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Should I Upgrade My Computer or Replace it?

Clients ask us a lot if they should upgrade their computer to make it faster or boost performance. In the past, we would have answered “yes” almost all of the time. Things have changed though. New computers have become cheaper and quicker, so it doesn’t always make sense to just add some hardware to a current PC.

Before you do any type of upgrade, you may first want to consider having your computer cleaned up. There may be some unwanted services and programs that are running and slowing it down. Also, your computer may have viruses or malware, which are tying up its resources. Once these are removed or disabled, it could perform much better.

There are a couple of things to consider when making an upgrade decision:

1) Are you having any hardware issues? If so, I would suggest skipping the upgrade and getting a new PC.

2) How old is your PC? If it’s more than 3 years old, your manufacturer warranty has most likely expired. Hold off on the upgrade and buy a new PC when you are ready.

If you are not in any of these situations, then continue reading below.

Here are some upgrades that I recommend if you just aren’t getting the speed and performance you want, but don’t want to replace your PC. They are listed in the order of best to worst:

  • Replace the primary hard drive with a Solid State Drive (SSD) – Hands down, replacing your computer’s hard drive with a super-fast SSD is the best upgrade you can do. Faster, cooler and if you have a laptop, it will help the battery to last longer! If you can only afford to make one upgrade to your computer, swapping your existing hard drive with an SSD should be your #1 choice.
  • Add more RAM – If your PC has both a 64-bit CPU and a 64-bit version of Windows, you should definitely consider upgrading your system RAM. This upgrade will be helpful if you normally have several programs open at the same time.
  • Add an additional monitor(s) to your setup. I know this sounds crazy, but with the low cost of LED monitors these days, it’s not a luxury anymore to have multiple ones. All you need is a capable graphics card and enough ports on your computer. Once you have opened your web browser in one monitor and your email in another and you do not have to do the constant switching, you will wonder how you got along with just one monitor! This upgrade can be done with both laptops and desktops.
  • Add USB 3.0 Ports – Moving up from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 will provide almost as much “WOW” factor as upgrading from a spinning hard drive to an SSD. USB 3.0 is 10 times faster than 2.0, so if you are copying files to an external hard drive you will notice a big difference.
  • Replace an old wireless router with a new, faster one – While this isn’t considered an upgrade to your computer, if you stream video, visit high-bandwidth websites, and/or have several simultaneous Wi-Fi users on your local network, installing a state-of-the-art wireless router will make your devices feel like they were upgraded.
  • Install a second access point or extender – If you are experiencing problems accessing the Wi-Fi signal in different sections of your house, consider installing an extender or second access point. This will enhance your Internet surfing experience on your computer.

With that in mind, here are some computer upgrades that I would not typically recommend:

  • Upgrading to a new motherboard and CPU – when a new PC cost $2000 or more, it made sense to spend $750 on a new “motherboard” and CPU. Now, it just doesn’t. Don’t do it!
  • Making a big jump in Operating Systems like from Windows XP to Windows 7. Usually, it is time for a new computer.
  • Adding a new video card – If you primarily use your computer to visit websites, check your email, chat with friends, interact with Facebook and other social media sites, use Microsoft Office or watch online videos, the video card that’s already inside your PC is almost certainly more than powerful enough to perform those tasks with ease. Upgrading to a new video card is unlikely to make any noticeable difference whatsoever. If you play graphics-intensive games or want to connect an extra monitor or two, adding a faster, more capable video card can be a good deal.
  • Upgrading or replacing an internal Optical Drive – Like the floppy disk drive before it, the optical drive may one day be nonexistent. Thanks to the popularity of streaming audio and video along with the move from disc-based software distribution to instant downloads, optical drives are becoming less necessary. As a result, only a relative handful of new computers are even being shipped with internal optical drives. If you still find yourself needing to use an optical drive, instead of upgrading your computer’s internal optical drive to a newer and faster model, I strongly recommend opting for an external USB 3.0 optical drive instead.

Bottom line: Knowing which computer upgrades make sense and which ones to avoid will help you get the most “bang for the buck” from your upgrade dollars. Hopefully, these suggestions will provide you with a useful framework for deciding when to upgrade.

No matter what, we hope you enjoy your computing experience.