When getting a new, custom gaming PC, it is hard to think that more modern components will perform better than the older versions in upcoming years. But through every generation of new parts, a previous generation gets phased out due to obsolescence in computer hardware. This progressive march of upgrading looks nonstop, leaving some gamers with the fear their system won’t be able to play the latest games, so let us discuss how often to upgrade a gaming PC.
As a rule of thumb, desktop PC hardware falls off the pinnacle of performance every 2 to 4 years and becomes obsolete every 8-10 years.
This leaves you just four years to adjust and incrementally upgrade your PC, prolonging by switching out most components in a system. That said, these are general guides. There are a variety of other signs your gaming PC needs an upgrade sooner rather than later.
RMA Support and When Support for Parts Stops
Usually, when a new generation of new hardware releases, it has a shelf life before a majority switch to the newer generation of components. You can find previous generations on sale in lower quantities at a somewhat stable resale value. Depending on the component type, the price can either skyrocket or stay relatively the same if the resale consumer market is abundant enough with offers.
Due to this life cycle, processors and other components that aren't more than a few years old are often less supported on the manufacturer level. If anything is wrong with them, their value is either returned to the consumer or, in extreme cases, the consumer receives an upgrade to the part they originally sent in. This practice states a component is no longer viable for support and is starting its descent into obsoletion.
Components that are the Most Sturdy in the System
The longest-lasting part of systems (depending on the certification) is the power supply, with the highest quality certificate being titanium, which can last upwards of 12 years. Depending on the certification, the PSU can lose reliability starting from 5 years up to 10 years. The timing works for replacing components with the most up-to-date parts in PCs, moving away from an obsolescent system.
Incremental Upgrades for your System
Learning to upgrade parts of a PC can be an excellent way to squeeze more life out of a system. If you don't want to replace everything, mainly the motherboard and power supply entirely, there are a few constrictions with what you can do to a system without fully rebuilding it. Let's focus on the three main parts: The CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage.
If your system does not have the highest chipset in your motherboard’s supported socket, you can gain some performance on your CPU. Using the latest Intel CPUs, performance can increase up to 14% when going from a mid-range CPU like the 12600K to the 12900K. The difference is even more significant if you have an even lower version of the 12th series, like an i3.
Upgrading your CPU is more important for certain tasks and games than others. For example, video editing requires beefier processing units for rendering. Likewise, certain game and game genres, like real-time strategy or MMORPGs like Final Fantasy XIV, are more CPU intensive due to the number of computer-controlled elements or sheer number of assets needed to run.
As the motherboard holds everything together, when new components release, the BIOS of the board must update for every new generation of the operating system or piece of hardware. Every update not installed leads to slower performance and overall efficiency in the system. Most manufacturers release updates for their boards over 8-10 years after their launch.
If you are curious about if your board needs a BIOS update, look at the board designation and revision number (Located on the bottom left of the board) and consult the manufacturer's website.
A GPU upgrade depends on two factors; Support for the hardware via the BIOS and the limitation of a PSU. Having a high wattage PSU allows most graphics cards to meet the system power demands, but a 500W PSU will not meet the power requirements of an RTX 3070/3080/3090. A GPU power cable can deliver 300W per rail (per wire into the PSU) as a good rule of thumb. A 3090 has a maximum TDP of 450W, meaning it needs to direct PSU wires to compensate for power spikes. If a PSU does not have at least two dedicated connections on separate cables, it may not be optimal for that particular GPU upgrade.
A RAM upgrade depends on a board's ability to support given RAM frequencies. Every board manufacturer has a manual for every model supporting given frequencies that can also be found in a Google search. If it’s a DIY rig, make sure XMP or DOCP is turned on and see the maximum support speed from the board and RAM. More RAM gives your PC more memory capacity meaning you can run more programs at once.
Most consumer storage warranties last for five years on a product. Depending on the type, there is some variation in when they fail as things like mechanical drives are prone to constant vibrations from mechanical parts. NVMe is known to be more reliable and faster in speed but fails in the same way every storage solution can over time.
Adding a new harddrive (HDD) is a good way to upgrade your gaming PC’s storage. That said, if you have the ability to, upgrading to or adding a solid state drive (SSD) can be better due to the increased speed.
While cooling is a contested subject that is easier to maintain, air cooling vs. water cooling will always be at odds. Watercooled systems (AIOS) last at most 5-7 years in decent condition, while Aircooled (Heatsinks) is the most simple and reliable for performance. Heatsinks can last almost indefinitely if they are cleaned and maintained routinely.
What You Can do to Make Your System Last 5-10 Years
There are a few good habits to get into when addressing the lifespan of a PC to last the estimated 5 to 10 years. Here are a few bulletins:
- Make sure you clean out your PC yearly to combat the build-up of dust which reduces airflow and component health.
- Run benchmarks outlining the integrity of components for both the CPU and GPU benefits. It's also good to replace the thermal paste on the CPU every two years.
- See what incremental upgrades a system can take before calling it obsolete.
When a system reaches its point of obsolescence, it's time to upgrade; at Apex Gaming PCs, we offer the most modern components in our PC and those near the principle for multiple price points. If you need help upgrading to one of our systems, feel free to go onto our site and reach out via chat to a representative that can help. Whatever your system needs, we hope to fulfill them at Apex!
Written by Will Wilson