How to upgrade your computer

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Upgrades take you to another level
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Follow these tips on how to upgrade your computer to increase productivity

While it seems like everyone looking for a computer these days is opting for lightweight notebook PC or own of the many new tablets, there are still some benefits to getting a traditional desktop computer.

One of the best reasons is that the life of a desktop can be extended many years with some simple do-it-yourself (carefully!) hardware changes and some that require taking the sides off, pulling boards and replacing chips. Those can usually be handled by checking the owner's manual for advice and cautions on how to upgrade your computer. If you don't have a printed manual, most are available online at the vendor's website or from a free manual provider.

Consider some of the easy upgrades first. Replacing your computer monitor with one that is bigger, brighter and faster will improve the viewing quality of videos and games as well as general programs and social media sites. For most PCs, this is done by unplugging the monitor cable from a USB port or dedicated monitor port and plugging the new one in.

Another easy upgrade is to add a second monitor. This will double your viewing area and the Windows operating system is easy to configure for moving items between them. Again, plugging the second monitor into a free USB port is usually all it takes on the hardware side - Windows will find it and help you through the rest. If you're adding a bigger screen for games and videos, you might as well upgrade your speakers to enhance your viewing enjoyment and turn your office or desk into an entertainment center. Make sure you have enough outlets and power strips with sufficient surge protection for these add-ons.

Disk upgrades use to require opening the PC cabinet but now there are excellent large-capacity external drives that can be plugged into a spare USB port and provide extra capacity immediately. Upgrading your primary internal disk drive will improve performance but requires powering the system down, removing the covers, disconnecting cables and removing and replacing the drive. Keep the owner's manual handy and make sure you're grounded to prevent static electricity problems.

If you're comfortable with removing boards, additional speed can be obtained with a RAM upgrade that can be accomplished with the simple additional step of removing and replacing one or more memory chips which can be obtained from the hardware vendor or third-party memory suppliers. Check with your owner's manual because some vendors cancel warrantees when third-party components are installed. If you're a heavy-duty gamer, the best internal upgrade for you is replacing the graphics card with a faster one. This is an upgrade where it's probably best to stick with video cards from your PC's manufacturer.

Some operating system upgrades require a faster CPU. Most people simply go with a new computer or hire a tech support professional to do the upgrade, but if you're extremely tech-savvy, you can replace the possessor yourself. It will require removing the motherboard, replacing the motherboard or the processor and usually replacing the heat sink which will upgrade the cooling system. Follow your manual instructions carefully and take advantage of your vendor's online support. Again, this is not an upgrade for novices so consider leaving it to a pro.

Desktop PCs don't have the flash or portability of notebooks and tablets, but their flexibility when it comes to upgrading rather than having to buy a whole new system make them an economical and versatile choice for home computer owners comfortable with simple do-it-yourself maintenance tasks. 

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