PC Upgrade Essentials: RAM, Video Card And Hard Drive

by Rod Dunne on September 28, 2010

in Articles, Hardware, Performance

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Doing a PC upgrade is one of the easier PC maintenance and repair tasks that you can perform, and in these recessionary times is also an economical way of making the most use out of an aging or broken computer. In this article, we’ll take a look at the three most common computer upgrades worth considering (RAM, video card and hard drives).

Note that when you upgrade your computer components, you should always switch off your computer completely and unplug the power cable. In addition, wearing an anti-static wristband will help reduce the chance of sending an electrical charge to any motherboard components while doing your PC upgrade.

Computer memory upgrades

Adding more RAM is probably the most effective way of speeding up a PC. It will instantly make the operating system and any running applications perform a lot faster. Given the current price of RAM (it is very cheap), this is also one of the most economical the ways to improve your PC.

Computer memory upgrades should be done as follows:

  1. Check your computer documentation (or the vendor’s website) to establish what type of RAM memory your motherboard supports, and what the upper limit is that it can handle. Purchase the appropriate RAM.
  2. After shutting down the computer, open the case and locate where the memory modules go on the motherboard.
  3. If no slots are free, then remove some of the previous memory. This is done by pressing down on the plastic tabs at the end of each memory card. Gently pull out on the memory by holding the end sections (try not to touch the chips as this may damage them).
  4. Align your new memory with the memory slots on the motherboard. They should only be able to go in one direction. Push down gently to securely embed them into the connection and pull up the plastic tabs at either end to fasten them down.
  5. Close up the PC and restart the computer. The Control Panel/System will display how much RAM the motherboard has been able to locate.

Laptop memory upgrades are done in a similar fashion, which normally involves removing the keyboard on the laptop first. You should also do the identical research checks beforehand to make sure you get the correct type and quantity of RAM memory. Check your laptop documentation, which should contain a section on laptop memory upgrades and give you a step-by-step process to help you remove the keyboard. See also our post on laptop hard drives for more information on replacing disk drives.

For more information about software related ways to speed up a PC then check out our article on how to fix slow computer performance issues.

Upgrading the graphics card

Improving or changing a video card are popular computer upgrades for anybody wishing to play video games on their PC. In addition, they can also benefit you if you intend watching TV/video/HD on the computer or to use multiple monitors.

To upgrade your computer graphics card, proceed as follows:

  1. First establish what type of connection interface is used on your motherboard via the manufacturers’ website/documentation. It is normally VGA, PCI or PCI Express. Purchase a graphics card with a suitable connection type and which targets the use you have in mind (games/video etc).
  2. Shut down the PC and open the case.
  3. Locate a new slot at the back of the PC where you can put in the new card. Carefully place the new card slot and securely fasten it to the casing using the screws provided.
  4. Connect up the power cable to your power supply, and connect the card to your motherboard.
  5. Replace the case on the computer, connect your monitor to the new card and restart the PC.
  6. Download the latest device drivers from the manufacturers’ website.

PC upgrade: hard drives/disks

It can often become essential to add more hard drive space, especially in these days when we seem to have an awful lot of video, music and image files which are generally large and take up a lot of your hard drive.

One of the simpler computer upgrades you can make is to use an external hard drive connected over a USB or FireWire connection. Taking this approach means you can upgrade your computer and also reuse the hard drive on other PCs to (e.g. as a backup drive).

The alternative is to install an internal hard drive on your PC. The installation process is relatively simple:

  1. Establish what type of connector cable your motherboard requires for any new hard drives (SATA or IDE). Purchase the appropriate hard drive. Check also if your motherboard has any restrictions on the speed of the drive or capacity size (as this can sometimes be the case).
  2. Shut down the PC and open the case.
  3. Any new drives will be placed in slots at the front of the PC. Securely fasten the new drive and connect it to the power supply and to the motherboard (using the SATA or IDE connection cables).
  4. Replace the case and restart the computer. Your operating system should identify the PC upgrade immediately and the drive partition will be spotted in Windows Explorer.

Related posts:
How to reboot your computer
External hard drive repair

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