Sunday, April 22, 2012

Upgrades for Your Computer?

Have an old computer?  Or maybe your computer is not that old, but you want it to be faster?  There are a few upgrades that can add some additional life to your computer.

First components is the CPU.  The CPU probably has the biggest affect on speed in you computer.  Unfortunately this is also the component that is least likely to be upgraded do to compatibility issues.  CPU speeds are rated in GHz and also many CPU cores on the CPU, for example a Quad (4) core CPU at 2 GHz; this by the way is better then a single core CPU at 3 GHz.

Second component is the Motherboard.  The motherboard does not have as much to do with the speed of the computer other than the fact everything plugs into the motherboard and components are going to be limited to what the motherboard can support.  For example a motherboard can support a Core i7 CPU and DDR3 RAM.  The motherboard also is usually not a good candidate for upgrades.  Any upgrade in a motherboard is probably going to require a new upgraded CPU, at which point you basically have a new computer.  This by the way is not necessarily a bad upgrade, especially if all your other components (RAM, Video Cards, Hard drives, ect.) are compatible with the new motherboard and CPU.

Third Component is the RAM.  RAM is usually rated for its size, for example 2 GB; however, there is one more important number for RAM and this the speed of the RAM, usually rated in MHz.  Higher number is better; however, before spending extra money though on higher speeds you should make sure your computer can support it!  RAM is one of the easiest and possibly cheapest components to upgrade in your computer.  How much RAM should you have? If you have less than 1 GB and your computer can support more, this is definitely a upgrade I would recommend. If on the other hand your already has 4 GB RAM there is no sense upgrading.  When buying RAM, I recommend buying the largest in both size and speed that your computer can support.  For example if your computers motherboard supports 2 GB modules at 1333 MHz per slot, then you those are the RAM modules that you should purchase.  As a further example, lets say that you want to add 4 GB or RAM to  your computer (computer has 4 slots and supports 2 GB per slot for a total of 8 GB), you should purchase 2 2GB module, do not get 4 1GB modules!  For finding the right memory for your computer, I recommend using the Memory Configurator at Tiger Direct: http://memoryselector.cnetchannel.com/tigerdirect/.

A forth component that can really speed up your computer is a Video (or Graphics) card.  I have already posted an article on video cards, so other than saying it is important, I will leave it at that.  You can find the previous post here: http://www.computer-skills.info/2012/04/video-cardsand-why-you-should-have-one.html.

A final component is the hard drive.  Yes, the hard drive!  If your computer is older than 4-5 years then this probably is not an upgrade worth investing in; however, if you have a fairly new computer that has a SATA interface for the hard drives, than an upgrade from a regular hard drive to a Solid State drive can drastically improve your computers speed.  It use to be on older computers that the CPU could only process data so fast and a regular spinning platter hard drive could keep up with no problem, but on newer computers the slow down is often caused by the fact that the hard drive cannot provide the data fast enough.  Solid State Drives (SSD) offer extremely fast read and write times and because there are no moving parts they use less power and are not likely to be damaged if dropped like a normal hard drive.  SSD are similar to a USB flash memory stick, just bigger and faster.  A SSD is definitely one of the more expensive upgrades that you can put into your computer; however, it also one that will probably provide you with the biggest boost in speed, at least if your computer can support it.  One issue that remains with SSD is that the price for per GB is high; for example, a 120 GB hard drive (which is very small by todays standards) can run over $200!  A standard hard drive will probably cost less then $30 for similar size.  Larger SSDs can run over $500 and even over $1000!  Most people recommend purchasing a smaller SSD (60GB to 120GB) and installing only Windows and any necessary programs such as Games and productivity software – Adobe, AutoCAD, ect.  And then purchase a larger standard hard drive to hold everything else.  This is what I have done with my Acer 8951G laptop.  The laptop originally came with a 750GB hard drive, which I replaced with a 120 GB SSD.  I installed Windows and a few necessary programs to the SSD and placed everything else on the 750 GB hard drive, which I put in the second hard drive bay on my laptop (second hard drive bay was originally empty.).  The SSD cut load times by about 75%, which is a significant increase.

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