Many people today ask this question both in business and at home:
When is it the right time to upgrade my PC?
Events that normally trigger a purchase are usually reactive, some examples of these for a PC are:
- Hardware physically dies
- New operating system is released by Microsoft or Apple
- Software crash caused by a virus or some form of security hack
- Your PC literally takes 20 minutes to boot up Windows
Most of us have experienced some form of the above and a lot of us are guilty of being reactive and being of the mindset “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, there are considerations to why we should be looking at proactive models for replacement and management of our PC fleet across our business, and yes, maybe our homes too.
So what are some factors that you should consider when deciding if you should upgrade your desktop or mobile PC?
Switching to Solid State
The good news is, since the development of the solid state disk drive, the cost has lowered significantly bringing costs in line with old spinning media. Solid State drives are making the life of our PC last much longer, and PC’s boot faster . Let me explain the difference between these two technologies first.
Invented by IBM on September 4th 1956, these have been our go-to form of storage for the past 60 years. Starting out in storage sizes of 1.44MB and reaching 4TB + today, Spinning Media has been the cheapest form of storage and the standard up until about 3-4 years ago when the cost of solid state hardware came down. This storage looks and works much like the old record players, except unlike records the device can both read and write, not at the same time though.
When you heard your computer boot up and make lots of sounds and vibrations, this was the hardware reading and writing as it was booting into the operating system. The problem with this storage is that it would corrupt over time. You may remember the old boot sectors issue and of course it seemed with these computers that they would slow right down after 6,12 or 24 months of use. This was effectively because the hard drives have a lifespan and the more your computer is on the sooner that lifespan would end.
If you had a laptop with this hard drive as well it was likely to be problematic. This is because these drives are sensitive to movement and do not like to be shaken or dropped, again it shortens that lifespan and slows down your machine as it tries to correct for these errors.
Solid State Storage
The easiest way to think of this is a USB Flash drive, which was one of the earliest inventions of this type of media. Essentially, you can shake them or drop them with little to no damage (within reason), they are also fast and very reliable. Since the invention of the iPad/iPhone and then the world of the tablet technology taking off, we’ve seen an increase in solid state devices, as all of these device have had solid state storage. Because of their solid state storage, I can grab an iPad, throw it around on the couch and there is no issue with it, obviously don’t go silly on that throwing idea.
Because of mass market growing and buying of this tech, it has reduced the cost of solid state storage significantly where you are paying similar money today to go solid state in your computer rather than spinning media.
So what does this mean?
- Computers are far more fault tolerant, great for laptops and devices that move
- They last longer, 3-5 years is not unreasonable
- They boot in a fraction of the time to the operating system from start-up or sleep
- They remain fast until the day you retire them
If you are using a computer that is still running spinning media, this is a great reason to consider upgrading your PC. Now, upgrading does not necessarily mean buying a whole new PC, you can just upgrade the drive (example pictured below) and this may cost around $100 for the drive and then a couple hours of labour for someone to perform the change and then reinstall your operating system and set things back up.
Running an i3 processor or lower
If you’re not in tech, then the terminology of intel i3, i5 or i7 probably does not mean a whole lot to you. You may remember the days of the old Celeron and Pentium processors. These are essentially all the CPU (Central Processing Unit) i.e. the brain of the computer. Simply put, the more brains you have, the better.
Now, if you have bought or are running an i3 processor in your computer today, then chances are you currently tolerate a slow bootup of your programs. Better yet, if you try to open multiple tabs in your web browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla then everything just comes to a grinding halt. This is essentially because your computer has run out of brain power to perform the task you want. Kind of like most people waking up in the morning and being asked a question before they have had their coffee.
In the modern business office world, you should never purchase lower than an i5 processor, people are very reliant on web browsing these days, especially with most applications like; accounting, CRM, HR systems, email etc, being able to be run in your web browser. So trust me, don’t skimp the extra $100 when buying that new PC, get plenty of juice in your processor.
Now if you already have a computer and everything else in it is perfectly fine, consider seeing if you can upgrade just the processor. If this is possible for your machine, then the cost of buying a new i5 processor (pictured below) may only set you back $200-$300 and 30 minutes of labour with little downside or hassle. The upside of your machine’s performance could be considerable.
Not enough RAM
RAM is like the short term memory of a computer, it is where CPU (the brain) sends everything it needs processed for quick calculation. If we do not have enough memory or enough CPU power, we come to back to a grinding halt.
Programs that are RAM intensive are programs like Google Chrome. Every tab we open with a new page chews considerable CPU and RAM processing power, even if these tabs are idle and you are not using them, they continue to chew juice. You can see this below of a screenshot I took of my computer now with Google Chrome open and how much it was using, even though I am not currently using it.
Unfortunately, this is now how the world works with programs like this, and the more we use cloud-based programs like Xero, SharePoint, SalesForce etc. the more hungry and greedy our web browsers will become for these resources. So what do I suggest?
Well, today I would consider 8GB of RAM at the absolute minimum. If you are about to buy a new PC though, spend a little extra cash, $100-$150 and double it to 16GB. Trust me, as we continue to go cloud-based for applications you will need it in the coming years.
Again, don’t worry if you have less than 8GB today, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go and buy a whole new computer. You may be able to simply add additional RAM, or swap the current RAM you have with a larger size, say from 8GB to 16GB. This is likely to set you back by approximately $100-$300. The upgrade should take no longer than about 5 – 10 minutes.
In summary, if you buy a new computer for office or home, I would consider no less than the below specifications for your purchase
- CPU: i5
- RAM: 8GB
- Storage: 256GB Solid State Storage
As I have said above, your current computer may also be perfectly fine but just require a few tweaks. You can find out what you currently have by left clicking on “My Computer” and selecting properties, see below highlighted.
We live in a terrible throwaway society today, so if you can upgrade and then recycle the previous goods this is a far better option. Calibre One has recycling options for all PC parts and accessories like cables as well as secure destruction of your old hard drives, please make sure you ask or look at options for this.
Hopefully this article has been helpful in giving you some proactive reasons to consider upgrading your PC.