How to get the most out of your next PC overhaul

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,593   +124
Staff member

We’ve all been hit with the realization that our once mighty and honorable desktop has seen better days. Whether your gaming machine is no longer able to deliver respectable frame rates in your favorite titles, encoding jobs are taking far longer than they should and costing you money, or you’ve just noticing a general slowdown when trying to be productive, it's possibly time you consider a major overhaul in order to remedy those shortcomings.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a full-on new PC build is the only course of action. Indeed, for many, a few well-chosen core components might be enough to breathe years of additional life into your desktop workstation/gaming battlestation.

When overhauling a PC, remember that you will always come out the other side smelling far rosier if you go into it with a game plan.

When overhauling a PC, remember that you will always come out the other side smelling far rosier if you go into it with a game plan. And the first place to start is, well, at the beginning. Make a list of your goals with the build. What do you want it to accomplish, or what do you want to get out of it? This will largely come down to how you use the PC.

An enthusiast gamer’s build, for example, is going to look quite different than a system designed for a professional photographer or graphics artist. Similarly, if you work from home and have multiple windows open at any given time, fast load times afforded by some extra RAM, a speedy SSD and a CPU geared for productivity will likely be on your shortlist.

Or maybe your jam is silence, with the goal of building a quality, general-purpose PC that is absolutely as quiet as possible. The sky really is the limit here – well that, and your budget, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

A couple of other factors worth considering before moving forward is the intended lifespan of the machine and whether or not you will be downsizing or perhaps crafting something that takes up a bit more room than your current system.

If you’re only planning to have the build get you through a year or two – say, to your next job promotion and bonus, or through college graduation, you may only want to address the components of your existing build that truly are on their last leg. Or maybe even a fresh OS install could buy you some extra time.

Once you’ve committed to the investment, one of the first things you’ll want to consider is your budget.

A budget is simply a plan for your money. Knowing how much you can comfortably spend will save loads of time that would otherwise be wasted considering hardware that is beyond your means. And if it starts feeling a bit too prohibitive, just reverse your approach and think of your budget as giving you freedom to purchase rather than restricting what you can buy.

I’m a stickler when it comes to maximizing value and pinching pennies wherever possible. For me, this often means taking inventory of components I already have on hand and constructing a list of parts I can reuse during the upgrade.

Mileage here will no doubt vary depending on what your existing build looks like and what you might have tucked away in the closet. Personally, my Cooler Master Cosmos II is already signed up for another tour of duty. I also plan to reuse the SilverStone 750W Strider Gold modular PSU, the Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme sound card and the Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics card from my current rig. I’d additionally like to reuse the massive Noctua NH-D14 cooler if it is still compatible with modern socket mounting systems.

Second-hand markets like eBay and tech forums can be a good source if you’re willing to gamble on used hardware. Conversely, you might have some old hardware lying around that others are interested in. You may be surprised to learn how much an old video card may be worth today, especially if you have some rare item like an old 3Dfx Voodoo GPU. Money brought in from the sale of used hardware can help lower the cost of your new build.

Once you have a budget in place and have identified components that could be reused, you’ll want to define the purpose of your build. Are you a gamer? Will the system be primarily used in an office environment? Do you work with high-end graphics or video creation? Or if you simply want a basic PC to handle documents, standard photo editing, and surfing the web, perhaps it's not necessarily the core PC hardware that needs updating, but it could be your input devices and monitor.

When to buy can be as important as what to buy...

If your build isn’t mission-critical, meaning you can wait for better timing or the next major product cycle, it may be worth doing so. Certain times of the year are better than others when it comes to scoring computer parts at attractive prices. Prime day (this week), Black Friday and Cyber Monday are obvious examples, but there are other optimal times to pull the trigger as well.

Keeping tabs on the latest news and reviews is a wise strategy. By knowing what's coming soon, you can decide if it's worth waiting for a new component for the sake of performance or use the launch to nab a discount on what’ll soon be last-gen hardware. Case in point, AMD just launched new Ryzen processors which means in a matter of weeks you could either buy one of their latest chips, or if you're already in the AM4 platform, you could upgrade to one of their high core-count predecessors for a fraction of the price.

Then again, it's somewhat easy to fall into a trap of waiting around indefinitely for the next best thing. Speaking from experience, one day, it hits you that your CPU is almost a decade old and is long past retirement age.

Image credit: Desktop workstation, CPU socket, Inside PC case, CPU cooling

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,496   +3,334
I'm not upgrading anything again till DDR5 and 11th gen intel CPU - or even 12th gen.
I need absolutely nothing now that I got a 3000 EVGA and 8TB SSD.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 3,443   +2,341
Still rocking my 5960 cpu... and my 2080Ti.... will wait for another couple years I think...
I want to see what Threadrippers are doing at that time... 128 cores please? And hopefully for less than a mortgage?
 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 3,496   +3,334
Still rocking my 5960 cpu... and my 2080Ti.... will wait for another couple years I think...
I want to see what Threadrippers are doing at that time... 128 cores please? And hopefully for less than a mortgage?

If you're gaming, the 5960x is a damn good CPU. 8Cores and 16 threads @ 3.0 GHz. If you've got 32GB of DDR4 and a good GPU you can run any game on the market in 1080p...possibly 4K, no problem.

That 2080Ti is still a beast.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,663   +2,292
I overhauled a prebuilt PC that I got many years ago. It came with a Celeron G1820 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a lower end AMD GPU. Since then I got an SSD, massive difference, i5 Haswell CPU, 8GB of DDR3 and now a Ryzen 5 3600 and 16GB of DDR4. Got a new, bigger case with dust filters and other quirks. Got a GTX 1050 Ti, replaced it with an RX570. Still a lower end card by today's standards but a massive upgrade over what I had. Also runs games at mostly high quality 1080p without issues. Eventually is gonna get upgraded to RTX or AMD equivalent. Upgraded that cheap no name power supply with a 80+ certified one. Basically, it is a different PC now. Got a mechanical keyboard and a mouse mat. The problem is that I realised I don't even play that much anymore so I'm wondering if I fd up.
 
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Irata

Posts: 862   +1,228
TechSpot Elite
My next upgrade will most likely be a GPU - the rest of the system was built with that in mind.

Of course, getting a 3060-3070 class GPU either from nVidia or AMD is pointless with a 1080p 60 hz monitor, so need to factor that in, as well. I assume that a decent 1440p 144 hz monitor will cost at least as much as the graphics card....
 
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Squid Surprise

Posts: 3,443   +2,341
If you're gaming, the 5960x is a damn good CPU. 8Cores and 16 threads @ 3.0 GHz. If you've got 32GB of DDR4 and a good GPU you can run any game on the market in 1080p...possibly 4K, no problem.

That 2080Ti is still a beast.
I have 64gb of ddr4 ram... but while I game, I do a lot of video encoding.... will eventually go Threadripper - but can’t justify it... yet...
 
First post but like Techspot way better than say, competitors who have sex scandals. Just saying. Retired my Core Two Duo that I painstakingly built myself. Read lots of reviews, etc. Yes the Lian Li V2010B case was extravagant and for that reason I will build another someday and use a 5.25 drive bay to update from USB 2.0 to USB 3.2+ but hey, definitely in no hurry. All troubleshooting in on you. Prebuilt we have now has Core i7-9700K and 32GB DDR4 and a NVME with 3500 Read score so kids fly in games. Way more significant is it attracts ZERO dust, quite unlike prior desktop !! What a revelation. 😎
 

noel24

Posts: 635   +658
What is exactly this article about?
Seems more like an invitation for Us - readers, raised on Steven Walton's quirks, to chip in, than an actual serious handbook?
Anyway, for work I need no more than post-2010 dual core with 8GB of RAM and SSD and 32" 4K.
For gaming on 1440p, medium-to-high settings, I use 9700K (non-overclocked yet) and 2060. Bought around 2 years ago, will have to last me at least another 3 in this economy.
 
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noel24

Posts: 635   +658
A multipack of CMOS batteries and a multipack of canned air, and now all my Windows XP computers will be fine for another 10 years
I use cotton swabs, as pressured air removes just a loose shags of dust. Also, wouldn't stack the batteries. I got one in my brothers' PC that is 8 years old. And they age while stored anyway. Just get one when You need one.
Just buy an SSD and upgrade to Win7 (XP doesn't support SSDs), both for few bucks today, and You'll be golden for years.
 
My next upgrade will most likely be a GPU - the rest of the system was built with that in mind.

Of course, getting a 3060-3070 class GPU either from nVidia or AMD is pointless with a 1080p 60 hz monitor, so need to factor that in, as well. I assume that a decent 1440p 144 hz monitor will cost at least as much as the graphics card....
Not necessarily. There are some good monitors around for under $300 like the AOC CQ27G2 144hz 1440p freesync/G-sync compatible.
 
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p51d007

Posts: 2,517   +1,804
My upgrades are based on how slow photoshop loads and acts LOL.
I'm still using an i5 4460, Nvidia GT720,12GB ram & 1GB SSD (2GB platter for storage).
When photoshop updates to the point it starts getting "slow"...I'll update
 

Starscream07

Posts: 10   +4
Have a fossil first gen intel 750 cpu that I got from my university surplus for $40 with mobo and case. I ran that **** with a Gtx 1060 lol at 1080p. I remember playing a ton of BF1 and Witcher 3 with max setting at 44fps which was fine by me then. A year later idk if it was hard disk or what but everything slowed down drastically and its been collecting dust the last two years. Was on ps4 pro. Just graduated with a job, so cant wait to go crazy for cyberpunk @_@
 
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I overhauled a prebuilt PC that I got many years ago. It came with a Celeron G1820 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a lower end AMD GPU. Since then I got an SSD, massive difference, i5 Haswell CPU, 8GB of DDR3 and now a Ryzen 5 3600 and 16GB of DDR4. Got a new, bigger case with dust filters and other quirks. Got a GTX 1050 Ti, replaced it with an RX570. Still a lower end card by today's standards but a massive upgrade over what I had. Also runs games at mostly high quality 1080p without issues. Eventually is gonna get upgraded to RTX or AMD equivalent. Upgraded that cheap no name power supply with a 80+ certified one. Basically, it is a different PC now. Got a mechanical keyboard and a mouse mat. The problem is that I realised I don't even play that much anymore so I'm wondering if I fd up.
lol same upgrades, same conclusion...Now my pc is on ebay lol
 
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Srhnd

Posts: 8   +12
No big upgrade for the main rig yet. Still on my 6850k @4.3ghz which is like a 8700k more or less. Might find a cheap 6950x and upgrade to Rtx 3080 or Big Navi when they are available at or near MSRP.

My second rig though, with 3770k @4.4ghz and 32 GB 2400Mhz DDR3 RAM at CL10 might need a platform update. Probably will wait until DDR5 and PCIx4 become mainstream, so 2 more years give or take. Almost Clock for clock 6850k is 15% better than 3770k in games.
 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 372   +260
I use cotton swabs, as pressured air removes just a loose shags of dust. Also, wouldn't stack the batteries. I got one in my brothers' PC that is 8 years old. And they age while stored anyway. Just get one when You need one.
Just buy an SSD and upgrade to Win7 (XP doesn't support SSDs), both for few bucks today, and You'll be golden for years.
None of the cmos batteries were dead after 10 years but replace them all at the same time for convenience

All XP machines already have SSD's as "I" support SSD's in Windows XP

XP does not need to support SSD's as long as the partitions are correctly aligned

3 second boot time to a fresh XP restore and ZERO problems (ever)

Good 2 Go!
 
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Irata

Posts: 862   +1,228
TechSpot Elite
Not necessarily. There are some good monitors around for under $300 like the AOC CQ27G2 144hz 1440p freesync/G-sync compatible.
That would probably be a sweet spot. Looking at Techspot reviews, it always seems like all monitors that don‘t cost $2,000+ are not particularly good, but since I come from a cheap 1080p 60hz monitor probably everything is far better.

HDR would be nice. but it seems like you really need to spend if you want a good implementation.
 
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captaincranky

Posts: 16,122   +4,895
When overhauling a PC, remember that you will always come out the other side smelling far rosier if you go into it with a game plan.

When overhauling a PC, remember that you will always come out the other side smelling far rosier if you go into it with a game plan.
I would suspect that most of us understood you the first time.

Although,I suppose there could be a couple of stragglers

Jus' sayin'. :rolleyes:
 

Lounds

Posts: 581   +466
Ryzen 5 1600 @3.9Ghz
16GB DDR4 3200Mhz
512GB NVME gen 3 (3200MB/s read)
RX470 4GB

I just want a system to do some VR gaming on, so probably just going to replace the graphics card at some point.