Do you need to upgrade your computer or buy a new one
Often times it is much more practical to upgrade your current computer rather than buy a brand new computer. The most common components that are upgraded in a computer are, RAM, hard drive, graphics card, and the processor. The advantages of a computer upgrade are increasing the longevity of your current computer and of course saving money!
In this hub I will list some tips and useful utilities for finding out what hardware your computer is running and furthermore to help you decide if upgrading any of these components would be beneficial.
Before you start your computer upgrading adventure you'll want to find out what's under the hood so to speak. There's a couple ways you can go about doing this. One option is simply right clicking My Computer and select properties. You should now see a screen displaying the processor, RAM and operating system version. To find out what graphics card you have open the device manager which can be found in upper left hand corner of the same window as your processor and RAM. Now that the device manager window is open you will see all the different hardware installed in your computer. The tab you want to is Display Drivers which will list your graphics card. Take a look at all of the other tabs you have time so you can get a better over all idea about your computer and its hardware setup. Remember to write down or copy and paste your processor, RAM, hard drive and graphics card information. To find the information on your hard drive open My Computer and right click the drive, usually Local Disk (C:), click properties and you will see the the hard drive capacity.
Utilities for gathering information
The other option for finding out what your computer has for insides is by downloading a very useful utility called CPU-Z, be sure you download the proper version of CPU-Z if you choose to download the no install option. All you have to do is download CPU-Z open the CPU-Z.exe file, if you choose to download the setup version of CPU-Z you'll have to run the setup file first, and CPU-Z will have loaded all of your system information for you. Open the different tabs in the CPU-Z window copy down the information for your processor (CPU) , main board (motherboard), and graphics.
Now lets do a little bit of research on your computers motherboard, just type the information you copied into google about your motherboard and browse the different results. What you will be looking for is the socket type for your processor, AM3, AM2 , LGA1156, LGA1366 are some examples. The amount of RAM (memory) slots, type and speed of RAM supported, the graphics card slot, AGP, PCI-X or onboard and if its PCI-X or AGP the speed of the slot. x4 or x8 for AGP and x1, x2, x4 and x8 for PCI-X . Keep in mind many motherboards with onboard graphics card also have AGP or PCI-X slots. This motherboard information lets you know what hardware your computer is compatible with. Now that you have all the required information you can move onto the next step.
Deciding if a computer upgrade is the best choice
Use the the information you now have to decide if upgrading your current computer would be the best choice for you. Some questions you'll want to ask here are, how many RAM slots are unoccupied, does my motherboard only support older types of RAM, is the graphics card slot an older standard such as AGP or PCI ( different than PCI-X,) is the processor socket type an old standard?
If you have unoccupied RAM slots and are under 2GB's of RAM it will be in your favor to upgrade to 2GBs+ of RAM. If all your RAM slots are taken up keep in mind that you can always upgrade to larger sticks of RAM. An example of this would be replacing four sticks of 256mb ram with four sticks of 512mb ram. Not all RAM is compatible, if you're going to be adding more RAM as opposed to replacing RAM you will want to make sure the new sticks you add are from the same manufacturer as the originals. To find out the RAM manufacturer of your current RAM start CPU-Z and click the SPD tab. In the SPD tab you will see module size, max bandwidth, manufacturer and part number. When adding new RAM you should, if possible, try to buy RAM with the same part number. The max bandwidth is not as big an issue when it comes to compatibility as your computer will automatically adjust all max bandwidth speeds to whichever RAM stick has the lowest. Of course if you buy RAM with the same part number it will be identical.
A few different types of RAM are, DDR, DDR2 and DDR3. These are not compatible, make sure to use one type exclusively.
If your graphics card is below 512MBs, is PCI-X or is on board and you do a lot of gaming or use applications with intense graphics it will be in your favor to upgrade to one with 512MBs+. If your motherboard only supports older types of graphics cards such as AGP or the very old PCI it is probably best to hold off on any kind of graphics upgrade. There are still some decent AGP cards out there but unless you can find one for very cheap with at least 512MBs you wont want to bother with any graphics card upgrades.
Some different graphics card interfaces from oldest to newest are, PCI, AGP, PCI-Express (PCI-X), PCI-Express x16, PCI-Express 2.0 x16 and PCI-Express 2.1x16. PCI-Express is generally compatible with its higher standards and vice versa. AGP and normal PCI are not compatible with each other or any PCI-Express.
If your processor is under 2GHZ and/or is single core it will be in your favor to upgrade to one that is at least 2.4GHZ and dual core. If your motherboard has an older socket type and processors of that socket type are no longer manufactured this is the biggest indicator that upgrading your current computer is not the best option for you.
Some examples of AMD socket types from oldest to newest are, socket 462/socket A, socket 754, socket 940, socket 939, socket AM2, AM2+ and socket AM3. If your socket type is 939 or older you wont be able to upgrade your processor. If you have AM2 or AM2+ keep in mind that these processors will not work with AM3 sockets but AM3 processors will work with AM2 and AM2+ sockets.
Some examples of Intel socket types from oldest to newest are, socket 478/socket n, socket 495, socket 479, LGA 775/socket T, LGA 1366/socket B and LGA 1156/socket H. If you have socket 479 or older you wont be able to upgrade your processor.
As far as hard drive upgrades go you wont want to worry to much. IDE and SATA are the two standards and most motherboards still support both. If you just want a little extra storage space there's also the option of an external hard drive that connects through USB.
Keep in mind that you may only have to upgrade one of these components to get the performance you want from your computer as it is very common for whatever the weakest component in a computer is to act as a bottleneck on computer performance. Also keep in mind that if you intend on doing a major computer upgrade, replacing all the above mentioned components, make sure that your computers power supply unit (PSU) can take the extra load. For running most of today's new hardware I recommend at least a 500-550 watt PSU , preferably with dual rails. You can find the wattage of your PSU by opening up your computer case, locating the PSU and the wattage should be listed somewhere on the side.
If it turns out that your motherboard only supports older technologies and you cannot upgrade any other components as a result it is possible to upgrade your motherboard but this ends up being basically the same as buying a new computer.
If you have decided to upgrade your current computer but are not confident or unsure of how to install the new hardware you could always ask a tech savvy friend or pay a local computer shop to do it. A computer shop shouldn't charge anymore than $100 labor to install every component listed above. If you only need one or two components installed look to pay around $30 or less for there installation.
Here are some more hubs of mine that may be useful to you.