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PC Upgrade Guide: Which Components to Upgrade and When
December 24, 2018
With so many integral hardware components involved in the functionality of a computer, it is important for you to be aware of the most critical of these components if you want to maintain the ongoing health of your PC and support optimal performance long term.
For the best computing experience, it’s essential to understand each component’s function, how long they should last, and signs that it’s time to upgrade.
Review our PC upgrade infographic below to learn more about these key components, what they do, how long they typically last, and the common upgrade options to consider when it's time for a performance boost.
The warning signs are there. Your PC is suddenly slow, sputtering to a halt so you have to restart it every hour. Constant alerts inform you that you need more storage. If you notice that your computer is acting up or performance is slowing, it may be time to upgrade one or more components on your PC.
When it comes to making upgrades, there are four components that, when upgraded, tend to solve the most common problems plaguing your computer: CPU, RAM, hard drive, and GPU.
To see real-time usage of your CPU, you can open up the Task Manager on your computer and click the “Performance” tab.
How long does a CPU last on average?
Your CPU should last between 10 and 20 years in most cases.
What are signs my CPU is failing?
Symptoms of an over-stressed and failing CPU include your operating system not loading despite the fans running. Also if your computer turns on but nothing loads or powers on and then it shuts off suddenly, you may have CPU issues.
Check your CPU usage record if you suspect the CPU is at the heart of your computer issues. If your CPU is maxing out on all cores, you may want to upgrade it.
Note: If you upgrade your CPU, you may also need to upgrade your motherboard and RAM along with it.
What is RAM?
Random access memory (RAM) temporarily stores the data that you’re actively using while on your computer. This is why if you tend to open 40 tabs at once, you’ll notice a decline in overall performance. RAM allows you to more quickly access data than if it was coming straight from your hard drive.
There are two common types of RAM, Dynamic RAM (DRAM) and Static RAM (SRAM). Dynamic RAM (DRAM) is more common than SRAM. It consists of transistors and capacitors and refreshes at a rate of thousands of times per second.
Static RAM (SRAM) has more transistors per memory cell than DRAM and doesn’t need to refresh. Due to its more advanced features, it’s significantly faster - but also more expensive - than DRAM.
How long does RAM last on average?
Typically, you will not need to replace your RAM completely. Rather, you may find that you need to upgrade it depending on what you use your computer for and what types of applications you run.
The amount of RAM you need depends on what you’re using your computer for. 4GB is sufficient for general internet browsing and/or running non-memory-intensive applications. 8GB to 12GB is better for gaming, video streaming, and/or running memory-intensive applications.
16GB and beyond is necessary for running applications related to high-resolution photo editing, video editing, animation, and illustrations.
Note: In some laptop models, the RAM is soldered to the motherboard, meaning that you can’t upgrade the RAM yourself. Check your computer’s service/hardware manual to determine if your RAM is soldered.
Two common types of graphics cards include video graphics array (VGA) which renders 256 colors. Quantum Extended Graphics Array (QXGA), on the other hand, is more high performance and is capable of rendering millions of colors.
How long does a graphics card last on average?
Typically, you should expect your graphics card to last more than 5 years. With that said, the lifespan may depend on if you have a single GPU or dual GPU configuration. A single GPU is more cost-effective and better for casual users. A dual GPU, in contrast, is more expensive but users who need great graphics will enjoy the increased graphics performance.
What are signs my GPU is failing?
When random lines or dots appear, or incorrect colors appear on your screen, known as artifacting, it might be time to upgrade your graphics card.
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