There are many good used computers available, and many that have automatic Windows 10 licensing, which saves about $120 per computer for setup. A refreshed computer with new drive and clean Windows 10 installation can prove to be very fast and responsive.
The options listed below are written as steps, but are optional upgrades listed in order of priority based on the cost and benefit offered, as well as ease of upgrade.
These instructions are based on older computers such as the Dell Precision T3600 with Xeon processor or the Dell OptiPlex 7010 business computer.
STEP #1 — Memory ($50)
One of the easiest and least expensive upgrades is to add memory (RAM) to a computer. Extra memory helps a computer run faster while in use.
The time required to fully startup the computer and load Windows may still be slow, but once running the computer should be more responsive and easily run several programs.
A typical Windows desktop computer should be fairly easy to open and upgrade. There are guides online explaining the process. You’ll basically add more RAM, or replace the existing RAM.
Memory is relatively inexpensive. For $40 to $50 it is generally possible to upgraded to 8GB RAM which is adequate for most tasks.
STEP #2 — Video Card ($50)
A quality video card with multiple adapter ports can be purchased new for about $50 and will help with compatibility and speed. Video cards are relatively easy to install by opening the case and plugging the card into a PCI bus slot on the motherboard.
Here are some video card examples that offer good performance at a low cost:
- GIGABYTE 2GB RAM DDR3 SDRAM Video Graphics Cards GV-N710D3-2GL REV2.0, Cost $50 [View]
- MSI GAMING GeForce GT 710 1GB GDRR3 64-bit HDCP Support DirectX 12 OpenGL 4.5 Heat Sink Low Profile Graphics Card (GT 710 1GD3H LP), Cost $50 [View]
For some computers that already have video capabilities built-in, a video card upgrade may not be necessary unless you want additional video output ports or advance Windows graphics.
STEP #3 — Solid State Drive ($50)
Installing an SSD will help avert the kinds of mechanical failures common with old mechanical drive (HDD) systems. The solid state drive technology is much faster than traditional mechanical drives. This step is more involved and time consuming, but offers the reward of a much faster computer.
You can also choose to install a higher capacity drive for more storage. The drives come in a variety of storage sizes. You would typically want a 2.5-inch internal drive. [View Examples]
You may wish to use a mounting bracket for the 2.5-inch drive to fit more snugly if there is an existing 3.5-inch drive bay. [View Examples]
OPTION #1 – CLONE. If you want to copy your old drive contents to the new one, using drive cloning software, and a USB adapter cable to connect your new SSD, it’s possible to copy your old startup drive to a new SSD. If you choose a larger capacity drive, you’ll need to resize the destination drive using partition manager software.
OPTION #2 – CLEAN. If you’re installing the drive to create a clean Windows installation, then you would want to download the media creator [here] and have a blank USB to create the installer for the process. [Explained Here] With the new drive installed, startup the computer with the installation media and it typically will startup to the Windows installation USB. Advanced users can follow the on screen instructions for setup. In summary, you’ll progress through the steps, choose custom setup, and install. Once Windows is installed, some additional setup and configuration steps can help ensure best operation. [View]
The above steps can help speed up old computers and get more years of use from them. Note that older computers generally cannot run Windows 11, so once Windows 10 is no longer supported by Microsoft it will be time to get a newer computer.