Upgrading a PC for yourself can actually be rather rewarding (especially considering there are monetary savings to be had), but to many it’s a daunting task. Whilst a full overhaul may never appeal to everyone, there are always components and peripherals you can swap or add that will do wonders for your system. If you’re building to play the latest games especially, consider swapping these parts for something new before you ditch your entire machine:
Ever since the now defunct 3DFX’s Voodoo range, the first thing any PC builder replaces when they are upgrading is the Graphics Card. Featuring components that are very specifically engineered to make graphical computing tasks faster, these cards will still provide the biggest jump for most machines. They’re also the easiest thing to install in your machine, and finding a decent card is a pretty straightforward process (bigger numbers mean better cards, spend as much over £150 / $250 as you want to).
However, it’s important to acknowledge that there are limits to what a new card can do for you. Very old motherboards will be incompatible with modern graphics cards, (the latest PCI-E v2.1 and v3.0 specification may not be supported by older motherboards). More importantly though, a good graphics card can be held back by not enough ram, or a weak processor.
No full-sized machine set up for everyday tasks really ought to have any less than 4GB of RAM these days. A games machine ought to have at least 8GB, and 16GB ought to future-proof you against the more data intensive games just around the corner. Broadly speaking, more RAM means that complex visual and mathematical elements – models, textures and the like – can be stored close at hand. This reduces load times and the risk of sudden, prolonged loading spikes during gameplay. It’s also important to get high speed RAM. DDR3 RAM with a 1600Mhz (1.6 Ghz) speed is the current standard.
Hard Drive (Solid State Drives)
Hard disk sizes kept rising and prices kept falling, and now the days of the cheap Terabyte hard drive are a reality. We’re now finally in an age where a Hard-Drive is no more hassle to purchase and install than an optical disc drive. Buy a large enough drive, and never have to worry about your data again.
Or perhaps not. The fact is that the access speeds of a spinning hard disk drive and its data-reading head aren’t especially impressive in modern computing terms. The new pretender to the throne is the SSD – the Solid State Drive. In simple terms, SSDs are like large flash memory disks (not entirely unlike those in mobile devices). They can be accessed, written and rewritten almost instantaneously, translating into extremely fast data access speeds on any PC they’re added to. The only problem is size (well, and cost): you get about 1/6th of the capacity for nearly twice the price of a typical Hard Disk drive.
Nothing is stopping you from running a gaming PC with a SSD and a conventional Hard Disk drive, though. Stick your Operating System on the SSD and all your games on the conventional disk and you’ll be laughing.
Often overlooked (though you’re almost certainly literally looking at one right now), having a good monitor is essential for gaming. The 1920×1080 resolution typical of ‘High Definition’ entertainment (e.g. Blu Ray) is the standard for current gaming PCs. But if you’re adventuring into screens of 27” and above, you should seriously consider investing in the sharpness of a 2560×1440 screen. High refresh 3D-capable monitors are certainly within reach too, and 3D technology is certainly most exciting when implemented in games.
Steph Wood has built several PC builds in the past, and is currently writing for Novatech who offer the best cheap laptops to UK customers.