There are really only two reasons to consider upgrading at all. The first is because you just want to, and the second is if your current configuration is lacking or failing in some way, and that usually concerns speed. It is, though, possible that that 5 and a quarter inch floppy drive, or the lack of a single USB port might have got you thinking.<span>
<span>Upgrading components depends primarily on the capability and upgradeability of the motherboard. If the motherboard can only accommodate old tech - CPU, RAM, card slots, then that's the first thing to go. Maxing out elderly RAM, or upgrading to, say, a faster P4 CPU is taking you nowhere. I finally upgraded my motherboard because my old one had an AGP graphics card slot, and I wanted better - PCIe, and more and faster memory. I was playing Half-life 2 and the cut scenes were truly painfully slow. When Alyx was on the table being repaired by the Vortigerns after being beaten up good style by a Hunter, I had time to make a cup of tea and watch half a recorded Mythbusters episode. That wasn't fun, and so I made my choice. Having decided upon that, I was then forced to upgrade the CPU and the motherboard memory - the bits in my old machine were, of course, incompatible. However, that was it for immediate outlay. I could still use all the existing peripherals - disk drives - floppy and hard, monitor, DVD drive, mouse, keyboard, wireless LAN card, and the Operating System (XP). If you have a soundcard, the onboard stuff on your new motherboard will likely be better, so you can diss that.
<span>I changed other items, but gradually, and mainly hard drives - I could now accommodate SATA drives, but still use my previous IDE for XP. I increased the RAM, but, again, slowly, as and when I could afford it. I've now got 4 Gig onboard, and that'll do me for quite a while. I only got Windows 7 64 bit so I could make full use of that RAM, and I now dual boot XP and 7. I also upgraded the case to increase the wattage capability of the power supply as I added extra hard drives and fans - just in case - no pun intended.There was nothing that my old machine couldn't do, but I really wanted that speed boost, and wasn't going to be happy until I got it. In every other area, it was a perfectly good machine, and I've not really noticed extra benefits for other software - wordprocessor, etc. But the graphics speed now is very nice, thank you.
<span>As for cost of upgrading, you really have to do the research. Graphics card, motherboard, CPU, price of suitable RAM? Sound was not a consideration for me, I'm quite happy with the onboard stuff - your needs may differ. Others might disagree, but I would suggest buying a motherboard\CPU\fan bundle. They are often cheaper than when bought individually, but you also won't have to worry about compatibility - that's been done for you. You probably won't get the bestest, fastest, modernest setup this way, but it will all work together. I spent many, many hours just researching graphics cards, and made my choice as a compromise between cost and speed. My current graphics card is PCIe with1Gig DDR5 RAM. Again, that's going to do me for a while yet.
<span>Putting it all together isn't difficult, and there is a ton of advice online. If you're worried about that, just try taking your current machine apart, probably needs a dust by now, anyway, and put it back together again. If you can do that, you can do the upgrade. (One thing I did boob on was the motherboard OR the graphics card - you figure. I've got 2 PCIe slots - one full size and one short one. The graphics card has a large fan on the very side that hangs over the short PCIe slot making it unuseable (doh!). But I never expected manufacturers not to have some sort of layout standard that would avoid that kind of stupidity - so that's really their fault. Mind you, I'm quite capable of cutting the contact area off a card, pushing the cut off bit into the slot, and wiring it back up to it's card - even if I have to place the actual card ouside the case - so all is not lost.)
<div><span>Budget is key, linked with what your main goal for upgrading is. Research the cheapest cost of upgrading to your happiness, and then see if anything available ready-built is better. I doubt it. I've always found it cheaper to upgrade\build my own. A new machine will also leave you with a bunch of perfectly serviceable bits that you'll probably never use, but you'll hang on to them for a few years - and then bin them. Upgrading means you'll only throw away the truly useless bits.
<span>As has been pointed out, upgrading is really not an option with many branded PCs. I've only experienced Dell machines, and then through other people, and upgrading them has so far been out of the question. I assume some others are the same. As I've always built my own, that's never been a concern.
<span>If upgrading is a possibility, do it. It's just the best fun you can have fully-clothed. That's a part of it that might not have been considered. Building or upgrading your own machine is extremely satisfying. Making it work is magic. Even if an upgrade did cost a bit more than an upgrade - highly unlikely, it'd still be worth it just for the sheer pleasure of doing it yourself. Makes you feel good, and that's got to be worth a few quid.