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PC Upgrade Considerations

Your Computer: Upgrade Considerations
Is your computer starting to slow down and show its age? Are you unable to install and run new programs because of the speed, hard drive space or memory requirements? It may be time to consider buying a new computer or upgrading the one you have.

Upgrading your PC can involve simple upgrades such as memory (RAM) or hard drives, or can be more involved with processor and motherboard upgrades.

Here are some things to consider:


Memory (RAM) is one of the most effective upgrades you can make on your system. RAM pricing fluctuates frequently, based on the principles of supply and demand. At present, RAM prices have dropped and upgrading your RAM is the least expensive upgrade you can make. Some considerations for purchasing more memory include access time and compatibility with existing RAM in your system. The lower the memory's access time, the higher the CPU bus it will support. On the other hand, quality is also very important. High-quality memory has a better tolerance for higher CPU bus frequencies.

Don't be afraid to be extravagant when picking the size of the memory, because the more memory you have, the less accesses Windows will be making to its swap file (i.e. the virtual memory - or a portion of the free hard drive it uses in performing normal operations). The swap file is much slower than the regular memory, so it's very important to maximize your faster RAM and limit the amount your system has to access the slower virtual memory on your hard drive.

Hard Drive
When buying a new hard drive (HDD), many people only take into consideration its size. But hard drives may also differ in terms of speed. Since the hard drive is one of the major bottlenecks as far as the computer's overall performance is concerned, it's extremely important to have a fast drive if you want to have a fast computer. Even if the size of your current drive fits your needs, a hard drive upgrade can give you a good performance boost. When searching for a new hard drive, look for it's access time (usually measured in milliseconds). It's like a summary of the HDD's performance. The faster the HDD is, the smaller its access time. Also, make sure to check out how much cache it has, and how many rotations per minute it performs (RPM). In both cases, the bigger, the better. If you have some extra money to spend, SCSI hard drives are much faster than the regular IDE ones, but they're usually much more expensive as well, and require a SCSI controller card, which you have to purchase separately. They're definitely not the best bang for the buck, but if you're looking for top performance, then they can't be beaten.

Video Card
For your viewing pleasure... The video card in your computer has a major impact on the way you view your work and games. 2D, 3D, video memory and refresh rates are all important considerations when upgrading your video card. Most of the time, you are working in a 2D mode on your computer - so a high 2D performance of the video card is important. 3D performance is important for games and multimedia. If you have a bigger monitor, such as a 21" one, make sure that your video card supports the resolution you're expecting to use, at a comfortable refresh rate (i.e. 75Hz or higher), and with at least 16-bit colors.

The performance difference between two video cards using the same chipset may vary a lot, because other factors, such as the quality of the RAM used in the card and the frequency at which the chipset is running are important in the card's performance.

The connection type of the card (the slot on the motherboard that the video card uses) also has an impact - AGP cards are better than PCI ones, because the data bandwidth of the AGP slot is greater, and also because the AGP bus is twice as fast as the PCI one.

Buying a CPU is a difficult task due to the wide range of options. You can choose between Intel Pentium processors, or Celeron and AMD chips. If you're interested in a CPU, the first thing to look for is its performance in business and multimedia/gaming. You also need to know whether or not your motherboard can work with the new CPU. You can usually find this information at the manufacturer's website.

If you have determined that you will also need a new motherboard to go along with the new CPU, always try to purchase a motherboard that appears to have the best upgradability. The variety of CPU bus options is the first thing to look for. It's very important to have many CPU bus options if you want to maximize your CPU's performance. Pseudo-sync memory bus is a good feature to look for, because it allows you to use a faster CPU bus without having to purchase faster memory DIMMs. As far as performance is concerned, the best thing to do is to find out the motherboard's chipset. The chipset is the part of the motherboard which is mostly responsible for its performance. If you're trying to find out if a certain motherboard is fast but you don't have any benchmarks of it, try to look at the scores of motherboards with the same chipset, the performance won't be much different from those. If the type of motherboard you intend to buy has a built-in L2 cache, try to look for the one with the greater amount of cache. The price difference usually isn't very high, but it can make quite a difference in performance. It's equally important to find out how much memory your motherboard can cache. Because if you exceed the maximum amount of cacheable memory, it will run much slower. Make sure that the maximum amount of cacheable memory is big enough to handle some of your future RAM upgrades. And finally, the motherboard design is always crucial. Whenever it's possible, prefer the ATX motherboards, because they tend to have a much better design than the AT ones. A good number of PCI slots is good, so that you can accommodate all your cards, and a greater amount of DIMM slots is also a plus.

Final Considerations
When you are considering upgrades to your computer, consider especially the cost of doing so. You may have spent $3,000 or more on your computer 3 or 4 years ago. Upgrades to improve your computer can cost you as much as buying a new system today, and you may not be able to achieve the same performance with an upgraded system as a brand new computer. For example, you may be able to upgrade your Pentium 200 MHz to a 400 MHz system, but consider that new systems are now available at speeds higher than 2GHz (more than 2000 MHz).

If upgrading your computer will cost you half of the cost of a new system, you may wish to consider buying new.

For a professional consultation on determining if your PC needs upgrading, please click HERE or call (800) 297-9695.





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