Hardware Upgrades

Do you find your PC/laptop getting slower over time? Is it taking longer to start up and shutdown your system? Do programs/apps load slower and run poorly when using them? Do your games lag and stutter? Does it take longer to compress/decompress files? Does compiling software or encoding/transcoding audio and video take forever? If so, it may be time to upgrade parts of your system.

A hardware upgrade is done either to replace a damaged component or to extend the life of your device. Adding more RAM, a faster CPU, storage drive or graphics card can brink new life to your otherwise slow system. Blu-Ray drives, TV Tuner cards, USB expansion cards, external eSATA ports, RAID controllers etc. can add new functionality to your device. At Gateway Computers, we can take a look at your system, determine the bottlenecks slowing down the device and recommend an upgrade to improve the performance of the device. This will save you money and save E-waste by extending the life of your device.

Call us today to book an appointment and find out how a computer hardware upgrade may improve performance and increase productivity without the need for investing in a whole new system.

Following is a list of the most common hardware upgrades that are used to increase the life of a PC/laptop:

RAM: Your computer uses RAM, short for random access memory, to store data currently being used by your CPU and other components to perform calculations, functions and operations for whatever you are currently working on. More RAM allows your computer to perform more tasks simultaneously and run faster. You can boost performance by installing additional/larger capacity RAM or, in some cases installing faster RAM. It is a fairly straightforward process but should be done by a professional to prevent damage to your motherboard or the RAM itself from static discharge and to prevent accidental physical damage.

Hard Drive/Solid-State Drives: Hard disc drives (HDD) and Solid-State Drives (SSD) are non-volatile or permanent storage devices. They are used to store your programs and data in a permanent state, meaning the data is not lost when the device is powered down. Until recently, most computers used HDD's which contain discs that spin at a high rate of speed and a read/write head that travels back and forth across the discs writing data to those discs. These drives, while inexpensive with high storage capacity are very slow at transferring data, use a lot of power due to the spinning platters and other moving parts and prone to mechanical failure. They can also damage your data if the drive is bumped while performing a read/write to the discs. This causes a head crash and can damage the very sensitive surface of the disc, making large parts of it unusable and data unreadable.

SSDs are storage systems that have no moving parts. They store data in NAND flash or cells similar to that of a USB memory stick, although done in a much different and robust way. Because these drives have no moving parts and no read/write heads that have to move around to various parts of the drive to retrieve data they are less prone to mechanical failure and use less power. It also allows for much faster data transfer speeds. However, the drives are currently more expensive at comparable capacities. But prices are dropping regularly.

One of the best and cheapest ways to speed up your PC or laptop is to swap out your HDD for an SSD. The HDD is usually one of the slowest parts of the computer responsible for data transfer so putting in a vastly faster SSD can speed up your PC or laptops performance considerably. It can also save battery power on laptops. Here at Gateway Computers, we've put a lot of SSDs in older laptops and customers have found the resulting increase in performance to be amazing. Many have said that it's like they have a new laptop. Call us for a consultation if you have an older HDD and we can give you a price on an SSD and having the new drive cloned as an exact copy of the old drives data so that your computer is exactly the same as it was before the new SSD - just much faster.

Optical Disc Drive: Optical disc drives are drives that read and write to CD's, DVD's and Blu Ray discs. They're used for watching movies, playing music, installing programs and games or storing data. Most PC's and laptops that come with an optical drive usually have a CD/DVD drive. Most these days don't come with any optical drive at all but often leave a slot or bay for you to add your own. Switching your CD/DVD drive to a Blu-Ray drive or adding a drive if none exists will allow you to watch high quality movies and store data a large amount of data on one disc. DVD discs can store 4.7GB of data or 7.4GB on dual layer discs. Blu-Ray discs can store 25GB of data or 50GB of data on dual layer discs. Installing an optical drive is usually pretty straight forward and can be done quickly. Some laptops, however, require a bit more work as some of them require the laptop to be completely disassembled.
Processor: A central processing unit (processor or CPU for short) is the "brain" of your computer. It executes instructions for programs or more precisely, performs basic arithmetic, logic, controlling, and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the instructions in the program. It is one of the most important components in a device and one you do not want to skimp on price for a cheaper model. For PC's and laptops, CPU's come from two manufacturers, Intel an AMD and each company has multiple lines of CPU's that usually have a cheaper low-end model and more expensive high-end model or generation. Newer generations often come in a different socket type, which is the socket on the computer’s motherboard that the CPU fits into. Since most motherboards are built for one specific socket type, it is much more difficult to upgrade your CPU to a faster model. However, there are cases where a faster CPU comes out that is compatible with the socket and firmware on an older motherboard, allowing the system to be upgraded with the faster CPU. It is a less common upgrade as CPU's can get pricey but if your current CPU has failed or the newer CPU will give you much better performance, it may be worthwhile to upgrade.
Video Card: Graphics processing units, (video card, graphics card or GPU for short) are similar to CPUs except they specifically handle heavy image processing in video games and 3-D rendering software. Graphics cards are one of the most common upgrades done for a PC that uses intense graphics in gaming or for video editing and other software. It is quite common for people with gaming PCs to have their graphics card upgraded multiple times over the lifetime of their PC in order to stay on the cutting edge of graphics technology and play games at the best quality possible. If the graphics card is not upgraded, one is forced to lower the visual settings on newer games over time and eventually, the card will not be compatible with newer games and will not be able to run them. Graphics cards can range in price quite a bit, from $90 to thousands of dollars. Most people, however, go with mid range graphics cards that average around $300-$500. They are fairly easy to install for those with the proper knowledge and skill. However, it's best to have them professionally installed to avoid damage to the card or other components and to make sure the card is compatible with your motherboard and power supply.