The biggest game-changing PC upgrade of all-time?

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,062   +130
Staff member

As a hardware enthusiast and reviewer, I’ve witnessed first-hand how technology has shaped the personal computer and how we interact with them. Naturally, some products have had a more profound impact than others which is the focus of this week’s open forum.

Specifically, we want to know what you think has been the single biggest game-changing advancement or upgrade for the PC since you’ve been using them.

I’m personally torn between the optical mouse, solid state drive and LCD monitor although if I had to pick just one, I’d have to go with the optical mouse (I’ll never miss having to constantly remove the ball and clean out the gunk that would build up on the rollers).

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Posts: 2,389   +3,471
The biggest one in recent memory would be the SSD becoming an affordable consumer product. Suddenly all that work towards making different low power sleeping and hibernation modes went out the window since your system could boot in under ten seconds. Waiting for stuff to load is mostly a thing of the past now. We can get 256GB of storage in a card the size of a fingernail. Spinning rust belts are becoming something only seen in server rooms.

Of all time though, I think the 3D graphics chip was the biggest advancement. as far as how we use machines, 3D GPUs are perhaps the biggest leap we've seen that has had an immediate benefit.


Surprised this one wasn't listed right at the top of the thread considering its presence in the featured image:

The scrolling mouse.

SSDs and high refresh monitors are great. But everything would be a pain in the *** if we all still had to spacebar/click/arrow everywhere.


Posts: 3,214   +1,467
Window's 95 probably or maybe Office. Windows 3.1 to 95 with a bundled IE was the start of the modern PC and how it's used.

For hardware - I'd vote flat panel monitors - no curved glass screen that took up your whole desk was awesome. Everything else was incremental, so it's hard to pick a single one.

maybe WiFi - laptops would be pretty pointless without WiFi.


Posts: 324   +165
For me there have been quite a few, I'll note the year I first got it:

3D accelerator card. Diamond Monster 3D with 3dfx Vooodoo Graphics chipset (1998) => this is the BIG one

IPS Monitor (2007)
SSD (2013)
Mechanical Keyboard (2013)
144Hz monitor (2016)

The first optical mice were not that good imho, the ball was fine.

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,001   +6,775
The single greatest upgrade would have to be the incorporation of WYSIWYG onto the desktop and into the internet. It simply made it a lot easier for non-computer literate people to get up to speed and to use the systems. The all text systems before that time were quite daunting to many. I worked in a company where I had a constant stream of people in and out of my office with the "what is this, that, and what does it mean" followed by "how do I fix it? Can YOU fix it for me" ..... it was the golden age of nerds, despite being pulled every which way. The follow up of the Mouse by Apple, quickly adapted by IBM would have to be the 2nd greatest improvement .... there have been many since then, but those two were monumental is making the machine truly user friendly ....


Posts: 402   +208
Moving from big screens to the LCD monitors. Also moving from floppy disks to USB sticks. The introduction of GPUS was also awesome.


Posts: 4,478   +3,315
TechSpot Elite
It's definitely the monitors. Going from CRT to LCD was huge.
2nd would be buying a CD-ROM
3rd would be buying a sound card for my old 686.


Posts: 212   +184
It's definitely the monitors. Going from CRT to LCD was huge.
2nd would be buying a CD-ROM
3rd would be buying a sound card for my old 686.
I have to say as an avid Street Fighter player I still play on a CRT because of the faster response times. If only LCD's could get on that level.

alabama man

Posts: 563   +355
It's definitely the monitors. Going from CRT to LCD was huge.
2nd would be buying a CD-ROM
3rd would be buying a sound card for my old 686.

First LCD monitors were crap and I used my CRT long after LCD became a thing. CD-ROM added speech, video and better music so I too think that was huge at the time. And sound card was nice too, I got used to good sounds on amiga and moving to PC made me miss the quality audio but (affordable/consumer) sound cards fixed my biggest complaint. Even LCD is now good and saves a lot of space so maybe it's worthy of being on list (especially if you need to move a lot of them for work) , I still use CRT for old stuff as it was made for it and LCD distorts it in all sort of ways.


Posts: 599   +487
It has to be the gpu... computer graphics were so limited prior to the 3d card, we mainly had to put up with sprites and parallax scrolling back then but there were tricks to get 3d onto a screen but they were so limited due to being run in software. once we got true hardware 3d... Things changes so quickly that now we don't think twice about running around in huge fast, high detail, 3d environments, which would have taken a room full of computer systems to render just a couple of decades ago. Graphics cards also changed the film industry in as big a way as sound and colour film did in when they were introduced.
The GPU hands down. In particular Voodoo 3dfx. No matter the device the first and foremost thing everybody upgrades is their GPU. All other peripherals come and go.

Case closed.


Posts: 641   +299
Growing up, the single most drastic change in how I used a computer was getting a DSL modem. As a kid, dialup didn't help very much considering I was at the mercy of whether the parents thought it was worth taking up our phone line. There was NO sneaking on the internet. Always on internet connectivity... none of us could ever go back.


Posts: 483   +229
For me it was the DSL modem but for a different reason than Scshadow notes above. Access to high speed internet opened up a whole new world, and allowed the rich content we see now on web pages. Anyone else remember trying to view an 800x600 wallpaper picture of Dana Scully on a 33.6K modem and watching it for several minutes as it built line-by-line from the top? Or waiting hours to download a 300 Mb game demo on your 56K modem that couldn't really download faster than 53.3K and hoping you didn't get disconnected and have to start over? The GPU, sound card, SSD, LCD monitor, multi-core CPU, and optical scroll wheel mouse are all significant, but I don't need any of them to see that picture instantly now, in higher resolution than could be displayed on a consumer-grade monitor in 1997.

If you mean a literal game changer, I think the GPU has done more for gaming than anything else, with LCD monitors close behind.


I think most have been mentioned, but my singlemost collective upgrade was when I on the very same day brought home a SoundBlaster Pro soundcard, a single-speed scsi-CDR drive with ISA 2 SSI controller, and a TSENG Labs ET4000 graphics card. I felt like an absolute king, but my bank manager didn't quitr agree...

But yes, there are a couple of items that should be mentioned as well:

1. Matrox Mystique graphics with Rainbow Runner add-on (was suddenly able to grab analog video in 640x480 and edit and render in realtime on a Pentium 166 Mhz.

2. 3dfx Voodoo 3. First completely integrated 3D graphics Card

3. Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad processor. They gave a tremendous performance boost.