It’s fairly simple to know when your computer needs upgrading. Slow load times, freezing and crashing, even after deleting extraneous files, uninstalling unessential software and a series of defrags are a sure-fire way to tell that something needs to change. Now, you have two options: buy a completely new computer that can cope with the pressure, or update your existing one.
There are three parts of a computer that most commonly account for slowness and are easily replaceable: the RAM, the graphics card and the hard drive.
Before you begin any work on your computer, I would strongly recommend backing up your files on an external hard drive, just in case the unthinkable happens. Make sure your computer is dust-free before you open the casing, and it is powered down and completely unplugged from any power sources. Make sure you ground yourself by touching a metal surface, or use a grounding wristband.
Random Access Memory aka RAM is the data storage that holds all together. It stores all the information that you are using at one time, and any byte of data can be accessed randomly without having to move through the other bytes to get to the one you need. If you have more RAM (more MB and MHz), your computer will have more space to store immediate data, meaning it will be faster.
It’s relatively easy to replace RAM once you have purchased your upgraded piece (read your computer manual or look at the RAM currently in your computer to determine what you have and what you need).
- Find your RAM slot or slots – it should be a long, thin piece, possibly in a stack of slots. If you have more than one slot, you can simply add your new RAM to an empty slot; if you have a single slot, you’ll need to remove the existing RAM and replace it.
- If you’re removing old RAM, push down on the latches either side of it, and gently pull the RAM stick out to remove.
- To insert your new RAM, pull the latches away, line up the notch in the slot with the notch in your RAM stick, and push in until the latches snap back into place. Done!
If you use your computer for a lot of visual things, for example, gaming or watching films and TV shows, and you find that the picture quality is poor or stutters, you will definitely benefit from a new graphics card. I’d recommend doing this in conjunction with a RAM upgrade, as even with a great graphics card, if your RAM isn’t large enough, you’ll still get problems.
When buying your upgraded graphics card, remember that the most expensive ones aren’t always the best, so try going on recommendations from the place you are buying from or reviews from someone with similar needs to you. Once you have your new card, install it using this method:
- Remove your old graphics card by removing any cables connected to the card (not in all models) and unscrewing the part of the card that attaches to the computer casing. Pull out – these can sometimes be a little stiff so try rocking it from end to end.
- Push your new graphics card into the slot firmly and evenly, making sure you don’t bend the card. Screw the bracket onto the computer casing, and plug in any cables that you removed from your old card. Et voilà!
The hard drive is the place where all of your files are stored, and, simply, the bigger your hard drive, the more you can store – so when upgrading the rule is, the bigger the better!
You have a few options when upgrading your hard drive, for example, replacing your old hard drive completely, or keeping your old hard drive and adding your new one in, designating one as the ‘slave’ and one as the ‘master’. Generally speaking, as long as your old hard drive is still in good working order, keeping that as the ‘master’ and designating your new hard drive as the ‘slave’ can save a lot of hassle, including having to copy all of your files over.
It is essential that before you begin this process you back up all of your data. Once you’ve decided what method to use, this is how you add in a new hard drive – though be aware that all computer casings are laid out slightly differently, IDE and SATA drives are installed slightly differently, and have different cables:
- If you have IDE drive/s you will need to set the jumpers to ‘master’ or ‘slave’ using the instruction manual that comes with the drive/s, though if you have SATA drive/s you don’t need to worry about this.
- If your computer has a removable hard drive tray, pull this out, slide your hard drive in and screw into place, then slide the tray back into the bay in the computer casing. If not, simply slide the hard drive into the computer casing and screw in to secure.
- Connect the ribbon/data cable to the back of your hard drive, making sure if you have a ribbon cable the red stripe lines up with the first pin.
- Connect the power cable to the back of your hard drive. Done!
Once you’ve finished suping-up your computer, make sure that you replace the computer casing properly. Then you’re ready to go!
About the Author: James Duval is an IT and tech expert with a knack for explaining things in simple terms. Currently he writes for ArcIT Solutions, who offer IT outsourcing solutions.
Image by: Kolin Toney