How to upgrade your old PC to perform faster

A question that we all have to ask ourselves at some point is, should I get a new computer or at least upgrade my current one?

Sometimes you ask yourself because your computer doesn’t seem to be able to handle all your games and programs as fast as it used to. And other times, you’re just trying to convince yourself that you need a new one so you can upgrade to the latest and greatest. So clearly, there’s a lot to consider when thinking about this, and there isn’t any straightforward answer. 

And if you’re hoping that we are going to give you an excuse to upgrade to a new computer you don’t need… well, we might just do that. 

Do You Even Need To Upgrade Your PC?

According to us, the most important thing to do is divide your reasons for upgrading into two categories. What you want, and what you need. And you have to be honest with yourself here; 99% of the time, when you hear someone saying “I need to do this” or “I need to get that”, they don’t need it.

Also, you need to consider the specifics of WHY you need a particular upgrade, whether it’s one component or the entire computer. 

Let’s start with cases where you would NEED to upgrade your computer because these are easy. Now, we’re not even talking about the obvious point where your computer is broken because that’s a no-brainer.

Instead, it may be that your computer cannot do something that you consider essential. It doesn’t have to be a matter of life and death. For example, perhaps all your friends just got a new video game, but your computer doesn’t meet the minimum specs. Sure, you don’t NEED to play the game because you won’t die without it, but it would suck to be the only one not able to join in the fun.

Or another example is if you’re a video editor and use your computer for work, it needs to be pretty powerful for rendering videos. If you have a low-power computer, you could wait an entire day for a video to generate, but what if it fails, or you realize you made a mistake? You’ll feel miserable for sure.

If you get to the point where your computer makes it not necessarily IMPOSSIBLE, but IMPRACTICAL to do something you either need or really want to do, then it’s totally justifiable to upgrade.

Upgrading a PC

You don’t need to build a whole new PC:

Now, what if you know your computer is fully capable of doing everything you need, but there’s still a little voice in your head telling you that it’s just not good enough? And your brain might jump through a lot of hoops to convince you that getting a shiny new machine will solve all your problems! But we need to take a logical viewpoint here, and not get ahead of ourselves. 

The first thing to consider, is what EXACTLY do you want to get out of the new computer, or even an expensive new component? Do you want to be able to run your favorite game on the next higher graphics setting? Do you want to get a higher framerate or higher resolution? Is there any other reason besides video game performance? 

That last one is especially important, because many times you don’t necessarily have to upgrade the whole computer, but just a component or two.

Required Upgrades to Make Your Gaming Performance Better:

Let’s say your computer runs completely fine 99% of the time, but just can’t run games as fast as you’d like. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t make sense to upgrade the whole computer just for game performance, unless it’s REALLY old. 

You’d probably be able to get away with just upgrading the graphics card. Or maybe it is the case where the computer overall is pretty slow and frustrating. We still wouldn’t just jump into a new computer, because there are a few options you can take beforehand. The most considerable improvement you could make is upgrading from a regular hard disk to a solid state drive if you don’t have one.

Upgrade the Hard Drive with SSD:

Getting an SSD WILL almost always improve performance because a mechanical hard drive is so slow compared to other components in a computer and often the bottleneck. Anything from copying files to searching through folders in explorer or loading the map in a video game. This is because SSDs have faster read and write speeds in general and because you don’t have to worry about fragmentation.

In a hard drive, files are stored all over the physical platters, which means if you have to access lots of small files at once, the drive head has to physically move back and forth more to read them, which relatively takes a LONG time.

There is no drive head with a solid-state drive so that files can be accessed instantly. So seriously, try upgrading to an SSD before you do anything.

SSD

When a CPU or RAM Needs To Be Upgraded:

Let’s say you already have an SSD, but the computer is still pretty slow. Unless it’s slow during video games, upgrading your graphics card probably won’t help, so let’s scratch that off. That leaves two main components left, the RAM and the CPU.

This is tricky because a bottleneck in either might manifest itself very similarly. If you don’t have enough RAM or it’s prolonged, it doesn’t matter how fast your CPU is because the RAM can’t queue up the data to be processed fast enough.
And oppositely, if you have a slow CPU and fast RAM, even though the RAM can queue up data to be processed quickly, the CPU can only do it slowly anyway.

Now according to us, 9 times out of 10, the main bottleneck will be the CPU, especially if the computer is old. But the cases where RAM will be a significant factor are either if you don’t have nearly enough, or if you are running some seriously heavy hitter programs or just a ton of programs in the background. That’s because a program will only ever use as much RAM as it needs to; most simple programs don’t need much.

Our Favourite Picks in the Market

G.Skill Trident Z NEO Series 32GB
G.Skill Trident Z NEO Series 32GB
Trident Z NEO Series, designed specifically for AMD Ryzen 3000, 5000, X570 Series; Brand: G.Skill, Series: Trident Z NEO, Model: F4-3600C18D-32GTZN
$126.99
Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB
Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB
Faster speeds and responsiveness than standard DDR4 memory; Ideal for gamers and performance enthusiasts
Discount: $30.00
Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB 32GB
Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB 32GB
Iconic and refined high-performance RGB Memory; High speed and Tight Timings. SPD Voltage-1.2V
$179.99 −$30.00 $149.99
Discount: $4.19
Kingston FURY Beast 16GB
Kingston FURY Beast 16GB
Low-profile heat spreader design; Cost-efficient, high-performance DDR4 upgrade; Intel XMP-ready
$60.89 −$4.19 $56.70

How To Figure Out if RAM is Needed to be Upgraded:

These days, if you have less than 8 gigabytes of RAM, it might very well be causing a noticeable lag in your computer, and it would be worth adding more, even if you only run basic programs. Your system should have between 8 and 16 gigabytes, and it certainly depends on what kinds of programs you’re running.

Suppose you play video games but don’t run other heavy-duty programs like a video or photo editor, or you don’t have many programs running simultaneously. In that case, you could probably justify going up to 12 gigabytes. Above that would probably be overkilling, and we’d be surprised if you noticed any difference from 12 to 16.

As mentioned earlier, more than 16 GB would be for people who do multimedia editing, use CAD software, deal with huge databases, virtual machines, that sort of thing. In those cases, the software will pretty much use as much RAM as you can throw at it, especially when larger file sizes are involved. 

Why You can’t Upgrade Only CPU:

If you know that all your other components are sufficient, then that leaves the CPU. No matter how much RAM you have, how fast your SSD is, or how powerful your graphics card is, a slow CPU will mean a slow computer. 

Now, if you know anything about building computers, or maybe not even, you probably realize that upgrading only your CPU doesn’t make sense. If your CPU is too slow, you may as well get a whole new computer.

Though you could, of course, re-use some components if you’ve upgraded them more recently, and if you’re wondering why you can’t just boost your CPU, there are a couple of reasons. 

First, motherboard CPU sockets change every few years as new CPUs emerge. So, if you buy a brand-new CPU, it wouldn’t even fit into your current motherboard. Even if it did, your other components would still be old, and you’d have everything else causing lagging. However, we do need to mention that if you know what you’re doing or are willing to learn, instead of buying a whole new computer, you might be able to overclock your current CPU. Depending on the CPU and your cooling situation, you could squeeze out some extra power. 

Processors That Are Worth Considering For Next PC

Intel Core i5-12600K
Intel Core i5-12600K
The Socket LGA-1700 socket allows processor to be placed on the PCB without soldering; Built-in Intel UHD Graphics controller for great graphics and visual quality
$277.99
Intel Core i9-12900K
Intel Core i9-12900K
The processor features Socket LGA-1700 socket for installation on the PCB
$609.00
Discount: $15.84
Intel® Core™ i5-11400
Intel® Core™ i5-11400
The Socket LGA-1200 socket allows processor to be placed on the PCB without soldering
$212.50 −$15.84 $196.66
Discount: $201.99
AMD 5000 Series Ryzen 9 5900X
AMD 5000 Series Ryzen 9 5900X
The world's best gaming desktop processor, with 12 cores and 24 processing threads; Can deliver elite 100-plus FPS performance in the world's most popular games
$569.99 −$201.99 $368.00

Which Components Can Be Reused in a New PC Build:

You might still be able to reuse some of your old components to save money, but you’d really only want to do this if you had upgraded them recently enough where they’re still decent. 

1. Recently Upgraded Hardware

So, for example, if your computer is several years old, but just last year you bought a new graphics card for it, well duh, re-using that is a great way to save a ton of money.

2. Case Fans

You could cannibalize a fan or two if they’re good ones and able to serve the purpose of airflow and of course noise levels are not so high. If you’re planning to purchase brand new fans for you build Read Our PC Case Fan Guide. Quick Recommendations:

3. Windows

In some cases, you MIGHT even be able to transfer your copy of Windows to the new machine, but not always.

4. Storage

If you have SSD storage in your current computer, these can be easily reused in a new build. But if you have regular hard drives (HDD) or even SSD older than 5 years or so, it’s recommended not to use them in your new desktop build

Related Article: PC Case Guide Before Buying

Which Components Cannot be Reused in a New PC build:

When there are components that you can reuse there are also a few components that you can’t reuse or at least we don’t recommend reusing them. 

1. CPU & Motherboard

As discussed earlier, motherboards upgrade very frequently there is less to no chance that your motherboard will be compatible with your new CPU and the other way around.

2. Power Supply

All components should be compatible with each other and if they are and your PSU isn’t it could make a great mess in your system. It’s better to always change your PSU every time you’re building a new PC on your own. We have some recommendations for you as well:

Discount: $10.00
Corsair RM750x
Corsair RM750x
80 Plus Gold certified for lower power consumption, less noise and cooler temperatures; Tuned for low noise operation even at full load; MTBF hours 100,000 hours
$134.99 −$10.00 $124.99
Seasonic PRIME TX-1000
Seasonic PRIME TX-1000
12 year worry-free WARRANTY:: Our commitment to superior quality.
$336.98
Discount: $17.15
CORSAIR CX Series
CORSAIR CX Series
Builder Series cx, 750 Watt, modular power supply, NA version; Made in China; Modular cabling system lets you use only the cables you need
$104.99 −$17.15 $87.84

3. CPU Cooler

This one is one of the most expensive components, so if your CPU cooler is in good condition, you can reuse them but you need to ensure that your new motherboard has the socket to fit the existing CPU cooler, otherwise, you’ll need to invest in a new one. 

Discount: $19.62
Corsair Hydro Series
Corsair Hydro Series
New, improved SP120L fan offers lower noise and better performance; Improved micro-fin copper cold plate for superior heat dissipation
$112.78 −$19.62 $93.16
Things to Remember When Assembling New PC:
  • Always check the compatibility of all components
  • If you’re a PRO go for overclocking the CPU
  • Decide the RAM size and speed before jumping to the conclusion
  • Go for the SSD storage over HDD
  • PC aesthetics matter a lot, give it a thought
  • Don’t ignore the USB peripherals

Round Up Of This Article

So, let’s tie this all together. We hope most of you can figure out whether you need a new computer or an upgrade. And if you WANT to, it will come down to how much you’re willing to spend and how big of a difference it will make.

Individual components are usually more manageable because they’re cheaper and don’t take as much work as setting up a whole new computer. All these steps can make your laptop / pc run faster. In the end, it’s you who has to make the final decision.

General Queries About Upgrading a PC