Inexpensive Computer Upgrades
My computer is showing signs of age, but I can't afford a new one. What hardware upgrades do you recommend to improve speed and usability for those with older computers?
Top Five Computer Upgrades
So your friends are all getting new computers, but you can't afford one. That doesn't mean you can't breathe some new life into your old boat anchor. Whether your goal is to upgrade without breaking the bank, or just burn through a wad of cash, here are five computer upgrades that you may enjoy, justify as productivity enhancements, even write off as business expenses!
More RAM memory is a good investment, up to a point. An average home user, who does email, web surfing and word processing, can generally stop at 2 GB. If you run multiple programs, do graphics-intensive work with Photoshop or video editing, up to 4 GB of RAM will help enormously. If you do 3D modeling or play high-speed games all day then go up to 8 GB of RAM. A 64-bit operating system requires at least 4 GB of RAM to perform its best.
If you're looking for additional speed, and you can afford to upgrade only one component of your computer, adding RAM will be the most cost-effective thing you can do. You can find two gigs of RAM for under $50 online. It's not hard to do, either. See my related article Adding Memory to find out how much RAM you have now, what kind you need, where to buy it, and how to install it.
Upgrading Hard Drive Capacity
A bigger hard drive is a good idea if your current one is more than 70 per cent full. Hard drives don't work as hard, and therefore last longer, if they have lots of room in which to spread out data. One of the best performance enhancements you can make is a faster hard drive. One that spins at 7200 rpm will find, read, and write data 33 per cent faster than a standard 5400 rpm drive, and costs very little more.
How much hard drive space should you have? You might be using only 50GB of space on your current drive, but technology and economy of scale have made it silly to buy any drive under 200 gigs. At TigerDirect, for example, an 80GB drive costs $39, while a 250GB drive is only $5 more, and 500GB drives go for under $60. But why stop there? You can get a 1-terabyte drive (1000 gigabytes) for under $100. External drives, which simply plug into a USB port, are equally affordable, and can expand your storage capacity without having to open the system unit and mess around with wires.
CD/DVD Drive Upgrades
CD and DVD drives are another story. If you mainly read data from optical disks then a faster drive is appealing. But a 54x drive won't do you any good when it comes to burning your own disks. In fact, you may ruin a lot of bland disks if you try to burn faster than 16x. A Blu-ray drive, the very latest and largest capacity optical drive standard, makes a good investment if speed and high capacity are of utmost importance to you, or if you want to watch Blu-ray movies on your computer.
Whatever you choose, be sure it reads and writes CD and DVD formats of all kinds. Expect to pay around $50 for CD/DVD drive that can read, play and burn.
Replacing Your Video Card
If you do a lot of gaming or watch high-definition video on your computer, a high-performance video card will be a good investment. Many manufacturers cram their video cards full of RAM, which is cheap relative to intelligent graphics technology. More RAM does not mean "faster," necessarily. Research the graphics processor units (GPU) on the market to see which performs best for your needs at any given amount of RAM. The GPU is the key to a good video card.
If you're just looking to replace the low-end graphics card that came pre-installed with your computer, then something in the $50 price range will do nicely. But make sure you know what type of card to buy before you shop, because they're not all interchangeable. You'll find PCI video cards in older systems, and AGP or PCI Express in newer ones.
Upgrade Your Monitor
Personally, I find the biggest productivity bang for the buck in supersizing my display. My office setup features 24-inch dual monitors, but anything is better than the clunky old 15-inch monitor that came with your system. A "large" monitor nowadays is 23 inches or more; and that's where the price jumps, too. Most modern computers and operating systems support dual displays, which can be smaller while adding up to more pixels (displayable space). Some applications just beg for a large monitor - Adobe Dreamweaver; AutoCAD; Photoshop; QuarkXpress and other graphics-intensive things.
But many people find two monitors - or even more - help them partition their open applications and their attention to each group. You can have "work" on one monitor and "other" on a second, i.e., Twitter, weather, stock quotes, sports news, etc. You can also use a digital TV as a computer monitor with an HDMI cable and connector; imagine gaming on a 43" screen! Prices on 22-inch displays have dropped recently, to under $200. But you can add a 19-incher to your existing setup for a little over $100. Those slick 30-inch displays you see in the Apple stores will run you $1799.
Got something to say about computer upgrades? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 9 Nov 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Inexpensive Computer Upgrades (Posted: 9 Nov 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved