The New Computer Smell
If you’re like most people, you get excited about buying a personal computer. A new computer will always run faster than an old one and it will boot up much quicker. Applications and games run smoothly without slowing down. When you go online, pages load immediately and you can surf quickly from one site to the next. Your computer may slow down over time and stop running as fast as it used to.
It can happen for many reasons. This can often be fixed by cleaning out your hard drive or running diagnostics. You might have a virus on your computer. Once you remove it, the computer’s performance will be restored. But what if your computer still runs slowly after you’ve done everything?
Your computer may be slow despite having removed viruses and tried to improve performance. This could indicate that your computer cannot handle the increased demands.
We tend to install more software on our computers and try to run multiple applications at once. To run software applications and games correctly, new software can need more resources like faster CPUs or central processing units.
If you’re like me, you prefer to have multiple software programs open or multiple internet browsers open at once. This allows you to use more computer resources. The slower your computer runs, the more resources you use.
Computer technology is constantly changing, and this is a problem. Software developers are creating more resource-intensive software programs to meet the growing demand for feature-rich software applications. Computer manufacturers continue to produce faster and more expensive computers in order to meet increasing software demands. I believe this is a vicious circle where the computer user must buy a new computer every few decades to keep enjoying a fast, enjoyable computing experience.
It’s not something I’ve ever had to worry about. I’m a certified computer technician and have been building computers and fixing them for more than 15 years. I don’t go out to buy a new computer if I need a faster computer. Upgrades are a way to get out of the cycle of computer purchasing. My computer can be upgraded instead of buying new. This allows me to get a faster computer for a fraction the price.
It is possible to end the cycle of computer purchases. You don’t have to be a professional computer technician to do this. It is not necessary to be an expert on computers or be able use a screwdriver to understand how to upgrade your computer.
Computers are made of software and hardware that work together. Computers can appear very complicated if you don’t know how they work. Once you have a basic understanding of how computers work, it is possible to reduce the complexity.
A computer can receive input and produce output at its most basic level. Computers receive input from input devices like the keyboard and mouse (hardware). We give the computer input by clicking on a link, or moving the mouse across the screen.
The input is created by the click of the mouse or keystrokes on the keyboard and sent to the computer as an electronic signal. This signal is sent through the computer, and converted into digital data that can be used to interpret the instruction from the operating system, game, or software. (software)
The computer processes digital instructions data and outputs it as an image, words or printout.
A computer’s ability to quickly receive input and create output is what makes it fast. Although there are many components that a computer requires to function, three main components directly impact how fast it can work.
These three components are the main ones that make computers fast and handle input processing.
Motherboard or Main System Board
CPU (Central Processing Unit)
RAM (random access memory)
The Motherboard, which connects all of the hardware on the computer without getting too technical, is the component that connects them all. The Motherboard could be described as a data-freeway that connects all components of the computer. It allows them to communicate and transmit data.
Each component of the computer connects directly to the Motherboard via a data cable or by being connected directly. The Motherboard connects to the following devices and components: CPU, RAM Memory (hard drive), CD ROM/DVD, DVD drive, video card, sound card, modem, key board, mouse, modem, modem, modem, keyboard, and monitor.
Additional peripheral devices can also be connected to the Motherboard via a variety data ports. These include a printer and digital camera, microphone, as well as an HDTV. These peripheral devices can be connected to the Motherboard via one of many ports, including a USB (Serial/ATA), Parallel, Firewire, SATA (Serial/ATA), HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface), and SATA (Serial/ATA) ports.
The Motherboard was the data communication infrastructure that allowed communication between all devices. The Motherboard’s ability to transmit data at a speed that is faster than others is what makes it more efficient. It can be viewed as a street. The data bus is like a street, and the data buses are like cars driving down the street. The older Motherboards communication was equivalent to a two-way, two-lane street with a speed limit 25 MPH. The new Motherboards function as 8-lane highways at 200 MPH.
Because they allow for more data traffic at higher speeds, new Motherboards are quicker.
The brain of the computer is the CPU, or Processor. The CPU executes all instructions you ask it to, such as Windows XP and Windows 7. Although they can only execute one instruction at once, CPUs do so quickly that it appears they are performing multiple tasks simultaneously or “Multitasking”.
Because their “clock speed” (or “clock cycle”) is faster, newer CPUs are more efficient. Clock speed refers to the speed at which a CPU is able to execute instructions. Clock speed can be thought of as the timing of a metronome which helps musicians maintain the correct musical time. The front of a metronome is equipped with a hand that swings back and forth according to the time interval. It ticks like an alarm clock as it swings back-and-forth. The CPU ticks at a fixed interval, just like the metronome. However, it ticks at a very fast rate that is measured in Megahertz or Gigahertz. Every tick of the CPU’s clock cycle, the CPU executes an instruction.
Not only can new CPUs execute instructions at extremely high clock speeds, but they can also contain multiple CPU Cores. Each Core can execute its own instructions. A Dual Core CPU can execute two instructions simultaneously, while a Quad Core CPU can perform four. These CPUs are available in six Cores, and they can send and receive data more quickly through Motherboards than older Motherboards.
RAM, or Random Access Memory, is where you store all instructions that you ask the computer to execute. Each interaction we make with our computer creates instruction data that the CPU needs to process. Even the most basic interaction like moving the mouse around the screen requires multiple instructions for the CPU. It is easy to see how running an application such as Adobe Photoshop or playing a computer game can generate a lot of instructions for your CPU. Although the CPU can execute many instructions quickly, it is not able to do them all at once. This is why we need somewhere to store instructions until they are processed. RAM was designed to solve this problem.
RAM is the place where all instructions are stored until they can be executed by your CPU. Sometimes, you can tell when your RAM is low by clicking on the mouse or hitting the enter key to start a program. The hourglass just spins on the screen. Although it may appear like your computer has frozen or locked up, the actual reason is that the computer is finishing the sequence of instructions it was given before it can continue with any additional instructions. This is usually a brief locking-up of the computer. This can also be very frustrating.
Adding more RAM to your computer is the best solution. The easiest way to improve your computer’s performance is to add more RAM. Your computer will run faster if you increase the RAM. This allows your computer to store more instructions. This allows the computer to perform a lot more instructions while you work, and reduces computer freeze-ups.
Your RAM speed can also affect the performance of your computer. RAM with a faster Data Bus speed can send instructions to the CPU faster. Your computer will run faster if it receives the instructions faster.
Your Motherboard and CPU will determine the amount of RAM you can use. How much RAM you can use will depend on the speed of your CPU and Motherboard, as well as how fast the RAM can be recognized by the Motherboard.
Some Motherboards allow for 32GBs of RAM, and many Motherboards can recognize multiple bus speeds. This allows you to use different RAM types. The faster your computer runs, the more RAM you have and the faster your BUS speed. It is important to keep in mind that faster speeds and greater capacity come at a higher cost.
The best thing about upgrading RAM is that most Motherboards can handle a variety of speeds and capacities. This will allow you to start with a slower speed and a smaller capacity RAM, and later upgrade to a faster speed and higher capacity RAM.
It is much easier than you might think to replace the Motherboard, CPU, and RAM. You can swap out the motherboard and replace the CPU and RAM directly by connecting them to the motherboard.
This is done by determining the type of motherboard that your computer currently supports.
The Motherboard Formula Factor
Many computer manufacturers, including HP, Compaq and Dell, Gateway, eMachine and Acer, base their computers on four primary motherboard form factors. These are the design specifications of:
ATX = Full-Sized Motherboard, generally found in full-size Desktop computers and Towers
Micro-ATX = Mid Size motherboard that can be found in Mid Tower or Smaller Desktops
Mini-ATX = Small Motherboard, found in Mid Towers and Smaller Desktops
Mini-ITX = The newest motherboards in a very small size, found in smaller desktops and towers
These form factors are the dimensions of the Motherboard. A specific size Motherboard is accommodated in the computer case. Once you know which form factor you computer model is, you can purchase the Motherboard that best fits your case.
It would look like this. Let’s suppose you have a HP Pavilion 750n laptop computer. This computer is older and has a single core processor. Although it was a great computer when it first appeared, it is very slow today. It is decided that you want it to be faster and upgrade to a Quad Core CPU. However, you must determine if it can be upgraded.
The HP support website can help you determine if your computer can be upgraded. You will need to enter your computer model in order to view the specifications of the computer’s hardware. The specifications guide will include information about the form factor. I have done this many times and know that the 750n uses the Micro-ATX form factor.
Every computer manufacturer I mentioned has a support website on their web site where you can determine the form factor of your model. A search on Yahoo, Google or Bing can help you find the form factor for your particular computer model. If this doesn’t work, email me or comment on this article. I will help you find it.
The CPU that your computer uses will determine the performance level. As you may recall, the CPU is sometimes called the brain of the computer. It processes all instructions and sets the overall speed of the computer based on its clock speed. You can usually start your upgrade by choosing the CPU performance level that you desire.
The factors that determine which performance level you wish to upgrade to will depend on how often you use your computer, and how much money you are willing to spend. If you use your computer only to send and receive emails, browse the internet, save digital images and share them from a digital camera then upgrading to a Dual Core CPU may not be necessary to greatly improve your computing experience.
Quad Core CPUs are great for gamers who play a lot of games, burn DVDs, edit sound files or movies, or work with high-resolution images or graphics.
You can expect to pay more for a faster processor than for one that is slower. Quad Core CPUs tend to be more expensive than Dual Core CPUs. You should buy as many CPUs as possible for the lowest price. This will ensure that you get the best value for your money, and that you don’t need to upgrade for a long time.
You will be able to choose your CPU based on the manufacturer. There are also differences between different types of CPUs.
There are three main CPU manufacturers, Intel, AMD, and Motorola. However, this article will only focus on Intel or AMD. Motorola is the primary manufacturer of CPUs for Apple Computers. Apple computers are a proprietary model, so it is more expensive and difficult to upgrade them.
This article will help the budget-conscious, also known as IBM compatible computers, to upgrade their computer quickly and cheaply. IBM compatible computers are those computers that run a Microsoft Windows based operating program such as Windows XP and Windows 7. Both Intel and AMD make compatible CPUs, so these are the two manufacturers that we will be focusing on.
This article will not go into detail on the differences between AMD and Intel CPUs. You can find a lot of information online that describes the architecture of each manufacturer’s CPU chip, and gives side-by-side comparisons.
You might like to research the design of each manufacturer’s chips and then look at a website that compares their performance. This website can provide information on CPU design, compares, and reviews that will help you choose the right CPU.
AMD vs. Intel is a common opinion. Both CPUs in Dual Core or Quad Core configuration perform the same, with Intel slightly faster. Intel CPUs are known for executing business applications fast, while AMD CPUs can run multimedia applications rapidly. You will notice that Intel is a significantly better performer than AMD when you compare their benchmark scores. However, the difference in time between them is very minimal.
The cost difference is where you’ll see the biggest differences between these two manufacturers. The cost of AMD CPUs is almost always lower than Intel CPUs. My clients always ask me the same question: “Is a 4 second speed increase worth $200 to $300 more if you buy an Intel CPU?” It doesn’t seem so to me.
I want to see an increase in overall performance compared with what I have. You won’t be comparing your computer to another computer with the same performance. Instead, you will compare it to your previous computer. You will be satisfied with your upgrade if your computer runs faster than it did before and it wasn’t expensive to do so.
RAM is the storage of all instruction data that is being transmitted to the CPU. Another form of high-speed memory is the CPU Cache. It is only for the CPU. A CPU can process data more quickly if it can store more data on memory that is closer to it.
Every CPU comes with a cache, but newer CPUs may have an extra cache that can store more data and is faster. A faster cache, which is typically found in CPUs with higher clock speeds, will give you better performance.
This is evident in the differences between the AMD Athlon Series and Phenom Series CPUs. The Athlon series and Phenom series are available in Quad Core and Dual Core configurations, but the Phenoim Series offers an extra L3 cache which makes the CPU more responsive. The Phenom Series CPU is also more expensive than the Athlon Series.
A version II is available for both the Athlon Series and Phenom Series. This is an interesting fact. Version II has a faster cache, so both CPUs should be faster than their predecessors. However, benchmark numbers show that there is a small increase in performance.
Do your research about the differences between Intel and AMD CPUs so you can choose the one that best suits your computing needs and your budget. After you have selected the CPU that you like, you can then choose the Motherboard that will support it.
Last, both Intel and AMD have different form factors for CPUs. This means that you need to choose the Motherboard that best suits your choice of CPU. Although this may seem difficult, it is actually not complicated once you look at the Motherboards and CPU combinations.
You can filter by CPU and computer form factor on the resellers I’ve shown you. This allows you to choose Motherboards that support Intel or AMD. Filtering by CPU or computer type factor can also be done which can help narrow down your selections.
After you have decided on the CPU, you will need to choose the Motherboard that supports it. There are four main Motherboard manufacturers. They all make the same 4 types of Motherboards. These are the major manufacturers:
Although it may seem overwhelming, you can start to narrow your focus on the CPU type and select the best Motherboard.
While most motherboards will have the basic features required for computer operation, some may offer additional features that could be of benefit to you. You should remember that the Motherboard connects to all the components. This allows you to personalize your computer upgrade however you wish, depending on which Motherboard you choose.
You can buy a Motherboard with the sound card and video integrated. This saves both time and money as you don’t have to select a sound card or video. However, if you need a specific sound card or video, you can choose a Motherboard without those components, then you can pick the add-in cards for the video and sound cards you wish to install on the Motherboard.
This is a list of the most common features on Motherboards:
The connector for the PS2 is often used to refer to keyboard input and mouse input.
USB – Universal Serial Bus ports are used to connect peripherals like keyboard, mouse, printer, digital camera, external hard drive etc
Parallel Printer Port (not so much on newer motherboards than printers using USB)
Local Area Network (LAN) connection to a network or an internet connection
Dial-up Modem is not as common on newer boards because of high speed internet connections.
Optional Motherboard Features
1394 or Firewire connection (higher data speed)
External SATA/Serial-ATA connection (higher data speed connection used to connect external SATA devices, such as a Hard Drive).
HDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface for connecting a HD Monitor or TV to an external High Definition Audio component.
We have already discussed RAM and it is important to note that RAM must be compatible with the Motherboard and CPU you select. It works like this during an upgrade. Your Motherboard type factor is determined by your computer model and CPU.
Your Motherboard will determine what RAM you can use, so it will make your choice easier. When it comes to RAM, the only thing you need to decide is the RAM size. This refers to the number of Gigabytes (Gigs) or GBs of RAM that you choose, as well as the RAM speed.
Another thing to remember is that newer Operating Systems like Windows Vista and Windows 7 need at least 2GBs RAM for proper operation. If you are upgrading, you should choose at least 2GBs. This will help you make an informed decision about the RAM amount. The speed of RAM that you choose will also depend on how fast your Motherboard can support it, what performance you desire and how much money you have available.
It is easy to find out the RAM speed your Motherboard supports. You will notice that Motherboards clearly indicate the RAM type and speed they support when you look at them.
This article has covered a lot of information. I hope that you now have a better idea of how to identify the CPU, RAM and Motherboard components required to upgrade your computer. These components can be purchased and upgraded yourself for a fraction of the cost of buying new computers. I’m confident that you will save money by using this information as a guide.
Two additional pieces of information are important to know before you try to upgrade your computer.
1. You should backup all your data before you upgrade your computer.
This is because upgrading those components will require you to reinstall your operating system. All data on your hard drives will be erased. If you do not have an existing copy of Windows XP or Vista, you will need to buy one. If you are already thinking about upgrading to a higher version of Windows, this may not be an issue. If you need it, I can help you locate a cheap copy of Windows.
2. You will find that the new components in your current PC are more efficient from a power consumption perspective. This will likely mean that you need to upgrade your power supply.
It is very simple and affordable to upgrade your power supply. You will choose between a 20×4 or 24 pin power supply. This will provide 400 watts minimum. This power supply is compatible with the latest Motherboards. The power supply requirements will be indicated by the specifications of the Motherboard.
All you have to do to make your computer more powerful is to upgrade the CPU, RAM and Motherboard. First, identify the Motherboard type your computer supports and the performance level that you wish to upgrade to. Next, you will need to determine the best CPU for your needs and the Motherboard and RAM that matches your computer’s specifications.
One thing I did not cover was the actual installation once these components are installed. The process is simple at a high level.
Disconnect all peripheral components, such as the monitor, keyboard and mouse from the computer by unplugging it
You can avoid damaging a component of your computer by discharging yourself electrically before you open it.
Take off the side cover from the computer case
Connect all power and data cables to the Motherboard.
Remove the Motherboard from the case by unscrewing it.
Remove the old power supply and unscrew it
Install the new power supply
Install the new Motherboard in the case
Reconnect all power and data cables
Turn the computer on again and listen for post sound
Now, you can install the operating system
You will be asking many questions once you have decided to begin this process. This is why I recommend that you do one more thing before you start to upgrade your computer.
Many online computer repair and upgrade manuals are available. They can help you with your computer upgrade. These books provide detailed diagrams and step-by-step instructions on how to replace any component of your computer. These books are worth the small investment.
Self Computer Repair Unleashed is my favorite do-it-yourself computer manual. It covers every aspect of computer repair and upgrade in a clear and concise format. The book also includes step-by step instructions and full color diagrams to assist you with any repair or upgrade. This book is a must-read. In my signature, I have included a link to the book on my links page.
Thank you for reading my article. I hope it inspired you to tackle something you thought impossible. You can upgrade your computer by yourself, and you will save a lot of cash.