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Thread: Simple Gaming Upgrade for Your PC

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    Simple Gaming Upgrade for Your PC

    Which components will make the most difference to your PC with the least fuss?
    Keeping up with gaming is a difficult task. You can buy a top-of-the-line PC, and within months it's struggling to run the latest games in the manner to which you've become accustomed. And worse still, if you buy a mid-range gaming PC, within a year you might find yourself cranking every detail as low as they can go just to keep playing at all!

    While your first instinct might be to junk your existing PC and buy a new one, we think there's a smarter way to operate. Sometimes, a single upgrade can improve a system. Maybe you don't even need to replace the hardware, but rather give it a little maintenance. Either way, in case you're hoping to squeeze some extra gaming performance out of your system, we've put together this list of tips, tricks and upgrades you can carry out to help rejuvenate an otherwise ailing PC.

    Add a Graphics Card

    Assuming you don't have one in your system already, the quickest way to turn any system into an instant gaming machine is to add a graphics card. On-board GPUs might be cheap, but they're not designed for gaming. A separate GPU will, in almost every case, offer a considerable performance improvement on an integrated one.

    In fact, any system of reasonable power - even Core i3s and low-end AMD chips will become an acceptable gaming machine once you put a graphics card in. In most cases, as little as 50 will buy you one better than any integrated GPU you might be using, and you don't even have to stick to a recent generation of card, so bargains can be found everywhere. The exact level of upgrade does depend on which type of integrated GPU you're using. If you're running a Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge chip, virtually anything from the last generation or two would be a vast improvement. If you're running a Haswell chip, the GPU is slightly better but still much weaker than most discrete cards. In either case, the cheapest card you can buy new is the GeForce GT 630, which costs around 50. The cheapest better Radeon is the HD 6570, which costs around 75.

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    Adding a graphics card isn't even a very difficult procedure at this end of the market. If you're installing a very powerful card, you'll have to think about things like system temperature, power drain and interior air flow, but the cheapest cards around will easily run off all but the weediest PSUs. As long as you've got a free PCI slot and a power supply stronger than about 350W, you won't even need to look at the rest of your system.

    Improve Your Graphics Card

    Having a graphics card is one thing, but sometimes the quickest route to improving your gaming is to choose a better one.

    It's often difficult to decide exactly which card to go for, not least because there are loads on the market. It doesn't help that multiple manufacturers make different implementations of the same card, nor that several generations of graphics card appear to be on sale at the same time.

    To make sure you get a card that's better than your existing one, you need to know how the generations fit together. Nvidia's GeForce line is currently the simplest. The 200-series cards are the cheapest and most basic (it's a budget line), and after that point, 600-series cards are previous generation, and 700-series cards are current generation.

    With AMD's Radeon cards, it starts off similarly, but there are more around. The 5000-series cards are the oldest, while 6000-series and 7000-series cards are more recent generations still available to buy new. However, it's the Radeon R7 and R9 series that are the newest and best. The R7 240 is the most basic, and the R9 290 is the best.

    As a rule, if you're upgrading, you want to make sure the model numbers are all higher than your current card. That way you know you're not buying anything slower! RAM amounts aren't such a big deal - aim for 2GB, but don't be too upset if you have 1GB. Anything lower is too little to be effective, and anything higher means you've strayed into the premium end of the market, so make sure that's what you want before you start spending!

    As hinted earlier, high-end cards do come with attendant concerns, the most pressing of which is the issue of power. If you have a card that needs its own internal power supply, check that your PSU can handle it before you do anything else. You can use an online calculator to figure out the specific values involved, but if you find out the TDP value of the card, make sure your PSU outputs around 2.5 times whatever that is and you should be fine. As an example, a Radeon R9 290 has a TDP of 275W, so a good-quality 700W PSU or higher should be more than enough to run it on!

    Add an SSD

    One of the more expensive upgrades you can do to improve gaming performance is to add an SSD to your system. A good one of reasonable capacity (128-240GB) costs between 100 and 200, but they eliminate a huge gaming bottleneck that you might not even know existed.

    Specifically, their fast read and write speeds allow SSDs to shift data around your system faster than any hard drive could hope to. You may not be aware, but a lot of the frame-stutter and pop-in you experience when playing a game isn't caused by an inadequate CPU or slow graphics card; it's caused by the sheer time it takes to fetch the data from your hard drive and load it into memory. This is the bottleneck that SSDs fix. Even the slowest, most bog-standard SSD will be exponentially quicker than a standard mechanical hard drive, so as upgrades go, they're a guaranteed winner.

    Don't rush to get one right away, though; there are practical difficulties inherent in an SSD upgrade that might put you off. For a start, to get optimum performance from one you'll need to be running Windows off it (since the windows cache also slows down games). You don't just have to install an SSD physically - you have to transfer Windows to it and make it your primary drive. Some SSDs come with apps that help you do th is but not all. If you're used to doing this, a fresh installation might appeal more anyway. But it's a step that you can't really skip, and it's not an especially simple one.

    The space constraints might also put you off. If you're playing a lot of games, you might enjoy having a terabyte-level hard drive to install them on. Being bumped back down to something measured in gigabytes could be a rude awakening. To see the best effects, you need to run games off the SSD as well as your operating system, so prepare to do a little reshuffling and reorganization!

    Upgrade Your CPU (Intel)

    A new CPU is always worth considering, not just because it improves in-game performance, but because it improves your system generally. If your PC currently runs on an Intel platform, then there's a good chance you have plenty of room to upgrade it without having to replace your motherboard as well. Sandy Bridge motherboards from several years ago can take any socket LGA1155 CPU, from the lowliest Sandy Bridge Celeron up to an Ivy Bridge Core i7. Unless you started with one of the faster Ivy Bridge chips, you shouldn't have much trouble finding an upgrade that's worth making.

    Unfortunately, if you're running a Haswell chip or a pre-Sandy Bridge Core CPU, it's harder to upgrade your processor without replacing the motherboard at the same time, at the absolutely minimum. You could, however, see if your chip has support for any overclocking features. If your chip's serial number has a 'K' after it (e.g. it's an Intel Core i5-2500K), then the hardware is considered unlocked and ripe for overclocking. As long as your motherboard supports it, you can overclock K-series chips so that they run faster.

    There are risks associated with doing this: overclocked chips run hotter, which makes them less stable and more prone to damage, so you may need to improve your cooling system to maintain the quality of performance you're accustomed to. It's not a perfect solution, but when the alternative is essentially rebuilding your entire PC from the ground up, this might be a better approach for you.

    Upgrade Your CPU (AMD)
    Upgrading your AMD system is, in many ways, an easier process than upgrading an Intel system. That's because they only have two major socket types, which are compatible with a larger number of chips. FX-series chips fit in Socket AM3+ motherboards, so if you have an existing FX-series chip, you can upgrade as far as an FX 9590 without having to buy any new hardware.

    In gaming terms, that's not a bad upgrade, but it's worth pointing out that for the same price - approximately 230 - you could buy a new motherboard and an Intel chip that's as fast as the FX 9590. The problem is that Intel's dominance over the FX series of chips is so assured that buying one at all is an inefficient way to spend your money. Even AMD recognizes this, which is why there are so few AMD chips available at the moment. The selection isn't huge and won't be for some time.

    Fusion APUs are slightly more fragmented than the FX series chips, with both FM2 and FM2+ chips available to buy. The A 10-7850K is one of AMD's best chips, not least because of its built-in Radeon R7 GPU.

    If you've got a motherboard that supports FM2+ chips, it's worth upgrading to. Indeed, AMD's dual-graphics solution, CrossFire, means that if you have an R7 in your system, you can use its GPU in tandem with the stand-along graphics card - something Intel can't compete with at all' So while AMD upgrades appear easier when it comes to determining compatibility, it's worth remembering that the value for money isn't particularly great, and that contrary to common sense, in certain circumstances you can get a better performance leap for less money by buying a new motherboard and CPU, rather than just upgrading the CPU by itself.

    Install Extra RAM

    Additional RAM can be a simple way to upgrade any system, but be careful if you're doing it to improve gaming. There are only certain situations in which it makes a difference. Most games, for example, don't use more than a gigabyte or two of RAM. This is because they rely more heavily on graphics memory than system memory.

    If you're running an integrated GPU only, this is the same thing, and therefore low system RAM can have an effect. Similarly, if you have an exceptionally small amount of RAM such that your operating system struggles to keep up, another stick or two will improve your gaming performance.

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    Generally speaking, if you're running a 64-bit version of Windows, you should have 4GB of RAM as the absolute minimum for a functional system. 8GB is the minimum amount you need to run your operating system and games comfortably, so if you have less than that, you probably will see a small improvement in your gaming benchmarks by adding more.

    Above that point, the likelihood that more RAM will effect a visible improvement becomes smaller and smaller. 16GB is vastly more than any gaming system needs and is only likely to be of benefit to systems with heavy RAM usage media editing systems, for instance. We appreciate that it can be tempting. RAM upgrades are easy to install and cheap to get hold of. Just don't let the ease fool you into thinking it's definitely worth doing - spend your money wisely!

    Upgrade Your Cooling
    We've already mentioned how an improved CPU cooler can allow you to overclock your chip and squeeze more power out of existing hardware. The same is also true of other forms of cooling in your system.

    Graphics cards, for example, can be fitted with custom coolers, which allow you to overclock them without fear of causing damage. This might mean fitting a secondary (or tertiary!) fan, an additional heatsink or a water-cooling system. Unlike CPU fans, additional cooling of this manner can be tricky to install and should not be attempted unless you have full confidence in your abilities. Remember that most high-end graphics cards already have multiple cooling systems, so it may not be possible to add more!

    Another alternative might be adding extra cooling features to your case. A lower ambient temperature in your case will let graphics cards, RAM and processors cool down quicker, allowing them to run faster whether overclocked or automatically stepped by a built-in thermometer.

    The simplest thing to do is add exhaust fans, which aid the removal of warm air. You do have to contend with increased noise as a result, but it's a small price to pay for a faster system. More complicated cooling methods might involve creating air ducts by drilling strategically placed holes in your case, but that's a trick for those who like to get their hands properly dirty.

    If you're of a less power tool happy disposition, you can achieve similar cooling effects simply by rearranging your internal components to eliminate warm air pockets and cables that may impede air flow, or (even more simply) by making sure components, their heat and their fans are kept dust-free. You'd be surprised how much heat a layer of fluff can keep in!

  2. #2
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    Jun 2015
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    Good infor about Upgrading PC.

  3. #3
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    Damn, its been ages since i played any games. I miss my gaming days

  4. #4
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    I have recently added an SSD on to my system and it has really improved my gaming experience. I was having some trouble running call of duty: Warzone smoothly on my i5 which had an HDD but I have then switched to an SSD for about couple of months back and since then I am enjoying playing COD: Warzone without any issues. I am also recording my gameplay and even live streaming it without any glitches.

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