In our last post, we looked at considerations for buying a new computer and defined the most common technical terms you will encounter when purchasing a computer. But what should you do if you want more performance but you don’t want to buy a new computer? The answer lies in selecting hardware upgrades that will increase and or extend the performance of your existing computer. Let’s take a look at some easy and cost-effective upgrades you can choose to get more from your computer.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
In years past, one of the most effective ways to increase the performance of a computer was to add more RAM. This was largely because most computers were equipped with a small amount of RAM as compared to today’s computers. We’ve discussed what RAM is in previous articles but to summarize, RAM is like a desk, the bigger the desk is, the more tasks (or larger tasks) you can work on. When computers came equipped with 512MB or even 2GB of RAM, simply doubling that amount yielded significant performance gains. Today, even the most basic systems come with 4GB of RAM. While adding more RAM can yield increased performance, if you aren’t consistently using at least 75% of your current amount of RAM then adding more won’t make a noticeable change.
Hard Disc Drive (HDD)
Upgrading the size of your hard drive will add more storage space to your computer. Prices on hard drives are very low, around $0.08 per gigabyte. You can also get some increase in computer speed if your replacement drive spins faster than your current drive. Most low to mid-range computers are equipped with hard drives that spin at 5,400RPM. Typically, the next speed increase is 7,200RPM, followed by 10,000RPM and topping out at 15,000RPM for enterprise-grade drives. While the performance gained by increasing the speed of a hard drive isn’t as radical as switching to a solid state drive, the price is usually significantly cheaper with greater amounts of storage capacity as compared to solid state drives.
Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD)
In between traditional hard drives and solid state drives are SSHDs. These are regular hard drives with tiny solid state drives on board. The advantage is that frequently accessed data can be loaded from the mechanical (hard disc) portion of the drive into the electronic (solid state) portion to give increased performance (like an SSD) while retaining the high storage capacity to low-cost ratio of traditional hard drives.
Solid State Drive (SSD)
Solid state drives are currently one of the most significant performance upgrades you can make to a computer. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the boot time. This is the amount of time it takes a computer to go from being off to being ready for work. For a computer with a hard drive, this may take anywhere from 20 seconds to over a minute and a half. With a solid state drive, that same computer may boot in 10 seconds or less! How do solid state drives accomplish this amazing feat? There are many factors but perhaps the simplest is the fact that solid state drives have no moving parts.
Some advantages of switching to a SSD are increased speed, shock (impact) resistance and greater longevity. Disadvantages are cost (still nearly $1 per gigabyte), potential data loss during unexpected power loss and performance degradation over the life of the drive.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
An additional upgrade that can be performed is upgrading to a newer, faster processor (CPU). Upgrading from a dual-core CPU to a quad-core can make a significant difference in your computing experience. Like RAM however, upgrading the CPU will be more noticeable if you’re currently taxing your existing CPU.
As with many things in life, although anyone can upgrade their computer themselves but that doesn’t mean everyone should. Selecting the appropriate parts is essential as these upgrades are dependent on what your current hardware consists of. In addition, all of these options require opening your computer and changing out key pieces. In some cases (like the HDD or SSD) you may need to transfer data or even reinstall the operating system. As always, we’re happy to help you with any computer needs so please contact us with any questions!