Stan's Chrome-Plated Tech Tips

Monday, June 17, 2013


Upgrade Time? Here's The Dummies Guide to Performance Computing

She looks and feels the same.  Still there by your side when you need her.  Still getting it done.  But there's something.  You can't put your finger on it, but you know things just can't go on like this.  You're not quite ready to let her go, but you're at a loss as to what to do . . . 

But fear not Dear Reader - I have all the answers to your technical queries.  Whether it's a PC, Mac, Desktop or Laptop there's way to get her up back up to speed.  And what I'm going to is break down the easiest ways to breath new life into the old mare of yours and turn her into a legitimate War Horse!

Now let's start with a little disclaimer first - if we're talking about a 6+ year old computer, my suggestion would be to ride her 'til she bucks ya because it really isn't worth putting much money into something that old.  What can benefit something older like that would be to try and tackle any potential software (ie - re-installation of the OS) issues first, but if that doesn't do the trick, it may be time to move on to greener pastures.  Really the main areas you can upgrade beyond software are the RAM, Hard Drive, Graphics, and CPU.

RAM is typically the easiest and less costly upgrade you can perform.  RAM prices, despite some recent increases, are still very reasonable and an upgrade can quickly breathe some new life into your older computer.  It's not the be-all-end-all, but if your computer is struggling, especially while trying to multitask, RAM may be just what the Dr. ordered.

Next take a look at your hard drive.  If it's too full, failing, or just plain old and slow it's going to seriously impact system performance.  Getting a newer and faster hard drive can work wonders.  The one thing I can't recommend highly enough is a Solid State Drive (SSD).  These things are LITERALLY thousands of times faster than their mechanical counterparts and can turn a sluggish old machine into a powerhouse.  Not to overblow their significance, but we've seen several year old machines with SSD's blow their brand new counterparts out of the water.  You will need to clone your OS over to the SSD or perform a fresh install, but trust me, it's sooooooooooo worth it.  If your budget allows for it, I'd hurry up and get yourself set up with one.  You can thank me later.

Look these next two upgrades, Graphics and CPU, aren't really available for anything other than Desktop PC's, Mac Pro Towers, and a very limited number of laptops.  They're also some of the priciest upgrades because they have the most impact.  Besides upgrading to a SSD, the Graphics and CPU have the largest all around impact on the performance of your computer.

Upgrading the Graphics card, especially for gamers, makes a tremendous difference.  Bottom line - if you're gaming or doing graphics work, you practically have to upgrade the graphics card on a semi-annual basis.  AMD and nVidia are the two major chipsets and, without getting into too much detail, the higher the model number, the better the card (look for the last two digits on an nVidia card and the last three with AMD).  You'll also be able to run higher resolutions and power multiple monitors with a better card.  In any case, off loading the graphics from an on-board chip to a dedicated card benefits the entire computer.
And finally the CPU.  The heart and brains of a computer.  Other than a relatively minor upgrade, you'll likely need to upgrade your motherboard too.  Likely the RAM as well.  You see what I'm getting at here - it's practically a new computer.  And it'll feel like one too.  Because unless you've got some top technical ability or hire a tech with superior know-how you'll have to reinstall your operating system as well.  May as well throw in a clean, new, computer case and you practically have a new computer.  Well, technically, you would have a new computer. :)

As Always,

I'm not a Geek.  I'm your friend.  And I'm here to help.

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