How Much Does It Cost To Upgrade Your Computer
Upgrading your old PC can give it a new lease on life, making it way more powerful and keeping it going strong. Whether you wanna gear up for gaming, edit videos, or just run hefty programs and AI models locally, the parts you pick can seriously affect budget.
The more hardware components you swap out, the higher the cost. Each piece – the processor, RAM, storage, graphics card – has its own price tag. Knowing that ahead of time helps you stick to your budget.
First thing’s first – figure out your goals. Are you aiming for a high-end gaming rig? Or more about video editing and professional work? The parts you choose depend on what you wanna do.
Say you’re building something universal that will work for gaming, local LLM inference and video editing.
Here’s what you might be the cost of upgrading your computer in fall 2023:
- Processor (CPU): AMD Ryzen 5 5600X – $165
- Graphics Card (GPU): RXT 3090 24GB – $680 (second hand)
- Memory (RAM): DDR5 5600MHz – $89
- Storage: Samsung 970 Evo 1 TB m.2 NVMe – $85.99
- Power Supply (PSU): EVGA SuperNOVA 750 GT80+ – $99.99
Before we dive into more detailed suggestions for upgrading your PC, there’s a few key things to keep in mind first:
When your desktop PC hardware, you gotta make sure all the parts actually work together – otherwise you’ll end up wasting money and time.
Like let’s say you wanna upgrade your memory. You buy the 16GB DRR5 memory, but now it does not fit into your DIMM slot, the current motherboard only takes DDR4. Now you’ve got a compatibility issue on your hands. To use that RAM, you’ll have to buy a new motherboard that supports DDR5 too. So much for just a quick RAM upgrade – now you’ve doubled your costs and made it way more complicated.
And when you swap the motherboard, you gotta make sure it fits in your PC’s case, works with your processor and graphics card, all that jazz. More compatibility problems means more wasted cash.
Tools like PCPartPicker can scan for issues before you buy anything. Saves you from learning about conflicts the hard way when the parts show up and don’t play nice.
These are some of the most common pc hardware compatibility issues:
- Ensure that the motherboard supports the processor’s socket type and chipset.
- Check the RAM type (e.g., DDR5, DDR4, DDR3) and maximum supported memory capacity of the motherboard.
- Verify that the motherboard has the necessary PCIe slot type (e.g., PCIe 3.0, PCIe 4.0) for the graphics card.
- If you want an M.2 upgrade ensure the motherboard has the slot and supports the SATA or NVMe interface.
- Make sure the motherboard, case, and other components share compatible form factors (e.g., ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX).
- Check that the power supply has enough wattage and the right connectors (PCIe, SATA, power) for all your components.
- Ensure the cooling solutions are compatible with the processor socket and fit within the case.
- If using expansion cards (e.g., sound cards, network cards), check for the necessary slots on the motherboard and space in the case.
Research thoroughly and plan ahead if you wanna upgrade without compatibility headaches tacking on extra costs. It pays off to know your parts before you start swapping.
Now that we’ve covered some key considerations around compatibility and planning, we can dive into a more detailed overview of the costs associated with upgrading specific components.
The cost of upgrading the processor (CPU)
Upgrading your processor (CPU) is one of the best ways to give your computer a major speed boost.
Current gen CPUs from Intel and AMD range from around $250 for the best mid tier model end to over $700 for the top shelf stuff. You’ll pay more for CPUs with more cores, threads, cache, and faster clock speeds.
The best CPU upgrades for AMD platform (mid-tier and high-end) from the last three generations:
|Model||Generation||Socket||DDR Memory Support||Chipset||Boost Clock||Price||MSRP|
|AMD Ryzen 9 3950X||Zen 2||AM4||DDR4||B450||4.7 GHz||Current price||$749|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT||Zen 2||AM4||DDR4||B450||4.5 GHz||$249|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5950X||Zen 3||AM4||DDR4||B450||4.9 GHz||$799|
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600X||Zen 3||AM4||DDR4||B450||4.6 GHz||$299|
|AMD Ryzen 9 7950X||Zen 4||AM5||DDR5||B650||5.7 GHz||$699|
|AMD Ryzen 5 7600X||Zen 4||AM5||DDR5||B650||5.1 GHz||$299|
Lately, AMD has offered better upgradability for older systems. For example, say you’ve got an older Zen 2 processor like the Ryzen 5 3500 along with a B450 motherboard. With just a simple BIOS update, you could easily upgrade to a Zen 3 chip like the Ryzen 5 5600X3D or Ryzen 9 5950X. No need to swap out the motherboard.
The best CPU upgrades for Intel platform (mid-tier and high-end) from the last three generations:
|Model||Generation||Socket||DDR Memory||Chipset||Boost Clock||Price||MSRP|
|i9-11900K||1th Gen||LGA 1200||DDR4-3200||Z590||5.3 GHz||$539|
|i5-11600K||11th Gen||LGA 1200||DDR4-3200||Z590||4.9 GHz||$262|
|i9-12900KS||12th Gen||LGA 1700||DDR4-3200 / DDR5-4800||Z690||5.5 GHz||$739|
|i5-12600K||12th Gen||LGA 1700||DDR4-3200 / DDR5-4800||Z690||4.9 GHz||$289|
|i9-13900KS||13th Gen||LGA 1700||DDR4-3200 / DDR5-5600||Z690||6.0 GHz||$699|
|i5-13600K||13th Gen||LGA 1700||DDR4-3200 / DDR5-5600||Z690||5.1 GHz||$329|
When you swap a CPU, you have to think about whether it’ll actually work with your motherboard. Intel uses sockets like LGA 1200 or LGA 1700 for their latest chips. AMD uses sockets like AM4 and AM5 for Ryzen. Different sockets means you need a new motherboard too.
The cost of upgrading the GPU
Moving on to graphics cards – upgrading your GPU can give you a huge boost in gaming performance and graphics horsepower. But the latest and greatest GPUs don’t come cheap.
New consumer cards range from around $300 for budget options to $1700+ for high-end gear. You’ll pay more for better performance, more VRAM, and extra features like ray tracing.
|GeForce RTX 3060||12GB||1080p gaming, LLMs (13B)||Current price||$329|
|GeForce RTX 4070||12 GB||1440p gaming, LLMs (13B), Video editing||$599|
|GeForce RTX 3090||24 GB||4K gaming, LLMs (33B), Video editing||$1499|
|GeForce RTX 4090||24 GB||4K gaming, LLMs (33B), Video editing||$1599|
|Radeon RX 7700 XT||12 GB||1440p gaming, Video editing||$449|
|Radeon RX 7800 XT||16 GB||1440p gaming, Video editing||$499|
Some compatibility stuff to think about with GPU upgrades:
- Newer power-hungry GPUs might need more juice from your PSU. Make sure it has enough wattage and the required power connectors.
- If you have 500, 600 or 700 watt PSU check what is the best GPU you can get.
- Bigger badass GPUs can be longer and take up more slots than your old card. Double check they’ll physically fit in your case.
- If you’ve got an old mobo with an older PCIe slot version but buy a new PCIe 4.0 GPU, you could run into bandwidth problems. Like the RX 6500 XT with its slim PCIe 4.0 x4 interface – it hit major bottlenecks in PCIe 2.0, PCIe 3.0 systems, tanking performance.
The cost of upgrading the memory (RAM)
Now let’s talk RAM upgrades. More memory can give you a nice little speed increase for multitasking and running stuff like AAA games, inference large LLMs, and editing large video files.
Luckily, at the time of writing this article, RAM prices are at some of the lowest points we’ve seen in years, making now an excellent time to upgrade your system memory for less.
Compared to previous years when RAM was extremely overpriced due to supply shortages, costs have declined significantly across all types of modules from standard DDR4 to higher performance options. For example, where 16GB DDR4-3200 kits once retailed over $160, they can now readily be found for under $60. There’s never been a better time to boost your RAM capacity and take advantage of lower costs.
|Corsair Vengeance LPX||DDR4||3200MHz||16GB (2x8GB)||$45|
|G.Skill Ripjaws V||DDR4||3600MHz||32GB (2x16GB)||$79|
|Kingston FURY Beast||DDR4||3200MHz||64GB (2x32GB)||$145|
|Kingston FURY Beast||DDR5||5600MHz||16GB (2x8GB)||$89|
|G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB 32 GB||DDR5||6400MHz||32GB (2x16GB)||$114|
|TEAMGROUP T-Force Delta RGB||DDR5||6000MHz||64GB (2x32GB)||$174|
Some compatibility issues that may arise with RAM upgrades:
- RAM comes in different sizes and shapes – make sure to get the right form factor for your desktop or laptop.
- Check how many memory slots your motherboard has and if there’s room to add more sticks. You might need to replace your old RAM instead.
- Don’t mix and match different generations of DDR RAM – DDR4 won’t work in DDR3 slots, for example. Stick to what your motherboard uses.
- When adding RAM, use matched kits like 2x8GB instead of random mixed sticks. Mismatched speeds and capacities can cause issues. Especially if you upgrade older pre-built PCs like Dell OptiPlex
- Even if sticks are the same generation, their base speeds can vary. If speeds differ, RAM typically defaults to the slower module’s pace, so buy kits.
- XMP profiles let RAM exceed its standard specs, but not all motherboards support that. Check your motherboard manual for XMP support. If the motherboard does not support this speed profile the memory will run at the default.
- Some fancy RAM needs extra voltage your motherboard may not provide. And your CPU/mobo have limits on how much memory they can handle.
Research thoroughly and match everything up right to avoid headaches when upgrading RAM.
The cost of upgrading the storage
Let’s move on to storage upgrades. More space for games, media, applications, etc is always nice. As with other components, there are some compatibility factors to keep in mind:
|Samsung 980 Pro||1 TB||M.2-2280||M.2 PCIe 4.0 X4||$78.81|
|Samsung 970 Evo||1 TB||M.2-2280||M.2 PCIe 3.0 X4||$85.99|
|Samsung 850 Evo||1 TB||2.5″||SATA 6.0 Gb/s||$128.99|
|Samsung 840 Evo||250 GB||2.5″||SATA 6.0 Gb/s||$141.99|
|Crucial MX500||1 TB||2.5″||SATA 6.0 Gb/s||$47.9|
Like with RAM, now is an excellent time to upgrade and expand your storage. SSD and HDD costs have steadily declined over the years, bringing terabytes of storage well within reach. Where 1TB NVMe SSDs once cost $180, excellent 1TB options can now easily be found for under $80.
Things to consider before upgrading the memory
- Make sure you have enough open drive bays and SATA power connectors for adding new hard drives or 2.5″ SSDs.
- If your motherboard is older, it may lack M.2 slots required to add faster NVMe SSDs.
- If you are going for the faster NVMe interface but you need to ensure your motherboard’s M.2 slot supports the specific type of drive you’re purchasing. Thre are older mobos that support only the older SATA interface.
The cost of upgrading the motherboard
Upgrading your motherboard is a more involved process and borders on doing a completely new system build. The motherboard forms the core of your PC, so swapping it out often requires changing other components too.
Motherboard prices have remained fairly steady over the last couple years, without the large swings seen in other components like GPUs and RAM. You can find baseline boards for under $110, with mid-range options in the $150-200 range, and high-end enthusiast-grade boards exceeding $300.
While deals can vary, expect to pay roughly the same now for a given motherboard chipset and feature set versus two years ago. Major sales may drop prices $20-30 lower at times, but average pricing has been consistent.
Things to consider when upgrading the motherboard
Since the motherboard houses the CPU, RAM, and other critical parts, you’ll likely need to upgrade those too when changing motherboards. At minimum, you may need new RAM if your current memory isn’t compatible with the new board. But you may also need a new processor if the sockets don’t match up.
However motherboard upgrades can be justified in certain situations, even though it’s still one of the most involved upgrades. For example, if you’re changing to a smaller form factor case, replacing a failed or malfunctioning motherboard, or getting features like more USB ports or built-in WiFi your current board lacks.
Enhanced power delivery for overclocking, newer standards like PCIe 4.0 for future-proofing, and improved aesthetics like RGB lighting are other potential reasons for a board upgrade.
The key is carefully weighing the costs versus benefits – will swapping the motherboard give you capabilities that warrant the expense and hassle? Most of the time for simpler upgrades, you’ll usually get more value from changing components like the CPU, RAM, and storage without doing a full motherboard swap.
The cost of upgrading the power supply (PSU)
Let’s wrap up with power supplies. A new PSU can provide the clean, stable juice your components need if your current one’s getting old.
While you cheap out on some of the other components don;’t do it with the power supply. Cheaping out can be risky – low quality PSUs can damage parts or cause crashes. Stick to reputable brands (Tier-A, Tier-B) known for reliability.
|Corsair RM1000x (2021)||80+ Gold||1000 W||Full||$169.99|
|be quiet! Dark Power 13||80+ Titanium||850 W||Full||$249.90|
|EVGA SuperNOVA 750 GT||80+ Gold||750 W||Full||$99.99|
|be quiet! Pure Power 11 FM 650||80+ Gold||650 W||Full||N/A|
Things to consider when upgrading the PSU
- You’ll want to make sure the new PSU has enough wattage for your system, especially if you added more power-hungry parts. Leave some extra room for future upgrades too.
- Higher efficiency ratings like 80+ Gold waste less energy as heat. Modular PSUs let you use only the cables you need for tidier builds.
- Size matters – some beefy PSUs won’t fit smaller cases. Make sure yours has the right connectors and cable length for your setup.
- Cheaping out can be risky – low quality PSUs can damage parts or cause crashes. Stick to reputable brands known for reliability.
- For high end builds, ensure your PSU can provide stable, clean power for overclocked CPUs and
- GPUs. Quality matters when it’s powering pricey components.
The PSU is often overlooked but it’s the heart that keeps your build pumping – invest wisely in a quality upgrade.