Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tips to Consider for 4 Common Computer Upgrades

If you are in the market for a new laptop or computer, the options available can be overwhelming.  From the different manufacturers, to style and colors, to the options and accessories, making the right choices now is critical for your new device to meet your needs over the next three to five years.  Listed below are some considerations to make for four of the major physical upgrades available when purchasing a new laptop or computer.  Each topic gives examples of when the upgrade is worth the extra expense, and how you can decide this for your specific usage.

Storage Capacity (Hard drives, Solid State Drives, or a Hybrid)
Years ago upgrading storage capacity by selecting larger hard drives was very common.  Fast forward to now, and most people only need to consider upgrading their storage capacity if the device they are looking at comes with a Solid State Drive, or SSD.  SSD's come in smaller storage capacities than traditional hard drives, but are more expensive due to the newer technologies used in them.  SSD's are also more compact, extremely quiet, and can achieve much faster read and write outputs.  

Although SSD's have much less storage capacity per dollar than traditional hard drives, you might not need to upgrade them.  If most of what you do is online and does not create local files, you may never run out of storage on your SSD. Some examples of this would be webmail, social media, communications or cloud based applications storing data elsewhere.  Before considering an SSD with larger storage capacity, take a look at how much storage space you are using on your current device.  Then, think about how you will use the new device.  If you do not plan to change your usage, then the amount of storage capacity you are currently using plus room for growth should be enough.   However, if you frequently create files, download and store large files like music, photos and videos, you may want to consider upgrading your storage capacity depending upon how the storage on your existing device compares to any new device.   With this information in mind choosing whether or not to upgrade the storage capacity should be fairly easy.  

When you are looking at the CPU included with a new device, seriously consider how you plan to use the device since upgrading the CPU can be expensive.  In most situations and for average users, upgrading the CPU will not be noticeable.  Obviously there are substantial differences between the i3, i5, and i7 processors for example, price being one of them.  How you use your device is the most important factor in this decision.  If you play video games, edit movies and videos, or other highly intensive processing tasks you will want to consider upgrading.  If you are not familiar with how much of your CPU is normally in use, right click the task bar on a Windows System and select "Task Manager".  On the Processes tab, the usage for the CPU at any given moment is displayed at the top, and the usage by each given process is listed in real time.  To find out which processes are most CPU intensive, click on the "CPU" heading to sort processes by CPU usage.

If your device seems sluggish and takes longer to load applications and webpages than you prefer, check the Task Manager to see if the CPU is being over-utilized, or if it is really the RAM that is causing the slow down.  You should be able to tell based on which one of those is close to capacity when you are experiencing slowness and response issues.  Another thing to consider beyond speed, is newer processors are more efficient.  This means they are faster and also run cooler which is important if you are considering purchasing a laptop.

The right amount of RAM can help your device respond more quickly to your requests, load programs faster, and switch between open programs more smoothly.  The decision to upgrade the RAM in your device or not is simpler to make than upgrading the CPU because additional RAM will be cheaper.  Compare the amount of RAM you have in your current device and compare to what comes standard with any new device you are considering.  Think about how your usage will or will not change and check to see what your RAM utilization is with common applications open on your current device.  To see how much of your RAM is in use, on a Windows device right click the taskbar, and select "Task Manager".  On the Processes tab, click the "Memory" title to sort processes by their memory usage.  
Checking to see how different applications affect your RAM usage and knowing how you plan to use your new device will help you decide if you need to upgrade when you purchase a new device.

Graphics Card
When considering if you should upgrade a graphics card, your usage of the new device is once again the most important thing to consider.  If you mainly use a spreadsheet program, email, the Internet, network resources, or for doing research for example, upgrading the graphics card would most likely not be worth the expense.  However, if you play video games on your device, edit videos, design websites, work with graphic arts, CAD drawings or other design work, upgrading the graphics card would likely be money well spent.  

These are four physical components in laptop and desktop devices that are commonly upgraded when purchased.  These tips are a few of the things to keep in mind when considering whether or not upgrading is right for you.  Purchasing a new laptop or computer can be exciting as well as overwhelming when looking at all of the upgrades, options, and accessories and trying to stay within a budget.  If you take the time to look into what your current usage is, you might save yourself some money by investing only in the upgrades you really need.  Always keep in mind what changes, if any, you plan to make to your usage when considering what your needs will be for any new device.  Good luck and happy shopping!

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