Wednesday, January 22, 2014

DYI Tech: How to upgrade your old PC.

Compaq Presario 5000

Don't throw out that PC just yet.
A lot of people will just throw out old PCs when they start getting slow. In most cases simple maintenance or a few key upgrades can get an older PC running better than new.

Before starting
  1. Back up your data. You should be doing this anyway but it is a good time to make one more backup.
  2. Find out about your computer. CPU-Z is a great program that will tell you all about your CPU, memory, and graphics card. 
  3. Find out what kind of hard drive your computer supports. If the computer is even close to modern it will use SATA. If not you might really just want get a new computer.
  4. Decide what you are going to use the computer for. Just a general use surf the web computer, gaming, editing graphics and video?
The following suggestions are for both notebooks and desktops.

Do the free stuff first
  1. Clean off your hard drive. Get rid of all the old stuff you do not use or need anymore that includes old programs you do not use anymore.
  2. After you have deleted everything you do not need run chkdsk to see if your hard drive is healthy. 
  3. Scan for malware and adware. 
  4. Defragment your hard disk.  Here are tutorials on how to defragment.  Windows XP Windows7 Windows8
Next upgrade your Operating System if you can.
WARNING: Plan on your hard drive being erased. Back up all your data! If your data is not erased great but no one has ever been sorry for having a good resent backup.  
If you are using Windows XP or Vista you should upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8. Windows 7 requires a CPU that runs at 1 Ghz or higher and at least one gigabyte of ram for the 32-bit or 2 gigabytes of ram for the 64-bit version. If your CPU will support the 64-bit version and you have the RAM then you should get the 64-bit version, if you do not have the ram get it. Windows 7 and Windows 8 have very close to the same hardware requirements, the choice of operating system is up to the user. Even if you do not want to upgrade your operating system doing what is called a "Nuke and Pave". A nuke and pave is formatting the hard drive and reinstalling windows. A fresh windows install can do wonders for an old computer.

Upgrade your memory.
If you have 4 gigabytes of memory then stop. Unless you are going to do a lot of gaming and or editing pictures you are probably good at 4 gigabytes. If you still want to upgrade your memory, 8 gigabytes is ideal amount of memory for most users. Here is a tutorial showing how to install memory on a desktop computer.

As you can see it is not all that hard to do yourself.

Laptops are a bit harder so you should always check your manual on how to upgrade the ram. If you have lost the manual do not worry odds are it is available on-line so let Google be your friend.
Here is a video showing you how to upgrade ram on a laptop.

Install a solid state drive (SSD)
Adding an SSD to your computer is probably the best way to boost performance. Desktops easily support multiple drives.  Adding an SSD to a desktop is usually very easy. An inexpensive, small SSD of around 60 gigabytes can be used for the operating system and possible some applications giving a big increase in speed. Laptops are a bit trickier because very few have room for two drives. For a laptop a single SSD single larger SSD is usually the only option.  SSDs are still more expensive than conventional hard drives so the user have to live with a smaller drive in your notebook. Do a fresh install to the SSD to get the best results. Here is a tutorial on how to set up an SSD as a boot drive. 

Install a graphics card
This is only an option for desktops. Most computers you buy today use integrated graphics which are terrible. The exception to that rule are the AMD APUs which have okay gpus built onto the chip. So if you are going to want to game on your computer you will need to add a video card. Tom's Hardware does a monthly graphics card review here. Pick the card in your price range and install it. If you have a really old computer or a Celeron, Pentium, Core2Duo, Atom, Sempron, or other low end cpu then do not spend a lot of money on a graphics card as your CPU will just slow it down. Over all I recommend the Radeon 7770 as a good card for most people that want to get into gaming. You will also want to check your power supply can handle your new graphics card. Of course here is a video on how to install a graphics card. 

Just because you computer is getting slow does not mean you have to buy a new computer. Adding an SSD or upgrading the operating system can make a big system. Security updates and patches for Windows XP are ending this year. Windows XP had a good long run but it is time to move on. Windows 7 can give your old computer a new lease on life. Of course if you want a new PC anyway you might want to read my blog post about what you can use your old PC for.  

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