Cheap computers for coding?

hi everyone. i hope you’re all doing well. i’m making this to ask for advice on which relatively inexpensive types/brands of computers work best for coding (i’m a beginner). i’m using a computer supplied by my school at the moment but i’ll obviously need to give it back at the end of the school year (which is next tuesday) so i was wondering what computers i should consider purchasing. i’d prefer cheaper options since i’m a teenager and can’t legally work until my birthday this year. any advice or feedback is appreciated. thanks!
i’m interested in game-related coding (like game development)

Others may have specific brand/model suggestions, but let me just say that you don’t need a fancy computer to do coding. Just about any windows/mac/linux computer in good working order, not too old with decent (but not great) RAM, should work for the types of things FCC has you doing. To be honest, I’d worry more about getting a good size monitor or two.


would a laptop be a feasible option for coding? i should’ve specified laptop rather than desktop in my question

Maybe not the best, but is a pretty cheap idea, maybe try getting a small chromebook.
Chromebooks I have found to be small, cheap, and work with most coding projects that I have worked on.

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As in all things, it depends. Some types of programming need to run on your computer and can require a lot of resources. Others basically just need a screen and an internet connection. You’re probably fine with something extremely basic.

My suggestion is to consider a desktop instead of a laptop. This allows you to upgrade your hardware if you find yourself needing to.

I don’t have a ton of specific hardware recommendations, but I’ve had a refurbished ThinkPad 11e for about six years and it’s an absolute Nokia phone of a laptop. It’s not sexy and it has a pretty small screen, but you could probably run it over with a car and you can pick one up for about $300. (I do suggest putting a fairly lightweight linux OS on it though.)

I agree with Kevin that in a lot of ways the peripherals are the most important part. It should be comfortable to work on. If it’s a laptop, check out how the keyboard feels and the screen size. If you get a desktop, put a good chunk of your budget into the monitor.


Hey there @ecouch23 !

Suprisingly, unless your doing heavy graphics work (think Game developer), it doesnt take much from a computer to be a great development machine.

Here’s my tips:

  • Make sure you get a good processor: try to avoid celerons, pentiums, and their AMD equivalents (athlon). Try to aim for a “core” series processor from intel or Ryzen from AMD. Anything from Intel 8th-gen and up is good enough. While on the Intel side be wary of Core i3s and the Y-series devices. You can also loop up google buyers guides to help identify that. For Ryzen be sure to stick with 3rd-gen or higher and try to go to Ryzen 5 but Ryzen 3 is also fine.

  • Make sure you grab a good screen. A telltale sign of a bad screen is an TN panel (aim for IPS if you can) and try to make sure it’s full HD or higher.

  • Check the ports: if you rely on USB-A ports or HDMI make sure you check the ports on the laptop becuase if you don’t you may find yourself in need of expensive dongles.

  • Last tip: Try to get Windows. My personal opinion but Chrome OS is simply too simple to be good enough for serious work. I know there are workarounds and ways to do things but for a beginner Windows just makes it simple to install the tools you need and allows you do to go advanced if you want to. Plus more gaming options if you wish to do that as well.

Here’s a good guide from CNET that goes deeper:

13 things you need to know to buy the perfect laptop - CNET



Sure, you can always hook it up to more monitors :slight_smile:
Seriously, monitor space is probably one of the best investments you can make. I don’t think I could live without my dual monitor setup.

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i didn’t realize how helpful multiple monitor setups were. i’d have to wait until i have a place of my own for a desktop (especially a multiple monitor system) since we don’t really have the space or the money for that as of right now. i suppose i could always continue practicing with online coding courses on the computers at my public library up until then. thanks for your help!

thanks for your in-depth response! i’m a bit of a novice when it comes to computer parts and actual in-depth stuff like that, so your response really helps me know exactly what to look for and what to avoid. i appreciate your help!

thanks for letting me know! i didn’t even think about how i may need to upgrade my hardware, so i’m glad you mentioned it. once i get a job (nothing crazy, probably just a minimum wage one) when i turn 16 i’ll start saving up. thanks again : )

ah, i see. i’ll definitely keep that in mind. thanks for the advice! i appreciate it

I don’t want you to feel like you can’t get a computer that will work for you now. The reason I suggested a desktop that you could upgrade was that it would save you money long-term because laptops typically need to be replaced to be upgraded. An inexpensive laptop can be enough to keep going, for sure. You could get an external monitor when that becomes an option (plenty are lightweight and could be put on the kitchen table and then moved out of the way when you’re not using it). I’d be cautious about buying used on craigslist (etc) if you have a choice, but you can often get factory refurbished at a strong discount. Things like multiple monitors are one of those luxuries that you get so used to that it’s hard to imagine going back, but they are a luxury. You’re young and have a lot of computers in your future. If you’re shopping for a laptop now my main advice would be

  • buy a refurbished computer
  • get the largest screen you can afford
  • make sure it has decent RAM

It might run a little slow sometimes. The fan might be loud. You’ll need to replace it eventually. But it could get you through high school if you treat it right.


ohhh, i see. thanks again for your responses. they’re very helpful! i’ll most likely need to buy something with my own money, but i’ll keep everyone’s advice in mind when i’m able to do so. i appreciate the quick replies :))


would a laptop be a feasible option

Sure, as others have stated. I use a laptop and just hook it up to a few monitors. But I’ve known people that just use a laptop when they have to.


So there’s a few ways to answer this question based on what your looking for:

  1. You want it cheap as you can’t afford something expensive
  2. Your just starting to learn to code
  3. You are interested in game development

I say get a chromebook to solve the first two. You can get a more powerful laptop (not a chromebook) for more freedom down the line when you get some money to buy a better machine, but at the same time you can easily cover the first 2 with a super cheap machine like a chromebook.

No you wont be able to use your own tooling.
No you wont be able to render advance 3D graphics
No you can’t run Unity 3D, or Unreal.
No you won’t get any fancy monitor setup, or awesome RGB setup or fancy multi monitor display.

But you can learn to code on the web (using something like freeCodeCamp), Chromebooks are very affordable, and you can build simple games using the right online tools.
You can go far with codepen, and gitpod all within a browser.

Obviously if you have more funds to buy an actual windows laptop, then go for it. You don’t need fancy hardware to code, you only need fancy hardware for 3D modeling and graphics, which may or may not be important for game development, depending on what kind of games you making.

At the end of the day you want to learn to code and do it on a budget, you can easily do it with something as simple and straightforward as a Chromebook. But it is important to understand the limitations you will hit later. But I’d focus more on getting going than how you plan on rendering your 3D models for your game you built in Unreal.


sorry for the delayed response on my part, but thanks for the advice. i noticed someone else also mentioned getting a chromebook, so i’ll definitely consider it. i didn’t realize how cheap chromebooks are. plus, it’d also be helpful to have one for school and stuff since even the in-person kids do assignments virtually sometimes. thanks for your help!

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As others have said, you don’t need anything too fancy or expensive.

Another option if you’re limited on space is a mini pc. Search that term on Amazon. There’s tons of options. Some are under $200 and are upgradeable, and are no bigger than a wifi-router.


  • You’ll need to buy monitor, keyboard, mouse, (but you can get a basic logitech wired keyboard & mouse combo for like $30).

  • Not as portable as a laptop

  • The cheaper ones tend to have less capable CPUs.

  • Graphics card could be on the weak side, not upgradeable, but same applies to entry level laptops


  • Space saving, feature packed in a small box

  • Can run windows or linux

  • Upgradeable to a point as far as RAM and and Hard Drive

  • Come with SSDs which are faster than traditional spinning disks (some use SD or Micro SD cards for storage)

  • Have a small power footprint (like a cellphone wall-wart type of power supply)

  • Are less restrictive than a chromebook, although chromebooks are a lot better these days than when they first hit the market in 2011.

  • When you finally upgrade to a better solution, because of its small footprint, could be used for all sorts of single purpose things, like hook to tv for mutlimeda streaming box, or as a private webserver, etc.

The processor matters, but not as much as amount of RAM (you’ll have multiple tabs, tools, etc open) & ports.

In the beginning you aren’t going to be doing high-end 3D rendering stuff, or super high-end specialized stuff. A lot of general purpose software still doesn’t fully take advantage of the multicores/threads of a modern CPU, so a high-end CPU & graphics card would be a waste right now. (ex: Most of my Ryzen 9 capabilities is wasted as I’m not a heavy gamer, but I probably won’t upgrade for another 10yrs lol).

Up until last summer, I was still using a 11yr old Intel Core2 Quad from 2009 and was still able to get by with it that long, running VMs (one at a time though, some SDKs, and various other tool & utility suites). Where it choked was it was limitied to 4GB RAM.

Almost anything you can get these days in terms of laptop/desktop is going to be plenty enough for starting out.


@ecouch23 I suggest getting an old/used computer hardware and installing Linux on it. It will be like having new computer. Look into mini-PCs. It is the most economical way to go. I have a 6+ year old computer with a Celeron processor with 8GB of RAM and it runs great for coding. I don’t think I will ever buy a new computer again.


sorry for my late reply. thanks for the advice! i appreciate it.

hey aramini. thanks for the detailed response! i’d actually never heard of a mini pc before, so i appreciate you for introducing me to that. thanks again for taking the time to reply

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