The $500 Build

Looking to build a powerful, expandable 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 don't worry - if you need help building your system, our Builder's Guide to Assembling a Basic PC will walk you through every step, providing plenty of detailed photos and tips.

For Decembger  2018, this build continues to feature AMD's value-packed Ryzen 3 2200G quad-core APU with built-in Vega graphics, combined with a low-priced B450 motherboard. At this point, AMD is the clear winner over Intel in the budget segment. This system also features 8GB of DDR4-2666 RAM in a dual-channel configuration, a DVD burner, and a big 500GB M.2 solid-state drive. The SSD alone puts this system light-years ahead of most off-the-shelf office PCs, which are saddled with horribly-slow mechanical hard drives. The system also gets a boost when it comes to aesthetics thanks to the compact, stylish case from Rosewill, and it's powered by an efficient, high-quality 450W 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 PC? Just scroll down to the end of this guide for our top picks! This includes a great video card to turn this little system into a true gaming powerhouse, as well as a great, low-cost mouse, keyboard, and monitor setup. One quick note: if your total budget is significantly below $500, we recommend that you buy a pre-built system. Building an ultra-low-priced PC is difficult if you need a copy of Windows ($100 on its own and included in this $500 build). Our Desktop Buyer's Guide includes several capable yet inexpensive pre-built systems, so check them out if you're on a very limited budget.

If you're interested in seeing how this system has changed over time, flip to the $500 Home Office PC Archive. Prices in all of our guides are shown in real-time U.S. dollars, with separate links provided to Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, and Amazon Germany for our readers in those countries. Regional substitutions have been made as necessary. 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 - December 2018

    CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 3 2200G

    With Intel's dual-core CPUs jumping in price by 20% over the past few months due to manufacturing problems, it's time to jump ship for a better CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 2200G quad-core! Not only do you get double the cores, you also get a vastly superior onboard graphics chip, the AMD Radeon Vega 8, which is actually more than capable of powering through modern games at moderate resolutions.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that this CPU is not guaranteed to work in anything but a 400-series motherboard, like the one recommended below.

    Motherboard:

    MSI B450M Bazooka

    This inexpensive board is absolutely packed with features, starting with the new, cutting-edge B450 chipset from AMD. It has DVI and HDMI video outputs, four RAM slots, an M.2 slot, one PCIe x16 expansion slot, a PCIe x4 slot, a PCIe x1 slot, plus eight USB ports.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We recommend avoiding older B350 motherboards, because while they can technically support the 2000-series Ryzen CPU we recommend, they would need a BIOS update.

    Memory:

    Ballistix 2x4GB Sport LT DDR4-2666

    This 2666MHz RAM kit will allow you to get the most out of your Ryzen processor and its built-in GPU. Note that using a pair of 4GB sticks rather than one 8GB stick allows for "dual channel" operation, which we consider critical when using built-in video chips.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Be sure to enable the enhanced memory profile in your motherboard's UEFI to run at this RAM's rated speed.

    Solid-State Drive:

    Crucial MX500 500GB M.2

    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 we simply don't think you should build a PC today without one. Among all budget drives, the MX500 500GB drive is now the only drive to consider at its pricepoint. It uses high-quality 3D TLC NAND, and comes in at the lowest price of any SATA drive, despite class-leading performance.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To mount this to the motherboard, you'll need a jeweler's-type screwdriver.

    Case:

    Rosewill FBM-X1

    Who says a budget case has to look budget? Not Rosewill! Among the lowest-priced cases on the market, the FBM-X1 nonetheless packs in plenty of quality and style. With an attractive front panel, along with 120mm intake and 80mm exhausts fans, it provides excellent airflow. It's also amazingly small - far smaller than typical desktop towers!

    The Guru's Tip:

    To control the noise levels of the fans, you'll want to connect them to the motherboard, rather than directly to the power supply.

    Optical Drive:

    LG 24x DVD Burner GH24NSC0B

    Inexpensive and effective, this DVD burner from LG is an easy choice. Don't worry about what cables you need - they're included with the motherboard and power supply!

    The Guru's Tip:

    You'll be using this drive to install your OS.

    Power Supply:

    Corsair CX450

    This 450W model offers unmatched value, providing Bronze-rated efficiency and quiet operation. And the reality is that this build will use less than half of this unit's rated power output, even with an added video card, meaning you'll have power to spare!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This unit is backed by a 3-year warranty and excellent customer service.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10

    Every six months, Microsoft offers a huge new content update to Windows 10, ensuring that it continues to extend its lead over previous operating systems. In addition to its superior usability, it also has lots of fine tuning under the hood to improve performance and provide greater customization options.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Microsoft releases a major Windows 10 update every spring and fall, adding plenty of new features and enhancements (and requiring a big download!).

Optional Components

    Video Card:

    Sapphire Radeon Nitro+ RX 580 4GB

    While this system will offer very good gaming performance with its built-in Ryzen GPU, once you've developed a taste for high-end gaming, you may want even more performance. And luckily, you can turn this system into a serious gaming powerhouse with the potent Radeon RX 580 4GB from AMD! With enough VRAM to easily handle typical 1080p monitors, along with an efficient architecture, this card is a perfect match for a budget system.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Just slot it in, attach the power supply's PCIe power cable to the video card, connect your monitor cable, install the latest drivers, and go!

    Hard Drive (Optional):

    Western Digital Blue 1TB (Opt.)

    This drive can be used instead of or in addition to the solid-state drive recommended earlier in this guide. If you need the capacity offered by a hard drive, then there really is no substitute in terms of value per dollar. We therefore recommend hard drives for bulk media and data storage needs, and this model offers above-average performance and quiet operation.

    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 Wired Keyboard:

    Microsoft Wired Keyboard 600

    While most people probably have a spare keyboard or two laying around, if you need a new one to go with your system, you can't go wrong with this inexpensive option from Microsoft.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Going with a wired keyboard avoids issues with interference and low batteries, and more importantly saves money too!

    The Perfect Travel Mouse:

    Cherry MW 3000 Wireless Mouse

    While you may have an old mouse sitting in your desk, you probably want to upgrade to a new, modern model like the awesome MW 3000 from Cherry. A high-end wireless model at a bargain price, it features forward/back thumb buttons, an ergonomic grip, and a tiny USB receiver. We love this model!

    The Guru's Tip:

    While some wireless mice can have drop-out problems, we've had nothing of the sort with our MW 3000 sample.

    The 23-inch General-Purpose Monitor:

    HP VH240a IPS

    Featuring a 23" IPS-based 1920x1080 panel with great colors and viewing angles, along with a stand offering full tilt and height adjustability, this model from HP undercuts its competition by $100. It's truly the ideal home office monitor!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This monitor stands head-and-shoulders above any other model you'll find at this pricepoint, and is a huge upgrade from typical bargain-basement $100 monitors. We think it's definitely worth the extra cash.