Best Computer Upgrades

I normally clean out all the old temp files and registry entries (two things that slow down a computer) whenever I work on a computer. That’s standard procedure for any service call and can help software wise.

The next area to look at is to upgrade some of the primary hardware that runs your computer. The best three in order of performance increase are RAM, Video Cards, and hard drives. Most of the older computers came with 512 Megs of RAM or less. The video card may be a component on the motherboard and a low-end hard drive.

All three of these hardware items can cause a bottleneck for daily operation. With Windows XP, RAM and video play a big part in the day-to-day performance. Since disk access is often and files are constantly being accessed and written, the data transfer rate and speed at which the platters spin on your hard drive comes into play.

So the next best bang for the buck is to increase the amount of ram in the computer. It’s pretty cheap these days (about $30 for a meg of RAM on most) and if they have less than a Meg of RAM they can really notice the improvement. Its quick and cheap upgrade.

The next are that would help would be to replace the video card or add RAM to the video card if possible. Many of the newer low-end computers borrow RAM from the system, which is economical from the manufacturing side but not the most efficient for the operation.

The newer versions of all the major video cards have their own processors and RAM on board the card. This adds quite a bit of punch to the refresh rate and can have a big impact for most computers. Video cards also have a host of features that can help speed up some graphic operations.

You can get a pretty good generic card (no big name) for about $64 with 64 Megs of RAM on board. Or if you want the very fastest chipset and 512 Megs of RAM, TV tuner, and more onboard you can spend about $750. Most casual users would get a very good boost in performance with the 64 Meg card.

The next area that can always use some help is the hard disk. Your hard disk really has two factors that dictate the speed it operates. One is the type of connection; the other is the speed the hard drive spins. The newer hard drives have what’s called a Serial ATA interface, which can move data at up to 350mbps (megabytes per second). The older ones are limited to 100-133mbps.

The speed the platters spin can affect the ability to access the data. Older drives have speeds up to 5500 rpm, and many are 4400 rpm. Many of the newer drives spin up to 7200 rpm or even 10,000 rpm. The newer units also come with buffers that can hold frequent data accessed and allow for even faster operation.

A new brand name Serial ATA 250 gig hard drive with 7200 rpm and 16 MB buffer runs around $90. If you’re moving up from an old 4400 rpm hard drive the increase in performance is noticeable. The hard drive install is fairly straightforward but transferring your data and OS can get a little more involved. Although most hard drive manufacturers do provide menu driven software to do the transfer for you.

Any one of these upgrades would help but if your computer is 2-3 years old, why not just do all three. The cost would be under $200 and you will think you got a new computer with the performance increase. A local computer shop would probably only charge you and extra $50 to install all three if you buy them there.

Or if you’re pretty handy with a screwdriver, buy the parts on eBay and do it yourself. You could probably knock down the price to $175. The RAM and Video Cards just plug, but the hard drive and transfer would be a little more challenging.

Any computer that is 4-5 years old or olderArticle Submission, I’d save your money and just by a new one since you can find a fairly good deal for as little as $500 these days. Watch for the specials from Dell or one of the other big direct sellers.