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PC Upgrade Guide: Which Components to Upgrade and When

PC Upgrade Guide: Which Components to Upgrade and When

Check out our infographic on upgrading your PC components

With so many integral hardware components involved in the functionality of a computer, it is important for you to be aware of the most critical of these components if you want to maintain the ongoing health of your PC and support optimal performance long term. To that end, you should proactively monitor computer performance, including the age and usage of your computer CPU, RAM memory, SSD or HDD storage, and graphics card. If one or more of these computer components shows signs of failure or speed lag, it may be time for a PC upgrade.
Review our PC upgrade infographic below to learn more about these key components, what they do, how long they typically last, and the common upgrade options to consider when it's time for a performance boost.
PC Upgrade Infographic

Infographic transcription:

If you notice that your computer is acting up or performance is slowing, it may be time to upgrade one or more components on your PC.
When it comes to making upgrades, there are 4 components that, when upgraded, tend to solve most common problems plaguing your computer:
  • CPU
  • RAM
  • Hard Drive
  • GPU
Find out what these components do, how long they should last, and signs that it’s time to upgrade.

1) CPU

What is it?
The central processing unit (CPU) is the brain of your computer. It receives information (fetches), processes data (decodes), and performs calculations (executes).

CPU Functions:

  • Fetch
  • Decode
  • Execute

How long does a CPU last on average?

10-20 years
Signs you should upgrade
Check your CPU usage record - if your CPU is maxing out on all cores, you may want to upgrade.
Note: If you upgrade your CPU, you may also need to upgrade your motherboard and RAM along with it.

2) RAM

What is it?
Random access memory (RAM) temporarily stores the data that you’re actively using while on your computer. RAM allows you to more quickly access data than if it was coming straight from your hard drive.

Two most common types of RAM:

Dynamic RAM (DRAM)
  • More common than SRAM
  • Consists of transistors and capacitors
  • Refreshes thousands of times per second
Static RAM (SRAM)
  • Consists of more transistors per memory cell than DRAM
  • Does not need to refresh
  • Faster and more expensive than DRAM

How long does RAM last on average?

Typically, you will not need to replace your RAM completely. Rather, you may find that you need to upgrade it depending on what you use your computer for and what types of applications you run.
Amount of RAM you may need based on your computing needs:
  • General internet browsing and/or running non-memory-intensive applications (4GB)
  • Gaming, video streaming, and/or running memory-intensive applications (8GB to 12GB)
  • Running applications related to high-resolution photo/video editing/animation/illustration (16GB to 64GB)
Signs you should upgrade
If you are experiencing performance issues like lagging or freezing with everyday tasks, you may need to upgrade your RAM.
Note: In some laptop models, the RAM is soldered to the motherboard, meaning that you can’t upgrade the RAM yourself. Check your computer’s service/hardware manual to determine if your RAM is soldered.

3) Hard Drive

What is it?
A hard drive is where all of the data on your computer is stored.

Common types of hard drives:

Hard disk drive (HDD)
  • Traditional spinning hard drive
  • Cheaper than SSD, but slower as well
  • Can be louder and get hotter than solid state drives
Solid state drive (SSD)
  • Newer technology
  • Does not have any moving parts
  • Smaller than hard disk drives

How long does a hard drive last on average?

3-5 years
Signs you should upgrade
Signs can range from slower performance to corrupted data - these issues may suggest your hard drive is close to failing.
Note: It’s important to back up your hard drive as soon as you notice signs that your hard drive is close to failure. Common backup solutions include external hard drives and remote cloud storage.

4) GPU

What is it?
A graphics processing unit (GPU), or graphics card, receives information from the CPU and then decides how the pixels on the screen should display that information.

Types of graphics cards:

1. Video Graphics Array (VGA)
  • Minimum standard
  • Allows 256 colors
2. Quantum Extended Graphics Array (QXGA)
  • High performance
  • Allows millions of colors

How long does a graphics card last on average?

5+ years
This may depend on if you have a single GPU or dual GPU configuration:

1. Single GPU
  • More cost effective
  • Better for standard users
2. Dual GPU
  • More expensive
  • Increased graphics performance, making it better for gamers
Signs you should upgrade
When random lines or dots appear, or incorrect colors appear on your screen, known as artifacting, it might be time to upgrade your graphics card.
Note: Artifacting can also be a sign that your graphics card is overheating, so check the cooling system before you go straight to upgrading. Prevent overheating by regularly cleaning vents and fans to remove dust buildup.
Learn more about how to upgrade your laptop or PC to get the most out of an existing computer, and how to customize for highest performance when buying a new laptop on HP® Tech Takes.
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