With the pace of new hardware generations and the incentive to iteratively upgrade a PC, I find it easy to turn my nose up at "obsolete" hardware. That said, the more time passes, the more I get nostalgic for my rigs of old, and retro computing content creators like LGR certainly don't help the feeling. I turned to our staff and community to see if they're susceptible to the siren song of dual core CPUs and megabytes of VRAM, or if it's Core i9, RTX 4090 all the way.
What's your favorite PC you've ever owned?
Here are our answers, as well as some from our forum.
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: I live a life free of petty nostalgia. My favourite PC is my current one, because it's the most powerful one I've ever owned. When I eventually get a new one, that'll be my new favourite. I crave only the most modern hardware for playing the most modern games.
It doesn't help that I tend to run my PCs into the ground—most of my previous machines have been replaced out of necessity, getting so outdated and unreliable that by the end I resent them. A new PC is a relief, an old one is just a big heavy box that I now have to find a way of getting rid of.
If this makes me sound like some kind of callous monster with no respect for his hardware, then... yes, that's basically accurate.
Lauren Morton, Associate Editor: I am not immune to nostalgia. I have a soft spot for 3.5 floppy disks in rainbow, transparent plastic. I saw a TikTok gag about "how we turned on our PCs in the '00s" that was a person touching a power button with their big toe and smiled. But my current PC is definitely my favorite because it's the first time I've ever had one with an intentional aesthetic and not just everything I could afford slapped together. My first gaming PC was my mom's old home office Dell that I learned how to jam new RAM into to play Guild Wars and Fable on. After that finally did in I took whatever I could get off CyberPowerPC with $800 I scraped together during Black Friday in 2013. I was running that same mobo until 2019, I'm pretty sure, with every other part Frankenstein'd around it. So yeah, my current setup with its white case and glass wall and proper monitor arms is my favorite because it was finally, for once, on purpose.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: I see my PC more like an adversary. Sure, we have good times, but just when I'm like "This sure is a great PC", that's when it strikes. A BSOD. A weird grinding noise. Why is that light on the motherboard flashing? Over the last 20 years I have wasted so much time troubleshooting, repairing, returning and screaming obscenities at PC components. But I always get my revenge. Like that time I spilled a Pot Noodle on top of it. And my lax attitude to dusting. Which of course creates more problems, and the cycle continues.
Given this combative relationship I don't really have a favourite one. But my current PC has a window that allows me to stare harefully at its guts, so that's cool I guess.
Dave James, Hardware Lead: I don't actually have a favourite PC. And it's not some 'I love all my children equally' sort of thing, either. I have a complicated history with the PC, and mostly a job which has meant, for the past couple of decades, I've had no stable platform, just a Ship of Theseus that's constantly changing inside and out. That's meant I don't really have much of a soft spot for any of them specifically.
My first was an SX-25 based machine, a gift born of my dad being made redundant, which had more impact as the machine I first spent time writing on rather than because it delivered anything in terms of gaming. I still went back to my Amiga 500 for that. Mostly because SX-25 meant a 486 chip that ran at 25MHz. It did, however, give me my first taste of upgrading when I visited a local computer fair to buy a DX4-100 chip. It was also my first taste of upgrade failure as I had no clue that I also needed to buy a heatsink, too.
Then I built my first system from parts my brother bought. It was a nightmare of motherboard jumper switch trial and error and I was bug fixing the fucker for years. Neither machine really has me that nostalgic for a past that was fraught with desperately trying to free up memory in DOS and battling to get a 3DFX system stable on a Cyrix chip.
Then I bought a laptop for university that put me at the limit of my overdraft from day one, a place my bank account would reside until long after I'd started my journalistic career. That was murdered by revellers at a particularly destructive house party in my third year. Sad times.
After that came a PC I built for £150, which was unremarkably shit and died from sogginess stored in a friend's basement while I lived on a boat. Then I upgraded my partner's old student PC with a second-hand Pentium III and shoddy ATI GPU, before finally dropping £500 on a gaming PC after I became staff writer on PC Format. Though it still had a dodgy graphics card, which eventually our then Tech Editor upgraded for me, and that started me on a path to my current PC.
Through many iterations of CPU, GPU, motherboard platform, chassis, storage, and memory, that machine has over time transformed into the machine I run today. I guess that's my favourite PC, maybe just because it's the system I'm using all the time, and maybe because of its representation of the PC's constant evolution.
Lauren Aitken, Guides Editor: I miss my previous PC. It wasn't as powerful as my current setup, but it had clear sides so I could see all my beautiful RGB lights. RIP, bb.
Imogen Mellor, Features Producer: I've only ever had one PC, the one I own now. I admit, I've not always been a PC gamer, my parents bought into the Apple ecosystem before I even knew there was a difference between the computers. I remember going to Steam on my handed-down MacBook to see what I could play and found it shocking that there were only a handful of games available.
I couldn't play anything on PC until I was at university and had a boyfriend with a gaming PC then. That's when my conversion started from console gamer to PC gamer and now, well, it's hands down my favourite platform. As soon as I left university I built the PC I'm still using today and it's a workhorse. It's a little... janky and I've had to upgrade the RAM to keep up with my needs but I love it all the same.
Jacob Ridley, Senior Hardware Editor: My favourite PC was from a company called Tiny Computers. If you know anything about British PC brands from the late '90s, you might be aware that Tiny Computers did not survive long into the '00s. Yet still I loved the PC my family purchased from the company. For the PC, sure, but mostly because of what came bundled with it.
I was, I don't know, it's a blur, around six. It was 1998 or early 1999, anyways. My Dad was in the process of ordering us a PC for the house, which was very exciting. This was our first family PC, and up until now I'd not really had much time around computers. So, my Dad orders the PC over the phone, as you do in the '90s, but when he comes off the call he's clearly had a bad time of it.
Turns out, when the call was wrapped up, the folks over at Tiny Computers hadn't actually hung up on him, and he had heard down the phone a bunch of swearing and general bad language, which may or may not have been at his expense. I genuinely don't remember. So he calls them back, tells them about it, and I'm going to guess some sort of backroom dealing took place.
Next thing we know, we receive our first PC. It's a lumbering box containing a tall tower. Now that would be exciting enough, but lo and behold my entire PC gaming hobby would also kickstart that day. Because also included with that PC were a handful of luminescent orange, green, and pink CD cases, and inside each one a PC game, including Tomb Raider and Motocross Madness.
A sort of make-up gift from Tiny. Or more likely a way to bribe my Dad into not telling anyone more senior what went on.
And I spent many hours trying to yeet my polygonal motocross bike up the side of a cliff in Motocross Madness thereafter. Time well spent, if you ask me. I'm sure my mum was thinking the PC was for homework or something, but fate brought PC gaming and me together. And that Tiny Computer became something extra special even if it wasn't actually very good.
Tiny Computers went bust a few years later—maybe it was all the free games they were giving away.
Joshua Wolens, News Writer: It's gotta be your first, right? Mine was a laptop: a slab of glowing plastic emblazoned with an Alienware logo that my dad managed to get cheap on eBay in 2009. It weighed like 50 pounds, vented heat like a Victorian steam engine, and at some point its tiny ATI GPU overheated and warped in such a way that the textures of any game I played would extrude haphazardly towards the centre of the screen.
It sucked and I loved it. Sure, it was a struggle to use, but it also gave me my first shot to try out all the games people had been yammering about on the forums I'd haunted for most of my adolescence and childhood: Deus Ex, Planescape, Baldur's Gate, VtM: Bloodlines, and so on and so forth. No machine since has been as much of a commitment or as much of an eye-opener.
Alan Dexter, Senior Hardware Editor: My current PC is without question my favourite gaming system so far. It's nothing particularly special by most standards, but it's quiet and is plenty powerful for gaming. Although, not quite as stellar as it was just a couple of weeks ago when it packed an RTX 3080. Unfortunately, Dave needed to steal that from under my nose as his trusty Founders Edition died during a bout of benchmarking.
Still, the RTX 2080 Ti I'm using in its stead is capable enough for most of my gaming library—Hearthstone, OW2, Magic Arena, and the odd return to Night City to see if there are any stones left unturned. It'll more than cope with WoW: Dragonflight swooping in to covet my time in the foreseeable future, too.
I still have a soft spot for my first gaming PC though, a secondhand 486-DX50 system I bought in the mid-90s that required constant tinkering to get it actually gaming. It was a time when you needed to know your way around the config.sys file—I would spend far too much time trying to free up space to run the latest, greatest games and far too much money hunting down components that would only improve things by the smallest amounts. But I learned a thing or two, and it would eventually set me on the track to working for PC Gamer, so all those hours messing with components and yes, gaming, would eventually pay off.
Andy Chalk, News Lead: I think I have to agree with Josh on this. For all practical purposes my current rig is my "favourite" because it's the biggest and best and all that, but the thrill of having my first PC (and my first PC games) is tough to beat. And I miss how much more tactile those old PCs were compared to new systems: The satisfying clunk of a 3.5" diskette popping in, the frightening grind of a 5.25", the incredibly loud keyboard clicks, that weird shit the monitor would do every now and then that seemed to presage an explosion that never happened—all nostalgia, absolutely, and if pressed I'd have to admit that I wouldn't want to give up the convenience and bounty of the current day. But it was a great machine and it served me well, and if I'm picking a fave, that'd be it.
Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: I have really fond memories of my high school PC. My uncle built it for me as a birthday gift and I "helped" by passing him tools and listening as he explained what everything did. That thing fully transitioned me from playing half-and-half on Xbox 360 and the family PC, to being a PC gamer.
I didn't even know what the components in it were until I did some research this year. I recognize the distinctive shroud of XFX's Radeon HD 6790 as my old PC's GPU, a more budget card that really clashes with my memories of that thing being so powerful! I do wish I still had that 6790 as a memento of all the hours of Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dragon Age: Origins it rendered for me.
From our forum
Kaamos_Llama: I had poor excuses for gaming machines before 2004 when I finally had enough of my own money to pick up a Dell XPS ( Pre Alienware buyout XPS was Dell's gaming range).
One of these:
I bloody loved this thing, even though it was a Pentium 4 540 (with HT!) at the time AMD were first pulling ahead of Intel. I initially had a Radeon X300 SE GPU in it because I had no idea that it was terrible when I was configuring it. Not too long after I replaced that with an ATI Radeon X800 GTO, which was unbelievable to me at the time. F.E.A.R, HL2, and Doom 3 looked great in SVGA on my huge 17" CRT.
But am I nostalgic? Not really. Loved that machine but damn I have access to a more games and better hardware now. I'd still love to build retro machines from the time, always liked LGR and Clint, but I don't have space or time to do it.
Alm: I think my current PC is my favourite. I like how powerful and convenient gaming PCs are these days. I have fond memories of the first PC I used (my Dad's 486 SX-25), and the first computer I bought with my own money in 2001. It had a Chieftec Dragon case that was later used by Alienware.
Brian Boru: For its time, the first IBM PC I personally owned in 1990. I worked for Wang at the time, and put my name in for an in-house lottery sell-off of a few dozen PCs. Since we made the machine, I was able to get it juiced up above the norm
Even with serious discount, it cost ~£3,000 which is roughly $8,000 today—which demonstrates the incredible value we get today from PCs. I remember I was able to get a 40MB HDD and 8MB of RAM, plus dual floppy drives! Oh, and a color monitor
Of course a PC is only a doorstop by itself. That PC is wrapped up in my first big intro into the whole hardware & software world, outside and beyond the narrower confines of work PCs in the 80s. So that of course enhances its stature—you never forget your first, right?
Frindis: My favorite has to be the first PC that introduced me to gaming - the Atari 520 ST.
I had a big red joystick to go with the PC and used to play Beyond the Ice Palace, Ikari Warriors, Zenon, Arkanoid, Wizzball, and Buggy Boy, to mention some of the cool games. It was also a PC that I used to play with my family, especially through the Arkanoid game, so it was a fun way to get the whole family playing together and having fun.
Krud: When I consider my ENTIRE computer gaming history (which I admitted wasn't doing when I first answered), in terms of bang-for-buck, lifechanging elements, and whatever else, my all-time "favorite" PC was the Packard Bell 286 I got in high school, arguably my first "real" PC (from a gaming perspective), on which I played some of my all-time favorite games, from Space Quest I and the Hitchhiker's Guide text adventure, to Sam & Max Hit The Road and the world's slowest version of X-Wing. (I used some sketchy shareware driver called EMM286 to make the game think I had EMS memory. I think I got it to run at 60 frames per minute. Yep, not a typo.)
mainer: As others have stated, my current PC is my favorite, even though it's almost 3 1/2 years old now (July 2019), it still does everything I need it to do and run games at high/ultra settings (admittedly I play more older titles than new). The only upgrades I've done is a video card back in 2020.
I don't miss my older PCs, especially back in the days of staring at a CRT monitor for hours (which often weighed 30lbs or more).
WoodenSaucer: My favorite of all time was my Commodore 64. It was my first experience in computing, and I ate it up. I started learning to program on Day One, and I ended up knowing that thing inside and out.
My next favorite computer was probably my first Windows based PC, which came much later in 1995 because I was broke. But it was my re-entry into the PC world, and it was very exciting. It was a Packard Bell with a 75MHz Pentium, 8MB of RAM, and a 540MB hard drive. It had SVGA graphics, and I couldn't believe how great it was compared to my Commodore. It was so exciting.
Obviously, I've had PCs and laptops since then that were much, much more capable than those. But they were all just incremental upgrades, and those two were the most exciting for me.
Johnway: if I had to pick one PC? I think it will be my Amiga 500. It had been my faithful companion when I was a 5 years old and had been playing it for nearly a decade. Made many good, happy memories playing the amiga. Whilst everyone at school had NES, SNES, Megadrive/Genesis, I was the Amiga kid and no one knew any of the games I played.
In the end I had to ditch it in 1999 when the mouse on the amiga finally gave up the ghost. Plus I needed a Windows PC for school work and had to move with the times. Didn't make getting rid of it any easier, felt guilty for several days as if I had betrayed a good friend for personal reasons. I still occasionally find myself reminiscing about the Amiga and taking time to go to the Hall of Light Amiga database to read the old amiga magazines and reviews.