925-e Webcam

    Need to use your PC for video conferencing? No problem! Just add this high-quality 1080p webcam from Logitech, which includes a built-in microphone. Don't forget that if your monitor doesn't have built-in speakers, you'll also need to add the speakers below for web conferencing to work. We're amazed at the number of people who use headphones for video conferencing when it's so much more professional to use gear attached to your PC, rather than your head!

    The Guru's Tip:

    We strongly advise you not to buy any of the no-name webcams that have flooded the market since the start of the pandemic, and we also advise you not to buy any Logitech webcams from third-party sellers. They are likely to be used or counterfeit. 

  • Bargain Speakers:

    Creative Pebble 2.0

    Because desktop PCs, unlike laptops, don't have internal speakers, we recommend you pick up Creative's Pebble kit. Whether it's music, You Tube videos, TV, or movies, Pebble will sound great. To connect them, you'll use a 3.5mm cable for audio and USB for power, both to your PC. No connection to the wall required!

    The Guru's Tip:

    We use these on one of our office systems, and it's truly amazing for the price! Note that it's not as small as the name implies - definitely larger than a pebble!