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The relative guide to upgrading

We benchmark five, three and one-year old PCs and then apply various upgrades to see what makes the most difference


With wise upgrade choices, you can get better performance from your current PC without resorting to buying a new one.

When we review PCs, we place considerable emphasis on upgrade potential. There’s a good reason for this: it can save you money in the future. Whether it’s just six months down the line or several years, you’re bound to yearn for better performance to run the latest piece of software or operating system.

You could buy a new PC, but that’s a far more expensive option than upgrading what you currently have under your desk. Plus, as we’re constantly being reminded, times are still tough, so a new PC may be an extravagance too far.

Just about every PC is user upgradeable, although some are trickier than others. With the exception of those that use laptop components (such as all-in-ones and some other micro-desktops) they all have a collection of standard parts that fit into standard slots and sockets. They’re also widely available and quick to fit.

All you need is a basic toolkit comprising a screwdriver and an anti-static wrist strap (or another way of earthing yourself), and you’ll have a faster computer in next to no time. The only hurdle in the process is working out which components are compatible with your PC, but with some basic knowledge and access to the internet, this is easy to overcome.

upgrade table 5 3 1 Click to enlarge – this table summarises all the upgrades and benchmarking we undertook for this feature – you may need to refer back to it as you read through

Here, we’re primarily concerned with performance, so we’ll concentrate on finding out how processor and memory upgrades affect performance. We’ll look at three different scenarios: a five-year old PC, a three-year old machine and one you bought just last year to see whether you’re better off adding extra RAM, or upgrading your CPU. If you want to upgrade any other components, then don’t miss our The Complete PC Upgrades Handbook 2011, which is on sale from WHSmith and

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