How to Upgrade Your Desktop PC

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Computers have become integral parts of many of our lives; they allow us to work remotely from the comfort of our own homes, surf the web, and connect with millions of other people all around the globe. But unfortunately, like all other technological devices, computers become outdated rather quickly. Computers from just ten years ago are considered obsolete and can’t perform on the same level as a PC made today.

 As a result, it’s necessary to upgrade a computer every few years in order to keep it from being outdated. So today, we’re going to discuss whether you should upgrade your desktop PC, which parts you should probably upgrade, and how much time and money it will realistically cost for you to do so.

Note: while most desktop PCs, whether custom or pre-built, are upgradable in some form, check to make sure you won’t be voiding any warranties before upgrading a pre-built PC.

Why Should You Upgrade Your PC?

In order to answer the “why upgrade” question, you need to ask yourself what you use your computer for, and how frequently you use it. This is fairly important, as the more heavily you rely on your computer, the more important it is to upgrade it. Those who work entirely from home via their home computer should definitely prioritize having a modern and reliable PC, with modern PC parts. The speed of one’s computer directly impacts one’s level of productivity, so it’s absolutely integral to have a PC with modern parts.

 On the other hand, if you only use your computer during your downtime for surfing the web or occasionally chatting with family and friends over Zoom, then you probably don’t need anything fancy. A computer from 8-10 years ago might be perfectly adequate to satisfy your needs. But, if it is starting to feel a little sluggish, it might be time for an upgrade.

 

Should You Fully Upgrade Your PC?

The nice thing about computers is that they are made up of about a dozen different parts, and as a result, they don’t all have to be upgraded at the same time. Therefore, if you can’t afford to drop $1,000+ all at once, you can upgrade one part at a time over the course of several months. Some PC parts also become outdated faster than others, so that’s another good point to consider.

 

How Much Does It Cost to Upgrade a PC?

The cost of upgrading can generally be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. Some parts are fairly inexpensive to upgrade, whilst many top-of-the-line PC parts can get a bit more costly. But, generally speaking, you should be able to upgrade most PC parts somewhat affordably.

How Do You Upgrade Your PC?

Overall, the process of upgrading your PC is fairly easy if you follow the instructions carefully. Every component of a computer is upgradable. Upgrading some parts are as simple as unplugging the old component and plugging in the new one. But some parts aren’t quite as simple. Let’s discuss each individual PC part and dig into when it’s appropriate to upgrade it, and the process of how to perform said upgrade. First, we’ll start with graphics cards:

 Graphics Card (GPU)

Graphics cards are some of the fastest to become outdated. PC aficionados who buy the latest and greatest graphics cards every year can end up spending thousands of dollars over the years. While graphics cards are responsible for rendering the images on your screen and are mostly used when playing video games, graphics production software, or other niche tasks like mining cryptocurrency, if you’re a light user, the integrated graphics built into certain processors may be enough.

When should you upgrade your GPU? Consider upgrading your GPU if you happen to use any programs that require powerful graphical hardware in order to function. 3D modeling software, video editing, and gaming-related tasks all require decent graphics cards. If you’re a gamer, then you should also consider purchasing a powerful GPU. But please, also remember that you don’t need the new top-of-the-line card: cards from 2-4 years ago should do the job just fine.

How to upgrade your GPU: GPUs are fairly straightforward to upgrade. First, you need to uninstall the driver of your old graphics card (if you are indeed swapping out GPUs) and then unplug your old card. Next, you’ll need to plug the new card into the same slot, as well as wiring up the necessary power connectors. Then, you’ll need to install the new driver and finally connect an HDMI or other video connector, such as Display Port, from your monitor directly into your card (instructions on how to do this will vary slightly depending on your graphics card). Overall, it’s a very simple process that should take no more than a half-hour.

 Processor (CPU)

The processor is essentially the brain of the computer. Every task that a computer performs is dictated by the processor, so for that reason, it’s one of the most important components. When shopping for a new CPU, you’ll need to carefully figure out whether or not it is fully compatible with the rest of your computer -- some processors don’t work with certain motherboards, so you’ll need to do a bit of research in order to decide which CPU is the best fit for you.

When should you upgrade your CPU? Similar to the GPU, you should consider upgrading your GPU if you happen to use a lot of programs on your PC that demand a lot from it. But unlike the GPU, which is only used with some programs, the CPU is used by essentially every computer program. And the more programs and tasks that are running at once, the greater strain your CPU will be put under. So, if you’re somebody that uses their computer to run several different demanding programs at once, such as video livestreaming software, web browsers, video game applications, etc. then you may want to consider upgrading your CPU. 

How to upgrade your CPU: Upgrading a CPU can be a lengthy (and sometimes annoying) process. First thing’s first, you must ensure that your new processor is compatible with all of your other PC components. Do your research, and make sure that your CPU will properly work with everything, including your motherboard.

Next, before starting this process, you’ll need a few things right off the bat to install a CPU: a screwdriver, thermal paste, and an anti-static cloth (if you’re doing this process on a carpet). In order to install your new CPU, you’ll first have to uninstall the old one. This means that you need to use a screwdriver to get inside your computer’s case, and remove your CPU cooler. Once you remove your CPU cooling system, you’ll have to remove your old CPU. Make sure to be delicate with it as you remove it, and be sure to place it inside of an anti-static bag if you plan on reusing or selling it.

When you finally have the old CPU removed, you need to put the new one in next. Before putting the new CPU inside, you must apply thermal paste to it -- after applying a generous (but not too much – about the size of a pea) amount of thermal paste, place the new CPU in place and then reinstall your CPU cooler. Then, boot up your computer again, and viola! You’re all set.

 CPU Cooler

Similar to case fans, the CPU cooler is used to keep your computer at a safe temperature, and to prevent the entire system from overheating. But unlike case fans, the CPU cooler is mounted directly onto the CPU and specifically manages the health of the computer’s processor unit. Not many folks upgrade their CPU coolers, but those who do often upgrade from a fan cooler to a liquid cooler.

When should you upgrade your CPU cooler? Consider upgrading your CPU cooler if you bought a pre-built computer, and you notice that your computer feels unnecessarily hot or slow. This may be caused by the unit’s CPU cooler. Many PC aficionados prefer upgrading to liquid coolers as they are usually more quiet and efficient than many fan coolers.

 How to upgrade your CPU cooler - The process of upgrading CPU coolers is fairly easy but does require removing the CPU as well -- so as a result, you’ll need both a screwdriver and some additional thermal paste. You’ll need to unscrew your old cooling system from your motherboard, remove your CPU, and then install your new cooler by screwing it in the old one’s place, apply additional thermal paste to your CPU, and reinstall that as well. It shouldn’t take too long, but it can be a bit tedious to perform.

 RAM

Many folks aren’t terribly familiar with RAM, or with what it does exactly. Well, RAM-- which stands for Random Access Memory-- is quite simple. It functions as being super-fast temporary data storage, which a computer uses immediately. One of the great benefits of having additional RAM is your computer will work faster and more efficiently. More RAM means more room to process data, which means smoother computer usage.

 When should you upgrade your RAM? You should consider upgrading RAM if you notice that your computer is taking longer than it should to complete tasks. If you have a computer that only has 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and you notice that it isn’t working as fast as it should, then most definitely consider doubling your RAM storage. If you already have plenty of RAM storage (16GB or more) then the issue may be your CPU instead.

 How to upgrade your RAM - This one’s easy. All you have to do is turn off your computer, open your case up, remove your old RAM cards (or just add more, if you have available slots!), and insert the new ones. Just be careful to not touch the connector-end of the RAM stick.

 Case Fans

Case fans are important, as they ensure that your computer is properly ventilated and keep the unit from overheating. PC users rarely need to upgrade their PC case fans, and typically only ever do so if their computer is currently experiencing problems due to overheating. The only other reason that somebody would possibly want to upgrade their fans is because they wish to add some RGB lighting to their unit.

 When should you upgrade your Case Fans? You should consider installing additional case fans if your PC is currently overheating, or not working at its best due to poor air circulation. Before you purchase more fans, however, make sure that your PC is getting optimal air circulation; the cause for overheating doesn’t necessarily have to do with the number of fans, but also where they are positioned in your case and the way in which they are blowing air. Overheating PCs is sometimes simply due to poorly placed case fans.

 Another reason that many PC users upgrade their fans is simply because they want fans that have RGB lighting; this is simply done for looks and has nothing to do with functionality. If you want your computer to look cooler and enjoy how RGB lights look, maybe consider buying some RGB case fans.

How to upgrade Case Fans - Upgrading case fans is as simple as unscrewing the old fans, and rescrewing in new ones. Make sure you have enough case fan ports available on your motherboard; if you run out of ports, you can always purchase a case fan splitter cable and use it to plug in additional fans.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not upgrading your PC is best for you. With so many different options, it can be daunting to decide but hopefully, this guide was some level of help to you. If you decided that you would like to upgrade your PC but are in need of some help, then Micro Center can help. Click here to learn more about Micro Center’s hardware installation services that we offer.

More from the Micro Center Community:

Looking for more information about Building a PC? We’ve got PC Build Guides as well as articles on How to Choose Parts for you Custom PC BuildProduct Reviews, and Part Comparisons. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to post a new discussion and the Community will be happy to help!

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