5 great $100 PC upgrades

I get a continuous flow of emails from readers asking me about the best bang for the buck PC upgrades. Let's look at a handful of $100 PC upgrades that can add a new lease of life to your existing system

I get a continuous flow of emails from readers asking me about the best bang for the buck PC upgrades. Let's look at a handful of $100 PC upgrades that can add a new lease of life to your existing system

CPU upgrades

What you're looking for here is whipping out your old CPU and replacing it with a newer, faster part (perhaps one that also has more CPU cores too). Ideally, you want to replace the CPU without getting into a position where you need to replace the motherboard along with it (which makes the upgrade more complex and costly).

Because of the different kinds of CPU sockets out there, let me give you the best CPUs for a number of popular sockets:

  • Intel LGA775 Intel Pentium E6700 Wolfdale - 3.2GHz dual-core CPU
  • AMD AM3 AMD Athlon II X4 635 Propus - 2.9GHz quad-core CPU
  • AMD AM2+ AMD Phenom 8650 Toliman - 2.3GHz triple-core CPU

Hard drive upgrade

Home users and small office users now have the storage needs of enterprise users from a few years ago. Increase in downloaded audio and video content, along with high-megapixel digital cameras and HD camcorders, mean that users can accumulate gigabytes of information is a short time.

The easiest way to do this is to either replace the internal hard drive, or add a new one.

  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD15EARS 1.5TB SATA drive

Graphics card upgrade

If you're a gamer then one of the main thing that ages your PC is having an old graphics card. Thankfully, a $100 buys you a really good upgrade.

Rather than get caught up in the ideology of ATI vs NVIDIA, I'll give you a two cards.

  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB GDDR3
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 240 1GB GDDR3

(I'm leaving this brand-neutral here and just giving you a GPU/RAM combo that falls into the $100 price range.)

RAM

Adding more RAM is without a doubt the single most effective upgrade you can carry out. It's not as sexy as upgrading the CPU or graphics cards, but if your system currently only has 1 to 2GB or RAM, adding more will make your PC faster and snappier.

How much RAM, what kind and the speed available to you depends on the motherboard you use, so to make the most of this upgrade either dig out the manual for your PC or visit an online vendor such as Crucial or Kingston for advice on what RAM you need.

LCD screen

If you're still stuck with a sub-17" screen, then $110 will buy you a nice 17" panel. If you've already got a 17" panel already, then since most modern graphics cards have the ability to allow you to hook up two monitors to them, a little over $100 will allow you to double your available screen real estate, doubling your productivity at the same time.