Upgrade your PC or start from scratch? Here’s our definitive…

If you’re no longer happy with your computer’s performance, it’s time to give your entire PC a facelift. Is it time to upgrade, or should you just buy a new PC? The choice can be difficult, but there are some general guidelines to follow.

A lot of things matter, whether it’s your budget, the performance of your current PC, or how much you can upgrade before it no longer makes sense. Here’s how you can make the right decision for your needs.

Start by taking a look at your current rig

A gaming PC with RGB synced lights running Apex Legends.
Kunal Khullar /

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to deciding between building a new PC and upgrading your existing rig. After all, no one is stopping you from buying a new computer every couple of years, as if there’s not much reason not to upgrade parts. That’s the beauty of desktop computers compared to laptops, and why I prefer them – they’re modular, so you can choose your path and do what works best for you.

But there are times when it’s better for you to pay for a cheap upgrade rather than throw away a perfectly good PC, and vice versa – there are times when upgrading is so expensive that it doesn’t make sense.

The way to tell them apart is to take a good look at your current computer and get a good idea of ​​its current condition. After all, as fun as it is to buy new hardware, you don’t want to assume that’s the problem – at least not when you’re trying to save money.

Start by troubleshooting any software-related bugs and issues.

If you’ve established that you’re not happy with your performance – for whatever reason – then your first step should be some troubleshooting. Only this will give you the answer as to whether major upgrades are necessary or whether swapping out one or two components may be all that is needed to get a solid PC.

If you’re not sure where to start, it’s a good idea to troubleshoot any software-related glitches and problems as they may not be resolved even if you replace some components. Download a good antivirus program, as well as an anti-malware program (like Malwarebytes) and run a scan. Update all your drivers and make sure you have the latest version of the BIOS (here’s a handy guide on how to update it). Keep your Windows up to date too, even though fresh updates can sometimes wreak some havoc. Finally, if performance issues only started after installing a certain new program or patch, it might be a good idea to go back in time and use a System Restore to get rid of it.

Once the software issues are resolved, the question arises as to which of your components is performing poorly. This is why troubleshooting and benchmarking are both good first steps. For example, frame rate drops in games can be caused by power supplies, graphics cards, cooling, and more – unless you dig a little deeper, you won’t find the culprit.

We have a guide to benchmarking your GPU, which can be a good indicator of whether a replacement is due. If your GPU runs too hot or performs poorly in games, it may be time to replace it, but this can often lead to an upgrade longer than necessary (more on that later). For other components, downloading HWiNFO or any other monitoring software is a fast and simple way to check temperature, storage or memory issues and more.

All the data from these tests will tell you where the blockage is in your system and what components may need to be replaced.

add costs

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU.
Jacob Roach/

If you don’t want to spend the entire amount up front it’s often worth updating your PC one step at a time. Over time, this cost may add up, especially if you replace your upgraded PC with a new desktop, but any one-time purchase is fairly inexpensive. Towards the bottom? The performance gains from any part you buy won’t be as impressive as getting rid of a five-year-old PC and buying a new rig.

First, you need to add up the cost of the parts you’ll need to replace – followed by a deeper look at what’s currently available and what’s on the way. Start by deciding exactly what needs to be upgraded, as well as whether you’ll need to purchase anything additional to accommodate those components. For example, if you’re buying a new processor, there’s likely a change in the motherboard – and that could mean a number of other upgrades you haven’t taken into account. Add up those necessary costs. If the cost of your upgrade is about half (or more) the cost of a new PC, it’s usually better to build a new computer from scratch.

Necessity isn’t the only reason you might be motivated to upgrade, as the marketing efforts of various manufacturers, whether it’s Intel, Nvidia, or AMD, also play a role. Whenever a new generation of PC hardware comes out, the constant buzz around it can give the best of us a bad case of FOMO, also known as the fear of missing out, and it costs money. Just a jump from doing.

Deciding whether to upgrade, buy a new PC, or put it away can be difficult if your desire is limited only to wanting to try new things. Some upgrades, whether necessary or not, will force you to buy more than one component, and at a certain point, building a new PC will make more sense. I’m mostly talking about big-ticket items; For example, buying a new graphics card will often force you to upgrade your PSU, but it may also require a new case or motherboard.

An SSD is installed in a PC motherboard.
Jacob Roach/

However, be careful not to fall into the upgrade trap. Let’s say you’re experiencing slow loading times – buying a new SSD can help a lot there, but if that doesn’t cut it, it’s always best to buy new parts until something gets fixed. There is no thought. Some upgrades, such as a motherboard or processor, may require so many changes that you may be better off buying a new PC.

If you’re on the fence about upgrading and aren’t sure whether it’s worth the money, your best option is to look at reviews from reliable sources that compare your existing components to what you want to buy. Are expecting. Comparisons, such as this article where we compare Intel’s Core i9-13900K to the Core i9-14900K, can help you decide and will also show you the real-world benefits you will get from your purchase.

At some point, if there’s a lot that you need to upgrade, it’s better not to take the risk and buy a new PC. In my own case, my old PC got quite a few upgrades over the years, but none of them significant enough to really keep it up to date. When I finally decided to build a new computer, I had an old GTX 1060, an 8th generation Intel CPU, an old air cooling system, and a small, inefficient case that barely had any extra fans.

Given that I had to buy a new motherboard, GPU, CPU, PSU, and case, it didn’t matter that I had recently got a new PSU, SSD, and RAM, because the major components in my PC were really old. . If you’re in the same boat, it’s often better to give your old parts a rest and build a new PC where everything fits together, has a warranty, and performs at the same level.

It’s better to start from scratch for a few reasons

All components are ready to use to build a PC.
digital trends

Apart from just price, there are some other important reasons why you might want to build a new PC rather than take the upgrade path.

Once your PC gets old enough, you will start facing compatibility issues. For example, Windows 11 has some strict requirements to run well, and every previous version of Windows eventually forces you to upgrade your hardware due to the lack of support from Microsoft. For gamers, it often happens that your PC gradually makes it impossible for you to play AAA titles at good settings. If upgrading your PC to fix these problems will cost you half the cost of a new PC or more, then purchasing becomes a more viable solution.

If your upgrade path is limited, there’s no point keeping investing money in a PC that won’t give you any tangible difference in performance. For example, if you’re already using Intel’s LGA1700 socket in your computer and you have a Core i7-13600K, there’s basically no reason to upgrade to a Core i7-14600K. Sure, it’s faster and it fits in the same socket, but you’re spending money on an upgrade so that doesn’t matter.

Switching to a brand new build also gives you future-proofing benefits.

This is even more important when you’re on an older platform. Let’s imagine you have a Core i5-8400 processor with an LGA1151 socket. The best upgrade available to you on that platform would be the Core i9-9900K. Such old components are rarely in stock anymore, and when they are, they cost very high prices. Not only will you have to pay a lot of money – your PC also won’t get as big a boost as it would if you bought a chip from the latest generations.

Returning to compatibility, building a new PC can often unlock access to technology that your old PC won’t be able to handle. This, again, brings us to the platform your PC is built around. If you have the older Coffee Lake CPU mentioned earlier, you won’t have access to PCIe 4.0, let alone PCIe 5.0, and that means forgoing some serious SSD speed. While the newer drives work with older versions of PCIe, their read and write speeds are cut down to match the older generation.

Switching to a brand new build also gives you the benefits of future safety, longevity and warranty. While your old PC has probably been opened up and upgraded many times by now, a new build will be exactly that – brand new. This means that all components will be covered by a warranty of up to five years, and you’ll be all set for a long time to come. Meanwhile, an old PC will only get you so far, and unless you replace every component, you’ll eventually start to see signs of aging in your existing PC.

find the middle ground

Nvidia GeForce RTX gaming setup with monitor and PC build.

If you follow the above logic, you should know whether it makes sense to upgrade your current PC or build a new one. But moving forward, you may be wondering whether it’s better to continue upgrading every one or two years or replace the entire PC every five to seven years. Of course, it depends on your needs and your budget, but generally, it’s best to find a middle ground.

Sometimes, a small upgrade can make a big difference. For example, buying an NVMe SSD instead of a SATA SSD is cheaper and helps a lot. Adding extra RAM to your PC is a must if you’re a gamer, as AAA titles are slowly slipping into 32GB RAM territory. We also have a guide to help you choose whether it’s time to add more memory to your system.

If you’re looking for a more impactful upgrade, the GPU has the biggest impact on gaming performance in many titles, but this is only true if your CPU isn’t old enough to be a bottleneck. It’s always a balancing act. Even if you add an RTX 4080 to a CPU that’s several years old, you still won’t get the kind of performance you’ll get on a brand new processor. On the other hand, high-end GPUs can perform better with older processors than entry-level models because, at higher resolutions, they work more in gaming scenarios.

Ultimately, it depends on what works best for you. There’s no reason to hold off on small, impactful upgrades just because you want to build a new computer, but there’s also no reason to throw out a perfectly good PC just because it can’t support the latest and greatest. Could. In PC Hardware.

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