How to Upgrade Hardware on a Computer

Introduction

In This Guide
You'll Learn:
  • Whether you can or should upgrade certain hardware or accessories on your computer.
  • A basic overview of how to upgrade these items.
Computer internals being upgraded.

? What type of computer do you have?

  1. PC
  2. Windows laptop
  3. Mac

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In This Guide
You'll Learn:
  • Whether you can or should upgrade certain hardware or accessories on your computer.
  • A basic overview of how to upgrade these items.
Computer internals being upgraded.

Some desktop computers can have certain physical components added or replaced to give them more power. Depending on the age of your machine and the cost to upgrade, it may make the most sense to upgrade these internal components rather than replacing your entire system.

If you are not comfortable with performing upgrades on your machine, or are not sure if upgrading is the best option for you, we recommend having a professional assess your device to determine what upgrades would be best for your machine.

Your computer's performance can suffer if it is facing limitations caused by system memory (or RAM). Checking how much memory your computer has physically installed, and how much of that memory your system is using will help diagnose a potential memory issue that is affecting your system's performance.

  • In general, Windows 10 requires 2 GB of memory to work, but performance and stability will be limited. Windows 10 runs better with 4 GB. If you use a lot of programs at the same time, or very large programs (such as games), you may require more memory, such as 6 GB or 8 GB or more.
  • You can choose to use fewer programs, or add more memory to your computer if you find yourself regularly using up all available memory.
  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Performance tab at the top, then select Memory on the left.
    Task Manager with Performance and Memory highlighted.
  5. Look at the amount of memory you have on your computer, and how much is in use.
    Task Manager Memory with Total Memory and Memory In Use highlighted.
    Total Memory
    In the top-right corner, you'll see how much memory is physically installed in your computer.
    Memory In Use
    In the list at the bottom, you'll see how much is in use by Windows, and the programs you have open.
    In general, you want 1GB to 2GB available while you have most of your regular programs open.
You can check this information when you have your normal programs open. Open a few programs you usually use, and return to this window. See if you're using more memory than you have; this indicates Windows is using some of your hard drive space as memory, which is very slow.
This is a physical part of your computer, not something you can download or modify through software. If you want to add more memory to your computer, contact the company you purchased your computer from, or a local technical support service.

Virtual Memory or Your Paging File

The paging file is a hidden file on your computer's hard drive that Windows 10 uses as memory, and acts as an overflow of the system memory that holds the data needed for applications currently running on your computer. Increasing the size of your paging file can help with speed issues.
  1. In the search bar, type "Control Panel" and select it.
    Windows 10 Search with control panel selected
  2. Select System and Security.
    System and security selection
  3. Select System.
    The system panel
  4. Select Advanced System Settings.
    Advanced system settings link
  5. Under the Advanced panel select Settings within Performance.
    Advanced panel showing performance settings
  6. Select the Advanced tab and under Virtual Memory select Change.
    Performance options
  7. To set your own Paging File size, clear the automatically manage paging file size for all drives selection.
    Automatically managed page file
  8. Select Custom Size to set your own Virtual Memory limits. Click Set to finalize your sizes.
    Setting your paging file
  9. The minimum size of the Page file can be up to 1.5 times the amount of physical memory (RAM) you have installed. The maximum size can be 4 times the amount of the physical memory. For example, if your computer has 1GB of RAM, the minimum Page file size can be 1.5GB, and the maximum size of the file can be 4GB.
Random access memory, or RAM, is one of the most important components of any PC. It's an extremely fast type of computer memory which is used to temporarily store all the information your PC needs right now and in the near future. While RAM is a form of memory, it is far different from your system's hard drive. Hard drives are used for storage, where data is stored long term.
RAM in a computer

How Much RAM Can Your System Handle?

Generally speaking, the more RAM you have the better, but systems can only use so much RAM. You may be able to install more RAM than your computer can handle, but it won't use any of that extra memory.

How much RAM you can use is determined by the amount of RAM your operating system and motherboard can handle. Whichever has the lowest value

For Operating Systems:

  • 32-bit versions of Windows 10 can only handle up to 4 GB of RAM.
  • 64-bit versions of Windows 10 can handle up to 128 GB of RAM for the Home edition.

For Motherboards:

  1. Find out what motherboard is in your system.
  2. Either research it online or look for your documentation.
  3. Using the Odense2-k motherboard as an example you can see the board supports two DDR4 sticks with the maximum RAM at 16 GB.
    Odense2-k motherboard RAM specifications

What Types of RAM Can Your System Use?

Adding additional RAM to any machine generally increases performance, but depending on the age of your machine, replacing the existing RAM may be difficult.

Older systems are generally stuck with DDR2, an older version of RAM stick. DDR3 and DD4 are the newest versions, but all three have different notches in their sticks. You cannot fit a DDR4 stick into a DDR2 module.

Your motherboard's documentation should provide information as to which type of RAM you can use.
Type of ram available to this motherboard

How to Upgrade Your RAM

  1. Open your desktop's case.
    Open computer case
  2. Locate the RAM modules on your motherboard.
  3. To remove the existing RAM sticks, locate the tabs at the end of each module and push them down and away from the RAM.
    Pushing down the RAM clips
  4. The stick will slide up slightly so you can remove it.
  5. You should pair your RAM sticks, paying special attention to the color of the modules.
    RAM slots showing the paired colors
  6. The matching colors are paired and you should install your RAM accordingly.

If you're looking to speed up your gaming or adding more advanced graphics to your system, the graphics card is a crucial upgrade. Replacing your existing video card (commonly referred to as a GPU or graphical processing unit), or adding one to a desktop machine that does not currently have one is a great way to boost your machine's graphical capabilities. However, these cards can be a large financial investment, and may require that your machine's power supply also be upgraded to be able to handle the increased power demand this will place on your machine.
AMD video card

What Graphics Card Can I Use?

Most modern graphics cards utilize the PCI-E (or PCI-Express) standard form factor. Your system's motherboard must have an available PCI-E slot in order to install a graphics card.
A PCI- E slot

Your computer's case is also something to consider, and can limit your graphics card installation options. It is not uncommon for powerful graphics cards to require the space of two expansion slots. Card clearance and available space inside your computer case is also something to consider.
A connected graphics card showing the size

Many aftermarket graphics cards will recommend a minimum of a 600 watt power supply in order to be able to provide adequate power to the card itself and all the other hardware components in your machine. Be sure to verify your computer's existing power supply unit can meet the power requirements of any graphics card you are considering installing. If your power supply does not meet the minimum recommended requirements of the graphics card you wish to install, it will need to be upgraded as well.

Ensure that the monitor or display at your desk is able to support the graphics card you are considering. Some displays have a limited number of ports. If your display does not have the same type of ports that your graphics card does, you may need to purchase a special cable or adapter, or your monitor may need to be upgraded as well. This example graphics card has Display Port, HDMI, and DVI output options.
Back of a video card showing the connectors

How to Upgrade Your Graphics Card

  1. Open your computer case.
  2. Remove any screws necessary from your computer case's expansion slot(s) to allow the graphics card to be seated properly.
    Removing the screws
  3. Line up your graphics card with the PCI-E slot correctly, and firmly seat your graphics card into the slot. Connect any power leads your graphics card may require.
    Pushing a graphics card into its slot
  4. Replace any case screws that were removed to secure the card within the expansion slot(s).

    These instructions are generalized. Always pay close attention to any special installation instructions that your graphics card may require.

     

Your computer's central processing unit, or CPU, is arguably the most important component of any computing device. It handles basic instructions and allocates the more complicated tasks to other specific chips to get them to do what they do best. It's the core of your PC and also one of the most expensive components.

Your CPU is connected to a main circuit board that the rest of your machine's hardware components all connect to. This circuit board is known as your computer's motherboard.

While the CPU and motherboard in your computer can sometimes be upgraded under certain limited circumstances, they can be replaced with the same or a very similar model of hardware. Unfortunately, replacing these components can be extremely cost prohibitive, and it may be best to simply replace your entire system if major components like these require upgrading and/or replacement.

Why Replace Your CPU or Motherboard?

One of the most common reasons to replace your machine's CPU or motherboard is due to failure or malfunction. If this is the case, the damaged or malfunctioning hardware must be swapped out with a replacement of a very similar or exact same model.

This is primarily because motherboards come equipped with a specific type of CPU "socket" that is only compatible with certain processors. A brand new, top of the line motherboard will likely not support your computer's existing processor, and will cause you to have to purchase a new one as well. This type of cost will very closely rival or likely even exceed the cost of an entire new computer.

A new CPU in a motherboard

What to Look for in a New CPU and Motherboard

If manually replacing your motherboard and CPU is something you decide is in your best interest, seeking out the latest generation of CPUs and a motherboard that supports it is what you will want to look for. There are two major players in the world of computer CPU units: Intel and AMD.

Terminology:

  • GHz: Your clock speed. This is the speed at which the chip operates, so higher is faster. Higher clock speed means quicker responsiveness and program load times.
  • Socket Type: The matching socket for your CPU to fit into. Determines which CPU and motherboard you can use.
  • Threads: This is the number of independent processes a chip can handle at once, which in theory would be the same as the number of cores. However, many processors have multi-threading capability, which allows a single core to create two threads.
  • Cores: These are the processors within the processor.

Your computer's power supply or "PSU" is the electrical heart of your PC. But can you upgrade it? The short answer is yes, you can upgrade your power supply, but you don't necessarily need to unless you're upgrading another piece of hardware that demands more power than your machine currently does. Combined, your CPU, motherboard, and graphics card draw the most power from your power supply. If you're planning on upgrading one of those components, it may necessary to upgrade your power supply as well.

Determine Your Needed Wattage

  1. There are multiple online calculators that will help you determine the minimum amount of watts you need.
    Outervisions online calculator
  2. Research the components inside your desktop. You can often find this information in the device's documentation.
    HP documentation
  3. You'll need to find out primarily the amount of power your CPU, motherboard, and graphics card draw. You do this by researching the parts specifically.
  4. If you're replacing your graphics card, the box or packaging, as well as the included documentation will indicate what the card's minimum  power requirements are.
    Graphics card power sample
  5. When you are calculating your machine's minimum power requirements, always round up to be safe.
    Component Estimated Wattage
    Processor 91
    Graphics Card 150
    Motherboard 80
    RAM 20
    SSD 10
    CPU Fan 10
    Total 361
    Rounded 400W

Form Factor

  1. Form factor refers to the physical size and shape of a piece of computer hardware.
  2. ATX is the most common form factor for desktop computers and has a matching power supply size as well.
  3. Mini-ATX is much smaller and tend to only come in wattages of 400 and below. These types of power supply units are far more difficult to acquire in common computer hardware shops.

Connectors

ATX 20 or 24 Pin Main Power Connector
Used to power up your motherboard.
ATX 20 or 24 pin for motherboard
SATA Power Cable
Used to supply power to components that use the SATA connection.
SATA connector
Molex Power Cable
Standard computer power connector used on accessories that do not use a SATA connection.
Molex power connector.
8 Pin EPS +12V Power Connector
This connector is often used to provide extra power for high-end graphics cards.
PSU connector for a GPU

How to Install

  1. In order to install a new power supply into your computer, you'll need to fully power down your computer and disconnect all the cables attached to it.
  2. Remove your computer case's side panel.
  3. Remove the four screws holding your power supply in place.
    Power supply removal
  4. Carefully disconnect all of your power supply's cabling from the hardware inside your machine. You may find it helpful to make a note or list of the connections that will need to be made when the new power supply is inserted.
    Making a note
  5. Insert your new power supply into your case. Securely mount it using the supplied screws.
    Securing a new power supply
  6. Connect all of your computer's internal hardware that you notated earlier to the new power supply.
    Power supply plugging in
  7. Replace your computer's side panel. Your computer can now be connected normally and tested.
Replacing an Existing Drive
A solid state and a regular hard driveMay be necessary if you want to upgrade an older, slower, mechanical hard drive to a newer, faster class, or if you need to replace a failing hard drive. Replacing your hard drive may involve cloning your existing hard drive, or starting fresh by reinstalling your operating system.
Options For Expanding Storage
A laptop showing a usb thumbdrive being plugged inIf you just need a little extra space, or even a lot of extra space to store your data, expanding your storage can help. There are multiple devices, brands, and even cloud storage options.

Your Hard Drive is where all of your software lives. This includes Windows, all of the programs you've installed, and all of your personal data. Because of this, "upgrading" your hard drive may not be an ideal option for your machine, as Windows and all of your software would have to be reinstalled. There are services that can "clone" the contents of your existing hard drive onto a new one, but this can potentially add additional cost to the equation. If you are simply running out of storage space, adding a hard drive to your machine may be in your best interest.

How Much Storage Space Do You Need?

Depending on what you're using your computer for, you might not need that much storage. The easiest way to determine how much storage, is to determine how much you can afford. Solid State Drives are more expensive, leading to much smaller amounts of data.

Types Of Hard Drives

A solid state and a regular hard drive
Solid State Hard Drive
Have no moving parts which allow them to last longer. Much faster than both hard drives and hybrid drives. May be cost prohibitive.
Solid state drives
Mechanical Hard Drive
The traditional moving parts hard drive. The cheapest option that offers a great deal of storage for the price.
The internal parts of a hard drive
Hybrid Hard Drive
A combination of a solid state drive and a regular hard drive, hybrids offer increased speeds while giving you the data storage of a regular drive. The solid state drive in a hybrid is used as a cache, speeding up the drive overall.
A hybrid drive
M.2 Hard Drive
Solid state drives resembling a ram stick that plug into a specific port on your motherboard. Some M.2 drives use NVMe technology which gives them the ability to perform at speeds far greater than standard solid state drives.
M.2 drive

How to Upgrade

  1. Determine the model of your motherboard. This will help you determine what ports and technology your motherboard has available so you can choose a drive that fits your needs and your budget.
    Motherboard info for a system
  2. You'll need to open your computer's case to install your drive.
    Open computer case
  3. Remove the existing drive if necessary, then mount your new drive.
  4. Connect the necessary interface and power cables to your new drive. If you're installing an M.2 hard drive, connecting cables won't be necessary.
    Plugging in the hard drive

There are various ways to increase your computer's data storage capacity.

USB Flash Drives

A usb thumbdrive
  • Your computer must have at least one available USB port.
  • To use your USB flash drive, connect it to any available USB port.
    A laptop showing a usb thumbdrive being plugged in
  • Windows 10 will automatically detect it and prompt you for further action.
    Windows 10 removable drive popup
  • If your computer does not come equipped with full size USB ports, or a port of a different kind, such as USB Type C, you may need to purchase a dongle to be able to connect full sized USB accessories to your machine.
    USB Type C dongle adapter.

External Hard Drive

A WD MyPassport external harddrive

  • External hard drives typically offer the largest amount of storage space for the money, and easily connect to your computer via USB.
  • There are both portable and larger form factor external drives on the market. The difference is not only in their size, but larger external hard drives usually require external power, while portable drives only require a USB connection. Keep this in mind if you would like your external drive to be portable.

SD or Micro SD Card

A 32GB microSD card
  • Your computer may have an available SD or Micro SD card slot. While this type of storage does not typically afford the same amount of space as the other options listed, its ultra compact form factor can still be very desirable for removable storage.
    A microSD slot in the side of a laptop
  • To use this type of storage, simply insert the SD card into the available slot.
  • The card itself can only be inserted into the slot in one way. These card slots are typically spring loaded, and the card should click into and out of place.

Your computer's monitor is the window into your system. Monitors are available in many different sizes and there are numerous specifications to consider based on your needs across dozens of different brands. Depending on the specifications you desire in a monitor, prices will vary wildly, but computer monitors are easily replaceable.

If you are considering replacing your monitor, it's important to make sure that you're considering replacement for the right reasons. There are certain settings within Windows that can potentially resolve an issue such as text being too small, or simply needing more real estate on your screen.

However, depending on the limitations of your current monitor, if these settings don't seem to be providing the type of changes you're looking for, it may be time to replace it altogether.

Checking Your Current Monitor

Most monitors these days run at a resolution of 1080p (1920x1080) or greater, and will connect to your computer using an HDMI cable. If you have an older monitor, this may not be the case at all and could be what's holding you back. Let's check your monitor's current resolution and see how it measures up.

To Check or Change Your Resolution

  1. Right-click on any empty space of your Windows desktop and select Display Settings from the menu that appears.
    context menu with display settings highlighted
  2. All the monitors currently connected to your machine will be displayed. If you are using multiple monitors, select the monitor you wish to check.
    display settings with monitors highlighted
  3. The Resolution dropdown box will display your monitor's current resolution. Click the dropdown box to review the list of resolutions available. Having your monitor on the highest resolution listed is generally the best option, but take note of what your current resolution is and what the highest available resolution is if they are different.
    display settings with resolution box highlighted
  4. If available, you can select a higher or lower resolution from the dropdown box to see if there is a resolution you prefer to use on your current monitor.

To Scale the Size of Fonts and Icons

  1. Right-click on any empty space of your Windows desktop and select Display Settings from the menu that appears.
    context menu with display settings highlighted
  2. All the monitors currently connected to your machine will be displayed. If you are using multiple monitors, select the monitor you wish to check.
    display settings with monitors highlighted
  3. The Scale and Layout dropdown box will display your monitor's current scaling. Click the dropdown box to review the list of scales available. You can change the scale of items on the desktop if you're having trouble seeing them.
    Windows 10 Scale and Layout options

Choosing a Replacement Monitor

Sizes

Monitor sizes are measured diagonally. The larger the size, the more space you have to work with. The downside to a larger sized monitor is your eyes need to move more to cover all that distance.
Monitor sizes

Resolution

Directly related to the size of your monitor is resolution. The panel resolution is the number of distinct pixels in each dimension that can be displayed. In general, higher resolution means higher image quality.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio of a monitor is the ratio of the width of the screen panel to its height. Most monitors sold today use 16:9, the same aspect ratio as televisions. This makes for ideal full screen video viewing. Older square aspect ratios, like 4:3 and 5:4, are rarely seen in modern monitors.
Aspect ratio
There is a newer type of monitor with a larger aspect ratio for those with a need for more screen real estate. Ultra widescreen monitors have an aspect ratio of 21:9.
Ultrawide screen resolution

Refresh Rates

A monitor’s refresh rate describes how often it refreshes the image on the screen, expressed in hertz. The standard for LCD monitors is 60 hertz. Most users don't need a monitor with more than this value as your eye won't necessarily notice anything over 60hz.

Higher end monitors offer higher refresh rates and are often aimed at gamers.

Ports

When choosing a new monitor, you'll want to consider what ports you have available on your computer to connect a new monitor to. Most modern systems will have an HDMI port available. However, if you have an older computer, or if your new monitor requires a DisplayPort connection, you may need an adapter to connect your new monitor to your machine.
Listed ports on a graphic card

The back of a monitor

Windows 10 Logo

Your Operating System or OS is the software interface you interact with on your computer every day. It houses and runs all of the applications you install and performs all the basic functions you request of it.

Upgrading your OS is different than updating. While updating can add additional features, fix bugs, and patch security problems, upgrading will replace your Operating System entirely.

Windows 10 is the current Operating System from Microsoft. In order to upgrade to it you'll want a recent version of Windows (7, 8, and 8.1) and a system that can handle its minimum requirements.

Windows 10 System Requirements

CPU: You need at least 1Ghz at minimum.

RAM: 2GB at minimum for 64-bit Windows.

Graphics: A graphics card or on-board graphics that support Direct-X 9 or later.

Hard Drive: 32GB is needed for 64-bit Windows.

How to Upgrade

Once you've determined if your system can handle the upgrade, you can purchase Windows 10 from Microsoft.

Windows 10 comes with a guided installer that will check important prerequisites before updating, such as programs with known compatibility issues, or whether or not you would like to keep your programs and personal data, or erase your machine and perform a clean installation.

The following link will walk you through the process of installing Windows 10.
 
Show Me How

Clicking this button will open a new guide that will provide you with steps to resolve your issue.

Most computers come equipped with a means to playback sound. Unfortunately, many of these provided or built-in solutions may not actually sound very good, and you may find them lacking. If you want to upgrade your computer's audio capabilities, there are many ways to do so.

Add an Audio Device

Perhaps the easiest way to upgrade your computer's sound is to add a better audio device. Depending on your needs and what sounds best to you, this may come in the form of external speakers, or some form of headphones or headset. Audio devices like these come in a variety of different brands, shapes, sizes, and output levels. There are hundreds if not thousands of options to choose from.

When adding any sort of audio device, make sure your computer has the necessary port(s) to attach them to.

3.5mm Analog Audio Jack

Speakers, headphones and headsets can connect traditionally using the analog audio jacks found on the back of desktops and the side of laptops.
Audio jack on a computer

USB

Speakers, headphones and headsets can also connect using USB ports.

USB speakers
Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a wireless audio option that your computer may have available. While some modern computers can come with Bluetooth built-in, older machines may not. Always ensure that your machine is Bluetooth compatible before purchasing any Bluetooth audio device.

Bluetooth switch highlighted in Windows devices settings.

Adding a Sound Card or DAC

If you have good speakers or headphones, but the sound quality coming from your machine still sounds poor or isn't loud enough, your machine may not have good enough hardware to push decent sound to your audio accessories / devices. Adding a Sound Card or DAC (digital to analog converter) amplifier can greatly improve upon sound quality and provide more control over your audio experience.

Internal Sound Card

Adding a sound card can be a huge upgrade if the sound card your machine came equipped with isn't of the highest quality. Aftermarket sound cards contain their own processors that generate sound, meaning your computer's CPU doesn't have to do all the work. They also have their own set of inputs and outputs that offer better power output with better shielding and, as such, will produce louder, clearer sound with lower noise levels than the inputs and outputs built into your computer. If you intend to purchase and install an internal sound card, always make sure your computer has a compatible expansion slot in which to install it.
A sound card

External Sound Card

An external audio device that plugs into an available USB port and interfaces with your headphones or speakers to produce better sound. It can also be called a sound adapter.
A sound adapter

DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) Amplifier

Most computers these days have analog audio ports included on them. Unfortunately, many of these ports don't output a lot of power, and can leave your headphones and other speakers that are not powered sounding very underwhelming. Standalone DAC units came about as a response to poor audio quality at the consumer level. DACs are capable of outputting sound at a higher power level than those built-in ports and can help properly "push" your analog audio devices properly if they aren't being properly powered.
A DAC

Optical drives (CD, DVD, and Blu-ray) allow you to take physical media such as a DVD and access it on your computer.

The most common reason to install a new optical drive is due to a failure of an existing drive, but the constant growth of digital marketplaces has allowed many new computers to not come equipped with optical drives any longer, and you may simply be looking to add an optical drive.

Depending on the expansion slots your computer has available, or the type of connections the existing drive in your machine may have, options for upgrading or adding a drive may be limited.

To Write or Not to Write

If you want to produce your own CD / DVD / Blu-ray media, you'll need blank writable media and a drive that can write to them.

Internal Optical Drive

Internal optical drives need to be installed inside of a computer case. If your computer case has one available, an internal drive can simply be mounted easily into an expansion bay. Most modern computers will use a SATA cable connection to connect your optical drive to your motherboard.
Internal Optical drive

External Optical Drive

Whether your computer did not come equipped with an optical drive at all,  your computer simply cannot accommodate one, or you'd rather just not bother installing an internal optical drive, external optical drives are always an easy option. External optical drives connect to your computer via USB, and are capable of everything internal drives are capable of, minus the hassle of installation. Many are available in a compact format that travels well, and can be connected to virtually any computer with an available USB port.

External dvd drive

While most modern drives now come with the ability to write, Blu-ray writers are significantly more expensive.

How to Install an Internal Optical Drive

  1. You'll need to open your computer case.
  2. Remove the existing optical drive if you are replacing one.
  3. Mount the new optical drive within an available expansion slot.
  4. If replacing an existing drive, simply connect the same interface and power cables into your new drive.
  5. If this is a new drive, it should have come with a SATA interface cable. Connect one end to your optical drive and the other end into the computer's motherboard.
    SATA cable and power cable for a drive
  6. Connect the power cable.

Your keyboard and mouse allow you to interact with your computer. They're known as your computer's human interface or input devices.

While computer keyboards and mice are relatively simple devices that are easily replaceable, there are many different options on the market that take advantage of advances in technology that can help you fill a certain need or desire. We'll go over some things to consider when it comes to the input devices you choose to use with your machine.

Types of Connections

The type of connection your keyboard and mouse make to your computer is personal preference, but depending on where you use your computer, one connection method might be preferred over another. The three most common connection methods are:

  • Wired directly to the computer via USB
  • Wirelessly connected via USB dongle
  • Wirelessly connected via Bluetooth built-in to your computer or via Bluetooth dongle

Types of Keyboards

While most keyboards look the same on the surface, there are actually a great deal of differences between them. You can choose the kinds of key switches you want, whether or not you prefer your keys to be backlit or multicolored if you're in a dimly lit room, or if you prefer a keyboard with additional programmable keys or ergonomic layout.

Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards are built with high quality, typically spring activated, key switches. The type of mechanical switches can vary based on the keyboard’s intended use, and your personal preference. They are superior to the cheaply made membrane key switches that are available in many inexpensive keyboards on the market. Mechanical keyboards are made to last longer, and are available with a number of different types of mechanical switches. Your choice of mechanical switch boils down to one thing - feel. Mechanical keyboards simply feel better than rubber dome keyboards to type on.Mechanical keyboard switches
Gaming Keyboards
Many "gaming" keyboards are not much different than standard keyboards, but offer a range of features you may find favorable. Most of these types of keyboards will come equipped with a certain type of mechanical key switch, offer customizable LED backlighting behind each key, and a large level of additional customization options. This may come in the form of additional programmable keys, or the ability to program all of the existing keys.
A corsair gaming keyboard
Ergonomic Keyboards
Ergonomic keyboards are built primarily for the ergonomic support of your wrists, elbows, and hands. They are designed to lessen the impact of long hours on your joints.
An ergonomic keyboard

Types of Computer Mice

The computer mouse. Much like keyboards, often thought of as very simple and cheap devices that are all the same and easy to replace. However, this is not the case. Hordes of mice are now available in different sizes and shapes. From ergonomic mice meant for heavy use in both a home and office environment, to gaming mice with programmable buttons and advanced sensors designed for precision and quick reflexes.

When choosing a mouse, keep in mind what it will be primarily used for, and look for a shape that feels comfortable in your hand.

Many mice now advertise how much DPI they are able to be set to. So, what is DPI? DPI stands for "dots per inch," and is used to measure how far a mouse pointer will travel on your screen for every inch that the mouse itself is physically moved.

Gaming Mice
A mouse that can come equipped with extra programmable buttons and a very high ceiling for adjustable DPI. The number of extra buttons and the shape of the mouse will vary greatly depending on what brand and model you come across. Both ergonomic and ambidextrous gaming mice exist.
A corsair gaming mouse
Standard Ergonomic Mouse
Similar to ergonomic keyboards, these mice are built with comfort and long hours in mind. The multitude of ergonomic shapes available are designed to help increase comfort and grip, while reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
A logitech ergonomic mouse

There are several ways to improve your system's cooling abilities.

Add Additional Cooling Fans

Installing additional fans in your system is relatively simple given your computer case has available mounting points & power supply cables.

You can purchase and install additional cooling fans for your system, but always keep airflow in mind. Most computer cases were designed to intake air at one point, and expel air at another point. Adding additional fans won't provide any cooling benefits to your system if they're simply blowing hot air around. Making sure additional fans are in line with your case's current airflow is important.
Air flow in a computer

Upgrade to Liquid Cooling

For years, liquid cooling was always a very expensive and maintenance heavy option for computers. These days, purchasing and installing premade "closed loop" liquid cooling systems are not much different than installing standard air cooling counterparts. These liquid cooling systems are typically available for your CPU and aftermarket graphics card(s). They function like a miniature car radiator to cycle liquid through the system via a small pump to dissipate heat very quietly and efficiently.
A liquid cooling kit

Cleaning

One of the easiest ways to ensure your machine is keeping itself cooled properly is to keep it clean. Over time, dust, hair, and other particles can accumulate and clog fans, airways, and filters if your system has them.

Because of their physical architecture, laptop computers are difficult to upgrade, and often times not upgradeable at all. Some laptop computers do provide access to upgrade RAM and sometimes the hard drive. Similarly, many all-in-one desktop units suffer from the same types of shortcomings when it comes to upgrading internal hardware.

We recommend having a professional assess your device to determine what upgrade options are available to you.

Your computer's performance can suffer if it is facing limitations caused by system memory (or RAM). Checking how much memory your computer has physically installed, and how much of that memory your system is using will help diagnose a potential memory issue that is affecting your system's performance.

  • In general, Windows 10 requires 2 GB of memory to work, but performance and stability will be limited. Windows 10 runs better with 4 GB. If you use a lot of programs at the same time, or very large programs (such as games), you may require more memory, such as 6 GB or 8 GB or more.
  • You can choose to use fewer programs, or add more memory to your computer if you find yourself regularly using up all available memory.
  1. Press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys on your keyboard at the same time.
    PC Desktop Keyboard with Ctrl-Alt-Del highlighted.
  2. Select Task Manager.
    GINA screen with Task Manager highlighted.
  3. Select More Details at the bottom.
    Task Manager with More Details highlighted.
  4. Select the Performance tab at the top, then select Memory on the left.
    Task Manager with Performance and Memory highlighted.
  5. Look at the amount of memory you have on your computer, and how much is in use.
    Task Manager Memory with Total Memory and Memory In Use highlighted.
    Total Memory
    In the top-right corner, you'll see how much memory is physically installed in your computer.
    Memory In Use
    In the list at the bottom, you'll see how much is in use by Windows, and the programs you have open.
    In general, you want 1GB to 2GB available while you have most of your regular programs open.
You can check this information when you have your normal programs open. Open a few programs you usually use, and return to this window. See if you're using more memory than you have; this indicates Windows is using some of your hard drive space as memory, which is very slow.
This is a physical part of your computer, not something you can download or modify through software. If you want to add more memory to your computer, contact the company you purchased your computer from, or a local technical support service.

Virtual Memory or Your Paging File

The paging file is a hidden file on your computer's hard drive that Windows 10 uses as memory, and acts as an overflow of the system memory that holds the data needed for applications currently running on your computer. Increasing the size of your paging file can help with speed issues.
  1. In the search bar, type "Control Panel" and select it.
    Windows 10 Search with control panel selected
  2. Select System and Security.
    System and security selection
  3. Select System.
    The system panel
  4. Select Advanced System Settings.
    Advanced system settings link
  5. Under the Advanced panel select Settings within Performance.
    Advanced panel showing performance settings
  6. Select the Advanced tab and under Virtual Memory select Change.
    Performance options
  7. To set your own Paging File size, clear the automatically manage paging file size for all drives selection.
    Automatically managed page file
  8. Select Custom Size to set your own Virtual Memory limits. Click Set to finalize your sizes.
    Setting your paging file
  9. The minimum size of the Page file can be up to 1.5 times the amount of physical memory (RAM) you have installed. The maximum size can be 4 times the amount of the physical memory. For example, if your computer has 1GB of RAM, the minimum Page file size can be 1.5GB, and the maximum size of the file can be 4GB.

Random access memory, or RAM, is one of the most important components of desktop PCs. It's an extremely fast type of computer memory which temporarily stores all the information your PC needs right now and in the near future. RAM is different from your systems storage, its hard drive, where data is stored long term.

Laptop RAM comes in smaller sticks than desktop ram, called SODIMM. You can usually remove a panel on the bottom of your laptop to add or replace a RAM stick, unless the laptop has RAM soldered directly onto it. If that is the case, you won't be able to upgrade it.
Laptop ram

How Much RAM Can Your System Handle?

Generally speaking, the more RAM you have the better, but systems can only use so much RAM. You may be able to install more RAM than your computer can handle, but it won't use any of that extra memory.

How much RAM you can use is determined by the amount of RAM your operating system and motherboard can handle. Whichever has the lowest value

For Operating Systems:

  • 32-bit versions of Windows 10 can only handle up to 4 GB of RAM.
  • 64-bit versions of Windows 10 can handle up to 128 GB of RAM for the Home edition.

For Motherboards:

  1. Find out what motherboard is in your system.
  2. Either research it online or look for your documentation.
  3. Using the Odense2-k motherboard as an example you can see the board supports two DDR4 sticks with the maximum RAM at 16 GB.
    Odense2-k motherboard RAM specifications

What Types of RAM Can You Use?

Adding additional RAM to any machine generally increases performance, but depending on the age of your machine, replacing the existing RAM may be difficult.

Older systems are generally stuck with DDR2, an older version of RAM stick. DDR3 and DD4 are the newest versions, but all three have different notches in their sticks. You cannot fit a DDR4 stick into a DDR2 module.

Your motherboard's documentation should provide information as to which type of RAM you can use. A laptop will be using SODIMM sticks.
Type of ram available to this motherboard

How to Upgrade Your RAM

  1. Open your laptop's case. Sometimes you may be able to simply remove a panel for the RAM. Others require you to completely remove the back of your case.
    An open laptop
  2. Locate the RAM module(s).
  3. To remove the existing RAM sticks, locate the tabs at the end of the module and push them down and away from the RAM.
    Removing ram stick
  4. The stick will slide up slightly so you can remove it.
  5. Slide your new RAM into the slot.

Similar to desktops, some laptops come equipped with graphics adapters. Unfortunately, the graphics adapters that laptops come equipped with are directly soldered onto your laptop's motherboard, and cannot be removed or upgraded. Because of this, the majority of modern laptops do not have a way to upgrade their internal graphics adapters.
Laptop gpu

There are laptops now that can accommodate external graphics card enclosures (eGPU). These allow for the installation of an aftermarket graphics card that can be attached to your computer via a Thunderbolt 3 port. Unfortunately, not every Thunderbolt 3 enabled laptop will work with every eGPU on the market. You will want to refer to your machine's documentation or reach out to the manufacturer to verify what is and is not compatible with your machine.

Replacing an Existing Drive
A solid state and a regular hard driveMay be necessary if you want to upgrade an older, slower, mechanical hard drive to a newer, faster class, or if you need to replace a failing hard drive. Replacing your hard drive may involve cloning your existing hard drive, or starting fresh by reinstalling your operating system.
Options For Expanding Storage
A laptop showing a usb thumbdrive being plugged inIf you just need a little extra space, or even a lot of extra space to store your data, expanding your storage can help. There are multiple devices, brands, and even cloud storage options.

Your Hard Drive is where all of your software lives. This includes Windows, all of the programs you've installed, and all of your personal data. Because of this, "upgrading" your hard drive may not be an ideal option for your machine, as Windows and all of your software would have to be reinstalled. There are services that can "clone" the contents of your existing hard drive onto a new one, but this can potentially add additional cost to the equation. If you are simply running out of storage space, adding a hard drive to your machine may be in your best interest.

How Much Storage Space Do You Need?

Depending on what you're using your computer for, you might not need that much storage. The easiest way to determine how much storage, is to determine how much you can afford. Solid State Drives are more expensive, leading to much smaller amounts of data.

Types Of Hard Drives

A solid state and a regular hard drive
Solid State Hard Drive
Have no moving parts which allow them to last longer. Generally faster than both hard drives and hybrid drives. May be cost prohibitive.
Solid state drives
Mechanical Hard Drive
The traditional  moving parts hard drive. The cheapest option that offers a great deal of storage for the price.
The internal parts of a hard drive
Hybrid
A combination of a solid state drive and a regular hard drive, hybrids offer increased speeds while giving you the data storage of a regular drive. The solid state drive in a hybrid is used as a cache, speeding up the drive overall.
A hybrid drive
M.2
Solid state drives resembling a ram stick that plug into a special port on your motherboard.
M.2 drive

How to Upgrade

  1. Determine the model of your motherboard in order to find out what hard drives are available. You'll need to know what ports you have available or what port the hard drive you're replacing connects to.
  2. Determine whether you want to copy your old drive's contents or do a clean install of the operating system.
  3. Most modern hard drives connect using SATA. A laptop will have an integrated SATA connection.
    Integrated SATA connection
  4. You'll need to open your laptop's case to install your drive.
  5. Remove the older drive if needed, and secure your new drive.
    Removing a laptop drive

There are various ways to increase your computer's data storage capacity.

USB Flash Drives

A usb thumbdrive
  • Your computer must have at least one available USB port.
  • To use your USB flash drive, connect it to any available USB port.
    A laptop showing a usb thumbdrive being plugged in
  • Windows 10 will automatically detect it and prompt you for further action.
    Windows 10 removable drive popup
  • If your computer does not come equipped with full size USB ports, or a port of a different kind, such as USB Type C, you may need to purchase a dongle to be able to connect full sized USB accessories to your machine.
    USB Type C dongle adapter.

External Hard Drive

A WD MyPassport external harddrive

  • External hard drives typically offer the largest amount of storage space for the money, and easily connect to your computer via USB.
  • There are both portable and larger form factor external drives on the market. The difference is not only in their size, but larger external hard drives usually require external power, while portable drives only require a USB connection. Keep this in mind if you would like your external drive to be portable.

SD or Micro SD Card

A 32GB microSD card
  • Your computer may have an available SD or Micro SD card slot. While this type of storage does not typically afford the same amount of space as the other options listed, its ultra compact form factor can still be very desirable for removable storage.
    A microSD slot in the side of a laptop
  • To use this type of storage, simply insert the SD card into the available slot.
  • The card itself can only be inserted into the slot in one way. These card slots are typically spring loaded, and the card should click into and out of place.

Your keyboard and mouse allow you to interact with your computer. They're known as your computer's human interface or input devices.

While computer keyboards and mice are relatively simple devices that are easily replaceable, there are many different options on the market that take advantage of advances in technology that can help you fill a certain need or desire. We'll go over some things to consider when it comes to the input devices you choose to use with your machine.

Types of Connections

The type of connection your keyboard and mouse make to your computer is personal preference, but depending on where you use your computer, one connection method might be preferred over another. The three most common connection methods are:

  • Wired directly to the computer via USB
  • Wirelessly connected via USB dongle
  • Wirelessly connected via Bluetooth built-in to your computer or via Bluetooth dongle

Types of Keyboards

While most keyboards look the same on the surface, there are actually a great deal of differences between them. You can choose the kinds of key switches you want, whether or not you prefer your keys to be backlit or multicolored if you're in a dimly lit room, or if you prefer a keyboard with additional programmable keys or ergonomic layout.

Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards are built with high quality, typically spring activated, key switches. The type of mechanical switches can vary based on the keyboards intended use, and your personal preference. They are superior to the cheaply made membrane key switches that are available in many inexpensive keyboards on the market. Mechanical keyboards are made to last longer, and are available with a number of different types of mechanical switches. Your choice of mechanical switch boils down to one thing - feel. Mechanical keyboards simply feel better than rubber dome keyboards to type on.Mechanical keyboard switches
Gaming Keyboards
Many "gaming" keyboards are not much different than standard keyboards, but offer a range of features you may find favorable. Most of these types of keyboards will come equipped with a certain type of mechanical key switch, offer customizable LED backlighting behind each key, and a large level of additional customization options. This may come in the form of additional programmable keys, or the ability to program all of the existing keys.
A corsair gaming keyboard
Ergonomic Keyboards
Ergonomic keyboards are built primarily for the ergonomic support of your wrists, elbows, and hands. They are designed to lessen the impact of long hours on your joints.
An ergonomic keyboard

Types of Computer Mice

The computer mouse. Much like keyboards, often thought of as very simple and cheap devices that are all the same and easy to replace. However, this is not the case. Hordes of mice are now available in different sizes and shapes. From ergonomic mice meant for heavy use in both a home and office environment, to gaming mice with programmable buttons and advanced sensors designed for precision and quick reflexes.

When choosing a mouse, keep in mind what it will be primarily used for, and look for a shape that feels comfortable in your hand.

Many mice now advertise how much DPI they are able to be set to. So, what is DPI? DPI stands for "dots per inch," and is used to measure how far a mouse pointer will travel on your screen for every inch that the mouse itself is physically moved.

Gaming Mice
A mouse that can come equipped with extra programmable buttons and a very high ceiling for adjustable DPI. The number of extra buttons and the shape of the mouse will vary greatly depending on what brand and model you come across. Both ergonomic and ambidextrous gaming mice exist.
A corsair gaming mouse
Standard Ergonomic Mouse
Similar to ergonomic keyboards, these mice are built with comfort and long hours in mind. The multitude of ergonomic shapes available are designed to help increase comfort and grip, while reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
A logitech ergonomic mouse

Physical upgrade options for Macs can be very limited. Depending on the model and manufacture date of your Mac, upgradeable hardware such as RAM and internal hard drive can actually be soldered to the logic board, making them impossible to remove or add to at all. Other internal Mac hardware is not made to be upgradeable whatsoever.

We recommend having a professional assess your Apple device to determine if you can upgrade it at all.

Show Me How

Clicking this button will open a new guide that will provide you with steps to resolve your issue.

Your keyboard and mouse allow you to interact with your computer. They're known as your computer's human interface or input devices.

While computer keyboards and mice are relatively simple devices that are easily replaceable, there are many different options on the market that take advantage of advances in technology that can help you fill a certain need or desire. We'll go over some things to consider when it comes to the input devices you choose to use with your machine.

Types of Connections

The type of connection your keyboard and mouse make to your computer is personal preference, but depending on where you use your computer, one connection method might be preferred over another. The three most common connection methods are:

  • Wired directly to the computer via USB
  • Wirelessly connected via USB dongle
  • Wirelessly connected via Bluetooth built-in to your computer or via Bluetooth dongle

Types of Keyboards

While most keyboards look the same on the surface, there are actually a great deal of differences between them. You can choose the kinds of key switches you want, whether or not you prefer your keys to be backlit or multicolored if you're in a dimly lit room, or if you prefer a keyboard with additional programmable keys or ergonomic layout.

Mechanical Keyboards
Mechanical keyboards are built with high quality, typically spring activated, key switches. The type of mechanical switches can vary based on the keyboard’s intended use, and your personal preference. They are superior to the cheaply made membrane key switches that are available in many inexpensive keyboards on the market. Mechanical keyboards are made to last longer, and are available with a number of different types of mechanical switches. Your choice of mechanical switch boils down to one thing - feel. Mechanical keyboards simply feel better than rubber dome keyboards to type on.Mechanical keyboard switches
Gaming Keyboards
Many "gaming" keyboards are not much different than standard keyboards, but offer a range of features you may find favorable. Most of these types of keyboards will come equipped with a certain type of mechanical key switch, offer customizable LED backlighting behind each key, and a large level of additional customization options. This may come in the form of additional programmable keys, or the ability to program all of the existing keys.
A corsair gaming keyboard
Ergonomic Keyboards
Ergonomic keyboards are built primarily for the ergonomic support of your wrists, elbows, and hands. They are designed to lessen the impact of long hours on your joints.
An ergonomic keyboard

Types of Computer Mice

The computer mouse. Much like keyboards, often thought of as very simple and cheap devices that are all the same and easy to replace. However, this is not the case. Hordes of mice are now available in different sizes and shapes. From ergonomic mice meant for heavy use in both a home and office environment, to gaming mice with programmable buttons and advanced sensors designed for precision and quick reflexes.

When choosing a mouse, keep in mind what it will be primarily used for, and look for a shape that feels comfortable in your hand.

Many mice now advertise how much DPI they are able to be set to. So, what is DPI? DPI stands for "dots per inch," and is used to measure how far a mouse pointer will travel on your screen for every inch that the mouse itself is physically moved.

Gaming Mice
A mouse that can come equipped with extra programmable buttons and a very high ceiling for adjustable DPI. The number of extra buttons and the shape of the mouse will vary greatly depending on what brand and model you come across. Both ergonomic and ambidextrous gaming mice exist.
A corsair gaming mouse
Standard Ergonomic Mouse
Similar to ergonomic keyboards, these mice are built with comfort and long hours in mind. The multitude of ergonomic shapes available are designed to help increase comfort and grip, while reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
A logitech ergonomic mouse

Your computer's monitor is the window into your system. They come in many different sizes and specifications and are provided by several different brands. The prices have dropped a great deal over the years, making monitors easily replaceable.

If your text is too small or you just need more real estate on your screen it may be time to replace your monitor.

Using an external monitor on a Mac can be done by either extending the monitor, Airplay, or Video Mirroring.

Checking Your Current Monitor

Most newer laptops run at 1080p or larger and connect using a HDMI cable. Let's check your resolution to see how your current monitor measures up to today's standards.

Check Your Resolution

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences.
    Apple menu with system preferences highlighted
  2. Choose Displays.
    system preferences with displays highlighted
  3. Review your current resolution.
    Display preferences with resolution highlighted

Choosing a Monitor

Sizes

Monitor sizes are measured diagonally. The larger the size, the more space you have to work with. The downside to a larger sized monitor is your eyes need to move more to cover all that distance.
Monitor sizes

Resolution

Directly related to the size of your monitor is resolution. The panel resolution is the number of distinct pixels in each dimension that can be displayed. In general, higher resolution means higher image quality.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio of a monitor is the ratio of the width of the screen panel to its height. Most monitors sold today use 16:9, the same aspect ratio as televisions. This makes for ideal full screen video viewing. Older square aspect ratios, like 4:3 and 5:4, are rarely seen in modern monitors.
Aspect ratio
There is a newer type of monitor with a larger aspect ratio for those with a need for more screen real estate. Ultra widescreen monitors have an aspect ratio of 21:9.
Ultrawide screen resolution

Refresh Rates

A monitor's refresh rate describes how often it refreshes the image on the screen, expressed in hertz. The standard for LCD monitors is 60 hertz. Most users don't need a monitor with more than this value as your eye won't necessarily notice anything over 60hz.

Higher end monitors offer higher refresh rates and are often aimed at gamers.

Ports

When choosing your monitor, make sure the needed ports are available on your system. Most modern systems come with HDMI and DisplayPort connections.
Listed ports on a graphic card

The back of a monitor

Most computers come equipped with a means to playback sound. Unfortunately, many of these provided or built-in solutions may not actually sound very good, and you may find them lacking. If you want to upgrade your computer's audio capabilities, there are many ways to do so.

Add an Audio Device

Perhaps the easiest way to upgrade your computer's sound is to add a better audio device. Depending on your needs and what sounds best to you, this may come in the form of external speakers, or some form of headphones or headset. Audio devices like these come in a variety of different brands, shapes, sizes, and output levels. There are hundreds if not thousands of options to choose from.

When adding any sort of audio device, make sure your computer has the necessary port(s) to attach them to.

3.5mm Analog Audio Jack

Speakers, headphones and headsets can connect traditionally using the analog audio jacks found on the back of desktops and the side of laptops.Mac headphone jack.

USB

Speakers, headphones and headsets can also connect using USB ports.

Mac USB port.
USB Type-C

A modern form of USB connection your Mac may come equipped with. You may need a USB Type-C dongle to connect standard USB devices to this type of port.

Mac USB Type-C ports.
Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a wireless audio option that your Mac should have available.

Screenshot of the Bluetooth properties box. Annotation that shows how to turn the Bluetooth radio on.

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