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What is PC Bottleneck and How Do I Prevent It

What is PC Bottleneck and How Do I Prevent It?

Linsey Knerl
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Reading time: 7 minutes
Computers help us do more than ever, with many practical uses for work and play. And when they don't work as expected, it can cause more than just frustration if you miss out on important things in life. Whether you're dealing with dropped video calls with loved ones or lagging gaming sessions, PC bottleneck can be a serious problem.
Here's what PC bottleneck is, why it happens, and what you can do about it.

What is a PC bottleneck?

PC bottleneck is a situation where one computer component hits its limit and limits the capacity of the other components in the system.
If your favorite video game lags due to an underperforming video card, your processor’s efficiency won’t matter. The graphics are limiting your PC.

How can I prevent bottlenecking?

Bottlenecking can happen in new computers with each part working in perfect order. It has nothing to do with the quality of the parts but how they balance each other out. A balanced computer’s parts can reach their maximum capacity, with all parts working together to offer the best performance possible.
Buying a balanced PC or upgrading to one with more powerful parts is the only way to truly prevent bottlenecks. Here's how to get that done.

What to know before you shop for a new PC

What to know before you shop for a new PC
Picking the right components from the very beginning can help reduce problems. Each component plays a vital role in creating the right balance for your PC.

CPU

The central processing unit (CPU), commonly known as the "processor," has much to do with how smoothly our computer experiences happen.
Whether you game or not, choosing a high-performance processor can help you use more programs at once, and enjoy live streaming and video conferencing. Ensuring your computer can handle a high CPU load lets you take advantage of resource-intensive programs like those used for CAD, video editing, and animation.

GPU

PC games, design, and photo/video editing are all about graphics. Even programs that don't use many visual resources need to display the information properly. Games, high definition (HD) movies, rendered art, and virtual reality all rely on quality graphics processing unit (GPU) usage options. If you go big with your processor, make sure you match it to a proven GPU that can keep up.

Storage (SSD or HDD)

What does it look like when your storage isn't adequate for the rest of your computer build? You may deal with long load times, which can keep you from enjoying the rest of your high-end computer parts.
Moving from a hard disk drive (HDD) to a solid-state drive (SSD) can be a big improvement, especially if you're going all out with high-end graphics and processing speed. Something like Intel®'s Optane™ memory technology can also boost performance, caching your most-used files for near-instant access when you need them.

Memory

Look for at least 8GB of RAM for standard applications, and upgrade to 16GB if you plan to use a faster processor and powerful graphics card.
Fortunately, RAM is easy to upgrade if your PC has room. So, even if your PC didn't originally come with enough of it, you can pop in a few sticks for a smoother video stream or gaming experience.

Display

While you may not notice how a display bottlenecks the rest of your system, it can happen. At worst, you will not get the total frame rate you could get if you don't upgrade past an entry-level monitor. Look for those built for Full High Definition (FHD) or up to 4K if you plan to use these capabilities in the future.
The great thing about displays is their flexibility, so long as you future-proof your setup. If your monitor supports 4K now, you can upgrade your components to match that visual fidelity and without changing the monitor.

Other components

There are other components that may get in the way of an improved PC experience, even if you bought the best hardware. They include the motherboard, fans, and power supply. These pieces of the puzzle are often overlooked but are very important.
An overheating PC, for example, can cause shut-downs and glitches. Or, if your motherboard is outdated, it won't let you add new RAM or features as needed. Even worse, an improper power supply can damage your PC.
While most pre-assembled PCs have worked out these other details, DIY computer enthusiasts should carefully consider the role these components play in the overall build.

What to know if you upgrade

What if you just recently purchased a PC, or you really like the one you already own? You don't always have to buy new. You can also swap out components to add those with higher gaming performance abilities, such as upgrading from an Intel Core™ i5 processor to an i7. This may be more affordable than buying a new PC, allowing you to find a good deal on a processor without wasting perfectly good components.

When it's time to buy a new PC

Even the best PC has a lifespan. Time and technology changes may warrant buying an entirely new computer, especially if more and more apps, video games, and software require an upgrade.
Use the same shopping guidelines above to look for a replacement PC. Remember the things you love about your current system, and aim for a new one with the same brand of components or features you like best.
It's also time to consider what you didn't love about your existing computer. This can be anything from a lack of ports to lackluster ventilation and storage. Now is your time to both solve your bottleneck and fulfill your wishlist.

Examples of a balanced PC

One of the easiest ways to ensure a balanced PC experience is to buy one pre-assembled from a reliable company. Aim to purchase a computer designed for specific users. Gaming computers, business computers, and those built for creative pursuits feature the most compatible components to deliver a seamless experience.
Let's take a look at some examples.

1. HP OMEN 45L gaming desktop

HP OMEN 45L gaming desktop
With Windows 11, AMD Ryzen or Intel Core processors, and HDD and SSD storage, the HP OMEN 45L gaming desktop line has a little something for everyone. Boost your gameplay with the latest in NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ graphics, 16GB memory (or more), and optimal cooling. You can also customize your PC to have just what you want at checkout.
Thanks to the easy-to-open panels on the tower, you can get in and service your PC quickly. While it's unlikely you'll need to upgrade your components anytime soon, the accessible designs ensure you'll get more years from your computer when you decide to swap out parts.

2. HP ENVY laptop

HP ENVY laptop
With a range of budget-friendly and powerhouse options, the HP ENVY laptop line gives you the right blend of performance, aesthetics, and portability. Choose between a standard laptop design or a clever 2-in-1 option, which lets you fold over your device into tablet mode for note-taking or streaming media.
Each laptop starts with 8GB RAM and has options for AMD or Intel processors. Choose the optional touch display feature and compatible pen for even more high-tech experiences from these balanced notebooks.
With brilliant displays and thoughtful features like the full-sized keyboard, you get a traditional desktop you can take with you.

3. HP Z workstation

HP Z4 Workstation
Any user can enjoy the perks of the HP Z4 workstation line. These robust PCs have performance top of mind, with plenty of memory, storage space, and processing power to get you through your workday and into the weekend. The HP Z4 was meticulously assembled to optimize each component and reduce bottlenecks.
Use your workstation for data engineering, visual rendering, automation, and VR experiences. With top-notch security features and Windows or Linux options, this powerful business-class computer is ideal for various industries, from education and STEM to government applications.

Summary

Looking for a great overall value in your next PC? DIY builds give you lots of flexibility, but a pre-built HP computer eliminates the guesswork of determining how to avoid a bottlenecking PC. They're built with compatibility and balance in mind, and you can always customize those special details down the line.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author and public speaker. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.

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