Buying hardware for a PC builder can be tricky, unless you know exactly what platform they have and what parts they are looking for. No builder is likely to refuse such an expensive gift as the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti or the Threadripper 2950X. But until then, if they don’t have the chassis, power supply, or motherboard to handle those expensive components, they’ll have to spend hundreds more on other compatible hardware.
So we have tried to select potential gifts for developers and developers that are reasonably affordable and not tied to any particular PC or motherboard platform. Nearly all of these gift options come under $100, and most of them should appeal to any PC builder, whether they’re assembling a new system or just looking for a nice upgrade for their existing PC.
Intel 660p SSD (512 GB)
Who doesn’t love cheap quick storage? We definitely do and gave the surprisingly affordable Intel 660P M.2 the editor’s choice lead in our full review. But it’s not just speed and affordability that makes this drive interesting: It’s also the first consumer QLC (Quad-Level Cell) drive, packing more volumes into the same space as previous generation (Three Level Cell) TLC drives. If you really love the person you’re buying this for and have more to spend, the 1TB model is finally available for about $190.
Pluggable from USB-C to M.2 NVMe SSD enclosure
Those who only need access to small files like JPEGs and/or documents may have switched their storage access to the cloud. But for some of us, local storage space will always be needed super fast and in the pocket. If you have a SATA M.2 SSD drive lying around – the $50 Plugable enclosure can make that happen. It supports motors up to 80 mm in length and has aluminum vents and fins for heat dissipation.
Inateck Superspeed 7-Port PCI-E to USB 3.0 Expansion Card
You can never have enough USB ports. And chances are if you have a medium to full-sized desktop, you probably have a PCIe x1 slot to spare. Drop that extra card into that slot and your USB problems will be gone instantly, as you’ll have seven more USB 3.0 ports waiting for all your peripherals. Note that two of these ports are internal, so you may have to route them to a slot device on the front. But with this expansion card, you get five additional ports around the back to connect all your USB devices to.
Lian Lee Streamer
Do you know someone who loves RGB lights and already has flashing lights on their RAM, light strips in their case, and RGB-enabled cooling? Why not help them turn your motherboard’s 24-pin cable the rainbow route. You will need the 12V RGB connector on the motherboard to control the Strimer via software. But fear not if you don’t have that spare head, as Lian Li includes an expansion chip in the box that lets you control brightness and lighting effects with the push of a button.
Corsair iCue Lighting Node Pro RGB Controller
Do you know someone who is eager to add color lighting to their current or upcoming PC? Corsair’s Lighting Node Pro software is a good place to start. It comes with four individually addressable RGB lighting strips, no RGB connector required on the motherboard (only a USB 2.0 connector and a SATA power port), the strips will adhere to a steel case via magnets for easy and secure installation. Even better, the control box lets you add RGB fans (up to six if you add an RGB fan hub) for even more color-coordinated lighting options. And the company’s proprietary iCue software makes controlling light exposure and changing presets simple. Just don’t forget to have that most important preset – all lights off – close at hand via an easy-to-remember key combination. Because no one wants to stare at a neon rainbow while trying to watch their favorite shows on Netflix.
HDE 20 + 4 Pin LCD Power Supply Tester
At worst, plugging a faulty power supply (PSU) into your system and trying to boot could seriously damage other components. But even when it doesn’t, a faulty power supply can cause booting and locking issues and other major frustrations. It is often not clear whether the PSU is the problem or something else. This tool will let you know for sure if the PSU and its various cables provide the required voltage and current, so you can rule it out as a problem or go buy a replacement. It belongs to the troubleshooting group of every PC builder. It might not be the most exciting gift. But you’ll likely get thanks down the line when this tool saves hours of troubleshooting — and possibly the cost of having to buy another PSU just to rule out a power supply problem.
EEEKit Precision 45 in 1 . Screwdriver Set Repair Kit
No matter how many screwdrivers they have now, your builder friend can always use a new set of tools. This model from EEEKit contains 45 different parts, including suction cups, tweezers, and a large selection of pieces. And just remember, if you buy this for this helpful friend, they are morally obligated to fix your technology when it stops working properly – and at some point it will stop working properly.
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi USB Adapter
You might be planning on connecting your end PC to an Ethernet jack, but if the cable doesn’t reach the work area where you’re building or upgrading and your board doesn’t have Wi-Fi, a USB dongle can save you a lot of trouble. There are cheaper versions of this $55 dongle, but this one will probably add more range and speed from the smaller options, which is good if you need it for more than driver downloads.
WD 4TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive
SSDs are generally fast and reliable. And online storage is a great place to put those files you always need to access. But for backup purposes, portable hard drives are hard to beat – primarily because they’re convenient, affordable, and small enough that you can easily keep a copy of your files off-site or in a fire-safe location (in case of a fire or flood). We love the 4TB WD My Passport because it’s roomy, bezels under $100, and available in six colors (note that some colors raise the price by about $10). The color options won’t interest everyone, but if you like the look of your drive, you might use it more often. And when we talk about backing up your data that you cannot lose, regularity is key.
ABN . Magnetic Tray Set
Building a computer can involve lots of small screws and other parts that are easy to misplace. This is especially true if you are installing a liquid coolant or other component with a complex mounting mechanism. The magnetic tray ensures that these parts stay in place (as long as they are made at least in part from a ferromagnetic metal such as iron). You can find mini trays online for less than $10, but this set of trays is good for those doing complex constructions, as it allows you to keep small screws and other parts separate from those needed for other components or the tray. In other words, with this set, you will be less likely to have a completed structure missing one or three screws, and those stray screws will be less likely to sink into oblivion with the help of a vacuum.
AmazonBasics USB 3.1 Type-C to 4-Port Hub
We all think USB-C is the future, honestly. But unless you have a great new external SSD or a phone you want to plug in for charging or transferring files, it’s sometimes hard to find a reason to use that reversible port today. Option one: Gift this $19 hub to someone and turn an often empty USB-C port into four quick and useful USB-A connectors. This hub from Amazon is massive, too, with a metal chassis and rubber pads to keep it from sliding across your desk. It’s a good way to take advantage of the much-advertised Port of Tomorrow with all the tools we have today.