If you are like most people when they buy a new Personal Computer, you probably get excited when you take it out of the box, turn it on, and marvel at how fast it runs. When a computer is new, it always seems to run faster and boot up quicker than your old computer. The applications and games seem to run without any slow down, and when you get on the internet, the pages load instantly on the screen, and you can quickly surf from one website to another. Over time, though, your computer can slow down and not run as soon as it did when it was new.
If you are like me, you like to have multiple software applications running or multiple internet browser windows open at the same time, and that can utilize greater amounts of computer resources as well. The more resources you use, the slower the computer will run.
This is a constant problem in computing because computer technology doubles roughly every 18 months. In demand for more feature-rich software applications, developers create more resource-consuming software programs. To meet the software’s increased needs, computer manufacturers continue to build faster, more expensive computers. This, in my opinion, is a vicious cycle where, to maintain a fast and enjoyable computing experience, the computer user is forced to go out and buy a new computer every few years.
Fortunately for me, I have never had to worry about that problem. I am a certified computer professional and have been building and repairing computers for over 15 years. When I want a faster computer, I do not go out and buy a new expensive computer. I have learned how to break the new buying cycle by upgrading my computer. By upgrading my computer rather than buying a new one, I can make myself a faster computer at a fraction of the cost.
You can break the computer buying cycle, too, and you do not have to be a computer professional like me. You only need to know a few things about computers, be handy with a screwdriver, and be able to follow a few simple instructions. Still, before you consider upgrading your computer, it might be important to get a brief overview of how a computer works.
Computers are made up of a combination of hardware and software working together. When you aren’t familiar with how a computer functions, then it can seem very complex. You can reduce that complexity once you understand how a computer works at a basic level.
At its most basic level, a computer receives input and produces output. A computer receives information through input devices such as the keyboard and mouse (hardware). Whenever we click the mouse on a link or move the mouse across the screen, we give the computer input or instructions to do something.
What makes a computer fast is its ability to receive input and produce output quickly. There are several components a computer needs to function, but there are three primary components that directly affect how fast a computer can operate.
The three primary computer components that handle the processing of input and make a computer fast are the following:
Motherboard or Main System Board
CPU or Central Processing Unit
RAM or Random Access Memory
Without getting too technical, the Motherboard is the computer component that connects all the hardware on the computer. You could think of the Motherboard as a data freeway that links together all the details of the computer and allows them to transmit data between each other and communicate.
Every computer component on the computer connects to the Motherboard either by being connected directly to the Motherboard or connecting via a data cable. The devices or components related to the Motherboard are the CPU, RAM Memory, Hard Drive, CD-ROM/DVD drive, Video Card, Sound Card, Network Card, Modem, keyboard, Mouse, and Monitor.
There are additional peripheral devices thatcan connect to the Motherboard and a variety of data ports connected to the Motherboard, such as a printer, digital camera, microphone, and even an HDTV. These devices can connect to the Motherboard using one of the several ports such as a USB, Parallel, Fire-Wire, SATA (Serial-ATA), or HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) port.
New Motherboards are faster because they allow more data traffic at higher speeds.
The CPU or Processor is the brain of the computer. The CPU carries out all the instructions you, in conjunction with the Operating System like Windows XP or Windows 7, ask it to do. CPUs can only carry out one instruction at a time, but they do it so fast it seems they are doing multiple tasks simultaneously, or “Multitasking.”
RAM or Random Access Memory stores all the instructions you have asked the computer to carry out. Every time we interact with our computer, we create instruction data for the CPU to process, and even the simplest interaction, like moving the mouse across the screen, requires many single instructions the CPU must carry out. You can imagine that playing a computer game or running an application like Adobe Photoshop can create a tremendous amount of education for the CPU. The CPU is fast and can execute many instructions quickly, but it can’t do them all at once, so we need a place to store the instructions until they can be processed. This is why RAM was created.
The best way to resolve this problem is by adding more RAM to your computer. Adding more RAM is possibly the easiest way to increase the performance of your computer. Increasing the amount of RAM in your computer can help your computer run faster because it allows your computer to store more instructions. This lets the computer carry out many instructions while you continue to do your work, reducing the computer freeze-ups.
Some Motherboards will allow you to install as much as 32GBs of RAM, and most Motherboards will recognize multiple Bus speeds so that you can use several different types of RAM. Generally speaking, the faster the BUS speed and the larger the storage capacity of the RAM, the quicker your computer will perform. The important thing to remember, though, is that with larger power and speed comes a higher price.
Replacing the Motherboard, CPU, and RAM is a lot easier than you may think. The CPU and RAM are directly connected to the Motherboard, so you can replace all three components simultaneously by simply swapping out the Motherboard.
To do this, you must first determine what form factor of Motherboard your current computer supports.
The Motherboard Form Factor
Many computer manufacturers such as HP, Compaq, Dell, Gateway, eMachine, and Acer build their computers based on four primary motherboard form factors or design specifications, and they are:
ATX = Full-Size Motherboard generally found in full-size Desktop computers and Towers
Micro-ATX = Mid-Size motherboard located in Mid Tower and Smaller Desktops.
Mini-ATX = Small Motherboard found in Mid Towers, Smaller Desktops.
Mini-ITX = Newest motherboards, very small size found in new smaller towers and desktops.
These form factors refer to the size of the Motherboard itself. The computer case is designed to accommodate a specific length of Motherboard. Once you have determined which form element your computer model is, then all you need to do is purchase the correct form factor Motherboard that fits your computer model’s case.
It would work like this. Let’s say you have an HP Pavilion 750n desktop computer. This is an older computer with a single-core processor. It was a Nice computer when it first came out but very slow by today’s standards. You decide to make it faster by upgrading it to a Quad-Core CPU, but you must determine if you can upgrade it.
Each computer manufacturer I named has a support site on their web page where you can go to determine your model’s form factor. You can also search Yahoo, Google, or Bing and ask what form factor your computer model is. If that doesn’t work, email me or leave a comment on this article, and I can help you locate it.
READ MORE :
- Guide to Building a Gaming Computer
- Hack Back Your Computer To Speed It Up
- What are the stages of a personal injury case?
- Keeping Up With the News Via Google Reader
- 5 Great Uses of the Internet
How you decide which performance level you would like to upgrade to can be based on how you use your computer and how much you want to spend to upgrade it. Generally speaking, if you only use your computer to send and receive emails, browse the web, and save and share digital images from a digital camera, you may only need to upgrade to a Dual Core CPU to improve your computing experience significantly.
If you play lots of games, burn DVDs, edit movies or sound files, and work with high-resolution images or graphics, then you may want to select a Quad-Core CPU to increase performance and improve your computing experience.
From a cost perspective, you can expect to pay more for a faster CPU than you would for a slower CPU, and Quad-Core CPUs are generally more expensive than Dual Cores. As a rule, you should purchase as much as you can for as little as possible; that way, you get the most for your money, and you won’t have to upgrade again for quite a while.
When you are ready to select your CPU, you will have choices based on manufacturer and type, and there are also some differences between the various types of CPUs from each manufacturer, which you should be aware of.
There are three primary CPU manufacturers: Intel, AMD, and Motorola, but for this article, we will only focus on Intel and AMD. Motorola is primarily responsible for making CPUs for Apple Computers. Apple computers are a proprietary computer model, and it can be more difficult and more costly to upgrade an Apple computer.
This article is focused on helping the budget-conscious, who own what is generally referred to as an IBM-compatible computer, upgrade their computer easily and inexpensively. IBM-compatible computers are identified as those computers that primarily run Microsoft Windows-based operating systems such as Windows XP or Windows 7. Intel and AMD manufacture CPUs that support IBM-compatible computers, so those are the two manufacturers we will focus on.
The prevailing sentiment regarding AMD vs. Intel is that both CPUs, in either Dual or quad-core configuration, perform similarly, with Intel being slightly faster. Intel CPUs have always been associated with executing business applications quickly, while AMD CPUs run multimedia applications quickly. As you research their benchmark scores, you will see Intel on a graph seems to outperform AMD dramatically, but when you look at the duration of time between the two, it is minimal.
You will see a significant difference between the two manufacturers in terms of cost. AMD CPUs are almost always less expensive than Intel CPUs. The question I always ask my clients is, “Is a 4-second faster speed difference worth an extra $200 or 300 dollars more by buying an Intel CPU?” To me, it is not.
Earlier, I indicated that RAM stores all the instruction data transmitted to the CPU and throughout the computer. The CPU Cache is another form of high-speed memory, only specifically devoted to the CPU. It has been shown that a CPU can process data faster if more of the data it must process can be stored in the memory located closer to the CPU itself.
All CPUs come with a cache, but some newer CPUs will come with an additional store that is faster and can hold more data closer to the CPU. Typically, CPUs operating at a higher clock speed and having a different, faster store will offer higher performance.
Be sure to do a little research on the differences between the AMD and Intel CPUs and select the one you feel will be appropriate for your computing needs while meeting your budget goals. Once you have chosen the CPU you want, you will then be ready to select the Motherboard that supports not only your CPU but your computer form factor as well.
Once you have decided on the CPU, you want to select the Motherboard that will support the CPU you have chosen. As far as Motherboards go, there are several major manufacturers of Motherboards, and they all produce the four main types of Motherboard form factors. The major manufacturers are:
For example, you can purchase a Motherboard that has the video and sound card integrated into the board. This saves you both time and money because it eliminates the need for you to choose a video or sound card. Still, if you want a specific video or sound card, you can select a Motherboard that does not come with those integrated components and then pick the video and sound card you would like to install as add-in cards onto the Motherboard.
Here is a list of common Motherboards features:
Keyboard and Mouse input is often referred to as a PS2 connector.
USB – Universal Serial Bus ports for connecting computer peripherals such as (Keyboard, Mouse, Printer, Digital Camera, External Hard Drive, etc…)
Parallel Printer Port (not as much in newer motherboards as printers use USB)
Local Area Network or LAN connection for a network or internet connection
Dial-up Modem (not as common in more unique boards due to high-speed internet connections)
Optional Motherboard Features:
1394 or Firewire connection (higher speed data connection)
External SATA or Serial-ATA connection (higher speed data connection designed to connect external SATA devices such as a Hard Drive)
HDMI – High-Definition Multimedia Interface to connect an HD monitor or TV or to an external High Definition Audio component
We touched on RAM earlier, and we know that the RAM you choose must be supported by the CPU and Motherboard you select. To make it simple, it breaks down like this when upgrading. The CPU determines the type of Motherboard you must choose, and your computer model determines the type of Motherboard form factor you select.