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Upgrade Hardware:

Many computers are built and sold with bare minimal specification, as Microsoft releases updates the operating system can become more resource hungry, and can cause your system to dramatically slow. So read our guides on this page on upgrading hardware to help you choose the next step as compatibility and changes may not always work on your computer.

Upgrade your Graphics Cards - Upgrade your Hard Drive

Upgrade your Memory - Upgrade your Processor


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Upgrade your Graphics Cards

A graphics card change will enhance performance, on the desktop and in games. A definite upgrade to help speed up your system, but be careful what you buy and make sure you have the slot to plug it into.

Check with manufacturer of motherboard or computer to see if they can accept these graphics cards (In order of importance) - PCI-Express graphics card, AGP graphics card, and finally PCI graphics card.

For laptop users you maybe able to increase the amount of Ram that is dedicated to the graphics card. This is usually accessed in the systems BIOS so check with manufacturer or in your manual to see if this can be increased. I find by default its usually the minimal amount. Note though that increasing the memory to the graphics card decreases the memory to your system, you may need to buy more system ram to balance the performance.

About: A graphics card is used to display images on your monitor. Without one you will not be able to see what your computer is doing.

There are four main types, PCI-E (Requires PCI Express slot (Not to be confused with PCI)), AGP graphics cards (requires an AGP slot in your computer), PCI graphics cards (requires a PCI slot in your computer), and onboard video (this is a video card that is merged with the motherboard.)

The more powerful the graphics card the quicker and smoother images will appear on your monitor.

Buyers Guide Part 8 - Graphics Cards

Upgrade your Hard Drive

Hard Drives: Consider upgrading your hard drive, a newer faster drive will definitely make a big difference to your system, if your have the connections, then consider adding a sata drive, even without a sata connection on your board you can purchase an expansion card to add these ports and benefit from the cheaper prices of these faster and larger drives. Most computers now are supplied with SATA hard drives.

About: The hard drive is abbreviated to HDD, as in Hard Disk Drive. The HDD is used as storage by your computer, think of it as a large book shelf that you can put everything into. This allows access to this information, without the need to insert disks, CD's, or other items that you can store information in. Your programs, personal information and operating system will all be here. 

The name "Hard Disk" is often used mistakenly for the tower unit (or case).

There are 4 main different types of hard drives, SCSI, IDE and Serial ATA (SATA), and external. We will cover these briefly.

SCSI HDD (SAS Hard drive) - these drives are for high end users or servers, they are not necessarily faster than SATA drives but they tend to be more reliable, at the same time come with a high price bracket. You should put series thought and research into SCSI drives before buying.

Recommended for : Workstations, mid-level to high-end servers, storage area networks, network attached storage, RAID storage arrays, filing and printing, EMA/Groupware, databases, data mining, CAD, Data Streaming, and intensive graphic applications.

IDE HDD - The IDE drive is the old standard for home and business computers, it has now been largely if not completely replaced by SATA. IDE drives attach to the same connection as your CD and DVD drives, because of the competitiveness of this market you should expect to buy at a very low price. If you wish to change or add a new HDD then you should think IDE first. Remember always buy the largest and fastest you can afford. In present day, as long as your computer supports it, look for at least an 80GB drive that runs at 7200 rpm, and has a 2mb cache.

Recommended for : Old Computer

SERIAL ATA (SATA) - These drives are the Standard for today's computers. All new motherboards now come with connections for the drives. These drives have large capacity, big buffers and have fast transfer rates. 

Be careful what you are buying though, as some older SATA 1.0 (1.5GB) motherboards will not accept SATA 3.0 drives, although SATA 2.0 drives usually work on both, but only at the speed of the drive/port whichever is lowest.

Another type of SATA drive to look out for is SSD (Solid state Drives), these are faster again and tend to be very reliable, although quite expensive.

Recommended for : Home users, small businesses and most gamers

External HDD - Not to be used as your main drive, these are best kept for backup and large data transfer. With the USB 2.0 drives now being the leader of the market this is the best to buy, but remember that before buying, make sure you have USB ports on your computer, and that these ports will support the drive. Always check with manufacturer, as older computers will only have USB 1.1 ports. The drive should work OK, but just make sure. Faster is better though, and if your computer has the ports you should consider USB 3.0 drives and ESATA. These will give you lightning fast access and backups. You could even run your operating system of them.

There are other types of connectors used by external hard drives, ie PCMCIA and Firewire. Always check compatibility with your computer before purchasing.

Buyers Guide - CAPACITY: Depending on what you are using your computer for, will help determine the hard drive size.

ROTATION SPEED: We will make this simple, always buy the fastest RPM drive you can afford, it is well worth the extra expense.

BUFFER SIZE: Most hard drives come with a generous size, usually 2mb or above, only buy the large buffer size (i.e. 8mb) if you are a heavy computer user. High end systems should get 16mb+ buffer size. The higher the better

INTERFACE SPEED: One again always buy the fastest you can get, although this can all depend on your motherboard and what it can support. To get maximum performance from your computer make sure the interface speeds match. ie buy ATA/100 IDE Hard Drive for an ATA/100 motherboard. Although the ATA/133 drive will still work, just not at that speed.

The same goes for SATA 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. See SATA notes above.

INTERFACE TYPE: Buy IDE for IDE, don't buy SCSI if you don't have a SCSI interface, or Serial ATA if you don't have a motherboard that supports it. Always check with your motherboard manufacturer, or manual for support. And try and buy the correct drive for the correct correct port type. ie Buy a SATA 2.0 drive for a SATA 2.0 port.

SEEK SPEED: This is listed in milliseconds, so of very little concern to you the user, but as per usual buy the quickest you can. The quicker the better.

IDE CABLE (For older systems): If you are using a standard IDE cable on your hard drive  (HDD) and both your motherboard and hard drive support UDMA, then changing the cable to a Ultra DMA/ATA IDE Ribbon Cable, will improve performance drastically.

Most Ultra DMA/ATA IDE Ribbon Cables have a blue, yellow or red end, where as standard cables have black connectors at both ends. This can be a major upgrade, with up to a 90% increase in speed.

Upgrade your Memory

Memory Cards:One of the easier options for a speed increase is to add memory. In more modern computers that use DDR, DDR2 or DDR3, you could consider changing your memory to a higher speed and amount. Be careful as the newest high speed memory is not supported by all motherboards. Check with your PC manufacturer or motherboard creator for compatibility.

Also remember that DDR2 or DDR3 is not compatible with DDR, as SDRAM is not compatible with other three. Keeping to the same speed is very important as this can cause system problems, but also reduces the speed of the faster ram to that of the slowest.

Note: You have to use a 64 bit operating system to use more than 3GB of ram.

Memory is simply a part of your computer which has information uploaded to it temporarily, allowing instant access. The more memory you have the more information that can be uploaded, enhancing your computers performance.

Memory comes in many shapes and sizes, and has changed throughout the history of computers.

For the sake of simplicity I will only cover memory sold with computers in today’s market.

The memory mainly sold today is called DDR2 and DDR3. It is broken into three main groups. DDR 3 and DDR2 with 240 pins,  DDR 184-Pin DIMMs, (Desktop computer memory) and DDR 200 Pin SoDIMM (Laptop/Notebook memory). The DDR 200-Pin SoDIMM memory is usually half the physical size of its counterpart, DDR 184-Pin DIMM comes in several speeds (2100, 2700 and 3200), DDR2 sticks are 3200, 4200, 5300 and 6400. The picture below shows a DDR 184-Pin DIMM, none of the memory sticks are compatible with each other.

All of today's desktop computers are sold with DDR2 or DDR3, and they cannot be mixed, and it is best not to mix with different speed types (i.e. DDR2700, or DDR3200) which can cause instability within your computer. If you decide to change to the higher speed memory remember to replace all of it.

So how much memory can you install? Well unfortunately this is down to the motherboard installed in your computer and the operating system you are using. To use more than 3GB of RAM you need a 64bit version of Windows. There is three ways to find out, phone the manufacturer of your computer, look up the motherboard manufacturers website, and if you are lucky check out the motherboard manual. For Windows right click on "COMPUTER" or "MY COIMPUTER" icon and select properties. This will tell you if your operating system is 64 bit or not.

In general though most new computers should be Ok with two 1GB chips of memory, but it is best confirming this before buying.

Finally, this memory can be installed a chip at a time, some people still carry the old belief that you have to install two of the same or it won’t work. Don’t worry as that was along time ago, and PC’s have changed since then

Upgrade your Processor

Processors: A processor upgrade will always boast performance,  but remember your motherboard may not accept it and the upgrade could turn out to be very expensive. You must always check with manufacturer of motherboard to see if it will accept the processor you have in mind.

Changing motherboard and processor may also require memory, hard drive, graphics card change, plus other hardware, never mind a reinstall (Or upgrade of Windows), and the probability of having to reregister it if you don't. This could cause issues if your PC was originally manufactured.

So if you wish to change then it would be best to consult a retailer for latest products and compatibility.


 Tags: change hardware, upgrade hardware, upgrade graphics card, change pcie, pcie, agp,change hard drive, change memory, ddr, ddr2, ddr3, Change processor