There can be several reasons as to why you want to upgrade your PC. One of the more common reasons is to increase performance. For maximal performance, it is recommended to replace your computer after four years, but some machines can serve you longer if given the right upgrades.

In this article, I will walk you through different reasons why you should upgrade your PC. I will also discuss how you can make an informed decision that will maximize your system's performance while not spending unnecessary dollars.

Decide if Your Computer Is Worth Upgrading

Before deciding on how often you need to upgrade your PC, you need to know if your computer is worth upgrading.

With an older computer, you have certain limits. At some point, it becomes unnecessary to spend any more money on components that are not future proof.
For example, if you have an older CPU that you want to upgrade, the socket version is not the same as the newer ones. A new CPU will not fit in your existing motherboard, causing the upgrade to become much more expensive.

Here comes the PC upgrading domino effect, that upgrading something initially small will make you have to upgrade the majority of the parts. This is a sign that your computer is getting old, and that upgrading individual parts might not be a sound idea.

If you have a computer that is in good shape, but recently started slacking, identify the bottleneck. Analyze if that part that is causing the drop in performance is easily upgradable.

Identify the Bottleneck

If the computer is in good shape and not too old to keep, but you suspect that a singular part keeps it from performing as it should, you have to identify that part.

The best way to identify a bottleneck is to make a list of the components in your computer that affect performance the most, namely the following:

  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Hard Drive
  • Graphics Card

Of these parts, usually the following are easily upgradable and therefore worth upgrading:

  • Memory
  • Hard Drive
  • Graphics Card

Make a list of software that you want to be able to run smoothly. For example, Adobe Photoshop.

Lastly, search the internet to find out what system requirements the software that you want to want to run requires in terms of hardware, to see what part of your computer needs upgrading.

Please see the 'Recommended Hardware' instead of the 'Minimum Requirements'. This makes sure that the hardware in your computer is not just enough to start the software, but also to run it smoothly. Compare the 'Recommended Hardware' to your current components to see if you can identify a clear bottleneck.

Often, when it comes to disk, the requirements only mention disk space, however, there is a second factor to consider, the speed of your disk space.

If you have an HDD, upgrade that to an SSD promptly, the slow HDD probably is the reason your computer is slow. The fastest hard drive on the market today is called NVMe, but an SSD drive will do the trick.

Upgrade the Upgradable Parts

Not every computer component can be upgraded without triggering what I referred to as the domino effect. The hard drive, the graphics card, and the memory are all easily upgradeable. Below, I have written about how to determine if one of those components needs upgrading.

Upgrade the RAM Memory

The RAM is responsible for storing data that must be accessible quickly. Among the standard upgrades done on PCs, the RAM is crucial for maintaining high performance. With an increased number of running applications on your computer, more RAM is required. You can improve your old computer by upgrading its RAM.

First off, decide whether or not you need more RAM. This is easy, just open the application that you want to be able to run smoothly, and press CTRL, ALT, and DEL at the same time, and click on 'Task Manager'.

Once you have opened Task Manager, just click on 'Memory', it should be the second option from the top, just after 'CPU'. If it uses nearly all of your memory, it is time to upgrade the RAM.

If you determine that you need some more RAM, make sure to see what version of RAM that you have, usually, it will be DDR3 or DDR4. It starts with DDR and ends with a number. You can spot this in the window that you already have opened. I have taken a screenshot on my Windows computer for you to easily spot where to look.

This is where to look for your RAM version on Windows 10 using Task Manager.

A memory upgrade is the least expensive part of a computer upgrade. Instead of saying that you need this or that amount of RAM, I will simply ask you to search online regarding the memory usage of the software that you want to run and make sure that you have enough RAM to cover that with some margin.

It is highly recommended to have memory sticks of the same size, for example, if you are using a 4 GB stick right now, and want 8 GB of ram, another 4 GB stick will suffice, but if you have 2 GB of RAM, it might be worth getting two 4 GB sticks to avoid any issues.

Also, make sure that your CPU and motherboard, as well as your version of Windows, support the amount of RAM that you are planning to get, usually, this is not an issue, but better safe than sorry. If you bought a new, prebuilt computer, this is something that you can ask the retailer.

Upgrade an HDD to an SSD

Does your computer use an older HDD? New SSD's are affordable, and you can choose to use the SSD alongside the existing HDD, installing your most important software on it. Using the SSD as a second disk as opposed to replacing your current HDD, the installation should not take more than a few minutes.

SSDs lower the booting time dramatically. Opening an application can go from somewhere around 2 minutes to just a few seconds. However, it is necessary to check to make sure that the motherboard can support the SSD in terms of speed so that your motherboard does not bottleneck the SSD. Also, if you are planning to use the SSD as a second drive, make sure that the computer case has available disk slots so that you can fit the additional drive.

Upgrade the Graphics Card

If you use your PC for any graphically intensive task such as gaming or video editing, make sure that the graphics card is not a bottleneck. Installing a new graphics card is usually an easy thing to accomplish, and there are rarely issues with compatibility.

To see if your graphics card might bottleneck your system, open Task Manager, and select 'GPU 0'. Below I have taken a screenshot of where to identify your GPU model on the Task Manager window.

The marked text is where you find the GPU model that your computer has installed.

Once you know the GPU that your other use, search online for the GPU model followed by the software that you would like to be able to run, combined with 'benchmark'.

Depending on what kind of software you searched for, the benchmarks will be different. For games, you will see FPS benchmarks, how many frames per second that a computer with your graphics card can show.

If you searched for a different type of software, the benchmarks online will be based on the time that it takes to perform tasks on the software in question.

If you consider the numbers low, a new graphic card is probably something that you should get. Bring your list of components, and ask the store personnel if the graphics card is compatible with your current setup. You must also bring a measurement of the case to make sure that the GPU that the store personnel recommends fits in your computer case.

Improve the Cooling System

Overheating could be ruining your performance, if your computer is getting hot, it will slow down to avoid overheating. Blowing the dust off the fans will make them perform more effectively.

Improve the Internet Connection

If the asks that are slow are internet-related, you should look up the speed of your network. Google 'Speed Test' to see a widget that lets you try out the speed of your network. Compare this to what the software manufacturer recommends.

If the internet is a bottleneck, upgrade the broadband from DSL to cable or other faster solutions that might be available. If nothing faster is available in your area, there is sadly not a lot that you can do about that.

Final Thoughts

A computer upgrade is a long-term strategy that should be thought out, in detail, before actually upgrading anything. Ask yourself whether the upgrade will improve its performance and for how long it can do that.

Upgrading a system with a clear bottleneck can improve lifespan by a lot. However, spending money on an old PC might not be wise. Spend some time figuring out what you believe is the best way to move forward and to get the most bang for your buck upgrading your PC.