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Upgrade or Buy a New Computer?

Upgrade or Buy a New Computer - with the economy the way it is you have to consider your budget...


A couple of months back a friend asked me my opinion on upgrade or buy a new computer.

The computer he had was over five years old. This means that the technology had moved on. Not just the processor, but the USB, the hard drive, the CD ROM drive, the memory. Actually the only thing that had not changed was the case and if you looked at cases over five years old you would say that the case is also outdated.

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Now there are parts of a computer that are over five years old that are still serviceable, actually as long as the component is still functional and not having problems then why upgrade or buy a new computer?

One consideration is the newer Operating Systems may not run on an older processor, or there may not be enough storage on the hard drive. Then again you may want to use the latest and greatest software and your video card doesn't have the resolution or the manufacture hasn't written the drivers for the new software.

Some of this is built in obsolescence, that is the manufacture stops supporting products after a length of time because there aren't that many of the product left in service or it is too costly to keep writing the software to make the product work with newer programs or even newer hardware.

Which is cheaper? Which is easier? Upgrade or Buy a New Computer


What it comes down to is what do you use the computer for and how much you can afford.

Upgrade Computer Example 1:

In 1995 I bought two Antex tower cases, one for my main computer and one for my server. Three years ago I decided to upgrade from a Pentium 4 to the Core 2 Intel processor. When I decided to do this I priced out the cost of a new computer vs the upgrade I did. By using my existing parts and only upgrading the motherboard, processor, memory, and video card I moved from the P4 to Core 2 Quad with 4 GB of memory, a higher resolution video card with more memory for less than $500. To purchase my computer pre manufactured would have been close to $1400, and I would have a spare computer that I know I would have to upgrade just because it was sitting there! :)

Upgrade Computer Example 2:

As my friend said, he wanted the latest and greatest and would I do the deed? So I wrote up the spec's for a new mother board that would support Core 2 Quad, 4 Gig of memory, new case, 120 Gig hard drive, DVD rewritable drive, high resolution video card with 512 meg of memory,  two extra fans, and wireless keyboard and mouse combo. The cost for parts came to just under $600, add to that either my time to build the computer and the license for Vista and it comes to just over $900 with out any tax, take my time away and it comes to just under $700. A comparable pre manufactured computer comes in at $1200 but has a one year manufactures warranty. The warranty is a mute point because each part I would order also has a one year manufactures warranty. Where the break point comes is when you build your own you have a choice of parts (quality over quantity) and your upgrade path is wide open, not proprietary such as a Dell, HP, or other manufacture's product.

So which way would you go? Upgrade or Buy a New Computer?

Well you need to take a some facts in to consideration -

Is your current computer a proprietary manufactured computer such as a Dell, HP or one of the other manufactures? If so the upgrade for these may only be -

  • a faster processor
  • bigger hard drive
  • and/or more memory

Some of the newer proprietary computers don't have the facility to add a PCIx or PCIe video card or even a PCIx sound card it may only have PCI slots and will limit what your choices are.

If the computer is a custom computer (what used to be called a clone) that the architecture of the case and motherboard allows for upgrades you will save yourself some money, sometimes a lot of money as in example 1 above.

Lets assume that your computer is a custom computer what can you do with it? A lot, these are the items that should be upgradeable -

  • Motherboard
  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Storage
  • Video (card or embedded*)
  • Sound device (card or embedded*)
  • Power supply
  • Fan(s)

And then don't forget to think about your external peripherals -

  • Web Cam
  • Backup external drive
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Monitor
  • Scanner

As always research your parts for the best price but don't forget the Quality, after all that is why you do it yourself, more bang for yer buck!

*Embedded is a device that is on the motherboard, a lot of newer motherboards have all the peripherals on the motherboard as what are called 'chip sets'. These embedded devices can be -

  • Network
    • Wireless
    • Wired (most motherboards have two NIC's now)
  • Video
  • Sound
  • USB
  • Firewire

In conclusion for the consideration of upgrade or buy a new computer:

If you want to upgrade one or more of these devices they can be disabled in the BIOS settings and then you add your upgrade to the motherboard by using one of the slots on the motherboard. Or you can have two devices such as sound cards, I use the embedded sound device on my ASUS motherboard for gaming and streaming radio broadcasts. Then I have an old SoundBlaster for my voice card, this way I can listen to streaming radio and use my voice card at the same time, neat.

All-in-all with the economy really down and money is tight does it make sense to upgrade or buy a new computer when the one you already have is still serviceable?

Last words of advice:

If you upgrade your motherboard you will have to re-install the Operating System.

If you upgrade the drive that the Operating System is on you will need to either re-install the Operating System or make a copy of the existing Operating System on the drive being replaced, that is called an "image" you can find more information about making an image of your OS in the "How To..." section of this web site.

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