You may have experienced the frustration of using an under-powered computer … where, even after a good cleaning, your computer just isn’t keeping up. It is a frustration most people would like to avoid.
The best way to avoid this kind of frustration is to buy a new computer before your old one gets too slow, and to buy one that will serve you well for a long time (i.e. until it is 5-10 years old). This article will help you decide when to replace, what to look for, and what you can do to speed up your computer.
The perceived speed of your computer depends on many things, but the big ones are: processor (CPU), memory (RAM), hard drive (HDD/SSD), and graphics processor (GPU).
You have limited (or no) choices in replacing a computer’s CPU, so it is important to get a computer with a good one. You can’t accurately judge a CPU by its make, model, or GHz … the best way to judge it is to look it up on cpubenchmark.net. That site will give you a relative benchmark score (which they call CPU Mark) so you can compare it with others. These days, you are looking for a CPU Mark that is well over 1000, even if your needs are basic.
RAM isn’t typically an issue, as long as you have at least 8GB (non-gamers) or 16GB (gamers). It’s also good if you have a computer that allows you to upgrade the RAM, if you decide to later.
Hard-drive speed can make a big difference in computer speed. Hard drives come in five general categories (in increasing order of performance): 5400 RPM, 7200 RPM, SSHD, SSD, and M.2. If you can, avoid any computer with a 5400 RPM main hard drive … it’s inconceivable that new computers (including Macs) still come with them. Even a 7200 RPM main hard drive feels slow these days. An SSHD (hybrid drive) is a compromise between a spinning disk and a solid state one, but a true SSD (solid state drive) will likely be your best choice for a primary drive. M.2 drives are even faster SSDs, so opt for one (if you can) for your primary drive.
Definitely avoid PCs and Macs with solid state hard drives with a 64GB or smaller main drive as they will quickly fill up and frustrate you.
GPU doesn’t make a big difference for most people, but it is a big deal for gamers and others doing heavy-duty graphics. Use www.videocardbenchmark.net to compare benchmark scores (which they call G3D Mark).
If your current computer feels slow even after a thorough cleaning, it’s either time to upgrade it or replace it. If you’d rather upgrade it, check your Task Manager (Windows) or Activity Manager (MacOS) to determine if it is your CPU, RAM, HDD, or GPU that is the bottleneck. If it is your RAM or HDD, you can probably upgrade. If it is your GPU, you may be able to upgrade. If it is your CPU, you likely cannot upgrade.