Does Your Computer Need a Boost?

Dominec recently submitted an email to me, full of tips and tricks. Earlier, I posted his tips to create an iPhone ringtone yourself using iTunes, and your own music. He also sent in the following excellent tips for upgrading your PC.

Like it or not, that blazing fast piece of hardware you have in front of you will become obsolete in a few years. It won’t be able to run some of the newest applications, or run as fast as some of the newer hardware. This is the case for many people (including myself) who currently run on “less than favorable” hardware. So if you are looking to spruce up your computer a bit more, here are the top 5 things you should look at upgrading:

  1. Your monitor While it won’t speed up your computer, a new monitor will generally make your user experience a lot better. If you bought a computer over 4-5 years ago, you will likely have a CRT monitor. The colors are usually not as vivid, they drain a lot of power, and the resolution is terrible. A new monitor will allow you to view webpages better, allow for more of a multimedia experience, and even provide more functionality with some monitors containing USB ports, Card Readers and Optical drives. Additionally, if your response time is better (from CRT’s to LCD’s) you may even have the illusion that pages are loading smoother and faster.
  2. Your Hard Drive You can never have too much space, especially with the way technology is moving. That 40GB HDD you had 3 years ago just doesn’t compare to the type of storage you can get today. With more storage, you can hold more media files, run more applications, and even have the ability to dual boot your system. In addition, if you are able to buy a hard drive that spins at a faster rate (higher RPM), your data will load quicker, your OS will load quicker, and there won’t be as much lag with your system.
  3. The motherboard This applies especially to people who bought their computer directly from a manufacturer. Some old motherboards can’t support the new technology of today, such as more advanced PSU’s to cool your Dual-Core processors, and the faster DDR2 memory as opposed to standard DDR. Upgrading your motherboard is a very involved process, and not for everyone. If you are up to the challenge, it will improve every aspect of your computer. More USB ports, faster data transmission, support for more optical drives, more RAM, and faster processors are just some of the things to look forward to.
  4. Your RAM Often clichéd in the computer world is how much a RAM upgrade will do for your computer, especially for those thinking of running Vista (or any modern day OS). The best metaphor to compare this to is to think of your RAM as your desk. The more desk space you have, the more papers, office supplies, printers, and other hardware you can hold. With more RAM, you can have many programs open at once, call them into view quicker, and generally improve the speed of every application. The best thing about installing RAM is that it’s cheap, and easy for the novice computer user to do. It can turn an old computer with 256MB of RAM into a quick multitasking machine with a 1GB upgrade.
  5. The Processor If you plan to upgrade only one thing in your old computer, this would be it. The processor is what controls everything on the computer, so naturally, more power is never a bad thing. The best analogy here is a car. With a bigger engine, everything runs smoother and quicker. With a new processor, loading times will be shorter, pages will load faster, your computer will boot up and turn off faster… it really is something that will improve every aspect of your computer. Even for older computer that can’t support Dual-Core technology, you can buy extremely fast Pentium 4 chips for under $50. There is not a single part of your computer that will suffer, and all parts will thank you.

10 thoughts on “Does Your Computer Need a Boost?”

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  4. If you change the monitor, the hard drive, the motherboard, the RAM and the processor, you might as well make your life easier (and the whole system more consistent) by buying a new PC!

  5. Actually, CRT’s produce better colour ranges than LCD’s, handle resolutions better than LCD’s and when you get into the larger panel space CRT’s even become more energy efficient than LCD’s.
    I’d still take my 24″ widescreen LCD tho 😉

    With regard mobo’s, if you didn’t build your own PC you will more than likely fall into the problem of the PC case just not being able to fit a different design motherboard due to the layout of the case.
    Also, keep in mind that if you upgrade the mobo you are likely to have to upgrade the RAM, CPU and PSU at the same time and it can quickly become expensive.

  6. I would disagree with “The Processor. If you plan to upgrade only one thing in your old computer, this would be it.” Ram is usually a better upgrade for both performance and cost in an older system. If you are talking about a computer only a few years old and the user had the option to upgrade from single core to dual then it might be a better option. Usually though a ram upgrade is the best bang for your buck in an old system.

  7. Actually… I have several…

    Hard drive – first off, adding a hard drive can be somewhat problematic depending on the age of the computer. Specifically, the IDE interface on an older computer, may not support (most likely won’t) the newer hard drives, and there can be issues with the bios…

    Motherboard… If a computer is more than a couple of years old, buying a motherboard will also entail a new processor and possibly memory… again depending. Especially given that upgrading a motherboard without upgrading bus speed and memory speed is rather like updating the chassis of the car but sticking your old 4 cylinder back in… Plus… not all users would feel comfortable with doing what is effecitively an engine rebuild on their computer. Add in that, depending on what the user needs, by the time you spend that money, Wal-Mart has a pretty decent system for $450… add in time and effort… and… well you get the idea…

    Swapping processors… this one is doable, however, the end user had better have a pretty good idea of what they are doing. Upgrade a p2 or p3 processor probably isn’t going to give the performance boost that you are looking for…

    Monitor – Eye candy is always good…

    If your computer is truly sluggish, and you just don’t want to part with it, or go through the pain of moving your files to a new system… based on my 30+ years in the industry, here are thing you can and should do, and in most cases will have your system running like new or better:

    1. More memory… Yep… This is something you MUST do… the more RAM you have, the less the OS has to swap stuff out to “fake ram” on the hard drive. This takes load off your hard drive, makes programs and file access faster AND, the more of a program that will fit into RAM, the faster it runs, because there is NO hard drive/buss subsystem yet that can keep up with ram… ram is an order of magnitude or two faster…

    2. Video – A HUGE part of windows is the display portion, it affects everything… feel free to spend as much money(within reason) on a good video card as you like. $100 will get you a pretty decent card, with lots of independent memory on it, and hi speeds, better resolution et all. Video cards are important, them more the card can process independently of your main process the faster everything is… This will truly make your computer run tons faster…

    3. Clean up your computer – Windows has an invisible, internal database that tracks EVERYTHING. If you have software you aren’t using, get rid of it, One piece of software can have 100’s or even 1000’s of entries in this database, and the larger it is, the harder windows has to work to find stuff. Clean off your desktop – you heard me, clutter on the desktop chews up ram(I won’t go into why, but trust me it does). You should NEVER have programs installed on the desktop. Nor should you really have files…. shortcuts to folders or programs is fine, but the rest. NO NO NO… and if it isn’t something you NEED, get it off your desktop. Defrag your hard drive… yes I know this is tedious, and time consuming, but really… if you do it regularly, it takes less time… and you CAN schedule it to do it while you sleep.

    Other things that you can and should do… There is a service that is installed by default on Windows. It is called the indexer service. What it does is keep track of every file you have on your computer, and saves this in a database, making it faster to search for something. Problem is… it is a hog… if you aren’t in the habit of loosing files on your computer… shut this thing off… you can wait a few extra seconds to find something you truly need…

    Autostart programs… this is a person by person call… but if you have itumes, yahoo messenger, msn messenger, oultook, myspace im, quickfind, outlook, the weather channel, and god knows what else starting up when you boot your computer, on top of things that NEED to be there… it will not only take forever to boot, but you have lost a considerble chunk of ram AND processing power to stuff running in the backgroud. Examine the things that start up when the computer does and only run what is ESSENTIAl to your computing habits.

    Lastly…. scan your system regularly for adware/spyware and other crap that just accumulates. I recommend once a week, and suggest using Ad-Aware, SpyBot search and destory and XoftSpy… between the three of these programs… you will get rid of 99% of everything…

    So… Add RAM, upgrade your Video, clean your computer… and it will run better… Oh and on a positive note… if/when you DO buy another computer… well, the ram might be throw away, but the video card you can probably move to the new computer… and save some money there…

    Happy puting…

  8. ya my Toshiba portege needs a boost – I spilt whisky on my macbook (a lot of whisky) a week or so ago and was left with no choice but to budget another laptop so I’m back on windows which I’m ok with but yup wish I had more GB faster bits and also wish I didn’t drunk call my girlfriend calling her my whore nor should I have insulted her home town – fs

  9. Over time, windows computers get slow, and do need a boost. The question is, How and which Program?

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