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Another bottleneck in a PC is the speed of the storage. Maybe the hard drive is slow, or that it is filled up to the point where it is having an adverse effect on performance (if you've got less than 10 percent of your storage left, it's probably time to think about upgrading).
After RAM, upgrading storage is one of the easiest, cheapest, and best upgrades you can do.
If your PC currently uses a hard disk drive (HDD) for storage then you could give it an even bigger performance by swapping it out for a solid-state drive (SSD). These are pricier than regular HHDs, but the difference in transfer rates is like night and day.
If you're not sure what your PC or Mac can take, then once again I suggest you take a trip over to either Crucial or OWC, where you will find a wide selection of both HDDs and SSDs to choose from suited to your particular system. OWC has a great selection of high-performance drives, for both PCs and Macs, including the MacBook Air and the new Retina-display MacBook Pro systems.
If you know what your system takes, then visit your favorite retailer, where you will undoubtedly get a cheaper price, but you will be on your own if you make a mistake.
Another way to squeeze some extra life out of your desktop PC system – the graphics card in notebook systems, as well as those found in all Macs except for the Mac Pro are not upgradable – is to upgrade the graphics card. However, this advice applies primarily to one class of user – gamer.
Perhaps your current system has features an older graphics card, or perhaps your GPU is integrated onto the CPU. In either case, investing in a new graphics card should give your system a big of a performance boost.
Unless you are a hardcore gamer looking for cutting-edge hardware, then a graphics card doesn't have to cost the earth. $99 will buy you a Radeon HD 7750 or GeForce GT 640, both of which are capable cards, and will give you a good gaming experience with any modern title (assuming that the rest of your PC is up to the challenge).
If your budget goes a little deeper, then $200 buys you a Radeon HD 7850 or GeForce GT 660, both of which are superb graphics cards.
Most newcomers to upgrading automatically think that the CPU is the place to start. After all, it's the brains of the CPU, and the faster the CPU, the faster the entire PC will be, right?
CPU upgrades are fraught with problems.
- Boosting performance by a few hundred megahertz doesn't translate into much real world gains.
- Finding out what CPUs are compatible with your motherboard can be a nightmare. Not only do you have to make sure the sockets match, but that the actual CPU is supported by the BIOS/UEFI and the hardware.
- If your PC is old enough that adding a new hundred megahertz would indeed make a difference, then chances are your newly upgraded system will be compromised by another bottleneck (RAM, storage, etc) and you end up having to spend more money.
- Notebooks – along with some desktop systems – are not upgradable because the CPU is soldered onto the motherboard.
- CPU spec and data sheets can be very complicated, leading you to buy something that is worse than you already have.
The only people for whom CPU upgrades are worthwhile are hardcore enthusiasts who have high-spec systems, and know them inside out. If you're not one of these people, then if you're considering a CPU upgrade, then what you really want is a new PC.