Well, since my old pandapassport post about expensive real software in China is doing so fabulous on the newly created Chinalyst’s Popular Content page, I thought I’d balance here it with a new post dedicated to helping foreigners shop for cheap hardware in China.

Anyway, I’ve been talking to some of my “people,” discussing my future plans to buy a new ninja-fied computer. I bought my current excuse-for-a-laptop on ebay 3 years ago for about CDN$400, and I think it’s soon time to buy a desktop. About the only function my laptop can successfully perform these days is pressing waffles.

build_your_own_computer_lost_laowai.jpgThose who are in-the-know (i.e. my friends who are even nerdier than me) seem to think that building a desktop computer from scratch is a good option, especially if you plan to be in China for more than a year. Apparently you can build one for about 4000RMB if you’re so inclined, though prices may vary from city to city. Most people agree that China’s many 电子城/diànzĭchéng (aka your local “Electronic City”) are a kick-ass place to start. For those of you who lack technical skills, or if you’ve been using your CD ROM drive as a cup holder, please read up some more on how to build your own computer from scratch.

Anyway, in true Dan Johnson fashion, here’s a computer hardware vocabulary list for you to take along with you on your Laowai shopping spree, if you choose to build a computer in China:

Chassis 机箱 jī xiāng
Hard Drive 硬盘 yìngpán
System Board 主板 zhŭbăn
CD ROM CD光驱 CD guāng qū
DVD ROM DVD光驱 DVD guāng qū
CD/DVD-RW 刻录机 kèlùjī
Floppy Drive 软驱 ruănqū
Keyboard 键盘 jiànpán
Mouse 鼠标 shŭbiāo
Monitor 显示器 xiănshìqì
Laptop 笔记本 bĭjìbĕn
Printer 打印机 dăyìnjī
Processor 处理器 chŭlĭqì
Memory 内存 nèicún
Power Supply 电源 diànyuán
Video Card 显卡 xiănkă
Network Card 网卡 wăngkă
Sound Card 声卡 shēngkă
Speakers 音箱 yīnxiāng

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Rick, how do I know that I’m not going to be anally raped by these shrewd electronic merchants?”

That’s a very astute question. I’m glad you asked.

zol-chinese-computer-parts-site.JPGYou can check out the Zhongguancun (chinese) website for the latest prices of computer parts in China. Go to the drop-down menu in the top left, and click on the DIY配件/pèijiàn . There you can choose from a list of computer parts, and browse their low low prices in your nearest location. Click on the image below for a neato visual aid to show you where to click. As they say on South Park, Everybody loves aids!


Anyway I hope this word list is useful for someone out there. If anyone has any other suggested additions, I’d be glad to hear them.

Happy shopping!


  1. Ryan,

    Good post, just remember to let people know:

    1) You need to bargain
    2) Bargain
    3) Shop around, there are plenty of people selling the same stuff in computer towns.
    4) Buy from a slightly respectable looking storefront. At least make sure there is a storefront that looks like it has been there more than 2 hours.

    Also – video card is not 网卡 but 显卡 or 显示卡. Your pinyin is correct, though!

  2. Hey TCE, credit for the post should go to Rick, not me. 🙂

    Good advice all around though. Your number #4 particularly. Though it doesn’t take much to pull up stakes and leave e-town, it’s best to find a store/booth that looks like it might be there to honour that 3mo., 6mo. or 1 year warranty they claim to be giving you.

    #3? Don’t they all sell the same stuff? China’s electronic cities are like Best Buy on crack, and I love it, but it gets boring pretty quick when they’ve all got the same damn knock off MP”4″ players and “Sony” infrared mice.

  3. Hi, I need to build a lot of Touch Screen Computers. The Touch Screen will show information (text and images) from a server. I need an economic model (I think we do not need a micro-procesor into the touch screen). Con you contact me to talk about my project ? Thanks

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  7. Hey guys, im going to be in Harbin for the next 7months or so and am looking to build a computer since I left my desktop @ home.. well I brought my GPU but the rest is out of date.

    Any information regarding shops, lists, where I can buy parts around/in Harbin would be awesome. Email me @ hiddindragon08@hotmail.com — Thanks

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  11. Great Post. Is it normal that all the components that I search for are more expensive than in the US? How can this be possible? Is it possible to find cheaper stuff?

    • I think this is due to import taxes that China puts on electronic products from foreign companies. Ironically, most parts are likely built here.

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