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Buy new or upgrade non-gaming PC?

There is no secret that everyone would like to have the newest technology in their hands. This applies to computers and cars, appliances, phones, and anything else you can think of. Let’s leave the rest and stick with computers.

There are many types of people, depending on how they use their PC’s. I can think of gamers, hardcore gamers, browsers, active social networks, movie watchers, writers, designers, scientists and even more. Actually, it doesn’t matter how many groups there are or what they do. It matters if you are satisfied with what you get. Probably the hardest life is for gamers. To play the latest games with the best settings, they have to be in front when speaking about computer performance. If the budget allows them to invest in high-end graphical cards, overclocks CPUs that need good cooling systems. Big monitor or multiple of them is also one of the priorities. If you fall into this category, then you all set for the rest workload you can think of.

I am trying to get to another group of people who usually do not play games, or occasionally play with mid-setting. The computer is used for multiple tasks that do not require very high performance or are somewhat CPU-RAM specific. For instance, let’s take a student. What are his needs? Normally studying involves reading, browsing, writing and running specific programs like programming language compilers, CAD programs, modelling, and calculus like Matlab. Most of them can run on a moderate PC with a decent amount of RAM and storage. Normally you would need a moderate graphical card and so on. All this fits into the standard laptop.

Some people (like me) cannot concentrate when using a laptop. In my opinion, they are not meant for serious typing, programming. Additional keyboard and mouse usually helps, but there is “this” feeling like you are on the run or so. I prefer the desktop, which is why it is my number one choice for most of the work. The laptop is more for mobility.

I am not a gamer, so I don’t need a powerful desktop. It is quite old compared to today’s options. Let’s see. The mainboard is Gigabyte GA-780T-D3L which support ended with Windows 7 somewhere on 2012. It doesn’t have so needed USB 3.0 support, and there is no SATA II support. Along with Athlon II X2 270 and 6GB of DDR3 1333 SDRAM it works like a charm with Windows 10. The graphical card is AMS Radeon HD 6670. Of course, I run my system on SSD, which gives performance boost comparing to mechanical HDD.

Sometimes I think, it would be great to get a new PC with at least Intel Core i5 processor, at least 16GB of RAM, a newer motherboard with new interfaces. But then I think, why? Why would I need new if, old does its job pretty well? I can do all my calculations with Matlab, compile basic programs without significant delay, still can play moderate games if needed. I can add in a USB 3.0 expansion board into PCI express. Also, I can still deal with SATA 3Gb/s speed. SSD seems speedy enough to keep going. What else? CPU and RAM. I can add a couple of gigs more of RAM to 8G. There is also a place for CPU upgrades. Motherboard supports all AM3 Athlon II and Phenom II processors. I can replace two core with a quad-core processor to get some performance boost.  I should last a few years with such a setup.

I think if you are low on budget and system is still ok. It is better to look around for minor upgrade options to get some noticeable boost. My best advice to those who are using old and even new PCs is getting SSD as your primary disk. This is probably the only one significantly noticeable upgrade of all. Any cheapest SSD will do the job. Normally you would want to have SSD for windows system and most installs and secondary mechanical high volume HDD for files and other storage.

When speaking of the laptop, they are usually slower than desktops due to energy savings and cooling. The only cure here is also getting SSD instead of a built-in HDD. If there is no secondary HDD slot, then invest into larger SSD like 256G or bigger. Also, check out, you might be having a laptop that has M.2 SATA support. Then you will have to open the laptop and install M.2 SSD stick and still have a slot for normal HDD.

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And of course some general notices for old PC owners. Always clean your PC from dust. If you hear intense fan noise, it means its time to clean-up. If you do this more frequently, compressed air is enough to blow out. If this doesn’t help, there might be fan issues. Replace fan it becomes suspicious.

The other important part is the power supply. If your PC is relatively old, it can be that power supply is also getting corrupted. It accumulates dust which is hard to get out without opening enclosure. Capacitors can get leaky and fail. From my experience, I have replaced/repaired power supply twice. If you notice that PC sometimes doesn’t switch on or is sensitive to power fluctuations, better replace – they don’t cost much.

Also, don’t hesitate to invest in UPS (uninterruptible power supply). This can be a lifesaver. You cannot predict how electricity flows into your house. There can be power surges, short losses and other influences due to powerful equipment running nearby. You don’t need UPS with high capacity battery. Cheap ones work fine. You probably don’t need true sine-wave UPS that are more expensive. It depends on how your budget dictates.

There are all my thoughts on upgrading the PC. Don’t get emotional when planning. Read reviews – old components normally have lots of them. Compare things, know your needs and get what you really need. You will be amazed at how little you need to get your things done. Better invest in small things like convenient connectors, expansions, backup options, and a new system that will most of the time be idling.

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