Upgrade

Upgrading a PC? Your choices range from installing more RAM to custom building a case designed for a DIY liquid cooling system. Which upgrades are the best depends on your PC. What specs does it have right now? Are you gaming, editing 4K videos, or just browsing the web? No matter what you are looking for, we either have the parts you need or can perform these upgrades for you. Just contact for a quote!

Here are five common PC upgrades and which systems will see the most improvement from them. We’re also marking how hard we think these various upgrades are. Most are easy to do, though some might take a little more thought and planning than others.

Add a Solid-State Drive

A Samsung solid-state drive
Samsung
  • Upgrade difficulty: Easy
  • Device type: Desktop or laptop
  • This is the classic rudimentary upgrade that makes a dramatic difference—especially for aging systems. If your laptop or desktop computer is running off a hard drive, then grabbing a 2.5-inch SSD will make a big difference. Your PC will feel more responsive, and boot times can shorten dramatically. Given the current state of flash storage, you’re probably better off with a triple-level cell (TLC) drive than quad-level cell (QLC).

If you’re already rocking a 2.5-inch SATA-based SSD, the next step would be upgrading to an NVMe M.2 drive. This will also improve general responsiveness and boot times, but not as dramatically as with a hard drive.

M.2 drives come with one caveat: Your PC needs a special M.2 PCIe slot. Most modern desktop motherboards should have it, but laptop capabilities will vary a lot. Check your motherboard or device manual to see if your system supports these drives.

More RAM

G.Skill
  • Upgrade difficulty: Easy
  • Device type: Desktop or laptop

Should you add more RAM to your setup, or will it be a pointless exercise? That depends a lot on what you’re doing. If you use a PC to stream video, write documents in Microsoft Word, and edit the occasional photo, then 8 gigabytes (GB) might be all you need. Gamers will often be happiest with at least 16 GB, especially when playing modern AAA video games.

Then there are media-rich tasks. If you’re getting into serious video editing as a hobby, 32 GB of RAM might be ideal.

The bottom line is there’s an optimal amount of RAM your system needs to do its job. If you add more RAM beyond that, you won’t see much improvement, if any.

Using these general guidelines, you should be able to estimate how much RAM you need. If it’s not enough, then try doubling it and see how that goes.

Also consider the limits of your motherboard and CPU. They can handle only a certain amount of RAM—though it’s usually quite a bit. Remember that when you buy new RAM, it must all be the same speed (measured in MHz).

Once you’re organized, changing RAM on a desktop is as simple as slotting in the new RAM modules and turning on the machine. Laptops are a little more complex and usually require opening an access panel on the bottom, or sometimes removing the keyboard. Be aware that some laptops cannot accept RAM upgrades at all because the RAM is soldered onto the motherboard’s PCB.

Swap Out Your Graphics Card

AMD's Radeon RX 5700 XT
AMD
  • Upgrade difficulty: Easy
  • Device type: Desktop PCs

If you have the right amount of RAM in your system and your games are running off an SSD, the next step to improving performance is to upgrade the graphics card. Before you swap your GPU, ask yourself what resolution your monitor is. If you get a graphics card that’s awesome for 4K gaming but you only play at 1080p, then you could’ve done with a far cheaper graphics card.

If your CPU is particularly old, you might need a newer one before upgrading your graphics card. However, you can get surprisingly far with an older CPU combined with a newer graphics card. Besides, if it’s time to upgrade the CPU, then it’s likely time for a total system overhaul.

Once you’ve got a new card, undo the slot latch, remove the old card’s power cable and take it out, slide in the new one, and reconnect the power, if your card requires it. Then you just have to install the card’s new drivers and you’re off to the races. For a more detailed look at the upgrade process, check out our tutorial on how to upgrade and install a new graphics card in your PC.

Upgrade Your CPU

A stylized CPU on a motherboard
  • Upgrade difficulty: Intermediate
  • Device type: Desktop PCs

Upgrading your CPU is not difficult, but it’s harder than slotting in some new RAM modules or changing your graphics card. Before you decide to get a new CPU, check which models are compatible with your motherboard. The motherboard CPU socket must be compatible with the processor you want—the socket is the space where the CPU fits on a motherboard.

Beware, however, that CPU makers (particularly Intel) can have different versions of the same socket type. A SkyLake-compatible LGA 1151 socket, for example, is not compatible with the LGA 1151 sockets that Coffee Lake processors use.

In general, it’s better to upgrade your motherboard and CPU at the same time. However, at times, it  will make sense to just upgrade the processor. For example, you might catch a really good CPU sale.

Changing the CPU is a little different depending on whether you have an AMD or Intel motherboard. Essentially, however, all you do is remove the old CPU, gently drop in the new one, and secure it. Then it’s just a matter of attaching your CPU cooling fan or liquid cooling solution.