In challenging economic times like these it’s a tough decision between PC upgrades and the bills. Here are a few inexpensive upgrades that will make a big difference in performance.
Solid State Hard Drive
Technology has gotten to the point where the slowest component of the computer is the hard drive. The hard drive is a mechanical device and is the most susceptible to failure. Solid state drives (SSD) use non-volatile memory chips similar to the ones in usb flash drives. This results in a speed increase in data retrieval and a quieter and cooler running system. SSD drives are commonly used in netbooks. The price point has finally dropped to make it an affordable upgrade. In my opinion, this is the biggest bang for your buck. A 64Gb SSD as of this writing is under $150 and replaces the noisiest, least reliable, and slowest device in your box. Check out a previous post about SSD maintenance.
Update: Check out Engadget’s best SSDs for a quick performance boost.
If you are using the integrated video card on your motherboard you will see a decent improvement in performance by upgrading to a low to mid-range graphics card. This upgrade could cost you more than you bargained for if you don’t do your homework. Some performance graphics may require additional power consideration and motherboard support So you can’t just pick a high-end graphics card and expect it to be a quick upgrade. If you do your research you will be surprised what a difference it can make even if all you do is write word docs or play Farmville on facebook.
RAM is the cheapest it has ever been thanks to progress in process and technology. Newer operating systems and application have higher memory requirements and the feeling about memory has always been the more the better. Again you should do your research here and find out how much and what type of memory is compatible with your system. Cruicial.com is a good resource for memory research. When buying memory it is not just the amount but the speed. Make sure you get the highest speed RAM that works with your system. This makes a larger difference than you may think. Keep in mind if the memory you have is slower speed than the upgrade you would want to replace the slower memory rather than add it to the faster memory since the RAM speed will be lowered to match the slower speed of the installed memory. Your memory will only be as fast as the slowest memory stick.
Even one of these upgrades can make a significant increase in performance.