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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Upgrading Your PC and You

So, you've decided to do some upgrades to your PC, and you're not sure where to begin.  Well, the truth is, there is no easy answer, but for the moment what we can discuss is some general ideas to keep in mind.  First and foremost do not assume that because it's top dollar it will be top quality.  Do your research and figure out what your needs are.

With that in mind, let's get some general tidbits out of the way.  First, determine what you are upgrading your PC for.  Is it for gaming?  Productivity?  Or perhaps you just want to be able to surf the internet faster.  Second, determine the capabilities of your PC.  Can it hold that extra 2GB of RAM?  Can it support a 2TB hard drive?  Lastly, what are your goals for an end result?  Faster processor speed?  Faster response time for loading webpages?  Consider your goals, and consider what kind of budget you want to stick to when asking these questions.  On average, an upgrade to a computer (already pre-built) is about $40-$200 depending on what you want to accomplish.

Some tips on most Windows PC computers (you'll have to look up the MAC equivalents, because I do not support MACs):

1) Interfaces - If you are going to be upgrading ANY component of a computer, you'll want to know the most basic of information.  Interfaces are one of those basic information pieces.  There are many that a computer uses, so be sure to know what kind of interface you'll need.  For example, most hard drives use an IDE/EIDE cable.  Knowing this, you should know to look for a hard drive that will use this cable.  Another example is that some computer mice still use a PS/2 port.  If you're going to buy a mouse, be sure it has an appropriate USB to PS/2 adapter, otherwise, you'll be out of luck unless you'll be using that USB connection.

2) Capabilities - What is it that you are upgrading and what are the capabilities you are looking for?  Upgrading from a CD-ROM burner drive to a DVD-ROM burner drive is one of those "upgrade features" that seem to stand out.  Also, looking for something that has faster speed, buffering, or data transfer rates are good indicators of what you might need.  A CD/DVD drive that runs 52x will definitely run faster than a 24x speed CD-ROM drive, but remember that faster isn't always better.

3) External or internal? - Many devices are internal to the computer, meaning some disassembly may be required.  If you want to avoid this, then external is the way to go.  In fact, it's been well-known that external devices are far more stable than internal, so this is something else to keep in mind.

4) Input or Output? - You may want to consider if the device or component you want to upgrade is an input device or an output device.  Network interface cards are both, whether wired or wireless.  However, sound cards are usually output as well as video cards.  This is especially important when placing the new component inside the computer.  Most USB devices are input devices.

5) Size - I know this may not seem important, but if you have limited desk space, a big and bulky item may not be a good idea.  Similarly, a device that is relatively small will be ideal for most desk spaces.  Determine what kind of device you are looking for, but make sure it doesn't take up a bunch of workspace that you may want to use later.

Remember that as with any upgrade, ALWAYS keep yourself GROUNDED.  In other words, don't let static get to your upgrade, your computer, etc by using either an anti-static mat, or a wrist strap available online or at most computer retailers.  Doing so can harm it irreparably, and will end up costing you a fortune more!  Always perform your upgrades in a clean environment, and always wear appropriate safety gear (eye protection, gloves, etc).  If you are a novice computer user, always have upgrades performed by a certified professional!

Have a comment? Suggestion? A topic you'd like to have discussed on my blog? Email me at And if I don't know the answer, I'll post up information on who to ask, where to go, or what to do to get your answer. :) Until then, have a great day, and I hope you've enjoyed reading my computer tips so far!