Is your PC feeling its age? These upgrades can give it new life

Falcon Northwest Mach V
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

PC sales are down more or less across the board. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (unless you happen to be a PC manufacturer, of course). The truth is that almost any Windows machine sold in the last five years can handle surfing the web, checking email, and even streaming high-resolution video. Depending on the hardware, it might even be able to handle some recent games as well. There are very few times when spending a thousand dollars or more on a new laptop or desktop is absolutely necessary.

But that doesn’t mean your PC can’t be improved. Upgrading a few parts is almost always cheaper than buying a new one, and it’s not as difficult as you think. Here’s a quick guide to the best ways to improve an older machine.

Upgrading your desktop

Despite a move to laptops over the last decade, desktop PCs remain solid choices for anyone who wants a cheap machine, or one that can be upgraded easily.

Most desktop upgrades focus on components that attach the the motherboard, processor excluded. If you think about a computer like a car, then consider the following — the motherboard is like the frame, and the processor is like the engine. If either has become inadequate, that’s a good sign a new machine, rather than an upgrade, is warranted.

But there are other options for quick and cheap upgrades. RAM (memory) is classically the best way to improve a sluggish machine, and it remains relevant.  Adding more RAM, or even replacing the DIMMs (the technical term for a stick of memory) entirely, is a quick and easy process that doesn’t require any adjustments to your operating system. An 8GB upgrade can be had for under $50, and a whopping 16GB upgrade is going for less than $100.

memory ram
123RF/kakisnow

Changing out a storage drive is more complex than replacing RAM. You’ll need to connect the SATA power and data cables to your computer’s power supply and motherboard, respectively, and either transfer your operating system to the new drive, or install it from scratch. It’s an excellent idea to back up your crucial files to an external drive, or a cloud storage service like Dropbox, before starting the installation process.

For a guide on upgrading your hard drive to an SSD, click here.

Add or upgrade your video card

Most desktop PCs come with an integrated graphics processor that can run a monitor right off of the motherboard. But if you’d like to be able to play newer, more attractive games, a discrete graphics card from AMD or Nvidia will be needed. Graphics cards plug into a PCIe slot on the motherboard, and some also require an open rail on the power supply.

It’s possible to spend up to a thousand dollars on a graphics card, but cheaper, low-power options like the GTX 950 can play most games at decent graphical settings for under $150. Check out this guide for installation instructions.

Nvidia GTX 950 top fans
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Accessories like a new monitor, keyboard, or mouse won’t make your desktop computer any faster, but they can make using it more comfortable. If your Internet speed is lagging and you’re on a wireless connection, a new Wi-Fi adapter with access to faster standards might do the trick, so long as your Wi-Fi router is also compatible.

Gaming

Playing ‘Battlefield V’ on an $800 Nvidia card is stunning. And disappointing

‘Battlefield V’ is the first game to use Nvidia’s ray tracing support, now available with the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti graphics cards. The feature can, in an ideal scenario, make the game look better, but the performance hit may not be…
Computing

Problems with installing or updating Windows 10? Here's how to fix them

Upgrading to the newest version of Windows 10 is usually a breeze, but sometimes you run into issues. Never fear though, our guide will help you isolate the issue at hand and solve it in a timely manner.
Computing

Razer takes up to $500 off of its Blade gaming laptops for Black Friday

If you're a fan of Razer's understated aesthetics that earned the Blade comparisons with Apple's laptops, you can score some big savings on Black Friday, as Razer is offering up to $500 discounts off of its gaming notebooks.
Computing

Multi-monitor issues? Here's how to resolve them

If you're running into multi-monitor problems, you're not alone. Two screens are very useful, but they can present some difficulties. Here are some common multi-monitor problems and how to fix them.
Computing

Windows Update not working after October 2018 patch? Here’s how to fix it

Windows update not working? It's a more common problem than you might think. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot it and in this guide we'll break them down for you, step by step.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…
Computing

HP takes $100 off of leather-clad Spectre Folio 13 bundle for Black Friday

HP is offering a discount to Black Friday shoppers for a bundle that includes its leather-wrapped answer to Apple's MacBook Air. HP is offering a $100 discount on the Spectre Folio 13 when bundled with a mouse and leather sleeve.
Computing

Save a heap with these Black Friday 2018 graphics card deals

The Black Friday 2018 sales period is finally here and it's brought with it a tonne of great component deals. We've been scouring websites and catalogs for days to find you the best graphics cards deals for Black Friday 2018.
Deals

The best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…
Computing

Still miss Windows 7? Here's how to make Windows 10 look more like it

There's no simple way of switching on a Windows 7 mode in Windows 10. Instead, you can install third-party software, manually tweak settings, and edit the registry. We provide instructions for using these tweaks and tools.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Computing

Ditch the passwords and buy Xbox games with just your face

Passwords are the past. The latest version of Windows 10 allows you to sign in with your Microsoft account on the web through Microsoft Edge using Windows Hello or a FIDO 2 Yubikey. 
Web

Canceling Amazon Prime is easy, and you might get a refund

Don't be intimidated. Learning how to cancel Amazon Prime is easier than you might think. You might even get a partial or full refund on the cost, depending on how much you've used it. Check out our quick-hit guide for doing so.
Computing

Editing a PDF is easy when you have the right tools in hand

Editing PDF files can be a real pain, but there are a few tricks to make the process a bit easier. This guide will give you three easy methods for how to edit a PDF, two of which work without needing Adobe Acrobat.
1 of 2