What's that creaking sound? If your computer is showing its age and wheezing through tasks that were once a breeze, it's time to knock it back into shape. You don't need to go to the expense of buying a whole new PC. A few pertinent upgrades can knock years off your existing system. Not only is it a cheaper option, you'll also save yourself the hassle of having to transfer all your data across from the old computer to the new. Do bear in mind that it's generally simpler to make DIY upgrades to a desktop machine than a laptop, though there are changes you can make to the latter to give it a little extra oomph as well. Let's take a look...
There are many upgrade jobs that you can do on your computer by yourself
Adding more storage space
A common upgrade is to boost your storage levels. Standard hard drives have plummeted in price while their capacity has soared with the result that you can pick up a two-terabyte drive to slot into your desktop PC for just £79.99. Let's put the size of that drive into perspective: 2TB of storage could hold half a million photos or 750 hours of video, more than enough for most people. That price is for an internal drive; you'll have to open up your PC and plug it into an available slot.
Another storage option is a solid state drive (SSD). This functions in exactly the same way as a traditional hard drive, but the technology involves no moving parts. As a result, SSDs are faster and more reliable – as well as weighing less. That last factor makes them a popular choice for laptops. These drives have become more affordable recently, though they are still more expensive than normal hard drives. Still, you can find a 120GB SSD for under £90.
While fitting a new hard drive to an Advent desktop is a reasonably straightforward task, the same upgrade on a laptop is a good deal more fiddly. If the work involved doesn't sound like your idea of fun, consider a service such as Knowhow Hardware Install & Check, which will take care of everything for you.
The simplest option is to plump for an external hard drive. This will plug into your system via an available USB port, instantly boosting your storage space with no fuss. It's a solution that's equally suitable for desktop or laptop systems, a light and portable drive such as the Western Digital My Passport 1TB can be found for £79.99.
An external hard drive offers a simple, fuss-free way of instantly boosting your computer’s storage
For more information on hard drives, including how to make sure you get the right size, check our guide to computer storage devices.
Storage is one thing, but how about improving the performance of your computer? If your PC seems to spend a lot of time thinking about what to do next, it may be time to add more memory. Check how much RAM your computer has; if it's muddling along with 2GB (or less) then you're likely to see an improvement by adding more. However, this is an inexpensive upgrade. You can get a 2GB memory stick for less than £30, but not all memory is equal. Make sure you choose the right memory for your particular PC with the help of Knowhow’s guide. Advent desktops and laptops include expansion slots, so adding more RAM is a simple matter of opening your PC case and pushing the memory card into its space.
An additional stick of memory will help smooth out the performance of your computer, especially when it’s multi-tasking
Another upgrade that won't sting your wallet too much is a new optical drive. The cost of DVD drives for both desktop and laptop computers has dropped through the floor, and you can now get a fast reliable DVD writer for less than £20. It's simple to remove and replace a DVD drive from an Advent desktop – and replacing that old drive should give you improved disc-writing speeds.
Shelling out on a new graphics card is particularly worthwhile if you're keen on playing games on your PC. The latest games require serious power to get the best from them. If you're putting up with stuttering gameplay, it's probably time to look at an upgrade. You can spend hundreds of pounds on the latest and greatest graphics card, but it's really not necessary. A smaller outlay on something like the Nvidia Geforce GT 640 (£99.99, Currys) will ensure your system can give a pretty decent account of itself with even the most demanding games. Again, this upgrade is a reasonably straightforward DIY job. Just open your computer case and replace the old card with your new one. Check out our step-by-step guide for details.
Upgrading your graphics card is a particularly good idea if you're a keen gamer
If you want to go the whole hog, then replacing your PC's processor will give it an instant injection of power. You need to be certain the processor is compatible with your computer's motherboard. For this reason, we would recommend using a professional service such as Knowhow Hardware Install & Check, unless you are particularly confident with working inside computers.
Doing the work
If you are going to make any upgrades yourself, make sure you're well prepared. First, you'll want to make a backup of your system, just so you're protected should things go awry. If you're replacing an item that requires drivers (such as a graphics card), make sure you have uninstalled the old drivers before shutting down the PC.
Electricity and screwdrivers make prickly bedfellows, so make ABSOLUTELY SURE you've shut off power to your system before you start poking around inside. It's a good idea to invest in an anti-static wristband. This will prevent static electric shocks from your body from instantly frying delicate (and expensive) computer chips. You can pick one up for under a fiver from PC World, while a toolkit specifically for working on computers can be found for under £20 from StarTech.com.
By wearing an anti-static wristband, you can protect the delicate innards of your computer from tiny electric shocks