Best Bang for your Buck Up­grades

Go­ing cheap.

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents -

Not every­one can af­ford to shell out for a new PC ev­ery few years to stay at the cut­ting edge of PC gam­ing, but for rel­a­tively lit­tle money you can markedly im­prove the per­for­mance of your PC one com­po­nent at a time.


Backup all your data, wipe your pri­mary drive and re­in­stall your OS. This is the cheap­est and eas­i­est way to get some ex­tra per­for­mance from your PC. After a few years of run­ning, your OS will build up a whole load of cruft that takes up valu­able cy­cles, hogs RAM and gen­er­ally makes your ma­chine run slower than it should. These files aren’t nec­es­sar­ily ma­lig­nant or ma­li­cious, but they are a royal pain in the butt. Reg­u­lar main­te­nance can keep your OS run­ning smoothly, but if you haven’t been dili­gent in clear­ing out all the ac­cu­mu­lated crap from unin­stalled pro­grams, hard­ware changes, driver up­dates, cook­ies and the like, then nuk­ing the site from or­bit and start­ing again is a good way to make your PC feel fresh again. It’s also free, so there’s that too.


If you’re run­ning a 64-bit ver­sion of Win­dows and have less than 8Gb RAM, then an up­grade to 8Gb will make a pal­pa­ble dif­fer­ence to your ma­chine, speed­ing nearly ev­ery op­er­a­tion and al­low­ing games to use more mem­ory that would other­wise be taken up with back­ground tasks. If you al­ready have at least 8Gb RAM then an up­grade to 16Gb won’t be as no­tice­able, but will make things run more smoothly over­all. If you record and edit footage, use Pho­to­shop or like pro­grams, then the more mem­ory the better. At the mo­ment you can buy an 8Gb RAM pack for around $100 and 16Gb at around twice that.


Although buy­ing new pe­riph­er­als won’t speed up your com­puter, hav­ing a nice key­board and mouse can re­ally change how games feel. In­creased ac­cu­racy and tac­til­ity can re­ally make games feel more re­spon­sive and alive, so if you’re run­ning cheap pe­riph­er­als that came with a PC – a no-name mouse and mem­brane key­board for ex­am­ple – it’s worth look­ing into get­ting your­self a nice new op­ti­cal mouse and en­try level me­chan­i­cal key­board.

New qual­ity pe­riph­er­als can cost you an arm and a leg, but there are some very good bud­get op­tions avail­able, such as the Cooler Master MM530 op­ti­cal mouse which is avail­able for around $59 or the Log­itech G Pro avail­able for a sim­i­lar price. Log­itech also has an excellent bud­get me­chan­i­cal key­board with the G413 for $129, and HyperX has the fan­tas­tic Al­loy FPS key­board avail­able for a sim­i­lar price.


Up­grad­ing a stan­dard HDD to an SSD will change your life. If you al­ready have an SSD run­ning your OS then you know how fast ev­ery­thing boots, but up­grad­ing your game drive to an SSD will make your com­puter feel like new thanks to fast load times, smooth level tran­si­tions and flawless cutscenes. The only prob­lem with using an SSD as your game drive is that you have to be spar­ing with the num­ber of games that you in­stall. With a stan­dard HDD of 2TB, you don’t have to think too much about delet­ing games to fit new ones, but when you’re limited to 250 or 500GB you have to be dili­gent about unin­stalling games you’re no longer play­ing. That said, the abil­ity to have games boot al­most in­stan­ta­neously is fan­tas­tic.

How much the up­grade will cost de­pends on the kind of SSD be­ing in­stalled. SATA SSDs (using a stan­dard HDD con­nec­tion) are the cheap­est, and slow­est op­tion (though still mas­sively faster than a HDD) and are cur­rently avail­able for around $130. NVMe SSDs that use ei­ther M.2 ports on the moth­er­board, or a PCIE slot are faster but also more ex­pen­sive, so will set you back around $175 or so, and around dou­ble that for a 500GB.


When it comes to gam­ing, no one up­grade will feel as mon­u­men­tal as get­ting a new GPU, but how much you’ll get out of the card ul­ti­mately de­pends on how pow­er­ful the rest of the sys­tem is. There’s lit­tle rea­son to shell out $1000 for a cut­ting edge GPU when the rest of the ma­chine is five years old and is made up of mid-range hard­ware. It used to be that you could pick up pre­mium cards from the pre­vi­ous GPU gen­er­a­tion for cheap when a new gen­er­a­tion came out, but in the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion that no longer seems to be the case, with R9 390 and GTX 980 cards sell­ing for around $550.

Luck­ily there are some very good cheap card in the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion perfect for play­ing at 1080p or even 1440p. A 3GB GTX 1060 can be pur­chased for around $290 and is as fast as the GTX 980. The 6GB ver­sion of the GTX 1060 can be found for around $370 and is around half again as fast as the GTX 980.

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