Tag Archives: Computer Hardware

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

A substantial PC upgrade, or even a better workspace, doesn’t have to be a huge project that drains your time and energy. If you can order the parts, there are several worthwhile improvements you can make that’ll pay off big when it’s time to work (or play). Here are some of them.

10. Switch to a New, Better Case

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

This one’s for the PC builders out there. Even if you keep all of the same components, there’s nothing like a brand new case to give your computer—and your desk—a new lease on life. Maybe you’d like some more easily accessible USB ports, or maybe you bought a huge case back in the day and now you’d rather have a space-saving model.

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As long as you buy smart and don’t let a new case spiral into building a new PC, you can have your cake and eat it too. If you need some suggestions, we have our favorite PC cases here, and our favorite small form-factor PC cases here to get you started. You can (and should) also check out what the folks at Logical Increments suggests based on your budget, and what’s popular over on PCPartPicker.

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9. Upgrade Your Display

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

A new display, bigger display, or additional display can make all the difference in your productivity (or not, but it’ll definitely make your desk cooler.) Whether you’re rocking an old 22" display you’ve had forever, don’t even have an external display, or could use the screen real estate that a 4K display could offer, now’s a good time to upgrade.

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Even if you don’t want to go full 4K, there are plenty of affordable, large panels that could give you more room to work. You could always go with an ultrawide display instead of multiple panels, or you can pick up a large, solid budget LED display to give your desk a facelift and a utility boost.

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8. Get a New Keyboard and Mouse

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

You use your keyboard and mouse every day, and there’s no easier way to give yourself that “new computer” feeling than to upgrade them both. Sure, your PC’s innards will be the same as they’ve always been, but new peripherals, especially ones you’ve had your eyes on, can make a huge difference.

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If you’ve been using the keyboard and mouse that came with your computer, now’s a good time to upgrade to a new one. Maybe give a mechanical keyboard a try (we love them around here), or pick up a sleek new gaming keyboard (and mouse). They’re fun for play, sure, but they can also help you get real work done. If you need some mouse suggestions, we’ve always been big fans of Logitech’s Performance MX, but the new MX Master is a fitting successor to it. It’s not your only option, though!

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7. Upgrade your Graphics Card

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Again, this is for the desktop PC owners (and builders) here, but a graphics card upgrade can be a big improvement for a PC that’s starting to show its age (or slow down when you try to unwind and play some video games!) Of course, it’s not always a smart investment, so you should make sure you think hard before rushing out to buy whatever card everyone’s shouting about these days. Still, if yours is due for an upgrade and you’ll actually benefit from the upgrade, it’s easy to find even budget-friendly cards that will make the most of that new display we mentioned earlier, and speed up your system’s performance in your favorite games.

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6. Give Yourself the Gift of Better Audio

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Whether you like to listen to music, or you record audio for podcasts, streams, or just do the occasional Skype call or Hangout with coworkers, a new pair of speakers or headphones (and we have some suggestions in the headphone department,) and a microphone can go a long long way toward making sure your audio is crystal clear. Best of all, they don’t cost a fortune, and installation is easy enough to do in a couple of minutes.

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We’re big fans of the Blue Yeti, but if that’s not your style, here are some of our other picks. If you’re still not sure, check out our guide to choosing the best microphone for you, or check out some of our favorite headsets with attached microphones if that’s more your speed.

When it comes to speakers, you have plenty of options, from simple bookshelf speakers you can connect to anything, great desktop speaker systems designed for PCs, to full 5.1 surround systems. Choose what works for you and your space, but anything will be an upgrade over the speakers that came with your PC, or whatever’s built into your laptop.

5. Add a New, HD Camera

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

If you’re thinking about doing video streams, or just want your visuals to match the crystal clear audio you got from that last upgrade, a new camera is in order. Odds are whatever camera is built into your laptop may not be the best, and certainly isn’t adjustable. A new, HD-capable camera will make sure everyone can see you clearly and you’re not a fuzzy blob on-screen when you fire up a Skype call, or try to do a Google Hangout with friends or coworkers when you work from home. Worst case, if you don’t have a camera at all, you probably have a good one on your phone. We have guides to turn your iOS device or Android phone into a PC-connected webcam.

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4. Add More Convenient Power (Strips)

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

When you set up your desk the first time, odds are you didn’t include all the power you’d need to connect everything you have now. Maybe you added some power strips later, or worse, you’re daisy-chaining power strips together for some reason. Stop that and get yourself a good surge protector, or better yet, a good UPS to protect your gear. Then tack on a long, server-style power strip to connect to it and give you all the power you need for all your gear. It’s a better solution than big, bulky power strips hanging off the walls, and your cables will be easier to manage.

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3. Upgrade Your Power Supply

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Now we’re getting serious. Upgrading your power supply may take a little time (no more than transplanting all of your gear to a new case, however!) but if you’re rocking the one that came with your case when you built your PC, one that’s way too underpowered for the gear you’ve crammed into your build, or you’re experiencing strange and quirky problems with your system, it might be time for an upgrade. Don’t expect to save money on energy though, that’s not what this is about—it’s about stability and giving you enough juice to run everything you want to run. Get thee to a power supply calculator and make sure the one you buy can support your system.

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2. Add more RAM

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

We’ve said before that most modern systems probably won’t benefit from more than around 4GB of RAM, but that doesn’t mean that yours won’t be an outlier. If you don’t have that much, or you do memory intensive tasks, high-end gaming, or use virtualization software to test software or experiment, you’ll need more—a lot more. For everyday use though, 16GB is the new ceiling. Plus, while RAM isn’t as cheap as it used to be, it’s still cheap enough that in some cases it makes more sense to just max out your motherboard and call it a day.

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However, just make sure you’re not spending more on RAM than you would on other, better and more valuable upgrades to your system. More RAM isn’t a silver bullet to better performance, but if your system is hurting for memory, you probably know it already, so full speed ahead.

1. Install an (or Upgrade Your) SSD

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

If you have a computer built at all in the past few years, your boot drive is probably already an SSD. That’s great! You may want another one—bigger SSDs are cheaper now than they’ve ever been, and even if you already have one, if it’s super old and slow, there’s nothing wrong with upgrading to a newer, faster one. Even if you have a laptop, your drive is probably easy to swap out and replace, and the benefits will show themselves the first time you reboot your machine.

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If you need some help picking a good one, here are some suggestions, and of course, you can always find some good picks at Logical Increments and make sure they’re compatible with your gear at PCPartPicker. When it comes time to actually do the installation, make sure you take your files and settings with you, and optimize it for performance.

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Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári. Photos by TJStamp, Brett Morrison, Kevin Pham, Matthew Keefe, yoppy, Murat Tanyel, danrock, Yutaka Tsutano, and Intel Free Press.

The Performance Benefits of Discrete Video Cards (Even for Non-Gamers)

The Performance Benefits of Discrete Video Cards (Even for Non-Gamers)

If you’re a PC gamer, you know that upgrading your computer’s video card will give you the best gaming performance boost. PCWorld argues, however, that a discrete graphics card belongs in most people’s desktop PCs—not just gamers.

AMD’s and Intel’s integrated graphics (graphics technologies coupled with the processor) are pretty capable these days, but they’re still far less powerful than discrete video cards when it comes to performance—and not just in games, either:

Games aren’t the only applications that benefit from the power of a discrete GPU. AMD’s and Nvidia’s GPUs are made up of thousands of processors that can carry out multiple operations simultaneously. Any application that benefits from such parallel processing—be it an image-editing program like Photoshop, data-encryption software, or a distributed-computing project like Folding@Home or Seti@Home—will run faster with the assistance of a more powerful GPU.

PCWorld’s tests show performance boosts of 3% to 19% on PCMark’s productivity benchmarks when using discrete graphics cards (a ~$300 AMD Radeon R9 XFX card) versus integrated ones in the same systems. The greatest boosts were for the home suite than the work suite.

Even casual, browser-based games like Farmville and Angry Birds would have significant performance gains (about 1.5 to 2X the performance) from a discrete video card upgrade. The only place they didn’t seem to help was in video playback.

Of course, plunking down hundreds of dollars for a new video card won’t be worth it if the rest of the system is a bottleneck (an older processor or not enough memory). And there are other upgrades that will give you more bang for your buck, depending on your usage.

The tests suggest, though, that a discrete video card might not be just for gamers. Keep that in mind if you have the cash and are upgrading or building your own desktop PC to future proof it.

Tested: Why almost every desktop PC could use a video card upgrade | PCWorld