A slow or otherwise failing computer is never a good sign, especially for your wallet. Part of the problem is knowing which element of your computer is at fault and how it’s best rectified. After this information is known, you’ll need to prioritize those upgrades for your desktop computer.
In this piece, we break down some of the most user-changeable parts of a computer and discuss the importance of each. We also discuss which you should look to upgrade first.
How to Know When You Need to Prioritize Upgrades for Your Computer
Ultimately, only you will know when to prioritize computer upgrades based on your usage. We had a post on stress testing your CPU, and this is a good guide for power users.
However, the danger of conducting these types of tests is the tendency to strictly believe the numbers you’re reading. In our opinion, you’ll get arguably more useful mileage out of the following:
- Software is demanding more resources, some of which you don’t have.
- Your Operating System (OS) or apps are loading, quitting, and running more slowly.
- Something has failed and needs immediate replacement.
Of course, if you fall into the latter camp, disregard this article and go out to buy the hardware you need to get back up and running. However, for the other reasons, you’ll have some thinking to do.
The Elements of a Computer You Should Consider for an Upgrade
Before we get into the breakdown of which upgrades you’ll want to prioritize, let’s discuss which parts actually matter. To do this, here’s a quick explanation of how everything fits together:
- Central Processing Unit (CPU). This is the computer’s collection of synapses. The greater its power, the more calculations it can process – in other words – the smarter and quicker it can think.
- Random Access Memory (RAM). It’s a simple analogy, but RAM is like the heart in that it takes the work the brain is doing and helps to crunch the numbers and keep data moving. The more RAM a computer has, generally the better.
- Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). Processing visuals is tough for humans and machines. A robust GPU takes the load off other computer components, especially with a dedicated card attached.
- Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Contrary to popular belief, the HDD is more like the brain in that it stores much of the information needed to run the computer.
Of course, these components aren’t the only ones found within a computer. What’s more, software plays a role in prioritizing upgrades too. In our final section, we discuss what to prioritize in more detail.
How to Prioritize Upgrades for Your Desktop Computer
In our opinion, you should prioritize upgrades for your desktop computer by first helping your CPU work more efficiently, then keeping it cool.
If you have no current issues and just want a more powerful computer, consider your use. Gamers will want to look at graphics cards that are almost future-proof, while coders will want to churn through more data by maxing out the RAM.
In a general sense, upgrading the hard drive to a Solid State Drive (SSD) offers a greater return than upping RAM from 16GB to 32GB. This is especially true for newer computers.
However, RAM is a close second when it comes to upgrades, followed by ventilation. Any sysadmin will tell you that keeping a running computer cool is important and vital for optimal operation.
Note that we have not mentioned the normal first port of call for prioritizing upgrades: the CPU. This is because it’s only going to give you a greater performance benefit, all else being equal. What’s more, CPUs are hard to replace and expensive.
Overall, with a good SSD pulling and shoving information and lots of RAM helping to direct traffic between the CPU and the rest of the computer, your computer could see years of extra life.
The path to a souped up computer is littered with potential money- and time-sinks. As such, getting the decision right the first time is going to be the best outcome for you. Fortunately, factors such as your hard drive and memory can see a seemingly-past-its-prime computer get a second wind.
For further reading, if you have an old Mac Mini, you can upgrade it and have it work like a new one.