Have you ever sat at your desk and your computer starts freezing and taking a long time to respond? Maybe it’s time to upgrade or see how you can fix the problem.
Some tips before upgrading
A lot of problems with your computer may not be all hardware related. Issues could simply be a overloaded hard drive to having too many applications running. It is always important to manage your computer’s health by the way you use it.
A common problem is having too many applications running at the same time. Having multiple programs open at the same time can reduce speed and overall performance. This is important as some programs have heavy usage on some parts of your computer. For example, computer games can take up a lot of graphics power and a lot of RAM. The easiest way to fix this is to close any applications running in the background that you do not need to use. This will ensure the programs you need will have no limitations on performance and an overall cleaner desktop.
Here is what you can do to prevent this issue:
- Open only the applications you need
- Be sure no unnecessary background tasks are running
- Monitor which applications have high usage for prioritization
Another good step to fixing potential issues is maintaining your system both physically and on the system itself. Maintenance is key to making sure your computer lasts.
Maintaining your computers health can be confusing for some people, but it is a general task that most people can do that applies to other things you take care of. Tasks can include dusting your PC, cleaning the area around it, managing wires and keeping them tidy and other tasks to ensure your computer is maintained the best.
Dusting a PC can keep temperatures lower and overall reduce the aging process of your parts. Be sure you dust outdoors or in an area with good ventilation since dust can get everywhere. Be sure to use air dusting cans specifically for cleaning computers etc. Some parts you may have to detach and wipe down with rubbing alcohol or other cleaning solutions. Each part can be different based on manufacturer, so search up the best ways for your products. Once you are done dusting, the best way to prevent dust is to keep your computer at a higher elevation and away from carpets and other dust absorbing areas. Dust will build up overtime no matter what, so be sure to clean monthly to ensure the best clean computer.
Keeping wires manageable is not a necessary task but it will help a lot when it comes to cleaning, moving and maintaining your system. It also ensures that wires do not get tangled up, ripped and worn out. You can simply straighten them out and align them with each slot or can go further by labeling wires, using cable ties and other tools to keep them manageable. Both work and are small steps to maintain your system.
Some tools that can help you manage your system include HWMonitor, Windirstat, Malwarebytes and other tools. HWMonitor is an accurate way of showing temperatures, voltages and other usages your parts are doing. Windirstat displays everything on your hard drive in a simple block format and provides tools to remove them easily. Malwarebytes can scan your computer for malware and other unwanted software and can quarantine and remove them from your system. All these programs maintain and gives you tools to take action if needed. There are other alternatives to these softwares so test them out to see which is right for you.
So which parts are slowly my system down?
Computers age just like your smart phone and other electronics. There are a lot of factors in the aging process when it comes to each individual part. Some parts can last several years while some may start degrading over 4-6 years. The most common parts that need replacing before most other parts are the CPU (Processor), GPU (Graphics Card) and hard drive. There are a lot of common signs to see if your parts are beginning to slow down.
Both the CPU and GPU are the most important parts in a setup, meaning once you notice a degradation in performance – you may want to see if those two are the problem. Common signs for the two parts degrading may include an overall slow speed, stuttering and freezing during tasks, low frames per second when playing games and high temperatures coming from the parts. These signs can mean your system is needing an upgrade soon – don’t rush, be sure to follow the steps previously to see if those are the issues instead of an old system.
A hard drive may also need to be replaced since current solid state drives (SSD) are becoming the new norm for storage. The difference between a regular disk drive and an SSD is a large amount. The difference between the two is how they read and write information. A disk drive physically writes and reads information using the spinning disk. An SSD digitally downloads instead of physical movement. This results in a much more faster read and write which overall makes a setup faster. For example, an HDD can take a couple minutes to load your OS, an SSD can take less than 30 seconds to load your OS. Although an SSD has a higher performance and a higher price, HDDs can still perform the task. A common trend includes both an HDD and SSD in the system in which high priority tasks will be installed on the SSD.
Desktops or Laptops?
A recent common trend are manufacturers creating laptops with desktop grade performance at a low price. A lot of people looking to upgrade can have problems choosing between a desktop or a laptop for their next system. Here are some pros and cons to both systems.
- Wide selection of components
- Easily upgradeable part by part
- Performs better (based on parts)
- More customization options for peripherals
- Stationary, moving desktops can be challenging sometimes
- Can take up a lot of space for overall setup
- Maintenance of parts required more
- Overall setup can be more expensive
- Portable, can carry to most places
- Everything is setup, keyboard, trackpad, screen etc.
- Maintenance is low, clean keyboard, wipe screen, dust sides etc.
- Lack of selection of components, some providers may only allow you to increase hard drive space etc.
- Parts are harder to upgrade, CPU and GPU are sometimes impossible to upgrade
- Can be damaged easier by dropping, banging etc.
- May overheat occasionally
- Damaging one small part of frame may affect entire build
- Internet and power charging may not always be available at some areas.
Overall you would want to purchase based on what you would want to do with your system. For example, university students can always be on the move and always need something to take notes. If you have similar problems, then a laptop is idea. If you mostly stay at home or work in a stationary area then a desktop should do fine. See which you would see yourself using more.
What do I need to upgrade? Cost? Long lasting?
Based on the parts you need, you can spend a lot of money on upgrading. Parts such as CPU, GPU, RAM and other large functioning parts can be more expensive than others. The market also changes a lot as prices increase and decrease but as of right now, most prices are decreasing. An average CPU can cost anywhere between 200 dollars to 500 dollars depending on how well you would want to upgrade. GPUs can cost between 400-1000 dollars based on what you need from games to 3d softwares. RAM prices have been increasing due to the surge of smartphones using DDR4 ram and alleged price fixing in the demanding market. Ram can cost an average of 100-200 dollars for a 16 GB set. SSD prices have dramatically decreased over the past decade as SSDs are becoming the new norm for storage. A 1TB SSD can cost around 400 dollars which can seem a lot compared to a 1TB HDD, but the difference is worth it.
Operating systems are also important. They mainly control the interface, pre-installed programs and specific settings. The two most common on the market is Mac OS and Windows. Both work well but are dependant on the way the user wants out of their operating system. Mac OS is pre-installed in every Apple product for a good reason. It’s the simplicity and user friendly interface that Apple has perfected for the past decades. Mac users will have a large amount of pre-installed tools, softwares and programs they can use with Mac OS. The only limitation to Mac OS is the hardware. Upgrading hardware in Mac PCs can be limited or expensive compared to a Windows PC since some parts are not upgradeable. Apple did have a solution by making Mac PCs long lasting.
Windows does not come with every setup unfortunately, some prebuilt computers may have it installed already but Windows 10 can cost over 100 dollars to purchase and install. Windows uses a slightly more complex interface with a simplistic design. Their design and programs can be changed for beginners to experts in computers. Windows does come with their own pre-installed software and programs which replicate what Mac OS has. The big difference between the operating systems is how the user wants to interact. For those who want a simple but innovative design then Apple’s Mac OS may be more fitting. For those who want more customization and more possibilities then a Windows may be more fitting.
A typical mid-tier system can have a cost estimated below:
- CPU 200-400 dollars
- GPU 250-500 dollars
- Motherboard 100-150 dollars
- RAM 100-200 dollars
- PSU 70-120 dollars
- Storage: HDD 50-90 dollars or SSD 60-200 dollars
- Case 80-150 dollars
Estimated total cost: 850/910-1610/1810 dollars (withoutSSD/withSSD)
Additional and Optional costs
- Case fans: 10-20 dollars each
- Keyboard: 40 dollars or 120-200 dollars for mechanical keyboard
- Mouse: 15-50 dollars
- Mouse pad: 10-25 dollars
- Speakers: 30-50 dollars
- Monitor: 80-200 dollars
- Operating System: 80-140 dollars
A mid tier system can last for a long time. The life span of a system can be anywhere between 4-8 years before serious upgrading is needed.
Buying Cheap vs Expensive
Upgrading should be for the long term run. Most parts can last a long time when bought new, almost like buying a new car. Some parts can be bought cheap such as case fans, peripherals etc. Some parts are always best to buy at a higher price than expected. For example, a power supply is a part you do not want to cheap out on. A cheap and faulty power supply may even cause the system to overload and cause potential harm. Buying a new part can last a long time which is good for the long run. Always check to see which parts you can spend less on and see what you need to spend a lot on.
How do I upgrade?
Upgrading a computer by yourself can be a confusing and intimidating task for some. Most manufactures have manuals and labels included to help guide you in switching out parts or building a new system from scratch. There are plenty of online guides and videos if you do need additional help. If you do not trust yourself with these expensive parts then most computer shops will be happy to build the system for you.
Overall it is important to know when is the time for you to upgrade your computer. It is important to check if your system really needs it or not. Problems can be solved by maintenance and keeping an overall good computer health. When you do need to upgrade, you always want to consider parts to buy and see which one is right for you. Expect a large amount of money spent since buying or upgrading a computer is an investment for many future years to come.