Have changing demands left you unsatisfied with your computer’s performance? An upgrade may be called for. But which should you get to fill your needs?
Computer repair shops make their money two ways: by selling their labor, and selling parts. The more parts they install, the more labor involved, the more profit. Most are honest, but some will try to sell you things you don’t need. If you’re going to have someone else do the work, it’s best to have a specific task in mind when you approach them.
Here are the five most common upgrades, and criteria for judging whether you need them.
RAM- The easiest, surest way to speed up your computer is to add more RAM. It will improve game play, and all graphics applications will work faster. Older operating systems, like Windows 98SE, can only accommodate up to 512MB. This won’t be a problem with Windows 2000, XP, and Vista.
CPU- Surprisingly, it may not make as much apparent difference as a RAM upgrade. It can help if you ask your computer to do a lot of multitasking, and make a big difference if you do speed sensitive work like video captures. A limiting factor will be its socket type. You might already have the fastest chip offered for that socket.
Hard Drive- You want space for all your stuff, and to be able to get at it fast. That being the case, big is better, and big and fast is better still. Considering the size of the drives that come out on current computers though, you might get by with just some housecleaning. Getting rid of junk files and programs you don’t use, plus defragmenting your drive, can do wonders. Try that first, then consider a new drive.
Graphics Card- This is the simplest of all upgrades. Just pull the old card and plug in the new. Immediately your games will have better resolution, and improved frame rates. The only trouble comes with the high end cards. Some of them require 100 watts of electricity all by themselves. This can lead to our next upgrade…
Power Supply- If you get a super fast CPU, you’ll need close to 100 watts for it alone. Add 100 for that hot graphics card. Allow 35 watts for your hard drive, and another 35 for the CD/DVD. You’ve already claimed 270 watts, not including the motherboard, RAM, modem, capture card, and anything else your rig may have. The old standard 300 watt supply can’t handle it. 400 watts or better will be needed for this kind of machine.
Michael Quarles is the author of the book “Building a PC for Beginners". His website is http://www.monkeyseemonkeydobooks.com