Up­grade your PC

Give your PC a new lease of life (and save money) by up­grad­ing key com­po­nents rather than buy­ing a new model from scratch

Windows Help & Advice - - WINDOWS SPEED UP YOUR PC -

When you re­ally want to speed up Win­dows, there’s sim­ply no sub­sti­tute for up­grad­ing your hard­ware. That doesn’t mean show­ing your ex­ist­ing PC the door, though – if your bud­get doesn’t stretch to a new top-of-the-range model, you can look at se­lected up­grades that will rev­o­lu­tionise the way you use your ma­chine.

Let’s start with the big­gest po­ten­tial bot­tle­neck: your com­puter’s hard drive. The emer­gence of solid-state drives (SSDs) en­sures that you can no­tice­ably speed up your sys­tem with just one up­grade – mov­ing your Win­dows in­stall on to an SSD will achieve far more than all the clean­ing and sys­tem tweaks com­bined, how­ever use­ful they are.

SSDs are priced at a pre­mium, which lim­its the amount of stor­age you can have. That might be an is­sue if you’re up­grad­ing a lap­top, but if you’ve have a desk­top with a 500GB hard drive and space to spare, you can add a rel­a­tively small SSD – 128GB or even 64GB if you don’t have that many apps – and use that ex­clu­sively for Win­dows and your pro­grams, keep­ing all of your data on your older, slower hard drive.

The process doesn’t have to be a dif­fi­cult one – the step-by-step guide on the fac­ing page re­veals how to clone Win­dows from an ex­ist­ing hard drive to an SSD with­out hav­ing to re­in­stall.

More mem­ory please

The other way in which you can give your Win­dows ma­chine a new lease of life with­out in­cur­ring too much ex­pense is by max­ing out the RAM. Go to a web­site like https://uk.cru­cial.com, se­lect your PC or moth­er­board make and model and dis­cover how much mem­ory your PC can sup­port, then aim to buy as much mem­ory as you can af­ford – 4GB is a com­fort­able min­i­mum, while 16GB will re­ally help your PC to fly.

If your com­puter only has two mem­ory slots, then chances are you’ll be re­plac­ing the mem­ory you al­ready have, but if it has four slots, you should be able to add to your ex­ist­ing RAM, thereby help­ing to keep the cost down.

Prices vary de­pend­ing on the type of mem­ory you need, but ex­pect to pay around £40 for 4GB, £65 for 8GB and £130 for 16GB – buy mem­ory in pairs for max­i­mum per­for­mance.

Other up­grades

Lap­top users are pretty much stuck with ex­tra mem­ory and a new stor­age drive. Desk­top users have some ad­di­tional op­tions, although the cost will start ris­ing. If you’re a gamer, you may be tempted by a new graph­ics card. Mod­ern pro­ces­sors in­clude pow­er­ful graph­ics on­board – ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing 4K Ul­tra HD video for ex­am­ple – but a dis­crete card has some ad­van­tages, in­clud­ing com­ing with its own mem­ory and be­ing clocked at higher speeds. When choos­ing, be aware that NVIDIA cards are sup­ported for much longer than AMD ones.

If you reg­u­larly per­form CPU-in­ten­sive tasks, such as HD video en­cod­ing or edit­ing, then you might be tempted to con­sider buy­ing a new pro­ces­sor. The prob­lem here is that un­less your PC or moth­er­board is rel­a­tively new, you may not be able to source a more pow­er­ful CPU for it, such as an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7. That’s be­cause pro­ces­sors get re­freshed on an an­nual ba­sis, and aren’t back­wards-com­pat­i­ble. This means that you’d also have to fac­tor in the cost of a moth­er­board up­grade, although you’ll also gain from other im­prove­ments if you do that – new moth­er­boards are likely to in­clude USB 3.0, which is ten times faster than USB 2.0, as well as SATA-III drive ports, for ex­am­ple.

The down­side of em­bark­ing on such an up­grade cy­cle is that the costs soon start to mount: re­place the moth­er­board and pro­ces­sor and you’ll prob­a­bly have to re­place your RAM too. You may even need a higher-rated power sup­ply and then there’s the ques­tion of Win­dows. A moth­er­board up­grade will trig­ger a re­ac­ti­va­tion of Win­dows, which isn’t a prob­lem if your copy is a re­tail one, but if Win­dows came pre-in­stalled when you bought your PC then you’ll have to pur­chase a new li­cence. If that’s the case, you may find it’s cheaper to just buy a new PC – see our April 2017 is­sue for more ad­vice.

“The prob­lem is here is that un­less your PC or moth­er­board is rel­a­tively new, you may not be able to source a more pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor for it”

If you only up­grade one PC com­po­nent, make it your hard drive.

Fit RAM in pairs for max­i­mum per­for­mance ben­e­fit.

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