Upgrade your PC or just buy a new one? Tips for the undecided
By Stefanie Zenke Nov 19, 2006, 6:21 GMT
Berlin It's only two years old, but already your computer needs a couple of minutes to boot up and the monitor takes forever to refresh.
Real computer freaks, especially computer game enthusiasts, would immediately go for an upgrade. 'They always need the most up-to-date system,' says Claus Mentrup, who works for Fujitsui Siemens Computers' Service hotline. Older processors keep them from using the latest graphic cards, adds Benz.
But what about other computer users? When their PCs become clogged up with useless data, it's sometimes easier to buy a new one than to reset the old one. But is that really for the best?
The short answer is: sometimes. There are times when buying a new computer makes the most sense, but there are also many cases where exchanging components can give you the computer you want for far less money.
Exchanging components can often buy your computer a few extra years. 'Expanding your hard drive is often the most valuable thing you can do,' says Benjamin Benz of the Hanover-based magazine c't.'
The best option is buying an external drive as it does not involve dismantling the computer. Once a PC is opened, its warranty might become wholly or partially invalidated. Whenever possible, always try to use drives with high data transfer rates. It's also important to ensure that the new drive has the proper connections most require a USB 2.0 connection.
'Never change a running system,' is Peter Knaak's motto. Knaak, who works for Stiftung Warentest, a consumer testing firm based in Berlin, insists 'upgrades can be tricky.'
Exchanging individual components can unwittingly start a chain reaction. First the processor is exchanged, then the circuit board develops problems. 'The costs start adding up,' says Knaak. If you only bought the PC to write letters, but later discovered a passion for computer games or videos, he recommends purchasing a new computer. 'It's cheaper in the long run than buying all the extra pieces.'
If a computer user just needs a 'better typewriter,' a larger hard drive or more working memory is probably all their PC needs. 'That's always worth the expense,' says Robert Vasenda, a product manager with Hewlett Packard.
But Vasenda says he would consider buying a new computer 'when the operating system starts creating new challenges for the hardware.' A new PC saves time and helps mend frayed nerves as 'all the components are matched up.'
Apart from buying a new hard drive, expanding the working memory can serve as a kind of restorative for an older computer. 'Investing in more memory can often accomplish a lot,' says Knaak. But it's important to check the type of memory the circuit board will support and whether it's possible to switch to different kinds of memory.
The computer's brain, the processor, can also be replaced. But remember to figure out which processors will fit the bill. 'Not every processor is automatically compatible with every mainboard,' says Mentrup. A buyer should also check out whether compatible processors are still on the market.
If possible, Knaak advises computer users to make do with their old computer for now and just add more memory as Windows is set to launch its Vista operating system in January, the successor to Windows XP.
'It's going to be nice and new, but it's definitely going to have a few bugs,' he says. Better to hold off on a computer purchase until the initial problems have been sorted out.
Whichever way you go, powering up your computer will mean an investment. Most component upgrades cost between 300 and 400 euros (385 to 513 dollars), says Mentrup. Anyone facing a bigger spend to upgrade might as well just get a new machine.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur