Recognizing the signs your PC needs an upgrade ensures your system keeps up with the ever increasing demands of new games and programs. New games and updates bring on various issues, and continued crashes or performance drops may indicate something else. Eventually, you may reach a point when upgrading doesn't mean replacing parts but getting an entirely new PC altogether.
Issues stemming from drive failure, programs crashing, long boot times, and hotter temperatures all contribute to the decline in performance for any PC. While upgrading the entirety of the PC is an option, sometimes more minor upgrades prolong the life of any PC before needing to upgrade the entire system.
An easy rule-of-thumb to remember for maintaining consistent performance in your PC is to upgrade any given component every 4-5 years. Of course, this might not be sustainable, so an upgrade every 7-10 may be more viable if you properly maintain your system.
This article covers all the significant issues and signs that your PC needs an upgrade.
Damage done over time, during the initial building of a PC, or even during transport eventually catches up with the system's performance sooner or later.
Initially, minor errors like improper AIO placement causing air to circulate in the pump, dust accumulation clogging heatsinks, and disregarding routine maintenance culminate in failures in your PC’s hardware. These failures will eventually negatively impact performance and may even completely break your rig.
Blue Screen, Crashes & Freezes
When encountering a blue screen and frequent crashes while gaming, the root often stems beyond software and into a system's hardware. More recent hardware will still have support and can be fixed. On the other hand, the older the hardware, the more its age begins to show and the harder it becomes to repair.
Crashing and freezing are often synonymous with their actions, and a crash often comes from a freeze of a program. These crashes often have error logs with identifiable codes and how to fix them online.
One of the most useful commands for general repair is:
This checks the entirety of the systems files, from device drivers to critical windows processes responsible for system stability. This can fix crashes happening from the desktop and even some games.
Slow Startup or Shutdown
More noticeable instances of needing to upgrade are long boot times with some storage solutions. NVMe’s (Non-Volatile Memory express), for example, is one of the fastest consumer-level storage solutions capable of quickly reading and writing the necessary data to load windows within seconds of starting.
Other solutions like SATA SSD are still fast by today's standards, with boot times taking anywhere from 7-10 seconds to complete.
If your PC suddenly takes considerable time to launch to windows, use Crystal Disk. It is a great solution to see if your drive is dropping in reading and write speed or if your temperature is going above 90-95 degrees Celsius. If your speed or temperature is vastly different than it should be, then there is an issue with the hardware.
Framerate is the end goal for every competitive and story-driven game experience for players looking for a cohesive experience. Programs running the background or the system's specs can slow down a game's frame rate, making the performance hit more noticeable. If running multiple programs was fine before, your PC's hardware may have damage from use or the programs you're running are demanding more from your system, indicating its age.
What's more, newer games demand more from a gaming PC from the start. If you are having framerate issues in the newest titles, you may need to upgrade your GPU.
A few reasonable steps before considering upgrading would be to run an application like CCleaner. This cleaning program removes any clutter like excess cache, windows services, and other applications hogging your CPU, RAM, or GPU to contribute better to your gaming.
Unable to Install The Latest Operating System
Operating systems like Windows 11 have more requirements than the previous releases. A TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip must be physically attached to the motherboard, and a TPM model might be absent if you bought a motherboard before 2021.
Manufacturers like MSI have come up with a compatibility list with their add-in TPM chip that you can insert into the motherboard. If your motherboard cannot take a TPM module, then it's time to look for an upgrade to your motherboard, CPU, and likely RAM.
(Credit: John Burek)
When browsing, working, or gaming, a slower response time may prompt an investigation of your PC's component utilization—going to the task manager and seeing which programs are taking a considerable amount of utilization is a good first step.
Most tasks are window background processes; however, commonly used third-party apps such as browsers or chatting services can take up some utilization space when under load. A lower-end CPU can feel the strain considerably more than a mid-tier or high-end CPU.
If your PC starts running slower and slower when running typical programs, that may indicate a dying CPU.
Regarding utilization, multitasking has always been a vital marketability factor for CPUs and their ability to schedule workloads. Recent technological developments from both Intel and AMD have seen stiff competition for their respective CPU designs.
CPUs in the past relied on core speed and general power put through the system to achieve the performance needed to play games or handle multiple tasks. In addition, the multiple versions of operating systems and the components' degradation over time.
Recent CPUs like the 12400F have taken advantage of the performance and efficiency cores designed to create one of the most performant CPUs under $200. This design has contributed to a longer-lasting design and marginally more performance for the price.
If your PC suddenly has issues running multiple programs it had no problems with before, you may need to look into upgrading your CPU.
Slow Applications & Game Load Times
While waiting for applications to load may seem like a standard behavior, inordinately long load times for applications may indicate a problem in your PC's hardware. This also applies to game loading times which depend on the game itself and the storage device.
Sometimes, developers will state that you must load a game on an SSD, not a hard drive, due to the transfer speed needed to facilitate loading times and asset responsiveness. This behavior constitutes freeing up/or adding more high-speed storage like SATA or NVMe SSDs.
Loud noises in your PC often occur in components that have failed or are beginning to fail. The most common part that fails and produces noise is fans located on components, or the case chassis, followed by hard drive failures, and finally, the least likely but still common AIO pump failure.
While they may not fail outright, the precurssing noise is vital to identify when considering upgrading your PC.
Can't Connect to Other Devices
Using wireless devices is often complicated with some computers. Driver support and device installation play a role in the connectivity of multiple devices like wireless keyboards, headphones, mice, and other devices. If you can't connect a device or suddenly lose the ability to connect one you previously had no problems with, you may need to replace or upgrade parts of your PC.
A utility in some motherboards is to include a WIFI/Bluetooth chip responsible for connecting to devices, not through an add-on via USB or through a PCI-E lane. These modules are easier than reinstalling a default driver from windows, as drivers on the manufacturers' site are updated throughout the motherboard's lifetime.
Here is an example of a WIFI variant motherboard from MSI and the date their WIFI/Bluetooth models are updated with a date ensuring reliability for the latest supported devices.
Low & Decreasing Storage Space
Having all your storage filled is difficult when trying to make room for more files or games. Depending on how old your Windows installation is, there may be years of unchecked cache data clogging the space of your operating system or relevant drives.
For gamers, it's fairly easy to rapidly run out of storage space with all the games you'll eventually have time to play. Upgrading to a larger HDD or SSD may be necessary. This is especially true as AAA titles get bigger in size.
A great tool to combat this is Winderstat, a storage utility program dedicated to visualizing file paths and their parent files. I’ve made countless discoveries, like games saving 30-second clips for the past nine months in my OS drive, accumulating 20GB of footage.
Inability to Stream Video
During web browsing or streaming, a process called video decoding data and displaying video on many different displays. Displays like your monitor, laptop, or TV all use the same method to display images and videos.
The larger the display, the more work a computer has to put into displaying the video. Computers with a more robust solution, like dedicated graphics vs. integrated graphics, will display better results on larger screens.
Can’t Play Newer Games
While most games are comfortable with hardware released 5-6+ years ago, sometimes the demand is too much. The hit to FPS is the first to have a lasting effect as newer games emerge due to graphics APIs needing more resources. This trend is not uncommon in recent years due to the significant progression in performance technology from Nvidia, AMD, and graphics translation API’s like Direct X 12, Open GL, and Vulkan.
At a point in hardware history, support for further development for necessary communication layers for GPUs begins to wain. Still, noticeable hits to performance become present depending on the accommodation by developers.
It’s an Old Computer
At a point in a computer's lifetime, everything from the hardware to the operating system can have its support dropped. While nothing is physically wrong with your systems, the specs may be beyond saving for any modern game.
An excellent alternative to older working PCs is to preserve their function for programs that no longer work through windows compatibility mode, especially games from CDs.
Components are Dying
A cardinal sign that it is time to upgrade your PC is specific behaviors or temperatures experienced by particular components. The most common components that can go bad are the GPU, CPU, and RAM.
GPUs typically fail when there is increased artifacting, lines, or textures that don’t display correctly. While you can’t do much to fix this, you can RMA to your system integrator or manufacturer to resolve your issue.
The CPU can be trickier to diagnose; if you get a string of CPU-related errors from crashes, it may be worth trying to substitute the CPU with your system. While only some have a spare CPU to diagnose an issue like this, excess heat and constant crashing give probable cause to the CPUs stability.
RAM is slightly more straightforward, with programs or the operating system giving memory-related errors. Windows comes installed with a self-memory test called “Windows Memory Diagnostics,” searchable in your windows bar. If no issues become apparent, you will need to investigate and likely replace every RAM stick in the system.
Your Needs Have Changed
While a computer can last the better portion of a decade, its components might not meet the demands of programs down the line. Understanding your needs for a laptop when you buy one vs. evaluating years down the line if this is still the PC you need is essential.
You may be moving from a graphic design position to a more intensive video editing and exporting side of the business and might realize that you need more RAM and a better GPU for encoding.
Learning to recognize and upgrade every few years will keep your workflow efficient and your knowledge of what you need for the job fresh as new hardware comes out.
Summary of Signs That Your PC Needs Upgrades
The advantage of upgrading your PC in set increments or when specific components fail is a good strategy. It's essential to keep the CPU, RAM, and GPU balanced in their capabilities for gaming or productivity work. While one component may fail, the best solution is getting a replacement instead of an entirely new system.
You should consider getting a significant upgrade with parts on the market when a system passes its 4-5 year mark.
At Apex Gaming PCs, we are committed to helping you find the best PC for you at a quality price. Our mainline PCs and ready-to-ship PCs have stock options that will work for their advertised resolutions and game settings for most games on the market. Whatever your reason for upgrading your PC, we hope to be of service at Apex!
Written By William Wilson