A barebone computer is a partially assembled platform or an unassembled kit of computer parts allowing more customization and lower costs than a retail computer system. They are available for desktop computer, notebook and server purposes, and in nearly any form factor. Manufacturers are also able to produce systems of a specialized or non-standard form factor, since the system is sold as a pre-built unit, with the motherboard and power supply already installed.
Standard Barebone Components
Barebone kits usually consist of the components necessary to build a basic computer. These include: motherboard, graphics card (if one is not integrated on the motherboard), system processor, heat sink and cooling fan, memory, case, power supply, hard drive, optical drive, cables and mounting hardware. When assembled, these pieces constitute a basic computer. Unfortunately, they do not constitute a functional computer.
Basic input and output methods are necessary to interact with a computer -- in this case, a keyboard and mouse for input and a monitor for output. In order to get the computer to do anything, you will also need an operating system. While several Linux distributions are available at no cost, any version of the Windows operating system requires an additional investment.
Some Assembly Required
Remember, this is a kit. A few simple tools and labor are required. In most cases, assembling a barebone computer kit is simply a matter of mounting the motherboard in the case, inserting the system processor, mounting the cooling fan and heat sink and installing the RAM. Once these components are in place, mount the hard drive and optical drive.
Building a computer from components allows you to reuse older compatible components. When the motherboard from an older computer fails, there is no need to throw the entire computer in the recycling bin. Other components may still be usable in the new case. Drives, graphic cards and memory are all components that can be given new life on a compatible motherboard. Customization is another benefit of building your own computer.