How to Upgrade or Affordably Replace Your Old PC

If you’re looking to upgrade or replace your computer, take the same approach as a physician; that is, diagnosis then treatment.      To do this:

   •     Mac owners: Apple Menu > About this Mac
   •     PC owners: Open Start Menu and enter “cmd” in the box.           At the command prompt, run: systeminfo.exe

If you see dates from before the Obama presidency, it’s time for a new computer. Or perhaps your computer isn’t that old but is sluggish and has frustrating freeze tendencies. Programs like PC Pitstop will identify the exact causes of your computer lag.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to understand your options as you research upgrades and replacements.


Upgrade to a SSD

Hard disk drives (HDDs) date back to the early days of computer history. They are a few inches of metal that store computer data and access it each time a computer powers on. Solid state drives (SSDs) do the exact same thing except they retain data without power. SSDs provide superior computer performance compared to their traditional counterparts. While they lack for storage space if you need more than 1 TB, SSDs outperform HHDs when it comes to boot-up times and speed. CNET provides a “best of” list that ranges from $20 to $300, which is competitive with average HDD prices (unlike years past).

For Mac owners, this guide explains how to prep the SSD with an automatic configuration and how to remove your old hard drive with relatively simple steps. Lastly, you install the SSD with four Torx screws (available at local hardware store). Total cost: ~$120

CNET provides a similar explanation for PC owners. Set up the SSD with cloning software and a USB-to-SATA adapter and install the drive with a small screwdriver.

Free up hard drive space

Perhaps you don’t need to bite the bullet on a new hard drive. There are multiple ways to clear space for improved processing speed.

Programs such as CleanMyMac and CleanMyPC cost about $40 and will complete space-saving tasks such as:

   •     Clear duplicate and temporary files
   •     Clear unnecessary language files
   •     Uninstall unused applications
   •     Identify and remove big attachments stored in Mail
   •     Analyze disk space

It should be noted that these tasks can be performed manually. PC owners can also disable features such as hibernation and system restore.

Buy additional memory (RAM)

Adding additional random-access memory (RAM) to your computer might speed it up, might being the important word. A healthy amount of RAM (4 GB or 8 GB) eliminates the need for program swapping, which essentially means computer multi-tasking. Check your current RAM before researching an upgrade. Sites like Lifehacker, Tom’s Hardware and ZDNet have concluded that 4 GB is ample for average users and 8 GB suffices for most technical needs. However, if you run more than a couple of programs simultaneously and cannot switch between them swiftly, a RAM upgrade is for you. You should also look into RAM if you work with a memory-eating program like Adobe Photoshop or engage in tab warfare during your Chrome or Firefox sessions.

Apple provides hearty support documents on how to install memory and the process is very similar on PCs. You cannot damage the RAM unit by seating it improperly so it should be a stress-free installation. Avoid any “Mac RAM” products as there is no such thing. As long as the RAM matches the specifications for your system, it will function properly.

Affordable upgrades

Just like a car, sometimes it behooves you to buy new rather than pump money into the old horse. Desktops, laptops and tablets have transformed computer ownership standards. Data group GWI found the average consumer owns at least three “smart” devices. Consider the upgrades below that meet or surpass your old desktop’s computing power and convenience (for about $130 to $300).

The Dell Inspiron 3000 series laptop starts at $200. These ultra portable 11-inch to 15-inch laptops are lightweight and offer options such as touch displays to meet the needs of home and home office.

Google Chromebook
The 11-inch to 15-inch Google Chromebook laptops range from $150 to $300 and are cheaper on the used market. They cost a fraction of a MacBook Pro because they are Wi-Fi warriors. They’re not meant to run programs and have little memory and storage but can be used wherever Internet access is available. It may seem like a leap to give up on Microsoft Office Suite or your trusty solitaire game, but Google Docs and Google Drive have created an online ecosystem for file storage and word processing that is much more intuitive. Not to mention you can play solitaire without leaving your Google SERPs.

Intel Compute Stick
While most critics considered Intel’s first Compute Stick a flop, Engadget deemed the second iteration, “something you’d actually want to use.” And for good reason, the $130 stick with Windows 10 plugs directly into an HDTV or monitor via an HDMI port. Two USB ports are provided for mouse and keyboard hookups. And the pocket-sized stick comes with 32 GB of internal storage. The stick still requires an AC adapter for power but remains a cost-efficient option due to the capability vs. price.

The $300 DIY PC. If you’re looking for a challenge and like working with your hands, building your own PC is entirely possible. LifeHacker lists out a complete system courtesy of PCPartPicker. You can get everything you need for $333.31. Consider that the order consists of only seven parts and it becomes even less daunting. You’ll need a case, motherboard, processor, memory (RAM), storage, graphics card and a power supply. Complete buying and installation guides are easily found online.

There you have it. Say goodbye to that old computer. Find the option that appeals to you most and do some additional research. It can be rewarding to upgrade the computer with a little handy work, especially if you have children to do it with. Or it might be wise to buy new and avoid any potential headaches. Lastly, before you toss anything out, remember to protect your files and data by using Mozy’s online backup.