The sense and nonsense of tinkering with your computer

It’s the ultimate nerd feeling: start up your brand new computer and enjoy the fact that you never had such a fast computer before. But over the years, your beautiful machine starts to show some cures. It takes a bit longer to start up, it sometimes seems to stand still for a while and recent games or your video editing program do not work as smoothly as before. Time for a major service or an upgrade?

We often hear questions such as: “Can this older PC with a little extra memory last a few more years?” or “Is it time to defragment the PC again?” Questions that were very relevant a few years ago. An average home computer rarely had an excess of memory, and fragmentation of old-fashioned hard drives often had a significant impact on performance. Upgrading the CPU often improved the functioning of the PC. Times have changed and tuning tips and upgrades from the past are largely no longer applicable today. Of course, the question remains: what still makes sense? We split the answer into two parts: tuning software and upgrading hardware. If your computer no longer works optimally, you can consider both parts. After all, both solve different kinds of problems.

Software “tuning”

The reality is that modern PCs have become powerful enough to meet the demands of most users. Then we are not talking about gaming on the highest settings or editing 4K videos, but about the many users who do little more than browse the web, send emails or occasionally improve a holiday photo. A well-maintained system of a few years old does not have to be inferior to a brand new machine in those tasks. In the first steps, we therefore mainly look at what we can do with (free) software to refresh your PC.

Windows 10: best and most stable version ever

Not a single new Windows version was received really warmly right away, but Windows 10 has become (in our experience) the best and most stable version of Windows ever. If your machine is still running on Windows 7, you will have to upgrade anyway, because you will no longer receive security updates for Windows 7. But also for Windows 8 (.1) users, this move has more effect than any cleanup application. Users of truly antique printers, scanners or other equipment should first check whether they still work under Windows 10. Although Microsoft officially no longer offers the Windows 10 upgrade for free, in practice in nine out of ten cases you still get the upgrade for free via the upgrade assistant.

Also consider performing a completely clean installation. No kind of cleaning will make your PC run as nice as this again. Before you get started, it is important to first secure all your files and make sure you have all your passwords at hand. You will find a fresh installation of Windows 10 here.

Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 will quickly feel familiar.

Really tuning is passé?

A new version of Windows? A clean installation? That’s not tuning! The reality is that many of the handy software tweaks you used to get software for have become standard. Where you previously had to buy defragmentation software for your hard drive, Windows 10 now defragments independently. And with SSDs that is not necessary, defragmentation has the opposite effect on these disks. Another known issue was delays from heavy antivirus packages, and those applications have become obsolete for most users with the arrival of Windows Defender.

Manually removing applications that you no longer use is of some use, and applications such as the free CCleaner can help a little bit, but fall between two stools at the same time. They rarely offer enough profit to really speak of results, and have nowhere near the impact of a clean installation. The tuning software does no good for the fact that a Windows 10 reinstallation is often completed within half an hour, that Windows finds most drivers by itself, and that a clean installation also solves any persistent spy and malware problems at once. done. So yes, the real software tuning is out of date.

If a clean install is not an option, CCleaner allows you to do a little cleaning.

Hardware … tuning?

You can hardly tune hardware, in most cases replacement is your only option. However, it is wise to open your system before you buy new things. Because if a substantial layer of dust has built up there over the years, it will have consequences for performance. A CPU cooler that cannot dissipate heat due to dust in the cooling block ensures that the CPU does not perform optimally. Before you randomly replace parts, it is advisable to check whether all parts can breathe properly. A bottle of compressed air for a few euros, or a (note: oil and moisture-free) compressor can work wonders. Pressing a vacuum cleaner against your computer parts can cause static shock and damage to your components. Also, make sure to discharge yourself before touching the components (for example, by touching the heater or other earth) or use an anti-static tape.


You can overclock some CPUs and most GPUs. This makes it possible to make these parts a little faster. A few percent is often no problem, but depending on the component, ten percent or more is no exception. Overclocking requires substantive knowledge about these parts and an adventurous attitude. Since improper use of overclocking tools can lead to damage (plus a potential warranty expiration), it is not wise to do this if you are not willing to read yourself properly and take a few hours before you start. This is therefore especially a tip for the adventurer.

Upgrade hardware

Is your PC dust-free, equipped with a clean Windows installation and are you still lacking in performance? Then we will consider upgrades. We go through the different parts to discuss to what extent they are (still) worth upgrading. First, it is advisable to determine where the limitation is for your system. This is easily done by right clicking on the Taskbar / Task Manager / Tab Performance. Open the game or application you’re experiencing issues with and view the graphs and percentages of processor activity, memory, hard drive, and video card. The weakest link, the bottleneck, is in the part that is frequently at 100 percent load; you want to upgrade. Adventurous? A more extensive (free) application to conduct research is the tool HWiNFO, but the abundance of information can be overwhelming.

With Task Manager you can see where the bottleneck of your PC is; the parts that are regularly loaded with 100 percent.

The best upgrade for everyone

There is one upgrade that everyone should consider regardless of where the problem is: a Solid State Drive, also called SSD. Don’t have an SSD yet? Then you will benefit from this upgrade in all situations, including if you are a less intensive user. These disks are many times faster than the mechanical hard disks of the past, and ensure that your PC starts much faster and responds much faster to all kinds of tasks. Of course, make sure you install Windows on the SSD.

Opening your web browser, your documents or photos feels with a SSD quickly, even if your system is several years old. And any system worth upgrading, so roughly from 2012, should be able to use a sata ssd. SSDs with 256 GB or 512 GB space offer enough storage for most users and currently only cost a few tens. Combine an SSD with a clean installation. This works better than using migration tools and your PC flies like never before.

An SSD is the upgrade for practically every PC. M.2 SSDs will only fit recent PCs, but Sata SSDs will fit virtually any system from the last decade.

The upgrade for gamers: the video card

Although most hardware is sufficient for basic tasks and can last for quite a few years, this often does not apply to gamers. Much progress is still being made in the performance of video cards. A video card that is several years old, especially if it was not the most expensive, may already have trouble playing the most recent games. Do you notice that your games are not running smoothly, your video card is 100 percent loaded and the rest of your parts are not? Then it is time for a new video card.

Which video card you want depends on your wishes and budget. General advice is difficult to give. You can get the best video cards for any popular monitor resolution here look. Your CPU and memory also play a role in this and there is a risk that you will shift the bottleneck to those components with your GPU upgrade. As a rule, your gaming experience will always improve. We have tested the best 1080p video cards for you.

For gamers, a video card is often the most logical upgrade to play games smoothly and without delay.

Upgrade the power supply

A decent power supply lasts the life of a complete PC, even after upgrading other parts. So you only replace a food if it gives up the ghost. If you replace the video card with a more powerful model, you may need a more powerful power supply. Because the quality of the power supply has consequences for the life of all parts, an A-quality power supply is always the best advice. Brands like Seasonic, Corsair, be quiet! and Cooler Master are a good starting point, but some research into experiences before you buy one is advisable.

Do not cut back on the power supply, this is the basis of a stable system.

Is extra memory still useful?

Memory expansion, the popular upgrade from the beginning of this century, is less common today. Over the years, the memory capacity of new systems increased sharply and the risk of an average user running out of memory became smaller and smaller. Despite this, expanding your memory, if it is heavily loaded, is still a very useful upgrade. RAM is dirt cheap, there are already 16GB sets from around 50 euros, and unlike upgrading the SSD, it also has no serious footing. You shut down your system, remove your old memory modules and insert the new ones. Then it is a matter of starting and going. Two tips: pay attention to whether you need ddr3 or ddr4 memory for your system. If you have any affinity with the bios: activate the XMP profile.

You can easily upgrade the internal memory: remove old modules and insert new ones (carefully).

Other upgrades a thing of the past?

Unfortunately, upgrading most of the other components is no longer so useful today. More demanding users simply run into the limitations of the CPU with an older system. Where upgrading the CPU in the past could give a significant performance boost, that is no longer the case. Especially since 2017, processors have become much more powerful thanks to faster, and especially much more cores. Those processors only work on recent motherboards with recent memory. The faster processors that you can still buy for older motherboards simply cannot compete with what even an entry-level CPU in 2020 delivers.

You can of course replace CPU, memory and motherboard in one go. If you recently purchased a video card and SSD, you can certainly keep it. A new CPU with matching motherboard and memory is quite expensive in terms of costs. You will probably also want to replace your diet. We do not recommend reusing a few years old food. You are also ready for a new Windows license. Actually we are already talking about a new computer.

Buying an Intel Core i7 as an upgrade for your years old PC sounds like a good idea, but modern mid-range processors like the Ryzen 5 3600 are much more powerful.


As the computer matures, the usefulness of tinkering itself has logically diminished on some fronts. Replacing a part has mainly become a thing for gamers, and you can hardly improve the software yourself beyond what the software itself already offers in optimizations. Possibly a disappointment for the enthusiast of the good old tinkering time, but at the same time it is positive that with just a clean Windows installation and an SSD you already have enough in hand to revive an old PC in a short time. Crafting is fun; being able to use a few years old system again is more fun! A nice extra: let’s be the only two things that you can adjust in recent laptops.


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