There are so many ways to upgrade your PC that it’s almost overwhelming.
You can add more RAM, swap out the hard drive for an SSD, and even get a new processor or graphics card if you have the money.
Which upgrades are essential?
Which will give you the most bang for your buck?
Read on to discover details about ten possible upgrades to revamp your computer.
What Should I Upgrade On My PC?
When you decide to upgrade your PC, the first option to consider is installing an SSD to host your operating system and programs.
Doing so will slash your boot time and allow your computer to run considerably faster.
The second best option is to install more RAM, as more memory usually lets you open more applications and browser tabs simultaneously.
It can also improve gaming performance.
If you have the budget, you can upgrade to a new CPU (and probably motherboard) or install a new graphics card.
You may also have to buy a new power supply to keep up with the power requirements of the new CPU and GPU.
Other, often non-essential upgrades, include replacing your case and peripherals.
1. Install A Solid State Drive (SSD)
If one component is likely to hold back your computer more than any other, it’s the hard drive.
Hard drives are the slowest part of most PCs because they rely on mechanical parts.
They consist of several rotating disks and a head attached to a mechanical arm.
Each disk is divided into many 512KB segments called sectors.
The head must locate the appropriate sector on the disk before it can read or write data.
As you can imagine, spinning the disk and locating the appropriate sectors takes time since the head has to physically travel a certain distance.
SSDs are built with flash memory, meaning they don’t rely on moving parts like a traditional hard drive.
Therefore, they can read and write data from any sector instantly.
An SSD transfers data many times faster than a hard drive, and the lack of mechanical parts makes them completely silent.
A. Pairing SSDs And Hard Drives
Despite all the benefits, SSDs are still more expensive than HDDs.
If you need more than 1TB of storage, the price difference becomes noticeable.
That’s why many people pair the two technologies to optimize cost and value.
You can use an SSD as your boot drive to store your Windows and programs while keeping your videos, game files, and music on a hard drive.
This way, you can get a 512GB SSD and a 2TB HDD to enjoy almost unlimited storage without breaking the bank.
And if you don’t want to replace your current hard drive, you can keep using it along with the new SSD.
You only have to install Windows and drivers on the SSD.
B. Connection Type
When upgrading your storage, pay attention to the types of interfaces your motherboard supports.
Almost all motherboards come with multiple SATA slots, but only more modern ones have an M.2 interface that allows you to mount an SSD directly on the motherboard.
M.2 SSDs are up to six times faster than their SATA counterparts.
Plus, they’re smaller and don’t require any cable management.
If your motherboard supports one, we recommend buying an M.2 SSD.
Note: You may hear the words NVME and M.2 used interchangeably to refer to the new generation of SSDs.
Although that’s not technically wrong, the accurate usage is that NVME refers to the SSD’s form factor (shape) while M.2 is the connection type.
2. Install More RAM
Another easy way to boost your system’s performance is to add more RAM.
The more RAM you have, the more temporary data your computer can store, and the faster it can perform.
If you work with large files or run many large programs simultaneously, adding more RAM will help your computer run more smoothly.
Considerations When Upgrading RAM
If you decide to install more RAM, determine which DDR generation your motherboard supports.
If you bought your PC after 2015, you probably have a DDR4 motherboard, while older computers most likely feature DD3 slots.
Why is this important?
Because DDR versions aren’t cross-compatible, you can’t install a RAM module on a slot that isn’t designed to support it.
Check your motherboard’s model to see what type of RAM it supports.
Second, before ordering your new RAM kit, look inside the case.
How many empty RAM slots do you have available?
What’s the capacity of each stick?
(It’s written on the label.)
Motherboards usually have four RAM slots, but smaller micro-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards may have two.
The most common practice is to run your PC in dual-channel RAM: installing two smaller sticks rather than a single large one.
If you have two more slots available, consider adding two more modules of the same size (preferably with identical specs) to your current ones.
This way, you’ll double your RAM and get the speed benefits of running your memory in quad-channel mode.
On the other hand, if your slots are already full, replace your existing sticks with a new dual or quad-channel kit from a reliable manufacturer.
If you decide to go dual-channel, populate the same-colored slots and start with the color closest to the CPU.
This way, data has to travel a shorter physical distance from and to the CPU, giving you a slight bump in speed.
Once you’ve installed the new kit, you can sell the older sticks on eBay to cover some of your costs.
3. Add A Dedicated Graphics Card
If you’re into gaming, you’ve probably heard that graphics cards are essential for PC gamers.
Graphics cards generate the images on your screen by taking information from the computer’s CPU.
Many CPUs have an integrated graphics processor that lets them display images without a graphics card.
As long as you use your PC to browse the web, check your email, and use spreadsheets, you’ll have no trouble with the integrated GPU.
However, a dedicated graphics card has multiple benefits:
- You can connect your PC to different displays such as TVs and projectors using HDMI and DisplayPort.
- You can set up two monitors to have more screen real estate for your tasks and games.
- You can play resource-intensive games with more realistic graphics.
Graphics cards attach to your motherboard using the PCI express slot.
When choosing a graphics card for your existing PC, make sure:
- You have a 16-pin PCIe slot available.
- Your case is large enough to support the dimensions of the graphics card, as some higher-end models are extremely bulky. You may lose access to multiple PCIe slots if you have a large card.
- There’s enough clearance between the CPU cooler and graphics card to prevent hot air from getting trapped in the case.
- Your power supply can provide enough wattage to your new component. High-end graphics cards, such as the NVidia RTX 3080, can draw up to 400 watts.
4. Buy A New Processor
If you want to significantly improve your computer’s performance, you should consider a new processor.
A more powerful CPU will allow you to run more demanding programs, open more programs simultaneously, and create more complex files.
It can also help you save energy, as processors designed today are more energy-efficient.
However, note that installing a new CPU costs relatively more than an SSD or extra RAM.
You may even have to pay extra to upgrade your motherboard since the CPU socket must match.
Start by examining your current CPU to see if it’s the cause of your computer’s low performance.
If you have a Windows PC, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete after turning on your computer.
Then select Task Manager and navigate to the Performance tab.
Check the CPU usage to establish a baseline for when your computer is running at almost idle.
Open your favorite programs and games while keeping an eye on your CPU usage.
A CPU upgrade can improve your system performance if the usage stays above 95 percent when you run those programs.
Should you decide you need a new CPU, you need to know what’s already installed on your PC.
To find out, right-click on This PC (My Computer in older versions) and select Properties.
Note the CPU model and manufacturer.
Then search them on Google to find the CPU’s socket type and other specs.
Aim for the latest CPU model compatible with your other parts to minimize expenses.
Warning: Installing a CPU is a delicate task, so we don’t recommend doing it yourself if you haven’t done it before.
The best approach is to ask a qualified technician.
Nevertheless, if you decide to do it yourself, don’t forget to ground yourself before getting started.
Also, don’t apply too much pressure to avoid bending the CPU pins.
Mounting the CPU on the motherboard doesn’t require any force.
5. Install A New Power Supply
A new power supply won’t impact your performance in any way.
However, if you’re adding a new graphics card or a new processor to your computer, the PSU may struggle to provide the required wattage.
You may even experience unexpected shutdowns due to sudden spikes that exceed your unit’s capacity.
That means it’s time to replace your PSU with a more powerful one.
To determine the capacity of your new PSU, add up the usage of your CPU, motherboard, and graphics card.
(You can find these numbers under TDP in each component’s specs sheet.)
Then add 25 to 30 percent headroom to account for your RAM, storage, other components, and spikes.
Never buy a PSU without an 80 Plus efficiency rating.
Also, never trust shady manufacturers who offer high-wattage PSUs and incredibly low prices.
These manufacturers only advertise the peak wattage that their PSU can supply without mentioning the sustained average output.
They may also cheap out on parts, such as capacitors, so their products may even constitute fire hazards.
6. Upgrade Your Cooling System
We recommend boosting your cooling if you upgrade your CPU or install a new graphics card.
These components generate substantial heat, which your old cooler probably isn’t designed to move out of your case.
Invest in a heatsink and fan for your new CPU and install an extra intake and exhaust fan on your case to get rid of the extra heat quickly.
Remember that not all fan configurations are optimal.
Ideally, you want more intake fans than exhaust, and they should be in the front.
Fans on the side or top of your case won’t be highly effective.
If you install a fan on the top, it should be an exhaust.
You don’t need to consider liquid cooling solutions if you don’t want to overclock your hardware.
7. Change Your Case
While you can still use your existing case with new components, you’ll get the most out of your computer if you purchase a case with enough room to accommodate new parts.
This way, you can fit everything into your computer in a way that’s efficient and quiet.
Modern computer cases have better airflow properties, keeping your computer quiet.
They also have improved cable management features.
Other benefits of modern designs include mesh panels and magnetic dust filters that improve heat exchange while minimizing dust deposits on your components.
More expensive cases come with tempered glass side panels that let you display your parts.
Many people who opt for these cases also buy RGB fans and strips to give their rigs a sleek look.
8. Get A New Monitor
A new monitor has many benefits.
You get superior image quality, color contrast, and viewing angles.
Depending on your current monitor, you may also get a wider aspect ratio, thinner bezels, and a larger screen.
If you’re a gamer, you can increase your effective FPS if you buy a monitor with a refresh rate above 60 Hz.
With all these benefits, investing in a new monitor can significantly improve your experience when using your PC.
Moreover, you don’t have to get rid of your old monitor.
You can set it up next to your new one to get twice as much display.
You can even install it vertically and use it to view your social media feeds or price charts if you trade on the side.
Note: If you want a dual-monitor setup, you need a dedicated graphics card with support for the feature.
9. Upgrade Your Peripherals
Your upgrades don’t have to be limited to your case internals.
You can get better peripherals to enhance the way you interact with your computer and get more things done.
The most obvious choice is replacing your keyboard and mouse.
We recommend getting a wireless pair for maximum convenience.
Plus, you’ll have less cable clutter to deal with.
You don’t have to worry about interference and latency if your wireless mouse and keyboard are made by a reputable brand (e.g., Logitech) and operate on the 2.4 GHz channel—not Bluetooth.
However, you don’t have to stop there.
Your choices are practically endless when it comes to computer peripherals.
Here are a few other devices you can consider buying to improve your computer life:
- Headphones and speakers: With a pair of quality speakers or headphones, you can turn your machine into a small home theater or a gaming battle station.
- Laptop stand: If you’re one of those people who like to work with multiple devices, you need a holder for your laptop to improve your posture.
- Ring light: This peripheral is essential for streamers, vloggers, and anyone who records videos on their PC. It removes the shadows and gives your face even lighting.
- XLR microphone: Another essential item for streaming and recording, an XLR microphone offers much better quality than USB mics, but you’ll also need an audio interface to connect these mics to your PC.
10. Replace Your Desk And Chair
We know these aren’t strictly computer parts, but they impact your experience more than you think.
An ergonomic chair with appropriate back support and a large desk at a comfortable height will improve your posture and relieve tension in your neck and back.
Also, consider a wrist rest and an ergonomic mouse pad to avoid Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) in your arms, wrists, and fingers.
If you’re still unsure about which components to upgrade in your PC, maybe you need some inspiration.
We’ll leave you with this extreme tech upgrade video on YouTube in which a person gets a $5,000 budget to buy new tech equipment:
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Much Does It Take To Upgrade My PC?
The money you need to upgrade your PC depends on several factors, including the components you already have and the expected performance level.
Typically, PC upgrade costs range from $100 to over $1,000.
On the low end, you can install a low-capacity SSD or some more RAM, while the high end would involve installing a new graphics card or CPU.
However, if you see that your upgrades will cost more than $1,000, consider buying a completely new PC.
At this price range, you can build a powerful PC with brand new components without many compromises.
2. How Do I Know If My PC Needs An Upgrade?
The first sign that your PC could benefit from an upgrade is a noticeable reduction in speed, especially if it happens gradually.
However, you need to rule out software causes first.
For example, you can reinstall your Windows or run an optimization program to tune your settings.
Other signs that may need a hardware upgrade include:
- Old computer: If it’s been more than five years since you bought your PC, it’s probably time to breathe new life into it.
- Overheating: Your CPU may be hitting 100 percent usage more often because it can’t keep up with the requirements of newer software.
- Noise: Loud noises usually indicate that a fan is about to fail, while continuous clicking noise could be from your hard drive.
- Long boot times: If your hard drive is near its end of life, your Windows will take much longer to load. An SSD can slash your boot times in this situation.
To make sure an upgrade is the right choice, consult a technician.
3. Should I Upgrade My CPU Or GPU?
To decide whether to upgrade your CPU or GPU, you need to identify which one has become the limiting factor.
To find out, fire up a graphic-intensive game such as Lara Croft: Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
While playing, keep an eye on your frame rates and CPU usage.
If your frame rate is lower than 40, but your CPU isn’t maxing out, your game has become GPU-bound.
To make sure, lower the graphic settings and play again.
Your frame rate should improve.
In this situation, your system can benefit from a GPU upgrade.
On the other hand, if your CPU usage is hovering around 100 percent and your game is lagging, you’re dealing with a CPU bottleneck.
A more powerful CPU may solve your problem.