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General Guide to Upgrading Your Computer

Sazar

F@H - Is it in you?
Staff member
Political User
#1
There has been a recent spate of threads about how one should go about upgrading one's computer.

In light of this I thought it might be a good idea to have a sticky to explain what to look for when deciding to upgrade and how one should go about doing it. This is a basic guide and something I would consider if I was upgrading (and have done myself) as well as used as a rule of thumb for my friends when I have built them new boxes.

There are a few things to keep in mind when starting of:

  • Identify your needs for the upgrade. Do you really need a complete upgrade? Or do you need that marginally faster processor or video card?
  • Identify the uses of the system that you will have after the upgrade. This is to ensure that you have a general idea of what components to acquire to power your system in the applications you will mainly be using it.
  • Identify your price range. This is a MUST. You HAVE to have a ballpark figure to work around with. If you are unsure have a minimum and a maximum. Shoot for the minimum but be realistic that you may end up spending to the upper end of your limit.
  • Identify possible future needs so that you don't have the upgrade itch again in just a month or so because the tech you invested in is now redundant.
  • Identify what components you can re-use from your old system if possible to reduce expenses.

There are usually 4 main components that are changed during the course of an upgrade.

  • The Processor
  • The Memory
  • The Hard Drive capacity
  • The Video Card

Keep in mind that there are products in each of the above categories that range from very cheap (ie around $20 or so for some video cards) all the way up to thousand dollar cpu's and the like.

If you have identified your needs it will make it easier for you to budget for the purchase.

---

The actual purchases can be a tricky proposition. The majority of computer users are not hard-core gamers. That basically means that a processor of decent speed (sub $100) and a regular motherboard with integrated sound/graphics and about 512mb of RAM will suffice for all their needs. A system like this can be bought for under $300 dollars very easily and will be excellent at multi-tasking, listening to music and the like.

If you are a proper gamer you have a few other decisions to make. Many of the top video cards and processors require an upgrade to a beefier power supply unit. You HAVE to factor this into your purchase plans if you go that route.

---

The general fallacy a lot of the time is a product from company X is way better than a product from company Y, all else being equal therefore I should purchase from THAT company only. While this may be true for certain components in the same price range, the fact is there is no REAL discernible difference in all around performance.

Most of the users of computers do not live/breathe synthetic benchmarks and most of us are not going to notice a few seconds slower performance here or a few less fps there.

When purchasing items you have to keep this in mind.

There are many components that give excellent bang for the buck, such as the Athlon64 processors at the low end. In such a case it is prudent to consider that solution for whatever you wish to purchase.

---

In general anyone with a slower system (ie something that pre-dates the athlonXP's and the 1.6ghz and above p4 solutions) should be able to make a major step up with basically a mid-range system in today's market.

a 2.4c and above p4 processor or an athlonxp 2500+ and above is an adequate processor and really helps out the multi-tasking, especially in the case of the 2.4c and above. These processors are also relatively cheap.

Hard-drives are cheap all round and it is easy to find many with a storage cost of less than $1 per gigabyte.

Memory prices fluctuate but anyone is going to be able to see the benefits of 512 mb of memory for a windows XP based system.

Video cards are a different story and really can affect your overall user-experience with regards to gaming. A decent solution would be a 9600pro or a 5700ultra. Make sure if you are seeking a decent gaming card you look for something @ these cards levels and above.

Do not buy a 64bit memory interface graphics solution for gaming because you are shooting yourself in the foot and getting ripped off in the process.

If gaming is not your forte you can get away with an integrated solution and most board-makers offer a variant of this.

Almost all motherboards come with on-board sound so you don't need to shell out more money for a sound card, and the on-board sound is usually more than adequate for one's needs.

---

The power supply units can be had for $100 or less, and garner you a decent solution that should power most components on the market today. Purchase of this is completely dependent on the needs of the user and the components he/she is going to be utilising.

---

A computer case is generally good to be recycled for a new system (I have built 3 systems so far based in my current case). A good one with a decent power supply can be had for $100 or less in some places. Be wary that not all cases sold with power supplies have a GOOD power supply unit installed.

---

I have not discussed optical drives so far for 2 reasons. They are generally very cheap, and usually a user can utilise a component from his old system in the new one for the interim.

---

The last thing to keep in mind when building a setup is that you NEED some software. If you already own software and wish to just port it over, keep in mind that if you have a system like a Dell or HP or something, the operating system is designed to run on the original machine only. Software can end up costing a fair deal for the operating system (unless you use linux distro's). Office and the rest are free if you use Open Office and the like.

Regardless, software costs can be quite substantial if you end up having to purchase for your new system and have to be factored into the overall cost of the construction.

---

I am going to leave this thread open for now. Please feel free to add your own comments and constructive tips to help people building their new systems and make it less of a daunting experience.

*** When posting tips and suggestions please base it on sound common sense or fact. Please do not post if it is a tidbit your friend's uncle's sister's cousin's nephew's milk-man might have suggested. Also refrain from any IHV bashing or fanboy comments. Thank you. ***
 

Sazar

F@H - Is it in you?
Staff member
Political User
#2
General Athlon64 user guide/installation/pricing and the like

The above is another helpful thread formulated a while back to help people make an upgrade decision based on athlon64's.

As yet there is not an Intel based guide but I hope to have one up soon. If anyone else wants to take a shot at it in the interim feel free :)

I will also try and have a video card guide up in the near future.
 

Mainframeguy

Debiant by way of Ubuntu
#3
Excellent Overview guide!

I think maybe Sazar got this up before he read my post on another thread, it sure seemed to come up FAST!

Anyway, could I just mention two factors not included that I personally perceive as relevant today and which (if not planned for) can make the difference between a successful build and a failed one.

First - Quietness. This is a field all to itself and can have an extreme effect on budget also. Here is and entire forum dedicated to the subject.

Second - Size and/or looks. This can be an issue where you are aiming to build a gaming/modders kit with tons of leds and tubes (might affect fan / H/S selections etc.) or it can be the opposite situation where you need to make something very sleek or compact if it is to be accomodated into a living space where maybe even other peoples views on it matter.

There - that's my input. Look forward to seeing how the thread progresses - it should be a useful one for the site.
 

Taggert_LOA

Modding Addict
Political User
#4
i was able to use my old hdd in my new system. and my win xp cd fron my dell worked also. i may have been lucky, but it never hurts to try.
A great book to pick up for those who don't mind reading, Bigelow's Pc Hardware desk Reference is a great book for those looking to build their first system or those looking to improve on their current system. This expertly written manual provides hundreds of tables, charts, and illistrations on device drivers, chipsets, cable connectors, interfaces, support functions, and much more. Everything the Hard-Core enthusiasts need to to build, troubleshoot, repair and maintain their hardware. And key software is supplied by world renowned author
Steven Bigelow. From desktops to towers, to monitors, busses, hard drives, keyboards, amd joysticks, chipsets and media drives, soundcards, and vidoe adapters, this book is the serious troubleshooting rerference that covers all the latest technology and hardware.
 

lancer

There is no answer!
Political User
#5
If i could add this.

Most people when building a computer totally over look this factor, if at all possible get parts that are compatible with each other. For instance get memory that runs at the same mhz that your motherboard does. Look at reviews and see if any parts you are interested in are incompatible with other parts you want. Also DO NOT buy cheap memory, usually this means just that cheap memory, which will probably be prone to crashing your system. Also if you plan on making a gaming machine, buy a decent m/b like a DFI gigabyte or chaintech.
 

Tuffgong4

The Donger Need Food!!!!
Political User
#6
another main thing I notice when dealing with normal people who don't have anything but an average knowledge of how the system works is to always always always have at least 512 MB of Ram.

the reason is people think that they ahve this brand new computer but it just doesn't run "right" well most of the time when you look at the system specs their brand new store bought computer came with a very nice processor lots of features but 256 or in some too often cases 128 MB of RAM, and they don't know why their new system is running just as fast as their old computer.

my feeling is the best way to gain any performance in a computer is to upgrade the ram if you are running lower than 512 and if a gamer you should have at least 1 gig to run the newest games.
 
#8
I am looking to upgrade my computer soon, and was wondering if there is any software/s that can tell me what motherboard, memory, i have in my computer?
 
#10
Many thanks for that....gave me a lot of info, but doesnt tell me what sort of memory I have
I think i have DDR PC2100, but not sure...also do not know what speed the memory is
 

Tweakfiend

OSNN Senior Addict
#11
gillmacca said:
Many thanks for that....gave me a lot of info, but doesnt tell me what sort of memory I have
I think i have DDR PC2100, but not sure...also do not know what speed the memory is
Best answer is to look at the sisoft sandra website for detailed info on hardware , memory spec etc.
Look at the first or second icon when loaded ie main system etc.
 

Sazar

F@H - Is it in you?
Staff member
Political User
#12
CPU-z is what I personally use and it does give me some good info about the components in my system... plus in minimized mode it reads off real-time clock speed :cool:

http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php

its a small/sweet app and provides good info...

I used to like sandra but sandra is not always correct or accurate and its metrics are seriously skewed in a weird way :(
 

Sazar

F@H - Is it in you?
Staff member
Political User
#17
dell generally uses proprietary connections... I would find out from tech suipport before investing in a PSU incase it is using non-standard connectors...
 

iceman7311

OSNN Senior Addict
#18
Re: General Guide to Upgrading ones computer

i think it wouldn't be a bad idea when upgrading motherboards to go for a hoigh end sli so later u could just get a second graphics card which should save you money in the future
 

iceman7311

OSNN Senior Addict
#19
Re: General Guide to Upgrading ones computer

i think it wouldn't be a bad idea when upgrading motherboards to go for a hoigh end sli so later u could just get a second graphics card which should save you money in the future
 

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